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Author Topic: Authorship Rule  (Read 12397 times)
Matthew Glover
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« on: April 17, 2006, 10:53:30 AM »

The authorship rule we use if any player narrates something about another player's spotlight character that's not external, the owning player can veto that part of the narration.

For example, if I win and resolve a conflict such as "Fred turns tail and runs", I could narrate "Fred shouts "you're own your own", gives his teammates the middle finger, and runs".  At this point if Fred is a spotlight character Fred's owner can veto the "you're own your own" and the middle finger.  He cannot veto the "and runs" part as that is part of the goal that was won.  Fred's player can tell me "don't narrate anything about Fred doing this voluntarily - far a I am concerned, he is under some kind of external influence."


Why would you want such a rule?

Its only value seems to be that it protects people from feeling that they really have to win a particular goal, or else bad things might happen.

EDIT:  Though I suppose it would encourage goals like "I force Fred to, of his own free will and due solely to outright cowardice, flee the battle."  So that could be a good thing.

I went ahead and split this to a new thread.  In addition to the question above, I wanted to ask: Did this rule get any use in the game discussed in the original thread?  What were the specific instances?
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2006, 11:50:33 AM »

Tony, people would want this rule when they're in serious "my guy" land, like me, and find mechanics that make their characters do things that they don't want them to do uncomfortable.

Tony, have you ever lost a Capes conflict that you felt you really HAD TO win?
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Zamiel
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2006, 01:48:50 AM »

Tony, people would want this rule when they're in serious "my guy" land, like me, and find mechanics that make their characters do things that they don't want them to do uncomfortable.

Except, of course, that Capes is explicitly designed not to really run in "serious 'my guy' land." In fact, doing so makes you a clear and obvious mark for folks who are looking to farm you for resources. You're guaranteed to bite on any Conflict that looks like it'll take even the slightest piece of backstory or character defining control out of your hands. Not only will you bite, but you'll bite hard. And that increases your investment, and directly contributes to your 'my guy' being in the center of the narrative a lot.

The whole point of the fact that mechanics exist that can make your character do things you don't want them to is not a bug of the Capes mechanical or social design, its a feature. Its an artifact of the architecture designed to evoke your investment in the narrative, and to give folks handles on bringing you in. In the absence of that capability, if your character is wholly yours to veto or acknowledge at your whim, you act to shut out others bringing you into play.

In short, the game you want as a result is pointedly not Capes. In fact, its no game with a strong enough narrative core that conflicts hinge on stake-setting, including Primetime Adventures.

Purely consensual narrative forming strips the soul out of the conflicts in a story. I've seen it enough in online freeform games and in other media which essentially devolve to round-robin writing exercises. The whole point of a conflict resolution system is for there to be conflicts to resolve. You've just stated you don't want any you don't OK, essentially removing the element of conflict at all.

Tony, have you ever lost a Capes conflict that you felt you really HAD TO win?

To pre-empt Tony a bit here, I'm sure he has. That's part and parcel of bringing passion to the table. If you don't invest enough care to feel you "have to" win something, you're not engaging enough to start staking the Debt to do so. And if you don't lose those Conflicts sometimes, you're missing out on some of the core of narrative: the protagonists fail.
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Sindyr
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2006, 07:25:56 AM »

Someone asked what my groups Authorship rule was and why we have it.

Capes seems to recognize that some players want a privileged relationship with certain characters they create.  That's why the book speaks of Spotlight characters.

The most common use of a Spotlight rule that I have seen is one that says "if the character is a Spotlight character, than only the creating player gets to 'play' him." - meaning, that only the creating player can use the abilities and resources (debt) associated with that character.

The Authorship rule takes that one step further and addresses the concept of ownership vis-a-vis Spotlight characters.

What the Authorship rule does is give the creating player full authority over that characters internal being.  The choices that that character makes, the feelings that that character has, the opinions and thoughts and states, the very nature of that character, is wholly and completely under the control of the creating player.  The creating player is said to have Authority over what that character does, says, chooses, etc.

There is only one simple exception.  A player's authority over his spotlight character ends where external influence begins.  So, where under normal circumstances, the creating player would have the right to veto any narration of what his Spotlight character says, if that character is currently under the influence of a mind control device wielded by a villain, that player therefor loses the right to veto other player's narrations of his character's speech. 

However, when not compromised by such an external force, these things remain vetoable.

So, if another player narrates my Spotlight character greedily pigging out at a banquet, I can veto that narration.  If I want my character to hold back from eating anything at all, and instead have him remain alert and suspicious, I can veto any narration that does not include this.

In play, how this seems to work is:
Fred: While everyone is eating this sumptuous feast, Capt Amazing is talking up the host, trying to score points.
Sindyr:  (interrupting) Actually my character Lucky Charm is hanging back and scoping everything out, not eating or engaging in conversation.
Fred: Fine, whatever.  Anyways, I going to roll my ability Charming on the Goal: The heroes impress the host.

So it becomes a fluid negotiation. Another example:
Fred: The heroes all run down the alley after the muggers.  I use Laser Beam on the goal: The Muggers get away.
Sindyr:  (blink)(thinks: Lucky Charm wasn't going to be chasing the muggers, but I will go with it - not a big enough deal to squander social capital with a veto - and I don't want them to think me inflexible - guess I will go along with it) Alright Fred, give her a roll.

Everyone in our game seems to like this rule and the respect it gives their authority over their spotlight characters.

I get the feeling that for a reason completely unknown to me, some of you find this idea controversial and heretical.  I don't know why.  In any case, this rule seems to work well for us, and we will continue to employ it.

If any of you have any question for me as the creator of this rule, feel free to ask.  Those of you who have no questions and just want to attack the idea or its maker are probably going to use the same invitation, so be it.

Anyways, hope this helps address the questions around this topic.
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-Sindyr
TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2006, 10:43:12 AM »

I get the feeling that for a reason completely unknown to me, some of you find this idea controversial and heretical.

No ... just strange.

Since Capes works perfectly well without this rule, and given what has already been said about the things you're sacrificing in order to have the rule, I think it's very natural for people to wonder what you get in return that's worth the price you pay.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2006, 11:53:33 AM »

So it becomes a fluid negotiation...

I'm all for fluid negotiation. But the incentive to negotiate is already there, in (a) social dynamics -- it's more fun if you engage everyone's creativity -- and (b) incentive economics -- you get more resources in the long term if you listen to and cater to the other players. And if you lock in a veto power this way, there's something you lose....

What the Authorship rule does is give the creating player full authority over that characters internal being.  The choices that that character makes, the feelings that that character has, the opinions and thoughts and states, the very nature of that character, is wholly and completely under the control of the creating player. ...

That sounds very safe. But is being safe really the point? That kind of control comes at the expense of, well, moments like the best roleplaying experiences I've had in ten years:

...in the last two sessions, I've had both my spotlight characters change at least in part against my will. I'd been steering Minerva for a descent into doomed villainy and self-destruction -- and then Tony threw a time-manipulator character at her who tried to steal that destiny, and won. Conversely, I'd been steering Kettridge towards becoming a solid, good guy, and Tony & Eric basically used the mechanics to say, "Really? 'Cause he still seems like a domineering jerk to us," in particular when (Tony? Eric? I forget) put out a Goal for Kettridge, "Tell his superiors the whole truth" -- which meant, by its very introduction into play, that Kettridge was lying by omission about something important, which hadn't been my intent at all -- followed in this most recent session by a flurry of goals like "Kettridge: convince Zak the destruction of his homeworld was for the greater good," "Zak: Prove Kettridge's actions are all part of a selfish conspiracy against the team," and "Kettridge: Convince himself he's telling the truth."

And in each of these cases, with each of these characters, I had a stomach-flipping moment of, "Wait! That's not what my character's like!" For some of the Kettridge conflicts, I actually went so far as to ask what the rules for vetoing the introduction of a conflict were (we never use them). But, in each case, I came to the point where I decided to trust my fellow players and take their suggestions and run with them -- and the result was much, much richer than anything I'd have imagined by myself.

There were even moments where I poured in enough resources to win a couple of these conflicts -- and then deliberately narrated them to leave open the possibility that Kettridge was a traitor, after all. There were also moments where I fought desperately but just didn't have the resources, so someone else got to narrate a crucial turning point for my character. And it was okay. In fact, it was great.

I feel like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix (the first one, obviously), staring at the little kid warping a spoon without touching it and being told, "The important thing is to remember that there is no spoon."

There is no 'my character'. There is only the character I bring to the table for all of us to play with.
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Sindyr
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2006, 11:57:18 AM »

Since Capes works perfectly well without this rule, and given what has already been said about the things you're sacrificing in order to have the rule, I think it's very natural for people to wonder what you get in return that's worth the price you pay.

Capes works perfectly well for you without this rule. The addition of this rule works perfectly well for me.

Guess different people do things differently and like it that way, huh?

A different point of view could be that I think its natural for people to want to have ownership over their characters, and to wonder why anyone thinks capes loses anything significant by respecting that.

Of course, in order for that to make sense, one would have to accept that people are different, that what makes one person happy does not make another happy, and that its perfectly acceptable for someone like (for example) me to engage in play that works for me regardless of how it works for anyone else not in my gaming group.

Just a thought.  I think its easy to lecture from on high when one a) is the initial creator of a system b) has a following c) is the type to be very sure of themselves, and d) is competitive by nature.

So, fyi, so far as can be seen, nothing significant is being "sacrificed".  Now if we didn't use this rule, there would be no character authorship.

That would be the sacrifice.

;)
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-Sindyr
Sindyr
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2006, 12:03:57 PM »

Sydney - the authorship rule give players incentive to invest into their character.

Without it, a player could well take the stand that it is not in fact their character.

And they would be right.

In any case, its a moot point.  The rule is in place and working well.  To not have it would be to descend into barbarism and anarchy.

Go for it if those things float your boat.

Please do not tell me that I should abandon the authorship rule, however - that is tantamount to telling me what I should enjoy.

I personally find someone telling me what I should enjoy to be highly offensive - not that you have done so, just saying.

In any case, the point of everything here is to create tools, mods, and other developments so that someone playing Capes can do so in a way that provides them maximum enjoyment.

For some, it would be a free for all.  For others, it would be more ordered than that.

The authorship rule is a tool.  Feel free to use it or not as you like.

But know that one group is benefiting from it - a group that would otherwise not be having as much fun.  Hope that people can accept that, and that it doesn't freak anybody out.
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-Sindyr
TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2006, 04:15:52 PM »

A different point of view could be that I think its natural for people to want to have ownership over their characters, and to wonder why anyone thinks capes loses anything significant by respecting that.

Oh.  You're still wondering what Capes loses when you add this rule?  Okay, one more time ...

When you block people from narrating anything that will violate your character you stop anyone from usefully proposing goals like:
  • "Force Captain Vehement to surrender to my superior Macho!"
  • "Zippy-boy keeps his cool" (because nobody is allowed to narrate him losing his cool)
  • "Humiliate Major Victory" (because you can't make it stick by making him act, at least for a moment, humiliated)
  • "Assert authority over team" (again, because you can't make it stick)
  • ... and many more ...

All of those are goals that will grab the players of those characters by the guts and pull.  They are, each and every one, classics of Capes play.  They drive good stories.  Pulling them out of the system is like making a house rule in dungeons and dragons that says that you can never go indoors or underground.  You lose a vast section of the game.

So, given how much you lose, what do you hope to gain?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2006, 04:24:33 PM »

In any case, its a moot point.  The rule is in place and working well.  To not have it would be to descend into barbarism and anarchy.

Wow, Sindyr ... you've decided that everybody else who plays this game is doing it wrong?  And that, even though you've never tried it the way we're recommending, you automatically know that it could only lead to barbarism and anarchy?

Gracious.  A person might almost think that you're closed-minded.
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Sindyr
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2006, 07:41:41 PM »

...um Tony - I don't understand - why do you prove my point in your 1st reply and claim there is no foundatin for my point in your 2nd?

Isn't that rather inneffective?

Will type more tomorrow.
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-Sindyr
Sindyr
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2006, 05:50:54 AM »

When you block people from narrating anything that will violate your character you stop anyone from usefully proposing goals like:
  • "Force Captain Vehement to surrender to my superior Macho!"
  • "Zippy-boy keeps his cool" (because nobody is allowed to narrate him losing his cool)
  • "Humiliate Major Victory" (because you can't make it stick by making him act, at least for a moment, humiliated)
  • "Assert authority over team" (again, because you can't make it stick)
  • ... and many more ...

There are four essential points to bear in mind.

First, let me quote what I wrote above:
Quote
So it becomes a fluid negotiation. Another example:
Fred: The heroes all run down the alley after the muggers.  I use Laser Beam on the goal: The Muggers get away.
Sindyr:  (blink)(thinks: Lucky Charm wasn't going to be chasing the muggers, but I will go with it - not a big enough deal to squander social capital with a veto - and I don't want them to think me inflexible - guess I will go along with it) Alright Fred, give her a roll.
So the first essential point is: a player doesn't have to veto narration just because he can.  Every veto one uses, especially if used is greyish areas, expends one's social capital.  At some point, if you over veto, people aren't going to want to play with you.  So moderation is advised.
Plus, don't forget, these player's are all storytellers.  If the proposed conflict take my character down a storyline that I feel is interesting, I am much less likely to veto it. 

Second, there's a lot more to Capes than proposing goals internal to a spotlight character. Sure, perhaps one could not play the Goal "Capt Amazing finds Lucky Charm crying in a closet" without risking a veto from me, but I simply do not believe that losing that option prevents Capt. Amazing's player from playing any one of millions of *other* conflicts to great effect.  So while maybe there are a handful of goals you can't play without risk of veto, there's still an infinite number of things you can do.  The only limiting factor really is creativity.  If you want to get someone engaged in a conflict, even a dunce can write something crudely embarrassing - an attack on the character of the character (pun intended) another player is playing.  It is frankly embarrassing to me when I see someone attack in such a crude fashion - I wonder if that's all that they can do.  You see, there are many ways to influence someone to get engaged, hitting them below the belt doesn't *have* to be one of them.

Which brings me to my third point.  I am going to avoid the use of "everyone" or "many" or "several" and will instead confine what I am about to say to specific people - please do the same in your responses.  In fact, the more that we can talk using the "I" mode, the more genuine this will be.

My third point is, when someone throws down the goal "Capt Amazing finds Lucky Charm crying in a closet" I feel violated.  It is a below-the-belt attack - crude, highly damaging, designed to provoke an immediate response or defeat.  I personally feel that permitting such below the belt attacks is repulsive, crude, barbaric, and represents a de-evolution of the species - much the same way I feel about sports in general.  Here's the truth: Capes works one way with below the belt fighting allowed, and another way with below the belt fighting forbidden, and both ways, although different, function.  Just like boxing is different from Ultimate Fighting Championship.  Personally, I find these kind of no holds barred types of games cretinous, rude, and nasty.  But Capes players should be encouraged to play in whatever way brings them joy, with or without no holds barred rules.  I, and at least 2 or 3 other members of my gaming group do not want people to be able to (in our eyes) usurp our ownership or rights of authorship over our spotlight characters.  You, Tony, should support us in that, even if you find it personally distasteful, just as I should support you finding joy in your way of playing Capes even thought *I* find it distasteful.

The fourth and final point ties into the above:  Tony, you want players of Capes to invest in their characters.  To be present to be reached - and to not disengage and detach, distancing from our characters.  Capes depends upon us staying connected to our characters, depends on us having passion (as you say) and caring about what happens.  Well, by having it so that anyone at the table can not only throw a conflict down *threatening* to eviscerate my character's character, but can actually do it in narration without any goal being necessary, that makes investing in the character completely unsafe.  Where a guy at the table is allowed to narrate my character being powerless, craven, weak, and a host of other bad things without even having to play a conflict, that clearly demonstrates that I have lost an essential piece of owning a character - that I cannot depend on just having to face threats external to my character, I also have to constantly be ready to defend my vision of the character itself.  In other words, my spotlight character isn't even mine apart from being the only one allowed to use his resources.

In almost every rpg that I have encountered (somewhat more than a hundred, maybe more) a key concept that they all employ is that there are two things you get by having a character.  First, you get stats which you can use to affect the resolution of storylines and events.  Second, you get authority over your character - his choices, views, feelings and whatnot.  Now I understand that your intention for Capes is to grant the first but remove the second.  But if you do that, that will break Capes as it forces me to emotionally disengage from my Capes character for self-protection.

Ultimately, Capes is a game, a tool to find joy and fun. If you can use it without an Authorship rule, and that's how you want to play, fine.  But if you ask me to not use it, then you are asking me to play Capes and not have fun, and instead suffer.  Because either I will disengage from the character and be bored by the resulting uninteresting game, or I will stay engaged and suffer mental anguish when people attack me below the belt.

Now, if you add the Authorship rule back in the mix, it's like adding the "no hitting below the belt" rule to boxing.  Sure, some fighters may resent not being able to pound on their opponent's testicles, but boxing is still a valid game, even though *some* restriction exist on where you can attack.  I can deal with "polite" competition - it's the nasty sort that is no part of anything I call "fun".

And the one thing you, Tony, have no right to do is to ask me to be someone other than who I am, to ask me to find fun what I currently find painful.  You have no right to ask that people change who they are in order to use your game "properly".  You should instead be helping people find ways in which they can use your game as a tool for fun and joy - even if they are different from you.  But that's just my opinion.

So, I hope that helps you understand better what is going on here with the Authorship rule.  Am I asking everyone to use it?  Nope.  Am I going to use it in my games? Sure.  What are my purposes is posting the Authorship stuff here?

1. Answering the question I was asked about what it is and why I use it.
2. Providing a way for people like myself to enjoy Capes by giving them a "no below the belt attacks" mod
3. Showing less open-minded Capes players that there is no wrong in playing Capes differently in order to have fun.
4. Engaging in the discussion not of whether some kind of Authorship rule is needed, but in the discussion that given that I indeed need something to serve the function, what is the best way to implement such a thing.

I think I may have accomplished the above four things, as well as one possibly can.

Do you, Tony, have any questions?  Can I possibly hope that the above satisfies you?  And that you will accept that even I, someone who is very different than you, still deserves to use Capes to have fun, even if that requires some mods to do it?
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-Sindyr
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2006, 06:04:42 AM »

Hey, Sindyr --

You seem to be laboring under the misconception that Tony designed Capes so that anyone and everyone would have fun playing it, no matter what their preferences.

yrs--
--Ben
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Sindyr
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2006, 06:19:20 AM »

Nope, my point is that Tony's design goals are irrelevent to the idea of what constitues "proper" use.

Proper use of a game is using it to have fun, even if that requires using mods.
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-Sindyr
TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2006, 06:35:35 AM »

Do you, Tony, have any questions?

Nope.  You have, as you pointed out, answered the question of why you want to have the rule.

I have my own opinions on the value of such thinking, but they certainly have no bearing on whether you think it, so they have no place in the context of this thread, which was meant to help people understand you.
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