Friday, February 1, 2013

Questions and Answers

So I borrowed a questionnaire from Zenith Games this week and gave it to my group of pathfinder players.  Here are the results, with their comments, and my comments after.

Ok, there were 11 people questioned in the survey.  All of the questions have 11 responses, except the Obsidian Portal Question, which somehow has 13.

My thinking in sharing these results, is to give the percentage for the most popular choice(s), interesting comments that were made (anonymously), and then my response to those results as a GM.  I encourage everyone to give their 2 cents, especially the other GMs.  To facilitate this, I am going to post each question as a separate post, this will keep responses and discussions organized.

Without further ado, here is the data…

Question 1:  How willing are you to contribute to an Obsidian Portal?

45% of people said they would use the Obsidian Portal, as needed, which was right in the middle on the scaling answers.  36% said they would be very willing and do a lot of work on the site and its maintenance.  As such, I am going to try and clean up the OP for Shattered Star, and will plan on using it when we start the next home campaign.  I will also continue to post important (and sometimes redundant) information to facebook as well.  I think minimal involvement with the Obsidian Portal would be to contribute to the wiki from time to time, and keep an up-to-date character on the site.

I will also award Hero-Points, as per the house rules, for participation on the Obsidian Portal.  The goal in my mind for it would to be a pretty accurate collection of data, and what was done during game time.  If over the course of the next campaign, we pick up a new player or two, that person will be able to log in to our OP, and literally receive all of the information they would need to jump in and know what was going on.

Keep in mind, this was the only question with skewed responses, so the percentages may not be entirely correct.

Question 2:  How do you like your Plot?

55% of people preferred “There is an overarching plot, but what we do and the choices we make certainly have an effect on the outcome.”  And another 36% were between that a complete sandbox.

Some of the interesting comments:
In regards to sandbox-
Obviously this is the ideal.  But, it's a lot to put on the GM, so I dont expect it at all.  But, sice you asked...

I think there has to be structure, but it shouldn't be so constraining that the choices seem pointless.

I feel that roleplaying is storytelling with a community. You can not know the ending because we have not written it yet.

I refer that someone throws a few "surprises" at the party. I LOVE when the GM, adds a surprise element to the story whether it be more monsters, more loot, or a twist to the plot line. That way it does not feel uniform or a "been there, done that".

End Comments.
I get the feeling that people would like to have some more freedom and control of the plot.  This doesn’t really create MORE work for me, it just creates different work.  Hopefully we can create some times in the adventure path, where the party has some more choices.  I will also try to incorporate more consequences to actions into the game.  This one will be difficult using an adventure path, but I will do what I can to create some additional opportunities to let you stray from the course from time to time.

Question 3:  How do you like your Quests?

This is one of the questions that had a very clear preferred choice.  73% of people preferred “Sometimes our quests come to us, other times we will be given free time to do what we want.

Some Comments:

I think overall I'm fine with the notion of allowing some open-ended content as long as it's productive. 

Quests are great to get things moving, but allowing for individual growth can be interesting. many times these items (learning to craft and the minor quests that would accompany such learning) can be handled better in a wiki leaving the table time for group quests and such.

I am use to the "Bash-Over-Head" quests. (i,e. the party enters a room and only one person is there. Surprise! They give the party the quest!) I honestly did not think GMs did it any other way. I would be THRILLED if a story line came along that required the party to think outside the box or actually problem solve something to get the next phase of the quest line.

End Comments
I’m pretty excited about the responses to this, and I think doing things to incorporate this into the game, will also create the sandbox feel that people want.  I have some ideas on how to do these things; for the most part it will require me to work with you all on character development.  If I know what your character wants, what it likes, etc, I can create some places for them to act on instinct.  We can also do some mini-quests from time to time on the obsidian portal, maybe even for some exp rewards to encourage some involvement. 
Anticipate a more lengthy process on creating characters for the next campaign, and between book 1 and 2 for shattered star. 

Question 4:  How do you like your difficulty?

64% of people said ” Certainly don't pull any punches. If we make any big oversights, then we will die. However, I want things to be fair, and I don't expect my death unless I make a serious mistake.” 

Some Comments:

This is a tough one to answer because I think the notion of difficulty is kind of an abstract with rpg-table top (at least with combat situations).  There are so many factors that play into how an encounter may go that control of difficulty may be very difficult in it's own right.  For example, in one particular encounter the party composition may be perfect for kicking a monster ass, in another encounter, it may be the worst possible combination for that monster.  Additionally, maybe the GM is rolling great one night and the players are sucking or vice versa.

I like the fair idea.  However, there should be a fight every two or three sessions that really challenge the team.

"I think the best lessons are learned hard.  Dying being the ultimate (but possibly the only) way to punish mistakes in PF.  If people don't have to learn, they don't adapt, if people don't adapt, the meta becomes stale.  On the other side of the coin, I don't want the majority of my time to be reintroducing new characters.  Character death loses impact if they are just constant.  If i died every other session, I would have no grievance.  I don't see a problem with people bringing a 'backup' character in case of death."

success shouldn't hinge on one person

it is what it is. if I die, I have more paper.

I have no problem with a hard game. IF my character dies. My character dies. What I do not enjoy if the party encounters "GM-Ego" Monsters that require the party to wipe because someone made a comment about not liking the GMs green tennis laces. If we screw up, if we guess wrong, or we do not pack correctly, then by all means, wipe the floor with us. But no floor wiping because someone makes a comment about Democrats verses Republicans please! =)

End Comments.
I have tried very hard to do two things.  The first, make important fights difficult, and two, to not create a GM vs Player mentality.  Perhaps, I have a misconception, but I’d like to think that I am doing a good job on those accounts.  This last book of Carrion Crown has been a monster, but a lot of the pain was either bad luck or avoidable.  The Banshee?  Super bad luck on saving throws.  Nothing can do about that.  The mini-boss that just killed a player, without trying to spoil things he was a) mostly avoidable (WHAT?!?) and b) you all could have ran away a lot earlier J, and c) is supposed to be tough.  If I am mistaken, in thinking that I am giving you the difficulty that you want, please let me know.  You won’t hurt my feelings, I am asking for the opinion/criticism.

Question 5:  How do you like your Roleplaying?

I was a little surprised with the answers here…
64% said I like roleplaying at times, but hate when it bogs down there game. I'll happily role play conversations, but don't expect me to describe every die roll.
The other 36% all wanted more roleplaying.

Here are some comments:  (Some edited to protect anonymity)
Since I suck as a rules god, I really do enjoy the roleplaying AND the storytelling aspects of these games! Tell me a story and then let me play in that world please. I have no problem with mechanics. I am a big kid and do not mind at all when everyone laughs at my screw ups.  People are nice and do not mean anything ugly or harsh by it. In fact, in a few cases, the more they trash me, the more I think they enjoy my friendship and participation.

"the more the players and GM get into their characters and NPCs the better the death dealing, and maiden saving”

I would like more role-playing however with more role-playing you need to restrict alignments so the characters arn't in direct conflict

RP is what makes this more than a glorified Statistics course.  I think people should act in character (alignment, deity, etc) for most interactions, not necessarily voices, things like 'Edgar would disagree with that action because it contradicts his faith' should suffice.

End Comments.
Ok, more roleplaying.  Got it.  I think a lot of this can be done by just slowing some things down.  I also have some other ideas, and have been trying to incorporate some more into the games, this is an area that I know we have been lacking and I am constantly trying to improve here.  I’ll keep trying, I’ll keep working.  That said, help me out!  Have some character conversations (gasp), do things just because its what your character would do, have some mannerisms, some fears, some goals.  You are in the hideout of super necromancers, every other room is haunted… no one has shown even the slightest sign of fear… I can’t do that part for you.

Question 6:  How do you like your optimization?

36% of people chose option 1, Optimized - I will spend days researching and make my character 100% optimized. He is going to kick ass.  Another 36% chose option 2, and the rest chose option 3, which was a good character, but not going to spend tons of time researching it.

Some comments:

Not going to lie.  I try to make the best possible character I can.  That's part of what's fun about the game for me.

I like to optimize but it is never fun to be the one guy who is super optimized.  I try to build to be about equal to the other characters.

Not going to lie-I do this.  If rp was more important than the quest chain though-I wouldn't.

Optimized not just applying to combat prowess.  Skill centric optimization, utility, communication for RP, etc are all of the upmost importance as a party.  For me, the feeling of accomplishment is entirely relative to the investment in the  character.  If i don't care if my guy is any good, then i don't care if he dies, or if he gets a new sword, etc. 

ill do research but not more than 2 hours per week

I usually do my utmost best in making my characters, but I ALWAYS seek out someone else to double check me. In case, I make an oversight or they know something better. (I have never owned ALL the books for any of our games.)

End Comments.

Here’s the thing with optimization, and it ties closely to the difficulty question, if the party consist of optimized killing machines, then you should expect to face the same.  It isn’t fun to sit in my chair and get steam-rolled all of the time.  I also have no problem killing a dice roller.  I hate killing a character.
Im not saying you should avoid optimization, but you’re going to get back what you put in.  I think the comment about needing to optimize to beat the content is somewhat a result of optimization.  I am not interested in running a game where the players are gods and not challenged, and based on the difficulty question, you aren’t interested in playing that game either. 

Question 7:  How do you like your Suspension of Disbelief?

This one was more all over the place than any other question. 

36% wanted the most reasonable.  27% wanted the mix.

Some comments:

I do not mind suspending my disbelief, but if hardcore pharmacology or excess amounts of mind altering substances harder than Vanilla-Coke are required to buy into it. Nah, I am going to loose interest fast. I quit playing my local game because I objected to the level of  stupid, immature, and Star Wars references that were involved.

it is a fantasy game after all. KOBOLDS don't exist so starting there I guess I can believe anything for the right loot!

you can generally think of good reasons for things to be the way they are

A simple explanation for their appearance/purpose in a particular setting generally will suffice. 

End Comments.

Pretty self- explanatory on this one.  I don’t think our games are over the top stupid or “too far out there…” So I think we’re good here, we have a little bit of everything to hopefully make everyone happy.

Question 8:  How much combat?

82% said 50/50… I was surprised by this, I would have predicted “all combat all the time..”

Some comments:

I like the 50/50 approach as long as the non-combat aspects are productive and advance storyline.

somewhere between FIGHTING and 50/50

Combat should be meaningful, not a 'grind'. 

at least one combat encounter per night. since we only play once per fortnight, it would be satisfying to punch stuff every night although just fighting lets players get loose on character development.

challenge me. i want a pile of mages, but the one that makes it through will freakin rock.

Honestly, I would prefer some combat, lots of role playing, and some serious puzzles or "group-must-work-together" to make it through a tight spot. I am always amused when no one EVER seems to need to be helped over a tall wall, carried at a faster rate than their legs can go, or a gnome is never picked up and tossed.

End Comments

I think incorporating more RP and more ‘individual quests’ and more character development will even this out in the direction that you want.  As I said with RP, I will do my best.

Last Question:  How Serious?

82% want a mix, Humor is ok, as long is it doesn’t overwhelm everything else.

Some Comments:
This group being hardcore serious! ROFL......I think someone would pull a major muscle if we all tried. Fun is fun, but goofy silly nonsense would loose my interest after a couple of weeks, IF that were all we did.

Fun and Serious aren't opposite sides of the spectrum.  People should play in ways that they enjoy, but hopefully towards accomplishing whatever our mission/goal is.  The silliness of a single character shouldn't hinder the achievement of the group, outside of that, I hope people add as much humor as they can.

I'm all for throwing in humor as long as it doesn't come at a cost to someone else.   Making choices in gameplay for the sake of humor which will put other players or the entire party at risk frustrate me.  That being said, I'm perfectly fine with the "hail-mary pass" types of decision making (which usually are really funny) if it's a situation that calls for it.  For example, if it looks like the only way to get out of  situation that is probably going to kill everybody is to drop a fireball on top of the group, my character is going to pull out his marshmellows.  But if some one is running from room to room, opening doors and asking "anyone home" in the dungeon we just entered, it'll probably piss me off.

End Comments:

I think we’re all on the same page here.  Moving on.

Any other comments:  Again, some are edited

I'm curious as to the results of this.  My guess is that you're going to see a wide spectrum of responses.

I like staying mostly within the system.  Creatures should not act like 4E creatures or magic the gathering creatures.

i might be to sensitive but, it seams like certain people tend to commandeer the party and impose their will over the other players. maybe I'm just imagining it.

It should be fun for the GM and the players. a balance is always good. I have had campaigns where I elevated the characters to superheroic status and let them beat the piss out of 90% of the dungeon. I always have a challenge waiting for them. other games have been very austere. usually I am in the middle but the players are the ones that let me know and i make subtle adjustments based on making it fun.

I only work part-time and can help out when needed. I know I have only played for an entire week, but I am willing to schlep buckets of stuff when needed. Also, I write my own stuff, so I can help out with writing on "a portal" if we set one up. Or helping a GM if he needs it. I am very good at keeping what I know and what  my character knows separate. You folks are doing me an amazing favor by letting me crash your games. So whatever I can do to help out, while still being new to this game, let me know please!
End Comments:

I will certainly take you up on helping with the portal!  I’ll try to get the Shattered Star one functional in the next couple days.  I’ll also try to get a head start on the RoW one. 

I have heard from more than one person, more than once, that they don’t like being told what to do.  I don’t think anyone does this out of malice, but let’s keep that in our minds, and let people play their own character to the best of their ability. 

Any Questions you ask your players?  Role Playing advice?