Looking Back on The War Without End

The War Without EndWhile I’ve been posting all my game write-ups I’ve been giving further consideration to my experiences with my last group (well last group of any significant duration anyway).

If you’ve read earlier posts you’ll know I decided to leave because I felt that differences in agenda (me: drama/story, them – for the most part: relaxation/chill-out/play) were causing certain problems. It seemed like we were pulling in different directions, with me and one other player (Colin) trying to drive the play-style one way, while the rest of the group didn’t really want to go there.

I guess, if I’m honest, a fair bit of the reason for my departure was also frustration and disappointment, when I realised this was the case.

Now I’m sure in theory the answer is that I should just go find another group who are all invested in the same things that I am but in practice it isn’t that easy.

So what other alternatives are there? Is there a way to satisfy both agendas (i.e. epic, character driven plots, or ‘role’, and the simple desire to ‘play’) in one game? (I’ve been referring to the latter as ‘dungeon-bashing’) Or are these two objectives always pulling in opposite directions?

Well, looking back I’m thinking that it’s at least ‘possible’, since I and the group as a whole did enjoy some of the games we played. Granted none of them lasted all that long though.

Take The War Without End for example, I’m thinking that it did a pretty good job of sitting in the middle and bridging the gap between ‘Dungeon-Bash’ and Story/Narrative. There was still a bit of a ‘fight a week’ feel to it but it kept everybody happy because there was also a heavy investment in characters (both PCs and NPCs). I’m pretty sure everyone in the group was enjoying it. The problem with it was that in the end it petered out because Colin, the GM, felt there was a ‘lack of investment’ from the majority of the players.

Certainly, members of the group didn’t seem to be interested in involving themselves in creating the story; they didn’t inject story ideas and develop plots for their characters, instead they just showed up each week, sat back and experienced things as they unfolded. However, one thing I have recognised is that this isn’t indicative of a lack of investment/enjoyment as such. In fact I heard recently that one of the other players is considering bringing back their main character from The War Without End in a current campaign. It sounds to me like they must have been ‘invested’ in their character at least.

So what’s going on?

Well, as you’ve probably guessed, this behaviour is more indicative of play-style than anything. It certainly isn’t a failure on the GM’s part to get players invested in the story (or at least wasn’t in this case). Given their motive for play (chill-out, socialise, easy-life) the other players aren’t likely to make a significant/continuing investment to the game in this way. It’s not productive for them to do so because it doesn’t get them what they want.

But they’re not against story; the two objectives can co-exist, as they did in The War Without End. The problem is, can the story-minded players keep the story momentum going on their own with limited contribution from the play-minded players or alternatively, can simple/fun ways be found for the play-minded players to add to the story which don’t involve effort on their part. Perhaps aids such as oracles and whimsy cards might help in this regard?

I need to think about this some more.

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