Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gaming Outside The Game

At one point during a recent session of Champions, one of the players who entered the campaign in its 'second season', found out about an enemy organization which was already known to the first season Players and their PCs.

He remarked that the Players could use a list of the major players and organizations in the setting. I actually have such a list of major superheroes and villains known to the public, which I made available for everyone to read, and the PCs are members of a team of superheroes tied to the UN and have access to the team's international database.

My thinking is, if a group is not well known to the public, you only recently joined the superteam and you haven't taken the time to look stuff up in the computer system, why should I freely give out info on the organization in question? How is that fair to one of the other players in the group who specifically bought the Knowledge Skills 'Criminology' and 'Superhuman Community' and the ability to sleep less than normal to reflect the fact that he stays up all hours of the night studying up on opponents and allies alike?

Well, the first player feels that with all the details in this setting, I should do a wiki type page giving everyone an equal footing run down. Not on secret GM stuff of course but stuff that the PCs, as members of the UN superteam for anywhere from 1-to-4 months now (in-game time) would be expected to know or would be informed of.

That is just not my way of doing things. I don't like doing that. Why? Well, I don't really want to game outside of the game. That is, if you want info that is already readily available to your PC, have said PC access that info or talk to an NPC in-game. Seriously, I am already doing tons of work for this campaign including designing and updating villains, making illustrations of every major character we meet, working on scenarios based off what the PCs did last adventure...now I should make a wiki page too? Spoiled much?

This same player also wanted to participate in a gaming phenomenon I've encountered only one or two times before and which, while probably as old as gaming and the telephone, is made easier by way of the internet. He wanted to play out a meeting with an important NPC over IM or through email. He said it was, "So it wouldn't take up game time".

This concept makes little sense to me. What is game time for then? Isn't it the time when we interact with NPCs, further PC and NPC goals and move the plot along? Also, the idea once again seems unfair to me. We, the group and I, get together once a week for what is usually an 8-10 hour session. Each player and PC gets a part of that time dedicated to what they're doing in the adventure. Why should any one player get more time than the others. If I did it for everyone when would I eat, sleep, write this blog, walk my dog or, you know, live.

Though perhaps I am wrong in my attitude toward this approach. Am I too old school in my wanting to game at the table with the group and not in pieces away from it?

Opinions please. Anyone else experience this positively or negatively?

Barking Alien


  1. In my games, it is usually the players who put together wikis like that. I think they're useful- especially as a reference, but that's work you as the GM don't really have time for. I'll give the players full support and help if they put those together. We have several of those. They usually get rolling and set up basic information, but eventually don't get updated. Still they end up being a help for me when I have to look something up I've forgotten.

  2. I've tried to use campaign wikis a few times, but without much success. Not an extensive layout of the campaign from my own sweaty fingers, but a place for the players and me to jot the memorable and notable events and characters of the campaign. But for some reason, I can never get my players to take active part in it.

    As to your player, I think he's feeling like one of those people who tuned in to Lost a few episodes in and never really caught up.

  3. This is similar to an attitude I first saw when D&D 4e came on the scene. The fights took so long that anything besides combat seemed to be a 'waste of time' since 'role playing' did not directly contribute to xp or wealth attainment. The attitude wasn't just from the PCs, but from me too as I sank into that mentality. Since I missed the role play, I tried to cram a lot into emails where I had more time. Some players took advantage of the 'extra' game time, some did not.

    My guess is that your player is either trying to be nice to the other players by handling an npc interrogation off stage so that it won't take up *their* time, or finds interrogating npcs completely boring, and shows up at the table to do other things - like adventure or fight or interact with pcs rather than npcs. (I've seen that it usually boils down to combat.)

    I don't see handling things off-line as unusual, or unreasonable. That is, if you have the time and desire. If you don't - well - then that is your line in the sand to draw.

    As for the request to be handed data on a silver platter, well, that's just funny. I provide written data at my own whim - when I think it's fun, or something is so complicated or convoluted that I don't think I can express it well with my mouth. Otherwise, I say - TAKE NOTES AS I MENTION THINGS. Makes life much easier for everyone involved. I pay attention to what the players ignore and will purposefully screw them with that data.

    And the wiki thing? Guess what, Mr. Player. You are now the KEEPER of the WIKI. Start writing.


    - Ark

  4. Online wikis are suddenly "all the rage" with several GMs in the area- it seems sort of because the "big guys" are doing it, and they feel like they should too..

    I refuse, mostly because all my thoughts aren't finished yet and I am sure not going to be caught up with trying to remember it all and keep it all straight on "paper". Nope, not doing that.

    The email thing, I do all the time. But it depends on the game, the GM, and a bunch of other things. One of those things is how much time the game actually takes... The main game I use email "downtime" (or "bluebooking") for takes place 2 times a month and each session is about 5 hours. There are a butt ton of players, and there is not always enough time for me to get my stuff done "in game".

    If I was in a game that met weekly for 8 hours each session, you bet your ASS I would do that stuff in game.

  5. Could your players be in charge of that database? That way it's all from the characters' perspectives and completely up to them to be accurate, making investigation in-game a valued asset without endangering the team by having some players needlessly ignorant of pertinent data.

  6. If you;re running 8-10 hour sessions I wouldn't worry about hosting side conversations. I've done it a few times for solo activity back when I had 8 players and ran 4-6 hour sessions. If you have 4 players and 8+ hour sessions it seems unnecessary.

    As far as information, I share it once, then I'll usually share it again if someone asks nicely. After that it's "make an Int roll to see if you remember" - what's the easiest way to avoid this? Write it down! It's not like there aren't pens and paper right there in front of you! Session summaries on the blog help too and could be seen as anything from personal journals to newspaper archives to holorecordings.

    I find myself drawn more and more towards the West Marches approach though: There is no wiki and there are no session summaries provided by the DM. It is expected to be provided by the players, representing the swapping of tavern tales, etc. I like the idea a lot, but I like posting up my own recounts as well, so I'm kind of stuck there.

  7. Thanks for all the responses. Good ideas here.

    @F. Douglas Wall - I totally understand and appreciate the feeling of coming in on the seventh issue of a twelve issue maxi-series. At the same time, his character is one who has been doing the whole stranger-on-a-bus, Bruce Banner thing from the old Hulk TV series before joining our team. How much is that guy supposed to know?

    @Arkhein - I think it's a modern thing. To some, having grown up around such means of information access, it seems perfectly normal and a nature progression in the tools Players and GMs use in their campaigns. The internet, email, wikis and all of that exist now so why not use them?

    "We never did before and we ran games just fine", says the small part of me that could possibly be considered an old school grognard.

    "That's 'cause you didn't have this stuff", says the modern gamer and the rest of me, the majority part that isn't old school thinks, "Hmmmm...maybe he's right."

    As for your latter ideas, I say thee 'BINGO'! Take notes! I can't tell you how much I miss my old group(s) note taking skills.

    You want to keep track of every little detail? Be my guest.

    @Loquacious - The time factor is a big part of it. You certainly don't know me or my game if you think we're going to sit together for 8 hours and NOT have large portions of the session dedicated to RPing. After all, I am here to entertain all of you, you are here to entertain me and the entire group is here to entertain each other. Why should only you and I have all the fun. ;)

    Additionally, like you, my ideas are generally half formed until sometime after I say them out loud and even then they could go for some tweaking. To write out all I know about something ahead of time would indicate I already know all about it and that is not always the case.

    @RavenFeast - I love the idea but these guys, while great guys and great players, are not you and the NJ crew when it comes to investigating. See my comment on note taking above.

    The group as a weird (at least to my experience) concept on what they should now, what's need to know and what they could know if they just got off their butts and did some detective work.

    Have I mentioned missing you, Becca and Lynn? 'Cause, yeah.

    @Blacksteel - I love the idea brought up here several times of the player(s) being in charge of updating the info on the campaign while I generate a lot of it. It would get them more involved I think and not make me do the same work twice.

    At the same time (and generally this only refers to this one player in particular), I don't think this will happen because it's just not how the one asking for the info thinks. He is a very tactically oriented player but seems to think all tactics are dependant on intel coming in from the front lines. He doesn't see himself as on the front lines himself.