Storyline critique

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    Michael started an IC thread in the Book, but I also would like some OOC input, which we briefly touched on during my meltdown. I do apologise for that, in part, but some of what I said needed to be said. I should have been a bit nicer about it. I’ll chime in on this thread and the IC one as needed.

    That said, let’s work together to figure out a good way forward. I want honesty but please remember to be polite and don’t flame.


  • Like he said more communication both IC and OOC, we all have different views and ideas let’s share them. I sometimes can’t think of something on the spot but after a few good brainstorming sessions with someone, I get great feedback and it helps me build onto my character and I really appreciate it.

  • This isn’t a critique towards anyone in particular.

    Sadly, I couldn’t participate in the big showdown, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve noticed quite a few things Hector touched upon in his IC post. Especially for communication. I feel like a lot of it is like a game of hot potato. Information isn’t relayed properly and on time, and folks assume that it was already passed on by someone else, and from that things just start unraveling. Planning for activities seems to occur on the spot, or is kind of rushed without proper planning between the characters. And these things need to be nipped in the bud from the get go because they are contagious and spill over into OOC as well. Players and STs might get frustrated, things might be said that weren’t meant to, or the plot might get rushed just to get everything over with.

    I suppose my suggestion as a solution would be for the players to have a bit of self-awareness. Even if your character is a wall-flowering person who plays a minute role, they are still a cog in the ongoing story, and while refusal to participate in something is your prerogative, sometimes that refusal (or downright lazyness) is a catalyst for a much bigger problem that is really hard to contain.

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    Amen. To all of that. 🙂 Thank you.

  • I think the current guild structure adds to the problems.

    Effectively, the guilds should have handled all the planning. It’s literally what they’re intended for (as I understand it). But two of the three guild heads are ST PCs. That’s not in and of itself a problem - consistent, veteran players tend to be made guild heads, and also get tapped to be an ST (TJ was head of Blade before he was an ST).

    But I highly suspect that STs in general want the players to do things, to drive events. And there’s the danger that players tend to freeze when an ST PC says or does something, because, y’know, they’re storytellers. Or wait for their input. So stuff stalls out.

    I’m not suggesting a change of guild heads, but I would suggest that there is a known, designated second in each guild who has the wherewithal to take charge of stuff. This was very much a Blade / Hilt operation, except the guilds, as they appear intended, were effectively irrelevant.

    On a personal perspective, Hector has built up leadership, both as a skill and (hopefully) as a character in general. I wanted to jump in and start pulling strings, but that would have been directly interfering with the in-character roles of other people. I didn’t want to hijack it. I also was trying to emphasize to others to follow the process that’s been established. But in trying to make a point, I sat back and let things get more muddied.

    I was glad to see other players step up. Even though I accidentally tried to stifle some of the plan simply because I thought it was just more chaos and people doing their own thing (Sorry Conner/Xaigas/etc.!)


  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    Yup. Agree 100%! We want players to do stuff. The guild heads ended up as they were because at the time we didn’t have any players capable of doing the things. Now we have a whooooole lotta newbs and now we can start to restructure.

    Yay for newbs!

  • Unbound

    I’m still new and I’ve only played 3 events with y’all, the Ball, the trip to the fort, and then last night. I’m still pretty hesitant to take too much of a leap and I did some hot potatoing as well as I had assumed another player had passed information along. Based on my experiences with you guys so far here is some things I wanted to share:

    1.) Large groups vs Split groups

    Large groups are theoretically fun, but get bogged down. I liked splitting up last night and at the ball because it gave us, the players, more space to be our characters. Even during the ball, the outside crowd didn’t have much going on (essentially just waiting and experiencing some environmental stuff), but I had a lot of fun just talking shop and being in character with those on exfil duty. Things for me got frustrating when the whole group came back together and it took us 30 min to figure out who was sitting in what car as we went to the funeral home, another 30 min to get out of the van, and another 45 to do 1 round of combat with 3 wights (while we had something like 15 vampires). I’m not trying to criticize anyone or the STs, that was just a by product of having so many players at once.

    2.) Posturing and Posing

    For lack of a better term that’s what I’ve been calling all of the little things the characters do, a good example was Cassie last night frequently looking into the corner of the Night Market at some unseen thing. This was full of flavor and I learned a lot about her character without her ever having to say anything explicitly. The problem however is when a huge group of people do it in an event, every 2-5 minutes, it starts to become eye cancer and makes it so hard to follow what is going on. The result is the ST having to repeat the story element which gets missed, or telling everyone to pause again (because we probably missed that too). I don’t really have a solution for this, but maybe it could be something touched on somewhere (IRC Etiquette Guideline #X: if there are a bunch of players together the STs may ask that players limit their posturing to make it easier to follow the events going on).

    3.) Time

    Of the games I’ve been in the Ball started at 19:00 my time and was ongoing when I left around 00:30, the Fort trip started around 22:00 and concluded around 00:30, and then the game last night got started in earnest around 20:00-21:00 and finished by 23:30.

    I really want to be part of the events, but I’m very hesitant to get too involved because I’m not sure what the norm is. I realistically can’t stay up much past midnight Sunday night-Thursday night and still be a functioning human being for work the next day. Likewise, I don’t want to get too far into an event and just peace out on you guys.

    As such it would be nice to have an idea of how long an event is going to last OOC or have some easily acceptable out for players.

    4.) Group Focus and Attendance

    I think it would be a really good idea to limit event size, I know when I am GMing Pathfinder or D&D I put a hard cap of 7 players at a table and even then that can be hard to handle. Some things that could be done are

    • Concurrent retconned runs: This is when you run the same session multiple times for multiple groups and treat them as if they are all there at the same time. You split up their play and combine what happens through narrative afterwords.
    • Split Tasks: This is when you give multiple groups tasks to split up the groups. These can be ran at the same time, ran separately and retconned to be the same time, or take place on separate days but something prevents the players of one from playing in another (maybe group 1 did surveillance and stole a needed item, but might have been IDed).
    • Primary and Secondary: This is when you just flat out say, “Group 1 is the focus and Group 2 is going to get very little direct ST focus.” This is kinda what I was expecting to happen with the living side team last night, as that seemed to be how things went with the exfil team at the ball. I find this to be a completely acceptable method, it’s just good to be upfront with people in case they want to be in the more active side.

    What the cap is depends on what the STs think they can handle, but I felt this was a problem at least when everyone met again after the Ball.

    5.) Character Coordination and Taking Initiative

    “Initiative, Take It!” This was something Stef said the other day when I asked her a question, and that’s really hard when you’re just getting used to a group. However she is right and she probably should have just dropped the alternate plan for not communicating it to anyone in leadership. That was mainly my fault.

    What was revealed from this however, is that there is some confusion with character coordination, it was a devil of a time trying to figure out who was going where at the beginning of the event last night. I don’t know how normal that is, and I have a feeling it was mostly caused by the miscommunication on my groups part. What might be useful is some sort of IC event coordination. A guild leader might post to the book saying, “We are meeting with Leo to got get Felicia on Thursday, let me know if you are going by Wednesday.” This would be a great way to share some general OOC organizational knowledge in an IC setting as well as let the STs know who to expect.

    6.) Story Communication

    One of the biggest things I’ve bumped into so far is not knowing something which everyone seems to know and just having to figure shit out or ask questions (usually to a negative response). What’s worse is not even knowing the questions to ask. What would be really awesome would be some sort of ongoing IC story publication. There is a gold mine of roleplay opportunity in the game for an archivist, in the style of Beckett. This role could even be a Parliament position, “The Scribe.” The character would be responsible for documenting what has happened in the story of Branton. The character could go around, asking people in town about what has happened and documenting it. If an impromptu ST event occurs (like the trip to the fort) word might get around and eventually the scribe could catch wind and try to find out what happened. In time characters might even start sending the Scribe information. The writings of the scribe could work as a new player jump start into the story as well as a location for the STs to put narrative retconns (such as when using the Concurrent retconned runs strategy).

    These are just some of my experiences, both good and not as good. I’ve tried not to just critique and offer no ideas, but really they are just ideas. I also don’t mean for this to be a critique of anyone or any group, it’s just my opinion.

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    Thank you. You’ve laid things well and given a lot of food for thought. I like that. 🙂

    PS: also +1 for the Dude.

  • Storytellers

    @scarecrow said in Storyline critique:

    This was very much a Blade / Hilt operation, except the guilds, as they appear intended, were effectively irrelevant.

    For clarification, is this regarding the entire SL or just the last 48 hours or so after the Ball?

  • The last 48 hours definitely, maybe 1 or 2 days before, but fuzzy. And I’m not beating up on you or Tia (or meaning to), I think it’s what I said earlier - wanting the players to drive the action, yet suddenly the logical flow stemming through STs and a natural tendency to wait for the PCs in those positions to head stuff up.

  • I’ve chewed on my thoughts on this since last night, whenever I could get a word in edgewise through a brutal migraine, or my screaming toddler. I’ll do my best to be coherent.

    1. I absolutely agree that the “posturing” thing could be addressed in the player etiquette section. I’m actually kind of shocked it hasn’t come up before, honestly. How many courts have we all attended, IC, that is ::Prince/Primogen/Someone says something:: followed up by 30 characters either nodding or smirking? Like. We get it.

    2. In regards to player driven leadership - yeah, that’s a bitch. I think it’s something we can all do our best to remind ourselves of, that at the end of the day, the STs/veterans don’t want to be left holding all of the weight. (Not that I mind carrying some of the weight, mind you!) Player initiative was absolutely there last night, and the nights previous. I believe our primary issue in that is a few factors:

    • Since this is my first anarch game, I find myself constantly fighting the urge to horde information. Honestly, it’s something I struggle with. I’m working on it.
    • Also re: anarchy - one of the draw backs of this sect is the perception (note: not the reality) but the perception that every lick gets a say. Well. While that is a beautiful thing, sometimes, some licks are new arrivals and don’t know shit. Sometimes licks are new arrivals and have a good head on their shoulders. Sometimes characters who have been around since day one are morons. So there isn’t a clear “status” factor, but, there is a certain amount of “no, let everyone have their say”, even when some opinions are basically putting a wooden sandal into the gears of the factory. (Sabotage. See what I did there?)

    My SUGGESTION to fellow players/storytellers/anyone who thinks its applicable is consider the following:

    1. What’s the first rule of improv? Always say yes.
    2. What’s the second rule of improv? Always say yes, and…

    Justin - ::miming holding a gun at Scarecrow:: Put your hands up, you son of a bitch.
    Scarecrow - …that’s a banana.
    Justin - No. It’s a gun.

    And the scene is dead. Michael suggested a yes, and, and Justin stopped the scene. Boo. Let’s try the alternative.

    Justin - ::miming holding a gun at Scarecrow:: Put your hands up, you son of a bitch.
    Scarecrow - …that’s a banana.
    Justin - AND IT’S LOADED
    Scarecrow - ::puts his hands up:: Don’t do anything crazy man…

    In the second example, we can see that the hypothetical Scarecrow tried to change the unseen prop in a way that could have diffused the scene, but when Justin doubled down, he rolled with it.

    What’s the point of that? OBVIOUSLY WE ARE GOING TO DISAGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER IN CHARACTER. Sure we are. But, is there a way we can disagree collaboratively? Is there a way that we can say we disagree with a plan, and then… simply not take part in it? Emmeric has absolutely done this. I encourage you to do the same.

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, Stef, but, what I took from your passionate discussion last night was that you were distressed by the perception that people were stopping play, more than adding to it. How can we, as a gaming community, take that lesson in stride, and roll with it? By rolling with the punches. By creating the conflict, and seeing it through.

    I think that a lot of us, as players, are collaborative and amazing people. But sometimes, when a character is being an asshat, it’s okay to say: “Then you’re welcome not to join us” and exclude them. If someone is blocking a scene, you’re welcome to move on without them. (Unless combat ensues as a result, or whatever, but…that’s a whole other rant)

    I hope there is something in there that was useful. I’m happy to see this kind of discussion take place, as a healthy way of continuing to grow and nurture the community.

    Hit me up if you have any questions, or want to discuss.

    • Justin

    PS: I literally almost signed that as Emmeric. ::facepalm::

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    @unclean said in Storyline critique:

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, Stef, but, what I took from your passionate discussion last night was that you were distressed by the perception that people were stopping play, more than adding to it. How can we, as a gaming community, take that lesson in stride, and roll with it? By rolling with the punches. By creating the conflict, and seeing it through.

    It was that and no one listening to each other and or staying silent instead of speaking up for fear of…something. I don’t know what, fear of the STs, fear of the vets, fear of looking bad/silly, just generally not able to keep up with a scene? All of the above?

    It also wasn’t so much stopping play it was me seeing a few newbs who stepped up not being listened to AND for my part, I had in my head what to do - I had had no time to write anything down to be ready ahead of time, but I had it in my head what I was going to do. I signed on to a whoooole other plan, a much bigger split from what was two scenes to possibly three AND my own desire to make sure everyone had something “cool” to do.

    It wasn’t so much about -me- and what -I- wanted, it was about what -I- wanted to give to everyone.

    For example, I knew that the people outside the ball were going to be sitting there with little to do, that’s why I came up with the fairy tales to throw at them, so at least they had something to comment on and not just sit there, watching a building where other players were actually interacting with plot. I didn’t want that for them.

    I know it is my choice to do that and maybe I am overdoing it, but it’s what I like to do. Give everything a “thing” to have fun with, or feel important about, to be involved.

  • Unbound

    @malevolence said in Storyline critique:

    It was that and no one listening to each other and or staying silent instead of speaking up for fear of…something. I don’t know what.

    For me it’s the fear of over stepping boundaries, I was trying not to say something in character that is beyond the reach of what I should be able to say or do as a character. An example from last night was when we were told that we could see the doors up ahead, my character then said something to the effect of,

    "Let’s get those doors open before they arrive! ::Eddy Rushs toward the door and tries to open it::

    If you hadn’t explicitly told me to take charge with Orson and take care of obstacles then I would have been much more reserved in my action and response.

  • Haha I loved the fairy tale thing was a nice touch, i’m agreeing with all these suggestions. Now I just got gotta figure out a game plan myself.

  • @knightfox I totally get that, Eddy. Also, might I say, for a n00b, you’ve blown my fucking mind. Keep it up.

  • Unbound

    went to try and add something to this but found my points raised, solid thoughts all well delivered

  • I’m going to tag on here a bit. Something I felt both as a player and in character was a lack of information flow. This has been touched on already, but I would like to expound on it from my personal experiences (and maybe no one else experienced it).

    For almost 2 weeks Wes was consistently asked about any progress being made by anyone. He sounded like a broken record on repeat “As far as I know X is looking into this, Y is looking into that. When they find something to act on, we will act.” And people either got tired of asking or exasperated (ic of course) and that is understandable.

    As a lay member, Wes never heard a word about anything being found. Nothing came down the pipeline but he was asked to pass everything up it. Then there was a mad dash scramble to the ball, and then after the ball of course. Perhaps something was said in the Parliment meeting, but even that would be cutting it close for putting information out.

    I personally found it frustrating as a player to have no idea what was going on or how I could help. Being told there will be information forthcoming once it is found and then never being told that information leaves me with little to dig into when the “orders” have been to wait for the info.

    I dont think this is an issue with STs, but communication and plot hooks being tied up by officers (such as sheriff, primogen, whips, etc) has been an issue before when we were Camarilla. It was something that was worked on and improved, but may have made a return. Or maybe Wes/me are the only ones who encountered this.

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    Yuuuup, it was. But also, one of my beefs was that I gave out info on who had tickets and that an additional ticket could be gotten but there was barely anything about who was going and with whom. That was frustrating.

  • Hilt

    Wasn’t on yesterday, so I missed what you said yesterday.

    Would be grateful for a cliff’s notes, unless what you posted a couple posts above actually like is the complete cliffs notes (no idea if that was a summary of one piece or if it was a summary of pretty much all ish).


  • Hilt

    ((“You” means Stef.))