Narrative Control – Episode 68 – Selling players on Complications

Welcome back to Narrative Control, season 3. This season we’re taking calls from listeners and offering up what advice we can about their gaming conundrums. This week we talked to David Bozarth talking about selling players on complicating their characters.

Hosts: Sean Nittner, Eric Fattig, and Lenny Balsera

Guest Caller: Dave Bozarth

Explicit. This episode contains a smattering of explicit language.

Length: 37:14

Show Notes

[00:27] Intro to the show. Dave Bozarth coming on and talking about adapting your play style to the group, games that help sell players on character complications and Rob Donoghue’s “The Trick”
[00:55] Daniel Hodges of the game Victoria had me on his podcast Penny Red. You can download it here.
[01:22] Want to be on the show. Email us at or on the forum
[01:53] The hosts arrive, Eric Fattig and Lenny Balsera
[02:04] But I digress. I just play tested Durance. Here’s my AP report
[02:40] Dave recounts his situation. A player character that killed off his brother because he was a liability.
[04:15] Our discussion begins. Why was this a problem and not just grist for the mill of character drama and story?
[04:33] What happened next? Was this discussed?
[05:26] What system were we playing? Mage. System isn’t going to help us here.
[06:22] More context. Was this important in the setting?
[07:06] Future of the game? Did it keep going?
[07:27] Player motivation: Dodging the issue or generating new conflict?
[09:22] A common occurrence. Players protecting their characters from weakness, liability and responsibility. Result = no story.
[12:01] Some games work really well for power fantasies and crazy awesome competence. Leverage!
[12:58] A Hard sell. Selling players on accepting weaknesses. Ideas?
[13:45] Suggestion: Show how connections to the game can be strengths as well as weaknesses.
[15:19] Suggestion: Dropping offers meaning fewer offers made. More of them made to other players? Would this satisfy the player?
[17:27] Suggestion: If this is something that seriously detracts from the game experience. Play a different game?
[17:52] Changing the group dynamic, other players doing the same thing.
[18:28] Good experiences playing Apocalypse World.
[18:55] Players accepting complications in that system.
[19:10] Use the system! AW will change your game.
[20:37] Suggestion: Talk about how you are mimicking the success/complication model from Apocalypse World.
[21:47] We are pretty horrible about knowing what we really want.
[22:10] Suggestion: Conditioning the group. Play enough games with explicit rules for complications so that they can be made implicit in other games.
[22:53] Sean’s “Plot Hammer” voice.
[23:11] Forming new habits. Changing old capital “H” habits.
[23:35] Suggestion: Being explicit with the group about what you like. Positive reinforcement of players embracing change, consequences, etc.
[25:50] Some systems are better for encouraging this.
[26:55] Suggestion: Maybe you should change your GMing style.
[29:00] Suggestion: Many players give a lot respect to the “system” over a GM’s style.
[30:00] Suggestion: Point to the mechanics and get the player’s feedback so you’re not in the line of fire.
[30:57] Rob Donoghue’s “The Trick” – Threatening the things “around” the players.
[32:27] Looking at an iconic (vs. dynamic) character. Jack Bauer.
[34:32] Learning which buttons to push.
[35:25] Suggestion: Authoring your own tragedy. Sometimes players just want to control that.
[36:00] Set an example: “Die in the first scene!” We’re playing weekend at Bernie’s and I’m Bernie.

The conversation continues… Here.

Direct download: NC_Episode_068.mp3

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