Looking for a Safety Tool

I really like Bankuei’s Same Page Tool, but it is very focused on bridging the gap between various “playstyles” and communities. I use CATS, too.
But the technique that I find the more useful to get people on the same page is asking about real life player expectations. It’s like a generic same page tool, bridgning the gap between people’s mood. It’s like CATS, only for real rather than for fictitious aim and content.
Has this tool been formalized somewhere ?

That’s interesting! Can you give an example of what “bridging the gap between people’s mood” looks like, in practice? I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean; an illustration might really help.

Oh yes, sorry I use analogy a bit too easily.
I’ll take an example :
Immanuel wants to play any narrative game, but they’re secretely curious about seeing what the new club members are like at the table. Incidentally, they’re brilliant at making funny voices.
Cora wants to look good for her first game in the club, because she has a game she is making and wants to playtest some day, and, because this game is of course a heartbreaker adventure fantasy, she needs all the confidence in the world to bring it out of the closet. Did I mention she never played a narrative game?
… When Yumi wants a fun time, and her idea of fun is really breaking some improv spears, but no funny voices.
And Jon, you know him, he’s not here for the fun, he wants to learn about game design and those narrative games are really his jam. And he’s pretty bad with dialogues.

These people, they’re not on the same page (the “gap”). In some regards, it will be immediately obvious. In others, not so. I don’t mean their expectations are in any way contradictory or that they need to know each other better to play, but, openpalm : every time I digged into expectations, we were able to bridge the gaps, go places the others were - with some apprehension but much pleasure in the end - ready to go. And when we didn’t “feel each other out thoroughly”, there often was a hidden assumption like a splat of mud in the wine.

Is there an updated “same page” briefing tool that goes deeper than CATS is what I am asking, I think.

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That’s quite interesting!

I’ve done this a little bit informally, but it may be worth discussing more, and developing ideas for. I’ll have to mull this over. On one hand, it can bring its own issues (e.g. players thinking of their personal preferences instead of trying to play with the group), but, on the other hand, there’s also some real potential for improving games here, as I’ve experienced at some tables. Hmmmm.

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This might be wildly off-base from what you’re looking for, but one thing this brings to mind is the “pause” button that the Fari online tool (for Fate and various other indie-style games) has. Which isn’t to suggest you need an actual button for F2F TT play, but making that same idea explicit might be a useful first step.

Pausing is a good tool (“I need to tell you about my relation to funny voices …”), but I was thinking of getting on the same page before play begins.

“As I couldn’t find what I wanted, I made it” - DIY / DIO saying

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I used to do this in a game of mine - ask each player to list “one thing they wanted to see in the game”, and various other similar things.

The only challenge is that it tends to work best when you get buy-in and consensus. Sometimes just listing disparate things doesn’t get us anywhere. But sometimes it’s good nevertheless!

(Wouldn’t it be better to do Expectations after the CATS?)

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It depends. As it is a fundamental question for me, I prefer to be straightforward and ask it first. So that I can interpret the CATS in the light of the answers. The advantage of putting it after is it is less blunt, and CATS are used as chit chat before bringing the heavier question. But then I need to reinterpret all the answers in the light of the last one and that’s unpractical.

But I fear a confusion: it’s not about what you want to see in the game, but about the reason you want to play If it’s unclear in the document I need to change it.

I do think that this falls on the fact that roleplaying gamers seldom knows what they want. It’s not discussed at all, and few players explore more than one area of playstyles. They bring whatever they know about roleplaying games into other games, which influences how they interpret and play that game. New players are indoctrinated into the group’s playstyle without giving them any opportunity to influence the group and how they play roleplaying games.


This is exactly why I needed this tool. Asking is a first step to the discussion. Players dont know their own bias, but each one easily detects differences in the other’s approach, sometimes differences they took the habit of considering as “enemy practice”. But they’re now at a table (/server), with a person, not a practice, and begin to adjust their prejudices. As always with a new safety tool, going first does wonders.

Thank you! I think all this will make the tool much clearer - alas longer too.

@Rickard, the filthy practices you describe exist, but in my experience bad actors are magnified for a boogeyman effect. As I couldnt find figures, I actively subscribed to mainstream servers and clubs to investigate the state of things, and I have experienced openness wedges its way and breaks prejudices. (All it took was not to call adventure gamers “fascists” for a week or two :wink: )

Well, I can see tendencies of inability to see other playstyles on this forum, just in this last week. Wouldn’t call it “filthy” - just normal behavior. Both trying to conform a new player to a group consensus, and preferring one playstyle.

I tried to think of other sources, like Bartley’s player types, but those categories (the article mentions GNS, and expands upon it) are too vague, even though the article brings up “Associated gameplay features”.

Thought of Robin D Law’s player types, and I recall a page that had icons for a multitude of player types. The problem with these categories are that all people are all of them - it just changes over time and mood. Some day, you’re a 70% achiever and a 40% socializer (both are on their own separate gauge), and another day, you’re perhaps only 50% achiever, but 60% socializer.

The best thing that I can some up with is to search and read about “social contracts” for project development teams, where they state goals of the project, dangers that can come up (ex. people can get sick), and how to handle those problems (ex. don’t eat yellow snow). That’s the best I can remember - it was 20 years ago I actually studied it. :stuck_out_tongue: The contract is a kind of promise to the rest of the group.

I believe we agree (filthiness is a social construct, some normal behaviours are unhealthy / antisocial).

My problem with social contract is, in the french scene it has become a magic word. Some people slap a message with “combat” “role playing” 'light romance" and set to play with this as a “contract”. When asked about expectations though, everyone 1° is - if not an expert - at least familiar with their own selves :wink: and 2° had something different to say, of course.

All of what you wrote is great, but if I go back to my main point, that the players doesn’t know about what playstyle they have, I would like to take this to another direction. I recently had discussions about what the players wanted from a particular game (a Swedish zombie game, OSR style), and half of the group just stated “I don’t care. I will enjoy whatever you put in front of me”.

It seems like your first post had the standpoint that a bunch of people, with different playstyles, came together to play. An example could be an online game. Yeah, I think it’s good to go through what kind of expectations people have, but I still on the notion that (most) people don’t know what they want. They just know what’s right when they see it. (As a graphic designer and programmer for a game, this is exactly how my product owner is.)

Let say that we had a bunch of beginners. They have no clue of what they want; the game master would create expectations while playing, which the beginners would then apply to all roleplaying games. I think a minority of people dare to try new things, and also do it with open eyes. An old research paper I read talked about yes-sayers and no-sayers. yes-sayers tried new things and had adventures, while no-sayers felt safe in their stability in life. Can’t remember the exact numbers, but it were like 30-70 in ratio.

We rarely think about how to play and how it differs from other groups or games. A clear example were the early Forge games, where no one understood how to play them because no roleplaying games earlier on explained how they should be played, which influenced how those early games were written.

As mentioned, you only know what you (dis)like when you stumble upon it. Things that you take for granted, and what you think is fun with a game, isn’t that obvious for others. Soooo … my point being that if there is a new group (new = 0-2 years old), the best ways of discuss expectations is probably to bring up what you all enjoyed with the previous sessions, and then discuss things that could be better (again, this is something I learned when studying project development).

That’s probably how I would formalize the talk about expectations, and that’s also how I tend to use Concept from CATS. I present the world and what I would like from the experience, and then the others talk about what they liked in previous sessions, and what could be better (one player having problem with another, for example). I’m just starting off a new huge campaign (850 pages to read), so I recently had these kinds of discussions. What I also stated was what I expected from them, to that they should create their own personal arcs, that we should play every second week, that we should place physically, that we should frequently visit and have discussions on Discord, etc. Just things in how we should handle this gigantic project.

(Cross posted somehow…)

I find the social contract for project development you present a good framework, but I’m afraid I have missed a step in your reasonning. I’ll follow mine, in the hope we’ll hook up somewhere.

In the end everyone wants to have fun. I turn this inside-out and make it the starting point of a discusssion: what’s each one’s idea of fun?

And I don’t do it through normalization (“playstyles”) or merging motivations into the bigger project (“consensus”) because doing so, I’d lose the “magic snowflakes” instantly. I need everyone to bring their own person to the game, including the differences between them, because I think the project in a TTRPG, unlike doing a cake or writing a story, is a tad meta. To me, the gaming experience is the interactions are the project.

We agree that people don’t know what they want. You add “until they see it”, and me “when you give them some time to discuss”. Both information and discussion enable the formation of an informed opinion.

If I feel someone didn’t answer (fun, anything, etc.), I try to gently work an answer out of them.

I realize I do this “cold” before CATS because when CATS has begun, people will subsume their own selves to the project, the hype takes their mind over.

You’re mentioning a GMed campaign and a 0-2 years group. I am thinking pick up groups for GMless one shots. I think you want a much more thorough answer and E-CATS is a hard and fast measure. Still, I believe time taken to discuss personal expectations between equals (before putting the GM hat on) is never lost.

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Yeah. Also, it follows the same procedure of learning as everything else. Read, try, reread to see what you misunderstood.

We can talk as much as we want, but we can still have two different ideas, even if we use the same words. So I agree, it’s good to set a “topic” on beforehand, at least so it’s possible to go back and analyze the discussion, in order to further understand other participants.

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This seems like a good insight! Worth thinking about, anyway. And answers my question somewhat.

My experience here is much closer to Rickard’s, for what it’s worth. What I mostly see is people unable to recognize, formulate, or communicate their expectations, or just “open to doing whatever” (which often ends up not being true anyway!). So people will self-report inaccurately, or fixate on whatever good or bad experience they had most recently.

I generally find that such conversations have only been fruitful for me after the act of playing, when we can actually check whether we are talking about the same thing we think we’re talking about.

It would be interesting to see if it’s cultural, confirmation bias, or something about the way you/we lead these conversations that’s giving us these different perspectives.

Usually I find that I am often playing unfamiliar games with people, and the things they end up enjoying about these games are often completely unrelated to what they thought they were going to be enjoying. It’s an interesting conundrum.

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I don’t expect players to tell the “true” reason they play when asked for the first time. They’ll pick some part of the chain of motivations between a non-answer and a sincere introspection. They can’t be wrong and they’ll never be true. Yet this will tell useful things about where everybody is wrt the game that begins, at a level that “I want to play Dr Who adventures with laser swords and player skill” never will.

Our old age probably helps in guessing past non-answers, but I’m confident this skill (discerning motivations to play) can be trained, and sharing the task is a powerful leverage.

If I use a trick, it’s a pedagogical balance between invisibility (putting others in charge) and firmness (calling out non-answers). But there’s no trick needed. A rehash of the answers during debriefing would be fully didactic, but it is much lighter to leave it implied.

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