Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Collective learning? Effective teaching? Not in my adventuring group!

In his last comment under the post "No holds bard", Kirk made a good point about how
we, as a party, are meant to collectively learn from our experiences and take the
appropriate measures to ensure we don't repeat the same lessons too often. I agree
that the apes throwing rocks was an excellent way to teach us about how to deal with
being ambushed and surrounded by a team of fairly weak creatures; the point was made
clearly and effectively, as many of us felt embarrassed by our performance while at
the same time we understood the point being made. The fact that our characters were
none the worse for wear ensured that all of us should have been able to act in a more
appropriate way when the opportunity presented itself.

The thing is, it's very difficult for a group of people to collectively learn
anything, and we all know this. I'm not saying that it never happens; indeed, the
fact that companies learn how to adapt to changing market influences, athletic teams
learn how to beat other teams, and armies learn how to outsmart / outmaneuver / kill
other armies every day shows that groups of people can clearly learn from their
collective mistakes. However, all of these entities have two elements in common:
structured leadership and the ability to remove or retrain unfit members to
improve the group's net performance. As an adventuring group, while we can't force
our own members to leave if they're not performing well enough (and we shouldn't!),
we can retweak our characters to work better within our specific group. Additionally,
we've occasionally debated about our lack of centralized leadership, let alone a
command structure of any sort, and I think we should give it a shot in 4e. Otherwise,
it's going to be very difficult for us, as a group of individually-minded adventurers
who can be resurrected after dying, to collectively learn anything.

Having said all that, I imagine that if I were in Kirk's DM shoes, I probably would
have done a similar thing to our party -- after I gave them fair warning that I'd be
testing them to see how much they learned from the adventure! It can be very
frustrating to try and teach something to an entity who cannot or will not learn, and
if I had one last shot to see whether such an entity had learned anything, I'd
probably also make it a painful test. However, to not tell an entity that you're
trying to teach them something; to not tell this entity that you'll then test them on
everything you've been trying to "teach" them; and to then berate them for not
"learning" anything from your "lessons" is just silly! It's also cruelly fun, but
that's besides the point. ;)

In short, I think that we, the players, should try using some sort of simple command
structure to better coordinate our fights if we ever want to collectively learn and
grow from our adventures. Otherwise, our post-battle reports will always have lots of
comments that read like this: "gosh, that was a clusterfuck! why didn't X do Y?"
Similarly, if DMs are going to test how well we learned the lessons of an adventure,
they should let us know. Otherwise, we're going to operate under the presumption that
they're going to try out some cool new monster / combat feat that they've discovered.


Mendez said...

I agree with Josh.

Sorry about the last post (Now deleted).
Too much time spent avoiding work.

Joebroesel said...

I agree on the learning part (which I think should be part of character development, you just play differently next time) but I still think that we can't force leadership on people if it doesn't come naturally within the in-game group.

And Kirk you've deleted the post?? After all the time I spent on the comment avoiding work?? ;-)

Assif-Zahig-Thesis said...

Hey, you are all forgetting that this was billed as the last adventure. Everyone was expected to die, or die trying ;)

Thesis was looking forward to ending it heroically but his lizardfolk girlfriend (and Mendez) saved him.

I enjoyed both your post Josh and Kirk's deleted one. I think you make a good point that we need a leader - at least 4th edition's clearly defined "roles" make it a bit easier to decide who that should be. Warlords, step forward.

Mendez said...

Did everyone manage to read that post before I deleted it?

Insanodag said...

Considering that quite a few of us work in a university, and wednesday afternoons are traditionally free of lectures and classes....