Thursday, April 26, 2012

[RPG][WOD] Playing with people smarter than yourself

I’ve been playing WOD for a while, and depending on the genre, done very well or been totally overwhelmed.  Right now, I’m  having fun, but I’m petrified that I will mess things up.

I completely admit that while Werewolf SEEMED fun at the time I was playing it, and it offered me a sense of liberation and freedom, it was wrong for the kind of player I am.
Werewolf relies a great deal on the ability to make decisions, and expects a strong sense of self from the player. At the time I was playing Jak, I was emotionally lost and had no idea who I was personally. Jak certainly knew himself, but I as the player squashed many of his impulsive choices for fear that indulging them would be doing something “wrong” or due to a lack of confidence in my own decisions. 
(example: Jak was without an alpha or direction for a very long time. In that time, he took two new Uratha into his home and taught them Uratha rules and culture, offered them spiritual advice while providing  them shelter and food.  Jak’s patience was wearing thin and he wanted to push to be declared alpha. I didn’t pursue this because I didn’t want to be “too aggressive” or too demanding of my ST.  My ST later revealed to me that he responds well to decisiveness; and especially so when that decisiveness comes from a werewolf player.)
Changeling was much more my speed- it was very oriented towards a social personality, which is definitely more like my own self. Eile was an intensely social creature, dependent on interactions and emotions to survive and prosper. At the time, I was playing with people who were easy for me to be social with, and with whom I had many ties that helped me touch on emotional responses. Despite playing a character that was “disconnected” and without a home or family, I was able to build those elements inside the game for her, based on my personality and understanding of how the system was supposed to work for Changelings.  Changeling seemed “natural” to me, and I strongly miss playing in that environment.

Vampire is a system I played previously and strongly enjoyed. I felt confident based on previous experience and general interest that I would do well as a Vampire this time around.  I found out through trial and much error that the  NPC Vampires in this makebelieveland are the power brokers, movers and shakers; and thus, are MUCH smarter than myself.  
I have discovered that I don't think in the same way as my ST. He thinks in very divergent ways, and I think pretty directly. My ST's ideas and imaginations are far more creative, hidden and agenda-oriented than mine, and I "miss" many of the hints and plots that exist in the game. 
I have been kind of lucky, because I have been playing with a guy who has incredible knowledge, wisdom, insight and understanding of both the game and the themes in it. His talent has shielded me (and my character) from my own lack of anything remotely like ability. This was made obvious during our last game session, when a ruse that had been perpetrated against all the Vampires for a very long time, and he was the only character (or player)  to see through the illusion. 
Playing with those smarter than yourself is a tricky thing. You have to be able to offer enough "something" to be seen as worth keeping around, but you have to (and should) use their preeminence to your advantage (mostly so you don't die). 

Making allegiances in game is usually direct (except as Vampires, who are strongly encouraged NOT to trust each other) and easy. Not so with Vinnie, who has an agenda and isn't telling anyone about it. This game is full of consequences, and the consequence of not directly making allies is you don't have the support network that other players might. 

The events of last session were a culmination of several sessions' worth of back work; and a lot of hammering out things in character so that the PCs involved would not kill each other. There was a time when Vinnie actually had very strongly worded suggestions to kill another PC, and he had the plan to do so, but that time has passed. Getting Vinnie to a point where he either had faith in or trusted said PC took a lot of roleplaying; with a guy that is a million times smarter than me. 

I forgot to take notes for a lot of it, which stinks, because I know he gave me information I can use. I also forgot to do any kind of defensive work (plausible deniability is a wonderful thing) and it will come back to haunt me very soon. 

But that's the joy of playing with (and sometimes against) those that are just more talented at the game than you; you learn what your failures are and maybe learn how to grow past them. 

Any of you out there have people in their groups that are smarter than you? If so, how do you deal with, learn from and encourage them? How do you fail? What helps you not feel so bad? 


  1. Hmm, interesting. I have played in games with people who I consder to be smarter than me. A couple of times I think their "smartness" gets in the way of them enjoying the game. When they are on my team I haven't many problems with them.

    Luckily I don't have to go up against them, but I do need to figure out a way to work with them. I think the main problem is that they do tend to try and overthink things, which uses up a lot of valable playing time.

    Now playing against someone who is smarter than you, either as GM or player (as in our WOD game), I find that i need to think in ways that they cannot comprehend. Unconventional warfare, if you will. I need to pull stuff out of my straight jacket and do things that make them sit back and say WTF?

    I need to X+1 them!

    Sure, i've been thrown a lot of curves but i try to just go with the flow. Sometimes you can use what has just been shoved in your face in another way and turn the tables on your opponent, which really brings a smile to my face.

    I think I am lucky as in I am percieved as "the quiet guy" and people tend not to pay too much attention to me...until it is too late.


  2. I've definitely run into that situation when playing Vampire. One session had me trying to figure out who killed the Prince of the city and my GM was dropping me hints all over the place. Unfortunately I for once didn't know enough about esoteric Vampire lore as a player to put the pieces together, and my character was busy with trying to make sure that his head stayed in place.

    Still a fun game, though the puzzles were a little bit too puzzling.

  3. I've had games like that, where the Gm thinks that the players should be able to solve the mystery, excpet that the players for some reason can't seem to find the correct solution. It can be very frustrating.

    In my Buffy game the players have several dangling plotlines because they see something shiney and get distracted.