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I'm looking for some advice and input on a situation I've found myself in as a player. To give a little background, my gaming group (4 men, 2 women, between the ages of 25 and 32) is about to end a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game that has been going on for 5 years now. There have been in-game and out-of-game issues that have come up along the way; some have been fixed, some have not, but those successes and failures have/can be used to make future game sessions better. But for me there have been a few issues that have left me very unhappy with how the game is ending and completely unmotivated to play anything new.

One of the major problems that's hanging over my head is that I cannot seem to play a character that I can both enjoy playing and that works well with the other characters. I say "play" rather than "create" because I've run into the same problem with different characters. What always happens is that my characters end up treated in some way that results in them spiraling down into depression. It's not that the characters I play are annoying or act negatively against/towards the group; it's just that they never end up getting accepted and constantly have their feelings disregarded by the main group. I've tried to deal with this in-game by making the character's dissatisfaction known in both subtle and blunt ways, but so far that has only resulted in the character being ostracized more. It sort of makes it worse when the other characters expect one of mine to figure out/do something for them because that something is my character's specialty.

Discussing the issue outside of game with the GM has resulted in the suggestion that it might be because my preferred characters are loner types at heart. Not loners in that they want to be off doing their own thing, but more that they tend to depend on themselves first, tend to keep most personal thoughts to themselves, and won't just "go along to get along" if something is bothering them. All my characters also tend to be a bit introverted (probably where the loner-ness comes from) and not the most empathetic. This is not really by design, but rather because that is what I am. I have attempted to play a character that is not those things, but I cannot do so for any extended period of time. It just becomes too much work for me to have to try and logically figure out how that character feels and how to express that properly, because I cannot personally understand the reaction that should be occurring.

I have tried talking to the other players about all of this, but I've sort of run into the same issue as my characters: no one seems to understand my viewpoint very well. It has gotten really frustrating. I know the players don't hate my characters; some of them actually love them because they are very complex, interesting, and different from characters they've interacted with in other games, but yet there is the problem where our characters just seem unable to function together.

Since I have run out of outlets for advice among my friends, I am posting here. So anyone who has run into similar issues in your gaming experience, please share them. Possible solutions or advice would also be nice. I don't know if the problem is just me, the current player/character group dynamic in general (we've had many of each come ago since the start of the game), a bit of both, or something else. I just know that, right now, I feel very discouraged with tabletop gaming.

Also, if you would like me elaborate more on anything I've said ask and I will try to do so the best I can.

EDIT FOR AN EXAMPLE: I should add that my main character is the group/pack's leader (which was voted on in-game maybe a year in, as the previous packs lost members/players). On several occasions, something pretty bad would happen to the character because of plot and it would really get to her. For instance, she learned that a really close friend of hers was killed by another character she thought she could trust, and because of such, was understandably in a sad mood over it. The rest of the pack were aware of this death and the circumstances, but right after the news was given, other characters just switched topic to what they should be doing the following day and wanted my character to make some decisions on those thoughts then and there.

Now, if something similar happened to another character in the group, there would be discussion about what happened and an attempt to support that character. I have even done such with my character when one of her pack members needed to some time to collect themselves or talk about what was bothering them.

Then, there was also a reoccurring problem where as pack leader I would encourage the other characters to discuss ideas and possible solutions over solving problems, only to have them not really participate in those discussions and then turn around and complain that my character never listens to what they have to say. It was just an endless cycle of them looking at my character to solve all the problems and then getting upset when either not all of those problems were covered to their satisfaction and not saying anything if they didn't like something.

Now, I did not have a problem with all the characters, some of which my character got along with great on an individual level, but her relationship to the group as a whole just deteriorated after multiple instances of the mentioned situations. Which has left me not really knowing if it might just be me and how I think/play or if it might be the group dynamic.

EDIT 2 For those mentioning the conflict going on. I will say that my characters have been described as loners by others, and to an extent they are (though I would call one being more socially awkward than a loner). However, they are also of the type who will try to live up to the expectations of responsibility given to them. The character who was the leader was pulled into that position by the other characters and then treated as I have described. This caused the character to get withdrawn and depressed and conclude that being alone is preferable.

Edit 3.5 I now think that some of my issues might have to do with the current player/character dynamic. In my game, all the characters I have played were made along side a different group of players. Most of which were new to gaming, had played similar games before, or loved the game's concept/system. When the player base changed, the new characters did not mesh as well with the old ones and the new players came from a different gaming background as well. It is possible that the gaming style I developed just does not work well with theirs, and that combined with the characters having been formed at different times resulted in my characters, who had loner/introverted tendencies (but did not shy away from the group), to eventually be ostracized.

For me, the ultimate solution might be to find new people to play with or have a serious discussion with my current group to try and sort stuff out. But, how one deals with those things is a whole other question. I do still welcome people to make suggestions on the general spirit of my question and not just my specific situation.

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"This caused the character to get withdrawn and depressed and conclude that being alone is preferable." - Are you playing the character that way because it is in the character's nature? Or is this how you're feeling, and it's coming out in the character? –  wraith808 Dec 14 '11 at 5:50
    
@Wraith808 - It is the character's nature, it has always said "lone wolf" on that section of her character sheet. I will admit there might be some bleed-through going on, but it the reasons I'm discouraged are not one in the same as the character's. Maybe the double unhappiness going on is just feeding off each other now. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 14 '11 at 15:01
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Please edit relevant info into the question, and if people want to answer please submit an answer - the comments here are becoming too forumy, which is a warning sign for us here about questions. –  mxyzplk Dec 15 '11 at 16:41
    
"I cannot personally understand the reaction that should be occurring." This is exactly why I encourage my all players to play what they know. Anything else is disingenous and a disservice to everyone at the table, especially the player playing that character. Vicariousness is ALWAYS a big no-no. Sucks that you're now in a role you just can't do justice to and have no interest in based on your question's body. –  PrometheanVigil yesterday

6 Answers 6

up vote 22 down vote accepted

"A practical man can always make what he wants to do look like a noble sacrifice of personal inclinations to the welfare of the community. I've decided that I've got to be practical myself, and that's one of the rules. How about breakfast?" The Pirates of Ersatz, Murray Leinster

From your question I noticed a few things. Nominally, I completely agree with @mxyzplk's answer, so this should be in the way of an addendum.

It sucks to be the leader

In a RPG, it just completely sucks to be the leader. Most players when confronted with a plan, remember about fifteen percent of it for the first fifteen minutes. But they'll certainly remember when you deviate. Leaders get no additional responsibility and no perquisites, but they get all the blame.

In the military this is mitigated with the clear distinction between commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Not least because the isolation provides both support structures and necessary emotional distance (to a degree, of course). Being "elected" leader, especially with the pack dynamics of typical werewolf games is an extremely dubious honour that I'd flatly reject.

The fact that while you may be leader in character but not dominant over the player group makes things even stickier. You need to assert authority within the realm of the narrative without actually having that authority in reality. Again, something that will cause friction and resentment any way you cut it.

Depressing environments bleed emotions into play

The world of darkness does what it says on the tin. Having played in a horror game myself recently, the iconic themes of the world of darkness do not make for "happy" or, for that matter, validating game experiences in the main. (And, if they do, it's a violation of genre.) When you are faced with the stresses of being "leader" which are compounded by the stressors of the philosophies baked into the setting, no wonder you're having a rough time.

Some solutions:

On leadership:

Fundamentally, a gaming group is a relationship. Bad relationships that do not provide validation are a drain on mental and emotional resources. When they don't work, cut them off or change them. In your case, I'd play a game that's a bit lighter in tone and focus: a nice traditional dungeon crawl or similar heroic fantasy.

I'd also reject the leader role for all the reasons I outlined above. Or, if they force it upon you, demand the perquisites and authority that is concomitant with it: they can't have it both ways.

On the group:

I've found that group character creation creates a far more cohesive group. By having entangled backstories, the group can draw upon a deeper understanding of each others' characters, creating the basis for empathy and respect within the characters, instead of the necessary simulacrum imposed by players.

By articulating desired tropes, a "palette" (as Microscope) calls it, before the game begins, you'll be able to shape the narrative of the group in directions that you want to play. This allows you to avoid the nominally depressive tropes that come default with the setting (not limited to world of darkness) and describe a source for future characters to connect with the current group. Replacement characters, if they tie into the shared narrative, will continue to maintain the tropes and social trust.

Be practical:

As players, we shape our narratives to an amazing degree. Emulate Bron Hoddan in the Pirates of Ersatz. While playing, you will be aware of the desired practical outcome that will provide validation and satisfy your personal goals. With that outcome in mind, you then frame it in terms that suit both your character's narrative and the expected narratives of the other players such that they will act to reinforce your framing and thereby your outcome. If you fight their narrative control by "being a loner," it is difficult to achieve your own goals. If you help them work as a team and appear to sacrifice nobly on their behalf while executing your own goals... the entire process is smoother and more effective.

Note that I am not saying to lie. Instead, consider the causal constructions of your actions, the explanations for those actions to be an aspect of the role * separate* from the actions themselves. By manipulating the framing as well as the actions, you can provide the necessary hooks for the other players to support your version of reality, rather than rejecting it and, by extension, you.

Postscript

Looking at your comments to other questions, you should absolutely give this group two last tries. In the first trial (of one or two games), try a heroic romp where you can be "Big Damn Heroes." Require the players who need the spotlight be leader. In the second trial (again of one or two games), try a game where players can intrigue against each other (I'd recommend Ars Magica, but then again I recommend it for most things. Most games support PvP intrigue quite ably.) If neither game provides the validation you need and the spotlight the other players need, move on. Before you do anything, take a month break, sit down, relax, and try to game with some strangers. I'm pretty sure that if you go looking for games in the chat section of this site... someone will oblige. For more on the framing problem, I'd quite recommend Rule 34 by Stross, as it describes it in a delicious narrative context.

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The setting was never really a problem for me, I LOVE old werewolf like crazy. And being the leader was fine first and I did well with it, but then a split formed after there was a major shift in players/characters. As a result, a mini "pack" within the pack sort of appeared after awhile mainly consisting of characters belonging to two specific players. I guess it is likely that break in cohesion might be the source of some of my problems. I do not know if a new game will remedy any of those issues, but I agree I need a break before even attempting one. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 14 '11 at 5:10

Welcome and great question! You have two major paths you can try.

More Social Characters

One of the joys of roleplaying is trying out things different from yourself. And personality types are as much a part of that as being an elf or a dwarf. You can do research (read How To Win Friends and Influence People, watch some of those personal-makeover shows, teamwork stuff) to see what a more socially integrated character would be like, and try to pretend it.

This has the side benefit that, just like reading a lot of Gies to make your medieval fantasy more authentic teaches you history, learning those things can help you do some of that yourself too! I am speaking from experience here; I was a very introverted person and now when friends and coworkers hear that they think I'm totally making it up. If you can't collaborate in a group in a game, you probably can't in real life too, which will be problematic in many if not most careers and lifestyles.

You can also work with your GM, or even just within your own psychology, to see if any "character concept judo" can help. I had one player who kept building characters that were often actively opposing the party. One session, after his character committed suicide by flinging himself into wraiths because he was angry at the party for overriding one of his irrational demands, he called me and said that he realized the problem with his former characters was that they were "too much team players. I want to play an assassin now!" Rather than beating him to death with a shoe, I had the great idea of making him a deep undercover spy for an evil organization who was there to pretend to fully cooperate with, but be reporting to his dark masters on, the party. This worked beautifully. He was like a normal helpful member of the party as far as anyone knew, and then he'd send me long devious letters he was sending back to bad guy central. Win-win.

Edit: Your question edit seem to indicate less that introversion is the problem and more that leadership/management is often hard and thankless, which is certainly the case. In that case I'd read up on those topics and apply to the game!

Play Non-Team Oriented Games

Many traditional RPGs have the default metaphor of a group of people in one big party, cooperating to get along. This tendency of "normal" games can be mitigated by a smaller group, meaning more interaction and spotlight time per person - a two player group or the like might solve a lot of your problems. There are also games designed to be played in a more one-on-one format.

But not all RPGs have a default team metaphor! Amber Diceless Roleplay, one of the oldest games, is inherently competitive as it emulates Zelazny's Princes in Amber series. Similarly, newer indie games like Fiasco or Primetime Adventures have you all set up a plot and execute it with less focus on immersing in the character. Though the WoD games were billed as "Storytelling," it is in a very early 1990s sense of the word that nowadays is mostly indistinguishable from other trad games.

There are also more zany games like Toon or InSpectres that discourage navel-gazing due to their format. Less extremely, a game focusing on a faster pace may help everyone be in the groove of getting things done together without going too far down the emo rabbit hole. Or games like Apocalypse World, that mechanize the relationships between players, can help generate relationships when it's hard for someone to do with pure roleplay.

Play With Different People

It's hard to tell because there's a bit of conflict between your description of the problem and the example, but it is possible you are wanting to play much more deep in character and immersive and you have a group of players who don't want to hear about your PC's feelings and just want to go kill some Brujah or something. In that case, you can try to recruit a subset or some newer players/GM that want to do play in that same way.

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+1 and a high-five for having tricked an obstructive player into being cooperative. Nice work. Also for excellent taste in Indie games, especially Primetime Adventures which seems like a good fit here. –  Braiba Dec 14 '11 at 8:09

There's already some excellent answers here, but I thought I'd contribute some Werewolf-specific advice since my current character has been having similar leadership issues. While it sounds like this is a problem that spans to other games for you, even when playing leader characters I've never had the kind of problems I've had in this game before; something about the set-up just seems to bring it out in people.

I think it may be that the rules try to force a formal agreement of cooperation in the form of a pack, rather than groups just being formed of people who could leave at any time and stay because they want to. It's a similar dynamic to a lot of families at Christmas etc. where people who would normally get along fight because they resent not having the choice to walk away.

The way I ended up dealing with this was to embrace the idea of Pack as fully and strongly as possible. As the leader, if you disrespect me, I will smack you down, if you question my actions, either challenge me for leadership or back down (my game is old Werewolf by the way, so I don't know if challenging has changed, but I assume there's at least an equivalent). There's a reason that most people hate their boss, and it's not (necessary) that people in leadership positions are inherently unlikeable people, it's that often the only way to make that dynamic work is to be a hard-ass. I'm not saying be a jerk about it, but if people push you, push them back harder, because you are in charge and they're not, and if they don't understand that then the pack is going to fail.

In a similar vain to Brian Ballsun-Stanton's suggestion of rejecting the leadership, given that your character doesn't really want it anyway, getting people to challenge you if they disagree with the way you're doing things seems like a pretty win-win option to me; either they have to suck it up and learn to cooperate or they have to take the responsibility, in which case you're off the hook.

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I'm playing old werewolf too. I sort of wish I was dealing with some outright disrespect, but it's been more passive aggressive. The pack will expect my character to come up with ideas and make the plans, they will even follow orders without question. But a few of them then resent/dislike my character on a personal level and gather around another character who is the more loving caring sort of type. That character doesn't want the responsibility those who gather around wish of her (and sucks at taking charge if my character is not around). So it's been one big mess all around. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 14 '11 at 14:24
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Perhaps, as you've noted, the pack dynamic just doesn't work for everyone in my group, and I think my game lost most of the players who did work with it well and really understood the game's concept. I know the current players all have a history of mostly playing D&D adventure games or crazy BESM ones, so that might be a factor. When my game started it consisted of ppl who never played anything else before, played Vampire before, and/or were Furies and thus liked the idea of being an animal shifter. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 14 '11 at 14:45

I would suggest trying a character who has a strong positive outlook on his or her adventures.

The first example that you give in the question suggests to my mind that the problem could stem from your character's focus on negative events that impact her. I think that it's realistic for the character to be upset when a close friend dies; but, you have to keep in mind that it's also a game, and the only real purpose is to have fun. Other characters will react more favorably if your PC doesn't dwell on things that go wrong, and focuses on successes, and exciting moments in the game.

From my personal experience, playing a religious character was helpful for me. I used to favor sneaky thieves or calculating, amoral wizard characters, who sometimes alienated themselves from the party by their actions (possibly for different reasons than your character). I decided once to try playing a Cleric of Heironeous, and I discovered, to my surprise, that I felt very good about that character. Doing the "right thing" and being the moral compass of the party, though sometimes challenging, made NPCs recognize him and react more favorably toward him, making it easy for him to navigate through tough diplomatic situations and giving him a central role in the story.

I was listening to an interview with a yoga instructor recently on National Public Radio, and she said (paraphrase), "Happiness is a choice.... Driving is a good example of thinking positive. Everybody gets stuck in traffic. There's nothing you can do about it. You can choose to either be angry because your stuck in traffic, or be thankful because you have a car. A lot of people don't."

I think you could apply this to your character. If something bad happens to a holy PC, she might look at it as the deity's way of testing her. Her trial could be to subsume her own negative feelings, and to be strong in the service to her deity, providing leadership, guidance, and comfort to others around her. If your character is charting a course of action, she could school herself to patience and be mindful of others around her, even when she disagrees with their views... etc.

Edit

One of the most important elements of a good story is the character's flaws, and how they grow by overcoming them. I was talking to one of the guys at my office, today, about something totally unrelated, and he said, "God closes a door, and opens another one." Maybe this is an appropriate time for your character to re-examine her beliefs, count her blessings, and think about the things that she has to be thankful for.

From my own experience, I found that playing that particular character served as an inspiration to real-life behavior. I found that playing the PC was a motivator for me to focus less on myself, think about the impact that I had on people around me, and be more considerate of others. It's possible that if your character is able to pull herself up out of depression, you could learn something from her, in the same way that I did. =)

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My character that went into the full out depression was pretty spiritual. There's a religion of sorts in WtA called The Middle Way, which is sort of like a mixture of Eastern religions. It is what kept her going for most of the game until just recently. But there were way too many bad things that piled up on the character with no good successes to offset them and eventually her beliefs were not enough. I don't know, maybe the focusing on negative things is just part of the me not being able to play something very different from myself. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 14 '11 at 2:32
    
I would love to see the character pull herself back together, but sadly it is not likely to fully happen, if it happens at all, before the campaign ends. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 15 '11 at 3:36
    
Maybe you could ask your deity for guidance? –  RMorrisey Dec 15 '11 at 4:43
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Well, the in game religion my character follows doesn't really have a deity. But there is a huge spiritual component in the Werewolf The Apocalypse setting and one spirit has managed to get her to go and do something. Don't know how it will turn out yet or help the character any. –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 15 '11 at 14:21

You are running into a problem that seems endemic to RPGs - loner characters don't do well in groups!

Have you tried making a character that's different from your usual type? Have you tried making characters as a group, assuring that each PC has ties to at least a couple of others? Real ties, not "we are members of the same arbitrary group" ties, like "we're both elves" or "We're all from the same clan/city/school/whatever."

If you're are playing a loner who just sort of tolerates the group, then you're making yourself the outsider. And isolates suffer from high rates of depression. So congratulations on your sociological simulationism, it looks like it's working. It just doesn't sound like it's any fun.

My first recommendation is that you try making a different kind of character. Make a PC that craves attention. Try to change what you are doing - instead of expecting everyone else to react in some blindly friendly way to a distant fringe member of their group.

But it's not just you: Your GM is at least partially at fault for allowing this situation to continue for five years. And nobody in your gaming group cares that you're unhappy? Have you looked into meeting some nicer people?

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I have tried playing a different kinds of characters and it doesn't work out. Even the ones who are not really loners end up distanced from the group anyway, and even if it doesn't get to that point, I do not enjoy playing them for the reasons I sated in my original post. My characters have also had ties with other PCs, but most of those PCs are dead or gone now so those ties no longer matter. That is why I have posted this question here, to get some different suggestions. I am wondering now if that was a bad idea... –  Deidre Iannelli Dec 13 '11 at 23:39

Well, sounds to me you have a few options, as a character who is leader in a strongly leadership-based system and doesn't really want to be leader due to internal conflicts.

Bear in mind that you are the pack leader, you are the "big mofo gangsta boss," that everyone else looks up to to feel reassured about the safety of the pack with such a strong leader. You cannot complain about the 'passive aggressive.'

The pack will expect my character to come up with ideas and make the plans

Yup, that's your job, suck it up and start doing it… or:

  1. Go rogue. This is a valid 'career path' for your character. If you decide to do this, no problem. Roll up a replacement character and keep playing with that one instead. The original becomes a NPC that you might meet again later (or have to defeat if they go really off the rails). Meanwhile, your new character either attempts to battle to the top of your pack, or tries to hold it together in the face of the turmoil of the ensuing power struggle.

  2. Attempt to resolve your character's problems by searching for some sort of resolution to them, even if this becomes a subconscious 'death wish'. You'll end up leading the pack into increasingly dangerous or ill-advised situations as you drag them along in your personal quest, but tough on them. Eventually they'll do something about it…

  3. Let the conflict inside get the better of you and become increasingly dictatorial (not in a good way). Abuse them, throw your weight around, descend into a self-loathing pit of dependancy and sin and totalitarianism. (w00t! Beer, mates, drugs and violence. Works for me :) )

Further:

she learned that a really close friend of hers was killed by another character she thought she could trust, and because of such, was understandably in a sad mood over it.

Sad?! Sad?! I'd be plotting how to kill the guy who did the killing, and their family, and their friends! I'd go Kaiser Sose on them, find the village they grew up in and burn it to the ground. Don't muck around; a strong pack needs a strong leader who's going to really take action in such cases... or your character will go a bit mad... see option #3.

It was just an endless cycle of them looking at my character to solve all the problems and then getting upset when either not all of those problems were covered to their satisfaction and not saying anything if they didn't like something.

Then your character is not being strong enough for them. Don't ask them what to do—tell them. When they complain about it, tell them that's the way it is and there is no room for discussion. In other words: take charge!

Now I understand a lot of this will probably not be suitable for your group, but you have to do something, and if you've been playing for 5 years, everyone will have become (too) attached to their characters. Given that, it might be better to go with option 1 and start your game afresh. The GM should assist you with integrating a new character into the pack, reminding the other players that you are no longer 'you', you're now someone totally different and to be treated differently. Hopefully that'll make them think about the way they're playing.

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