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Expected levels of engagement and interest

hyphz

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Because I’m asking about expectations, not results.

For example - if a person expects to join a group that plays like CR, then that is an unreasonable expectation.

If it turns out that the group they end up joining, by some miracle, does play that way.. then the expectation was still unreasonable at the moment they had it. Just like it’s unreasonable to expect to win the lottery, and that doesn’t retroactively become reasonable if you do win.

I mean, for a local example, suppose my PC hears in the tavern about a cliff along the trail they would need to climb. They get no more detail than that it is a cliff. If they have a +2 climb bonus should they expect to complete that route? If they have a +20, how about then? What isn’t a useful answer is “it depends on the cliff.” While it will be true in practice, the process of expecting can begin in the tavern, and so can the judgment of expectations.

So what is the reasonable expectation if you haven’t met the group yet?
 
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ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
This feels an awful lot like asking "What is the default behavior for a concert? I have no information other than people will be playing music." Straight up, people understand that the expectations vary between an opera, a rave, a country band playing in a shitty dive bar, and a stadium rock band reunion tour. There's so much variance that you cannot form a reasonable expectation without getting more information -- not too much unlike an RPG group.
 

hyphz

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RPGnet Member
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This feels an awful lot like asking "What is the default behavior for a concert? I have no information other than people will be playing music." Straight up, people understand that the expectations vary between an opera, a rave, a country band playing in a shitty dive bar, and a stadium rock band reunion tour. There's so much variance that you cannot form a reasonable expectation without getting more information -- not too much unlike an RPG group.
That's actually a point regarding the question though - concerts can provide that information because there are general expectations of what those genres are. In RPGs, though, those are much less reliable because of the weakness with which they're defined. A group may call themselves "RP-heavy" when in fact they no idea what they are claiming to be heavy compared to. If they hypothetically conducted a survey of RPG groups worldwide, they might find that they were actually RP-light. Whereas concerts do not end up advertising Janacek's Sinfonietta as Heavy Metal because they thought everyone else listened only to Gymnopedie and Pachelbel's Canon. So, yea, there might be multiple categories of expectations but they need to be defined in order to work, and music shows how they can be.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
I still maintain you're asking an essentially impossible question in terms of the way you expect it to be answered, Hyphz; the kind of pressures that produce standardization in other sorts of experience don't really exist in the RPG hobby. The closest you'd get is in D&D or Pathfinder organized play, and those set expectations don't really influence what most people do in home games all that much. So the real answer is, you can half six players and a GM come in to a new GM, and their expectations on the social contract regarding focus and intensity will be in six different spots. There's no standardized experience to point to.

And this isn't limited to this topic. Ask what's "expected" in terms of first person/third person play and IC versus OOC discussion, and you'll get a raft of answers with no standardization outside of a group that all comes from the same specific game culture.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
That's actually a point regarding the question though - concerts can provide that information because there are general expectations of what those genres are. In RPGs, though, those are much less reliable because of the weakness with which they're defined. A group may call themselves "RP-heavy" when in fact they no idea what they are claiming to be heavy compared to. If they hypothetically conducted a survey of RPG groups worldwide, they might find that they were actually RP-light. Whereas concerts do not end up advertising Janacek's Sinfonietta as Heavy Metal because they thought everyone else listened only to Gymnopedie and Pachelbel's Canon. So, yea, there might be multiple categories of expectations but they need to be defined in order to work, and music shows how they can be.
I would say that you've basically answered your own question -- there are no general expectations of RPG groups that can be relied upon. You can have specific expectations, based on the circumstances of a group and the players who comprise it. But the general expectation is so generic that it's unreliable, and the more specific it gets the more inaccurately it describes a growing number of groups.

To go back to your primary example, the players you're talking about are talking about "the realistic limit of the RPG experience," and it's possible that they are both right and wrong. Wrong because groups clearly exist that go right past the limitations they describe, but right because that group isn't going to exceed those limitations even if you tell them that they can. The fact that it's not a realistic limit for others doesn't really contradict the idea that it might be a very realistic limit for them.

I play in two groups. They both meet in my house; my wife cooks dinner for both; they're both made up of people around the same age who have all worked at some variety of White Wolf or CCP at some point. One group plays reliably just about every week, unless major travel or some other factor prohibits them. The other group is so incredibly rife with cancellations that our every-other-week game is really more like a once-a-month game. One group has a couple of guys on their phones all the time, but a pretty businesslike way of keeping track of the plot; the other group has people who switch from super-engaged to going off on some hilarious tangent. There are so many things in common with both of my groups, but I have different expectations for both, because people are just different.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
Because I’m asking about expectations, not results.
My expectations are that a GM knows what he/she is doing and makes a fun game, that the Players take part and make it a fun game.

For example - if a person expects to join a group that plays like CR, then that is an unreasonable expectation.
I need to watch some Critical Role, as I have never seen anyone in a streamed RPG session before.

Presumably, some people's games are like that and some aren't.

If it turns out that the group they end up joining, by some miracle, does play that way.. then the expectation was still unreasonable at the moment they had it. Just like it’s unreasonable to expect to win the lottery, and that doesn’t retroactively become reasonable if you do win.
Perhaps, but does it matter? If I turn up to a game with certain expectations and the game is different, have I lost anything?

Sure, if I turn up to a game expecting it to be high on amateur dramatics and I get a game that focuses on crunchy combat tactics, them I am probably going to be disappointed. But, I might find that I actually enjoy it anyway.

I mean, for a local example, suppose my PC hears in the tavern about a cliff along the trail they would need to climb. They get no more detail than that it is a cliff. If they have a +2 climb bonus should they expect to complete that route? If they have a +20, how about then? What isn’t a useful answer is “it depends on the cliff.” While it will be true in practice, the process of expecting can begin in the tavern, and so can the judgment of expectations.
OK, if I have a cliff that I have to climb, my expectation would be that I get to try to climb the cliff. If the people in the tavern say "Very few people have climbed the cliff", then I expect it to be difficult. If I am a Master Climber then I expect it to be easy. If I get there and it is raining, making the cliff hard to climb and some goblins steal all my equipment, then I expect it to be harder than I first thought.

But, all that is largely irrelevant. I reach the cliff and I try to climb it. I succeed or I fail. Perhaps climbing the cliff is more important than actually finishing the climb. Perhaps I find a cave with something in. Perhaps I almost fall and someone saves me. Expectations are irrelevant in this case, the import things is what I do when I reach the cliff.

So what is the reasonable expectation if you haven’t met the group yet?
Turn up, have fun, don't piss people off.
 

Klajorne

Double Clutching Weasel
Validated User
I'm going to side with hyphz on this one. I can't think of another activity that holds such low expectations as RPGs. What is often "within reason" in RPG circles would be worth ostracizing in other activities. Unwilling to learn the rules, constantly checking out and not participating in the activity, these should not be "okay things" in a social activity.
Yet, I have almost the opposite expectation in RPGs. I'm almost "disappointed" if I don't have to explain a rule to someone about their character, or wait while they finish a post when it's their turn.
 

Nicholas Carter

Registered User
Validated User
Here's something to bring up, in terms of experience and expectation: I've played in more than one game with continuous high engagement, and something they had in common was that they were all exhausting. Playing for more than a couple hours felt like operating on pure adrenaline, and when the games were finished I was so tired that I was literally not safe to drive, and had to sleep on the hosts couch. If you expect continuous focus in your game, you're going to need to take breaks every couple hours to catch your breath, or you're going to lose people.
Here's an experiment. Time the player who gets distracted first, see how long that takes. If it takes more than 40 minutes from the start of the session, start calling a break right before they'd normally tune out. Just a quick five minutes. See if they don't stay more engaged while the game is on.
 
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