or so people keep telling me. Last time it happened was after playing Campus Security. If nothing else the game helped me to further understand what I need to feel comfortable at the table. Here is what happened:
Daniel, one of the people who found the Spelens Hus AP community after the summer, brought a game that is living in his head. If I recall correctly he had developed and played it frequently with the group he was part of in Uppsala.
So my attempts to find out if it would fit me before sitting down at the table didn’t lead anywhere. Arriving I asked “what dice should I take out” (meaning the number of sides) and the answer was “whatever dice you’d like to play with”. That was not the answer I had expected and though I’d guess it was meant to put me at ease it raised the first red flag of the evening.
Short but important interlude: if I’m talking about flags it is from my perspective and about what I like and dislike about play, it has absolutely nothing to do with the qualities of the game as such!
“How do I build a character?” Just tell me two things they are good at and one they are bad at, throw in a name and gender and (here I may be wrong) what they were majoring in. Well, that wasn’t so difficult and basically “neutral ground” as far as I’m concerned.
But now it got weird, I’d never had somebody running a game who wanted to play with each player seperately befor we started playing together – I really got confused. Play maybe not the right word, I basically got told what my character experienced and was asked what kind of reaction that would trigger. No rules or dice involved. This scene was set at a party “the evening before”. I’m still not sure why it was important to do this one on one and I still don’t know how I was supposed to handle it (maybe I missed a clue there in my confusion). Was it to be kept from the other characters as good as possible, was it supposed to be referred to directly or indirectly, what was I as a player supposed to do?
Dice rolls were called for by Daniel but a feeling that the “below average” ones were rather toothless started creeping into my mind. As play progressed players started to more actively require rolls or define the effects of them (especially for the “below average ones”).
Another problem I had with the rolls was that I couldn’t figure out how what I described related to the rolling of the dice. Think of the IIEE model (intent, initiation, execution, effect) but you don’t know at which point the roll happens.
Play, especially the second session, reminded me a lot of my experiences with Simon and his Hantverksklubben (Hantverksklubben 19: Fighting against oneself and Hantverksklubben 21: Feelgood). If I remember right Simon calls that kind of play “freeform”, the main difference is that I never saw a die when playing with him.
I am able – but only with the help of others around the table – to participate in play like that, but for me it lacks important elements to make me feel really comfortable. I do not want to tell a story I imagine, I want to see a story grow out of everybodies contributions that takes unexpected turns not only because we imagine different things but also because the tools (mechanics, rules) the game gives us do provide an element of chance in a relateable and understandable way.
I still have difficulties to decypher social clues at the table and to put certain things, like seperating the players to give them role specific information, into context – I think that is part of a certain kind of games but I’ve never before played like that so I don’t really know how to handle it without more context (had I not been so eager to finally start playing I could have asked for it).
Daniel, Ron and I had a really great discussion after the game, but as I was rather exhausted at that point and the others have a far broader and longer experience of role playing and talking about it I hope they will be willing to repeat their points here, it was really nice to listen to it and sometimes chime in with an observation or opinion.
To come back to the beginning of this post. I don’t think I’m a good player. For me that would define somebody who can play different kinds of games in a consistent and, well, good way. I can’t.
What I’m now certain about is that I need a certain amount of rules and constrains to feel comfortable and cut loose. If they are not there I constantly look for prompts and assurances and it probably makes play difficult for everybody around.
In addition I know better what kind of horror I don’t like (see here for reference http://adeptplay.com/actual-play/i-dont-horror). It is the surreal, creepy kind that asks you to investigate it like you were some amateur detective but even if you follow all clues and figure things out the only thing you can do is run. But that really is personal taste. For a game with that theme it wasn’t half bad.
I’m probably going to continue to avoid games of this type (is there a generic term for them?) ainly in an attempt to not destroy the fun for those who like them, but I’ll try to remember that it can be a really positive learning experience to play something that is out of my comfort zone.