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Author Topic: Sex & Sorcery: Rereading it.  (Read 12239 times)
matthijs
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« on: April 10, 2006, 09:39:29 AM »

I'm re-reading S&S these days, and am surprised at how some of the things I found strangely irrelevant or academically stilted the first time, now read as practical and inspirational. The section on male & female types of story, in particular, is giving me lots to work on in a current PTA campaign, where one of the heroines has - so far - had an undefined, vague issue, which I think we'll be able to nail much more concretely with the male/female story framework to work from.

Why is it easier on this reading? Well, for one thing, I've been exposed to a lot of Forge thought since my first reading. For another, I know Ron's background better, and understand his focus on biology/reproductive cycles in narrative.

But yeah, definitely a case of "oh, Ron already said that years ago".
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jburneko
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2006, 10:55:25 AM »

I've had this experience about two dozen times across all the Sorcerer books.  Frankly those of us who bitch about what's missing from the Sorcerer books are wrong.  It's all there.  What's not there are big red brackets that say, "Warning, the following may not meet your expectations, please read carefully," followed by "If the preceding didn't make sense, here's the assumption you need to ditch before continuing."

My most recent discover was that the whole "Demons do not exist" thing that tends to blow people's mind is right there in the introduction.  It's all that verbiage about "what we know about the occult is wrong" and all the talk about "Demons come from Outside."

Jesse
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Eric J-D
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2006, 12:00:00 PM »

This is just a bit of speculation, but I wonder if stuff in the Sorcerer books sometimes gets missed because some readers approach them the way they might approach much larger (and I mean page count here) traditional roleplaying games.  You know what I mean, I'm sure.  Confronted with a massive core rulebook (take your pick), I suspect that more people than just me skip over stuff,especially when it looks like standard introductory material or simple flavor text.

The Sorcerer books (and I think this goes for the rest of the games produced at the Forge) are simply too compact and dense with material for the reader to use this approach.

Now, I don't know if this is true or not, but I think it might be another reason--other than the excellent reason Jesse gave--why some things only become apparent on a second or third reading.

Cheers,

Eric
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2006, 01:26:20 PM »

I'm interested, Matthjis ... which specific points were more interesting or clear to you, this time?

I've often observed that Sorcerer & Sword can be a worthwhile read without playing Sorcerer first ... but not as worthwhile as for those who've played. The Sorcerer's Soul is more so, meaning that there are some points or sections that seem generally useful, and a lot which seem like fairly abstract or maybe-someday or "why would I bother" points ... if you haven't played. If you have, then they hit like sledgehammers.

Sex & Sorcery is even more so. Absolutely consistently, it's the people who've never played who only make it through the first chapter and find the rest to be speculative babble. People who've played, especially if they've tried the stuff in the first two supplements, are the ones who see that the material is all practical and specific.

Best, Ron
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matthijs
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2006, 12:00:16 AM »

[Something went wrong first time I posted this, this is the edited version].

Background: I haven't played Sorcerer properly. After what Ron just said, I think that may be a major reason why a lot of the stuff didn't seem immediately relevant. I tried a one-shot some years ago with the intro scenario in the main book, and... it sucked. It was my first Forge game, and there were tons of things I just hadn't learned yet.

Here's a short list of what I did/didn't get the first (and second) time:

CHAPTER 1.

Role-playing is about people at the table: Got this the first time.

Veils/lines: First time.

An appalling diagram: I tried reading this several times first time, but just couldn't understand what it was all about.
I get it more now, but still not quite, and I have this gut reaction (having seen tooooo many 90's "dark" RPGs about sex and death and madness): Aren't there other areas of transgression? It seems like such a cliché that sorcerers always go one of these three ways (possibly in combination) to get enlightenment. But then, I can't think of any others.
Also: Is this meant to be a practical tip for gaming? It seems more like a description of different categories of emergent behavior.

CHAPTER 2.

Plural humanity: Got it (I think).

Two story types: Here, there's a huge blind spot somewhere. How do I apply this in practice? Talk with the players on beforehand and go "do you want a male or female story? what areas do we emphasize/de-emphasize? what do you affirm/deny?" If so, isn't that imposing a semi-arbitrary structure on the game before play even starts? Or is it a tool for analyzing what will probably fit in with a specific character's story? This is what I've done with it so far.

CHAPTER 3.

In Utero: Haven't played it. Some of the notes are intriguing, particularly the ones that say how players make revealing choices, claiming it's all because of the character. (I'm seeing this A LOT in Dogs in the Vineyard, and it's a problem).

CHAPTER 4

The story: I read it the first time, haven't read it a second time. I remember being surprised: Isn't Ron all against fiction in gaming products? It's an illustration of the male story type, with thoughts on how to use it as situation & setting (including humanity definitions).
Martial arts rules: I have no idea what these are doing here at all.

CHAPTER 5

The combination of male & female story types came as a surprise both the first and the second time. Reading chapter 2, I somehow got the impression that it had to be either one or the other; here it's both, in the weirdest transgressive setting. On first reading, I wasn't sure how this all fit into the book; on second reading, I see that it's another illustration of the concepts in chapter 2.

CHAPTER 6

Azk'Arn revisited: Got it, get it. (I think ;)

Actual play - basic techniques: Like bangs, the crosses, weavings, openings and bobs are making a lot more sense now that I've actually used them in several games. On the first reading, they sounded cool, but I didn't know how to apply them. Now, I'm like "oh, I'm doing that at some points already - I think I should do that more, and at these specific points". It's good for refining and expanding techniques/knowledge, not for first learning.

Dice diagrams: On both readings, I kind of get it - but not why it's such a big deal. This is 99% probably because I haven't played Sorcerer.

Player-Gender Rules: One of the big "WOW" moments in the book, as far as I'm concerned. I still want to do something like this. Perhaps as part of another game, set up specifically for the purpose of testing out PGR's.

THINGS THAT CONFUSED MY READING

1. Gamer baggage. I'm used to this reading: "Setting filler, skip. Stories, skip. Intro's, skip. Look for concepts." Here, however, the stories and setting examples illustrate (sometimes embed/integrate) the concepts...
2. ...while the intro's contain information on how to read the chapters. I want more neon signs saying "THIS chapter is here for THIS SPECIFIC purpose." They can be posted several times in each chapter; there's lots of new and unusual stuff, and over-communication wouldn't be so bad.
3. The swimming pool metaphor. Even though it's explained several times as being about real people/fiction, I still read it as being about easy stuff/ground-breakingly weird stuff. Preconceptions on my part, hard to break.

So a lot of the misreadings are simply because of baggage and preconceptions. No matter how many times anyone says "this isn't a regular role-playing book, so don't approach it as such", it DOESN'T HELP, because all books say that, and they mostly lie. In addition, some of the ways of thinking are abstract & alien (if you're already used to other games), so even if you try to get into the right frame of mind, it's hard to make it gel.

If I could wish for one thing in RPGs, it's that Ron got together with someone else and re-wrote the entire Sorcerer line in a more pedagogical manner. More spoon-feeding, more examples, more "This section is for learning these and these skills". Right now, Sex & Sorcery is probably something you will properly understand only after running a Sorcerer campaign (or two); which is too bad, because it feels like a lot of it would be good to know the first time you ran Sorcerer.

But then... who cares what I want from the books, when I haven't even played the game right? I should just run a Sorcerer campaign. Like, right NOW.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2006, 12:02:48 AM by matthijs » Logged

Eric J-D
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2006, 04:08:48 AM »

Quote
1. Gamer baggage. I'm used to this reading: "Setting filler, skip. Stories, skip. Intro's, skip. Look for concepts." Here, however, the stories and setting examples illustrate (sometimes embed/integrate) the concepts...
2. ...while the intro's contain information on how to read the chapters. I want more neon signs saying "THIS chapter is here for THIS SPECIFIC purpose." They can be posted several times in each chapter; there's lots of new and unusual stuff, and over-communication wouldn't be so bad.

Ahhh, sweet confirmation.  Your number 1 confirms what I said about people approaching the books as though they were your standard, padded-out/bloated roleplaying books, while your number 2 hits on exactly what Jesse described in his post.

You're absolutely right though that you should just play at this point.  Your desire to have all this stuff mastered and down cold is admirable, but since much of what the books provide are not rules or extensions of the rules but techniques they will only really begin to communicate to you through actual play.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that you need to trust yourself, try a few things out at a time (don't feel the need to put all of the stuff in the book in play at one time), post your reflections on play over in Actual Play and get some affirmation and clarification from other folks, wash, rinse, repeat.

Unlike rules (which you are easily memorizable) techniques such as you find in the Sorcerer supplements take practice and require time to fully grasp.  Don't sweat it, though.  It sounds to me like you'll have a great game. 

Let us know how it goes.

Cheers,

Eric
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Peter Nordstrand
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2006, 05:00:13 AM »

[Something went wrong first time I posted this, this is the edited version].An appalling diagram: I tried reading this several times first time, but just couldn't understand what it was all about.
I get it more now, but still not quite, and I have this gut reaction (having seen tooooo many 90's "dark" RPGs about sex and death and madness): Aren't there other areas of transgression? It seems like such a cliché that sorcerers always go one of these three ways (possibly in combination) to get enlightenment. But then, I can't think of any others.
Also: Is this meant to be a practical tip for gaming? It seems more like a description of different categories of emergent behavior.

In the Sorcerer game I am currently running it soon became apparent that each player' had a created a character that was a perfect match to the appaling diagram. Without me ever showing them the diagram. When they finally saw it, their jaws dropped. After that, talking about, and imagining acts of sorcery was a piece of cake.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2006, 08:08:09 AM »

Hello,

Matthjis, I hope it's OK for me to go through this point by point. It might be interesting as one of those author-meets-reader moments, although usually, such moments are unmitigated disasters. Let's find out.

Quote
CHAPTER 1.

Role-playing is about people at the table: Got this the first time.

Veils/lines: First time.

Everyone gets the lines/veils thing because it's easy and directly arises from any and all real play. However, I'm not sure they really get the first point - "about the people at the table." It's an easy thing to agree with but not an easy thing to process regarding one's own experience.

Quote
An appalling diagram: I tried reading this several times first time, but just couldn't understand what it was all about.
I get it more now, but still not quite, and I have this gut reaction (having seen tooooo many 90's "dark" RPGs about sex and death and madness): Aren't there other areas of transgression? It seems like such a cliché that sorcerers always go one of these three ways (possibly in combination) to get enlightenment. But then, I can't think of any others.

The diagram is specific to the setting, look & feel, and issues that's presented in Chapter 7 of the core book. I say that right up front in Sex & Sorcery. At no point do I claim that this is the be-all and end-all for sorcery, Humanity, transgression, or whatever. It was specific to a particular game, using particular influences.

Quote
Also: Is this meant to be a practical tip for gaming? It seems more like a description of different categories of emergent behavior.

That makes me laugh out loud. What is role-playing except emergent behavior, both real and fictional?

This is definitely a must-play-it point, because the question being answered is, how can one know when to roll regarding Humanity during play? For that particular game, the diagram made it very easy. A given character's action could be mapped on there very easily, and I wouldn't be distracted by other actions or stuff that on the face of it seemed "bad," but upon reflection was transcendent rather than immoral.

Also, it's important to see that a variety of different acts, and in fact, a non-linear spectrum of them, are involved in the issue of Humanity for that game. Humanity is not like a numbers line with extreme stuff at either end.

Quote
CHAPTER 2.

Plural humanity: Got it (I think).

Mayyyybe. Check out the above point - unless you're comfortable rolling for Humanity under one definition - which as I am groping toward saying, is not just a single track with a high and low end, like Humanity in Vampire - then doing it plurally is probably not on the map yet.

Quote
Two story types: Here, there's a huge blind spot somewhere. How do I apply this in practice? Talk with the players on beforehand and go "do you want a male or female story? what areas do we emphasize/de-emphasize? what do you affirm/deny?" If so, isn't that imposing a semi-arbitrary structure on the game before play even starts? Or is it a tool for analyzing what will probably fit in with a specific character's story? This is what I've done with it so far.

This raises a problem that I ran into just two days ago. Basically, the Sorcerer GM can drive in as much adverse content as he or she wishes, especially in taking a Kicker and making anything and everything about it the way you want. It's evil, and often well beyond what many role-players are ready for or, in some cases, want. It's not like PTA in which successful protagonism is nestled in the bosom of caring, sharing participants.

Unless you have that down, through the experience of play, and are good with the notion that I will not take care of you, then this story-type stuff remains bloodless and abstract. But if you're all about Mr. Adversity as GM, then these chapters provide massive, massive material for seizing it and incorporating it into play.

And ... to be clear ... the players have just as much to contribute in exactly the same way, if they wish, as the GM. So these chapters are for them too.

Quote
CHAPTER 3.

In Utero: Haven't played it. Some of the notes are intriguing, particularly the ones that say how players make revealing choices, claiming it's all because of the character. (I'm seeing this A LOT in Dogs in the Vineyard, and it's a problem).

Pay attention especially to the description of dice and actions toward the end of the chapter. It's crucial for learning how to handle the dice on the fly, and how to utilize the slightly more tricky techniques described in Chapter 5.

I'm interested in why this issue is a problem in your Dogs game. In my experience, it's an interesting artifact, but it doesn't actually create a problem during play.

Quote
CHAPTER 4

The story: I read it the first time, haven't read it a second time. I remember being surprised: Isn't Ron all against fiction in gaming products? It's an illustration of the male story type, with thoughts on how to use it as situation & setting (including humanity definitions).

I loathe two things, about game-text fiction.

1. Most of it isn't a story at all, but a snippet from a putative, non-existent story. Hence it doesn't have to be good, just pretend that what it allegedly comes from is good. The result is grotesque crap.

2. Most of it illustrates absolutely nothing about how to play or what is played, but rather what play is supposed to achieve. Not only is that pedagogically not useful, but in nearly all cases to date, it's a flat lie.

Examples of game texts with fiction that really is fiction (story), and really tells you about how to play: Orkworld, original Cyberpunk, Obsidian. Not a whole lot of others. You will find ample approval from me, about these three texts and their use of fiction, scattered around the internet.

"Ron hates fiction in game books" is one of those mindless phrases that people make up. I hate bad prose that isn't fiction, and I hate useless and mendacious text.

Quote
Martial arts rules: I have no idea what these are doing here at all.

I say so in the very first sentence: "I couldn't help it." Did you think that was supposed to be a funny or filler sentence? Nope, it's totally substantive, and should place that material properly in the context of the whole book, in two ways.

1. This is an aside. A break. An intermission. Let's enjoy the Color for a minute. Notice exactly where this bit is, in terms of overall chapter organization. That's why the female chapter was #3 and the male one was #4, at the price of breaking symmetry with their presentations in chapter 2.

2. This is what Color can do for you if you're paying attention - provide opportunities to utilize and extend the existing dice system of Sorcerer, without breaking or revising it, into nifty applications.

Quote
CHAPTER 5

The combination of male & female story types came as a surprise both the first and the second time. Reading chapter 2, I somehow got the impression that it had to be either one or the other; here it's both, in the weirdest transgressive setting. On first reading, I wasn't sure how this all fit into the book; on second reading, I see that it's another illustration of the concepts in chapter 2.


Either/or? Really? Even despite the qualifiers presented in pp. 24-25?

This might be a case of something I've seen hundreds of times ... reading or hearing qualifiers as "softeners" but not paying attention to their actual content. I get that a lot with Big Model and GNS talk - I include a crucial qualifier intended to hone and clarify the point, but it's read as a dodge against future argument or a rhetorical softener to distract potential rebuttal.

Sure, I don't say in big letters, These May Be Present in a Single Story, but that point is fully consistent with the qualifying principles that I do outline.

Quote
CHAPTER 6

Azk'Arn revisited: Got it, get it. (I think ;)

Castrated bug-samurai assassins! Sex on alien altars! I want to play using this setting again.

Quote
Actual play - basic techniques: Like bangs, the crosses, weavings, openings and bobs are making a lot more sense now that I've actually used them in several games. On the first reading, they sounded cool, but I didn't know how to apply them. Now, I'm like "oh, I'm doing that at some points already - I think I should do that more, and at these specific points". It's good for refining and expanding techniques/knowledge, not for first learning.

As far as I can tell, there is no "first learning" for what we do. Even hand-holding texts like Dogs require Vincent to pet people's heads when they stumble back from their first session, and to direct their attention to various passages again.

Quote
Dice diagrams: On both readings, I kind of get it - but not why it's such a big deal. This is 99% probably because I haven't played Sorcerer.

Check. Play & return.

Quote
Player-Gender Rules: One of the big "WOW" moments in the book, as far as I'm concerned. I still want to do something like this. Perhaps as part of another game, set up specifically for the purpose of testing out PGR's.

See, that's not a "wow" point. The big "wow" I'm trying to say is not, hey you can do this, but rather, hey, doing this isn't a big deal. The design for It Was a Mutual Decision has provoked absolutely no question, reaction, shock, or even acknowledgment from people who played it, upon hearing the first rule - all women in the group jointly play one character, all men in the group jointly play the other. Gender rule. Heavens don't fall. People react to it as a normal, useful, interesting, and relevant rule.

Go check out some of the threads that got going, here and at RPG.net, about this when I started talking about it. You'd think I was advocating starting a chain of baby-kitten omelette restaraunts.

Best, Ron
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matthijs
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2006, 11:01:20 PM »

Matthjis, I hope it's OK for me to go through this point by point. It might be interesting as one of those author-meets-reader moments, although usually, such moments are unmitigated disasters. Let's find out.

Yup. "But only if..." - we're both aware that I'm, at this point, a total Sorcerer-ignorant n00b. I don't want anyone to get the impression that what I posted above is meant as a book review & commentary - it's a description of my reading the book. (I've actually reviewed S&S before, but can't really stand for that review any more).

Quote
Quote
Also: Is this meant to be a practical tip for gaming? It seems more like a description of different categories of emergent behavior.

What is role-playing except emergent behavior, both real and fictional?

Of course, but you're missing my point, I think. There's a difference between saying "the ball will usually fall into one of these pockets", and "here's how you push the ball to make it fall where you want". In a gaming supplement, I'm looking for the second.

But then you say...:

Quote
the question being answered is, how can one know when to roll regarding Humanity during play?

...and I go, "oh, well, that makes perfect sense, then". But...

Quote
I wouldn't be distracted by other actions or stuff that on the face of it seemed "bad," but upon reflection was transcendent rather than immoral.

...gets me confused again. So you don't roll humanity for transcendent actions, only immoral ones? Or...?

Quote
Unless you have that down, through the experience of play, and are good with the notion that I will not take care of you, then this story-type stuff remains bloodless and abstract. But if you're all about Mr. Adversity as GM, then these chapters provide massive, massive material for seizing it and incorporating it into play.

Ah. Yes, I was approaching this with a PTA-ish mindset. I'm not good at "I will not take care of you", which really makes me want to try that direction.

Quote
Quote
players make revealing choices, claiming it's all because of the character. (I'm seeing this A LOT in Dogs in the Vineyard, and it's a problem).

I'm interested in why this issue is a problem in your Dogs game.

Sometimes, my Dogs players under pressure jump out of their characters' skin, treating them as puppets that follow rigid rules in order to avoid feeling personally responsible for what they make their characters do. Comments like "Well, we're only doing what people of that faith at that time would have done, it's not what we would do" make me feel they're missing a big part of the experience.

Quote
Quote
Martial arts rules: I have no idea what these are doing here at all.

I say so in the very first sentence: "I couldn't help it." Did you think that was supposed to be a funny or filler sentence?


Nope, but to me (who bought the book because it handles themes related to sex/gender in role-playing), it didn't justify the inclusion of martial arts rules.

Quote
This might be a case of something I've seen hundreds of times ... reading or hearing qualifiers as "softeners" but not paying attention to their actual content. I get that a lot with Big Model and GNS talk - I include a crucial qualifier intended to hone and clarify the point, but it's read as a dodge against future argument or a rhetorical softener to distract potential rebuttal.

I know what you mean, and over the last couple of years, I've become more familiar with your style of presenting an argument. You mean the stuff you write, and intend for (most of) it to be taken at face value. Still, readers can miss bits of information/instruction, as I've done throughout S&S; repeating key points throughout the text would have helped me grasp the concepts better.

Quote
As far as I can tell, there is no "first learning" for what we do.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that. Could you say more?

As a reader, I would have liked more examples of how to use weaves and when to apply a bob. It would have helped me understand how to use the techniques which were at that time unfamiliar (or unnamed). Wouldn't that be first learning?

So. Hope you don't find that too disastrous; I'm learning from this conversation, although I realize that I need to play Sorcerer before really getting it.
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matthijs
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2006, 01:03:50 AM »

Oh, one more question:

"I will not take care of you" - I read this as an approach to lines/boundaries, like "I will not abandon you", etc. Is that what you meant?
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2006, 08:10:12 AM »

A neat discussion. I've read Sex and Sorcery cover-to-cover at least twice with different passages triggering "eureka!" at different stages, and that's still without having playing Sorcerer itself.

About "male" and "female" story types in particular: I love this concept, I find it tremendously useful, and I am particularly excited by the fact that they are not mutually exclusive at all. In fact, in my experience they tend to nest inside each other. Action movies frame the "male" story inside a "female" one a lot, I'd argue.

(SPOILERS ahead).

You have a male protagonist who starts off or quickly becomes emotionally and sexually barren: Wolverine in the X-Men film is a psycho loner, the Bruce Willis character in Die Hard is separated from his wife, the hero in Face/Off has become estranged from his wife and daughter after the death of his son, the Van Damme character in Timecop (augh! I remember watching it! It burns my brain!) lost his wife. And then they connect with some cause or group of people, and do all the male-story-type stuff of "I have loyalties to X and Y, now I must choose to protect one and defy the other," and fight, fight, fight -- and killing people is just an inversion of the "procreate" function on that female-story-type progression table. And then, at the end, the hero's reward is some kind of sexual or emotional revival: Wolverine connects with Rogue in a big-brother/father way (that's your nurturing function) and with Jean Grey in sexually tense friendship (courting for him, loyalty to partner for her); Bruce Willis's cop reconnects with his wife; the Face/Off guy gets a surrogate son and reconnects with his family; the Timecop guy magically gets his wife restored to the timeline along with a son. (Oh, and in a lot of myths, pagan and otherwise, a deity's son is also a form of that deity, so having a son for a male protagonist is about personal rebirth as well as fatherhood).

Star Wars is especially interesting here, because while Han Solo and Leia end up moving from emotional sterility and isolation to being a couple, Luke Skywalker walks away from the sexual possibilities (and resolves things with his father), so he ends up gaining power by rejecting or inverting at least a couple of the female-story-type functions, which is a classically monastic way of gaining power.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2006, 09:42:50 AM »

Hello,

Sydney - "yes."

Matthjis, thanks for your PM. I think we can do well by remembering the "tequila" context for this forum (which does not match to Forge general forums!) and by stepping back to stay with the big points, rather than reducing the scale of each exchange.

PART ONE

Let's discuss the I Will Not Abandon You principle as described by Meg, in Fair Game. I don't think very many people really get it. Here's an illustrative example.

Person 1 is falling. Maybe he jumped, maybe Person 2 pushed him. He looks over to see Person 2 falling with him. Person 2 says, "I will not abandon you."

Does this mean Person 2 will make sure Person 1 will land softly? That they're not really falling, but flying? No, NO, a thousand times, No. It does not.

They'll hit the ground. It might hurt. This is a fall, make no mistake. Person 2 is saying, "I'm here too, and listening to you. What you feel, I will feel. Let's do it."

I am convinced that many people really aren't processing this. You think "I will not abandon you" has the hidden clause, "to keep you unhurt." This is not right. That would be "No one gets hurt." The two approaches are profoundly, terrifyingly incompatible.

I realize that for people with a difficult emotional history concerning role-playing, what I'm saying sounds psychotic - perhaps even vicious. It isn't, though. It's very much the same as recognizing that paintings can provide or prompt a wide range of reactions ... and to say, "Hey, I'm going to go look at this exhibit. I might cry. Can you come with me?" The other person cannot say, No one gets hurt. To do that, he or she would have to prevent you from looking at the exhibit - stop you, distract you, get the exhibit banned, burn it down, whatever.

Does that work, Matthjis? I'm excited to learn that you'd like to expand your role-playing into this approach. I hope I'm making it sound worthwhile rather than merely scary or mean.

Now, finally to get to what you were asking about, I hope you can see that Lines & Veils are not really the issue. They're very minor, simple concepts compared to the importance of IWNAY vs. NGH. Lines and Veils will play their role in either approach, for different reasons and in different ways, and without much need to process them once you know what they are.

Oh, and "I will not take care of you" is kind of a harsher way to say, "This is not NGH play."

PART TWO

Now let's talk about "first learning." I seem to be analogy-man today, so here it is ... OK, in hard-style martial arts, there's a technique which all movie fans will recognize. Imagine yourself facing someone with your right foot stepped back a bit. Put your hands up. Crouch a little, without bending over in any way. Now, you will turn to your right, spinning on your left foot, all the way around, 360 degrees.

If that doesn't sound odd enough, realize that your right foot, which used to be behind you, is now whipping out sideways in a horizontal arc at any height you like, and snapping back such that its heel has just contacted the target person, again, from side to side (your left to your right). You end up standing just the way you started. I can tell you from experience that you may have felt exactly nothing - yet the person you hit may have suffered phenomenal impact and injury. In (real) kickboxing, this is a knockout blow.

OK, stop here. I hope you can see why I and other instructors do not demonstrate this technique to beginning students. It frankly looks magical, or as if only some kind of amazing athlete could do it at all, much less in the dynamic context of striking a person who is watching you and resolutely does not want to be hit. It is not magic, nor is it a "trick," nor does it require any physique beyond basic martial arts development. But showing it to them beyond an occasional moment or two is counter-productive. It's demoralizing, and in most cases, just feeds the instructor's ego by impressing naive (and subordinate) onlookers.

Now let's say a beginning student walks up to someone they've seen do this, say at a demonstration or during a sparring match, and says, "Can you explain that to me?" This puts the senior in a difficult position. "No," is off-putting and dishonest. "Yes," will only provide an explanation beyond the junior's ability to process it ... it will sound like jargon or babble, or if not, then beyond him ("oh, only for the people who are good"). At worse, the junior will take the verbal explanation and then run off and try the technique, quite likely blowing out his knee - a permanent injury, in which case, the senior is responsible for crippling someone as surely as if he had kicked the junior's knee.

One responsible option is to see where the junior is, in his or her progress, and work on principles that will ultimately be useful in that particular technique. I might practice turning/spinning side kicks with them, for a bit, and call attention to them about, say, keeping the knees bent through the turn, so they don't stand way up halfway through. I might focus on turning on the ball of the front foot, preserving the integrity of the knee. Or I might make sure they are keeping their eyes on the target before and after the spin, losing it visually as briefly as possible. Then I can say, honestly and constructively, "Work on that, and the turning heel kick will turn out to be much, much easier. It really is easier than it looks."

So Matthjis, "No, I cannot explain Weaves and Crosses to you beyond what's in the text." You just have to learn to use Sorcerer dice in complex conflicts through practice - and I do mean practice, in the sense of repetition, feedback, reflection, and attempted improvement. You'll read the material in Sex & Sorcery, and say, "Hey! That'll work!" Any text that tried to walk you through it prior to that phase would be like the senior shepherding the junior through a spinning heel kick bit by bit, leaving him or her bewildered and possibly convinced they intrinsically can't do it.

You wrote,

Quote
I know what you mean, and over the last couple of years, I've become more familiar with your style of presenting an argument. You mean the stuff you write, and intend for (most of) it to be taken at face value. Still, readers can miss bits of information/instruction, as I've done throughout S&S; repeating key points throughout the text would have helped me grasp the concepts better.
...
As a reader, I would have liked more examples of how to use weaves and when to apply a bob. It would have helped me understand how to use the techniques which were at that time unfamiliar (or unnamed). Wouldn't that be first learning?

Well, maybe. Maybe. Or maybe you'd be blowing out your knee, right now. Sorcerer really is strong stuff. I learned my lession with relationship mapping in The Sorcerer's Soul, which I have seen (a) prompt amazing success in others' play and design, all the way to (b) lead groups to break up in a stew of recriminations.

PART THREE

This shouldn't be too bad ... regarding Humanity in the setting/play discussed in chapter 7 of the core book and chapter 1 of Sex & Sorcery, here's the answer to your quandary.

In that setting, many transcendent actions may look immoral. But the GM and everyone must remain sensitive to the idea that they may not be ... death (oneself or others) may be a route to justice, non-sane thinking may be a route to insight, etc. So one would only get Humanity checks for such actions that stay on the rim of the diagram, whether stuck in one place (like Cary in the example) or shifting from one place on the rim to another. A character can transgress/transcend without Humanity checks by moving inwards, which is to say, performing actions which turn out not to cause the harm and stuck-ness that people think must go with death, madness, and deviant sex.

Does that work? (It was a hell of a game ...)

PART FOUR

This part's about your comments about the Dogs game, and yes, I agree that it's related to the issue in Part One above.

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Sometimes, my Dogs players under pressure jump out of their characters' skin, treating them as puppets that follow rigid rules in order to avoid feeling personally responsible for what they make their characters do. Comments like "Well, we're only doing what people of that faith at that time would have done, it's not what we would do" make me feel they're missing a big part of the experience.

I see what you mean! This is different from merely "going with the moment" in play, which happens often in Sorcerer play-experience and which I encourage quite a bit. That's still Author Stance, usually, just not processed verbally.

Yeah, it sounds to me as if they're using some kind of weird verbal trick to avoid reflecting on their own contributions.

Matthjis, it was brave to dare the author's wrath in discussing your experience as a reader. I appreciate this discussion and your attention to it.

Best, Ron
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2006, 10:11:55 AM »

Arigato, sensei!

"I will not abandon you" seems to make more sense to me if I rephrase it as "stay with me": We're going someplace that may hurt you, or me, or both of us, but don't back out now, we're going to walk right through the valley of the shadow together. As opposed to, "whoops! We're in the valley of the shadow! Let's get the fuck out and get back to that nice sunny valley over there!" - which would be "nobody gets hurt."
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matthijs
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« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2006, 10:21:30 AM »

Ron, tequila, yep. For a moment, I forgot what forum I was in :) Thanks for following this up, and being patient!

"I will not abandon you": That's how I read it. What worries me is whether I'll be able to go through with it, as a GM. In previous games, I've experienced that when I see signs of discomfort from the players - I take a step back and loosen the pressure.

Actual play example: One player - my wife - had a character who'd gone through major problems. Twice she'd lost everything she owned. Her husband had died at sea; we hadn't established whether she killed him, or whether it was an accident. Now, she was captain of a ship, facing disobedience from the crew. The ocean grew still, and from the horizion, Draugen (an undead water spirit) approached. His half-boat stopped between the larger vessels and he screamed: Give me a life! (At this point, I'm repeating the phrase, screaming).

The character had a connection to Draugen, and I was expecting a moral quandary - would she point at anyone, or do nothing? But then the character jumped. She was ready to sacrifice herself. And I could see my wife had had enough, more than enough, of crap happening to her character.

So I stepped back. The character came back to the ship, later, and the crew bowed to her in newfound loyalty.


I think I may need an explicit agreement from my players that they will accept much harder pressure, and understanding that I'll be there with them. I've seen how other GMs (specifically, Tomas Mørkrid, local hero & games designer) push farther than I would have dared, and I've been pushed farther than I've tried to push others myself; so I know it can be done. Now, to do it. But carefully. I believe this approach, to work, requires the GM to know and perceive his players much more deeply/astutely than other modes of play. (I'm going to need this experience for further work on We All Had Names/I Am the Holocaust).

With respect to "first learning" - I definitely see what you mean; you have to learn to walk before you run, and you should learn to stand before you do a round kick. But you use strong words in likening the damage done by faulty weaves & crosses to blowing out your knee. (This isn't really where I want to go with this discussion - but I think that if you're going to include those techniques at all, you should describe them more fully.)

The transcendent/immoral quandary - I get a strong feeling that I'll know exactly what you mean after seeing it. I need to tie it to my own experience.

Dogs play - I'll take this further in the Dogs forum; it's high time.

I'm going to try a Sorcerer one-shot this Sunday. I'm pretty excited about it. One of the players have participated in an earlier campaign where we played ourselves crossing over to a realm of dreams; another has been in a hypnotic shared dream experiment. It's mostly been immersive play, with little or absolutely no adversity. I'm hoping to tap into the real world/fictional world crossover potential, while still providing strong personal adversity, which could make this very strong stuff.
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Meguey
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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2006, 10:46:31 AM »

Just stepping in for a second to say Ron (and Sydney) are -dead on- in their understanding of IWNAY as I ment it.
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