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Independent Game Forums => Adept Press => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on February 16, 2010, 08:50:40 AM



Title: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 16, 2010, 08:50:40 AM
Kevin Weiser interviewed me at the excellent game store Chicagoland Games, The Dice Dojo (http://www.chicagolandgames.com/) here in Chicago. It's the usual marathon, hours-and-hours thing that my interviews tend to become.

These are the links: Part One (http://www.thewalkingeye.com/?p=637) and Part Two (http://www.thewalkingeye.com/?p=655). All comments and discussions are welcome!

There are a few things I'd like to follow up on myself. I don't think I managed to conclude my point about feminism and Trollbabe in Part One, and his deal about Scientology and the Last Supper in Part Two was so weird that I was basically stricken dumb and didn't manage to respond as I would like. So more about that for sure, but also, anything anyone wants to ask or talk about, please feel free.

Best, Ron

editing this in: Here's a nice Cheech Wizard pic (http://www.flickr.com/photos/capish/442495601/) illustrating the point I make at the end of Part 2. also: edited to fix a link.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2010, 09:13:47 AM
Ooo! Jesse Burneko just busted out a major interview too: Canon Puncture 85 - Game Advocates (http://www.canonpuncture.com/2010/01/canon-puncture-85-game-advocates-%E2%80%93-sorceror/), pitching for Sorcerer and Sorcerer & Sword.

It's especially nice to listen to that, having been the point-man for Jesse's grappling with the game roughly 2001-2006. I should probably stop busting your chops about that, now ...

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Judd on February 17, 2010, 02:18:08 PM
The Walking Eye made me wince a little here and there and drove me kind of crazy in other places.

I'm trying to figure out how to put my discomfort to words in a way that is a well meaning critique, rather than some kind of lame internet rant.

Let me figure that out for a spell.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2010, 05:24:24 PM
Go ahead and get tequila on us, Judd. I'll take it in stride.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Judd on February 18, 2010, 03:48:08 AM
Ron,

I wanted to communicate with Kevin before I started spilling tequila all over the place.  I exchanged some e-mails with him and it was a nice communication.

I wanted Kevin to stand up and have more to say.  It sounded as if he was intimidated by you and that he had no opinions of his own.  There were a few moments where he'd start to step up, maybe disagree or offer some kind of opinion and you'd firmly state your opinion and he'd back right down again.  It was frustrating to listen to, even as much of the content was really nifty and  enjoyable.

The Forge, to my mind, has done a whole lot to smash and destroy  the idea that the game designer needs to be put on a pedestal above the gamer.  The way Kevin treated you was so tentative.  I wanted a conversation between two gamers, rather than what I did hear, which was him tentatively setting the ball in the air and you spiking it as soon as it came over the net.

Of course it slipped out that he thought the Forge was like a cult.  He was treating you like a cult leader, like someone whose words are gospel and your ideas are much more interesting when they are either challenged or considered in light of other people's gaming experience (like his).

It might sound like I am saying, "Less Ron and more Kevin!" but that is not so.  What i am trying to say is, "More Kevin and through that, Ron's ideas about gaming are even more interesting."

I kept saying to the screen, "Just talk to Ron, Kevin.  He's just a dude who loves gaming!" 

Hope that makes some kind of sense.

Judd


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Troy_Costisick on February 18, 2010, 05:02:16 AM
Ron,

I actually had 3 hours to sit down and spend any way I wanted yesterday afternoon (snow day in my area of the country).  I really enjoyed listening to the podcast.  Iíd like to talk to you about a small part of it.

About things like imagery of the dragon and character birth being important to Gamists that you mentioned in part 2:  I have experience in this and Iíd like to see if yours is similar to mine.  Iíve found that that in order for that stuff to matter it has to be tied to the Resolution or to the Rewards system for Gamists to really care about it.  But not just the system as in the mechanics printed in the game books, but System as in how we decide what happens during play.  Let me give a couple of examples to back up my point.

For instance #1- I played a lot of RoleMaster and MERP in my early days.  One of the elements of the character sheet was a Demeanor.  One of my fellow players put ďCharmingĒ on his.  Later, he negotiated with the GM to use his Demeanor to get a barmaid to get him some time with her friend the retired adventurer.  This was in lieu of some kind of influence roll using the typical resolution system.

For instance #2- Writing up a backstory for your character is a long held tradition in RPGs.  But other than games like The Pool, it hardly ever comes up in play.  However, there can still be rewards for doing it.  Iíve played in groups where we begin by comparing backstories prior to play.  Itís every bit a competition to see who hears, ďDude, nice story!Ē the most as it is to see who can pull off the coolest stunts during combat. This is a social esteem reward which is what Gamists are after most in the first place.

I donít think that the imagery and backstory/birth of a character stuff matters as much to Gamists in other sub-systems of a game.  For instance, in Chargen, imagery and history can certainly be part of a gameís mechanics, but if thereís no competition there for social esteem or those elements of the character never matter when it comes to the Gamble or Crunch, then they will most likely be glossed over or even discarded altogether once the players become familiar with how the game works.  In combat sub-systems, if a bastard sword and a claymore deal the same amount of damage, have the same initiative modifier, use the same skill, and cost about the same amount of gold, which one the character is using become irrelevant unless there is some Reward (social or mechanical) for doing so.  At least, thatís my experience.

Is yours about the same?  Would you agree that the Rewards and/or Resolution Systems are what are prioritized most by Gamists when it comes to the medium of roleplaying?  Am I using that correctly? :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 18, 2010, 07:19:48 AM
Hello,

I'll respond to Troy first 'cause it's easier. My answer is "yes" ... but that it's incorrect to ascribe this connection you're describing as a feature of Gamist play specifically. I suggest that it's a feature of all functioning play, and that historically, Gamist play has typically been more successful/functional in the long run than any other sort. So historically, you're correct, not because Gamist-oriented groups have a special feature (Color + Reward), but because the other groups typically haven't been able to get their Big Model engine running very well over the long haul (either of a group or a person). When I say "typically" I don't mean "never ever," though - there are some exceptions.

Remember, I see Resolution as a subset of Reward in the first place, which might help explain my extremely broad claim above ("all").

Best, Ron



Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Troy_Costisick on February 18, 2010, 05:16:41 PM
Hello,

I'll respond to Troy first 'cause it's easier. My answer is "yes" ... but that it's incorrect to ascribe this connection you're describing as a feature of Gamist play specifically. I suggest that it's a feature of all functioning play, and that historically, Gamist play has typically been more successful/functional in the long run than any other sort. So historically, you're correct, not because Gamist-oriented groups have a special feature (Color + Reward), but because the other groups typically haven't been able to get their Big Model engine running very well over the long haul (either of a group or a person).

Yeah, I was just trying to build off what you said in part 2 Gamists.  I didn't mean to imply that it was exclusive to Gamists.  I just wanted to make sure my thinking was correct.  This was a big stepping stone for me and my understanding of how RPGs work.  So I'm glad I got a chance to listen.

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Judd on February 18, 2010, 07:50:06 PM
I want to add one thing more.

I have podcasted some and boy-howdy, I have fucked up an interview here and there.  I have fucked an interview so badly that we had to just throw out the footage.  I have fucked up an interview so badly that Clyde e-mailed me, frustrated, saying that now he had to interview John Wick so that someone could do it properly and get the good stuff out of him, the stuff we had missed, had skirted right around.

And I like that.  I like that process of talking to people, trying to provoke and inspire and discuss in a way that makes our little sub-cultural niche of a niche is a better place.  And I think Kevin did that here.  He and Ron talked about cool shit and interesting stuff was said.

Bringing out this kind of response in me, bringing out this thread, is part of the juice. 


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: greyorm on February 20, 2010, 09:15:18 PM
(Holy gods, difficult to hear over the background noise on the recs.)

But re: feminism and underground comics and the confusion interjected into that whole discussion by the Moral Majority. The first thing I thought of where you were thinking of comics was the modern analogue of "fan fiction".

As an outsider to the scene who knows people heavily involved in it: it is majority-populated by female authors, with much of the subject heavily and blatantly sexual (and often in very non-conventional and even sometimes disturbing ways), who are often mothers, professionals, and others generally considered to be community pillars (writing under pseudonyms). Which seems to parallel the old underground comics community in terms of "who" and "doing what".

But that confusion that was introduced by the 80's/90's culture over what being a feminist/woman is has been inherited by that group such that you have these women writing fiction about often intensely sexual situations, and who are also very pro-female empowerment, some of whom are weirdly and incredibly opposed to nudity, pornography, fetishism, and other "anti-feminist" things.

To really explain just how deep this confusion runs, it is such that there are spats and fights between various authors/groups because one will proclaim something far too "squicky" or "traumatic" to be allowed in decent company, and saying such straight-faced while having written fics involving gang rape (or whatever). Or those who stand up for a woman's right to not be treated like a sexual object, while writing stories that treat women (or often men) as sexual objects, and defending those.

It's very...weird. Very confused. Very much a "we're all feminists here, but you're doing it wrong" sort-of behavior that I think relates back to those same vicious battles between feminist groups from the 80's. (And, perhaps tangential or pertinent, but the same sort of cultural-identity confusion you find in many activist groups today, that seems an inheritance from bedding down with the Moral Majority during that same period.)


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Joe Murphy (Broin) on February 24, 2010, 07:26:15 AM
The discussion in the first part about underground comix, the Moral Majority, and terrors like Dworkin and whatnot was pretty interesting. I didn't realise how much of that period affected me, way over here in Ireland.

As we more or less share the language, almost all our gaming comes from the US and UK. There are a handful of Irish RPGs, and they mimicked American games for the most part - a couple of X-Files inspired games in the 90s, mostly. The UK had a stronger voice during the 90s, but still mirrored a lot of the same US topics. Our geographically close but linguistically different neighbours in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia weren't so much of an influence. And when you lost sex+death, we lost sex+death too.

During the podcast, I got to thinking about how much the US influenced my gaming in much the same way I've been fed American movies and novels all my life. The themes that came up again and again in games like Shadowrun or Vampire were very American themes of freedom and manifest destiny, and the US has become almost a mythical sandbox for gamers here. (Probably because you have guns). At least in cinema and comics, we had some influence from the continent, but I don't know that gaming received that energy.

I've read a little about jeepform and how Scandinavian it is, and a little Japanese gaming through Ewen Cluney's podcast, but I don't know much at all about other non-English speaking gaming cultures. And I wonder if we missed out on a gaming equivalent to Jean de Florette's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_de_Florette) cinematic influence.

Joe.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 24, 2010, 09:35:38 AM
Hi Joe,

That brings up a whole salad of responses for me. One of them is to follow up on my first post, when I mentioned that in the interview, I hadn't succeeded in bringing my (admittedly long and lecture-y) points about feminism's history back to the point of Trollbabe. Basically, I'm interested in power that might be called "female." If you have it, then what do you do with it? Beyond the struggle for it, what's it for? What does a woman do if she is unequivocally powerful, and not in the sense of being in any way identifiable as tapping into or relying upon maleness? (Here I'm discussing gender in the sense of social construction at least as much, and probably more, than in the sense of anatomy and very general behavior patterns.) I'm especially interested in when and how a relationship becomes valuable as an exploitable resource, and when you do or do not so exploit it.

Or to put it differently, I'm interested in the genuine questions of feminism in its first actual flush of political power, before it was (as I see it) co-opted by the right wing and diverted/muted into identity politics. Please don't misunderstand me to say that Trollbabe is a clinical or analytical dissection of these issues. It's probably the single most non-verbal, visceral creative work I've ever done. What I'm describing here is what I realized or reflected upon after having written it and enjoyed playing it so much.

That's what I'd hoped to get to in the interview but we didn't make it there.

Here's another response, which I'm not sure I can do much with ... strangely, given the stereotypes of Irish culture and Irish-American culture in the States, the ethnicity is often utilized as an opportunity in film or literature to investigate reflexive or semi-pathologized violence. The Irish are supposed to be scrappers and pugs, always ready for a fight. So if you guys are taking the opportunity to enact or fantasize above personal violence by using the U.S. setting, then I should at least reveal that for a century, U.S. literature and film has been doing precisely the same by using Irish characters and to some extent the Irish setting, Boondock Saints being only one of the literally thousands of examples.

And another: I completely agree with you regarding U.S. role-playing's cultural hegemony, with the U.K. being a strong and probably the only second, and I don't think it's a good thing. I have been amply exposed to the German experience of beginning their hobby with AD&D2, as quickly interpreted and essentially re-presented as Das Schwarze Auge: issues of Social Contract, expectations for presentation, and on and on.* In the U.S., AD&D2 was a prominent feature of the role-playing subculture, but certainly only one of a number of heavy hitters including GURPS, Champions, and RuneQuest at the least.

The Swedes and associated areas have more of their own footprint, I think, even before the current jeepform thing, to the extent that unique features of their 1980s games fed back into U.S. design and publishing pretty strongly. Obviously, Kult is a big player here, but also The Mutant Chronicles and others. I'm a little surprised that French design hasn't had more of an impact - maybe it would have if In Nomine Satanas/Magnas Veritas had simply been translated instead of genericized into In Nomine.

I do think we, in the sense of role-players everywhere, are badly missing out on what could be powerful and seminal influences and transformations of both play and design, because of this overly one-way English-speaking-to-everyone-else situation.

Best, Ron

* In German, "black eye" doesn't mean the injury as it does in English. Think of "black" in its fantasy-SF cool sense, like Black Tower or Black Nebula, and then apply that to "eye" - it's actually a seriously bad-ass title. The English transliterative equivalent, "Dark Eye," is very flabby in comparison, sadly. Anyway, I bring all this up only to contrast the awesome title with what was and is, and with apologies to the cultural love many Germans have for it, a pretty rotten game which managed to combine everything wrong with AD&D2 with everything wrong with Rolemaster.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Gregor Hutton on February 26, 2010, 10:40:31 AM
Hi Ron

I want to hear how you'd liked to have responded to the Scientiology question.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2010, 06:53:06 PM
Hi Gregor,

Upon listening to the interview, it turns out that I did in fact accomplish my immediate goal in responding to that - which was to see whether Kevin had any substantive reason to use that organization as the direct analogy for the Forge booth. I wanted to give him room to provide that reason, which it turned out he didn't have, but also to introduce my complete disavowal from any such thing, as I saw it from my side of the table. I fully embrace the fact that the Forge booth is a recruiting culture, but it is not predatory, financially or otherwise. Nor does it focus on a belief system; the recruitment is to get people (a) trying games they might like and (b) considering publishing their own games themselves. The only thing I slightly regret not saying was being clear about how utterly vile Scientology is.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: The Dragon Master on March 10, 2010, 08:39:49 PM
The bit in part 2, where you were talking about the game you'd run for them, when you talked about the excitement (THIS thing, with THESE people, in THIS way). I'd not thought of it before, but I really have been fighting that for years. At the absolute best I've been hitting two out of three. I'll find a group I like, but can't stand the game system (in the big sense), or I'll find a topic and  a system I like, but can't stand more than half the people there. The way you worded it just helped it click for me in a way it hasn't before. It's also helped me to see that some instances in which I thought I was hitting two out of three, I was really only hitting one, because the very natures of the people I was playing with was opposed to a method which I found fun.

I was also wondering. I've only come to the hobby in the last three years, but I've thumbed through the books for Classic Traveller and your comment about the base assumptions of early RPGs (that sessions were assumed to be a snapshot within a larger wargame) doesn't seem to jive with what I'm reading in those books. I know that the Wargame variation on Traveller came out about a decade after the boxed set, and I'm having trouble seeing how this game fits into the assumptions you say were there. To be clear, you were there, I wasn't, but I was hoping you might shed more light on that assumption of play, and how Traveller fits into the mix there.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Callan S. on March 10, 2010, 11:06:40 PM
That party order isse in part 2 reminds me of the 'I hate compromise (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29429.0)' thread, specifically there being no 'default' and especially almost a repeat of the 'oh but I was' stuff.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 11, 2010, 07:35:42 AM
Hi Tony,

A few years ago, a thread here (its leading post by me) in the Adept Press forum resulted in some kind of extreme, silly reaction out there in the inter-space. You probably heard of it or remember it - the Brain Damage thing. One of the reasons I never paid much attention (or invested any emotion) in that reaction is that clearly no one - and I mean fucking no one external to the community here - read the post itself in any meaningful sense of the concept of "reading." The three things that I articulated for Kevin were the leading point in that thread, and everything I said after that was to be taken in that context. I've been repeating those things over and over for years, wondering why after posting them as the lead in what is probably my most notorious externally-read entry in fifteen years, they have not seemed to penetrate one inch into the wider discourse. Especially when as you know, this issue is probably the core of dysfunction in the hobby.

My presumption is that people were directed to that thread in a frenzy of gossip and self-victimized ranting, and instantly scrolled down looking for the "evil" phrase, neither with any intention of actually reading the post as such (or understanding why it came up as a topic in the forum) nor in any state of mind to process it anyway. But enough of that nonsense.

Regarding Traveller, I don't claim that it illustrates the very common early assumption of "RPG within a wargame," that I was talking about. I hope I didn't single it out as doing so in the interview (did I?). I'm pretty sure that I did not claim that every early RPG followed that model. As I realized a few years ago, my textual memory regarding Traveller is poor; I get supplements and editions mixed up. So to ask whether it did or did not conform, I'd turn to Christopher Kubasik who's extremely literate about the game and its history.

Hi Callan,

Definitely. It's also related to the Murk issue in Bangs&Illusionism - in which Ron beats down Confusion (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21694.0), which I followed up on quite a bit as in your original Molasses thread and in Mother-May-I and 20 questions: Games GMs play (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25494.0). You know, when I first published System Does Matter in 1999, I did not have any idea that this degree of practical dysfunction - one might even say "utter cluelessness" - was so widespread. My assumption in writing about what would later be called Creative Agenda was that by and large, people were competent at generating the basic medium of play, and that the open question concerned what we do with it. I'm pretty sure that the participants in the Threefold discussions (preceding and inspiring my essay) were in the same boat as me for that issue. So it turns out with 11 years perspective, pretty much to the day, actually), they and then I were talking about what to do, when the majority of the audience turned out not to know with what.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on March 11, 2010, 08:14:31 AM
Hello Ron

Lot's of good things in this podcast!

You talk about S/lay w/me and the intensive playtesting phase it went through in a relatively short span of time (6 months if I recall correctly). What did it look like? How did you go about organizing this phase? How many people helped out? Also, how do you know that a game has been playtested enough (especially since you mention a the year 2005 as a poor year designs-wise)?
We don't get a lot of discussion on how playtesting is managed at the higher level, and it's a topic that is becoming more and more important for my own designs.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Callan S. on March 11, 2010, 04:02:11 PM
Hi Ron,

There's alof of history packed into that one paragraph.

I don't think there's just cluelessness though - there's a denial and assertion that everythings absolutely working. And the most important part, with no metric for when it actually isn't working fine. For example, if a car coughs and splutters but gets you from A to B, hey, it basically works. And if it breaks down and stops, and you admit it's broken down, cool. But when someone starts say 'Oh no, see this is another kind of journey that's happening here...and see also it's about the group dynamic, with the group dynamic working together as they push together...the car is totally working, when everyones together, pushing it...and that's the car working!' it's just a massive denial to not have any measure by which the can could indeed fail. It's like the car can not have failed.

And then if you try to make a game that doesn't need pushing, ironically people treat it as if it's failed somehow!

Eh, I had a point but I think I've slipped into just preaching to the choir at the end.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: The Dragon Master on March 11, 2010, 09:13:24 PM
Ron: You didn't say that it did, but my understanding is that was about the second thing we'd recognize as an RPG that came out, and I didn't know if there was history behind that game that I was unaware of. Though really this one could well be an exception. It's one of the few games I'm aware of (pre 95) that had an explicit portion of the game being about trade and negotiation. Really that is what drew me to that game in the first place. There have been very few game systems where combat appealed to me. Sorcerer is one of the ones that did (because "combat" could well be me trying to domineer the guy who wants to shoot me). Dogs in the Vinyard is another, though I don't know anyone who has a copy, or whose shown interest in playing.  And traveller with it's rules for finding deals, buying and selling, interspacial travel... it felt like it had more to offer than just kill things and take their stuff.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 12, 2010, 06:37:15 AM
Hi Tony,

The middle-late 1970s saw at least a dozen role-playing games appear, and that's a very conservative estimate. If we include the weird body of short-lived half-and-half thingies that led up to and surrounded the 1974 debut of D&D at GenCon, then the number leaps up by quite a lot. Traveller was definitely revolutionary along the lines of what you're talking about, and I'd also point to the wide-open DIY character concepts and the life-path technique. However, I don't think it's accurate to say "It was the second RPG." Part of my reasoning concerns the many other games published at the time, notably the early versions of RuneQuest and Tunnels & Trolls but lots more too, and part of it stems from the difficult fact that there really was no first D&D in a practical, cultural sense - the boxed set that came out at GenCon was a very limited print run, and most people encountered the game over the next few years as a scattered set of semi-related secondary publications.

Callan, "yes."

Christoph, establishing a better shared understanding of playtesting has been one of my goals for the site since it was Hephaestus' Forge. You can see it in my earliest posts in Indie Design, in the eventual creation of the Playtesting forum to try to generate community effort there, in my "reviews" (actually just Actual Play posts, many of which were playtesting feedback) ... I don't know. I've done everything I can imagine to try to generate what you're talking about. All I can say is that the internet community hasn't really stepped up to it, although as long as people are asking the questions you're asking, at least that's something.

I don't mean to sound irritated at you, but the topic is indeed a constant source of aggravation. I really think the ease of publication and marketing, as well as a certain high-school level subcultural reinforcement, led to this issue of playtesting getting dropped in 2004-2005. Which is annoying, because excellent and rather severe playtesting characterized the development of Dogs in the Vineyard, Polaris, Primetime Adventures, and The Mountain Witch, all of which inadvertently became the gold standard of "cool game, cool game designer, cool game designer clique" that characterized the poor playtesting of the next wave of games.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 12, 2010, 05:48:38 PM
Hi Christoph,

I forgot to add the actual answer to you personally: check out the S/Lay w/Me (http://adept-press.com/role-playing-games/slay-wme/) page at the new Adept site. The threads are laid out to help a person follow exactly that point.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on March 14, 2010, 03:39:10 PM
Hello Ron

I understand your irritation, and didn't feel it was addressed at me. Just came back from reading the playtest threads, I had indeed missed the first one, which lays out a lot of what I had been asking about. Great stuff!
I think that what I really want now is to get a grasp of the scales at play. Numbers, or at least orders of magnitude. How many external playtesters? How many sessions were played? How many reports did you get back? (All this including your own testing.)
I understand that you have a lot of experience, which can speed up some of the steps. Of course, mileages vary, each project has its own demands, etc. But I'd really like to get a feel about this, number-wise.

One thing I'm trying to get at is the following: is there typically a kind of "plateau" of testing, where one might feel that it is done, but going beyond that will suddenly show stuff to be done yet? (So this goes beyond your experience of S/lay w/Me only.)


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Callan S. on March 16, 2010, 02:42:10 AM
Hi Ron,

I got the time to listen to the first half just now. You've stressed the 'how' in 'how we agree' before. In terms of spoken fiction, do we really need to agree, for the how to become important? I mean, with the 'I hate compromise' thread it describes having a mechanical default if they don't agree on some fiction. Now totally they are agreeing in terms of rules, like one agrees a bishop can move diaganolly in chess. But you seemed to be describing the 'how' in terms of fiction and that we would indeed be agreeing and that makes the 'how' the important part? What if were not agreeing on fiction (though we are hitting the default then taking that on, making fiction, working something out - but in between were not agreeing?). You stressed the 'how' a time back in regards to the smelly chamberlain threads and I'm still squinting, so to speak. I'm wondering if you were stressing the 'how' in regards to fiction back then, because those threads were like (putting it briefly) someone taking the bishop and moving him horizontally, then a kerfuffle then some sort of agreement to someones spoken fiction that went along the lines of "a horizontally moving bishop".

I know 'how we agree' could just as easily cover the pure rules following stuff, like the diagonal bishop, as much as agreeing on fiction, but was it being used that way here?


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 16, 2010, 06:48:29 AM
Hi Callan,

I think one of points I've never been able to articulate effectively is that by "agree," I mean the most uninteresting, functional, unspecific thing possible for that term. Your phrase:

Quote
we are hitting the default then taking that on, making fiction, working something out


... seems very similar to what I mean. I can also say what I don't mean, as follows:

1. Coming to an amazing, emotional, uplifting, 100% consensual social moment among the people
2. Achieving a 100% correspondence regarding what's being imagined for everyone present

My view on "agree" is better described as "good enough for government work." As I see it, it's also synonymous with the term Shared Imagined Space, which has often been unfairly subjected to identification with one or both of the two objectionable concepts above.

My genuine hope with this post is to take the majority of pressure, expectation, and idealization off the poor term "agree," and for you in particular, to consider that it may be an unproblematic and ordinary concept, easily achieved by a group of people.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Callan S. on March 16, 2010, 02:53:38 PM
I think you may be taking me the wrong way and I wont get into what I might seem to have been doing. Not directly, anyway.

My first point is that how we agree to fiction does matter that much, since we can dip to zero agreement and given a strong procedure, keep on ticking. If I were graphing the amount of agreement it'd drop to zero in my example '(though we are hitting the default then taking that on, making fiction, working something out - but in between were not agreeing?)', but then cause were all imaginative and we can take the ball the rules punt to us, we'll start to think of something individually and onward we all start to work on something...so the fiction agreement graph would steadily rise from zero (and yeah it bounces up and down - like your government work example - I get this!).

Indeed in saying this I aught to appear pretty laissez-faire in terms of your 1 & 2. A bouncing graph line, totally!

But given it can drop to zero and nothing catches on fire, 'how' we agree on fiction doesn't matter that much. Yes, it catches on fire in your party order example, but that's due to an absence of chess like procedure (beyond 'the GM puts his foot down'). How we agree will matter in terms of what creation comes out of our activity, but in the purely physical terms of whether the machine/instrument that were all operating (and are part of) and whether that machine is working, how we agree on fiction doesn't matter. Does it?

The stress on the how of the fictional agreement made me think of the smelly chamberlain thread. What I'm getting at is if someone (or everyone, even) breaks the chess likes rules, but then if they come to a fictional agreement they act as if that fictional agreement is all that matters. Like they don't even have to recognise they broke the chess like rules, as long as they agreed on fiction.

That's what I'm seeing with stressing the 'how' in how they agreed, particularly when connected to fiction alone. The 'how' isn't even the most important part - yes, they agreed - but if they are sitting there as a group acting like they didn't break rules that they originally set out to follow, when actually they did and they are acting like they are following those rules and always have been...I dunno? Intellectual dishonesty? Denial? Some sort of error!

That's what I saw with the smelly chamberlain thread - it may have written to show something else, but it involved people agreeing on fiction while breaking rules they intended to follow (the GM decides X, but then the players just decide it themselves...but since they agree on how the fiction turns out, no one notes this contradiction) and not acknowledging that in any way. Not that I read, anyway - I might have missed something.

Or alternatively I think the 'how' is not being used in a big enough sense - that if someone/several people make an agreement that breaks a prior one, and yet they never talk about breaking it, then they didn't agree to breaking it. But in that case there is no 'how' they agreed, since they didn't agree to break it. So I'm not sure 'how' is the right word.

Okay, that post went longer than expected. At least in terms of it's foundation, would we both agree it's physically possible a pair or group of people (doing any sort of activity, even outside RP) might agree to do something that contradicts/breaks their previous agreement on what they intend to do, yet not acknowledge that break?


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Calithena on March 19, 2010, 08:06:51 AM
Anecdotally checking in to help with history:

1) The design culture that produced Traveller, D&D, Chivalry and Sorcery, etc. was a design culture primarily of wargamers. Many RPGs started as man-to-man wargames, as interlude scenarios in wargaming campaigns (the origin of that word in our hobby, where it actually means more or less what it means), or as an alternative kind of thing to play set in the same imaginary worlds as the wargames. Furthermore, stuff like Chainmail (D&D) and Trillion Credit Squadron (Traveller) etc. shows the early existence of a kind of hybrid wargame-RPG mode of play that existed in the early days of the hobby. However,

2) This kind of play was in my experience very rare 'in the field' even by the late seventies. The people who played these games usually - again, not always, but usually, and OMMV - played them as RPGs or proto-RPGs without the same connection to wargames by and large. It did happen but it was not common - the party of adventurers doing its thing in fictional space (even if it was just killin' and lootin') was the dominant paradigm. But,

3) I'd love to see some self-conscious design that moved back and forth between an RPG level and a war/kingdom/campaign management level functionally. TSR tried it many times and it never really worked right IMO. I'm one of those 'good GMs' who occasionally pulled it off at the table, but unlike some of the things people try to formalize in gaming, this one could use more serious attention. It's fun.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Callan S. on March 19, 2010, 02:44:48 PM
I was surprised to hear of an alternating sessions of wargame/fictional adventurings, even if it only lasted a short while. Or did it? I mean, what do we traditionally have now - usually quite formalised combat rules being played out, then some alot of fictional stuff, then a combat, then fictional stuff...that alternating is all just happening in the one session, nowadays, rather than being spread over game sessions.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 21, 2010, 05:16:58 PM
Documentation of the phenomenon actually happening is scarce. Some blend of assumption, ideal, or default that's evident in the game texts of the day, but that's all.

Best, Ron


Title: Actual Play and the WarGame/Role Play Dyad
Post by: Erik Weissengruber on March 23, 2010, 09:12:33 AM
[Not enough of an AP to merit a posting there.  Think of this as an empirical addendum to the play style discussed in this post]

Two (3?) years ago, year-long Burning Wheel game using the "Valley of the Mist" campaign pack for the FGU game Bushido as the setting.  Players were deeply invested in their well-developed characters, webs of allies had been built up, lots of in-fiction detail had been built up.

Penultimate session was set up as 4-5 simultaneous Fights!  One entire session was devoted to the PC's confronting the massed evils of the Valley of the Mists.  The Fight! mechanics always involve some beliefs and instincts, but the inter-player or player-GM in-character dialogue was quite succinct.  Most of the session involved scripting and determining results.

The players had done some tentative scouting of the Valley earlier.  This was the showdown.  Rather than play out fight after fight with the denizens of the Valley, we decided to play out the military campaign in one big session. 

We knew that the following session would be devoted to detailed RP-ing of the consequences of that big dust up, with the future of the province at stake (would the warrior monk return to take his place at his ducal father's court?).

I found that, in this case, alternating a big all-fight evening with acting out the consequences to be highly satisfying.

The Circles and Relationship mechanics oblige you to link social interaction to stake setting and dice-governed resolution, so Role Playing is closely linked to conflict mechanics, character sheet details, etc.  So the "war game" and the "role play" are rooted in the same procedures.

1st gen playgroups might have had informal procedures or written rules mechanics (XPs, gold to buy rumors and training and magic in RuneQuest) to allow quick switching between one part of the dyad to the other.



Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Gregor Hutton on March 23, 2010, 10:56:22 AM
My first RPGing was in that mode of sessions of fictional advernturing mixed with set piece wargames. An archaeology obsessed neighbour had the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (1983, three books: Tabletop Battles, Magic, and Characters) and my first character was a Chaos Warrior on a Demon Steed. I can't remember my character's name, but his sword did have a Rune of Greater Wounding (or somesuch). But that was how they would do it: a session of role-playing and then somehow set up battles between forces (coming out of and/or ret-conned into the fiction, I guess, then arranged during the week and planned by point-value). These battles were then played out with the Tabletop Battles rules (sometimes with other figures used as proxies -- Orcs for Skeletons, say, if we didn't have the right figures).

It's an interesting note to me that Bryan Ansell was one of the writers of that Warhammer rules set. He had previously written Laserburn (in 1980, an SF wargame), which I last saw played (as an RPG) at a games club in 1990. Its rules were used for combat with everything else "just played out". Many things we recognise in Warhammer 40K grew out of Laserburn.

These early (for the UK) rules sets were wargames rules that were used by "role-players" or "role-players who were also fantasy wargamers". Mainstream wargamers (Napoleonic, Seven Years War, ACW, etc.) wanted very little to do with fantasy wargamers in my experience.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 30, 2010, 07:22:14 AM
Hi Erik and Gregor,

Although I appreciate the play descriptions, I don't grasp what your examples are supposed to communicate.

My points about wargaming and role-playing apply to the design-and-publishing of the middle and late 1970s. One of those points is that today, we have little knowledge or documentation about how much play at that time accorded with the role-playing-in-a-wargame ideal. I'm not saying it was a lot, and I'm not saying it was none. I'm saying we don't know.

Are you suggesting that your play-experiences refute my point that we have little documentation about how much that was actually done? Or are you saying something else? Please clarify.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Gregor Hutton on March 30, 2010, 09:50:45 AM
I think my point is an agreement that it is poorly documented and we have little knowledge of it. I did see it happening, though, in 1983 with a couple of guys a few years older than me (and they're not involved in gaming any more -- so they're a lost source of info).

By the time I immersed myself in the hobby (1984/85) they weren't doing it anymore. Times had moved on and I didn't see that earlier era again. I had Red Box D&D and my role-playing was entirely separate from my fantasy wargaming. The version of Warhammer that I played was the freshly released Second Edition boxed set, from which role-playing had been excised.

Looking back, I'd love to have asked the guys who got me into the hobby how they got into it.


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Erik Weissengruber on March 30, 2010, 11:58:17 AM
Are you suggesting that your play-experiences refute my point that we have little documentation about how much that was actually done? Or are you saying something else? Please clarify.

Best, Ron

Sorry not to make the connections clearer.
* My experiences as a gamer (in Toronto, Ontario)  staring in the hobby around 1979 had many similarities to yours
* The Burning Wheel campaign actualized what had only been an occasionally visible possibility when I started
* It seems to me as if a few recent games are turning into codified play procedures what were once informal or orally transmitted procedures developed by certain play groups or particular "scenes."

So:
- I was supporting your assertion that there is little documentation of what actual play practices were like back in the day
- It seems as if some recent games have -- whether by direct transmission or through parallel processes of evolution -- made into clear, text-bound rules the ways in which we actually talked an acted around the table.  I can't recall exactly what we did or what we were trying to do after we ordered copies of Gamma World after seeing the ad in the back of Analog, or when we sat down with the camp counsellors running a strange game with miniatures in their bunkhouse.  But some recent play has made me feel as if I were achieving the kinds of fun I used to have (or wanted to have) way back when.



Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Erik Weissengruber on March 30, 2010, 12:05:30 PM
I think my point is an agreement that it is poorly documented and we have little knowledge of it. I did see it happening, though, in 1983 with a couple of guys a few years older than me

Looking back, I'd love to have asked the guys who got me into the hobby how they got into it.

Yeah, the same goes for me, marginally involved in 1979, more fully into it circa 1980. 


Title: Re: Walking Eye interviews me
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 16, 2010, 07:37:58 PM
Hey, I wanted to say the interview was quite enjoyable and thought-provoking for me.

There's a lot to digest in the three hours, and I have yet to unpack my thoughts on all of it. But I did blog about the bit on Gollum and dickweed characters, on Story by the Throat (http://storybythethroat.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/the-relevant-dickweed/). It's an issue near and dear to me, or should I say, near and painful over the course of many ears. Thanks for the illumination, Ron!

Peace,
-Joel