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[Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page 
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Post [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
Monday night was our second session of Lady Blackbird, the free steampunk RPG by the excellent John Harper. I'm playing Snargle, the shape-shifting goblin pilot of The Owl, my buddy Scott is hamming it up as Captain Vance, the ex-imperial (as played by a younger Bruce Campbell), my wife is embodying the stoic and deadly bodyguard Naomi Bishop and Joel is playing the mechanic/first mate/petty sorceror Kale Arkam.

In this game, each player has three "keys" to their PC. These "keys" are things that their PC is about, things that drive and motivate them. The "keys" are written with goals in mind, such as:
Key of the Paragon
As a noble, you’re a cut above the common man. Hit your key when you demonstrate your superiority or when your noble traits overcome a problem.

The GM established pretty loose interpretations of this early on, encouraged us to take XP and have fun. This was pitched as a mini-series, so why not play with all the toys in the game?

The first session, it was fun to watch the rest of the group enjoy a game I love dearly. I've run it for most of these guys last year as a one shot and for a few other groups as well.

Joel, who before us had played mostly D&D 1st and 2nd edition, was cautious at first to take XP. His PC, Arkam, has the keys of Greed, "the Mission" (deliver Lady Blackbird safely to the pirate king) and Fraternity (you are best buds with Cpt. Vance). Over the course of the two sessions, I have watched his play begin to slide into what I can best describe as "hamster hitting the bar for the food pellet".

As the party is in conversation, Arkam says, "Yeah, what Vance said," and then Joel takes an XP (for key of frat). Then we discuss where to fly to next and Arkam says, "Let's go to Nightport, they might know the True Way," and Joel takes an XP (for key of mission). Or while the party discusses the fate of some baby sky squid, Arkam says, "We should sell them," and Joel takes an XP (for key of greed). I'm watching him go through the motions of the character, engaged and actively playing, but its all so flat. There's no style, no substance, he's working through the reward system like an automaton. I find it hard to engage his character in conversaton because I see him working everything to get an XP rather than exploring the "whys" of his character.

I don't care how much XP Joel amasses. I'm not worried about character balance. What has started to bother me is that he now sees all interactions as a function of generating XP rather than the play of characters. There's no feeling of consistency with Arkam, which is odd because he's playing the character as written.

I'm still sussing out why this bothers me so much. Maybe it is because I know these characters already, I've seen some very exciting Kale Arkams and I'm unfairly comparing those Arkams to this one. I'm sure its just me because Joel is having fun. Everyone else is having fun. Overall, I'm having a blast, just have this one stupid nitpick.

I am sorry if this reads as ranty. I just wanted to share some AP experiences I've had that I'm still noodling over.

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Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:39 pm
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
On one hand, I'm tempted to say, this is what you get for playing a game that uses "rewards" to get the monkeys to dance.

But I also might have a solution for you, although most of it has to come from the GM. And that is: whenever Joel takes XP, somebody has to make sure that something significant happens as a result of the action that triggered the XP-taking.

If that's too hard, because Arkam is taking XP for just saying stuff in the company of other PCs, then you guys should agree that XP only get taken for stuff you do, not for stuff you say. if you say it in front of NPCs, then that counts as doing.


Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:52 pm
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
Ouch! he's interfacing with the mechanics to the detriment of the story - not what was envisaged by the designer! I own Lady Blackbird and it is well designed - not exactly my cup of tea, but I could enjoy playing the game - so I don't see this as a design fault. maybe you should talk to him. That helps a lot in these type of situations. Communication is so important!

-clash

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Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:10 pm
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
@ewilen Don't all games use rewards to get monkeys to dance? I'm not sure what you mean.

Talking to the GM is a good suggestion, but he's rather new and I don't want to burden him with having to backtrack how he is ruling XP just because I don't like it.

As for a player-based enforcement, that's interesting. I should chat with my wife, see if it bothers her at all.

@clash You know, I've talked with Joel before and I think, simply put, we aren't on the same page. He likes combat, strategy, he plays WoW obsessively between games, he also competes in Magic tourneys... my brand of RP just isn't his.

Now what I think I WILL do is this - handle it in game. I think I will have Snargle ask Arkam why he and Vance are so tight and have Snargle challenge why Arkam wants to finish this mission so badly. It even works in the game because we can do it during a Refreshment scene. I will MAKE him play my way. bwahahahaha

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"Thunk weeeooo KABLAM!" - Thalaba
@orklord you're the octopus of podcasting - boulet


Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:37 pm
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
I'm glad to offer a helpful practical suggestion, but no, the idea that all games use rewards, meaning mechanical goodies, as a way to get monkeys to dance is

A) False
B) A product of stunted post-Forge discourse
C) Not even a good understanding of Forge theory as advocated by its grand poobahs.


Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:15 pm
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
@ewilen, OK, so "monkeys to dance" might be a charged phrase for this, but are you saying that games don't offer rewards for when players do something? I'm really stymied on how games don't offer rewards when players do things.

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Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:44 pm
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
Whatever else it might be, Sorcerer is probably a good example of a non-dancing monkey game. Traveller, BRP are less stark, but I think they basically tend in that direction. You do what you feel like doing, the rules produce consequences, but you have to motivate yourself instead of dancing for goodies.


Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:18 am
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
@ewilen, thanks for the suggestions. I own Sorceror, will give it another read and think on what you're saying before I reply.

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@orklord you're the octopus of podcasting - boulet


Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:46 am
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
orklord wrote:
@ewilen, thanks for the suggestions. I own Sorceror, will give it another read and think on what you're saying before I reply.


Eliot:

While I am not the world's biggest fan of scooby snacks for PCs - I recollect shouting "Players are NOT Pavlov's Dogs!" at one point - I don't think that's the problem here, based on what orklord has said about the player in other circumstances. Like you, if I were running Lady Blackbird, I would put some conditions on the simple declarations to enforce not merely the letter but the spirit of the rules.

-clash

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Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:48 am
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Post Re: [Lady Blackbird] We aren't on the same page
flyingmice wrote:
While I am not the world's biggest fan of scooby snacks for PCs


This made me chuckle, on several levels.

Is there a game that offers scooby snacks to avoid the problem of super cautious uber-plannifying players? (sorry off topic but made me think)


Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:28 pm
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