Friday, August 12, 2011

Geasa and the Fear of Failure

If you read my Gen Con 2011 you know that I ended up running a game of Geasa for a group of people that didn't go so well. In the almost two years since I started running it, through play-testing and at conventions before and after it was published, only one game could compare to it in regards to it not going as well but the difference there was that the people seemed to be having more fun during the first game.

I thought it would be a great game when I walked up to the table. There was a group of people who knew each other, and they seemed to have a really good rapport. They were busy chatting, and playing a dice game that they seemed to be really enjoying. They seemed to be able to play off of each other in a relaxed and easy way. Not that this is mandatory to play Geasa, but if you're able to play off of each other and trust the people you're with then what RPG won't be better for it?

What happened during the game was that I got a lot of blank looks from the people around me. That group of four, the fifth guy was trying his best but he had just run a game and really was busy kind of zoning out after that mental exercise, just didn't want to do anything much. They kept looking to me to tell them what to do, and the only advice I could give them is "tell us what you want to do." That didn't seem to be the answer they wanted and we continued to do our best to muddle about our Carribean Sea Side town. After two rounds I had a sense that I was dealing with a group of people who were used to having a particularly strong GM who they were used to deferring to. It also wasn't hard to figure out who it was. While I was busy trying to coax the younger players into telling me what they wanted, and what they felt that they saw he would just get flustered and ask if he could take over and give a long narration about just exactly what was going on.

Not to knock the guy, he was really good at that. The scenes were evocative and really quite breath taking. The problem is that they kind of missed the point. The reason why I always try to have people explain their own scenes because once they get over that hump they gain the confidence to start getting involved in the game more. However, whenever they would start to fumble there was GM dude ready to swoop in and do the job.

The problem is that he never really got into the game as well. He spent most of it with all his dice in front of him and didn't really do anything with them. He never really challenged for things, or did stuff that would kinda of make people jump up and get in the way. He shrank away from anything that might be a confrontation, and it hit me what the problem was. He was afraid of failing. He didn't want bad things to happen to his person, and so he was playing close to his chest.

That's perhaps the worst way you can play Geasa. In Geasa, bad things happen to your people. That's kind of the point, they can overcome, they can move beyond, or they can end up stuck in the cycle of their own downfall. The first step is risking things and pushing where you might fail. That's the only way you can be an active participant in the story. Without doing that, you're just a passenger watching as other people shape the story which is as boring an experience as you can have.

In order to fly, you've gotta forget failure and just jump.


Doug Hagler said...

I'm wondering, is this something that is in the game text? That The way to play Geasa is to take risks and not be a spectator?

Jonathan said...

In the text it talks about how you benefit from getting involved in other people's scenes, and the importance of saying no.

I'll have to go over it again, mainly because I might have just kept that implied through the getting involved and saying no sections. If it's not explicit in the text I'll have to make it so.

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