Nov 13, 2012

Mao's Little Brown Books

"If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we will correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we will act upon it."

I am making one last ditch effort to salvage the Necrocarcerus game before cancelling it and starting another game up in its place. This is after discussing the issues in the current game with a couple of the players. The most frustrating and unfortunate situation to be in with a game is when there is no single, critical flaw, but only a thousand minor ones. In our case, the issues range from personality clashes to organisational issues, to thematic and aesthetic unfamiliarity, to rules confusion, to creative block on my part. Drastic measures are needed.

"Another point that should be mentioned in connection with inner-Party criticism is that some comrades ignore the major issues and confine their attention to minor points when they make their criticism. They do not understand that the main task of criticism is to point out political and organizational mistakes. As to personal shortcomings, unless they are related to political and organizational mistakes, there is no need to be overcritical or the comrades concerned will be at a loss as to what to do. Moreover, once such criticism develops, there is the great danger that within the Party attention will be concentrated exclusively on minor faults, and everyone will become timid and overcautious and forget the Party's political tasks."

The Necrocarcerus group is part of the Emern group, plus three new players (as in, new to playing adventure games, not just this campaign). I thought the group would be able to build on the knowledge and experience-base from the Emern game to flow into a new style of play, but in hindsight, I think the foundations we had in Emern were shakier than anticipated. This problem was exacerbated when I expected 2-3 of the players to be familiar with the source influences for this game (Dark Souls, etc.) and it turned out none of them were in any great detail. I have been unable to use this blog or other means to educate them in the world as thoroughly as I would have preferred due to work commitments. Many of them are also extremely busy, and the net result has been that the entire group is in a reactive, rather than proactive, mode about scheduling attendance, handling events in game, and solving several personal issues that impact play at the table.

"As for criticism, do it in good time; don't get into the habit of criticizing only after the event."

"Don't wait until problems pile up and cause a lot of trouble before trying to solve them. Leaders must march ahead of the movement, not lag behind it."


I'm making a last effort to "save" the game by pushing for proactivity on the part of a few key influence-wielders at the table. I'm hoping to dampen down disruptions in play with their help; to spend more time exploring the world, clarifying it themes, and fleshing out details. I'm also having one of the players push for a longer-lead-time on cancellations from the others, since we've been having some frustrating last minute cancellations that leave us unable to play. My goal is to shift us over to proactivity by making players feel as they own a piece of the game, rather than just showing up to be entertained by me. I am going to socialise parts of it, in other words.

"If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance."

With adventure games as with all other social activities, history is prior to structure, training and practice prior to theory. Unfortunately, due to work commitments and personal creative block, the bric-a-brac I created for Necrocarcerus (maps, cards, etc.) is more sporadic and lower quality than the stuff I created for Emern. My inclination is to hand the group over to one of the players (a specific player I have in mind) who does have time to devote to producing this material, after training him on how to produce it. I should also continue to assist him in producing it. While appealing, this would be a stop-gap measure until he too became jammed up with work or other responsibilities. The best possible outcome would be to train all the players on how to produce it, and then to build opportunities to produce it into the game.

For example, when the players encounter a collection of random potions, have each player write out a duration, an effect, and an appearance on separate pieces of paper. The referee can create either the same number of entries as anyone else, or perhaps salt things with a few random ones. Everybody puts their entries forward face down collected by type, which is then shuffled (so all durations go together, all appearances, all effects). Whenever someone drinks or tests a potion, you draw an appearance, effect and duration. Some potions may be more useful when applied to foes, which should create a nice mix. And of course, you can recycle these back into the deck each time you have more potions appear, so that you're gradually building.a vast library of possible effects.

I'm also tempted to do this with magical treasure when PCs discover a hoard. PCs choose one of three targets ("The wielder", "Someone else", "the object itself"), define an effect (no mechanics), and then describe the object, and these are randomly recombined into actual items by drawing from each deck. If these are successful, I may expand it from there - monsters, NPCs, etc.

'Complacency is the enemy of study. We cannot really learn anything until we rid ourselves of complacency. Our attitude towards ourselves should be "to be insatiable in learning" and towards others "to be tireless in teaching".'

"In times of difficulty we must not lose sight of our achievements, must see the bright future and must pluck up our courage."