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#1 riddles

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 09:32 AM

So, I've been running this game, online using the wonder that is Roll20. This may be at some point released, but possibly not, as

 

  1. We don't actually get much roleplaying done in the sessions
  2. The consensus is that it's boring to listen to :)

OK, probably blame the last one on me (I have broad shoulders! :P ), but why don't we get much done?

 

I have a few thoughts, but would like my shy retiring players to comment... ;)

 

Lockhart, you seemed to have less issues driving the adventures forward - any advice?


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#2 BigJackBrass

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 10:01 AM

For starters, you can put aside any notion that you're making it boring  :D

 

I'd suggest that a combination of scenario and Roll 20 are conspiring to make the game more of a plod than it ought to be, with the system possibly not helping. There's a map. We're moving counters along from one encounter to the next, which is a combat encounter, probably against an enemy with which we cannot negotiate or attempt any real subterfuge. Roll 20 puts the emphasis on the visual toys and takes it away from the roleplaying; the adventure doesn't seem to have much opportunity for actions beyond combat; and Pathfinder is a very mechanical resource management game, where feats and abilities largely define the characters. The combination, on top of the fact that we're playing via computer instead of face-to-face, is pretty much bringing to the fore the least appealing elements of each part.

 

Battle maps are great on occasion, to roughly clarify a complicated tactical situation, but even at the table I use them pretty sparingly and I suspect that the rest of the group is the same, whereas this scenario has us moving square to square every step of the way. Roll 20 is very pretty, but I'm not sure it adds anything over just throwing some dice and working with the result; much as the dice mechanic in Dogs in the Vineyard utterly breaks the roleplaying for me because it requires a mechanical manipulation of the dice, Roll 20 is putting a barrier up between player and character with its buttons and drop-downs and so forth. 

 

It's not easy gaming through the computer at the best of times, and I'm increasingly of the opinion that simpler systems work best in that environment. Maybe people who are very familiar with Pathfinder and who enjoy its mechanical nuances, as opposed to thinking that they're a constant pain in the arse, won't have that issue, but I'm trying to grasp an unfamiliar RPG played through a new computerised interface... and the the gameplay is suffering because of it. I don't think that any of us know much about our own characters, let alone the rest of the party, there's simply been no opportunity in the adventure to bring the characters to the fore.

 

All of which sounds far more negative, I suspect, than I intend to be, but on the whole those are the points covering the major problems as I see them. It's not that you're running a game badly, more that all those things together may not be suiting our group style too well.

 

If it's any consolation I've tried listening to several groups playing Pathfinder and I've never enjoyed those games either  :blink:


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#3 riddles

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 10:05 AM

See, I enjoy Lockhart's games with Hal, Lindsay and Thing, but is that because I know the system and am "filling in the blanks"? Hmmm...


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#4 BigJackBrass

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 10:10 AM



See, I enjoy Lockhart's games with Hal, Lindsay and Thing, but is that because I know the system and am "filling in the blanks"? Hmmm...

Maybe the system works in a way you like to produce results you enjoy. For me it feels rather like someone took Dungeons & Dragons and attached it to a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping...

 

 

 

... and as soon as Nick arrives he'll probably snigger at "double-entry"  ;-)


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#5 riddles

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 10:28 AM

Perhaps I won't bring Harn along to Whartstock then... ;)


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#6 Telemergion

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 12:04 PM

My players and I have bumped up against similar timesinks in our games. By similar I mean programs such as RPTools, Tabletop Forge, and a very clever application of Google Spreadsheets. I have no knowledge of what transpires at your virtual table but for me I do have to agree that unless it's strictly necessary locking down movement on a battlemap really can slow the game down. I say can because sometimes it can also do the opposite. We've had a few fights where things just got so confusing I had to stop in the middle and make a map for everyone. Other times even though you know it's going to slow things down that might actually be desired as it'll help build tension or perhaps there are very important events that would happen in h4 as opposed to h5.

 

If your concern is that there's too much slog in the battles and lack of roleplay would make the session less interesting for people to listen to you could try running it without the battlemap. Often what has worked well for me lately is I throw up a rough little map that marks the general layout - corridors and doors, cave tunnels, etc - and then we just fill in details as necessary. This gives your players the visual ques they sometimes need but you don't have to worry about moving all the little units around. I'll sometimes keep a very rough drawing just on my side to keep track of where people are but I fill that in as players declare their moves. Or do something radical and have a session with no combat. Our best session ever was 4 hours long and only involved one dice roll because the player needed to flip a coin and we had no coins.

 

But I cannot stress enough that the most important thing is to make sure you and the players are having fun. Maybe it is slow combat with not a lot of roleplay. But if everyone's having a good time, so what?


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#7 Daniel

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 02:02 PM

Back in the day me and mine used to use Virtual Tabletops extensively.  I would spend hours, upon hours, preparing pretty maps for the brosefs.

 

Unfortunately, I encountered similar results as BJB.  In my experience the presence of a 'battlemap' removes an element of roleplay from the game.  The players go into a kind of 'game mode' where they begin to see the scenario as a kind of 'board game' where they make their moves, perform their actions and then their turn ends.  Try running combat without the board for an evening, or two, see if that helps improve the speed and 'entertainment values' of your encounters.  What you should see, at least, is an increase in descriptive fidelity as you are much more reliant on player & GM descriptions.

 

Dan.


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#8 lordof1

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 04:22 PM

Hi Mark :)

 

Firstly, as ever, the eloquent Mr Hancock has expressed my feelings in a wittier, sexier, and (dare I say it) far more hirsute manner that would be possible for me to. Secondly, I'd like to further dispel any notions that you're anything to do with the problems with the game, Mark - as evidence, I present to you the fun we had playing your villainous Forgotten Futures game -mwah, hah, and indeed, hah.

 

I would echo Jon in laying the blame at two things; the system (Pathfinder) and the interface (Roll 20). The system first - this isn't the first time I have played Pathfinder (well, sort of - the campaign I'm about to talk about was D&D 3E) and we experienced very similar problems there - the encounters were taking a long time and felt very mechanical, with almost no room for innovation or improvisation. At the time I thought it was a problem with my last group (and I include myself in that) but now I'm starting to wonder if it's the system itself. I know a lot of people have issues with Pathfinder, but I'm fond of it as a system and quite familiar with it, so it's a shame that I'm getting highly suspicious that the system just doesn't allow for the kind of 'winging it' that I enjoy so much with roleplaying games. As BigJackBrass has said a number of times before, a system which has a feat for performing special combat maneuvers with a bow and arrow (such as pinning shirts to doorframes etc.) in effect tells all the characters that -don't- have that feat that they can't even attempt it.

 

The interface - for me, unfortunately, Roll 20 seems very good at bringing my least favourite aspects of RPGing (the number crunching, moving by ruler, combat maneuvers dictated by location) to the fore, and minimising my favourite aspects (the banter, the characters, the plot, the improvisation). By visualising a lot of the game on the board, it has the effect of preventing me from imagining what's going on, and so drawing me out of the game. It's an impressive piece of programming, to be sure, but I feel that it's having a restrictive, rather than a liberating, effect on our group - or, at least, on the parts I like the most (i.e. the roleplaying). As it is, when we try to roleplay, we actually feel like we're slowing the game down rather than adding anything too it.

 

A third point, I guess, is that because it's a visual interface, it can't really help but make the audio harder to follow and so a little less interesting.

 

Again, to re-iterate, nothing to do with your GMing, Mark - we've had great (and more concise!) games from you before! As my estimable colleague BJB says, this may come across as too negative, but I'm hoping it hones in on the problems, and shows you that they're not down to you :)

 

Nick


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#9 lordof1

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 04:25 PM

Maybe the system works in a way you like to produce results you enjoy. For me it feels rather like someone took Dungeons & Dragons and attached it to a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping...

 

 

 

... and as soon as Nick arrives he'll probably snigger at "double-entry"  ;-)

 

<snigger>


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#10 Dr_Jomster

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 11:27 PM

It's definitely not down to you, Mr Riddles. As I'm typing this I'm thinking of the Mystic Force game you ran and how much I wanted to play in that from listening to the audio. Admittedly it would have been difficult what with running another game in the next room at the same time as you were running it, but still...

Jon and Nick make some interesting points. In a nutshell, I think the interface makes it like playing a boardgame focussed on combat. So not as easy to focus on roleplay but still very pleasant indeed in good company.

I must admit I was going to blame myself a bit for often arriving late and often just needing to chat after a busy week at work so all those derailments to talking about 2000AD or Hero System are probably my fault which may not have helped. :S

I shall now outshine the erudite responses of my peers by asking: Ermmmm, does that help? :)
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#11 smithmeg

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 01:47 AM

Speaking as the listener who expressed reservations about releasing these publicly, I think you've all got it right.
One thing you've missed (which is the difference between your game and the Lindsay, Hal, Thing, Lockhart one), is that your sessions end up far shorter than theirs. It doesn't matter if they chat for 45 minutes first, cause they play for another 3 hours, rather than only having 45 minutes left.
I've enjoyed listening, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do so, but it's been enjoying listening in on a chat between friends of mine about a variety of geeky (and uke-y) subjects, rather than enjoying listening to a cooperatively told story (which is what the best RPGs become).
Hopefully that makes sense, and thank you again for letting me listen.
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#12 riddles

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 03:00 AM

I think you've hit the nail on the head Meg - possibly the problem is the Pathfinder/Roll20 combination & our general tardiness. So actually, Dr J, you ARE to blame!! :P (Or maybe the Ts are!).

 

We're not going to have time to start/finish any longer I think (oh the joys of parenthood/oncall/cats)

 

I think Jon's point of Pathfinder is a slow high mechanics system is valid (sniff, that'll probably mean no GURPS too!), so maybe we just need to play faster less rules intensive ones (and I know where my Dream Park rules are, yahoo!).

 

Though I for one DO like Roll20 as a platform, but would be nice to see if using it more sparingly makes for a better game.


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#13 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 03:27 AM

If it's any consolation I've tried listening to several groups playing Pathfinder and I've never enjoyed those games either  :blink:

 

Dude.

Fandible Pathfinder.

Give it a shot.

It is FandiLicious.

 

http://www.fandible....se-part-1-of-2/

 

 As BigJackBrass has said a number of times before, a system which has a feat for performing special combat maneuvers with a bow and arrow (such as pinning shirts to doorframes etc.) [...]

 

Did you run out of clothes hangers?

 

It's definitely not down to you, Mr Riddles. As I'm typing this I'm thinking of the Mystic Force game you ran and how much I wanted to play in that from listening to the audio. Admittedly it would have been difficult what with running another game in the next room at the same time as you were running it, but still...

 

Agreed; those three games (the Tech Team one, the Mystic Force one and the Team-Up Dual-Core-GM Super-GameTM) were excellent.

 

I think Jon's point of Pathfinder is a slow high mechanics system is valid (sniff, that'll probably mean no GURPS too!), so maybe we just need to play faster less rules intensive ones (and I know where my Dream Park rules are, yahoo!).

 

(Psst! Hey, Lockhart - this is your cue to dramatically leap in through the window and exclaim: "Forsooth! Did somebody say 'rules-light intensive fun game'?" and then whip out your big, bulging InSpectres game pdf.)


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#14 BigJackBrass

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 11:28 AM



I think Jon's point of Pathfinder is a slow high mechanics system is valid (sniff, that'll probably mean no GURPS too!)...

I don't see why. GURPS has a straightforward, logical structure, as does Hero, and although both of them would probably be a little slower and more mechanically focussed than, say, the old West End Games Star Wars RPG, they're games about what you can do. Pathfinder, like D&D before it, is about what you can't do; and personally I find that to be a problem. In the original game and the basic set it wasn't much of a problem, since the classes were few and the restrictions fairly minor. Magic-Users can't use "...the arms and armor of the Fighting-Man..."? No biggie, they have their own area of expertise, although every DM has faced the problem of what to do when a PC wizard finds himself backed into a corner and decides to defend himself with a sword he's picked up. But two bow-using Fighters could both try trick shots if they wanted: these days, they can only do that if they have the relevant Feat.

 

Class-based systems don't bother me, unless there are lots of classes, then the above problem arises: it's about what you can't do. The differentiation between classes becomes ever more arbitrary, mechanical and unrealistic. I'm sorry to say that I find Pathfinder to be awash with this problem; it just doesn't match my tastes very well. GURPS, however, ought to be fine in G+ play, it just has rather tedious character generation.


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#15 riddles

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 04:32 AM

Ah, I see. Never really looked at it like that. If you ever want to do something fancy in Pathfinder BTW, just say and I'll assign a number for you. My way of looking at it is that feats are those "tricks" you do often enough to know what you're doing - others can TRY it, it'll just be a lot harder to do...

 

Part of the problem, and this is definitely an issue with playing online, is that you came into the system without really knowing it (White book D&D is a leetle different these days!), whereas Jason and Nick had at least had some dealings with 3.5.

 

If we were F2F, I could have just spent a quick 1/2 hr going over the rules before we started. Not so easy when we're online (and a very small window too!).

 

Don't worry, Pathfinder WILL finish soon (1 child found, 4 to go...). If we want to stop before the scenario ends, we can you know... :)

 

I'm looking forward to Hero (and possibly even GURPS if Martin can slow down from RL to run it).


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#16 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 08:04 AM

Ah, I see. Never really looked at it like that. If you ever want to do something fancy in Pathfinder BTW, just say and I'll assign a number for you.

 

 

tumblr_lvgmalZ0W61r4w1ioo1_250.gif


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#17 WhiteKnight

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 01:19 PM

This is something I may be looking at in the near future.  Possibly a Justice and Light campaign for Shaintar.  Have to spend a little longer at the client to see if it will accommodate the kind of rambling I'm used to.  :)


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#18 Slartibartfast

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 03:19 PM

... hirsute ...

Isn't that a sort of medical condition?


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#19 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 01:56 AM

 

hirsute


Isn't that a sort of medical condition?

 

 
Surely it's the opposite. ;-)
 

Have to spend a little longer at the client to see if it will accommodate the kind of rambling I'm used to.  :)


Maybe BigJackBrass has some tips that could help you, he's well-known for being a huge rambler.
 
He also likes to go on hiking trips. ;)


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#20 riddles

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 02:35 AM

We're on a hiatus at the moment as it's holiday time in the UK, but when we return, for Pathfinder anyway, we're moving away from the battle map driven gaming.

 

The plan is to just have a blank page with the icons on it, and then draw out if needed the combat.

 

Sort of like we do at tabletop really! :-)

 

So still using roll20 to roll and keep track of stuff, but hopefully moving the story more into the players imaginations, and away from just looking at screens...


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