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Author Topic: Stance as Credibility Distribution  (Read 2820 times)
M. J. Young
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« on: May 19, 2005, 08:42:12 PM »

O.K., I'm actually sort of puzzling over something I wrote, and I thought I'd initiate some discussion on this to see if I'm off my rocker.

I took a long time coming to grips with stance, and I've read a lot of the threads on it over the years. Finally I thought I'd figured it out.

However, when I was writing Theory 101: System and the Shared Imagined Space for Places to Go, People to Be, I through what I think was (at least to me) a different slant on stance, mostly because I was trying to figure out where to fit the concept within the three-article framework I'd established for the series. I described it as forms of credibility distribution.

What intrigues me about this is we've had a lot of arguments about "director stance" being different in kind from the other stances because it's defined in two ways while they are defined in only one. I'd like to propose that stance is defined in terms of the limitations on the credibility of the player.

Director stance then is, the player with director stance can make credible statements about any object in the shared imagined space that is consistent with previously agreed understandings thereof. There might be additional limitations on this consistent with a specific game, but that's generally what director stance seems to be.

The player with pawn stance can make credible statements about his character only, with no additional limitations but that they be consistent with the agreed understandings of the shared imagined space (which caveat applies to all stances, and will be assumed on the remaining ones).

The player with actor stance can make credible statements about his character only which are only credible if based completely on the knowledge and motivations established for the character.

The player with author stance can make credible statements about his character only, which are credible as long as the player can provide a justification for the statements which is not contrary to established facts about the character.

I thus am suggesting that director stance is not the one that is "different" so much as it is the standard unlimited version to which all other stances have reference by means of further limitations. Director stance becomes the definition of "you can control anything"; the others are "you can control anything except those things outside these parameters".

I'm curious what anyone makes of this. Does this resolve the director stance difference so many have noted? Does it fit with your understandings of stance otherwise?

--M. J. Young
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2005, 05:03:36 AM »

You're implying that Pawn, Actor and Author stances are judged from the outside, rather than the inside?  That it's the other people around the table, and their judgment of what is credible, that determines what stance the player is in?

I just want to make sure I understand before I respond in depth.
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timfire
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2005, 05:37:17 AM »

The issue I have with this idea is that it seems to imply that a person's credibility changes from moment to moment. I mean, I can act in director stance one moment (my walks over to the dresser - which didn't previously exist), than switch to actor the next (but when my guy  finds a diary, he leaves it -- 'cause my character wouldn't do that). But isn't credibility something that remains more or less constant throughout the entire game? I mean, it seems funny that credibility might change back and forth so much.

Or am I misunderstanding what you are trying to say, MJ?
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2005, 05:58:26 AM »

Credibility is granted and withheld per assertion. Somebody says something - "I climb the wall" - and you're going, "do I buy it?" Credibility is enormously fluid.

Stances are obviously arrangements of who can credibly say what about what, just now. There's not really anything else they could be.

"Your character wouldn't know that!" is the cry of someone who doesn't buy it. It means "you aren't allowed to say that about that, just now!" "I walk over to the dresser [which didn't exist until I said this]" and everybody's nodding along, that's just "yes, you are allowed to say that about that, just now." Credibility granted.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2005, 07:08:45 AM »

Hello,

Two minor points about Stances that I hope everyone's retaining:

1. Stances are very, very fluid and shift rapidly, moment-to-moment during play. They are Ephemera, among other sorts of Ephemera. As a related issue, they are 100% consistent with the feeling and experience of "playing a character." [I use the latter phrase in the most general sense; this has nothing to do with player/GM distinctions.]

2. Everyone seems to fall into one of two (unnecessary) camps regarding which of two Stances is the odd one out among the three - Actor or Director.

Actor Stance differs from the other two because in-character knowledge and perspectives are treated as starting constraints. Some folks therefore go, "Oh, Director-Author go together, and this Actor stuff is weird and needs special explanations."

Director Stance differs from the other two because external-to-character objects/events are being moved relative to the character. Some folks therefore go, "Oh, Actor-Author go together, and this Director stuff is weird and needs special explanations."

I think it's crucial to understand there are two variables: in-character vs. out-of-character knowledge/perspective as starting constraint (yes or no); character motions/dialogue vs. objects/events external to the character. These are independent variables, and when you juxtapose them - which you have to do in order to "play a character" - then you have three Stances.

"Yes" for in-character knowledge/perspective as starting constraint + character motions/dialogue
= Actor Stance

"Yes" for in-character knowledge/perspective as starting constraint + objects/events external to (toward) the character
= not possible most of the time (although it does bring up the interesting issue of how to utilize time travel, and pre/post cognition in fiction - another thread, please)

"No" for in-character knowledge/perspective as starting constraint + character motions/dialogue
= Author Stance

"No" for in-character knowledge/perspective as starting constraint + objects/events external to (toward) the character
= Director Stance

I hope this is a useful post for folks who are still figuring out what I'm on about, and also a good review for purposes of the thread.

Regarding credibility, I'm with Vincent - as I see it, nothing about Stance is possible without credibility already in action. H'm, side point, perhaps - I'd say the same thing about all Ephemera, unless we want to classify argumentation about credibility as an ephemeral feature ... geez, another possible thread topic, as well.

Best,
Ron
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2005, 08:01:09 AM »

Here are my thoughts on credibility and stances.  I might just be restating MJ's point.  I'm not sure.

I see credibility as the limiting factor on which stances are available to a player during a game.  Yes, credibility can/does change (sometimes) during the course of play but at any given instance a player's credibility is informative of what stances he may or may not adopt.  Not only that, I see the stances organized as boxes within boxes like so:

[[[Actor] Author] Director]

If I have the credibility to adopt any stance I also have the credibility to adopt any stances that reside within it.  At least, I can't think of any case in which I have the credibility to adopt Director Stance where I wouldn't also have the credibility to assume the other two also, if it were my choice.  Maybe someone else can think of such an instance but if so it is outside my play experience to this point.

End rambling...
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timfire
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« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2005, 08:30:11 AM »

Quote from: Gaerik
I see credibility as the limiting factor on which stances are available to a player during a game.  Yes, credibility can/does change (sometimes) during the course of play but at any given instance a player's credibility is informative of what stances he may or may not adopt.

I really like this idea. There's obviously some sort of relationship between credibility and stance, but as Ron stated, stance is an aspect of Ephemera, while credibility is a Social Contract issue (right?).
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2005, 08:40:32 AM »

Andrew, I see many situations where a player would have the credibility to support Director stance, but not Author or Actor.  For instance, the GM in many games has unquestioned credibility for Director stance, but no credibility to take Actor or Author stance relative to the characters being played primarily by other players.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2005, 09:06:43 AM »

Tony,

You're assuming that credibility is related to a specific character.  I'm not.  The GM in those traditional games you are talking about has credibility to adopt Director stance one moment to set the stage/scene then he can go to Author stance with some NPCs and perhaps even drop down into Actor stance with those NPCs.  The only limitation is that the GM can't grab another player's character without permission.  I've seen games where that wasn't even a hard limitation.  In those games (lots of them) the player doesn't have credibility to go to Director Stance at all and is limited to Author and Actor stance and even those are limited by the rules to their specific characters.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2005, 09:13:30 AM »

I've been thinking about it some more and while I can't think of any games I've read that give a player the ability to adopt Director Stance but not drop into the other stances, I think that might be more a matter of convention rather than some sort of "natural order of things".  I could concieve of a game where a specific player was assigned the task of Directing the setting like some sort of human Sim City but wasn't allowed to actually drop into a specific character and adopt Author or Actor Stances at all.  I've never seen this game but I can imagine it.  I would find the director's job in that game very boring but perhaps some people would enjoy it.
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John Kim
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« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2005, 10:15:49 AM »

Quote from: Gaerik
I could concieve of a game where a specific player was assigned the task of Directing the setting like some sort of human Sim City but wasn't allowed to actually drop into a specific character and adopt Author or Actor Stances at all.  I've never seen this game but I can imagine it.  I would find the director's job in that game very boring but perhaps some people would enjoy it.

Actually, this is often the job of an out-of-character LARP organizer.  She can make all sorts of rulings and/or announcements about events that happen, but she can't control any of the characters.  

It was certainly a bit jarring to me the first larp that I wasn't actively playing in.  Everyone split up, and suddenly I realized that I had no control over what was going on.  I mean, I could potentially announce things to try to sway things -- but the game was mostly running fine on its own without my interference.
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- John
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2005, 10:22:02 AM »

John,

Ah, I've never LARPed so that wouldn't have occurred to me at all.  What did you do if you didn't control anything?  Sounds kinda... um... boring.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2005, 10:32:15 AM »

Quote from: Gaerik
You're assuming that credibility is related to a specific character.

Well, I'm assuming that stance is related to a specific character, yeah.  Is that what you meant?
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2005, 11:16:25 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Well, I'm assuming that stance is related to a specific character, yeah.  Is that what you meant?


Yes, I'm separating the ability/permission to assume a Stance from any specific character.  I was saying that the GM is allowed Director Stance and therefore could drop into Author or Actor Stance with the specific limitation on not doing so with the PCs.  Then I got to thinking that this was probably just the typical convention of how things are done and not neccessarily a property of credibility or the Stances themselves.  Then John piped up and gave an example (LARPs) that confirmed that suspicion... so now I think I have to modify my position.

I'm going to ponder the question some more.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2005, 01:10:35 PM »

Quote from: Gaerik
John,

Ah, I've never LARPed so that wouldn't have occurred to me at all.  What did you do if you didn't control anything?  Sounds kinda... um... boring.
Admins like that control "events", basic director stance stuff. For example, they can make it rain on your parade. Actually they usually do have control of NPCs as long as they can't appear. For example, they might say that in fifteen minutes the cops are going to arrive and the game is over.

In fact, this is the moderator role that's being discussed right now in the Mexican Standoff design thread.

Basically as long as the sentient beings that are being controlled are just part of the "world" meaning that they're environmental, this is, I think, Director Stance. Else I can start talking about anthropomorphosizing mountains, and claiming that it had a motive for making the landslide, and then Director Stance ceases to exist. I think the "character" in author, actor, et al. are in fact "character who I am associated with."

This makes most Universalis play all director stance, actually. Which I think fits.

Mike
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