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The Tigger Syndrome in RPGs

by John Mack

A.A. Milne introduced the character of Tigger to his novels, something like this:

I'm sure you can see where this is going; the above pattern was repeated for quite some time.

What does this have to do with role-playing, you may ask?

Certain games are more background-intensive than others (I'm thinking particularly here of Vampire), so it's important to make sure that you put the work into areas where players are going to spend a lot of time. One GM I know of discussed characters and plots with his players, mapped out the people, organisations and relationships of his game-city, figured out a few stories to start with, and went into the first story in full confidence that his players had gamed with him for years and had stated that they would trust his judgement.

After a few sessions, the GM was becoming frustrated that the players were missing obvious clues, and simply not going in the direction they were supposed to. If he didn't know better, he'd swear that they were going out of their way to avoid certain crucial scenes. He sat them down and discussed his concerns at length. His statement of what he thought was the obvious, that he'd designed a very political chronicle, drew dismissive responses from the players.

While mentally checking off the amount of background material he could modify, and how much he would simply have to discard, he calmly asked them what kind of game they wanted to play.

I haven't heard whether this GM went ahead and designed a new chronicle, or responded to the sinking feeling in his gut and ran screaming from the whole mess. I do know that, the last time I discussed role-playing with him, he had given up writing convention modules on the grounds that "The modules I want to write aren't the ones that people want to play." Which is the player's loss, quite frankly, but still ...

My own Tigger Syndrome experience was also with the Vampire game system. I had designed a redemption-based chronicle, and most stories were to revolve around Humanity (a crucial game stat) and the gaining or loss of it. Again, after a lengthy series of missed cues which ended with an NPC coming right out and pointing out the way to a recalcitrant PC, the player and I finally had it out, with him declaring,

This completely floored me, as I consider Humanity and the degeneration rules to be central to Vampire. What he was demanding (to my mind) was equivalent to signing up for Call of Cthulhu but refusing to play the SAN rules, or AD&D without character levels. We finally decided to abandon the current PCs and the current plot (and, as it turned out, I ended up abandoning the players, as I could not muster any enthusiasm for a game with the new specifications).

Has anyone else had this problem? Is it a universal phenomenon? Has anyone dealt with it successfully, and if so, how? This has bugged me for a while, as I have not only watched at least one talented GM drop out of the scene over this, but have not been able to bring myself to GM for some years.

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