2018 End of Year Summary and House Rules Update
Every year, we publish a survey for the players to tell us how we’re doing. The replies we get help us improve, and they help us get a temperature for how the community feels about certain issues and topics, and this year is no different. Let’s get right into it.
Players tend to enjoy earning XP (92.3% of respondents), to the shock of absolutely no one. Solving mysteries and using super sweet vampire powers were not far behind (84.6% and 73.1%, respectively). Neither of those answers comes as a great surprise, but what does is the fact that people seem to enjoy jockeying for boons and status less than in previous years (down to 46.2% from 57.9% last year).
The website, Facebook, and Discord remain the most popular ways to interact with the game, and we will look to capitalize on that trend in the coming year by posting things on the website first, then cross-posting everywhere else. A large subset of people (61.5%) want us to put more stuff on the website, and I think it’s a good idea, too.
As for the kinds of content people enjoy, Streets posts are far and away the most popular, with 53.8% of players saying they like those the best, with no other answer getting more than 15% of the pie. In addition to wanting more RO fiction, players also indicate that they want more political and setting guides as well. You are heard on both fronts.
Most of the respondents said they had a strong grasp on the rules and on the setting. One area we have not done a great job, though is with communicating our Crafting system. A whopping 61.5% of respondents said that it confused them. Other major points of confusion were the King of the Hill system and, strangely enough, Nature and Demeanor. So, expect some stuff examining those in the future. In the immediate future, you can expect a brand new writeup on the Crafting system, with a step-by-step process going from concept to item card.
On the King of the Hill front, people’s favorite titles are (in order) Master of the Occult, Kingpin, and Councilman. The others got a few votes, but those three were the only ones above 45%. As for which ones need to be worked on, that’s a bit muddier, and I’ll talk more about that a little later.
Overall, most players think that we’re doing a good job running the game, and every single respondent said that they would tell their friends about us. Of all respondents, 88.5% said the game was fair to all players, and that same percentage said that the community was welcoming to new players.
Overall, the data are encouraging, but there are some things I’d like to spend some time on.
King of the Hill
We’ll start with the softball of the group.
King of the Hill as a system has had two full years to percolate in our players’ minds and for the staff to hammer out all of the wrinkles. Still, I wanted to ask players what they thought and where we could improve, since there are lots of titles that stay unclaimed from month to month, and while we as a staff think that all of the KotH powers are really, really strong, clearly our players do not agree.
Dragnet, That’s So In Right Now, Spin City, Arbitrary and Capricious Lawmaking, Put a Cap in Their Asses, and This is My City all had over 20% of respondents say that they needed work. Whether they meant that they needed a buff or a nerf, I am not entirely sure, but the comments were helpful in examining those numbers a little more closely.
Many players left some sort of comment indicating that some of the powers, specifically the aggressive ones, are suicide to use or are do something so specific as to be unusable. That’s good feedback, overall, and we will definitely take a look at how each of the powers match up against each other in power. However, we need to have some of the options be aggressive and splashy, just like we need some of them to be passive and reactive. Our main objective with the KotH powers is that each one does something that isn’t doable within the system already while also being uniquely desirable to characters who would be invested in those areas of Influence. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but we will investigate how to revise powers moving forward.
As a LARP, we are taking quite the risk with the Independent Alliance. On the one hand, the game was becoming stale, and after a while, a reboot would be necessary to shake things up and get new plots moving again. On the other, familiar structures, Clans, and plots make the game accessible for newer players, so you kind of want to keep them in place. The IA works to solve the first problem without creating the second, but it’s a difficult balance.
We were really interested to hear what people thought of the IA from an OOC perspective so that we could better get a temperature for what we are doing right with it and what we’re doing wrong with it. So, we asked. It appears as though the player base is quite polarized.
Most players think that it is a great idea and that the writeup is super interesting. Players also seem to be happy that they get to play some new Clans without Perking. However, we did get a lot of responses that suggest the Camarilla and Independent Alliance are not too dissimilar.
We have not done a great job at showing what, precisely, is different or unique about the Independent Alliance. We need to start by focusing on that in the coming year, both with political guides and by showing those differences at games. Characters and players alike need to see the Magistrate in action. They need to see a Trial by Combat. They need to get a glimpse of the power plays of the Emissaries against a Sovereign they want to rein in. They need to see the city itself actually make a Boon that lasts through changes in leadership. Additionally, they need to see what happens when less-than-scrupulous vampires make use of those societal structures.
Look for writeups along those lines early next year.
The New Player Experience
New players have it rough in Riverside Opera. It’s true. Any game of sufficient length, no matter the genre, has to contend with balancing making their veterans happy and engaged and welcoming new players with good experiences and accessibility right of the bat, and it is difficult to do. The primary method we have used to make that happen has been with Perks and, to a lesser extent, Character Surveys. Perks entice people to retire their characters so that they can play weird or esoteric things, which keeps the XP economy fairly low (around 30 – 40 XP has been the average across active characters for most of the game’s run). Character Surveys not only give direction to new players about the things they should be thinking about but also provide an XP catchup mechanism.
Of course, those two things are not exactly obvious to new players. They come in and see a bunch of people they don’t know doing things in a setting with which they’re not familiar (even if they know Vampire, they don’t know what has gone on in RO). That’s quite daunting. Luckily for our game, we have a great cast of players who are generally very helpful in getting newer players involved, if only just for a scene or two. I as the Storyteller try to make the rounds and speak to each new player, asking them questions, pointing them in directions, etc., but I don’t do a good enough job of it. Our Narrators also work toward that end, with varying levels of success (though they’re a bit hampered by the characters they play where I am not).
The last obstacle that new players have to deal with is the things they are allowed to play off the bat. For a long time, the base Camarilla-7 Clans have been excellent at being easily approachable starter Clans for new players, but we, as a game that has moved to the Independent Alliance, have to have Clans and Bloodlines who are native to that sect be readily available for play. While that does give players who are new to RO (but not Vampire) the opportunity to play different things off the bat, it doesn’t do much to help a brand new player. To combat that, we have left Brujah, Caitiff, Gangrel, Nosferatu, and Toreador as free to play, since, by and large, those are the Clans to which new players tend to gravitate.
Improving the New Player Experience
We’ve been talking internally since these results started to come in about what we can do to help new players get into the groove of the game better, and we have plans. The number one thing we can do as a staff is be cognizant of our new players and make sure that we give them roleplaying opportunities. We have two ways we want to accomplish that task.
First, we will work to involve new players in RP at game sessions and in downtime more actively. Rather than allowing the new players to come to us, we will reach out to them. In order to diffuse the Narrator PCs out a little bit more going forward, Narrators will no longer have strong ties to each other’s’ characters before entering play. (Note: This stance does not dissolve current ties, and it does not preclude Narrator PCs from becoming allied during play.)
Secondly, we have a new mechanic that we’ll be introducing called Plot Cards, which will be intended for new players (more on that below in the HR section).
Ultimately, making sure that new players are taken care of and welcomed into the game is high on our priorities list, and we are going to take steps to improve that experience.
Priorities for 2019
I think it’s important to outline exactly where our priorities lay and what our goals are before the year starts. It gives us some guidance were we to get lost along the way, and it also establishes accountability. Here are our top three goals for the coming year.
- Improve the experience for new players and give everyone more opportunities to get involved in the plot.
- Make the website a more complete resource for available lore and rules information.
- Provide open lines of communication for players to staff members.
House Rules Changes
Effective immediately, the following changes are being made to Riverside Opera:
Plot Cards are, like Rumors, bits of story hook to allow players to get involved in the game when they’ve hit a wall or feel like they have nothing going on. There aren’t any rewards for completing a goal on a Plot Card, but they will give you a hook to get involved in the story, which has its own rewards (e.g., potential XP votes, Boons, etc.).
Here is an example of what you might find on a Plot Card:
A Kindred you know from your previous city, Claudia Reynolds, has contacted you for assistance. She would like to come to Memphis, and she wants you to talk to the Sovereign on her behalf. The only problem is that she’s a Tremere—who is on the run from the Camarilla.
Goal: Get the Sovereign to agree to allow Claudia to take asylum in Memphis.
Though it has been an interesting year or so with our approach to Occult Influence and researching Disciplines, it has had the unintended consequence of making some Disciplines that ought to feel unique commonplace and ubiquitous. We need to make sure that things like Thaumaturgy, Necromancy, and even Protean start to feel special again and give players a reason to play Clans who possess those Disciplines.
Going forward, Occult Influence can only research Thaumaturgy and Necromancy Rituals and secondary Paths, and only characters who have those Disciplines in-Clan can use Occult Influence to research them in this way.
This change is a pretty big one. Previously in Riverside Opera, you could research any Discipline using Occult Influence. Even Clan-specific stuff was on the table. The drawback there was twofold: Occult Influence was overpowered, and Disciplines weren’t special anymore. We look forward to seeing the Boon economy flourish when people have to barter for Disciplines they want, and we expect this change will also make Master of the Occult far more desirable.
Note: The physical Disciplines (Celerity, Fortitude, and Potence) are unaffected by this change. Anyone can still learn those Disciplines without a teacher at out-of-Clan costs.
Clan Discord Channels
We will be reopening the Clan Discord channels. Clan strife (or cohesion) is an important and fundamental role of Vampire, and though they weren’t used very often, it’s important that they exist. We’ll also be opening brand new channels for the Giovanni, Ravnos, Setites, and Assamites.
Anonymous Comment Box
We will be opening a comment form for anonymous suggestions, complaints, and ideas. Whenever someone submits something, I’ll get an email. All submissions will be confidential and anonymous.
I expect that either this comment box will be an excellent source of constant improvement or it will be another internet bridge under which trolls can lurk. Either way, it will be open for the foreseeable future. Click here to go to the comment box. You can also find it embedded into the Contact page.
We need to make sure we’re more present both in and out of character, and face time with staff was one of the biggest requests on the survey, so we’ve decided to start a weekly event called Riverside Chats. Starting in January, each week, one or more staff members will be hopping into Discord voice chat to talk about various topics, answer questions, and just be there for players to ask questions. We will be putting a schedule together for the topics in these chats over the coming weeks, and we’ll publish it in the Discord server.
If you have an idea for a Riverside Chat, you can submit one of those in the Comment Box!
Thank you all for playing in our game, and I look forward to this year being our best yet!