This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: On sympathy  (Read 657 times)

Kyle Aaron

  • high-minded hack
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9013
  • high-minded hack
    • View Profile
    • The Viking Hat GM
On sympathy
« on: March 25, 2007, 11:20:19 PM »
I think we game together in groups because we have sympathy for one another. I mean "sympathy" in its old sense, of sharing all emotions, not just feeling sorry for someone.

Many rpg theories completely ignore this. In their view, each player wants different things in a game session, and you just have to put up with the other players blathering on and getting what they want until it's your turn again. If this were so, why would anyone be in a game group? Why would anyone GM?

I've been looking at Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, and it reminds me a lot of what happens in a good roleplaying group.
Quote from: Adam Smith
A man is mortified when, after having endeavoured to divert the company, he looks round and sees that nobody laughs at his jests but himself.
[...]
When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no longer find any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of novelty; we enter into the surprise and admiration which it naturally excites in him, but which it is no longer capable of exciting in us; we consider all the ideas which it presents rather in the light in which they appear to him, than in that in which they appear to ourselves, and we are amused by sympathy with his amusement which thus enlivens our own. On the contrary, we should be vexed if he did not seem to be entertained with it, and we could no longer take any pleasure in reading it to him.

This "fellow-feeling" or "sympathy" is something which is entirely absent in GNS, the Big Model, or any other rpg theory I have seen. Every rpg theory explicitly says or at least implies that any game group is a bunch of isolated individuals, who game with each-other simply as a last resort, each merely tolerating the presence of others until they can get what they want. The theories then go on to say that the best thing you can do is to categorise what people want, so that people with the same wants can find each-other, and game together, and then no more troublesome compromise will be necessary.

There's no talk of trying to fit different wants together so they're complementary rather than clashing, and still less any mention of the fact that we get joy from others' joy. I don't have to be homosexual to be happy that my male friend has found a lover, nor do I have to be interested in physics to be glad that my friend has got an honour mark in his course. We can share a person's joys even when we don't share the source of them.  

I think that's also why the games written by these theorists try to eliminate the position of Game Master - because the very existence of a GM proves that some people are happy just to make others happy, they're not in it purely for their own selfish ends, incompatible with the wants of others. The existence of a GM proves that compromise, accomodation, and sympathy are all possible, real, and work well.

So, how about an rpg theory with some sympathy in it?
Rules for effective DMing:
1. Bring snacks.
2. The dice are always right.
3. I master the game, the game does not master me.
4. Momentum over perfection.
5. The game must go on!
The Viking Hat GM

Koltar

  • Openly GURPS Loving
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8144
    • View Profile
On sympathy
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2007, 11:47:47 PM »
I like that.

 There is definitely sumpathy going on in several of my game sessions.

 HeQ, I've been getting a lot of sympathy the last 12 hours from other gamers - but I don't think thats what JimBobOz is referring to .



- E.W.C.
The return of 'You can't take the Sky From me!'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUn-eN8mkDw&feature=rec-fresh+div

This is what a really cool FANTASY RPG should be like :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-WnjVUBDbs

Still here, still alive, at least Seven years now...

Gunslinger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 786
    • View Profile
On sympathy
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2007, 11:58:52 PM »
You had me at "I think" JimBob up until this.
Quote
I think that's also why the games written by these theorists try to eliminate the position of Game Master - because the very existence of a GM proves that some people are happy just to make others happy, they're not in it purely for their own selfish ends, incompatible with the wants of others. The existence of a GM proves that compromise, accomodation, and sympathy are all possible, real, and work well.

I think it also within reason that these games try to allow that everyone gets an opportunity to make others happy.  A gathering instead of a hosted event, maybe even a potluck.  I've never tried a GMless game but I can understand the principle.  Every game is like some sort of inside joke that only the participants understand, the mechanics of that are secondary.
 

-E.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • ?
  • Posts: 1198
    • View Profile
On sympathy
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2007, 09:10:40 AM »
Quote from: JimBobOz
I think we game together in groups because we have sympathy for one another. I mean "sympathy" in its old sense, of sharing all emotions, not just feeling sorry for someone.


I think you're right in the general sense, but maybe not in the specifics (or maybe not for all theorists).

My take on GNS is that it speaks to people with very narrow needs and low tolerances: people who might *not* be able to compromise and still find the game enjoyable.

If my preferences were full of "deal-breakers" (e.g. conditions I absolutely could not tolerate, even in moderation), then the only option available for me would be to game with highly-aligned, like-minded people...

And preferably, to play a game that mechanically firewalls off game-conditions I can't stand.

In other words, the GNS solution.

I think the GM-bit, however, is more specifically about authority, teamwork, and power-struggle (in other words, I'm taking GNS at face value).

A lot of people get into roleplaying during adolescence, when most people don't know how to be a leader or on a team. It's no surprise that the result is traumatic dysfunction for some... but I think a theory based around addressing an adolescent mind-set and maturity level (e.g. GNS) is a poor approach to the problem.

Anyway, interesting stuff.

Cheers,
-E.
 

David R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • D
  • Posts: 6874
    • View Profile
On sympathy
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2007, 12:36:52 PM »
Quote from: JimBobOz

The theories then go on to say that the best thing you can do is to categorise what people want, so that people with the same wants can find each-other, and game together, and then no more troublesome compromise will be necessary.


I've not read much theory in any great detail, but if this is the gist of it - then I agree with it. There is not a lot of compromising going on in most functional groups IME. They all have the same wants and needs and they all have fun from the playing the kind of games they are all interested in. Sure there are situations where members may not agree but on the whole what holds them together is common interest...and friendship* I suppose.

As for GM-less play - The way how I see it, not all rpgs need to be the same. Some games offer a different experience. Whether or not theories have an implicit/explicit goal to elimante the role of the GM for the reasons you mentioned...I have no idea. It sounds plausible but like I said I have not read much theory and what I can say is that I enjoy different kinds of games and different kinds of play experiences.

*I only game with friends and the groups I've observed who are friends, seem to handle the problems which crop up every so often better than, groups comprised of folks who travel between groups - breaking and reforming ...the groups longevity depending on how long it's members can sustain common interest.

Regards,
David R

Settembrini

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6796
    • View Profile
On sympathy
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2007, 12:55:22 PM »
Actually it´s in GNS. It´s poo-poo´d and attributed to be a "SIM" technique, that leads to railraoding.
If there can't be a TPK against the will of the players it's not an RPG.- Pierce Inverarity