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Author Topic: "GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story  (Read 1577 times)

Arminius

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #30 on: October 15, 2007, 03:00:05 PM »
Quote from: alexandro
"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.
In that case I think we're in complete agreement; it was rather the language of (e) which didn't seem to acknowledge any kind of limitation other than (b).

Kyle Aaron

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #31 on: October 15, 2007, 06:39:27 PM »
Quote from: riprock
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.

There's nothing to sign up for. It's descriptive, not prescriptive. It does not tell you how to play your game, it describes how games are often played, and some of the things that go wrong. Forewarned is forearmed, if you know the sorts of problems which will pop up, you're less likely to be stunned into inaction or panic when you meet them.

It's gamer anthropology, not gamer sociology. Descriptive, not prescriptive.

People often blame the rules for their own failings.
GAMERS rpg

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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

riprock

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #32 on: October 16, 2007, 09:17:02 AM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
There's nothing to sign up for. It's descriptive, not prescriptive. It does not tell you how to play your game, it describes how games are often played, and some of the things that go wrong. Forewarned is forearmed, if you know the sorts of problems which will pop up, you're less likely to be stunned into inaction or panic when you meet them.

It's gamer anthropology, not gamer sociology. Descriptive, not prescriptive.

People often blame the rules for their own failings.


It sounds to me like you're contradicting yourself, although you and I seem to use words differently, so I could be misreading you.

(Edit: Past experience indicates that when I have no concrete disagreement with someone, but his philosophy seems self-contradictory, there's a major communication gap causing me to entirely misread him.   That's probably happening here.)

If I sign up for your ideas, I sign up for a particular set of standards for blaming and crediting.  The nature of blaming, complaining, etc. can rapidly get too philosophical for a gaming discussion.  (In fact, I started the thread at:

http://www.therpgsite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7881

so I could keep the philosophy of this issue separate from the gaming.)

Maybe I'm confusing Cheetoism with your (Kyle's) personal perspective.

If Cheetoism is descriptive, when it says, "We game for the snacks, etc." does it mean, "We, the self-avowed Cheetoists, are gaming for the snacks, but maybe other gamers game for something else" or does it mean, "Everyone who games is really gaming for the snacks, whether they know it or not"?
"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 #33 on: October 23, 2007, 03:45:17 PM »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
There's nothing to sign up for. It's descriptive, not prescriptive. ...
People often blame the rules for their own failings.


I think I'm reading many of your statements as prescriptive.  You seem to be saying that some people should blame themselves, some people should terminate piss-weak friendships -- those are actions which should be done, thus your stance looks prescriptive.

However, the prescriptive stance is not necessarily Cheetoism.  That may be the point of difference.
"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 #34 on: October 24, 2007, 01:02:37 AM »
To be clear, the prescription comes with the non-game things. I'l tell people what to do with their lives but I'd never tell them what to do with their game! :D

Quote from: riprock
If Cheetoism is descriptive, when it says, "We game for the snacks, etc." does it mean, "We, the self-avowed Cheetoists, are gaming for the snacks, but maybe other gamers game for something else" or does it mean, "Everyone who games is really gaming for the snacks, whether they know it or not"?
The first one, though actually the people come first; food is a shared experience which brings people together, it's the snacky means to the social end.

"We game for the snacks. And also the dice. But mostly, just to hang out with friends and tell tall stories."

I add emphasis here for clarity.

If people say they're gaming for something else - group therapy or education or whatever - I believe them. They're crazy to want that, but the craziness is not a delusional one where they think they want X but really want Y.

It's a bit mixed-up, really. At the moment you've got two things over on the pbwiki. One is Why Game Groups Fuck Up which is almost entirely descriptive, and the only prescriptions are humanistic ones - "you're responsible for what you do, you should talk to people about what you want", and so on.

And then there's "Cheetoism" which is a jokey way of presenting that for most gamers it's social first, game second they can have a good game session with a crap game if they get along with one another, but cannot have anything but a crap session with an excellent game if they don't get along. Just as fitness and co-ordination are a prerequisite to good football performance, the group getting along well is a prerequisite to good roleplaying.

Cheetoism is really just the standard flying over the troops of Why Game Groups Fuck Up. They fuck up because they don't get along well. So the body of the thing is looking at what sort of things cause people to not get along well, what are their disagreements about, who gets ignored because they're quiet, and so on.

That's the stuff that gets prescription, people dealing with people. I'm not going to pop up and say that because you like the leotard-wearing improv theatre style better than the viking hat-wearing miniatures battles style, or vice versa, that you're brain-damaged; nor am I going to say that you can't have a bit of both in your game sessions. But I will pop up to say, "You say you're unhappy with how your game sessions are going. Have you talked to the others?" The stuff sounds obvious when you say it but looking at what people actually do in their lives, it mustn't really be obvious to them.

A lot of the rpg theories out there are really just an elaborate rationalisation of Your Favourite Game Suxxorz, Mine Roxxorz. This is more of an attempt to look at what most gamers actually do. And most gamers find their most enjoyable game experiences when they get along well with the other people in the group, share meals, have a few laughs and tell some tall stories.

The other thing to bear in mind is as I keep saying, it's a work in progress. So naturally it doesn't all fit together perfectly neatly at the moment.
GAMERS rpg

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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

Spike

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #35 on: October 25, 2007, 03:24:45 PM »
Y'know: I popped into this thread because of the tagline. I'm a proponent of the GM/Player World/Character split thing, so this sort of discussion should, by all rights, facinate me.

Instead I get some bizzare diatribe that, and pardon the term, was utterly incoherent and huge walls of text about cheetoism.  Kudos to those of you who had the patience and whatnot to actually read and dissect the OP. Maybe I worked too late last night, but I gave up around the 'skin of cheese part' the first time, and sighed stupidly around the adopted by orcs part the second time. Its not worth a third go around for me.

Alexandro: If you want to start a nice good debate/discussion on this entire topic feel free to try again. Only, this time try to make some sort of sense. Drooling babbling idiot arguements are wearying. If I pass out and go to sleep trying to read your drivel it means I don't actually... you know... post. And if I don't post then you have nothing to respond to. Then Jimbo comes in with his wall of text posts about snackfoods and anthropology, and I'm guessing at least one potshot at Americans somewhere in there and no one wants that.   Swear. Half the time he could get by with a simple 'Kyle Aaron Post Here.'  and we'd all get it.

Nothin' but love for ya, Jimmy, but man you do go on.... If I ever make it to Australia, I'll be sure to stop by for a beer and let you lecture me on how typically american I'm acting. ;)
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James J Skach

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #36 on: October 25, 2007, 04:05:51 PM »
I have to give credit where credit is due.  From my fuzzy memory, I don't think he ripped the US once in this thread.

The secret is out, now. If you want to keep Kyle away from pot-shots at the US, get him on the Cheetoism track. :)

All in good fun, Kyle.  All in good fun.
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alexandro

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« Reply #37 on: October 25, 2007, 07:40:30 PM »
@Spike: feel free to start a new thread, if you feel the need for further discussion (I lost track of the 'Cheetoism-Connection' myself- that stuff is between Kyle and riprock).

Here is the rundown of the argument in list-form, rather than in prose.
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.

Spike

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"GM runs the world/Players run their characters" is only half of the story
« Reply #38 on: October 25, 2007, 08:29:43 PM »
Around two years ago I sat down and wrote out a 'Manifesto' of sorts that pretty heavily laid down the law, as far as I was concerned, with where GM authority ended and began. Mind you, I GM more than I play, so I wasn't really lashing out to attack GMs.

I don't have a link handy, it was on RPG.net and created a nice little thread for a couple of days, but here is how I've always seen it.

The GM's authority ends where the character begins. Literally. But ONLY the character.

Players can write up any backstory they want. They can add a hundred aunts and uncles if they want.  But: they have no authority over those NPCs they made up (caveat: if they are explicitely part of the character (GURPS:Dependents, etc) then the player has a certain authority over them, yes. Often that is defined by the method by which they become part of the character...).  Now, a good player, and a good GM will allow some flex to account for backstory.  If I take my 'Spikes World' that I've posted about here and put a player into it, I, as the GM do not expect the player to master the setting before writing a backstory. Ideally, the backstory, if any, is flexible enough to allow for tweaking to fit. If not, well, I am a good GM in that I can certainly find room to tweak the setting.  No orks in the Sea of Grass (there are, by the way), well, maybe there is this one tribe everyone overlooks.  

The idea that the GM has authority over the character up until the start of play is, to me, absurd.  As the GM I have the right to say 'well, this campaign is about villagers from Homlet'. and expect the players, who are not asshats, not to bring ninja's from outer space. But that has nothing to do with what it appears you are suggesting.  If A player brings me a penniless drunkard noble who is not from Homlet, I might be swayed to allow the guy to be a destituite wanderer who washed up a few years/months/whatever back and is now part of the village.  Likewise, I won't say there isn't a blacksmith(or that the blacksmith couldn't have 8 sons... say if everyone wanted to be the blacksmith) or anything else reasonable. I merely set the stage of the campaign, the PC's are up to the players.

That's not rules or even a violation of authority lines vis a vis my manifesto. That's part and parcel of dealing with other people as members of a group.

but again: even with your list I'm not entirely certain I've got what ever the fuck it was you were trying to say. Then again, I'm chronically tired from three weeks of work without a decent weekend.  I might be getting stupider.
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alexandro

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« Reply #39 on: October 26, 2007, 09:27:01 AM »
I think the division is between mission-style-play and character-motivated-play.

In the former it makes no difference, if the GM owns the NPCs, because he presents the players with tangible problems, that exist outside of their characters backstories (although said backstories might be what gets them into these "missions" in the first place). The latter, a style I have come to enjoy, is based on the assumption, that the players and the world are interconnected and what happens to the former, also happens to the latter: if a member of the thieves guild is found guilty of assassinating the king, than the character is removed from power as head of said thieves guild. The character concept changes from "head of thieves guild" to "ex"- a significant change. Now the player would be right to bitch about this, if he had no way to affect the outcome. He wouldn't bitch, if he wouldn't have been head of said guild- because the assassination of the king wouldn't have affected his character otherwise. Heck, there is a reason of GM-advice cautioning against having high-level-thief steal all the equipment of the PCs while they sleep, because even in the former mission-style-approach the equipment is considered part of the character (even though its really part of the world).

Now, all the above-mentioned examples are examples that could happen in the world, but (usually) don't for a reason. And this reason is that (in most RPGs) characters are the players only tools for affecting the game world. But there is a difference between theoretical freedom of action and real freedom of action. If you could take any action with your character, but wouldn't affect the outcome, than the GM isn't running a RPG (since RPGs are defined by the interaction of the participants). The choice is illusionary.

So the players has limited resources (his character) to achieve certain results in the game-world (like becoming head of the thieves guild). The GM has unlimited resources (the whole world) to undo anything the player achieves (or simply grant it to him, which is just as unsatisfying). A good GM tries to engineer his resources in such a way, that they are balanced, allowing the player to tip them in either direction with his character.

To come back full-circle: player goals and character goals might differ.
What a character wants is not always what a player wants (or what a player wants right away). So being aware of player wants and adapting your campaign world to suit them.
"We want to slay the dragon plaguing the countryside." might mean anything from: "We want to get into a highly tactical dungeon, where we need our wits to survive and have thrilling fight at the end." to "I want my character struggling to overcome his fear of dragons and win the respect of his father." or even "I want the damn dragon gone, because I don't want to risk losing [insert NPC name here] to him. It is an annoying monster anyway." and the adventure would play out in a decidedly different way (i.e.: the second goal would be defeated, if the whole adventure takes place in an underground complex, where no one can see how the character behaves and where he can't interact with anyone, with the third goal it would simply annoy the players, if taking the dragon down takes way to long).

Being aware of these expectations goes a long way to adapting your campaign world, but frankly, its impossible to be aware of the all the time. People screw up. Losing is part of the roleplaying GAME. The key is being flexible enough to incorporate the ideas of your players and not sticking to the "I said it, its final"-shtick.
That's all.

Also see here (mainly the posts by Daniel Wood, but the whole thread has some good observations).
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.

Arminius

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« Reply #40 on: October 26, 2007, 12:26:05 PM »
Alexandro, I think I see where you're going with this but first--could you please try formatting your posts a little more carefully? Don't hit return after each sentence, and hit return twice between paragraphs. It'll make it a lot easier to read.

Anyway, instead of your mission-style vs. character-motivated play, there was once a trend in Usenet discussion to speak of "world-based" vs. "character-based" play. The former is maybe a little different from mission-style. I'd say it works from the assumption that the characters are motivated...they're just motivated in ways that facilitate immediate interaction with the world the GM has created.

The classic example is dungeon exploration. I had some difficulty explaining recently the attraction of a dungeon adventure with low-level Basic D&D characters: how do you engage in terms of really caring about what your character does, when your character is (a) pretty likely to die, and (b) easily replaceable? The answer, I think, is to see low-level dungeon play as being not about the character, but about the dungeon. But in order for the "dungeon experience" to be fully realized & appreciated, you [the player] need to be engaged in trying to explore, overcome, and survive. Therefore when you play those 1st-level chumps, they behave as if they care about living, dying, and gaining loot even though you as a player shouldn't be too attached to them.

However where "world-based" starts to diverge from the sense conjured by the words "mission style" is that many or most of people who advocate for "GM creates the world" don't see this as contradicting the idea that the adaptation of PC with world, during play, is a two-way street. PCs will do stuff that shapes the world around them, in big or small ways.

So the "division" is often a bit more nuanced, concerning methods & timing. Way over at one end you've got the crypto-novelist GM who has not only a whole world planned but a sequence of events that are both unchangeable and the intended single focus of play. Over at the other and you've got players who write pages of backstory about their characters and expect it to be incorporated. (Like insisting or writing in a detailed tribal origin that clashes with the GM's world, instead of looking for a suitable place in the world that's already there.)

In between you have questions as I said of method & timing. E.g., GM proposes a general campaign idea, players suggest elements they would like to see incorporated, GM fits them in. This may include customizing campaign elements to accommodate specific characters. ("I want a space ninja" becomes "Let's play a game where space ninjas are integral to the setting & theme.") But once that's done, the game is run in a fairly "traditional" manner. OR you might have a game/group where setting and backstory are far more plastic and the players either get to improvise facts into existence, or the GM is expected to do same in reaction to player initiatives.

Personally I'm toying with the idea of running a game in a manner that I think would slyly transition from GM-creates the world to collaborative world-building to immersive exploration. The idea, which could be expressed either as formal rules or as informal practices, would be to begin with a unified, fixed vision, the "GM's world" or world from some sort of sourcebook. Two variations follow.

a) The players create characters in conformity with the world--no "space ninjas". However, an initial phase of play or pregame would be played fairly freely, under assumptions that PCs are generally successful and never fail in a way that takes them out of the game. The idea here is that the things a player does right out of the gate are in a sense an effort to create the character they really want to play, as opposed to the limited character you get from the basic chargen system. You could see this sort of like fast-forwarding through low-level D&D. Not skipping in a sort of point-based-chargen fashion: fast-forwarding in something more like a lifepath fashion.

b) The players create characters without worrying about conforming to the world. Perhaps "space ninjas" are still off the table, but let's look at "ork from the sea of grass" when the GM has already determined there aren't any. Spike suggests accommodating this by allowing there to be an insignificant tribe. I suggest instead, under this approach, the GM will interpret the divergence from the baseline setting as indicating a historical event. The logical conclusion: orks weren't found in the sea of grass until a generation ago, but now they've invaded and the rest of the campaign is also impacted.

In effect, either way you're taking elements that the players normally think of us their province (chargen and character actions) and using those to produce a world that integrates their baseline hopes & expectations for play. But at that point, you have a foundation for ongoing play with a traditional distribution of authority, which provides the "push back" from the setting that's needed for challenge and character-immersion.