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Zachech

Originality and Motivation in PnP games

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So my new RPG is up and running basically. It's a futuristic, non-apopalyptic setting similar to the Dune, Star Trek, and Star Wars universes (yes I realize those three examples are the most different things in the world to clump together, but whatever). I made up original systems, stats, skills, races, worlds, etc. But the biggest problem is in the storyline, and an even bigger problem is in getting player's into what storyline i come up with.

 

 

my attempts at making a story that wasn't simply "kill the sith" or "the chosen one" or "explore planets" kinda failed at character creation. i wanted the game to be filled with moral dilemmas through missions of exploration that turn hostile sometimes, kinda like stargate (minus the wormhole stuff). but the first PC character was an old, half-insane, ruthless pirate that floats around in hyperspace and attacks any vessel that looks like it could draw him a profit. so any story involving morality, political struggles, etc is basically scrap.

 

 

any ideas i have always end with: "WHY would the player even want to go along this path?"

 

 

i'm not really sure what the point of this topic is. basically, i need ideas for a story that's as original as possible while still being interesting enough for a space pirate to find entertaining.

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I've played with all kinds of groups over the years, but the most basic assumption I have is that a role-playing game is a sort of contract between the players and the DM. That means both between the players and between the players and the DM. Sure, your job is to create an entertaining setting, most of which the many players won't see and the intracacies of which they will not appreciate. Still, they'll find some sort of angle in your campaign to enjoy. On the other hand, the players must be willing to follow at least some constraints in order to facilitate the gaming experience.

 

We always say you should be able to do whatever you want to do in a PnP RPG. It ain't true, though. You might want to play a housewife who cleans all day, burps junior, and handbrushes Mr. Wiggles the cat. Sure, you could roleplay that experience, but it would probably be boring to the DM and you'll undoubtedly have a hard time finding players to join the group.

 

A good case in point is this business where there should be side chat between the DM and individual players. In my in-person games, I have no problem with this side chat. I can handle it very quickly and no one feels left out while I have a quick convesation with another player. Online, however, it causes a serious breakdown in the game. players are bored while I spend a substantial amount of time in private chat with one individual. Sometimes it makes sense, and some players would like to do it, but it creates an adverse situation in the game. So, we don't allow it.

 

So, I guess what I would probably do is just let them act out whatever part they want, within reason, and let them create their own story within the confines of your universe. However, if it's really important to you, then level with them. Tell them to what you aspire as a DM and then have them help you fashion a backstory, premise, and a specific story for your campaign.

 

My approach is to level with players when something is important to me. Hell, that's my approach to people with everyone. Nothing beats a respectful but candid discussion.


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Remembering tarna, Phosphor, Metadigital, and Visceris.  Drink mead heartily in the halls of Valhalla, my friends!

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It all depends on what relationship the group has with eachother. With my old gaming group we would generally be able to make whatever character we wanted and our GM would find a way to get us onto the he wanted. Sometimes our characters were forced to do things they may not want to do, but we still got to play the characters. The characters may not always like what they do and when that's the case they should piss and moan about, but as long as the players and th GM have fun then that's all that matters.

 

The bigger question here is whether or not your players are interested in playing a campaign based on exploration and moral dilemma. If they like that type of gameplay, then getting their characters (even the pirate) into the story just requires a little creativity.

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yeah this is the fourth installment in the saming universe, so maybe i'm just lacking the drive and creativity.

 

but i'll work with the players on them crafting pieces of their own story. instead of building something that i think they'll like, might as well have them tell what they want.

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Just think of it as a collaborative effort. See how it works. Normally I don't have them get in on the ground floor, but I'm always willing to talk with them. In fact, you could create a backstory and then just collaborate on their more personal story. Let us know how all this pans out.


Fionavar's Holliday Wishes to all members of our online community:  Happy Holidays

 

Join the revelry at the Obsidian Plays channel:
Obsidian Plays


 
Remembering tarna, Phosphor, Metadigital, and Visceris.  Drink mead heartily in the halls of Valhalla, my friends!

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I'd like to kill Eldar's players too.

 

Seriously, though, I do agree with him. But at the same time, don't assume that an unlikely character isn't going to produce a good campaign. They can be the spur to true originality. In your example, why not read up on some pirates, have a tihnk about what his life might be like. Introduce crewmen and victims with interesting points to make. If he persists in killing everyone, why not have a few characters IN HIS HEAD?


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Yay, another "why can't I get moral decision-making by making a setting" -thread!

 

Rantrantrantrant...

 

Seriously, your situations sounds almost identical to Gromnir's, so read that thread: http://forums.obsidianent.com/index.php?showtopic=41601

 

 

 

I agree with Eldar on that RPGs require a contract between the participants. I'd go a step further though and say that the contract should be about the "point" of the game (the thing that is fun, assuming the game succeeds). If the participants agree that the game is about "moral decision making" (whatever that is), then the game is about that. The end. And the guy who makes a crazy pirate PC gets a spanking.

Edited by MrBrown

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So my new RPG is up and running basically.  It's a futuristic, non-apopalyptic setting similar to the Dune, Star Trek, and Star Wars universes (yes I realize those three examples are the most different things in the world to clump together, but whatever).  I made up original systems, stats, skills, races, worlds, etc.  But the biggest problem is in the storyline, and an even bigger problem is in getting player's into what storyline i come up with.

 

If you're having trouble with the campaign as it relates to the PCs, then I advice running a few simple adventures until you get a good impression of who the main characters (the PCs) are first and then contruct your campaign and plot accordingly - players can be such a valuable source of inspiration, and should never been overlooked as such, especially if they make observations what they really would not like to happen... :huh:

 

my attempts at making a story that wasn't simply "kill the sith" or "the chosen one" or "explore planets" kinda failed at character creation.  i wanted the game to be filled with moral dilemmas through missions of exploration that turn hostile sometimes, kinda like stargate (minus the wormhole stuff).

 

That's an admirable goal, but don't forget that even the greatest and best epics of moral dilemma can be boiled to such a simple idea. Your problem isn't that you have a bad foundation, but that you demand to see all the details of it from the beginning, and that almost never happens. No, decide on what your underlying theme will be of the above. Once you have that, make a very basic "skeleton" of your plot. Really, as simple as it can get - the sort of plot that you can write on the back of a stamp and still have room for the list of characters is fine as a beginning. Once you have that, begin adding detail.

 

Who are the main villains? Why are they villians? Why do they do what they do? What are their backstories and secrets?

 

Then move onto your major helpful NPCs and other significant non-playable characters in your campaing. As the same questions for them, and then answer them. You don't have a real campaign until you've populated it with interesting characters. And make sure some of them have flaws. My players are usually fairly amused by the cranky librarians and grumpy clerks I put in my campaign. Find some well known characters in movies and steal from them. It doesn't matter if its original, since the characters will often have changed so much by the time you're done writing them that they will have become unrecognizable. For example, if you put Han Solo in there, but make him into a woman, the character already begins to become difficult to identify.

 

but the first PC character was an old, half-insane, ruthless pirate that floats around in hyperspace and attacks any vessel that looks like it could draw him a profit.  so any story involving morality, political struggles, etc is basically scrap. 

 

Not necessarily. Han Solo was a smuggler who cared about nobody. Jack Sparrow was a similar kind of pirate captain. Yet they still made the moral choice in the end. Your space pirate can to, it's just a question of pushing him into the choice and then be willing to live with it, if he doesn't make the choice you'd prefer he do. For example, if he's a pirate, let him attack a ship and board it for loot. However, the ship is on a diplomatic mission to settle a terrible war between two worlds, and if they don't reach their destination, then millions of people will die. Will the pirate condemn them all to horrible deaths? There's no way to avoid that choice now...

 

any ideas i have always end with:  "WHY would the player even want to go along this path?"

 

And that's always relevant to ask. But there are times when you just have to put them in the position and then wait and see what they do.

 

If all else fails, you can always ask the players themselves. It really isn't a bad idea to level with the players and ask them what they want to do, you know. Apart from making them actually think about it, it also signals that their answers will have significiant impact on the campaign, which is often what players really want. Certainly, when I begin to lose that feeling as a player, that's when I begin to lose interest in the campaign, because it begins to look like my choices don't matter, and that is poison to any campaign.

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well thanks for all that. i guess one of the problems is that i got to bogged down in details and such. right now i don't really have a straight antagonist. i'm used to running games where the PCs are either are all good guy killing bad guys, chaotic guys killing bad guys without noble aims, and evil guys killing other evil guys to get more power. so i guess i just need to craft a villain that will work well, since the whole point of the story is the struggle, and without a good villain there's no struggle.

 

 

 

 

and i'm definitely not against the guy's character or anything. it was just unexpected, which is usually the best. i'll need to work on it. but the problem is always originality. what is a good villain that isn't overdone and cliche? especially with sci-fi.

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I like jediphile's approach.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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well thanks for all that.  i guess one of the problems is that i got to bogged down in details and such.  right now i don't really have a straight antagonist.  i'm used to running games where the PCs are either are all good guy killing bad guys, chaotic guys killing bad guys without noble aims, and evil guys killing other evil guys to get more power.  so i guess i just need to craft a villain that will work well, since the whole point of the story is the struggle, and without a good villain there's no struggle. 

 

Don't make the villain too much a villain, though. What I mean by that is that you shouldn't make him do evil things just because, well, he's evil. Villains need really good reasons for what they're doing. Not that I'm implying you're doing that - your struggle for good plot would actually suggest the opposite - but I've seen so many published adventures, where I just thought "why is the villain doing this?", and there was just no answer to that question. Instead the villain was just this really black-hearted creep who did evil things, and often insane things too, for no other reason than because he was evil... or insane, which is always a convenient excuse :p

 

So don't make the villain too black-hearted. He (or she) should be able to pass himself off as a nice person, if he wants to. In fact, if your PCs are not good guys and you sort of want them to be, make the villain their new "ally" who helps them out of a few troubles, and then promptly stabs them severely in the back, once they begin trusting him. That usually makes the PCs turn the good guys and help them for some reason... :)

 

and i'm definitely not against the guy's character or anything.  it was just unexpected, which is usually the best.  i'll need to work on it.  but the problem is always originality.  what is a good villain that isn't overdone and cliche?  especially with sci-fi.

 

He could be a "businessman" like Jabba (only not such a silly race as the Hutt). Or think Kingpin from Spider-man/Daredevil or Lex Luthor from Superman. Those are manipulative powerfreaks who hide themselves from exposure. I love it when the PCs just know that someone is a bad guy, but they can do nothing about it because they have no proof :devil:

 

Don't worry too much about originality. Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Just do the plot and let the players worry about whether it's original enough. You can always add details later to make it more original. There are no new plots, so you will be stealing from someone.

 

And all it takes to make a villain that is not clich

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Well I was thinking antagonists like the replicators from stargate or borg from star trek, the kind of alien race that goes around killing and assimilating for survival, but that's overdone i think. it's hard to think of an antagonist that relates to the character. but maybe i'll try a rival pirate, or a federarion guy that's hunting down the PC, that kind of thing.

 

 

thanks for all the advice

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Well I was thinking antagonists like the replicators from stargate or borg from star trek, the kind of alien race that goes around killing and assimilating for survival, but that's overdone i think.

 

In that sense, yes, but then even the Borg were that original - they're basically just techno-vampires and little else (infected people will themselves become vampi... er, borg). If you can give your alien race a similar twist, then it's not a problem. For example, they could be braineating zombies instead of vampires, or they could be scientists always hunting for live specimens to experiment on... Nasty either way...

 

it's hard to think of an antagonist that relates to the character.  but maybe i'll try a rival pirate, or a federarion guy that's hunting down the PC, that kind of thing.

 

thanks for all the advice

 

A rival pirate with his own crew to compete with the PCs is a very good idea. If he succeeds in stealing victory from the PCs, especially if he does it by stealing their loot, then you can really get the players going :)

 

Now that you say Federation, take a look at the plot behind the old BBC show Blake's 7, which had an evil Federation as badguys. Lots of inspiration to steal from there, I think, since the show is so ancient that nobody will know it. The main badguy in the first couple of seasons was even this complete psycho of commander hunting the good guys for the evil Federation called Travis.

 

And you're welcome.

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