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Author Topic: [Drowning & Falling] Gamers' id revealed for all to see  (Read 10962 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: July 06, 2007, 05:19:34 PM »

Hello,

Tim K, Tim A, and I ended up at my place. I grilled beef filets rubbed with black lava salt and peppercorns (both ground up by me with mortar and pestle), which we ate with picnic mac-and-cheese and potato salad, and washed down with Yellowtail cabernet sauvignon.

We went through the bag-of-games to decide between Dead of Night and Drowning & Falling; the latter won out mainly because Chris wasn't there and we wanted to do Dead of Night with all of us, and a little more prep, and besides, the rhetoric of D&F is too funny to ignore once you open it and read a few paragraphs at random. This game slots nicely onto the shelf with Tunnels & Trolls (in its odder moments), Elfs, Donjon, and Hackmaster I suppose.

We didn't have much time, so we started with six cards each. In fact, we started with five, but then upon reviewing the rules we added one more.

We are actually not 100% sure that everyone faces the challenge, even the guy who made it, but then decided that it had to be that way in order to be fun (because you have an advantage in your own rooms), and Tim K became irked that the game text failed to make this clear.

We did screw up one thing for two-thirds of play, thus missing a feature of the design. Unlike the previous point, this one is clear in the text, unless you are stupid like us. We didn't quite get the bit about not being able to re-use scores within a challenge, and only figured out we did it wrong after four of our six scenarios. Oh well - next time we'll do it right. Actually, although that rule makes a lot of sense in terms of design and options, it's also a bit fiddly, all told, in terms of the routine and ritual of play.

Here's the one thing we really did need that's not in the game: the order within an encounter. In other words, who goes first within a given challenge? It does matter because of the options regarding magical effects.

I played Harihar the evil elf, and Dwarfling Buggerer the good warrior (the name for the second character followed upon events of play, not any actual dwarfling buggering but rather as a reminder to the other players that dwarflings might as well have bullseyes painted on them).

Tim A played Spar the sickeningly good dwarfling, Finn the evil cleric,and Bjorn the evil wizard (as you can see, Tim A quickly learned that magically-good characters, especially dwarflings, might as well have bullseyes painted on them).

Tim K played (whatsisname, I can't remember, which is funny because we couldn't remember during play either, to Tim's annoyance) the evil cleric, and Muggs the good warrior (as you can see, both Tim K and I realized that warriors' scores are of some utility when monsters are as thick and vicious as we made them).

Our three very different philosophies of dungeon design led to rather a nice dungeon, actually, especially in the wackier sort of Tunnels & Trolls style. Tim A was all about the relatively plausible, if slightly tongue-in-cheek actual dungeon architecture, Tim K was all about the utterly bizarre problem-solving scenario, and I was all about sexy satire.

We began by turning right! into ...

One of Tim A's: A tower up to the entrance into the bowels of the earth, upon a steep and treacherous stone stairway, pestered by a harpy. This was actually a Difficult falling challenge right off the bat, with an easy monster. We all survived but also enjoyed Tim K's cleric's brief plummet as he failed the challenge.

Tim K and I conceived an instant dislike for Spar the dwarfling (snotty, pious, annoying little goody two-shoes bastard that he was) and I cast Alan's Hot Wind upon him that sadly did not kill him nor cause him to fail.

Then we turned left! into ...

One of mine: A deep cave supplied nevertheless with comfy couches (in which the adventurers are already seated). The challenge is drowning in self-pity (see the monsters for the explanation). I used a 9 of clubs, a jack of spades, and a queen of diamonds, for an Easy challenge (drowning), with two difficult monsters: one Taunting Troll, and one Helpfully Therapizing Troll.

This one killed Tim K's cleric, who sank gradually into his couch as he succumbed to snivelling self-pity. I hit Spar with a Magic Rocket this time out of pure spite, as he most unfairly managed to beat the challenge yet again, and this time acquired a highly objectionable Holy Helm, making his stupid short goodness even more good.

We turned left again! into ...

One of Tim K's: A difficult-to-explain high-ceilinged cathedral sort of room, with an inexplicable pit of nothingness (yet with spikes in the nothingness, somehow) and no floor, yet someone had (badly) built a bridge of rotten bones and we must cross it. This was an easy falling challenge with two levels of damage, based on the 2 of clubs and the 6 and 7 of spades.

It didn't go well for us at all. Very badly, in fact; here is where we really paid for our own enthusiasm in dungeon design and both my Harihar and Tim A's new guy died. The funny part is that Tim A had made an evil cleric in order to get me and Tim K back for all our dwarfling abuse, and he died before he could do anything bad to us! Ha! Ha ha ha!

We went right! into ...

One of mine: A red-lit, fiery, but somehow tantalizing corner of hell. The challenge is falling for the tart in the hot tub. I used a 9 of spades, 3 of diamonds, and queen of hearts, for a Difficult challenge (falling), with an easy monster (her parrot), and extra damage (as it's a hot tub).

I particularly liked the bit in which Tim A's cleric fell for the tart quite badly, but was narrated as not actually scoring, as he was, after all, a big geeky cleric in armor, in a hot tub. Tim K's Muggs character ended up going up yet another level (the most any of us ever got).

Left again! into ...

One of Tim K's: Some kind of swimming pool with the doors underwater (whose idea was that??), with a sea snake roaming about in it. Tim A and I objected strenuously to the nonsensical architecture but to no avail. This was a difficult drowning challenge with a difficult monster and a damage penalty, based on the queen of clubs and the 10 and queen of spades - and as you might imagine, it kicked our asses. I don't think any of us succeeded, and Tim A lost his second character.

And one more turn to the right! into ...

One of Tim A's: The sewer with the albino alligators. This was an awesome challenge with nasty creatures (I don't have a record of the cards with me), and we failed it miserably except for Tim K.

Tim A ended up losing, having lost all three characters and thus having no treasure
Tim K ended up winning, on his second character and sporting all the treasure, the bastard
I ended up losing my second character right at the end (and hence my Holy Orb of Evil too), so basically was the middle scorer

Tim A and I were genuinely horrid to Tim K in terms of old-school abuse ("you're not playing right," and so on) to impair his tactics, and Tim K and I were equally horrid to Tim A regarding his despicably good dwarfling character, who really had no right to live, even well after said character had fallen into the pit of nothingness (and none too soon). They tried to be horrid to me but I am the oldest and wiliest of the three, so it did not work as well.

Our lessons of play: make more Easy challenges, thank you very much, in order to rack up treasure; and make more Difficult challenges with no frosting, in order to rack up levels. We made great, fantastic, imaginative, multi-card challenges which ate up our 0-level and first-level characters like Cheet-Os. I also find myself wanting our group to play a bunch of genuinely nice characters for a while in order to enjoy the group benefits of good magic ... at least until someone gets treasure that I really want. We all definitely want to play again.

We talked a bit about end-game losing conditions, because it struck me that the game would gain just that wee bit of an edge if there was, in fact, the remote possibility that cooperation might pay off. So the notion that something concrete might actually dictate win-or-lose per character might be neat. Wait - not a customized thing for each character, but rather the same thing for everyone, only adjudged independently per character. I hope that's clear ... Anyway, the idea is to make it conceivably, barely possible that everyone might win ... which only makes it more fun when the backstabbing starts.

But I should add that such a thing is not necessary at all, it's only a notion. The game is quite sufficient to enjoy the ride, so to speak, of momentary advantage as the main issue of play, and the ultimate who's-best-off judgment at the end for success and failure. We had fun!

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2007, 06:37:50 PM »

Hi Ron,

Not sure if I'll phrase this well, but what was the motivation to play? I'll use an awkward parralel - playing with a rubber super ball - these things just urge something inside you to bounce it, then bounce it off a couple of things and try and catch it, then throw it hard and dodge the rebound. All sorts of things. Further I have a fond memory in high school of us being in an empty class room at break and having a super ball fight - it's hilarious and yet compelling. Hmm, wish I had an empty room somewhere to arrange that again some day...

Anyway, a super ball doesn't actually shout challenge - but after playing with it, it sort of brings on that taking a challenge (bounce it off two surfaces and catch!) urge as part of the play. You don't really see that with chess, for example - you go for the challenge - there is no zany play that then turns into challenge taking.

Is there any parralel between my example and what happened in your account? I'm asking because I'm interested in perhaps a new direction for why one would enter into a design.

PS: Rather than co-operation having a small chance of success, shouldn't it be that your managing your backstabbing to just the right numerical amount, while trying to resist giving pious dwarf bastards what they really deserve? I mean its hard to not to slap someone like that, aye? >Smiley hehe, funny sounding to me, anyway!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2007, 08:26:40 PM »

Hi Callan,

I don't do "motive" very well, on all levels, so it's hard to say. I do know what you mean about the superball, though. I have that sensation most strongly with games like The Great Ork Gods, or even more so, Cutthroat.

But Drowning & Falling didn't convey or include that feeling so much. Along with Elfs, it conveys the same sensation I have when playing a really good board game or (more rarely) card game ... best described as a willingness to lose if, indeed, I do in fact lose by the rules. Which of course includes a strong desire not to lose, but also no particular anxiety or personal fear or sense of humiliation for losing. You lose momentary social "points," but that's all, not personal damage. A lot of things play into this sensation, including really getting into the systemic interactions, but also really self-indulging in vile trash-talk too. Did you notice how my examples of horridness always involved two people? The point is not just to say a zinger, but to glance over at one of the Tims and receive a grin or mock-serious acknowledgment of some kind. It's not ganging up on the other guy so much as mocking that kind of ganging up, because we know we're really playing fair (hard but fair).

Best, Ron

edited to fix an unfinished sentence
« Last Edit: July 07, 2007, 04:29:14 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2007, 06:11:14 PM »

Had to think about that one. Not the social level, I'm pretty sure I see parralel - when I playing the card game lunch money or chess with my partner there's often 'Heh, gotcha!' or 'oh noooosss!' expression, but...how do you describe it? I guess anything like this that's raised is also going to be resolved right here, right now - and end here too. It kind of only exists while the game goes - which makes it all cartoonish level emotion, cause if it ends here, your not going to get that invested of course (it'll be all gone when the game ends).

Just writing it out a bit there to see if I do know what's going on.

But 'willingness to lose', I had to think about (assuming I understood it to begin with). In terms of card games like lunch money, before I kill you Mr Bond, or board games like chess I don't think I go in with any willingness to lose. Oh hell, it's clear enough in the rules when it happens - but at that point, what? Well I guess it's a moment of acceptance or something, where you let go of a breath you were holding in and...internalise that point or something. My partner actually introduced into my gaming culture shaking hands with the winner and saying congratulations (In the past I'd say something like 'gahhhh, yah, you won, gahhh!'. Then I'd go club a mammoth, heh!). You really have to have internalised it to move on/do that and shake hands, it can't be half hearted acceptance.

Okay, almost got to my point - and that is common roleplay games rarely have that 'snap' point encoded in the rules like chess or card games do. It's often murky - trying to fish out where the GM just decided something, or where I just decided something (ie, the GM put something in the game that I may have just decided) or another player just decided and looking between all the 'just decideds' to see the actual contested/uncertain territory - it's horribly hard to find that moment of 'full heartedly' (as opposed to half heartedly) acceptance of losing. I mean, I've done so in plenty of roleplay session to some small degree - but 'I was a bit wrong'? It hardly hits you between the eyes or anything - you don't really remember it - it's not memorable.

But as I said, I go in without any willingness to lose. Probably out of that habit, I hadn't thought of anything like going in with a willingness to lose if you indeed do lose by the rules. I might not understand what you mean right, but as I see it with chess or lunch money, that isn't needed to actually lose the game. So in contrast against that, willingness to lose sounds to me like actively seeking or exploring for the point where you lose. I don't mean your trying to lose, I'm just saying your putting effort into spotting the point where you lose. Which may include inventing that point, perhaps? I don't mean that in a negative sense - I'm asking because perhaps your describing to me more than just what you'd do in a boardgame. To me, looking for a losing point is superfluous in chess, for example - but looking for one in a game where a losing point is needed would be very, very apt.

Okay, maybe the last paragraph overthinks it. But to me, willingness to lose in chess is superfluous. But in a roleplay game it might be incredibly apt and I haven't even though of that before. So when caught by surprise, I overthink things! Heh! Where did I leave the trail? Smiley
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2007, 06:35:35 PM »

Hi Callan,

I suspected that you might fall into this very conundrum ... although, for one sentence, you do demonstrate that you get it. I'm not sure that you know that you get it.

My point: yes, you must play any competitive game with a willingness to lose by the rules. I know that's not what any coach ever says to the team right beforehand, although it's implicit when he or she says something like "And I want a clean game out there." But it's bigger than just keeping fouling to a minimum.  It's fundamental to the game as an act - it means that when your team ends up on the short end of 21-20 in football, you don't stand there on the field, the whole team, demanding just ten more minutes of play. It means you know that the quarters only have so much time in them, and that the time has run out.

That's what I'm talking about. My point has nothing to do with the "give 110% to win" attitude that I think you're mixing up with it. My point has so nothing to do with that attitude, that it doesn't even contradict that attitude. I might even go so far as to say that that the 110%-effort attitude is validated and only made possible by the certainty that either side might lose, by the rules - no negotiation about that allowed.

Role-playing has, I think, over the years, suffered from a great deal of incoherence about this point, and yes, with that term I'm talking about GNS-incoherence relative to Gamist play. Games (competitive non-RPG ones, I mean) do vary in their endpoints, such that in many, everyone can win (but may not), or in others, someone has to lose, and so on. And I also have played many of the New Games from the 1970s which often did not include classic losing-conditions and were in many cases extremely fun, but I think they all share a group-level lose condition which is unstated. So I'm saying that losing is fundamental to the kind of play we're talking about (one interpretation of the word "game," which I've been calling Gamism).

You've been wrestling with this for years here at the Forge, as seen in so many of your posts and in the specific sorts of threads that continually draw your attention. I think this might be an opportunity for you to focus on what you're looking for in role-playing, and almost see or almost experience over and over. And which, I hope you don't mind me saying publicly, you tend to ponder in circles. Let's see if you can break the circle.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2007, 09:16:43 PM »

We need to check the mutual groundwork before anything
Quote
My point: yes, you must play any competitive game with a willingness to lose by the rules.
To be more exacting, I thought you meant emotionally willing. By default, one is intellectually 'willing' about the time you can do basic math. Most board/cardgames could be described as a basic math equation. So you can calculate the fail state like you can work out 1+1. That doesn't mean your ready for it emotionally - but intellectually your 'willing' to accept losing in all those games, simply because you can see the equation add up. What I thought you were adding was the idea of emotionally willingness. So we have intellectual willingness to lose, and emotional willingness to lose - two seperate things. Are they seperate to you? Or were you refering to both? By default I assume intellectual willingness at all times, so by refering to willingness I thought you could only be refering to the remaining type, emotional willingness. Is that far off?

As I accounted, I don't go into chess for example, with an emotional willingness to lose. Like your example of the team wanting just ten more minutes of play, at the point of losing I might want a bit more of this or a bit more of that. I'm sure you've seen people playing the daytona racing games (particularly when against each other) and seeing the finish line, and seeing someone else closer to it, grunting or yelling to the either 'C'mon! C'MON! C'MOOON!', pedal firmly to the metal. Then a 'Nooooo! I was SOOO close!' when they fail. Or is it just me that does this? Anyway, I'd say there is no emotional willingness to lose at that point. But a second or two latter they might turn to the winner, and shake their hand and say congratulations. It's a moment of acceptance, of accepting what we felt we deserve to have, we did not. That moment is emotional acceptance - but it wasn't there from the begining of play. Your refering to having it from the begining of play, right? Or are you just talking about it at this point? If so, so am I (and I'm wasting bandwidth doing so - huzah!)

On "give 110% to win" I don't think I've mixed it up. You haven't really talked about trying to win except to quickly note that of course it's there. You've talked about a different matter. And I'd agree that what you've said doesn't contradict it at all - were talking about coping with and positive acceptace of losing - that's a great compliment to trying to win, but it's not the same thing. Actually, yeah, I see alot more of what you mean by it making winning possible. Can you see my intellectual 'willingness' to lose from above was the groundwork that made winning possible as well?

Did something in particular that I wrote seem to mix them up? I'm pretty certain I'm on the ball here. That or my certainty is a major wall here.


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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2007, 09:21:09 PM »

Oh damn, forgot to ask what was the sentence where I appear to get it? I might you know - the divide in understanding might be along the gap between intellectual willingness and emotional willingness.

And exactly who's id is out there for all to see? Or shouldn't I ask! Shocked
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2007, 06:17:26 AM »

I'll try one last time for this thread.

1. The sentence where you appeared to get it is the first one here:

Quote
Probably out of that habit, I hadn't thought of anything like going in with a willingness to lose if you indeed do lose by the rules. I might not understand what you mean right, but as I see it with chess or lunch money, that isn't needed to actually lose the game.

Then in the next (also quoted), you skate quickly backwards from your own insight.

2. I do not accept your distinction between intellectual and emotional willingness. You are only identifying that the acceptance of losing may arrive prior to play, during play itself, or at the end of play. I think that's dodging the issue and seeking a way out of making an important admission. The admission would be your own first sentence in the quoted bit above, taken in full.

I also think that all the emotional response to losing (wanting just 10 more minutes, shouting NO!, et cetera) is necessary in terms of blowing off steam, and is perfectly understandable ... but that it does not represent anything to do with actual rejection of losing as a fact. I think that (as you briefly suggest) it is wrapped up in accepting losing as a fact.

That acceptance must be internal for play, eventually, to be something people want to do with a person. It doesn't matter whether the acceptance occurs before play, during play, or at the end of play. If a person cannot come to that acceptance, or (perhaps) if he or she only comes to it grudgingly and with constant protest after the process, the result over time is that others will stop playing with that person.

The anger-fueled high-school jock who treats every loss like an instance of external oppression or treachery from the opponent is soon shunned by the other jocks. Such people do not do well in sports, whether pro or casual, after a certain age. People who act like this are routinely ostracized from casual adult sports, whether card games or softball or anything at all.

Considered in that light, blowing off that steam is part of the fun, for the non-professional player, or now that I think of it, in professional sport, part of the job. A person who has internalized the reality of losing-potential, in competitive fun activities, is often fun to be around (or to be) when blowing off the steam. His or her end-of-game lament is half testament to the genuine (but failed) determination to win and half self-mockery for caring so much about something so inconsequential as a volleyball scrimmage (for instance). It's also tribute to the winner, offered in good faith!

I urge considering the difference between a sorehead tantrum about losing vs. a from-the-heart but nevertheless wholly-accepting "gaaahh! I lost!" acknowledgment of a fair defeat. Your last post leads me to think that you are not really sure they are different, and I betcha bottom dollar that this issue is at the heart of your years-long struggle with Gamist discussions here.

3. To bring this back to the discussion of Drowning & Falling, I think that this game does a very fine job (as with highly-Gamist play of T&T, as with Elfs if I do say so myself) of promoting that acceptance to occur during play itself, mainly because experiencing the system makes it clear that one cannot strategize very far ahead. It reminds me in that sense too of the card games Guillotine and Give Me the Brain (the original), both of which I enjoy immensely specifically because victory cannot be locked down halfway through, and because nevertheless good/determined play does matter from the beginning. Ticket to Ride has the same quality.

4. As for the "id" comment, I'm referring to the three of us as players, enjoying two things. First is the determination to win during play. Second is how we permitted (albeit self-referentially and self-mockingly) such vile trash-talk and invocations of adolescent memories of D&D experiences as part of the fun in Drowning & Falling.

I'd like to get some other voices into this thread. Callan, can you back off for a bit, maybe coming back when others have posted?

Best, Ron



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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2007, 06:18:40 AM »


Hi Callan,

1. The sentence where you appeared to get it is the first one here:

Quote
Probably out of that habit, I hadn't thought of anything like going in with a willingness to lose if you indeed do lose by the rules. I might not understand what you mean right, but as I see it with chess or lunch money, that isn't needed to actually lose the game.

Then in the next (also quoted), you skate quickly backwards from your own insight.

2. I do not accept your distinction between intellectual and emotional willingness. You are only identifying that the acceptance of losing may arrive prior to play, during play itself, or at the end of play. I think that's dodging the issue and seeking a way out of making an important admission. The admission would be your own first sentence in the quoted bit above, taken in full.

I also think that all the emotional response to losing (wanting just 10 more minutes, shouting NO!, et cetera) is necessary in terms of blowing off steam, and is perfectly understandable ... but that it does not represent anything to do with actual rejection of losing as a fact. I think that (as you briefly suggest) it is wrapped up in accepting losing as a fact.

That acceptance must be internal for play, eventually, to be something people want to do with a person. It doesn't matter whether the acceptance occurs before play, during play, or at the end of play. If a person cannot come to that acceptance, or (perhaps) if he or she only comes to it grudgingly and with constant protest after the process, the result over time is that others will stop playing with that person.

The anger-fueled high-school jock who treats every loss like an instance of external oppression or treachery from the opponent is soon shunned by the other jocks. Such people do not do well in sports, whether pro or casual, after a certain age. People who act like this are routinely ostracized from casual adult sports, whether card games or softball or anything at all.

Considered in that light, blowing off that steam is part of the fun, for the non-professional player, or now that I think of it, in professional sport, part of the job. A person who has internalized the reality of losing-potential, in competitive fun activities, is often fun to be around (or to be) when blowing off the steam. His or her end-of-game lament is half testament to the genuine (but failed) determination to win and half self-mockery for caring so much about something so inconsequential as a volleyball scrimmage (for instance). It's also tribute to the winner, offered in good faith!

I urge considering the difference between a sorehead tantrum about losing vs. a from-the-heart but nevertheless wholly-accepting "gaaahh! I lost!" acknowledgment of a fair defeat. Your last post leads me to think that you are not really sure they are different, and I betcha bottom dollar that this issue is at the heart of your years-long struggle with Gamist discussions here.

3. To bring this back to the discussion of Drowning & Falling, I think that this game does a very fine job (as with highly-Gamist play of T&T, as with Elfs if I do say so myself) of promoting that acceptance to occur during play itself, mainly because experiencing the system makes it clear that one cannot strategize very far ahead. It reminds me in that sense too of the card games Guillotine and Give Me the Brain (the original), both of which I enjoy immensely specifically because victory cannot be locked down halfway through, and because nevertheless good/determined play does matter from the beginning. Ticket to Ride has the same quality.

4. As for the "id" comment, I'm referring to the three of us as players, enjoying two things. First is the determination to win during play. Second is how we permitted (albeit self-referentially and self-mockingly) such vile trash-talk and invocations of adolescent memories of D&D experiences as part of the fun in Drowning & Falling.

I'd like to get some other voices into this thread. Callan, can you back off for a bit, maybe coming back when others have posted?

Best, Ron
edited to fix quote formatting
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Moreno R.
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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2007, 08:00:14 AM »

I agree with Ron's points above about the "willingness to lose",   I will try to expain why with two examples (one of functional gamist playing, one not), from my experience as a player.

The first one is not about rpgs, but about playing cards. An italian game similar for some aspects to Bridge, but much simpler, to be exact, played with 2 teams of two players, with no bets, stakes or money involved. It's usually a very "friendly" game, to be played in social situation in a very relaxed manner, to pass the time. I play in this way when I play with my girlfriend and another couple at the beach, for example.

The same game is usually played in a much more "serius" and competitive way in bars all around here, with small bets on the victory (no more than "who lose pay for the beers", usually). When my girlfriend see me play with my friends from High School, she is rather taken aback by how much "angry" and vicius we get, how we scream at each other when somebody make an error or lose a point, how we gloat when we win ("play against me a little more and you will learn this game, loser") and how we complain when we lose ("it was only dumb luck, everybody know you play like an ass!"). And one time she said to me "but how can you enjoy playing like that". And my truthful answer was "that? But that was the GOOD part! We enjoy doing that"

To enjoy the game more, we raise the stakes. We put a little (usually forgotten after a few minutes) social humiliation on the table. Who lose not only has to buy the beers, but has to go to get them, pay, and return to the table saying "you beer, sir". And who win make noises drinking, say "ahhh,so fresh...are you sure you don't want any? You paid for it..." Why? Because, if you don't fear losing, even a little, the game has no "teeth", no interest, no point.

It's not that we enjoy losing and paying for beers. We DON'T WANT TO DO THAT, we want the OTHER TEAM losing and paying for the beers.  But we know that accepting that risk (instead of asking for a quiet, friendly game where everybody is bored and watch TV during the game) we raise the intensity of the game, and out enjoyment.

Without risk, without the chance to lose, there is no game. That card game hasn't built enough "risk" in the rules (not like Poker, for example,where these theatrics would be frowned upon), so we INCREASE the risk, socially, to increase our enjoyment. And we accept that we could be, any time, the ones who lose (is the price to be able to play and win another time)

The second example is about rpgs, and it's about a old AD&D campaign.  I wasn't the GM. The GM was a terrible railroader, and was useless at illusionism. He wasn't able to balance the encounters and the fights to get the result he wanted, so he ALWAYS (and I mean really always. The players even joked about this) had some powerful NPC to "save us" and "push the story forward".

So we had this long list of fights (the campaign was really only a long list of dungeons and fights. There was really never any doubt about what to do every time, the npcs simply told us "go there, take that, then go there, kill him, and return here" and we did it). Usually the badly-balanced monster would be too strong for us (I am talking about 12 vampires against a group of six PCs of 4-7 levels, for example. And yes, it happened), but we won EVERY TIME because if we began to lose, somebody would show up and win the fight for us.

It pissed me off big time. I used every strategy, every dirty tricks, to "win" these unbalaned battles, and sometimes I did. But knowing that it was all really meaningless, that I could simply let it go (like all the other players did, at the end) and I would have won anyway, removed any anjoyment from the game. We never reached the end of the long list of dungeons, everybody lost interest before long.

There was this argument between me and that other GM (we both GMd and played in each other campaigns) about this. I said "without the chance to lose, victory is meaningless. The game is meaningless. If you want to win, you have to EARN it!". The other GM said "but if you can lose, and your character can die, it will ruin the story! My work in creating the story would be wasted".

I see now in these discussion a clash between two creative agenda. I wanted true fights, true choices, true risk, in a true gamist role-playing. He considered these fights only as window-dressings for "his story", because "all fantasy stories have fights in them". He wasn't able to balance the risk in the encounters and he didn't care, because a prose author has no need to balance the fights he write. He wanted a railroaded "story" (I think he really wanted to do illusionism,but he wasn't a good illusionist either, the players noticed every time his fudging), to simulate the fantasy stories that he loved so much with the players there only to play the roles assigned by him.

(and so, we were miserable in each other's games...)

When (at his, and others insistence) I abandoned my gamist tendences and began to play illusionistic "fantasy stories" (that I really didn't enjoy and soured me on the GM role), the FIRST thing I had to leave behind was the risk to lose (I was more careful in balancing encounters and so I was able to predict - with some fudged rolls - who would win, and even when the party lost, I didn't save them with powerful npcs. I simply made them captured alive (always), and then gave them the means to escape and continue the story. Giving myself a little bit of bit of satisfaction making them lose a minor magic item, sometime, to make them at least lose SOMETHING).

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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2007, 05:20:17 AM »

Hey Ron!  Some clarifications based on the sloppy text:

We are actually not 100% sure that everyone faces the challenge, even the guy who made it, but then decided that it had to be that way in order to be fun (because you have an advantage in your own rooms), and Tim K became irked that the game text failed to make this clear.
Yep, everybody faces the challenge every time.  Sorry, Tim!  Tragic oversight on my part. 

Here's the one thing we really did need that's not in the game: the order within an encounter. In other words, who goes first within a given challenge? It does matter because of the options regarding magical effects.
The revised edition (heh) will clearly state that the challenge is addressed in a clockwise fashion, and the first challenger is determined by the challenge creator.  So if it is your room, you can go first or last as it suits you, giving your guy a tactical advantage. 

I'm curious - how long did your session last? 
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2007, 06:53:12 AM »

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2007, 08:16:07 AM »

Hi there,

Thanks Jason! I think that nails down the game perfectly for me. I really think it's a gem.

Tim, you wrote,

Quote
with magic so powerful (those automatic failure spells suck), will combat over the course of a longer session devolve into a black magic cage match?


The text actually says as much at one point. I'm thinking that people who've played a couple of times may well begin with very nice, helpful characters with a ton of group-helpy magic. The net effect will be to rack up a ton of magic items ... which then provide the necessary cushion of re-rolls for the inevitable appearance of 0-level evil wizards and evil clerics, giving them a chance to level up.

I'm OK with failing the challenge but surviving. I agree that we should have narrated it out a tad more, along the lines of "he catches up later, dripping wet and a little bit vexed," or "we reluctantly drag him out of the water and bring him along," or whatever.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2007, 02:45:40 PM »

Hi Ron,

Whether I can see the difference in myself between sorehead tantrum about losing vs. a from-the-heart but nevertheless wholly-accepting "gaaahh! I lost!", I wont bother trying to convince you - your bet that it's applicable doesn't list any criteria by which it could fail.

However, I looked at what you said and realised it didn't just in reference what I could recognise in my behaviour, but what I could recognise in others. And in reflecting on that, I would say I can not differentiate between sorehead and wholly-accepting losing in other peoples behaviour. Realising this I've looked deeper and found I've chosen not to differentiate. Well actually in playing chess with an adult, I would differentiate. But say I introduce some friends to a non mainstream card game - I reflect on when I've done so (like lunch money the card game) and realise I started not to differentiate. And when it comes to a RP game session I wrote and am presenting - total failure to differentiate.

It's...responsibility. Taking it - apparently really inappropriately. I don't map my own capacity to take it on the chin onto other people. I don't have faith they can and will do the same, because these players are my responsiblity. I can take it but that doesn't mean I should just expect others to, or so the logic goes. It sounds compelling but unravels as no ones forced to be there, no ones forced to play, no ones forced to meet such an expectation. I dunno, I just didn't think of it.

Keep in mind it gets reinforced - if your games come off as a bit dull (particularly at the start of your gaming career) you feel driven to take more responsiblity. I could list various anecdotes from my gaming history that reinforce it to, not to mention the various forums which reflect the ideas (though often spouted at a rabid extreme). Even at the forge I see it, like the idea of someone sitting out is a bad idea, regardless of creative agenda. I've actually reflected on designing in that while I can handle being in traditional play, I didn't want to write and perpetuate and inflict that myself.

And so yes, my designing has stagnated for years, trying to handle the sorehead tantrum as if it A: would have happened and B: it's something worth dealing with. I've had to watch other designs, some of them partly aided by my posts, bloom, while I still stagnated. That hasn't been fun.

Anyway, jeez, I'm eating up your thread again! If you were betting I couldn't differentiate in my own behaviour betwen sorehead and wholly accepting losing, you've failed. But your bet was close enough to home to have some great side illumination, thanks so much for trying, it's been incredibly useful and a real ground shaker. I hope you get something out of it for latter occasions as well. Maybe it'll nail things for latter forgites and save them some years Smiley . And if you were aiming for this, jeez, makes it harder if you don't point out it's about other people! But I made it anyway! Smiley

Thanks,
Callan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2007, 03:45:28 PM »

Bang on the fucking nose. Perfect. Beautiful, even.

I didn't know what was eating you over all these months of posting; I just knew it was something. The only person who could tell me was you, and at long last, we found the thread to do it in.

Many thanks for your participation and contributions. I think it's gonna be a real treat from now on.

Best, Ron
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