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Author Topic: "GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story  (Read 1576 times)

JongWK

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2007, 09:20:06 AM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron

That's why snacks are so important, because you're adding the "dining together" activity to the "roleplaying" one.


Cheetoist plug-in alert! :D
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Weekly

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2007, 07:51:16 AM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
That's why snacks are so important, because you're adding the "dining together" activity to the "roleplaying" one.


Snacks ?!! Feh ! Here, good sir, we have coq au vin, g√Ęteau charentais and mango crumble before gaming !

Culinary specifics apart, I have to concur. I've been gaming for a long time too, and I can't remember people staying 'gaming acquaintances' for very long. They tend to drift off or become friends.
 

Kyle Aaron

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2007, 09:02:15 AM »
I also find that you know pretty quickly if there's any chance they'll become friends. I mean, you can never be sure if they will become your friends, but you can be sure when they definitely won't.

"Ah, yeah... this one? I'll just game with them for this campaign. Nice person and all, but... yeah."

Then of course there are those you'd hoped would become your friend, but you find they're only interested in the gaming, they don't talk to you otherwise. Well, that's okay, too - some you win, some you lose.

Nowadays I have a vetting procedure. One of the qualifications of anyone who I'll invite to game with us is that they must have at least two out of three of:- job, friends, spouse. Anyone can lose one or more of these for a few months, even - if they're unlucky, or move countries - for a couple of years. And some people focus on two of them so miss out on the third, that's fair enough. But if they've been without two or all three of them for five or more years, basically you're looking at someone who's lacking in social skills, or social effort (they just don't give a shit), which is going to hurt your game sessions one way or another.

I don't roleplay to cure the socially inept. Though I understand the Nordics like to game as group therapy, and a few Forgers, too - but that ain't me.

Roleplaying is a social creative hobby. The social part comes first; the creative part complements the social part, it doesn't clash with it. If a "friendship" ends because of an argument about a rule on page 232, or because someone created a drowlesbianstripperninja, then it wasn't a friendship, it was just some dweeb you gamed with a few times.

And that's okay. We don't have to befriend everyone we meet. It's okay to hold something back, and make "friendship" something special. Something strong enough to survive such terrible, painful, tremendous stresses over rules arguments.

Because roleplaying's a social creative hobby, these neat divisions of GM and player authority, neat divisions which work so well on paper - they don't exist in reality. So this thing where, "oh, if the player controls their character, does that mean that when the player creates a psionic ninja cyborg with built-in arm miniguns for the medieval Europe campaign, the GM can't say no?" this just doesn't exist in the real world. Just as it doesn't happen that the GM says, "rocks fall, you die" and the players all accept that without a murmur of protest.

Basically the players are in charge of their characters, and the GM is in charge of the game world. But let's consider what we're saying. "In charge of" does not mean "has complete control of". A child can be under your charge, or a store can be if you're an employee of the place. That means they're your responsibility, you're supposed to take care of them and do what's in their interests, watch over them in a thoughtful way. It doesn't mean you're some tyrannical lord over them. You're in charge of them.

So when we say that the players are in charge of their characters, and the GM in charge of the game world, that means that each should watch over it, look out for it, think of what's best for it. It doesn't mean controlling every little movement of it like some mindless puppet. Add to this the idea that roleplaying's a social creative hobby, when we remember the "social" bit, in comes compromise, discussion and so on.

This idea that we gamers are all madly stubborn uncompromising fucksticks, it's just wrong. Players genuinely enjoy seeing other players enjoy themselves. You read Forger theories like alexandro's, and you get the impression that each player only impatiently tolerates the presence of other players, including the GM, each player waiting, saying, "hurry the fuck up so we can get to my awesome character, and don't you try to hog the spotlight either, GM!"

It just ain't like that. Sure, there are crap game groups out there. But you know, that's simply because we're human, and human relationships fuck up from time to time. There's nothing intrinsic in gaming itself, still less in a particular game's rules, that makes this or that group fuck up, any more than laws about marriage are responsible for a marriage breakup. People just get along sometimes, and argue at others, and some people are good at resolving disagreements, and some people are really bad at it - and some differences are irreconcilable.

The rules have got nothing to do with it, and neither has gaming as a whole. It's just people. We've got a social creative hobby. So if you're anti-social, a bit of an annoying bastard, or if you're extraordinarily dull and uncreative, then you won't have very good game experiences. Shit, you might even only have "twenty minutes of fun packed into four hours."
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Xanther

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2007, 04:03:20 PM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
I also find that you know pretty quickly if there's any chance they'll become friends. I mean, ....

The rules have got nothing to do with it, and neither has gaming as a whole. It's just people. We've got a social creative hobby. So if you're anti-social, a bit of an annoying bastard, or if you're extraordinarily dull and uncreative, then you won't have very good game experiences. Shit, you might even only have "twenty minutes of fun packed into four hours."


Shortened the quote to save space, but agree with everything said.
 

riprock

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2007, 12:20:20 PM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron


... There's nothing intrinsic in gaming itself, still less in a particular game's rules, that makes this or that group fuck up, any more than laws about marriage are responsible for a marriage breakup. People just get along sometimes, and argue at others, and some people are good at resolving disagreements, and some people are really bad at it - and some differences are irreconcilable.

The rules have got nothing to do with it, and neither has gaming as a whole. It's just people.


I definitely disagree.

I think some rule systems encourage arguments and ego-conflicts more than others.

In particular:Mage the Ascension rules can turn a previously friendly gaming group into a nasty squabble.  It's not the groups: it's the fact that the rules really are badly written, logically incoherent, and prone to exacerbate miscommunication.
"By their way of thinking, gold and experience goes[sic] much further when divided by one. Such shortsighted individuals are quick to stab their fellow players in the back if they think it puts them ahead. They see the game solely as a contest between themselves and their fellow players.  How sad.  Clearly the game is a contest between the players and the GM.  Any contest against your fellow party members is secondary." Hackmaster Player's Handbook

Caesar Slaad

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2007, 12:37:41 PM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
The common element in all your crap game sessions is you. The common element in all your good game sessions is you. Just as no laws can make men good, no game system can make you a good gamer, or a crap one.


I'm Caesar Slaad, and I approve this message. :cool:
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alexandro

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« Reply #21 on: October 13, 2007, 03:17:37 PM »
Quote from: VBWyrde
The absurdity is fun.  But I'd like to address the flaw.  When the GM owns the BackStory, that includes the History of the Character up to the point at which the Player starts Playing the Character.  Say at age 18.

Your players don't write character histories themselves?
I'm asking because if you give a player control of GM-created content it is basically impossible for the player to meet the expectations the GM set, without some SERIOUS briefing on what exactly those expectations are. At some point the GM is bound to say "No, you don't play your character right." (something that- in my opinion- should never happen in a RPG).

Quote
That's how I've always seen it done, and it's never wound up being "You come from CHEESE and have CHEESE Skin", thus far.  Instead, it usually goes more like, "Your Character comes from the peasant/craftsman/warrior/noble house of Such-n-So, and his parents are poor/rich So-n-So's.   On his last birthday his father gave him such-n-such gifts, and now on this fine crisp morning, he wakes up with the World ahead of him..."   or some such.

Fair and right.
But not what I'm talking about.

The question is: Who can bring which kind of content into the game (and who is judging the quality of it)?

The theory I'm challenging is basically "All content is either created by the GM or presented to the GM, who then judges the quality of it and decides if he includes it into the game. Any content created or accepted by the GM is final and the players don't judge its quality."
I pointed out a couple of inconsistencies, basically:
a) Players do challenge what the GM says and therefore must also do a fair part judging- they just find most of what the GM says appropriate and don't challenge it, unless something really weird and out-of-sync with the setting (being killed by a cow falling from space- which might, on the other hand, be totally appropriate in a game of Toon) happens.

b) Most players are able to exercise creative restraint and avoid content, which might offend the other players (unless they know exactly they are not going to be offended).

c) The best games are those, where all participants contribute something to the game in interesting and unforeseen ways.

d) Severely limiting the options a player has of adding something to the game (i.e. instead of being limited to the actions his character could take, he is limited to the actions his character could take, which make sense in the context of a stifling character concept) reduces the chances of c) happening.

e) Expanding the options a player has of adding something to the game (i.e. the player plays not just his character, but also decides how the NPCs react to him or somesuch) isn't something which inherently reduces the quality of the game, unless the players are incapable of b).

f) The concept of the GM being the "alpha" of the group also fails, if the players are incapable of b).

Like Kyle Aaron said: its really just basic social group dynamics (its just hard to assume those on the 'net :D ).

@riprock: All rules encourage miscommunication.
Why do they call them "Random encounter tables" when there's nothing random about them? It's just the same stupid monsters over and over. You want random? Fine, make it really random. A hampstersaurus. A mucus salesman. A toenail golem. A troupe of fornicating clowns. David Hasselhoff. If your players don't start crying the moment you pick up the percent die, you're just babying them.

riprock

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« Reply #22 on: October 13, 2007, 08:43:34 PM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
The common element in all your crap game sessions is you. The common element in all your good game sessions is you. Just as no laws can make men good, no game system can make you a good gamer, or a crap one.


Interestingly enough, this sounds a lot like some of my friends used to say, to me and to many other folks: "The common element of all your complaints is you.  Don't complain about the world -- change yourself."

I'd be interested in knowing if the slogan derives from some popular source, perhaps a pop psychology book.

Perhaps no laws can make men good.  But that's not the same as saying that all sets of laws are equally good, or that laws can never contribute to human problems.  Some laws really are badly written laws.
"By their way of thinking, gold and experience goes[sic] much further when divided by one. Such shortsighted individuals are quick to stab their fellow players in the back if they think it puts them ahead. They see the game solely as a contest between themselves and their fellow players.  How sad.  Clearly the game is a contest between the players and the GM.  Any contest against your fellow party members is secondary." Hackmaster Player's Handbook

riprock

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« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2007, 08:46:06 PM »
Quote from: riprock
Interestingly enough, this sounds a lot like some of my friends used to say, to me and to many other folks: "The common element of all your complaints is you.  Don't complain about the world -- change yourself."

I'd be interested in knowing if the slogan derives from some popular source, perhaps a pop psychology book.

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=uSC&q=%22common+element+of+all+your%22+%22is+you%22&btnG=Search

It looks like despair.com may have originated this pithy bit of wisdom.

http://despair.com/dysfunction.html
"By their way of thinking, gold and experience goes[sic] much further when divided by one. Such shortsighted individuals are quick to stab their fellow players in the back if they think it puts them ahead. They see the game solely as a contest between themselves and their fellow players.  How sad.  Clearly the game is a contest between the players and the GM.  Any contest against your fellow party members is secondary." Hackmaster Player's Handbook

Kyle Aaron

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2007, 10:26:57 PM »
Quote from: riprock
Interestingly enough, this sounds a lot like some of my friends used to say, to me and to many other folks: "The common element of all your complaints is you.  Don't complain about the world -- change yourself."

[...]

Perhaps no laws can make men good.  But that's not the same as saying that all sets of laws are equally good, or that laws can never contribute to human problems.  Some laws really are badly written laws.

You're ignoring the other half of what I said, which is that the common element in all your good games is you, so that if the game is successful it's to your credit. You get the credit and the blame for everything you do. Don't forget the credit part, it's important.

Certainly it's true that some laws are badly-written, or are written with an ill aim in mind. But there's a difference between society's laws and a game system's rules - we've got a GM and players who can adjust the application of the rules constantly, and if they really don't like it, can change it. It's a much faster process than years of court cases and writing to legislators, etc. In good game groups that's exactly what happens, there's a constant adjustment of things, the GM's rulings following the mood of the group, the players working to help make things interesting and reasonable. It requires good will from all.

Rules and laws encourage or discourage certain behaviours, but they don't determine behaviour. They don't create good or ill will. You remain an individual, a human being with free will. Maybe the rules encourage you to be creative, or to fuck up other players, but in the end it's you who decides what to do.

We're all familiar with the player who deliberately designs an annoying character, and when people say they're annoying, says, "but I'm just playing in character!" Yes, the annoying bastard wants extra xp for good roleplaying, too - they want to be rewarded for being annoying. This player is saying that they're obliged to play in a certain way because of what they wrote down somewhere. And of course it's bullshit - they chose what to write down, so they can choose how to play it. They know this, which is why they want the credit for "good roleplaying" while at the same time saying they're not responsible and not accepting the blame for being annoying.

It just doesn't work. Either you're responsible for what you do, in which case you get the credit for roleplaying well an annoying character, but also the blame for making one in the first place; or else you're not responsible for what you do, in which case you get neither credit nor blame for anything. Like an infant.

Likewise, with game rules and a game group. The group chooses which rules to use, they choose how to apply them, and they choose how to behave. The rules encourage or discourage certain play styles, but they don't determine them.

For example, you might say that AD&D1e, by offering xp mostly for killing things and taking their stuff, encouraged you to have your character do nothing but kill things and take their stuff. But it didn't make you do that. You could run your character without having them kill anything at all. Yes, then they wouldn't get much xp. But when is this a disadvantage? If you could bear being 1st level in the first few sessions, why not for several or dozens of sessions? It's only a disadvantage if the other PCs are going up levels, and/or if the GM throws higher-level things at you just as though you had gone up levels.

Now, what's at fault here? The rules which reward you for killing things and taking their stuff? Or is it just a mismatch of game play styles? If everyone in the group is happy with not killing things and taking their stuff, you'll be fine; if you're the only one, you'll be in trouble. So the problem isn't the rules, which are just words on paper; it's the differing play styles of people in the group, and people not adjusting their styles to one another in compromise.

You get the blame for all your failures, and the credit for all your successes. That's part of being an adult.
GAMERS rpg

One of the great virtues of the dice is that they do not come with boxed text.

"Don't let yourself get too worried about all this talk about roleplaying [...] the ultimate object of all this is for everyone to have fun, not to recreate some form of high dramatic art." - Dungeoneer

riprock

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« Reply #25 on: October 14, 2007, 12:34:53 AM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
You're ignoring the other half of what I said, which is that the common element in all your good games is you, so that if the game is successful it's to your credit. You get the credit and the blame for everything you do. Don't forget the credit part, it's important. ...

You get the blame for all your failures, and the credit for all your successes. That's part of being an adult.


Sorry that I didn't give credit to the other half.
So, for the record: your philosophy is logically consistent, fair, and equitable. Your notion of "responsibility" is a perfectly good notion and it will work excellently in many contexts.  Likewise, your "credit" and "blame" are well designed and will work as designed.

I didn't mean to detract from your logic or to imply that it was faulty.  I suspect there's a slight mismatch in our objectives.  You're proposing a forward-looking philosophy for going forward, which is great and very similar to my attitude towards new projects.

When I talk about "bad laws" I'm looking backward to the past, trying to understand how the details went wrong.  In any event, clearly you and I agree on a lot of things.  Let's try to get the relatively small disagreements out to where they can be defined -- let's try to move from Storming to Norming.


Quote



Certainly it's true that some laws are badly-written, or are written with an ill aim in mind. But there's a difference between society's laws and a game system's rules - we've got a GM and players who can adjust the application of the rules constantly, and if they really don't like it, can change it. It's a much faster process than years of court cases and writing to legislators, etc. In good game groups that's exactly what happens, there's a constant adjustment of things, the GM's rulings following the mood of the group, the players working to help make things interesting and reasonable. It requires good will from all.

Rules and laws encourage or discourage certain behaviours, but they don't determine behaviour. They don't create good or ill will. You remain an individual, a human being with free will. Maybe the rules encourage you to be creative, or to fuck up other players, but in the end it's you who decides what to do.
 


First off, we have big points of agreement.  
1) Laws can be ill-written;
2) good will is required from all.
So we agree on that much.

There is one small, possibly insignificant disagreement:I think that some rules have generated ill will.  Several games have come out on the mass market and have been immediately berated by gamers for graphic depictions of rape intended to titillate immature sensibilities.

That's only the extreme, but I find it hard to describe those games without mentioning that the rules created ill will.  




Quote
Either you're responsible for what you do, in which case you get the credit for roleplaying well an annoying character, but also the blame for making one in the first place; or else you're not responsible for what you do, in which case you get neither credit nor blame for anything. Like an infant.

Likewise, with game rules and a game group. The group chooses which rules to use, they choose how to apply them, and they choose how to behave. The rules encourage or discourage certain play styles, but they don't determine them.


I tend to devote attention to other factors that you probably consider irrelevant:

1)The game designers often have had little awareness of play styles.  This seems to be changing somewhat as Internet communication puts designers in touch with player opinion.  Rules which are expressed ambiguously, or which assume the GM will be wise, often lead to game breakups.

2) The players often waste time, money, and enthusiasm discovering misleading aspects of the game that should have been discovered by playtesters.  E.g. The box art and flavor text may completely mismatch the mechanics, and the mechanics themselves may be self-contradictory because the original designer got fired and replaced with someone who ignored quality control.


Quote


For example, you might say that AD&D1e, by offering xp mostly for killing things and taking their stuff, encouraged you to have your character do nothing but kill things and take their stuff. But it didn't make you do that. You could run your character without having them kill anything at all. ...So the problem isn't the rules, which are just words on paper; it's the differing play styles of people in the group, and people not adjusting their styles to one another in compromise.


If you've got a system that can *teach* people how to adjust, how to compromise, how to be sensitive to play style, etc. then by all means test it on a few play groups and publish the results on a wiki or other convenient medium.

Actually, I'm not sure if you're the author of:
http://cheetoism.pbwiki.com/Storming

But I presume you won't mind if I quote a bit:
Quote
One problem is often that people's expressed conflicts are not the fundamental conflicts. The Anna-Bob conflict in the example is expressed as a conflict about the rules of magic, but fundamentally it's about whether there should be any magic at all. So long as Anna and Bob only talk about house rules, they will never resolve their conflict.


This is a *huge* problem with many gaming groups.  Badly written rules and metaplot exacerbate it because they make it even harder to get past the expressed conflict into the fundamental conflict.

If a Cheetoist can say, "Yes, I know people, I can teach them how to get past Storming into Norming," then I'll wave the Cheetoist flag. If, on the other hand, Cheetoists can only say, "Some people are successful at adjusting play styles and making compromises and others aren't," I'm skeptical of Cheetoism.

Regardless of whether Cheetoism gets my flag-wave, my current position is that badly written rules exacerbate Storming and make it harder to get to Norming and Performing.  

I'm somewhat disappointed with:
http://cheetoism.pbwiki.com/Performing
Quote

In Tuckman's original analysis, a work project group was "performing" when it was achieving its goals as given it by its manager. But a roleplaying group, being a voluntary social group, sets its own goals. So what is "performing", each group has to decide for itself. Here the Player Preferences Questionnaire may be useful - everyone can decide what they want, then the group can go off and get it.


I like the questionnaire.  I might even print up some copies for my GURPS group.  I had hoped there would be a little more empirical work already done under the Cheetoist banner.

Note that the Cheetoist wiki is advocating empirical surveys at a group level -- one GM surveying four to six players.

I think the empirical approach *is* being used by non-Cheetoists, at a game design level.  WotC seems to survey its thousands of customers and try to design games to eliminate customer complaints while retaining customer satisfaction.  

I should edit this and make it more concise, but I am out of time and I have to run.  Sorry for the long post.
"By their way of thinking, gold and experience goes[sic] much further when divided by one. Such shortsighted individuals are quick to stab their fellow players in the back if they think it puts them ahead. They see the game solely as a contest between themselves and their fellow players.  How sad.  Clearly the game is a contest between the players and the GM.  Any contest against your fellow party members is secondary." Hackmaster Player's Handbook

Kyle Aaron

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« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2007, 03:18:55 AM »
I am indeed the authour of that Cheetoism stuff, but bear in mind it's a work under construction, or else I'd be publishing it for money.

It tries to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. I think that many people, accustomed to the side conflicts we have to avoid the actual issues of conflict, think of conflict as pointless, so they try to avoid it. In terms of that process, they get a sniff of a storm and retreat back into forming, or else the storm breaks the group apart.

So even without any recommendations on how to resolve those conflicts, I think that if,
  • you know that some conflicts will be inevitable
  • you know that sometimes the conflicts will be side ones, trying to avoid the real conflict, and
  • you know that conflict can be productive and move you from storming into norming, so that you actually achieve something,
just being aware of those things helps you deal with the conflicts, even without any specific advice. To my mind, it's like the way we train firefighters with real flames, or soldiers with blanks - because the natural human instinct when encountering fire or hearing gunshots is often to freeze up, so having even that little taste of it means that when you encounter the real thing, you don't panic.

Likewise, if you're aware of that stuff about conflicts, it'll make it easy to deal with them, so you won't get stuck on the side ones or avoid them entirely.

That doesn't mean that specific advice can't be useful, of course. Nonetheless, teaching people to adjust, to compromise, to be sensitive to others' needs and desires - I think that's beyond the scope of any rpg system, or even of a play style description and advice thing, like Cheetoism is supposed to be. It's basic human social skills, and I think the process of running or playing in a campaign is a better teacher of that than any words on a page.

It's good to be descriptive and inspirational. For example you mentioned the player preferences questionnaire - I always emphasise, that's not definitive. You could as well use the signs of the zodiac, colours of the rainbow or whatever. The point is that if you just ask people, "what do you like?" they tend to go blank, but if you can ask them, "do you like this, or that? This thing, or the other?" then even if they completely reject those categories, it gets people talking. And if people are talking about what they like, then they're more likely to get it.

The Cheeotist surveys aren't empirical, in the first place because they don't use categories and descriptors with precisely-defined meanings, and secondly because they're talking self-reporting. For example, I find that almost every gamer says that character personality and relationships are very important to them - even the gamers who just go "Hulk smash!" in play. That's because that character stuff is what people think of when they think of "roleplaying" and nobody likes to think of themselves as being just a munchkin, or whatever.

An empirical survey would look at what players actually do in play, not what they say they like. That's why no play style questionnaire or categories of gamers as "Butt-Kickers", "Method Actors" or whatever is empirical - it's just a way of starting a conversation or thinking about play styles. It's description and inspiration, it's not measurement.

I don't understand why you're disappointed with a description of "performing" as being defined by the people themselves. Certainly that section needs expanding, but the fact is that what you think is a cool game session may seem lame to me, or vice versa. Fun is individual and subjective.

I still don't see why rules, badly-written or otherwise, help or hinder this. Seeing what the real conflict is and dealing with it productively, that's about your powers of perception, how proud you are and willing to compromise, social skills in general, and so on. Expecting rpg rules to make up for lack of social skills is like expecting soccer rules to make up for clumsy and unfit people.

We've got a social creative hobby. People with poor social or creative skills will do poorly at it, but keeping at it will improve their social skills and creativity. Same as for football - it's a physical hobby, so people with poor physiques will do poorly at it, but keeping at it will make them fitter. To get better at soccer, play more soccer; to get better at roleplaying and working with other gamers, play more rpgs, and don't give up at the first argument.

One of the gamers in my group at the moment is a schoolteacher, and he reckons that a good part of "intelligence" is just effort, just being willing to try, to keep at something, to pay attention. I think the same's true of "emotional intelligence", or social skills. But those are a pretty broad thing, and rpg rules are specific. Soccer rules don't tell me what to do if I'm fat, slow and clumsy.
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"Don't let yourself get too worried about all this talk about roleplaying [...] the ultimate object of all this is for everyone to have fun, not to recreate some form of high dramatic art." - Dungeoneer

Arminius

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #27 on: October 14, 2007, 08:34:41 AM »
Quote from: alexandro

a) Players do challenge what the GM says and therefore must also do a fair part judging- they just find most of what the GM says appropriate and don't challenge it, unless something really weird and out-of-sync with the setting (being killed by a cow falling from space- which might, on the other hand, be totally appropriate in a game of Toon) happens.

b) Most players are able to exercise creative restraint and avoid content, which might offend the other players (unless they know exactly they are not going to be offended).

c) The best games are those, where all participants contribute something to the game in interesting and unforeseen ways.

d) Severely limiting the options a player has of adding something to the game (i.e. instead of being limited to the actions his character could take, he is limited to the actions his character could take, which make sense in the context of a stifling character concept) reduces the chances of c) happening.

e) Expanding the options a player has of adding something to the game (i.e. the player plays not just his character, but also decides how the NPCs react to him or somesuch) isn't something which inherently reduces the quality of the game, unless the players are incapable of b).

f) The concept of the GM being the "alpha" of the group also fails, if the players are incapable of b).
This is all very reasonable, though again the GM role is part of the fiction, or perhaps esthetic, of playing an RPG in a certain style.

More important, (b)-(e), and especially (e) do not seem to be written with an awareness of the importance of challenge or character immersion to certain styles of play. "Expanding the options a player has of contributing" does inherently reduce the quality of the game for those styles, if you're not careful about when & how you do it. E.g., if you're playing for challenge, and you choose a game which "expands your options" to the point that obstacles can easily be overcome by freestyle narration, or by trivial mechanics, or some combination (spend a point or roll dice to get narration rights for a scene), then the quality of the game suffers.

And even if the game has challenging "narration" mechanics, the quality of the game will suffer if players enjoy approaching the game from the perspective of their characters. E.g., supposing the conflict mechanic in Dogs in the Vineyard was tactically "deep" (it does have a few nuances, but let's say it was on the order of Whist), it might satisfy some challenge-oriented players but it would harm character-immersion-oriented players because the mechanics and dice-tactics bear little relation to the actions and tactics they represent. Furthermore if the mechanic or the social arrangement of authority is such that a player can "make things happen" well outside their character's reach--such as being able to bring into being the fact that the preacher is secretly the father of the adulteress's child--then the player's sense of interacting with the world through their character's agency may be harmed.

Quote
All rules encourage miscommunication.
Quite, but here I do get the point that's made in some circles, in fact it's really nothing new, that removing or reshaping certain types of rules can improve communication. E.g., the D&D XP system, as written, does make it easy for players to pull in the direction of "experience grubbing"--ignoring anything in the game world except finding things to kill and stuff to loot. While if you remove that, the idea of improving your character through simple kill & loot, without regard to other elements of the game, loses mechanical "traction". (If people think that the BRP system, say, is still subject to "experience grubbing"--and it can be--then you can go another step and remove experience altogether as in Traveller. At that point "improvement" is only the things that the group collectively and consciously wants and allows to be brought into the world.)

alexandro

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #28 on: October 14, 2007, 09:39:13 AM »
Quote from: Elliot Wilen
More important, (b)-(e), and especially (e) do not seem to be written with an awareness of the importance of challenge or character immersion to certain styles of play. "Expanding the options a player has of contributing" does inherently reduce the quality of the game for those styles, if you're not careful about when & how you do it. E.g., if you're playing for challenge, and you choose a game which "expands your options" to the point that obstacles can easily be overcome by freestyle narration, or by trivial mechanics, or some combination (spend a point or roll dice to get narration rights for a scene), then the quality of the game suffers.

"More options" doesn't mean "all the options" or even "all possible types of options".
You are spot on with your assessment, that you got to know which playstyle you cater to, with the options you are giving.
You might have a game whose rules allows gamers to have a challenging game AND a good narration AND an immersive experience...etc., by its rules, but having all these things happen at the same time...fat chance on that.
Why do they call them "Random encounter tables" when there's nothing random about them? It's just the same stupid monsters over and over. You want random? Fine, make it really random. A hampstersaurus. A mucus salesman. A toenail golem. A troupe of fornicating clowns. David Hasselhoff. If your players don't start crying the moment you pick up the percent die, you're just babying them.

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #29 on: October 15, 2007, 07:56:00 AM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
Nonetheless, teaching people to adjust, to compromise, to be sensitive to others' needs and desires - I think that's beyond the scope of any rpg system, or even of a play style description and advice thing, like Cheetoism is supposed to be. It's basic human social skills, and I think the process of running or playing in a campaign is a better teacher of that than any words on a page.


Here's a point of substantial difference: I claim that running and playing a campaign with bad rules is likely to impair development of those social skills, particularly if the personal chemistry of the players isn't harmonious.

You and I have obscure philosophical and semantic differences, but those aren't worth the debate.  You and I have more important fish to fry, such as which social skills should be taught and which shouldn't.

However "social skill" opens up a huge field of debate, and we probably need to make an effort to stay semi-focused.

Quote from: Kyle Aaron

 The point is that if you just ask people, "what do you like?" they tend to go blank, but if you can ask them, "do you like this, or that? This thing, or the other?" then even if they completely reject those categories, it gets people talking. And if people are talking about what they like, then they're more likely to get it.

The Cheeotist surveys aren't empirical,....

An empirical survey would look at what players actually do in play,...It's description and inspiration, it's not measurement.


Actually, in reference to storming that is encouraged by bad rules, it struck me that the Mage group I saw self-destruct over Mage rules went to a lot of effort to talk out its preferences before it started -- however the communication was highly impaired.

When I say I want empiricism, I mean I will wave the flag of any play-style that  works in practice.  This is a philosophical side-track;  I could start a long boring rant about assumptions, frames, ideologies, etc. and that would derail the discussion.  The bottom line is I don't want to sign up for Cheetoism and then find that it doesn't give any improvements to my actual gaming experience.

Quote from: Kyle Aaron

I don't understand why you're disappointed with a description of "performing" as being defined by the people themselves. Certainly that section needs expanding, but the fact is that what you think is a cool game session may seem lame to me, or vice versa. Fun is individual and subjective.

I still don't see why rules, badly-written or otherwise, help or hinder this.


In the case of Mage, I think the rules were written by people who were trying to speak in jargon so as to produce a "culture of celebrity" or "political correctness" or "a cult of personality" or whatever one wants to call it.  They set up the terms of the discussion so as to impair communication.

I think Mage was written by intellectually dishonest persons, who were addicted to deceiving themselves, and that rubbed off on the thinking.  But that's a rant that deserves a detailed analysis, in its own thread.

The bottom line for this thread is that I think badly written rules in the case of Mage encouraged storming leading to disintegration, because they encouraged disputation, posing, and frivolity rather than listening honestly and speaking clearly.


Quote from: Kyle Aaron

Seeing what the real conflict is and dealing with it productively, that's about your powers of perception, how proud you are and willing to compromise, social skills in general, and so on. Expecting rpg rules to make up for lack of social skills is like expecting soccer rules to make up for clumsy and unfit people.
... Soccer rules don't tell me what to do if I'm fat, slow and clumsy.


No, but if you're a soccer coach, you can spot the players who will have trouble and oversee their development.  You can give them activities that won't sap their motivation by frustrating them.

RPGs are often something bearing more resemblance to a viral marketing campaign than to soccer. Exploitative designers are more concerned with their ego-boosting than with whether the game gets played and satisfies the players.
"By their way of thinking, gold and experience goes[sic] much further when divided by one. Such shortsighted individuals are quick to stab their fellow players in the back if they think it puts them ahead. They see the game solely as a contest between themselves and their fellow players.  How sad.  Clearly the game is a contest between the players and the GM.  Any contest against your fellow party members is secondary." Hackmaster Player's Handbook