Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hinting to players, a constant strugle.

I should have done this after my game yesterday but was distracted.

Spoiler warning: (At this point minor) Tager-chan spoilers can be gleamed from this post, read on at own risk.

I always remember back to this this one event at the tail end of a campaign I played in under a GM now considered reviled in the group. Their desire was to more or less say "This is today's adventure you should go there", a fair goal, by having a NPC with circumstances exactly like my own do certain actions to provoke us to take the same actions. Much snickering at how awful this was handled took place behind their back.

I still keep this stance, it was pathetic, but sometimes after games I at least find it sympathetic. Its sometimes hard to hint at certain actions with players, as it leads to a constant guessing game based on assumptions.
  • Are the players dense and miss the majority of clues? I'm fine with this to some extent, if the goal is subtlety, it means it worked. Another campaign I held using Cthulhutech, one player was rapidly losing sanity, another's was stable, one player became intensely focused on tasks, started taking desperate risks and alienated all his friends, the other remained calm, mocked the strange acting one openly and rallied the other players against him with little effort. It was only as he betrayed them that we pointed out that circumstances were so messed up in the last few months that the obsessive risktaker's reaction was normal. The players realized in horror that it was the one who remained calm in all the chaos that had snapped. As long as they eventually figure it out, it can make it hit harder.
  • Do the players chose to ignore the obvious in favour of waiting for some 'worthy' hint to come their way? This is the weird one and the worry my first paragraph detailed. At best it can be seen as a compliment, your players must hopefully think you're low balling and can do better. In my case that can make me more worried, I know I'm not that good and what they think are low balls may very well be my best efforts.
  • Or, most simply, do you just suck at hinting things? Most of all I hope this is the solution I think. There's a very complicated balance to things.
Its a challenge to point things out, remember in old 80s to early 2000s cartoons where the thing that would be interacted with looked so different from the background? Giving no details besides where the dirt piles where the landmines are buried makes disguising them almost pointless. Too much detail? One character collects murderous implements, another is obsessed with taking perverted photos of one of the PCs and stocks hundreds of them? Which is the random amusing detail to add flavour to an NPC and which is the dangerous threat to be addressed ASAP?

The ideal, in my mind, would be that the combined other things point out which is which. The way a character speaks, how they treat others, what they say and where they're from. Then again, when said out loud that causes a similar problem to many old point and click adventure games, no one knows exactly what you think is subtle menace or deceit besides yourself, causing the problem to just start all over again.

I suppose I should speak with my players, see their own stances on the matter, and figure out how I can properly tell them the actual threats are the token male NPC who's already got them drunk once and the evil monster self described rival who is one of a race of monsters that was made to be the enemy of Tagers.

Or maybe a ranty blog will remind them to sharpen their attention to detail. Who knows?

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me, I need to take more notes. I've been getting semi lazy. That and possibly get that knife from the hospital after all it's evidence~