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Inkwan wrote:
Oh, to be clear, I meant playing emotion in the part of the character, not on the players.

I would be happy enough if my players cared more about story and invested in it more and less about character buffs and their possible feats at the next level.


I know you meant the characters. It is just that unless the players are really into "acting" they are not going to "play" at an emotion. The key to get players to have their PCs act out an emotion is if it taps into something that the player cares about.

Having players care about the story is not the same as having them play out emotions. I have seen lots of players get into the story of a game.

If what you want is for them to be more into the story, then move away from D&D to another traditional RPG. The issue with something like D&D is the class/level system. It is easy to focus on building the character rather than other aspects. The story aspect exists to give them a way to level up, gain items, gain abilities, etc.

Shadowrun (5th Edition),Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Star Trek Adventures, and Call of Cthulhu (7th Edition) should work well. Without the class/level system treadmill they will focus on other things. There will still be the other aspects of game play they are used to. They will still gain XP and improve things. But, it is such a different experience, they won't be focusing in on character builds through levels.

I think if you get them to pay attention to other things in another system where they will not be distracted by the usual D&D stuff, then they will focus on other things.
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We seldom tackle that sort of thing. Hitting things and taking their stuff is more our milieu.
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Inkwan wrote:
I would be happy enough if my players cared more about story and invested in it more and less about character buffs and their possible feats at the next level.

I'd look into why the players care about buffs and feats.

Often it's because they want to be able to do cool stuff. If the story allows them to do stuff that's as cool to them as what they can do with items and feats, then the story might become more important to them.

It might also be that they want to stave off the death of their characters. That's related to doing cool stuff, because cool stuff is often death-defying. They can tight-rope across to their paramour's boudoir, but they'd probably prefer to do that while wearing cat-step boots.

Basically, buffs and feats and other options are how players gain control from the GM. The more they can do, and the more immune they are, the less the GM gets to decide what does and doesn't happen to the characters. To a point, that's a lot of fun, and it allows one to feel like their character is developing. But sometimes it's less about developing the character and more about just blocking things the player doesn't like.

Take Perception, for instance. Ambushes and traps are a key part of D&D, but some players will maximize their Perception and other avoidance capabilities so that there's no reasonable ambush or trap the DM could set out. That might be because the player just wants more challenging surprises or wants to look cool, but it also might be because the player really doesn't like surprises at all. One wouldn't necessarily want to just stop using surprises (especially since the player invested in defeating them), but if the DM moderated the use of surprises or made them less unpleasant for the player, the player might feel less of a need to focus on anti-surprise options.

So, find out what the players are trying to achieve with their character designs, and see if the play style and story can give them that. Put another way, look at what the players are trying to control, what they're trying to keep the DM from doing or keep the DM from preventing, and talk to them about whether they'd prefer for their aims to be facilitated more by the story.
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The system I've found that best encourages in-character emotional play is, in all irony, the one that most mechanicalizes it: Pendragon. If it's important enough to affect the charcter's psychology, it's a passion or a directed trait, and the GM can put challenges out... Players can either pick a response (with consequences) or roll for it, and accept the results of the roll.

The problem there is the loss of player agency.

L5R 5E isn't as strong about it, but is better on the player agency score. Define a passion, use it to recover strife. Define an anxiety, which, when you don't avoid engaging with it, inflicts strife. Define a "Ninjō" - when you give in to your Ninjō, you recover all strife (but usually lose honor or glory). And when you violate your duty, you gain strife. Too much strife, and you're "compromised" - your resistance to manipulation and surprise is reduced, and just shy of half the dice results (those that bear strife) are closed off. You almost never have to take strife on checks - unless you want to succeed. Just shy of half the dice results carry a strife; you only have to keep 1 die, so unless all your dice show strife-bearing results, you don't have to keep them. If you do, it represents emotional stress from being invested in the action.

Still, it's a case of buy-in. Players wanting to buy-in to emotional stories don't usually need mechanical help. Players unwilling to play emotional stories won't be brought in by soft mechanics as in L5R - but will sometimes be by abstraction mechanics like are used in Pendragon.

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Quote:


How do you get your group to role play emotional themes sincerely?



By paying them to be sincere.
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Quote:


How do you get your group to role play emotional themes sincerely?



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My groups of the last decade have been a bunch of drama queen play actors who live for this kind of thing. It's the combat stuff they have difficulty with, not the emotional scenes.
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Benevolentgamemaster wrote:
It's the combat stuff they have difficulty with, not the emotional scenes.

I've never quite understood that. What keeps combat in RPGs from being an emotional scene?
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enduran wrote:
Benevolentgamemaster wrote:
It's the combat stuff they have difficulty with, not the emotional scenes.

I've never quite understood that. What keeps combat in RPGs from being an emotional scene?


Too many dice to check for successes, too many calcs, hit placement not really mattering or being too penalized, too many hit points on enemies that are one dimensional (tactically or in their intentions).


If I am fighting my 22th goblin to the death in one scene, I don't care anymore. If I have to wait for 55 goblins to roll attacks individually, I rage quit!

If I am a rogue and I want to chop off a troll's head with a sneak attack off of a nearby ledge and the rules make this nearly impossible (despite reasonably justifying this through the fiction, I will just throw another dagger and yawn.

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Inkwan wrote:
Too many dice to check for successes, too many calcs, hit placement not really mattering or being too penalized, too many hit points on enemies that are one dimensional (tactically or in their intentions).

Well, the very last point is not inherent to any RPG combat system I'm aware of. Even in 4th Edition D&D, widely regarded as the most mindless, combat-focused version of the game, I have no difficulty putting in enemies that have interesting, story-driven goals, or would have meaning to the characters beyond mere survival.

As for their being too many dice rolls and too many calculations, any interesting non-combat system could (and maybe should) have the same kind of thing. Most math is pretty easily handwaved, or can at least be eyeballed, rather than worked out precisely, once the players have grasped the basics.

I'd like to understand why hit placement matters to how emotional combat is.

Inkwan wrote:
If I am fighting my 22th goblin to the death in one scene, I don't care anymore. If I have to wait for 55 goblins to roll attacks individually, I rage quit!

See, emotion!

This isn't intrinsic to any combat system I'm aware of. If a DM has nothing better for a scene to be about than killing everything that moves, then of course it's boring. But that's a failure of the decisions going into the set-up of the game. I wouldn't expect a DM or group who makes boring combat scenes to have non-combat scenes that were any less boring.

Inkwan wrote:
If I am a rogue and I want to chop off a troll's head with a sneak attack off of a nearby ledge and the rules make this nearly impossible (despite reasonably justifying this through the fiction, I will just throw another dagger and yawn.

A given rule set might not have rules for such a situation, but no rules make it impossible, since a GM can always override the rules if they don't make sense in a given situation. I can't think of an RPG book that advises strict adherence as opposed to ruling in favor of a fun scene.

Anyway, I'll reiterate that I don't quite see how this impacts the emotion of a scene. If there's an emotional reason to kill that troll, it could certainly be emotionally satisfying to chop it's head off, but it could also be satisfying (for the player at least) for the characters best efforts to be stymied.

I understand that your mention of a troll was just and example, but it's a noteworthy one. The D&D troll was greatly inspired by a creature in a single scene from the book "Three Hearts and Three Lions." The battle with it is hard fought and there's no quick solution for it. The scene itself is exciting and even scary, and the consequences from it are poignant even if the protagonists are technically victorious.

So, it seems to me as though having emotional combat, even with a complicated system, shouldn't be that difficult to achieve.

One key difference between combat and many non-combat situations is that of what's at stake. In most combat, the players' characters are ostensibly at stake (often they're not, in any realistic sense, but in theory death is the consequence for failure, even if failure would require colossal stupidity or bad luck). In scenes of intrigue or romance or joy, death isn't necessarily in the cards (at least, not suddenly). If a player is worried about the death of their character (which in many games can mean ejection from the game for an indefinite amount of time), they are going to focus less on the emotional import of a scene and more on making tactically optimal moves and keeping any advantage from being lost due to misapplication of the rules. I've found that when the main way to fail a fight is something other than character death, players are able to worry less about the rules and focus more on feeling engaged with the roleplaying.
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Inkwan wrote:
enduran wrote:
Benevolentgamemaster wrote:
It's the combat stuff they have difficulty with, not the emotional scenes.

I've never quite understood that. What keeps combat in RPGs from being an emotional scene?


Too many dice to check for successes, too many calcs, hit placement not really mattering or being too penalized, too many hit points on enemies that are one dimensional (tactically or in their intentions).


If I am fighting my 22th goblin to the death in one scene, I don't care anymore. If I have to wait for 55 goblins to roll attacks individually, I rage quit!

If I am a rogue and I want to chop off a troll's head with a sneak attack off of a nearby ledge and the rules make this nearly impossible (despite reasonably justifying this through the fiction, I will just throw another dagger and yawn.


Use a different system? I think something like Star Wars: Edge of the Empire would resolve at least the first two problems.
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No, that's not it. It's just that they mostly rather talk their way out, and most of them are... not... very tactical. Mostly.
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How do you prevent emotional themes like love, relationships, loss (of favorite rare equipment, circle of life), coming of age, predjudice, etc. from becoming too silly, upsetting, or contentious in a role play game? If your answer would be "find the right group", how do you find these players?

Preventing it from getting too silly requires a buy-in from the players not to go off the rails into comedy (though some comedy can help break up really serious topics). It also helps if certain players are playing characters that take things more seriously. And it requires a long-game played by the GM to build connections and memorable characters the players react to and their character's care about, so when Marvin the NPC goes down saving one of them, they feel genuine remorse at his passing, rather than a cavalier attitude about how NPCs are fodder. Of course, how to make memorable NPCs who aren't immediately chewed up for fodder is a trick in and of itself!

Preventing it from being upsetting requires knowing beforehand what is too much for the players and stopping when they ask you to stop during the game.

Preventing it from being contentious is trickier, as again, you need a certain amount of buy-in but what happens has to seem natural in such a way as to not seem too unfair to the players. But at the same time, for some themes (like prejudice) you want to run right up to the boundary of contentiousness. Such as not allowing certain races into a tavern, or running into another band of adventures who refuse to talk to certain party members (be it for age, or gender, or skin color). It takes walking a fine line and it is not recommended without player buy-in as it is easy to go from your character's indignation to the player feeling angry at how their character is being treated.

A lot of it does come down to having a group that wants to play out such themes - which helps if you talk about it to the group ahead of time.

As with so much of life, communication is key!
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I'm really happy to see frequent mention of the concept of "buy-in" and the need for communication. For some reason those can be hard sells in other aspects or in other discussions of RPGs.
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Quote:
How do you prevent emotional themes like love, relationships, loss (of favorite rare equipment, circle of life), coming of age, predjudice, etc. from becoming too silly, upsetting, or contentious in a role play game? If your answer would be "find the right group", how do you find these players?

Silly - as Caroline notes - is largely about the buy in. I think she left out the "in the right mood this session"... I've players who generally don't have problems, but some nights, keeping them from inferring double entendre and/or puns where one was neither intended nor relevant.

Upsetting - first and foremost, by consensually setting the limits beforehand. Or at least stating the GM's limits before them joining of what the extents are that may be encountered. Then, by not *ing exceeding the agreed upon limits.

Contentious - everything I said for Upsetting, plus... Don't make the emotional hits as "out of the blue" events. There have to be clues that it's possible before it happens. Even if they don't "see it coming," they should at least see it as, "Damn, I missed the clues!"
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aramis wrote:
Quote:
How do you prevent emotional themes like love, relationships, loss (of favorite rare equipment, circle of life), coming of age, predjudice, etc. from becoming too silly, upsetting, or contentious in a role play game? If your answer would be "find the right group", how do you find these players?

Silly - as Caroline notes - is largely about the buy in. I think she left out the "in the right mood this session"... I've players who generally don't have problems, but some nights, keeping them from inferring double entendre and/or puns where one was neither intended nor relevant.

Oh yes! Totally forgot about that! I agree, some sessions are far more serious, some are not. In that case it boils down to how stressful work was that day, how happy they are at things in general, and how much comedic relief the group needs to get through the game day/night.
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I quite often have emotions be something the players observe: an NPC with unrequited love for an evil villainess for example. I roleplay the NPCs as real people without necessarily acting them out but instead describing the secene 3rd person. The players will often buy in to the emotions of NPCs.

Sometimes players are deeply connected to NPCs, although they tend to be the more veteran of my players. For example a PC in my call of Cthulhu Campaign is a Rabbi in London with a wife and four children. His eldest son Nadav is often scolding him about his behaviour such as carrying around a hand gun that he doesn't really know how to use properly. There is the feeling of true connection between the PC and the fictional family, and it works well.
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DanDare2050 wrote:
I quite often have emotions be something the players observe: an NPC with unrequited love for an evil villainess for example. I roleplay the NPCs as real people without necessarily acting them out but instead describing the secene 3rd person. The players will often buy in to the emotions of NPCs.

Sometimes players are deeply connected to NPCs, although they tend to be the more veteran of my players. For example a PC in my call of Cthulhu Campaign is a Rabbi in London with a wife and four children. His eldest son Nadav is often scolding him about his behaviour such as carrying around a hand gun that he doesn't really know how to use properly. There is the feeling of true connection between the PC and the fictional family, and it works well.


I really like this advice. It will be easy to work into any game I could run. Thank you!
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