Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I owe you guys a story or an article today.
Couldn't come up with a good one. Just reposting an old one instead:

Handling Debates
by Tobie Abad
March 21, 2001

Storyteller: "The Camarilla needs to be forged. Unless we band together, the Kindred community will fall in the fires of the Inquistion," the Toreador declared with a heavy heart. Sighing, he scans the crowd for a face reflecting agreement and focuses on yours. What do you do?

Player: Uh, I rise and begin to state that I agree with him.

Storyteller: What do you say?

Player: Can I just agree with him?

* * *

In a storytelling game, verbal warfare is one of the most interesting and engaging moments. To hell with massive fight scenes, soft-core porn moments and duex ex machina... having a verbal battle with either a Non Playing Character (NPC) or a fellow player truly engages one into the mood of the game.

Sadly, being an eloquent speaker is not a common trait. And even worse, a large number of gamers tend to be shy when it comes to "public speaking."

Let's face it; at one point in time or another, we've all had players who have given their character a high (if not, to say the least, above average) rating in Charisma or Manipulation and yet fail to represent it well in their roleplaying. And we all know how much worse it gets when the very traits are necessary in a scene to be represented.

So how does one deal with this?

Here are some suggestions:
1 - Stick to the rolls
Its the worst thing, but a story has to go on, right? Let's assume that your player really just CAN'T do it and isn't willing to keep trying the whole night. Don't let the game suffer! After all, both you and the very player will simply feel bad about it in the long run. Not to mention this could grow into a hurdle for the player for many games to come. And we all know the stupidity of forcing an issue to the point of losing a player we want to keep.

Just ask what the player wants to say in general, have him roll, and based on the successes, handle the delivery for him.

This is obviously the last thing you should resort to. But trust me, there are times, its for the best.

2 - Offer suggestions on the fly
The best way to do this is to be an NPC who is trying to help out. Use lines like, "I agree with him..." or "Like he was trying to express without saying..." lead the player on with indirect suggestions. After all, the rating do show that the character MUST be a good speaker. Even if it doesn't show in the game, try to keep the feel.

You can also offer suggestions directly, but in a game, I'd prefer you use small cards with the suggestion written in private than verbal ones. This allows the player to gauge the statement and spice it with his own words. It also avoids the syndrome of Parrot Talking, where the player simply repeats what the Storyteller says.

Last of all, this encourages the player bit by bit to start speaking better... and trust me, in the long run, you'd be surprised if this player learns to handle it on his own in the future.

3 - FUDGE!
So the player speaks. Its horrible. And instead, the NPC agrees. Why? Because of behind-the-scenes things.

This can be the most difficult to pull off. But trust me, the benefits it grants to the player (ranging from EGO boosts, to additional plot threads forming) is astounding.

Have the player roleplay it still, but have the dice dictate.

Take this example (continuing from above):

Storyteller: What say you?

Player: Uh, can I just agree with him?

Storyteller: Say it in character. Roll as well.
[Player rolls appropriate dice. It succeeded.]

Player: Okay, uh.. here it goes, "I think you say it well. Thats all."

Storyteller: The Toreador slowly smiles and gives a bow. With a start, the cainite rises and leaves the podium. Moving through the crowd, the Toreador rushes to leave the room.

Player: What happened?

Storyteller: Before you could move, a Nosferatu touches your shoulder and whispers, "Good move there, mate. You practically told him you're on to him. How you figured he was plotting against you and trapping you into speaking against the masses was a miracle, I must say. I guess its true what they about to you."

End example.

It takes a terrible amount of tweaking, and at times can prove to be very difficult to pull off. But successfully, I tell you, to do so successfully truly outweighs the effort.

You plan to stage a major debate between the player's character and some elder who loves philosophy?

Get the player to do some homework. Even better, drag him with you to watch some movies that touch on the feel of the debate. These can range from movies like Much Ado About Nothing, to MATRIX.

While watching, tell the player to keep focus on certain key scenes, and to use them as inspiration during the game.

If you work it out well, allow the player to use "cliche" things and lines, so long as they are at least a step better than "Can I just roll?"

Hopefully, those suggestions help you people out in your games. Just keep in mind this little rule which many storytellers, myself included use.

When it comes to stats, a Player great and a character not too great requires a roll. A Player not too great with a character not too great can be non-dice oriented. Make the judgement call based on the actual roleplaying. A Player really bad at something with a character who is the epitome of perfection in that field... well, unless you're willing to face the consequences, its better to ask the player to adjust the stats.

After all, players might have EXPERT ratings in stuff like Occult and Science but not be capable of portraying it perfectly... and that's easily fudged through rolls. But if the trait in question is a social one, expect to bleed a little.

Nikki Alfar
Tobie Abad
Gabby Lee
Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos

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