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Author Topic: Thoughts about ERP, GMing, and player expectations  (Read 572 times)

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Offline CarnivalOfTheGoatTopic starter

Thoughts about ERP, GMing, and player expectations
« on: January 18, 2013, 06:43:47 PM »
Elliquiy represents a somewhat unusual environment for a GM due to the mixture of possible expectations created by the possibility of erotic roleplay.

Specifically, I mean this in regards to how those expectations can be set and met by the GM, and elements that a GM new to Elliquiy might not consider.

Recently there has been a thread in this forum about 'the lack of roleplays about sex', but if one looks at the Group Roleplays Wanted forum one will usually find a wide variety of roleplay recruitment threads which clearly exist to create ERP encounters - harems, maids, incest situations, slave situations, prep schools...Most of the commonly accepted kinks can be pretty easily found here, having specific threads which clearly cater to them. These threads have their expectations pretty clearly front-loaded, so a GM (if there is one) really doesn't need to worry too much about recruitment complications. These aren't the threads I'm going to focus on - they clearly exist to fulfill a specific fetish scenario, and often as not they exist in a vacuum, outside of which there is no clear setting or world, but the expectation about ERP isn't a point of contention because it is actually the first thing which is made clear between GM and players.

Where things get tricky is the introduction of an external roleplaying setting. Because it's a very common example I'm going to stick to a specific and well-known RPG, Dungeons & Dragons. A gamemaster who posts a recruitment thread for this sort of game has a handful of possible issues to resolve with regards to party composition:

  • First, and most obviously, most such games have a sort of 'typical party makeup'. There's the tank, the social operator, the healer, the people who do DPS, etc. In AD&D terms, your fighter, rogue, cleric, mages, et al. Most gamemasters who come to Elliquiy and intend to start such a game have a pretty good handle on these things and a great deal has been written about balancing them. A gamemaster running a system game probably has a fair bit of experience sifting character ideas and deciding on what will and will not work best for their game.
  • Secondly, a GM may choose to examine previous RP posts from other games the applicants have participated in. This isn't a matter of elitism, it's a matter of trying to get a group of people who will interact well together. Of course I'm generalizing here, but for the most part a group composed of people who write lengthy posts or a group composed of people who write terse posts will work best. When one mixes and matches, one begins to frequently encounter issues where more literary players will feel their writing is being ignored, or that other, less vociferous players 'are not making an effort'; and on the other side one will see more dice-oriented people becoming frustrated at having to wade through walls of text to see if they hit. At its worst, this can become problematic in terms of game actions - even when "tl;dr" isn't aggressively called out, some players who don't like to read through long descriptions may make action poses which conflict with the poses other players have written...Because they either missed the action element in the text, skimmed it, what have you -- I'm afraid I'm sounding rather down on the short-pose people here, but if you've read this far you probably can tell that I like to write, so I can only offer some limited understanding of the other camp. What's important is that it CAN cause conflict, and that this is less likely to be an issue if you have a group composed of people whose writing interests are the same...Whether they are short-text or multi-paragraph posters, a homogenous group rarely sees these kinds of issues, and they're endemic to PbP, whether ERP is a possibility or not. This represents another filter - one which some GMs don't seem aware of, resulting in occasional player expectation conflict in their games.
  • But because Elliquiy is an ERP-permitted PbP forum, a third level of filtration occurs due to the potential for ERP. I've seen players and GMs talk about 'gender balancing' but gender really isn't at the core of it: a single-gender party can work out just fine, so long as the characters are all homosexuals; a group composed of a handful of characters of a single gender and one of the opposite gender can work out just fine, providing the odd character out is into being shared or group sex, and everyone else is into sharing that person. In contrast, there are a plenitude of ways in which a party divided evenly between the genders may NOT work out. Probably the most common 'problem' situation I have seen involves heterosexual male or female characters (and more often males than females), but it is probably due to a seeming glut of bisexual female characters. The more limited the ways are in which a character can 'fit' into the ERP situation, the more likely it is they will be sidelined. And this not only goes for gender-affiliation, but also for kinks: the hardcore S&M type gets sidelined in a vanilla party, and vice-versa. This is all somewhat illusionary - simply because there are compatible characters in the party is no guarantee that there will be interest or ERP between them - but it is a thing which comes up.

In addition to this peculiarity of 'ERP-interest balancing' which new GMs to Elliquiy may not perceive, there is yet another potential area where expectations of the players (and the gamemaster!) should probably be discussed, the degree to which ERP is a theme of the roleplay. I will offer some examples, again keeping to the milieu of Dungeons & Dragons because it's common and easy to compose examples in:

  • Firstly, the game which runs much like a D&D game on any other forum - except that, as some put it, there is no "fade to black". The game does not go out of its way to offer sexual opportunities, but if sex happens, it is permitted rather than avoided. The players and the gamemaster presumably should have interest in an ongoing plot, vanquishing enemies, becoming heroes, etc., and getting laid is simply something that might happen along the way, or might be yet another means to an end (seducing rather than backstabbing the obstacle guard, etc).
  • Secondly, the game which tweaks the D&D world/game in the interests of inundating the players with various forms of ERP. I've seen examples of this wherein any combat in which the player characters were defeated resulted in long rape scenes rather than character death. The most common type of monster seems to be either a tentacle monster or "a well-hung <insert name of more traditional game system creature here>". The players and the gamemaster probably aren't there to complete a long-term campaign so much as to indulge in (often campy) ERP...Trying to complete any sort of long-term plot probably is a doomed effort, as the resolution of 'post-combat' scenes is where the real play focus sticks.

Obviously, a player expecting the first of these who finds themselves in the second probably won't be happy, and vice-versa. The GM who sets this sort of expectation in advance will probably have an easier time of it than the one who finds out that not all of their players are on the same page in such regards.

PbP games can die off or be killed in a variety of ways. Only on Elliquiy have I ever seen a gamemaster throw up their hands and abandon ship because in the very first tavern scene, almost all of the player characters ended up shagging in closets and upstairs rooms, and could not be persuaded to come out to further the plot!

That's kind of a wacky distinction. Don't get me wrong, I like it here. ;)

But this presents another expectation a GM needs to communicate to the players. How much will inter-player ERP be permitted to delay the plot?

Obviously if it's plot significant, and the outcome of seducing the Dragon Queen will affect everything else, then it probably should take central stage...But if only one player can participate, it's kind of rotten to make everyone sit around for two or three weeks of back-and-forth. Explain to the player that they'll get X number of posts at most between now and (insert a fairly close day of the week) that the GM will respond to, or simply write it up as a grand vignette, send it to the player, and ask them to edit any things they think their character might do/say differently, then present it to the party as a fait accompli.

In contrast, even three quarters of the party is off screwing in their rooms at the inn, the gamemaster may want to maintain some momentum in the adventure. In such a case, I would recommend the creation of an alternate thread, so that the game (and the sex) can proceed without greatly interfering with each other.

Well, I believe I've rambled on enough here, and probably gone off track once or twice in the points I meant to make.

How do you see these elements affecting your games?

Do you have any other advice for handling them that you'd recommend to fellow GMs on Elliquiy?

Thanks for your time.

Offline The Unholy Potato

Re: Thoughts about ERP, GMing, and player expectations
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2013, 07:02:39 PM »
This post is, frankly, way too convenient for me. I'm tempted to make half-joking comments about how suspiciously convenient it is, but instead, I'll just thank for writing it all up! I've run a variety of systems across my career as a GM (or DM or Storyteller or whatever else), but it's generally been done in person and skirted around any mature topics (including sex, but certainly not limited to it). I've learned some hard lessons running and playing in games online, but I hadn't truly considered the effect that involving sexual themes (or, let's be honest, ERP itself) would have on the flow of gameplay. I had, however, started thinking through running a system-based game here. I'm very glad that I read this before going through with it, so I had a somewhat better understanding of what to expect.

As I'm sure has been made clear, I don't have much personal experience to contribute to this discussion. I do, however, look forward to hearing what other people might have to say.

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Thoughts about ERP, GMing, and player expectations
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2013, 07:11:55 PM »
Howdy! Wowsa, that's a great post. A lot of good information to consider. I need to digest it more, but wanted to get out just one comment. Let me first say that this comment also is not to dissuade from the conversation at all. Threads move fast in E and if you don't read every Board every day things can easily move down the list and discussions end.

What I'm trying to say is that many of the questions/comments/thoughts you describe in your post have been discussed in this very Board. It seems to me that you are asking a general question around "best practices in running a group game in E." You also have a couple specific questions beyond this general exploration.

Some of the threads in this board deal with more game management aspects. For example, Thufir posted a discussion about how far do you plot in advance? http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=132898.0

Other threads in this board deal with more specific advice. For example, Haibane posted a discussion about how you logistically treat phone calls between characters http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=145713.0

One of the other discussions (which I can't quite put my finger on it) was related to your question about how much leeway do you give people to "stay put" while others move forward. This was described as "linear time" versus "fuzzy time." "Linear time" generally means that everyone moves together. Sometimes a GM will give 2 weeks to equal one day and then 2 weeks to equal one night. The opposite method is "fuzzy time" meaning that each post can happen at any time. Posts need to include a time frame in them and they cannot obstruct anything else happening in the thread. Another option was to create a side thread where the individuals in question could continue to post their tryst (or whatever is happening) while the game continues to move forward.

So, again, great post and great questions. I'll need time to digest more, but I look forward to other posts.

Offline CarnivalOfTheGoatTopic starter

Re: Thoughts about ERP, GMing, and player expectations
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2013, 10:52:11 AM »
What I'm trying to say is that many of the questions/comments/thoughts you describe in your post have been discussed in this very Board. It seems to me that you are asking a general question around "best practices in running a group game in E." You also have a couple specific questions beyond this general exploration.

Some of the threads in this board deal with more game management aspects. For example, Thufir posted a discussion about how far do you plot in advance? http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=132898.0

Other threads in this board deal with more specific advice. For example, Haibane posted a discussion about how you logistically treat phone calls between characters http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=145713.0

One of the other discussions (which I can't quite put my finger on it) was related to your question about how much leeway do you give people to "stay put" while others move forward. This was described as "linear time" versus "fuzzy time." "Linear time" generally means that everyone moves together. Sometimes a GM will give 2 weeks to equal one day and then 2 weeks to equal one night. The opposite method is "fuzzy time" meaning that each post can happen at any time. Posts need to include a time frame in them and they cannot obstruct anything else happening in the thread. Another option was to create a side thread where the individuals in question could continue to post their tryst (or whatever is happening) while the game continues to move forward.

Perhaps I muddled it by going on too long and trying to cover too much, but only the last few lines of my post are questions meant to provoke further conversation.

The majority of the front-loaded post, I would hope, is readable as making some helpful statements about how GMing on E seems to present some challenges which are not familiar to GMs from other environments, and to offer some suggestions about dealing with them, all under a thread which is titled in a fashion to reflect that.

Should I perhaps work on rewriting it/cleaning it up? I have your response, which makes me feel like I didn't communicate it very well, but Potato's response sounds like it read just the way I meant it to, to my target audience. I'm batting 500? :)

I was trying to make some helpful observations based on my limited experience here and then to tack some questions on at the end so it would be more of a 'living' document with others' input. I did reference techniques mentioned elsewhere, but not in threads which are titled in a way to aim explicitly at catching the attention of new GMs on Elliquiy.

Offline Thufir Hawat

Re: Thoughts about ERP, GMing, and player expectations
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2013, 11:24:40 AM »
One of the other discussions (which I can't quite put my finger on it) was related to your question about how much leeway do you give people to "stay put" while others move forward. This was described as "linear time" versus "fuzzy time." "Linear time" generally means that everyone moves together. Sometimes a GM will give 2 weeks to equal one day and then 2 weeks to equal one night. The opposite method is "fuzzy time" meaning that each post can happen at any time. Posts need to include a time frame in them and they cannot obstruct anything else happening in the thread. Another option was to create a side thread where the individuals in question could continue to post their tryst (or whatever is happening) while the game continues to move forward.
It was in the GM Lounge thread, I believe. Now, on to the questions of our Eclipse Phase-loving friend... >:)


How do you see these elements affecting your games?

Do you have any other advice for handling them that you'd recommend to fellow GMs on Elliquiy?

Thanks for your time.
I've got three answers to that: Communication, communication, and communication. Make it clear in the recruitment thread what you want the game to be about!
How much is "stepping outside the plot" or "slowing the plot" allowed? (For the character-driven-sandbox players like me, make it clear also what "plot" even means to you). Is sex part of the game, or is the game a convenient reason to get to sex?
You have probably specified what kinks are encountered in the game, so people would be able to join only if they're fine with that. Why wouldn't anyone specify what other features the game would have? It's better to clear all the stuff that can stop the game in its tracks.

So, yeah, communication, and open new threads for people who are into a sex scene, unless most people are participating. If only one person isn't, write in the main thread, with posts clearly labelled for the sex scene or for a specific character. This way, nothing but lack of time and waning player interest can actually slow your game ;D!