The last (and only) time I ran a mixed game (containing Changeling, Mage and Vampire characters) for nWoD, I explained at length that nWoD started with a clean sheet and no one 'instinctively' hated each other.

I ended up effectively running 3 games as groups refused to cooperate, despite my mutual interest story line I threw out to them. It ended up with a lot of conflict between the sub-groups.

  • Is this often an issue with mixed games in nWoD?
  • Is this often an issue with games in nWoD in general?
  • Is there a way around this, without rail-roading the players into 'playing nice'?

Next time I'll take more care to vet characters before allowing them to play, and have an even lengthier discussion about the sort of game I'm planning (they won't be holding hands and skipping round in fields of daisies, but there will be some co-operation), but I'd like to know if this extra effort will be wasted.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As it's not directly related to the question, I'll put it as a comment -- you've got some vastly different power levels there, which can cause some tension in mixed games. There are few problems that can challenge a mage that won't completely outclass a vampire, unless the vampires are extraordinarily experienced or well connected and the mages are barely out of apprenticeship. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Jan 2 '12 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some how this issue never came up. It was very low combat and more about intrigue. It's something for me to consider if I ever try this again. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 2 '12 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's good to hear; I know that it can sometimes cause problems, so I'm glad you and your group avoided it. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Jan 2 '12 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I am overly simplifying it, but to me it looks like just a case of bad roleplaying. If their characters have no reason to hate each other, and have some strong reason to cooperate, either they do it or they're playing badly. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Jan 2 '12 at 16:39

It is an issue that arises both in mixed and non-mixed nWoD games. In non-mixed ones, you might find that the various y-splats, like Covenants and Orders, can divide a player character group. This is less of an issue in games like Changeling and Werewolf, where the political factions tend to be divided into social roles that collaborate rather than conflict. Games in the World of Darkness tend to feature more in-group conflict than others do; this kind of tension is often looked at as a feature, as it causes more intense interactions and maneuvering.

Aside from asking the players to play nice -- which, by the way, I wouldn't discount as a solution -- there are a couple of ways that I know of to solve this dilemma. The first, and most often used, is to introduce a threat that hits all of them at the same time, giving them a good excuse to set aside their differences and work together. Spirits are really good for this, filling the role that demons (small-d, not Fallen) did in the oWoD setting. The second is to focus on the areas where their interests collide -- either geographical or economic or even social -- and demonstrate that when they work together, they tend to get more of what they want.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I used spirits, and the geographical hints in the game that spurned this question. Perhaps I just have fickle players? \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 2 '12 at 16:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hard to say without more information. You don't mention what the group's points of division were -- when they decided not to work together, what did they do and say to reflect that? \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Jan 2 '12 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was two points really. The Lancae Sanctum member decided his allegiance was to his sect (right word) first not the group. Also that he was the 'hand of god' sent to punish mortals. In retrospect I should have disallowed this. Secondly the Changling player didn't integrate due to his character not being genre-savvy enough "You're vampires? I'm not sure if I want this...I guess I have to though!" And the mages weren't overly interested in mixing with the group as a whole. I forget many of the details. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 2 '12 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow! Those are some heavy fault lines; I'm not surprised the group cracked. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Jan 2 '12 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was definitely an interesting first attempt at STing a nWoD game. Oddly most of the players said they enjoyed it. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 2 '12 at 16:43

Is there a way around this, without rail-roading the players into 'playing nice'?

It seems that your players think that their characters cannot play together as a group in the group's collective narrative. While this might be fine from the story's perspective, it's not fine on the organizational level (for you as a GM) for obvious reasons, so this problem should be tackled on the organizational level.

Speak with your players about this problem. State clearly that you can't handle two or more separate groups as a GM, and that you need to solve the issue for a functional game. There are usually a few options:

  • The players sit together and figure out a way how their characters can form a group. Might be a common threat, might be a love affair, might be pure pragmatism or a small change to the dynamics. The important part is: The group agrees on the meta level to fix a broken game. If the group talks about this change and agrees, it is easy to bring a broken group together. If you alone as the GM try to bring the change about through in-game circumstances, it is quite hard to pull off. Don't try to solve a meta-game problem through in-game actions.
  • The players agree that their characters cannot form a group, put them in the drawer and start a new group.
  • The players agree that their characters cannot form a group and do the Highlander. The gloves come off, characters get killed in a roaring rampage of PC versus PC action, and the surviving character is the nucleus of a new group. Dangerous emotionally and hard to run, but a satisfying in-universe resolution.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like this answer, but as it covers a much wider question (than this system specific one) I'm reluctant to tick-the-green-box until I get a few more answers. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 2 '12 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pureferret: I've just asked the wider question explicitly. \$\endgroup\$ – thiton Jan 2 '12 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've used the first point often. Just to avoid tedious introductions, I often tell the players that they need to jointly find a reason prior to play that they have formed some sort of alliance, or if I have a specific conceit have them make characters that fit into it. (Perhaps they all work for a specific person. Why they work for that person is up to them.) \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Jan 12 '14 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had a policy that the PCs must know each other through at least 1 other PCs, meaning even if not all PCs are "friends" at least they all have a reason to be their by proxy of someone in the group inviting them. So we have "Husband", "Brother in Law", "Drinking Buddy of Brother in Law" \$\endgroup\$ – xenoterracide Feb 7 '15 at 1:11

The nature of that group conflict dynamic is not limited to nWOD. I've seen it in oWOD, Hero System, Traveller, GURPS... any game where character psychology can be encoded in the character sheet, or where the GM or game has changed the norms from the popular cultural standards.

Most players come into a game with prior knowledge expectations. In WoD, both old and new, this includes a lot of elements that are drawn from popular culture.

With the right group of players, this can be overcome. The steps are simple, but important.

  1. Explain the desired dynamic up front, before CGen
  2. have players sign a "contract"† that includes
    1. acknowledging the major elements that are non-standard (in this case, no inherent hostility)
    2. agreeing to in-play cooperation
    3. what the specific included and excluded items are. eg: "no flaws that render cooperation unlikely will be approved"
  3. enforce the contract
    1. by bouncing out of the story any character who consistently sabotages cooperation
    2. by withholding experience from players who make significantly story-disrupting non-cooperative actions.
    3. by rejecting characters which have inherent flaw choices that preclude effective cooperation.

† by contract, I mean a written document which lays things out in plain english, and which all the players and the GM make their signature or other individual mark of agreement upon that they accept the setting/rules combination. It's a strong form of "house rules," but by actually initialing or signing it, there is a psychological effect. It's a drastic step by modern standards, but it was not uncommon in certain circles in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "have players sign a contract" I've always had the feeling that the WoD community has a certain "serious business" outlook, but never heard it summarized in such heavy words. Do you mean a literal contract here? \$\endgroup\$ – thiton Jan 3 '12 at 10:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thiton I think it may be a spoke social contract, which has always rubbed me the wrong way. Aramis, I'm asking specifically at nWoD though as some of the splats may be opposed to each other, in such a way that is workable without them being effectively 'banned' \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 3 '12 at 10:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I explicitly meant a written contract, but not a legalese one. essentially a Memorandum of Understanding. And the splat issue also rears its head in oWOD. The important element is that it's (1) in writing, and (2) they mark their agreement. The combination has a powerful psychological effect. I've only had to do it once, but it solved a lot of issues with that group. Verbal agreement is not as good, but is usually sufficient. It's a standard mode for many PBEM games... \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jan 3 '12 at 10:52

I am defeating this by starting it out early. I am starting with a WOD Innocents campaign where several players are children and learn to work together and trust each other so much before their change that they WANT to cooperate after their changes.


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