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× A place for boardgame traitors.

Fixing my son's terrible high school RPG club.

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20 Feb 2017 12:17 - 20 Feb 2017 12:37 #244225 by Cranberries
I love my son so much. He's a sweet kid with highly functional Asperger's, who assures us that we just misdiagnosed him when he was young. He has friends at school but never does anything with them after school. He does attend a church youth group and does things with the family. He's 17.

He started his own RPG club at school, made a poster and uses Savage Worlds. It is one of his primary social outlets.

When I asked him how it was going, he said it was ok, but most of the kids he invited don't really know how to do RPGs, so they spend their time killing NPCs or attacking everyone in sight. One kid left the group because it sucked. They have one hour every Thursday to play while a new faculty member oversees them.

My son told me that it's ok, the kids are having fun and he doesn't mind too much.

How can I fix this without being a helicopter parent? Is there a good Dungeon Crawl or something with rules they could play in an hour? Should I not worry about it?

We pushed him to have the group over to our house for a pizza/games party, and that went pretty well.

Part of this is just me worrying about him and his social life. I gently suggested he fork the group and have the real RPG-ers come over to our house on the weekend. there are two forces at work that might be at odds with each other: Have friends, and have a good RPG/gaming experience.

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Last edit: 20 Feb 2017 12:37 by Cranberries.

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20 Feb 2017 12:29 #244226 by dysjunct
You need to choose a new game with explicit rewards for desired behavior. The more explicit, the better.

E.g., old D&D gives 1 XP per gold piece recovered from dungeons, and a smaller amount of XP for defeating* monsters. You get zero XP for gold robbed from NPCs and zero XP for killing NPCs.

*defeating is not necessarily killing, but can also mean sneaking past or negotiating a truce with them.

This means that old D&D is a game about treasure hunting and tomb robbing. Every combat is a risk/reward gamble. PCs will never level up if they murder and rob NPCs. As soon as the players figure this out then the dysfunctional behavior will go away as they start going for carrots and avoiding sticks.

The downside is that you have to enforce the rules. Especially the ones about paying for meals and lodgings. That's what supplies the pressure on their finances to make them go into the dungeons.

Other games have similar carrots/sticks. Lady Blackbird has pregens that tell you exactly what they get XP for doing. Etc.
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20 Feb 2017 12:35 - 20 Feb 2017 12:36 #244228 by charlest
Providing incentives doesn't always work when dealing with people that do not act rationally (teenagers). The incentive of fun (killing stuff) will probably override any mechanical incentives. So I'm not sure switching systems will matter.

I'd honestly let it go unless your son expressed disappointment in how it was going. Maybe keep up with it and continue to ask him about it/show interest.
Last edit: 20 Feb 2017 12:36 by charlest.
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20 Feb 2017 12:53 #244230 by dysjunct
Well that's certainly true. Different rewards systems assume good faith but unclear expectations. If ultimately it's a social problem of people getting lulz out of pooping on others' fun, then the answer is to kick out the offenders or pull the plug entirely.

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20 Feb 2017 13:10 #244232 by Cranberries
It occurred to me that he could invite some friends over to play Heroscape. All you do is kill lpeople, and there are clear incentives. Plus it is inherently social, and we have enough Heroscape to make grown nerd men weep.
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20 Feb 2017 13:12 #244233 by wadenels
Repercussions for being murderous cretins maybe? Have a high-ranking official put a large bounty on their head, have them exiled from civilized settlements, and other stuff like that? Not sure how teenagers would respond, but if the solutions to these problems are nonviolent they might adapt. Or they might actually just be the bad guys in the game, which can be fun too.
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20 Feb 2017 13:33 #244240 by Black Barney
Get two girls in that club and the entire activity becomes a whole new thing, it's So much better with women , as are most things
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20 Feb 2017 13:35 #244242 by Shellhead
I started role-playing as a teenager, way back in the dark age of the late '70s. We wallowed in the usual excesses of inexperienced role-players: hack-and-slash, monty haul, min-maxing, etc. I was usually the gamemaster, and I was also a regular reader of Dragon magazine, so I gradually improved and dragged my players with me. There are plenty of places online that offer advice on improving rpg sessions, so your son and his friends could become better if they wanted.
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20 Feb 2017 14:23 #244245 by quozl
I'd suggest getting rid of the story entirely and just do short skirmishes. IIRC, that's what Savage Worlds started as anyway.
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20 Feb 2017 14:46 - 20 Feb 2017 14:52 #244247 by Nodens
What Shellhead said goes for me, too. Please take my comments with a grain of salt.
I have been roleplaying for 30 years this year, and the worst time was the early teenage years where I just played the wrong system with the wrong people. It takes balls and a lot of experience for a GM to educate his players. Frankly, I think you usually can't expect this skill level from a teenager.
It doesn't make sense to force or railroad players. For me, it always boils down to one thing: the goal of roleplaying is a great time for all. If anyone isn't aware and working towards that goal, they should't be roleplaying. Most teenagers are heavily occupied with being the center of the universe, checking their phones and whatever. Also, they tend to be embarassed easily, which makes good roleplay harder.
The chaff must go, and that means it may take years to get a decent group, but it's worth it and it's the only way. Probably the hardest part is that you as a parent better stay out of it and let him make his own mistakes. Congratulations on your parenting if he shares his thoughts and feelings with you, lots of teenagers don't.
This might all be unimportant, from your post it seems you and him both see the situation clearly. He wants to spend time with his peers, you want to improve on their gaming, and maybe that's two different things.
Last edit: 20 Feb 2017 14:52 by Nodens.
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20 Feb 2017 15:41 #244251 by charlest

Nodens wrote: What Shellhead said goes for me, too. Please take my comments with a grain of salt.
I have been roleplaying for 30 years this year, and the worst time was the early teenage years where I just played the wrong system with the wrong people. It takes balls and a lot of experience for a GM to educate his players. Frankly, I think you usually can't expect this skill level from a teenager.
It doesn't make sense to force or railroad players. For me, it always boils down to one thing: the goal of roleplaying is a great time for all. If anyone isn't aware and working towards that goal, they should't be roleplaying. Most teenagers are heavily occupied with being the center of the universe, checking their phones and whatever. Also, they tend to be embarassed easily, which makes good roleplay harder.
The chaff must go, and that means it may take years to get a decent group, but it's worth it and it's the only way. Probably the hardest part is that you as a parent better stay out of it and let him make his own mistakes. Congratulations on your parenting if he shares his thoughts and feelings with you, lots of teenagers don't.
This might all be unimportant, from your post it seems you and him both see the situation clearly. He wants to spend time with his peers, you want to improve on their gaming, and maybe that's two different things.


I think there's some good stuff here but I'm not sure I agree about the concept of good roleplaying or possibly assuming the players are doing it wrong.

To really ensure a good session, I think it's imperative everyone is on the same page. This speaks to the social contract which is usually never spoken of and that incoherence leads to people with disparate goals being passive aggressive or not finding enjoyment.

If one or more players want to participate in an RPG where it's primarily killing everyone and their roleplay is maybe campy or even non-existant, I don't see a problem with that. Maybe they enjoy the system and how combat works, enjoy gaining loot or seeing how NPCs and the world responds to their actions. Maybe they enjoy the power trip. Assuming this is inherently wrong and not the right way to roleplay will not necessarily lead to a solution.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try to steer those players into what the DM or other players want, but I'm saying if they don't respond it doesn't mean they are wrong. In that case, if the goals of the group are different, your son needs to weed out those who don't align with what he wants out of roleplaying.
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20 Feb 2017 15:56 #244252 by san il defanso
The act of roleplaying isn't really intuitive to everyone, and probably not teenagers especially. If I were creating something for teens to play I'd probably just stick to a single dungeon, give them a clear goal of some kind, and have them get to the end of the dungeon. Easy enough to get into, no need to do much besides fight and get from point A to point B. Other elements can be introduced down the road maybe. Things like NPC interaction and character nuance is not stuff I expect most teens would understand or relate to, unless they are really steeped in nerd stuff and fantasy literature. One would probably have to really approach it like a video game, since I suspect that's how most of them would approach it.

Now that I'm working with teens a lot I've started wondering about how these kinds of things would relate. My own frame of reference here is entirely D&D 5e, which may or may not be the best choice. I'm not sure.
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20 Feb 2017 15:56 #244253 by Shellhead

Black Barney wrote: Get two girls in that club and the entire activity becomes a whole new thing, it's So much better with women , as are most things


Have you ever watched I Hit It With My Axe?

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20 Feb 2017 17:19 #244257 by iguanaDitty
I suggest trying different styles of rpg's as a family or father/son or even get him playing with your regular group, if you have one, and of course if you haven't already. That will introduce him to other styles and he can do what he wants/needs with his peer group. Encourage him to invite them over again, that sounds positive.

Maybe introduce him to some Knights of the Dinner Table.

Really I am so far away from this, my daughter is 7, so I am very interested in what you end up doing/not doing and what happens as a result.

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20 Feb 2017 17:26 #244258 by Nodens
Thank you Charles for clarifying. I didn't mean to imply there is a wrong way to do it. I just wanted to say that I know precisely what I want from RPGs and that makes it easier for me to get it. Your point about the social contract is spot on.

charlest wrote: ...To really ensure a good session, I think it's imperative everyone is on the same page. This speaks to the social contract which is usually never spoken of and that incoherence leads to people with disparate goals being passive aggressive or not finding enjoyment.


I've actually once discussed the contract and that wasn't as helpful as the person had intended. But it sure helps if people are aware of these things and think about why they do it and who is with them.
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