Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Players, and Working with them

Every gaming group is different. I do believe there is a spectrum that most people fall on between Thespian Method Actor and Hack N'Slash Munchkin. It's safe to say that a normal distribution is probably appropriate- most players appreciate a mix of both, and the populations of fanatics tapers down on either side.

That said, groups also differ on how they approach problems, how much they like to plan and prepare, and even on how much in-character banter they want to have.

So I'm going to talk a bit about my players, and how I adapt my games to run more smoothly with them.

As a Group:

  • Group preference is for text-based campaigns. When I floated using voice chat reaction was nearly unanimous that text was the preferred medium.
  • Pace of play is fairly slow and methodical- while not nearly as slow as PBP, it's still objectively on the slower side.
  • Every player is capable of not being in the spotlight. It is hard to overstate just how easy this makes things for me. Try as I might, occasionally someone gets injured and has to recuperate, a single PC dominates the screen time of a session, or someone gets stuck on overwatch outside while the stealthy party within aces things and no outside threats emerge. None of my players have ever raised this as an issue.
  • Engagement is generally high- this is aided strongly by the text format and the maturity of my players. It's highly unusual for people to be unaware of what's going on in game- largely sidestepping issues of having to catch people up on recent events because they went to go pee, or were stacking dice, they got bored because their PC had nothing to do, or had to help their roommate snap out of a flashback.
  • The group is Focused. Everyone is highly aligned on the group goal, and having their PC contribute to the mission. This group does a really good job of not deeply exploring what I consider to be roleplaying empty calories- wenching, asking what booze is available at the bar, etc.
  • The group thrives off preparation, planning, and executing their strategies. While willing to improvise when needed, they generally take a very methodical approach.
  • Pinebox as a campaign doesn't have a huge emphasis on Roleplay, with more focus on the tasks at hand for the PCs. That's not to say that the Players don't Roleplay their characters, it's that they've rolled with the pacing and campaign structure. This goes back to how focused they are.


I'm going to use the PCs names as pseudonyms for my players to maintain their privacy.

Gaston is the newest player to join the group, currently playing the team doctor/demolitions expert. He's attentive and does a really good job playing up the generous/selfless nature of his character. Being last to the table and chargen, he filled in missing skills for the group, and has crushed it ever since, which isn't always easy in my games. I might encourage him to consider playing a face the next time a new campaign comes around.

Otto is one of my two players who have stuck around since Agency 17. Otto's instincts for combat tactics are among the best in the group- if he's thinking it's a good time for a retreat, it's probably time to get out of dodge. Otto frequently keeps me on my toes, oftentimes recalling old plot points, NPCs, or piecing things together from clues. He pays way more attention to things than he lets on.

Alex is a long-time IRL friend. His flexibility and overall competence has allowed him to fill numerous roles within the group- from skulk, to hacker, to combat heavy. It's really hard to single out things that make him such a good player, although I will say having the shared context of knowing him about a decade does make dumping specific things into the game much easier. For example, I knew he'd know what the Mirai Botnet was when I referenced it in-game.

Hassan has continually been the one stuck with the leadership role in the group since they participated in my Agency 17 campaign. I largely think this is due to his good executive function and capability to break problems down into actionable items. We have a rapport where he seems to just innately get how things function in my campaigns- which means that if he whips up a plan, there's a high chance his enemies are going to be in for a lot of pain.

Kujo has had the most PC deaths/injuries out of any of my players, a consequence of their preference for playing combat heavies. Kujo is starting to grow into being the closet thespian of the group, steadily improving their roleplaying and characters since their beginning losing their PC session 1 of Prohibition Mob. Kujo's often responsible for bringing a little bit of zaniness to things, helping bring humor and vibrancy to what's going on, all while being just as laser focused as the rest of the gang.

Accommodations :

Currently, we've been playing Pinebox for 122 weeks- 2.3 years. At this point we've settled into a steady rhythm, so it's not so much of active accommodations as it is continuing what already works.

  • I generally allow the players ample time to plot, plan, and discuss their next actions. Obviously this doesn't apply when combat's going on or they're on a crashing plane, but there are very few situations where they're rushed.
  • I put a large emphasis on allowing the players to decide how they want to pursue their goals. While the campaign has rails ("Your objective is to prevent Imprint Technology from being finalized"), those rails aren't very restrictive. As the plot demands I might throw constraints at them, but the onus is on them to decide what they're doing.
  • I do my best to telegraph information to my players when appropriate. They're playing badass operatives, they might just have a hunch that someone approaching them can throw down without needing to roll. Their planning habits also thrive off having information at hand.
  • I occasionally skip skill checks when it's obvious success would be trivial for their characters.
  • I stop play when it's clear that I'm getting gassed or need time to plan out ahead.
  • I allow the players to create unfair situations for their enemies and then curbstomp them.
  • I don't fudge results in combat, and the group has occasionally gotten caught with their pants down, wound up in an unfair situation, and almost got hosed because of it. ("Overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.")
  • Enemies generally don't have good enough intel on the players to specifically plan for their individual capabilities.

No comments:

Post a Comment