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Emergent Techniques: an Ambitious Approach...

Started by Le Joueur, May 14, 2002, 06:26:47 PM

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Le Joueur

[Reading Robin's Laws by Robin Laws got me thinking.  So many of his "Player Types" rang clearly of the Scattershot Model, I thought it scary, except numerous times he had two examples per Approach.  They seemed like valid examples, so I got to thinking about what he had identified that I had yet to.  For those who've read it, I include 'notes' about his model; if you haven't read this thought-provoking 'book,' just skip the box parentheses.]

After playing around with Robin Laws' model and mine, I finally concluded what I hadn't done was break down 'Commitment' into obvious 'levels.'  I'd like to address them here because I do believe that even within each Approach (the Approaches are described in detail in the Scattershot Gaming Model), incompatible degrees of Commitment will cause problems, left unspoken.  So far, I can't imagine more than three 'levels' that are relevant, Ambitious, Intentional, and Passive.  Not to say that one doesn't change in their Commitment level from moment to moment or session to session, one of the most frequent times of Transition comes when a quorum of the group dips heavily towards Passive and reorients their Approach.

Ambitious play is more than just play with a 'goal;' it's play bent on pursuit of that goal.  Service of that Ambition frequently, but not necessarily, shades into Self-Conscious play so that one may 'get more of what they want' even though it means 'stepping outside' of their Approach at times to 'aim for it.'  Approach conflict comes into sharp focus when both parties are Ambitious about their Approaches.  Hopefully knowing what they are can avoid the 'mine is the right way to play' type of arguments.

An Ambitious Avatar player is deeply concerned with who and 'how their persona is.'  Not only do they pay close attention to this, they want to constantly 'poke and prod' their persona to elicit responses (a little like 'picking at scabs').  [This is most analogous to Robin's Method Actor and can be a thorn in any other group Approach for just the reasons he lists.]

There are several Joueur play Ambitions, 'beating the odds,' proving a point, being the 'test pilot,' or even 'winning,' to name only a few.  They like to 'try things out,' often in a 'test to destruction' fashion at times.  Most of this Commitment has to do with 'getting stuff done' in the game, as often as possible; it's not the size of the impact, but the frequency that counts.  [This includes Robin's Power Gamer.  He sketches out a few of the fields that an Ambitious Joueur might seek, but I don't think he has all of them.]

While superficially, Ambitious Commitment may seem at odds with the Swashbuckler Approach, Ambitious Swashbucklers will aggressively 'go forth.'  They are frequently 'troublemakers' (both within the game when functional, and without when dysfunctional).  Whatever a game has to offer, they will want more.  [Robin's Butt-Kicker falls mostly into this Commitment/Approach, but doesn't cover all the same ground.  Ambitious Swashbucklers can also be aggressive explorers (always headed to that place 'over the horizon').]

An Ambitious Auteur player usually has some kind of specific (even if unstated) purpose.  They might want to evoke a certain 'message' given to strong theme expressed in the game (or maybe just 'discover' such).  They could seek to 'dive deeply into' the 'character' of a setting (like 'living at the bottom' of a Noir game, reveling in the atmosphere).  If there's anything that unifies the game, as a whole, you can just bet that an Ambitious Auteur player wants it either protected or increased.  [The Storyteller of Robin's falls into this category, but with the proviso that 'story' is the singular most important 'unifying element' that the Ambitious Auteur wants to elevate.  There are many more 'global elements' out there than 'story' to my mind.]

There is a whole class of gaming founded on the idea that players creating messages on a centralized theme can be heightened into a singular Ambition for a game (all the way into its design focus).  While I like catering to as many types of players as I can, Scattershot cannot come near this 'end all, be all' Ambitious manner of gaming due to its Transitional nature.

Intentional play is clearly of its own Approach, but other than that, each does not 'push' its agenda as 'hard.'  Getting everyone into the same Approach can help a game stay focused and can almost become crucial when the decision is made to actively Transition a game to a different Approach.  The problem is, there is no such thing as Approach purity.  People's tastes vary not only from day to day, but moment to moment, so the whole idea about knowing the Approaches is that you can identify potential clashes.  Moreover, watching out for these clashes eventually becomes almost second nature, needing no terminology or explicit consideration.  I include this information largely for those 'learning the ropes' and on the occasions we all have, of having a bad day.  (Think of these as crutches for when your game 'breaks its leg.')

Playing the Avatar Intentionally means clearly focusing on what the game 'means' to the persona.  While it isn't strikingly important to seek out evocative situations, this Approach to play still puts everything into a personal context.  A frequent manner employed here is 'putting oneself into the situation.'  ("What if I were there?")  Anything that deprives these players of their sense of 'persona identity' is the no-no of this Committed Approach (even of the Ambitious version, but here it is central).  It can also be important to make sure to give this Approach its 'time to shine,' otherwise it becomes pointless as part of the group effort to game.  [In Robin Laws' Robin's Laws, the Specialist covers some of the Commitment to this Approach, although mostly in the 'time to shine' perspective.  I get the impression that he had some significant Specialists in his games who 'played dirty' to get their 'time.']

The difference between an Ambitious and an Intentional Joueur player is often a matter of scope.  Whereas an Ambitious Joueur player will probably want to 'make a difference' in as many situations as they can frequently, an Intentional player may take the 'grander scheme of things' into account and seek to have the 'biggest impact' possible in the long term.  It's still important to them how much or how well they can affect the game, just not as much how often.  [The Tactician of Laws' book is similar but tends to restrict it only to the larger scope.]

Intentional Swashbucklers are explorers, but they easily get sidetracked by concerns other than 'getting around' or 'doing stuff.'  While this Commitment does not stress how much is covered, it still focuses on what's in the game and 'experiencing' it.  (And likewise can cause pacing nightmares as they innocently 'wander off' to experience some interesting delight.)

When playing the Auteur Intentionally, a player really wants to support the atmosphere and the Genre Expectations.  They will also be interested in 'keeping the game together' or focused, frequently taking on a more 'supportive' role.  This broader collection of priorities does not mean a lack of centrality; an Intentional Auteur player still wants the game to function well as a unit (within their priorities), they just don't put as much stress on any one concern.

[Laws is largely silent on the concepts of Swashbucklers and Auteur players who only practice Intentional Commitment.  I believe that this is because they largely don't become a problem outside of games that contrast with those Approaches.  And when played in those, these Committed Approaches look very much like his Butt-Kickers and Storytellers, only to a lesser degree (further heightened by the contrast).  His 'book' is more in response to problems he sees coming up in gaming and clearly states that it is not 'for beginners.']

The various Passive forms of play can often be confusing because they are only subtly different from each other.  Almost all of the Passive Commitments to gaming have gotten bad names.  It's not terribly fair, seeing as these are the players who often cement a group together or otherwise 'fill in' an otherwise Ambitious game when there aren't enough players to Commit to an Approach.  For simplicity's sake, I'm going to only touch on these based on their 'bad names.'  [Laws calls all these Casual Gamers, lumping them all together.  I had a shy, close friend who fell squarely into this camp and knowing him has given me a whole different perspective on the social 'goings on' in gaming, so I think that Laws does them a disservice.]

A Passive Avatar player is often called a 'navel gazer,' because of their semi-conflicting interest in their persona's perspective in games Committed to different Approaches.  The Passive Joueur player is often (unfairly) lumped into the more dysfunction of the 'munchkin' archetype, because their interest in persona capabilities can be at odds with the Approach the game actually takes.  A Swashbuckler of Passive Commitment is a 'tourist' or 'escapist,' mostly wanting to 'ride along' and 'see the sights.'  I don't have any slang for the Passive Auteur player; their concern with 'getting it right' often disappears as they work to support whatever Approach is the general Commitment of the game.  The most important thing to note is that all of these Committed Approaches put 'playing along' ahead of what they value, but [I disagree with Laws here] they do have Approaches of their own.

Ultimately one of the reasons Commitment is so important has to do with how well a mixed group can function together.  [Robin's work focuses primarily on getting them all to work together, but I am not so sure that some of the combinations are worth the work necessary on the gamemaster's part, since Robin clearly thinks that's how it should be done.]  I recommend that divergent Ambitious play is almost too much effort to bring together, because those players will likely run into many situations where their 'needs' are thwarted.

On the other hand, I believe if a group is composed mostly of Intentional Commitments, they can often temporarily 'set their interests aside' to let different Approaches take the stage.  This can work as long as all the selected Approaches are openly accepted and dignified to the satisfaction of their practitioners.  I'll get more into the 'get along' Techniques when I attempt the 'leadership' Technique idea I've been working on.

In my experience [and apparently Robin's], Passive Commitment players are pretty much happy in any game (although as their Commitment 'flares up' in contrast, I can imagine a certain amount of grumbling about Ambitious 'extremists.').  Overall, the most important thing to watch for is when Commitment goes into a period of Transition.  Whether for the individual or for the group, it can signify the time for a change of Focus (the time to consciously make use of Scattershot's Transition Techniques).

It is my hope that I am finally 'getting to the meat' of what people want to know about Scattershot's Techniques.  I am finally getting through a lot of the 'bedrock' of the foundation and I imagine sometime soon I may actually be able to address actual play situations and their techniques (which present the vast body of my work thus far, unfortunately).  I look forward to any and all comments.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!


I only have one question of this model.  Where do you fit the players who analyse gaming to death vs. the players who just go out and play?  ;-)

Seriously, it's an interesting model that is to me more compelling than G-N-S.  Thanks for making my first read of The Forge an interesting one.

Le Joueur

Quote from: mtr1966I only have one question of this model.  Where do you fit the players who analyse gaming to death vs. the players who just go out and play?  ;-)

Seriously, it's an interesting model that is to me more compelling than G-N-S.  Thanks for making my first read of The Forge an interesting one.
You did read the parent article, the one that goes into detail about the scheme of Approaches as they relate to each other?  Admittedly, this article does speak better about the four 'name' Approaches separately, but the older one really gets better into how they compare and some of how you separate different player preferences into different types.

As for the separation you describe, I need to point out that the first players aren't really playing, they're analyzing.  The could be analyzing the game based on any of the Approaches.  Same goes for the 'just go out and play'ers.  I actually go into a fair amount of detail about why some groups become become 'paralyzed with analysis' in my article about "Who's in Charge" with some suggestion about how to avoid this problem (and how to know when it's not a problem).

Let me know if that helps somewhat.  I'd be really happy to answer some questions about Ambition and the Approaches, if you've got any.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Le Joueur

Check out the new Graphic Depiction of the Model!

Fang Langford

p. s. I promise I'll get to the second level of the model sometime this year!
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!