"Finite" Games

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GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
"Finite" Games

My Eclipse Phase game quit tonight.
After one adventure, a year full of shadowrun and quite some interesting discussions, one of my two players dropped the hammer and spoke his mind.
He has troubles with games like EP and SR. It seems "finite" in contrast to the old World of Darkness (our favourite game), where not everything the character is is defined by the charsheet.
He laments, that it doesn't matter as much what your characters do in their freetime.
I think i can pinpoint it: Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase are both games which are objective based. You get your adventure, you do it, if you don't you "lose" wherein the WoD you get the idea of running away with the plot. My words are probably failing me to describe this.

So we quit it. Not in bad blood, just with a curious nod of acknowledgement of the facts and no further discussion. It's probably good to lay down GMing and focus on my shadowrun game.

But i seriously love EP for its setting and possibilities and want to have some input from others on how to handle such a situation/player, maybe i handled the setting "wrong" or is there a trick to GMing that EP feels like a World of Darkness?

root root's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

root@Finite Games

I've always been a big fan of Mage and Exalted, and I've played my share of Shadowrun, so I think I understand what your group is feeling. I'm also going to guess that your group was playing a Firewall team or Gate crashers, since that is all that I think has really been described so far. To make the game more like the Old World of Darkness, you might consider picking a location, say a city on Europa, and settle in. WoD always seemed location based, more than objective based. Exalted always seemed like they were about getting a feel for your environment and then changing it, and Mage was always about whatever twinkly madness your storyteller dreamt up. Perhaps we could consider Simulspaces that have a political effect on meat-space, so players have to go into these new universes with their own rules and laws of physics and fetch some pearl containing a cryptographic key that has been hidden inside the underlung of the World Fish. There is a great deal of flexibility inside the Simulspaces, and they overlap heavily with meat-space through the Mesh, so actions taken there will affect the "real world" as well.

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Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

I think this has more to do with how you run the game. Firewall makes it easy to run objective-based games, but the setting is pretty rich on its own and doesn't need to be objective based.

As an example, my campaign seems to be "splitting" into a few different strands (with forking, versions of the same characters ar einvolved). One is Firewall, one is gatecrashing (which again isn't terribly objective-directed), but perhaps the most interesting one involves running a huge habitat construction project (with all the engineering, intrigue and trouble that involves). The last one emerged from player goals and has some great potential for intriguing development.

I think tech-heavy games like EP often do get a bit more dominated by what is on the sheet rather than between the lines. But that just means we have to work harder at bringing the real persons out and get them to have their own individual goals. The game system and world is already flexible enough to allow almost any style of game.

Hmm, Mage and EP... What about playing an occult order in the EP world. No real magick (but ideally things should be kept low-key so that the players keep guessing), but a bunch of people who subscribe to a magical tradition. A fraternal order among the lunar upper crust (Masons in spaaace!), trying to gather hermetic texts and doing its esoteric infighting while some members are involved in LLA politics, the synthmorph rebellion or async research. The wiccan community on Mars dealing with terraforming, biotechnology and Barsoomians. Cybershamanists in the Belt, invoking the spirits of market forces against enemies on Extropia, exploring the sacred mysteries of petals, fighting the practicioners of dark software.


root root's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

root@Finite Games

Mage in EP pretty much instantly becomes either an Autocthonian or a Promethean game for me. I had this great idea for an Exalted universe where the Siderals picked the Authochonians as opposed to the Dragon Blood. The players woke up inside their drop pods as the contained Solar shards were infused with combat morphs. They drop out in full Starship Troopers gear, and follow some city sized machine to destroy a city. They are the party that reaches the target, an old Lunar, first, and they manage to kill him. Some stored mojo goes off that protects the players from the cortical blast kill switch the Siderals had installed in all of the Solar morphs. So now the players are alone, hiding on a planet that they just blew to pieces from the battleship alchemical exalt in the sky. Hilarity ensues.

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GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

Yeah, i ran the last two things objective based and Shadowrun IS basically objective based per definition (though you can break the mold).

I think the player in question has hard times looking past the numbers or sees them as a hindrance (not so much as those rule-less loons whom i met and think of themselves better then those players with a setting and a rules system).
As a location, i choose an Outer System hab, detailed the story, had NPCs written up (look it up on Darkcast, its Patchwork) etc etc. Next story should have been an Infowar between a forked hacker from the PC and the stations inhabitants. Maybe this would've worked out but well. I'll keep it in mind and maybe we continue it in due time.

Rhyx Rhyx's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

Yeah it's always a bummer when the players kinda tap out of a game that you've spent months putting together. For example I once ran a Shadowrun game that was set in Hong Kong, after a few games they confided that they were just "not feeling it" (which I think might be the worst insult you can launch at a game master).

So yeah a statement like that can hurt, but I have to admit that the EP universe is so diverse but also based on a branch of Science Fiction that hasn't been to popularized in other forms of media. I find that this lack of coverage leads to the players lacking a common ground. Many people have seen Lord of the Rings, so when you mention D&D you have this common font to drink from. When you mention Shadowrun people will think: "Okay elves and trolls in cyberpunk."

But with something like Eclipse Phase, I consider it on the spearhead of the medium without that much other than books to get that feeling from. If you haven't sampled Richard Morgan or Paul Hamilton, the idea of sleeving is pretty foreign, add that to the concept of forks, rep based economies, nanobots and uplifts and soon you have a very eclectic mix of totally new concepts. A player (and even a gamemaster) can have trouble navigating the tone and feel of such a new world. Oddly enough to some people those concepts are so otherworldly that it strains their suspension of disbelief even worst than a scantily clad sorceress on a dragon casting fireballs.

Now why I'm mentioning this Greybrother is because maybe that why your player had problems with all the numbers. He might have felt as if the only thing he could hold on to was those numbers, so he focused on that to the exclusion of all the other things. I mean with things like The old White Wolf and things like Amber the numbers are still there but they are hidden, so they can't be as much of a focus. If he's the kind of player that likes those games better and is intimidated by the sheer amount of numbers, that may well be what made him choke and yearn for a more personal gaming experience.

Now on the nature of a "finite" game. Contrary to popular belief the rules set has very little to do with the gaming experience (but if everyone knew that they wouldnt sell as many books...). I believe that if your player felt confined it was because of one (or more) of 4 reasons:
~He felt confined by the rules
~He felt confined by the gamemaster
~He felt confined by the sheer amount of numbers
~He was confining himself

The other games you mentions are usually very roleplaying heavy and if he loved that kind of gaming maybe a universe of hard sci-fi feels very structured as if you could turn around and blow his idea away by writing down a mathematical equation.

In any case it's always hard when a player tells you something like that, especially when you try hard to give them a fun experience with something new that you've just discovered and you like. So my heart goes out to you and I hope you don't take it too hard. Keep in mind that no matter how good you are you can't please every one.

Demonseed Elite Demonseed Elite's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

I generally agree with Rhyx. The character sheet doesn't make a game objective-based, so I'm not sure if Greybrother's player was having a harder time with a crunchier character sheet or the idea of an objective-based game. Or maybe both were bothering him.

The objective-based game problem is an easier one to circumvent, in my experience. The default campaign of both Eclipse Phase and Shadowrun are objective based (as Firewall agents in the former and shadowrunners in the latter), but the default campaign can be ignored without much trouble. I've played Shadowrun games where the characters pursued their own agendas for the entirety of the campaign and I've played Shadowrun games where many of the sessions were objective-based but there were personal, player-driven storylines in between. Eclipse Phase seems even easier to adapt in this regard because the setting is so flexible and diverse.

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards." --The White Queen, Through The Looking-Glass

Happy Tofu Boy Happy Tofu Boy's picture
Re: "Finite" Games

As others stated it before, as a game master myself, i know that such words of plyer feel like a knife in the stomach...

But maybe i can help you a litlle with sharing a bit of my Gaming Experience so far. In my group we're playing heavly focused on Storytelling, Character Acting and love Cineastic Action. For us Rules have to step in the back when they can ruin a cool scene.
We alwasy work an Character Background out and as GM i alwasy take some points, like the villain that murderd a love one will apear, or you'll get a message from your sis that disapeared years ago and so on. So maybe you can take the Background of your Players Characters and use it to make some personal Side/Main Quests. That will integrate your players more with your Gameworld.

I mean even when they work for Firewall doesn't mean that they don't have a private life. And it'll more difflicult when an Oppent is linked to a dear person of the Character. Meaning you can also work with hard decissions for the charcters to make.
I alwasy Remeber that Loom of Fate Adventure for the old Mage when we had to decide, do i hand this little girl over to the bad guys, and save San Francisco from Destruction, or do i defy them and risk everything!

And to the Comparison of the old/new WoD to EC, in WoD Games the Game depends on really of the Characters Motivation and their actions. Let's take Vampire for example. You are mostly a new Vampire based in a city and your subculture is pretty neo feudal structured. So want a nice life? Then you have to go out and do something about it.
But you could do equal things in EC maybe you were born in the Jovian Junta and you feel like this system sucks and you want to change it. Or You're a Socialelite and want to stand on your on to feetand found a company and so on. You could still work for Firewall but you could use it to fuel your agendas. Or you could skip Firewall and let they Players decide what they want to do (beeing a prate or founding a crime Cartell, or whatever).

So far so good, i hope i could help a little! :)