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Author Topic: get your own humanity, this one's mine  (Read 6770 times)
apparition13
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« on: March 17, 2005, 10:27:44 PM »

I'd been having a little trouble wrapping my head around "humanity" until, while re-reading Sorcerer yesterday, I realized it functions alot like POW in BRP.  I think the value-neutral nature of POW as a word is what cleared the mist for me;  no more struggling with "but that's not what humanity means".

So given my recent revelation, I've been poking around the concept and had an idea/question.  Has anyone tried not defining humanity for a setting?  In other words, having the players define humanity for their character.  One character could define it as true love, how far are you willing to go (see Season 2 finale for Buffy).  Another as respect and status.  See Leaving Las Vegas for what  can happen when you hit zero humanity.    So you end up with as many definitions of humanity as you have players.  An  Unknown Armies conversion would be a natural for this style of doing humanity.

Thoughts?
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apparition13
WiredNavi
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2005, 01:25:25 AM »

Sounds like what you'd end up with is a bunch of people defining their Humanity in individual ways, but all of them adding up to a single definition for the game.  If there's a reason for you to choose a Humanity definition for your character, it's probably because it's something that makes them who they are, or is the most important thing for them to have.

So you can have a game where Alice's Humanity is essentially 'free will', Bob's Humanity is 'empathy with others', and Carl's Humanity is 'sanity', but the real definition of Humanity for that game (whether you explicity say it or not) is 'self-identity'.  In all those cases, if those characters lose all their Humanity, each one will end up losing their self-identity in a particular way appropriate to their characters.
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Dave R.

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Judd
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2005, 02:03:17 AM »

I would think the way this would play out is everyone in the game would be chasing their own definition of Humanity and the game would be somehow disjointed.

I have never done this kind of thing but that is my instinct on the matter.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2005, 07:13:13 AM »

I'm with Judd on this one. If they don't have the same Humanity, why are they in same story? Humanity is what holds it all together.

Plus, after you've figured out Humanity, you must define the demons in opposition to it. Does that mean you've now got three entirely different kinds of demons? Even less reason for them to be in the same story.

You brought up season two Buffy. ALL the characters are dealing with love: what to do with it, how to get, how to break it, how to make it last, how to live without it. THAT's why Buffy rocks. Because everyone is on the same thematic page.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2005, 08:13:33 AM »

Hello,

I know we've discussed this in detail before, but I couldn't find a specific thread. For now, here are some discussions which at least touch upon the issue, or do if you keep it in mind when reading them:

Defining Humanity through play
Internal states and Humanity
Sorcerer Humanity loss and gain
Humanity as moral gauge? (a fine example of the initial poster suckering us in with a question mark and refusing to understand the points)
Why should the Narrativist Premise be pre-set in Sorcerer?
Humanity and audience sympathy

Best,
Ron
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apparition13
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« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2005, 12:47:30 PM »

When I first had this thought, what popped into my mind was a scene from City Slickers where Billy Crystal's character asks Curly (Jack Palance) (paraphrasing here, I couldn't find the quote on IMDB) what the meaning of life is.  As I recall, Curly holds up a finger and says one thing.  Crystal's character asks what he means, and Curly explains that the "one thing" is different for everyone, it's what gives meaning to your life.  In other words, it is what defines humanity (in sorcery terms) for you.  I kind of like the idea, so I wondered if it had been attempted.  I hope this clarifies my intent in a way my post when I really should have been asleep didn't.  

Quote from: Paka
I would think the way this would play out is everyone in the game would be chasing their own definition of Humanity and the game would be somehow disjointed.

Would I be incorrect in assuming humanity is roughly analagous to keys in TSoY and spiritual attributes in TROS?  Different keys/SAs can coexist in those games, why not Sorcerer?

Quote from: Michael S. Miller

Plus, after you've figured out Humanity, you must define the demons in opposition to it. Does that mean you've now got three entirely different kinds of demons? Even less reason for them to be in the same story.

No and yes.  If by types of demons you  mean faeries, creatures from the million planes, CoC critters, delusions, christian devils, cyber-enhancements, artifacts of power etc. and infinitum, no.  If you mean defining demonic (in)humanity (POW(humanity) vs. power), then yes.  For example, in the  [& sword] Humanity in Moorcocks Stormbringer? thread Ron suggests that humanity in this setting is love.  I'd suggest that the demonic "humanity through the looking glass" version of this would be jealous love.  If humanity is a Confusionist duty to family;  individualism is one possible looking glass,   and so forth.  Each character would potentially have a different definition of humanity, and each's demons would be set up to subvert that definition.  It would probably make things more complex for the GM, but as long as the characters are all tied into the situation I don't see play as necessarily being disjointed.  It would simply challenge the players, characters and premise in different ways.

(Re:  Buffy rocking;  for me it's all about my attachment to the characters.  Theme is at most tangential.  I like Whedon's shows because I like his characters, not because of premise.  Guess what my CA bias is.)

P.S.  Is my formulation of demonic (in)humanity novel, or just explicitly stating what is implicit in defining demons in opposition to humanity?

P.P.S.  Thanks Ron, the discussions (and some the linked to) were very helpful.
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apparition13
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2005, 01:52:08 PM »

Hiya,

We have a couple of communication issues to overcome in this thread. I'm not sure if they can be surmounted.

"Characters" vs. "Theme" is nonsensical. Characters' actions and reactions are resolutions, in stories - and hence are themes. Primetime Adventures states this very well, that a given character is a personification of an issue, by definition.

It may be that you don't enjoy thinking about it like that, and prefer to imagine the character as a "person," but that doesn't change the basic accuracy of the statement.

That leads me to two possible conclusions: the worst one, in which you simply don't grasp stories well enough to participate in this discussion (or in this forum, or in playing Sorcerer) at all; or the likely one, in which a very minor bit of mental kinking can get un-kinked to reveal that there's no issue here in the first place.

WORST CASE SCENARIO
Curly's "one thing" really is one thing - healthy connections to other people. It very much matters what "it" is; there are many examples in the movie of characters whose "one thing" is a bad thing. Interpreting Curly's "one thing" as relativism ("it doesn't matter what it is as long as it is there") is simply a mis-reading of the story.

In Sorcerer terms, saying "well, it's what Humanity means to me" extends that mis-reading into the social context of play and cannot result in anything except narcissism. Humanity checks and gain rolls are group-negotiated in a subtle way - the GM calls for them, but his authority to do so only resides in the group members' joint agreement with his judgment, over time. Your notion of "what it means to me" shrinks authority over Humanity to the single player - again, resulting in a non-social version of playing Sorcerer, which is thematically nonsensical.

THE MORE LIKELY SCENARIO
I suggest that your description of Confucionism/family with its variety of means of challenging it is agreeing with my point, not disagreeing. That leads me to think that you're mistaking ways to challenge Humanity for different versions of Humanity. That's the "un-kinking" I mentioned above.

Think of one very general term: call that Humanity. Then think of dozens and dozens of different ways for it (a) to be interpreted by a given individual and (b) for it to come under crisis - those are Characters.

So yes, you do see many diverse and fascinating characters, some of whom "disagree" with one another in all kiinds of ways. And yes, you can get all kinds of different themes out of what these characters do and what happens to them. No one has said that every Sorcerer character in a given game will yield exactly the same theme through play; in fact, I'd be stunned if they did.

But no, you are not seeing differing Humanity definitions in dealing with stories like this, with multiple and often contradictory protagonists and antagonists. You are seeing one Humanity, with multiple lenses (as you describe) being expressed as different characters and demons.

Best,
Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2005, 08:46:29 PM »

If I'm understanding this objection properly, does it mean that Sorcerer is incapable of exploring, say, an open-ended tranhusman type of theme like "What does it mean to be human?"  It seems to me that if you're trying to answer that question in an RPG you cannot answre it before play, otherwise there's no point in playing.  It's something that each player-character would have to work out for him or herself.

I'm getting the impression that Sorcerer assumes that "human nature" exists in a single and stable form (at least for the purposes of a single story), rather than leaving its existence open to question.

(I'm operating on the assumption that "What does it mean to be human" can actually be framed meaningfully.  Also, I haven't read "& Soul.")
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Judd
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2005, 08:51:00 PM »

Quote from: James_Nostack
If I'm understanding this objection properly, does it mean that Sorcerer is incapable of exploring, say, an open-ended tranhusman type of theme like "What does it mean to be human?"


Sorcerer explores those kinds of issues quite well.

I'm not convinced that setting a Humanity is necessarily setting the theme in stone.  As a matter of fact, I'd hope not.  Setting a theme would be the sign of a stagnant game, ag ame that didn't surprise us at the table.

Humanity is the foundation, the theme is the destination.  Theme happens during play, they are the issues that come up through player choices.  They are not set beforehand.

I am going to start a thread about theme in RPG Theory
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sirogit
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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2005, 09:08:12 PM »

TROS and TSOY ask "What is important to you? How important?" Different protagonists may be concerned with different things and still answer the same question, because what the game is dealing with is how people manage those priorities.

Sorcerer asks "Is (This) important to you?* How important?" if the protagonists have different (This)s, then they are not answering the same question, as in the above example.

* Another thing about Sorcerer is, if a character just says 'no' to this question, he's not really human. The second question is the one that matters, how does it arrive that someone would shrug off their Humanity?
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apparition13
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2005, 10:22:11 PM »

I was concerned that this might spin out.  Allow me to reformulate my question.  The Sorcerer's Soul, on page 16, has a nice little chart showing four (out of many) possible definition of humanity:  sanity, soul, mastery and empathy.  Let's assume you have four players.  You have an R-map they are tied into.  Each player selects one of the four definition of humanity and plays a sorcerer of that type. All I was asking was has this been done?  If yes, what were the results?  Did it work?  If it didn't, why not?  If it hasn't been done, what do you think of the idea?  Is it feasible?

The impression I get is no, it hasn't been done.  Sirogit wrote:
Quote

TROS and TSOY ask "What is important to you? How important?" Different protagonists may be concerned with different things and still answer the same question, because what the game is dealing with is how people manage those priorities.

Sorcerer asks "Is (This) important to you?* How important?" if the protagonists have different (This)s, then they are not answering the same question, as in the above example.

* Another thing about Sorcerer is, if a character just says 'no' to this question, he's not really human. The second question is the one that matters, how does it arrive that someone would shrug off their Humanity?

That answers my question.  "How much do you care" is not "do you care".  Different question entirely.  That tells me that while I could use the books to play a game with different definitions of humanity, it wouldn't be Sorcerer that I was playing.  Thanks Sirogit.
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apparition13
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2005, 05:40:14 AM »

Hello,

Another way to look at it is that the Spiritual Attributes in TROS are not the same as five little Humanities. They are all avenues of addressing the real Humanity question of the game, which is specifically, "Does killing de-humanize us?" Yes, even Luck, which is the very necessary amoral angle on the question.

I'm very interested in your response to my post - specifically the section titled "The more likely scenario." That is a major issue and not at all spinning-out.

Best,
Ron
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apparition13
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« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2005, 09:17:58 AM »

Ron Edwards wrote:
Quote

I'm very interested in your response to my post - specifically the section titled "The more likely scenario." That is a major issue and not at all spinning-out.


Not quite sure what you're getting at.  Please be specific, explicit and leave nothing between the lines:  I suck at hints. Okay, I don't like the way that sounded;  I'm not sure how to put that more diplomatically, though I'd certainly like to.   Also, if you wish to address this topic would this be the appropriate place or would another thread in another forum be more better?

Thanks,
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apparition13
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2005, 09:20:16 AM »

Hello,

Right up higher on this very page, is a post from me. It has two parts, after an introductory section. The second part is called, in big capital letters, "THE MORE LIKELY SCENARIO."

I am interested in your thoughts about the content of that section.

I also can't imagine being any more clear, either there or here (in reference to it). There are no hints involved.

Best,
Ron
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Andrew Norris
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Posts: 253


« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2005, 11:15:09 AM »

Hi,

Sorry to cut and paste from your posts, Ron, but I wanted to touch upon this:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
...Think of one very general term: call that Humanity. Then think of dozens and dozens of different ways for it (a) to be interpreted by a given individual and (b) for it to come under crisis - those are Characters...


I'm going to give an example from a currently running game in the hope that it will help.

I've got a Sorcerer game running with various characters. One's casting people aside left and right as he climbs up the academic ladder. Another is an overworked, underpaid bartender who's hiding from the world. Yet another is a failed athlete who's basically being used as hired muscle.

Those characters are headed in different directions, and they have different "deals" -- different stuff that's important to them. But you can look at all of them in terms of "How much are you willing to use others?"
The characters have very different specific issues, but they all offer answers to that question. A Humanity definition involving empathy for others ties these answers together thematically.

I hope this is helpful.
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