Two odd questions and an observation

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Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Mad Icon » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:14 pm

1. My players are the type that when I offer them the freedom to make up their own Aspects they will be paralyzed by the prospect. I have players who love D&D and WoD for the very guided nature of character creation and some who love Amber since it effectively lacks mechanics but the idea of storytelling-mechanics built into character creation will really throw them off. I've tried things like this before with little success... Does anyone have any pointers for urging players along with this process? I know most of my players will respond like this, "Hey, the Ven are awesome but can we play this with other rules?"

2. Has anyone bothered trying out the world of the Ven with other rules?

3. I ask because I don't like Risks/wagers very much myself. What's to stop a player (say 4 cunning, 4 wisdom) from looking at the oft-mentioned dead body in the examples in the book and saying, oh, well, "I find the body, AND it is scarred in such and such a way, AND this means the killer is Lady (so and so). I think you get my point. Even though it does give a whole new dimension to cooperative play, it really is the kind of game where the inmates are running the asylum and the GM is basically superfluous... As a GM you really can't plan ahead at all because one Wisdom risk will kill every bit of work you've done. I noticed that another group has instituted a 1 veto per player rule already and this seems almost a necessity for a game like this.

4. Compels seem odd. First you really could only play this game with people you either trust or hate and to have two or three or four mechanical systems on your character sheet which take away free will/player determination every session seems like a recipe for unrest in your gaming group, doesn't it?

5. Finally, doesn't the example risk in the book break the rules for wagers? The part I am referring to is the "and she grants me sanctuary" bit. Wouldn't that qualify under the rules that a wager can't do something which would require a risk? Seems to me convincing another Ven noble to grant you sanctuary on the fly when you just dropped out of the sky would require at least some roleplaying/negotiating and probaby a risk along the way...

I'm honestly not nit-picking and I haven't run it yet, but I know my players and the few who have seen the system so far have all these worries and more. They love the fluff, hate the crunch... they even like the tragedy element, but they really, really don't like the system. And as a GM I kinda don't either...

Any thoughts on what I might do to mitigate their/my fears or testimonials would be appreciated. I want to try this game, but I'm concerned right out of the box so...
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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Snag » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:39 pm

Mad Icon wrote:1. My players are the type that when I offer them the freedom to make up their own Aspects they will be paralyzed by the prospect. I have players who love D&D and WoD for the very guided nature of character creation and some who love Amber since it effectively lacks mechanics but the idea of storytelling-mechanics built into character creation will really throw them off. I've tried things like this before with little success... Does anyone have any pointers for urging players along with this process? I know most of my players will respond like this, "Hey, the Ven are awesome but can we play this with other rules?"


It's understandable, most of us cut our teeth on games with pages and pages of charts and lists. Before you even start giving them the Aspect paralysis, ask them these questions:

-What two things would you like your character to be exceptionally good at?
-What would be the impetus for your character to employ that ability?
-What could another character take advantage of to get an edge on your character, where that ability is concerned.
-What would make your character want to use that ability, even if it's not in their best interests at the time?

If they can answer those four questions, then they've just invented an Aspect.


Mad Icon wrote:2. Has anyone bothered trying out the world of the Ven with other rules?


No, and for one reason only: Very few game systems have the Narrative control mechanic resembling Risks/Wagers and Style Points. Those two things are the bread and butter of this game system. Also, the mandatory Weakness is not something most games embrace. You could try it with another system, but you'd have to do a lot of monkeying with the rules and then you'renot playing that game system anymore.

Mad Icon wrote:3. I ask because I don't like Risks/wagers very much myself. What's to stop a player (say 4 cunning, 4 wisdom) from looking at the oft-mentioned dead body in the examples in the book and saying, oh, well, "I find the body, AND it is scarred in such and such a way, AND this means the killer is Lady (so and so). I think you get my point. Even though it does give a whole new dimension to cooperative play, it really is the kind of game where the inmates are running the asylum and the GM is basically superfluous... As a GM you really can't plan ahead at all because one Wisdom risk will kill every bit of work you've done. I noticed that another group has instituted a 1 veto per player rule already and this seems almost a necessity for a game like this.


You as the Narrator, if something seems excessively laden with wank, can always say 'no', even though it's not really in the spirit of the game. You know your players, if they need that occasional rejection to keep them from getting out of hand, then do what you gotta do. The 'One veto per person' idea isn't bad either.

However, before you resort to that, try bribery. Seriously.

Let's say two players both succeeded in the dead body Risk.

Player 1: "I find the body"
Player 2: (Spending a wager) "And it's got razor thin cuts on it."
Narrator: (To Player 1) "I will give you two Style Points if you say that the cuts could've been made by your/Player 2's dagger."

By rewarding themselves for making their own complications, you've just generated a whole different story. It does require some flexibility with planning, (okay, a lot of flexibility), but once they get the hang of the idea, it ought to go a lot smoother than you're fretting over.

Mad Icon wrote:4. Compels seem odd. First you really could only play this game with people you either trust or hate and to have two or three or four mechanical systems on your character sheet which take away free will/player determination every session seems like a recipe for unrest in your gaming group, doesn't it?


If your group isn't likely to play the Screw Your Buddy style of game, it's really a non-issue. They'll use those Compels on the NPCs and you'll be having the NPCs using the Compels on them, which they expect. If they are going to be indulging in PvP, write up an OOC contract. "We the undersigned understand that our fellow players are going to take actions against us that could cause us to behave in a fashion that is detrimental to our characters. We agree to this, because this is a story about epic tragedy." And whatever else you want to toss in.


Mad Icon wrote:5. Finally, doesn't the example risk in the book break the rules for wagers? The part I am referring to is the "and she grants me sanctuary" bit. Wouldn't that qualify under the rules that a wager can't do something which would require a risk? Seems to me convincing another Ven noble to grant you sanctuary on the fly when you just dropped out of the sky would require at least some roleplaying/negotiating and probaby a risk along the way...


That may have come from some early playtesting, I'm not 100% sure. Or it may have been because the player, in acting in a way that was a mixed blessing to themselves, the Narrator chose to allow it in that particular instance. A great deal of this is a judgement call - it all depends on what kind of game you and your players would like to have.

Mad Icon wrote:I'm honestly not nit-picking and I haven't run it yet, but I know my players and the few who have seen the system so far have all these worries and more. They love the fluff, hate the crunch... they even like the tragedy element, but they really, really don't like the system. And as a GM I kinda don't either...

Any thoughts on what I might do to mitigate their/my fears or testimonials would be appreciated. I want to try this game, but I'm concerned right out of the box so...


The best advice I could give, would be the same one I tell other folks: Play the game once or twice, so you can get a feel for how it's going to flow. I don't want to say that it's an acquired taste, but it's definately something that takes a little getting used to. My personal viewpoint on any new game is that if the story is good enough, I won't care what the mechanics are.

Unfortunately, I can't give you much more than that, simply because you know your players and I don't. If you think any of this will help coax them into having fun, then I'm glad. If you have to find another tack to take, then I hope it's one that makes this game entertaing for your group.

Hope this helped.
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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Mad Icon » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:49 pm

Fair enough. And we do plan on trying it out before running off. I'll post about how it goes, but I can say we made it through character creation only with a great deal of tooth gnashing and frustration... that can't bode well.

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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Snag » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:55 pm

In looking for something else, I also found the bit about using wagers on Characters:

P. 135, adding details to other characters. It's permissible, but the target character can spend Style to say no.
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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Mad Icon » Thu Oct 16, 2008 1:04 pm

I think I misrepresented my trouble with that.

It's not doing it to other players, it's that with one risk you effectively circumvent all the work of an adventure. Nothing except GM veto prevents a player from using Wisdom or Cunning to simply say, "Oh, it was done by this person." instead of merely presenting clues. Wagers have no sense of scale to them. They can accomplish one thing, but that one thing can be ANYTHING.

That was my troubled point there.
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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Snag » Thu Oct 16, 2008 1:07 pm

Mad Icon wrote:I think I misrepresented my trouble with that.

It's not doing it to other players, it's that with one risk you effectively circumvent all the work of an adventure. Nothing except GM veto prevents a player from using Wisdom or Cunning to simply say, "Oh, it was done by this person." instead of merely presenting clues. Wagers have no sense of scale to them. They can accomplish one thing, but that one thing can be ANYTHING.

That was my troubled point there.


It can also apply to the NPCs. They get Style Points too. And if they're jumping to a conclusion before they get the evidence, absolutely veto it. "You haven't established enough evidence yet."
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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Ashkelion-Yvarai » Thu Oct 16, 2008 4:57 pm

Mad Icon wrote:...it's that with one risk you effectively circumvent all the work of an adventure.


This is where Houses of the Blooded differs the most from traditional RPGs. "The work of the adventure" doesn't exist per se. What I usually start with are three truths and let the players built their own "adventure" from there (see examples in the Actual Play thread). Using this mechanic, I get very good vibe right at the beginning what the players want out of the game session.
This way, I don't need to prepare much besides the three truths for the evening and some NPCs that I find entertaining. The rest of "the work of the adventure" is done by the players not by me.

Basically, read the Narrator chapter at least twice before running your first game. It is all in there.
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Re: Two odd questions and an observation

Postby Skaldsaga » Thu Oct 16, 2008 6:17 pm

Mad Icon wrote: I'm honestly not nit-picking and I haven't run it yet, but I know my players and the few who have seen the system so far have all these worries and more. They love the fluff, hate the crunch... they even like the tragedy element, but they really, really don't like the system. And as a GM I kinda don't either...

Any thoughts on what I might do to mitigate their/my fears or testimonials would be appreciated. I want to try this game, but I'm concerned right out of the box so...


When I first sat down at a Con game were John was demo-ing Houses. I listened and took in all he was saying the background. I thought WOW this is great. Then when he started explaining the rules. I became skeptical. This is going to be chaotic. No structure, no directions. This is no way to tell a story, let alone a campaign. I sat though the game, and I started to see how it works. Now it is by far my favorite system. Both as a Narrator and player. I fact I'm starting to think about how I can modify it for 7th Sea.
I stopped fighting the inner demons. We’re on the same side now.
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