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Author Topic: RP'ing and Acting  (Read 7733 times)
daMoose_Neo
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« on: September 13, 2004, 08:57:59 PM »

Hmmkay, maybe its late and my mind is working in an odd direction, but something just hit me reading Playing two games.

My first thought, reading the second post (specifically "Just one example, he knows everything that's going on. This means unlike players he get's no reward for uncovering mystery, or the thrill of finding out what a choice made will result in and many other things which are somewhat assisted by lack of knowledge.") was "Why not put everyone on the same page then?" which lead me to my acting experiances.

Since I've acted ALOT and write and RP a fair bit, I've come to link the two (three?) together quite a bit. As a writer I know a lot of what I want to write and often start with a bulleted list. From this list, I go about fleshing things out, sometimes jumping on entirely new trains of thought because of something unintentional that cropped up. Also, as an actor and director I've been involved in a LOT of performances. As an actor or director, I have to know the play inside and out, I have to know my castmates actions, reactions, their lines, my lines, their actions, my actions etc etc etc. And, aside from a satisfied audiance, my best reward has always been each production - I was in one show where it was a different event each night! (long stories).

Point (and idea) of post: is there a play style similar to what I mentioned, with a bulleted list or situation where the players already know 90% of the outcome? And if not, here's how I envision such a creature:
GM starts with a plot idea and general concept. (S)He then creates a bulleted list of events or "cue lines" that HAVE to occur. This list is then given over to the players ahead of time (a little bit at least) so they can mull it over and (possibly, depending on the game/group) interact with each other.
Then, come gaming night, break it all out! The players have to get from point A to point B reasonably (and possibly within certain time, though that can be imposing). Instead of "Mastering", the GM would then Direct, each player an Actor. Follow a general RP game system, but the nice thing is the GM is waiting less for the players to "figure it out" and more for them to "get there". Quite a bit of the fun would be seeing just how they got there.

Just a thought~ To me, this solves a GM/Narrator/Planner/Hosts burden of being the only one not in the dark. Actors know everything the Director knows story wise, this would be the same. With the players in on it, it could be quite interesting. Acting with dice.
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
Doug Ruff
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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2004, 09:56:52 PM »

Hi,

I've also done a fair bit of acting (but not any more, not enough time to do it justice.) I'd say there is some correlation between RP and improv theatre, less so between RP and 'staged' performances.

I don't own it, but from the posts I've read, I'd say there is a much higher correlation between Universalis and improv.

Back to your idea: it would be very rare for the players to know everything, but a more common occurence is for the players to know the ending.

There are also games which imply an ending - in Call of Cthulhu or (snicker) Paranoia, any player with a bit of experience knows that their characters are likely to be hosed from the beginning. Although this is a bum deal for the characters, it's often very liberating for the players.

Regards,

Doug
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2004, 03:16:12 AM »

I'd idley wondered about the GM writing scene after scene and some reasonably interesting way that it gets resolved. Fairly exact scripting.

He shows this to everyone and the goal is to avoid that scripting AND be more interesting.

Small conciet needed is that the group still should end up at the next scene via their actions.

Once the GM has given an ideal way of handling, the players are then freed from having to forfil that ideal (by certain pressures that can happen). What will happen next...who knows?
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pete_darby
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« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2004, 03:58:56 AM »

I think, in these terms, the best recent studies are My Life with Master and Primetime Adventures: MLwM because of the fairly well pre-established arc of the story, but both also have single roll to resolve a scene.

Where there's fortune-in-the-middle with scene resolution, you have the structure of a build to conflict, roll to determine ultimate outcome, and then further play to establish the details of the now determined outcome.

Also, there's notes in Sword and Sorceror for playing a Hero's life out of sequence, which is true to most literary traditions, especially in adventure fiction. We know the protagonists will almost certainly finish the story alive and able to function, and that adversity will have been overcome, but it's the details that matter.

But getting further into this, I'm drifting towards Ron's previous comments on the "problem" of being GM in a mystery game, as the example: the problem is one of authorship, in that the GM is the author of the mystery, and the players take the same role that a guest at a murder mystery party, using their characters as tools to interact with a fairly static puzzle.

If instead, as with Universalis, and to an extent PtA, Sorceror, Dust Devils etc just to pick a few, the authorship is distributed amongst the players, if we take the opposite tack to fixing a story for players to explore and express, and instead all take the PoV that the story is completely created during play by all players during play, then that becomes far more like improvisational acting.

But in both cases, either co-authoring or presenting information up front, everyone is acting in an information rich environment, whcih liberates creativity and performance, as opposed to the traditional GM's secret plot, which promotes an us vs them environment, and a much more "gamey" feel, as opposed to a "collaborative" feel. The gamey feel is great, but very different, and the assumptions of that approach get in the way of a collaborative approach.

Heh. Looks like it's time for me to give up my crown of resident drama queen...
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Pete Darby
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« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2004, 08:37:09 AM »

I've played in a LARP that was something akin to what you describe; the basic events of any given scene were predetermined; players basically determined the details and how exactly we moved from one plot point to another. The entire plot wasn't explicitly available to all players (each person generally knew what they had to do in a given scene), but the LARP was written fairly tightly to source material that most players knew.

It was an interesting experience, but I think that on the whole I prefer to have more input into the result of the game.
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2004, 10:55:28 AM »

Quote from: daMoose_Neo
Point (and idea) of post: is there a play style similar to what I mentioned, with a bulleted list or situation where the players already know 90% of the outcome? And if not, here's how I envision such a creature:
GM starts with a plot idea and general concept. (S)He then creates a bulleted list of events or "cue lines" that HAVE to occur. This list is then given over to the players ahead of time (a little bit at least) so they can mull it over and (possibly, depending on the game/group) interact with each other.
Then, come gaming night, break it all out! The players have to get from point A to point B reasonably (and possibly within certain time, though that can be imposing). Instead of "Mastering", the GM would then Direct, each player an Actor. Follow a general RP game system, but the nice thing is the GM is waiting less for the players to "figure it out" and more for them to "get there". Quite a bit of the fun would be seeing just how they got there.


Interesting.  This is similar to what i was thinking for my incredibly nebulous game idea for Trust and Betrayal.  Though with TaB the script was probably closer to 40% scripted, and was provided by the game text not the GM.  This would eliminate the need for a GM altogether and simply provide the play group with a prewritten script.

Now, i believe the idea has some merit, but i am not sure what kind of response you could get from putting such a game together.  Its primary disadvantage is that it is wildly alien to most role playing experiences that i am familiar with.  So i am not sure how many people would enjoy this mode of play, or even be willing to try it out.

Thomas
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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2004, 11:32:54 AM »

To me, theatre/acting proves something like that can work.
Why does a director enjoy directing?
Why does an actor enjoy acting?
Of course I'm looking more at community theatre than anything. But actors and directors know EVERYTHING thats going to happen, and yet we still have a blast and still want to do it over and over again.

The one play I was in was "The Butler Did it Singing", a funny piece by itself. This was also the show that was different every night. Three of us actors and the director had just come off another play (in fact we were doing practice for Butler same time as performances for the other), and one actress bailed on us halfway, ended up being replaced by the directors mother.
Come the night before opening, NO ONE knew their lines. And every show went off insanely well. I don't mind saying I had my share of flubs, but I managed to cover myself (and others) quite nicely ^_^ Also had some help from another actor, between us no one knew the difference!

CIP 1) Ended up demolishing the set one night (my character was a drunken priest- I was to run into a door. Doing so took out various other parts of the set and cause unusual chaos). The other actor (whose character was a 40's style PI) just picked up the one piece of modling and stood there like it was perfectly natural, which was hilarious by itself.

CIP 2) I'm supposed to sneak around onstage, in the dark, after the death scene of one of the characters (The actor flails about, hauls around a chair and dies on the sofa). While sneaking about, I'm supposed to hear someone and dive for the couch so it looks like I was sitting there the entire time. When that time comes one night, my foot clipped the chair (which wasn't where it was supposed to be), which knocks into a stand- all we hear is the shattering of glass as glasses and bottles on the stand fall to the ground. Lights came up as the other character came on set and RIGHT THEN one of the bottles that was wobbling fell over and started spilling its contents onto the floor! For the rest of the show that night conversation kept turning back to that and the mess (Thankfully we had a maid character, who came out and cleaned it up so no one was the wiser on that one either)

CIP 3) Two characters, ladies are supposed to be fighting: 1 is the widow of the guy killed, the other is a very attractive (re: HOT) James Bond wannabe. The widow assumes the wannabe is the woman her husband was having an affiar with and is the killer- trouble is the wannabe has long blonde hair, the other woman was a redhead. So, during the fight, the widow is screaming the other woman is wearing a wig...turns out, the actresses hair wasn't long enough for the role so we used a clip-on extension...and it came off. The director was actually in the cast that night, covering one guy who couldn't make it, and petrified for a split second, till I yelled out in a drunken stupor "She's usin hair extensions?!"

I remember those best cause I had a large part to play in them, but there were others ^_^ But something along that line is akin to what could happen (cept with a larger scale) - let the players do whatever they want/can do to get from point A to point B. System might end up generating a couple failures before getting there, but all of that can be woven into the story.
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2004, 12:49:53 PM »

Ah, but there is a very different feel for most role playing.  Why?  Audience.  With theater you have an audience that has a single role: watch.  In role playing you tend to have groups that are the "actors" and the audience.  This means that, assuming the script is fully known, there is no covering mistakes.  Everyone will know that you made one.  That does not mean that you can not have fun, but in my experience a significant amount of the enjoyment derived from acting comes from pleasing an unknown monolithic collective audience.  If it is just you and your friends, with no one watchin, things have a very different flavor.

Now, i am not saying that a role playing game system designed for set scripts would not work (hey, i want to design one myself), but then again i am not sure that they would work either.

Thomas
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Doug Ruff
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« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2004, 01:42:01 PM »

I agree that having a non-acting audience makes a big difference.

But what if people took turns to 'act' and 'watch'?

The 'watchers' could even have some sort of resource that allowed them to throw a spanner into the plot ('one of you must make a noise like a moose during this scene!') and the 'actors' have to find a way to pull this off without disrupting the overall polt or the 'flow' of the scene.

Regards,

Doug
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Doctor Xero
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« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2004, 02:20:44 PM »

Quote from: daMoose_Neo
Then, come gaming night, break it all out! The players have to get from point A to point B reasonably (and possibly within certain time, though that can be imposing). Instead of "Mastering", the GM would then Direct, each player an Actor. Follow a general RP game system, but the nice thing is the GM is waiting less for the players to "figure it out" and more for them to "get there". Quite a bit of the fun would be seeing just how they got there.

I've done something like this with my players before.

In most of the gaming groups in which I have been a game master, the players love to be surprised but hate to be railroaded.  They accept genre strictures, but use those strictures as shaping disciplines to enhance creativity (not unlike cadence/syllable strictures in haiku or topic strictures in impromptu theatre) rather than as railroading.  So their game masters have to be swift on their creative feet.

However, they also like to have certain events occur so that they can explore certain aspects of character.

One way I have managed to arrange for those certain events without railroading has been the sort of Point A to Point B to Point C plot-outlining of which you write.  As far as my players are concerned, it is not railroading if they are the ones running the train and setting the track!

Still, because they love to be surprised, there is some resistance.  So what I will usually do is have all-but-one player in on the plot-outlining and one player as the focus of their attention.  Since the player is the person who requested the certain event, he or she quickly figures out what is going on, but with no plot-outlining, he or she still gets to be surprised by all which occurs, and she or he also gets the flattering thrill of being the focus of everyone else's attentions!

Sometimes I will have half the players know the outlining but not the other half.  This not only provides surprise for half the players but an audience for the other half.

I have found this works out quite well.

Doctor Xero
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2004, 08:24:22 PM »

Now that is really interesting.  A game in which all but one player act as GMs?  There could be some really interesting potential ideas there...  (Quick side note: has this been done before?).

I also like Doug's suggestion of a rotating audience/actor structure, but that would probably require some minimum size group for critical mass.

Thomas
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pete_darby
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2004, 01:44:26 AM »

Well, I have one point of data, and that is that I have quite bad short sight, and usually act without my glasses (I've never worn contacts).

Once the lights are up on me and down on the audience, it's rare that I acknowledge the audience at all... frankly, they're a bit of an irrelevance to the performance. I literally cannot see them.This was especially true where I was playing in the round with the audience less than a foot away at times (in stage performance, you have to keep the audience on that fourth wall in mind if only to keep you acting in the right direction).

So I don't treat acting as a performance for an audience, but for my own satisfaction and that of my fellow players and, especially, the director (he's the guy you gotta please!).

So maybe my approach to acting is more like my approach to RP'ing than others, I dunno. But the idea of performing to the rest of the players is common to both in my experience. It may just be me though.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2004, 08:54:30 AM »

Hello,

I'd like to distinguish between role-playing and acting, very distinctly.

Role-playing, to me, includes any form of communication which contributes to our shared imagination of the fictional events going on. (Note: several people watching the same movie does not count; there is no sharing of our imaginations.)

Acting, to me, means depicting a character in terms of voice, in-character content, and body movements.

Therefore role-playing may include acting, to whatever degree is enjoyable by the participants and which serves the communication at hand. However, acting in and of itself does not constitute role-playing. (Note: I'm using "role-playing" in its historical sense to refer to this hobby, and I consider its literal meaning of "playing a role" to be irrelevant and inaccurate.)

Bluntly, beyond a very minimal amount, I find acting per se to be boring and aggravating, during role-playing. I often use my voice dramatically when role-playing, but never in direct depiction of the speaker's actual voice (I don't pitch it high for female characters, for instance). The actual acceptable minimum varies by person; Dav Harnish is much better at the "voice" thing than most people, especially knowing when it would enhance our role-playing, for instance.

This is one reason I'm not especially interested in many convention role-playing events, because all too often they are merely exercises in histrionics by the so-called "good role-players," which in my experience usually means people who relinquish their roles as shared-imagining authors and ramp up their acting based on the cues from their character sheets and the GM. To me, it's like being trapped in an evil Renaissance Faire or perhaps some director's nightmare of the Audition Night in Hell.

For whatever it's worth, and because apparently it seems to be important to state this in this thread, I too have an extensive background in theater.

Best,
Ron
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Doctor Xero
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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2004, 11:11:14 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Bluntly, beyond a very minimal amount, I find acting per se to be boring and aggravating, during role-playing.

*shrug* It depends upon what the group is interested in.  I begin to suspect that you and I would not enjoy each other as game masters nor as players, Ron, to which I say: Vive la différence!

As a Los Angeleno, I have almost always gamed with individuals who have extensive performance backgrounds -- theatre (particularly impromptu theatre), film, television, stand-up comedy, poetry slams -- but who lack the inclination, talent, or tolerance for fiscal deprivation necessary to pursue careers in these fields.  Still, we all have shared the love of acting: the performance, the thoughts involved in constructing coherent characterizations, the interactive aspects particularly of impromptu theatre.  One of the many joys we find in roleplaying gaming is the opportunity to experience again this love.

In such cases, the game master often functions as the notional / imaginational equivalent of set designer, prop manager, and walk-on parts casting agent.  (Players usually supply not only actors but sound FX and SPFX!)

I wonder whether roleplayers who love acting (but not set design nor prop management) might be more attracted to simulationism than to narrativism or gamism . . .

Doctor Xero
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pete_darby
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« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2004, 12:23:40 PM »

Well Doc, that seems to be leading into why people act, rather than why they role play, which may be interesting, but not for here...

I'm of a mind with Ron, mostly. If you want to act, there are plenty of outlets for it. Similarly if you want to write, or play (non-rp) games there's plenty of opportunities, but RPG's are a particular set of activities that share some qualities with those pasttimes, but are to my mind a poor substitute for them if that's what you'd rather do.

As with Ron's tough questions at the end of each essay, where the Nar player should ask themselves whether they'd be happier writing fiction, or the Gam player playing more traditional games, the actor in an RPG who is using RPG's as a substitute for "proper acting" is doing no-one any favours.

But to try to wrench this back to something more constructive, I'll try to make the point I failed to make earlier: performance for the benefit of the group of performers isn't peculiar entirely to RPG'ers. Like a band that regularly jams, or a decent night in a Dublin musicians pub (and thank you, my memories of that night are pleasantly vague), or a good drama workshop, the joy of spontaneous collaborative creation for the pleasure of the collaborators is one that is available in other forms, and we shouldn't get hung up on "there is no audience" too much... unless we're trying to apply some audience centred dramatic theory to RPG's. Which, to do my best Egon Spengler impersonation, "would be bad."
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Pete Darby
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