Friday, March 23, 2012

Fear of playing dominoes

We played our fourth session of LotFP.

This time there was nearly no exploration. The group tried two switch of the telescope control panel, then they were vey tempted to challenge the ghost to gain access to the last unexplored section of the tower but they hesitated and choose instead to take the remaining treasure and to leave the tower.

We played some scenes in the city where the characters tried to sell some of their loot and to learn some rumours. Finally they choose to leave the tower behind to explore a new trail. They feared to explore the mirrors, the prisoner cells, to experiment with the telescope and to challenge the ghost to play the dominoes. They were tempted and intrigued by all of those elements, so I wonder if they are getting too protective or prudent.

I also feel that the players don't want to roleplay too much their character because they don't want to get attached to them. So we ended up with a session where they din't dare to explore the weird part of the tower and where they din't really let themselves have fun roleplaying their character. Many parts of the session kind of felt administrative.

EDIT: But there was also some interesting stuff: we randomly generated and discovered some details about the setting, rumours, contacts, etc.

If I look back at our sessions:

Session 01: getting to the tower for the first time, two character death before entering then returning back to town: the atmosphere is hard to build.
Session 02: exploration of the tower: the session was really fun and immersive, the atmosphere was great, we all had a blast. A great session. :)
Session 03: the group pass some time in town to organize their equipment, re-visit the tower, a character die, move back to town. The atmosphere from session 02 is nearly gone, the tower feel less mysterious.
Session 04: nearly no exploration, the character are very prudent, they loot what is safe to loot then they move back to town. No feeling of mystery, the group talk often out of character about practical stuff like equipment, things to sell, etc. Some interesting setting details are established.

So I note that coming in and out of the dungeon kind of kill the atmosphere as the location loose it mystery and the game become more about administrating the loot and I wonder how to deal with this. It hard to rebuild the aura of dread and mystery and to get the players immersed back into their characters and in the location atmosphere.

Two of the players enjoy the game very much, but our third player (who missed the second session) told me that the game is a little frustrating because the hight danger level generate a lot of hesitation and some gameplay paralysis and also make him hesitate to get immersed in his character. I understand him since he missed the most interesting and immersive session and only explored the "left over" of the dungeon. (I use "immersive" in a very general sense here)

After the session I thought about all of this and I posted some reflexions to the group:

(I resume)
"I wonder if we are playing too much for the XP while forgetting that we are around the table to explore weird locations and situations. (maybe we should simply see the XP & Levels as something that run in the background that keep track of the characters advancement while we play).

I understand that the game encourage you somehow to protect your character and to be careful. But at the same time while you are doing this you are avoiding the most interesting parts of the game since those parts will also often be the most frightful/risky/dangerous/weird elements.

On one hand I think it ok not to explore everything, but on the other hand I think that if something seem interesting to explore you should not avoid exploring it to protect your character. If something look like it is the kind of weird shit that attracted you to LotFP: go take the risk, you are playing for this, explore it.

Don't hesitate to roleplay your character. This is fine: giving life to your character will pay later when he or she get in contact with the horrible and the weird. It like for Call of Cthulhu: it more fun to see your character go crazy when you have fun roleplaying him or her. So it nice to get attached to you character if you see it as a way to enhance the fun of meeting horrible & weird fates. Also when you roleplay your character it help me to build the atmosphere, and in a horror game we want good atmosphere.

That said, leaving behind a dungeon is also fine. Don't worry, you will find clues, propositions, situations, etc pointing toward new weird locations to explore anywhere you choose to go in the sandbox. A NPC talk about a paysant revolution: if you choose to help the revolution, this is fine, I will send you some place weird to find something to help the revolution, etc... and later you can choose to use the investment rules to try to finance the revolution or to smuggle weapons, etc. Getting interested in the setting is fine. Getting out of the dungeon to read books to get more clues is also a fine move."


  1. It's interesting how in this scenario there are two types of player fear, one of which is good and one which is bad.

    The bad one is the fear that death is right around the corner so there is no point in identifying with your character.

    The good one is the fear where you're already identifying with your character and you're on the edge of your seat to see what happens next.

  2. Jack thanks for your reading, today I had a hard time to compose in english. :-/

    The group is heading toward Death Frost Doom now (their choice), I don't know if this is this is a good thing. I begin to wonder if I should have avoided using the LotFP published modules for my campaign. Well at least at the start. Maybe it would have been better to start with adventures/weird locations of my own creation.

    1. No worries, your writing is clearer than many of my American student's prose! Honestly, I'm not sure your players have good cause to be so timid. Cautious, yes. But the LotFP modules aren't exactly slaughterfests in my experience. They tend to end with a tough choice rather than a total party kill.

      Good luck! I'm enjoying reading of their exploits.

  3. Regarding re-entering a location that has already been explored and the loss of mystery: I find that it helps to make some changes to the areas they have already explored. Make it clear that things outside of the PCs exist. Make sure they don't feel like they have "cleared" a location. Some level of restocking is also appropriate, even in a location as small as the stargazer's tower. Maybe when they return they find a dead NPC adventurer in one of the rooms or something. Or furniture moved around. Little details like that can heighten the tension and refocus interest. Bonus points if it's actually connected to other interesting happenings that they can also interact with or discover, but that is not required.

  4. I am thinking that maybe sometime it difficult to distinct traps from challenges. Not wanting to interact with a trap = good tactic.
    Not wanting to interact with a challenge = avoiding to interact with the module.

    Naturally a part of the game is to identify traps.