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 on: May 31, 2012, 08:12:00 PM 
Started by Moreno R. - Last post by Moreno R.
(continued from the previous post)

R: But the issue is, you get a bunch of people who see that, that's the medium of play is that imaginative context right there that I've just described, and they are also totally into it because of all the teen effects that I've talked about before and now they're convinced - some of them, some of them just blaze over all that reading stuff that had to do with story this and story that, they just want to make badass vampires and kick butt, that's fine - others, you know, they wanna dress up. They love Anne Rice, they wanna dress up like an Anne Rice character and act like an Anne Rice character and that's good too, especially if you can do it at the table then go off and do it at the LARP and maybe get laid that night. Whatever. But the deal is that neither of those are the only things that people would want out of Vampire. Some people reading those texts, of what amazing epic thematically significant stories were going to emerge from all this - and that's high art - they were impressed! And well they should be, if someone promised me something like that, I would jump at it! I get to do that with role-playing? Yea, baby! They sit down, they try to play it and what do they encounter? They never encounter that. They encounter at most story before and story after.

Well, I was a determined teen, I read everything imaginable - RuneQuest and Champions - with this determination of this particular kind of desire. And I read everything you could imagine of those games and many others, trying to cobble together some way to get that "story now" thing going. And occasionally succeeding. There actually are some secondary texts in both games that really are very inspiring and fully of really great instructions for that - and then there's a bunch of other instructions that are about other things.. but, the issue is that the game never told me that it was gonna do that. I was just determined to do it. Here, the game *is* telling you. So what's going to be the perfectly reasonable and rational response - especially if you're looking at people who are effectively the equivalent of young filmmakers and young musicians, and if it doesn't work out the first time, what reasonably and rationally are they going to try to do tomorrow? They're gonna try again. They're gonna try again, harder. They're going to buy into it *more*. And in the case of the White Wolf games, I mean "buy into it more" very literally, because of the extremely cynical supplement model those games were working with especially in the mid nineties.

And at that time, think about people in their teens who are struggling to do this, the more it doesn't work, and the more they find ways of arriving at story in some ways that really aren't all that fun, the harder and harder and harder they're going to glom onto their difficult solutions. Here's one of those difficult solutions: effectively sitting down and talking at one another - not knowing when to roll the dice at all, and that's where you get these anecdotes, the one I'm thinking about is where they spent 45 minutes with a vampire trying to operate a copy machine because they didn't have the skills for it and they were trying to use the dice to have this happen and they were just really frustrated because they didn't even really know when to roll dice and when not to, and so they're saying well we're gonna talk most of the time and then sometimes when we're supposed to we're going to roll these things. And that doesn't work out very well - what's the "sometimes"? When do you roll the dice? There's no reward system to go to, either. There's no way to look and say well, what is my payoff for playing, when are we going to get that epic story? Well, then you have another form of vampire play, which is the highly metaplot based one, which many many many of the supplements do that, and you read the supplements and they effectively just order the players to do this and that. You know. "Then the ghouls attack. After you kill the ghouls..."; this is the old D&D style of supplement making - "when the ghouls attack... after the players have killed them off they'll pursue the leader of the ghouls". It's very locked in, what the players are going to do. And in those groups you get this kind of obedience thing where they all become very very good at sort of opening their mouths like baby birds for the GM to drop in the next thing that they're supposed to do, and then they bust out their combat mechanics and stuff and dutifully fight the ghouls and nobody really seems to worry about whether somebody's going to go down or not because they never do - of course they'll get their asses kicked by the big NPC who comes along and teaches them a lesson once in a while. But that's the other form which is, effectively speaking, the group - or the people in the group who are inclined in that direction - just give up on the "story now" thing. Others take over and find dysfunctional ways, like for example somebody who says "well we are going to have a story here dammit, I'm going to basically emotionally and socially dominate these people until they accept my story!" And you find that - people who all insist about how Stan is the most amazing GM, he makes the best stories.

And so a lot of these things existed before the mid-nineties but I think in the mid-nineties is when we actually see it being demograptically settled into the minds of the people who are determined to find "story now". One of the nice things about the late seventies was the extremely broad array of mismatched game mechanics just scattered across a wide range of games, and the idea being that if the group was into "story now" kind of play, or into highly competitive play, or highly modelling-the-world-around-them play, or an imaginary world, you know, all those things, they could probably excise pieces of a variety of different games and glue other pieces together and come up with a way to play. That kind of house ruling - which was effectively rewriting and making your own game without thinking about it - was pretty common throughout eighties play. And when I think back to all the groups that I knew back in the eighties, most of them actually did pretty well in terms of having a great time. A number of them didn't if they ran into issues of, usually "story before" where somebody dreamed of writing his fantasy novel and then wanted to move all the characters through this fantasy novel but that was relatively rare in comparison. And people who didn't like being shoved around would grab a couple other people and start another group that was more to their tastes.

I: Right.

R: It was in the mid-nineties that I think, a bunch of people were hit at the right time with the right promises, the right subcultural context - and the wrongest possible game to attempt to satisfy it in such a way that they would sieze upon it and insist in their own minds that this *must* deliver, to make it deliver you have to do a whole bunch of things that are effectively not going to work. That sounds contradictory, to make it deliver you're going to do things that don't work, but that's effectively what happens. You get monstrous railroading, you get monstrous flailing about when to use or not use the resolution system, you get incredible social games to try to keep the group together - because if you can't keep the group together, then it's not working, so people will pull all kinds of head games on each other to keep the group together. Why is it specific to "story now"? Because the other itches can get much more easily scratched. You can ignore a bunch of stuff in Vampire and play a fairly highly competitive game and enjoy it. It can be done. It's harder - you've got to really give up on 50% of the stuff in the book to do it, it's harder than it would have been with a lot of the earlier games - but you can do it. But if you try to do that and get rid of a lot of the competitive elements in the game, you know, like in Werewolf for example there's many competitive elements, but you want to do some "story now" Werewolf so you slice out some of those competitive elements but what's left isn't going to work.

And so my claim, is that you get a number of people who are so internally and externally trained to play in a way that is impossible to satisfy. And the reason I call it brain damage is because it's ingrained at that developmental level of these people coming into adulthood.

I: So you're not talking about physicality, then?

P: Is behaviour physiological?

I: Good question.

P: Is behaviour physiological? Do you have hormones, do you have brain impulses, do you have electricity in your head? We do. And the way that those turn into what we call personality is through experience - that's a physiological process. If a person has undergone a serious trauma - say as a pre-teen - and their ability to cope with later situations that remind them of that trauma, or may not even be exactly the same trauma but they've got it so ingrained in them that they'll react to it as though it is - is that or is that not damage to that person? Did not the person who inflicted the trauma on that pre-teen cause damage?

I: Right... What I'm stumbling on, I guess is that, probably this would lead off to a debate that I'm not sure I'm ready to get into because that would take away from everywhere else that I'd like to go, but, um.. I think that you're completely right that all those things exist, and I also think there's a function of us - I think it's multi-level, multi-layered, and so I understand what you're saying that there's a level where the behaviour actually would make .. it does have some kind of thing..

R: Let me make it a little clearer. I wouldn't call it "damage" if we was talking about people who were experiencing all these phenomena I'm talking about at 25. Because that's when, I mean there are other things going on for the person but, on the average, people at the ages I'm talking about are putting together the kind of adults they're going to be.

I: Ok, let me try this again.. what's tripping me up, personally, if you take a stake and drive it in a guy's head that's obviously brain damage, I understand that, that's physical. If you were to jump across the table and grab me by the throat, and then I'm afraid to get near your house again or something, I understand there's some kind of basis there but that's what tripping me up - I personally don't see that as physical and that's why I'm having a hard time following.

R: I understand that. That's why we should probably focus on what I keep mentioning, which is the business of the teen mind developing into the adult mind.

I: Aahhh! That makes it more clear, because the brain isn't fully developed?

R: Right. Well, whether it's ever *fully* fully developed is one thing, it is continually added to, but there are definate windows and steps and things that will occur between the pre-teen phase and the earlier twenties that have a lot to do with what we might call values, habits, standards of behaviour and expectations.

I: Now, that is absolutely perfectly clear to me what you're saying now.

R: So with that in mind, we're ending up then with folks who in many cases are extremely obsessively hanging on to their loyalty to this particular game and/or games like it, or the standards of play that it represents, which of course are now widely imitated by many many others, and there they are trying to make this "story now" stuff. You see, everything I'm talking about has absolutely nothing to do with people with other priorities. The game may have served them well, it may have served them badly depending on how they used it, but they probably went on to something else if they didn't like it.

I: Right, I totally played the hell out of that game in the nineties and went on to other stuff.

R: Sure, and I'm not sure what particular kind of rewards and fun and standards of what you wanted you brought to it, but whatever it may be, when you realised that it wasn't really delivering on it you moved on. Or maybe it *did* deliver and you were done. I don't know.

I: It would probably be that, different stories.. different genres, different everything, right. Because I played the hell out of it.

R: What did you get out of it? What was fun?

I: For me I'm big into immersive play so a lot of the times we just ignored a lot of it and socially resolved things without a system.

R: Right, do you want my jargon for what you just described?

I: Go, jargon away.

R: Extremely strong character exploration. And if it didn't necessarily generate "story now" in the long run or the short run or either way, and if that wasn't really an issue, you just got to be, you know, Vlad..

I: Sometimes that's totally what I would be going for, right.

R: Then it would deliver. You would have to excise a good - I'm going to estimate based on my memory of first edition.

I: Probably a good 80-90% of it.

R: I was going to say actually 70, but you're probably right with the experience but a hell of a lot of the book has to get junked. You just read the cover text at the beginning and that's pretty much all you did.

I: Everything on it was just a guide, I mean, Humanity's just a guide, right..

R: Well, it depends. Is it just a guide or did you ignore it?

I: We used it for the roleplaying, so it wasa guide, but..

R: But as a mechanic it wasn't really a powerful thing?

I: It wasn't enforced, so I guess if you felt it was appropriate for it to go down then that's what would happen.

R: Now what I'm stating in this example is that with what you've just described, I wouldn't characterise your experience of the game of Vampire as anything like what I'm describing. I'm saying there's who knows how many people who came to Vampire, scratched their itch or didn't scratch their itch and either way we're done or either way continue playing, whatever.

I: No, I totally did get in games like what you're talking about and I didn't stick with those.

R: Right. Now the people who stuck with them were the ones who wanted the "story now" and were convinced that this was supposed to deliver.

I: Ahh..

R: And that would generate now, habits of play, habits of the sociality of play, and shall we say a protectivness over what they were doing. These groups often tend to become very private, they tend to become very very oriented toward "our special group because we make stories". And they also have tendancy to, well, display a whole lot of social fragmentation that no-one ever really wants to talk about. In many groups of this kind when I talk to people, or people with this play history, they'll talk all about their GM Stan or whatever and you kinda say "so what.. how did Stan get this going? How did you all get this going while, you know, Henry was running the game?" And they talk for a little while, and they say "well, you know, things didn't really work out" and a few sentence fragment and then they say "well, then Stan started doing *this*" and there was no transition, their transition's very incoherent, they don't talk about how there was this enormous power struggle between Stan and Henry in terms of whose story was actually going to rule. Stan was a player in the game who was really pissed off that he didn't get the story he wanted out of Henry's games and he basically pulled a coup.

(the podcast continue for more than 1 hour after this, but the transcript stop here)

 on: May 31, 2012, 08:08:45 PM 
Started by Moreno R. - Last post by Moreno R.
For the people who have problems in understanding spoken english, or with listening to a long podcast, in this rpg.net post "hyphz" wrote a transcript of the first part of the Theory from the Closet Podcast. It's not complete (it covers only the first part, the first 30' in a 100' podcast) but it could be useful so I am posting it here, as an addenda to the summary I wrote.

It's a transcript of spoken dialog, not something meant to be read, so to get the tone used and a better understanding it would be better to read it listening to the podcast (if you can)


I: What is "Story?" (pause) I know - you're looking at me funny like I'm crazy, but for the next question I'd like to know what.. how you define "Story".

R: Story's a fictional situation that.. engages an audience and.. (heavy emphasis) RESOLVES.

I: Ok. So the next question I want to get into is, um, was it like a year ago, two years ago, you were discussing "Story" and um.. (long pause) White Wolf games, and..

R: That actually dates probably back to 1999.

I: Oh, really? Okay..

R: So what did you have in mind - anything specific?

I: I wanted to know about the whole brain damage comment that you had a lot of flak about. I actually couldn't read and follow that because there was so much being said..

R: Let me lay it out fairly straightforwardly as best as I can. In the early nineties, White Wolf games hit the hobby like a bombshell and, as people will tell you today, revolutionised roleplaying, changed roleplaying, brought roleplaying to a wider audience, raised the bar of production of roleplaying games, and many other things. A great deal of that, I think, is mis-stated, and in this case I'd like to take a look at the design of the games.

I: Ok.

R: If we're talking about, especially that early first round - the original Vampire, Mage, Werewolf in particular, what we see is no coherent reward for play at all. As I see it, the success of those games, and particularly of Vampire, had a lot to do with lucking on to a teen trend of the time which was the percieved edginess and fascination and excitement of people who dressed in leather or black and were sorta scary-looking and hung out at night and stuff like that..

I: (laughter)

R: I mean, you can take that back to bikers in earlier decades, or, you know, any number of other people who or types of activity that have fulfilled that need in teens to "hang with them" and to "be with those guys" or stuff like that. And in the early nineties, we're talking about the Goth thing, and so practically by the time Goth was dead, roleplaying games put out Vampire and you end up with a whole bunch of people who would looove to be with the gothers, and this game was among the many, many, many things they bought in order to buy into it. It was gear, and you could go to these clubs and you would get laid frequently perhaps and you would be involved in this whole goth scene and the girls would show up trying to be bad girls and the guys would show up trying to be cool guys and this whole thing is going on with or without the game, Vampire. And now we have this game, who briefly had a whole bunch of people that roleplaying store owners had never seen before running in with their hands waving over their heads to buy little orcs and to buy another supplement. And this went on for just a little teeny tiny while, but it *did* establish the idea in roleplaying sales and the store system and the distribution system, that this was some kinda big honker and for quite some time that meant that game stores would load their shelves with it, and continue to perpetuate the myth that it was bringing tons more people into the hobby.

Um, now all this is economic, it doesn't have much to do with the brain damage thing. But what I am going to say is that it - through no fault of its own as a game - was strewn across the early collegiate, late high school, scene of roleplaying. It was 1994, 95, 96, what game effectively did you usually run into when you got going in roleplaying? If it wasn't D&D Second Edition it would be Vampire.

Now here's my beef. What's up my nose, why am I annoyed, why am I actually literally pissed off about that? And it has everything to do with what I was talking about, with the reward system of the game. If the game were functioning in a way that paid off for playing it, in a way that made sense to everybody at the table - and you could appreciate it when it happened to someone else as well as yourself - then fine, but it doesn't have that. Instead what you effectively have is.. a mish-mash of combat mechanics that are effectively derived from Shadowrun, you have a mish-mash of character generation which is effectively derived, with a few intermediate steps, from Champions and related point-buy games like GURPS and stuff from the eighties. And you also have this overlay of insisting - verbally insisting, and you should take a look at that first edition Vampire - insisting that this was going to produce not only a watchable cinematic narrative or story - which is to say an arc of rising action on a conflict, and a climactic resolution, and fallout from that - not only was it going to do that but it would also be *literature*. And it would separate you, the person who has bought this game, from all that awful dungeon crawling. Text mattered. Text mattered a great deal. People sitting in their college dorms or in their ?? at high school or whatever poring through this, page by page by page, getting it all wrapped up in their minds just how this is supposed to be done and how this was going to turn out and what it was going to make *them* - and also, by then, membership in these edgy people. You know, it's not geeks anymore, we're the CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT or whatever. This is attracive, I don't really want to mock it, it's an ongoing teen and adolescent issue and it's just going to be here with us as long as we're people - what I'm really driving at is that the game is promising that level of epic literature and reliable creation of rising action, climactic confrontation, and resolution and fallout - and there's really nothing in the game that does anything of the sort. There's a humanity score, when it drops your character's actions are constrained constrained constrained further which is the very opposite of climactic decision in confrontations. It also features this Golden Rule thing. Now let me give you an example of when I read something like the Golden Rule.. well, why don't you tell me the Golden Rule.

I: Well I actually, for the show, I've been calling it Rule Zero. I think we're talking about the same thing..

R: Well, the rule as stated and called the Golden Rule, is "if it's not fun - if the rules are not fun then don't follow the rule this time."

I: Correct.

R: Well, let's see. Here I am. Let's pretend I'm playing any old roleplaying game, so I'm not picking on Vampire or anything right here in this particular moment, I'm saying let's look at any roleplaying game. And we have that rule, it's explicit, and the rule says "this is how we do it and we do this because we're *real* roleplayers and we don't like the dice and the rules to rule our fun" or some similar statement. Okay. Umm.... The... you know, the prince of the city has told us, the weeny vampires, that we have to go trotting across the city and get the jade amulet and so we get the guy with the jade amulet and we're taking him back to the prince and, wham, the NPC jumps out of the dark alley and he's a badass and he smacks my character and smacks the other character and I say "ok, we attack back" or whatever - they're grabbing the guy with the amulet of course, or this guy is - and we say "we attack back" or whatever and the GM says, oh well you know, he gets away. (pause) And you're kinda going... "well, actually by that rule that you said, that wasn't fun".

I: (laughs)

R: "Can we do it this other way that we can do according to the book or there's these other rule options, or maybe the GM uses a rule and says well this guy's got an Obfuscate of such-and-such and I rolled and that was his success, and I'm kinda like, well yea but that wasn't fun so why can't you not do that?" I don't think I've ever seen that Golden Rule applied as I just described. It, in application, means "things go my way if I'm the GM". That's what it means in application. So effectively what you have is this notion not of story creation through the processes of communication during play, the processes of procedure, of activities that you carry out at the table with each other communicating - no, you will, IF you get a story, it's because the GM felt like making one up, had one in his head beforehand, or makes it up as he goes along as you play. And that's what story comes from. Now that's the confusion in many cases - that story is product. You talk to a group like that, they say "oh but we *did* make a story, it was a great story!" and you're kinda saying "well yea but I watched you play, I'm maybe even playing in the group with you, and I didn't see you actually make story. I saw a story get imposed upon play." It's different. I'm not talking about product, I'm talking about process.

When somebody's making up a story, there is a point in the history of time when the story does not exist. I don't care if this is right before his first rough draft, I don't care if this is right before his final cut, I don't care where it comes in that particular person's process but there will come a point where there wasn't a story and now there is. What happens in that person's mind is a matter of some debate - you can talk to creative people all you want to and you're going to just run into days of debate - what I do know is that those things can also occur at the group level of discussion and it's not just freeform consensus until everybody agrees and moves onto the next scene. It is, in fact, a procedure, a dynamic interaction that generates results that no one person could possibly have predicted or imposed. That's what I mean when I say "story now". It means that the process of actually making the damn thing is occuring here, during play, the processes of play. That's opposed to what I like to call "story before" which is where somebody sits down in play fully aware of the story in mind, as much as saying, well then they're going to confront this villain at the end of, well you know we're going to be playing for about four or five hours, I figure with one hour left they're going to confront the villain around then. And I used to run my games like that, I used to sit down and play Champions and I'd have that in mind, and I was improvisational enough, you know, and I had enough stuff going on in the game that I could kind of stall them a little bit in the first round of play and throw them a few clues, and play the NPCs, and maybe had a revelation they could find out along the way, but roundabout an hour to go I was set. And then, ok, you find him. So where'd the story come from, effectively speaking? It came from me.

And then you have "story after" where *nothing* really happens at the time, it's all a big mess, but people go back in their heads, or perhaps one person in prepping for the next session sort of dissects a bunch of stuff that you can cobble together to make into that story with the rising action, narration, and stuff and treats it that way, so that's kinda "story after". The processes of play really didn't produce one that was enjoyed as a story at the time. So does that clarify a little bit about the story before, story after, story now?

I: Actually, tons compared to what little I had grasped of it so far.

R: Excellent. So let's move to getting to your real question, which is this business about the brain damage. What I am saying is that people have aesthetic interests in role-playing, a lot of us really would like to have this "story now" experience and actually be authors and audience at the same time, get all the best of both worlds in that regard, the same way that musicians playing music get the best of both worlds, of being both creators and audience to the music at the same time. Musicians do that. Not *everybody* wants that, and I don't even want it all the time. You know, I played cut-throat today! "Story now" my ass, I was there to become the top dog in that cut-throat motorcycle band and we were going to have a great time just playing dominating, going on raids, sending our girlfriends to go and winkle out each other's secrets, and you know, you play opposition to other people's conflicts and so you try and come up with conflicts that would be humiliating if they lost so that way they'd be hampered in the bragging rights competition in the next phase - you know, it's competitive. That's a blast if that's what we're all for. There's many different approaches and as you know I think they can be categorised fairly easily into distinctive things, creative agendas, at the table with the group.

What I'm saying is that let's take whatever subset of teenagers who were hit by this pack of games, the White wolf games and their ilk, which is to say a wide variety of games that were a very strong attempt to be just like them..

I: Games with attribute/skill..?

R: Not just attribute and skill, but the whole idea of this dark edgy outsider, you know..

I: Okay.

R: Smooth blend of the X-files and Nightmare on Elm Street perhaps.

I: You're talking more about the feeling than the rules.

R: I am, and so that's very attractive - I mean, I didn't even really mean that derisively, you know, if you want to say "X-Files and Nightmare on Elm Street" I'll say well that sounds kinda fun, I could do that.

I: They're both cool.

(continue in the next post)

 on: May 31, 2012, 07:54:25 PM 
Started by Moreno R. - Last post by Moreno R.
I already did post the links and quotations out of order (the second post in this thread should be read before the first), so I suppose I could simply give you the link to the Theory from the Closet podcast where Ron explained in his own words in 2007 what he did mean with "Brain Damage" in the following threads, but I am more interested in showing the history and progression of the polemic here at the Forge and elsewhere, so for this part I will try to follow a chronological order.

As we have seen, Ron had already used "Brain Damage" in a few threads for a few months, but the polemics were limited. Then another thread started February 9, 2006 in the "Actual Play" section, a few days after the Anyway polemics:  [Sorcerer & Sword] Oh, the Shame!
This a thread about a game of  Sorcerer played at a German convention, where the GM and the players had problems caused by using Sorcerer as if it was a traditional rpgs. I am not going into details because they are not important, read the thread if you are interested, but the fact is that there are no polemics in that thread.  But in that thread Ron wrote:
Quote from: Ron Edwards
What concerns me about the dice is that complex group resolution in Sorcerer is easier, faster, and more reliably decisive than any RPG known, relative to the detail. (Yes, Dogs fans, it's true.) Yet for some reason people keep insisting on playing it as if it were Vampire or Over the Edge, adding complications like initiative in the former case and reducing it to freeform with arbitrary "roll now" bits in the latter.

This inspired Jess Burneko to start another thread, this time in the Adept Press forum, asking [Sorcerer] Why Group Conflict Is So Confusing...
Why I am citing the exact subforums where there threads were posted? Because they are different. People without a lot of knowledge about how the forge works (and worked) assume that everything posted here follow the same rules, and that the difference between, for example, the Actual Play subforum and the Half Meme Press subforum are about the subject of the post (the title of the game), not realizing that the subforum have different specific rules, and different moderators and moderation styles.
In particular: the Adept Press subforum is the "tequila forum", with a more relaxed and informal atmosphere than the "Forge Proper". It's not the forum to discuss gaming theory or dissect a problematic actual play experience, it's the place to ask Ron questions about his games and about what he thinks about this or that.  Not "Ron, what does Forge Theory says about this" or something like that, but more a place for "Ron, just between us...  what do you really think about this?"

To see this, all you need to do is compare the first thread, in Actual Play, with the second, in the Tequila Forum: they are about the same thing, the problems people used to traditional games have in playing Sorcerer, but the tone is different.  Just to cite some example quotes from Ron in the second thread: "And I'll kneecap the next bastard who says different. Whoever it is".  [...]  "Having been with you every step of the way, all this time, I award you the High Order of Sorceresque Merit Badge, Jesse. My kneecapping applies to the next bastard, not, uh, the current one. (Something about that doesn't sound right, somehow ...)".

And it's in that thread that Ron talks again about Brain Damage, this time:
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Now - your set of examples is more or less a diagnostic board of what I've been calling, with various reactions 'round the internet, brain damage. There are so many bent/broken features of creativity and interaction embedded in those examples that it'd take a textbook to lay them all out in a way which shows what's really wrong.

Yes - "wrong." Since brain damage (which I think is literally the case) seems to get right up people's asses as a term, I'll analogize to limb-based physical limitations.

"Wrong" ... what do I mean? Wrong in the sense that a person missing limbs, using old-school prosthetics, must whip their head about and lurch down the street, rather than using a modern prosthetic which (a) doesn't resemble a limb in the slightest but (b) permits them to walk without damaging the rest of their body or forcing constant disorientation. Note, I'm not privileging viewer comfort as the point, but rather the person's health and function as the point.

If you say "creative social interaction" instead of "walking," in that paragraph, then that's what early-to-mid 1990s role-playing procedures concerning so-called "storytelling" were like - Vampire leading the pack, as well as a number of other offspring of a particular application of Champions. You've seen these role-playing experiences too, Jesse. You know all about the social and creative equivalents.

Heh - I could carry on with that limb-analogy with some accuracy, I think ... the contemporary tendency toward overt and covert freeform as a solution would be like tossing away the crappy prosthetic, but then flapping one's arms very hard and saying, "I'm flying, I'm flying!"

Julie (jrs) told me about a guy she saw walking along with a lower-leg prosthetic that didn't look like a leg at all - a flat, s-curved sheet of metal, if I understood her correctly. The guy strode along with his head, shoulders, posture, all in sync, just like a person with legs.

I consider Sorcerer to be like that kind of prosthetic ... but to use it, you have to abandon the idea that a prosthetic is supposed to resemble the missing limb parts. You have to throw away a whole bunch of stuff that you've learned by pure indoctrination, not analysis, "is" the way limbs work. Going to the topic rather than the analogy, we're talking about recognizing that role-playing is a Big Model phenomenon, not some "talk and roll and see what happens" fetish ritual. Hero Wars is just like Sorcerer in this regard. The Pool would be another interesting example, "shaped differently" from the other two, if you will.

Here's another application of the analogy ... years ago, I saw a phenomenal hard-style martial arts demonstration by a guy with one leg and one arm, using a crutch. Since the developed martial arts are based on a series of physical principles, a knowledgeable viewer watching this guy could (and did) say, "That's it!" Meaning, the movements were obviously different, but the principles he was using were exactly the same as the baseline art.

In other words, it wasn't, "crippled guy tries so hard, awww, isn't that sweet, give him a black belt." It was, holy shit, not only is this guy really good, but his mentor and the art itself are clearly validated by this application, in terms of the principles being employed and someone's understanding of them, rather than just memorizing coded moves for fully-limbed people. This was martial arts.

That's Dust Devils, Universalis, My Life with Master, and InSpectres. All of which I consider to be the collective gateway beyond which the past two years of creative explosion have occurred. Without that door, no Trollbabe, no Lacuna, no Polaris, no Primetime Adventures, no Breaking the Ice, and no Shadow of Yesterday. (I'm failing to include about twenty other titles; you all know who you are, so consider yourselves mentioned. Not all of you are active at the Forge.) Note that I consider all of this explosion to be equivalent to the martial arts stuff performed by the man with only two limbs.

[As some of you know, I am now embarked on an ambitious project based on the idea that we "have limbs" after all, and wondering what the principles underlying the bevy of fantastic new RPGs (and RPG-ish things) would be like, expressed by and for people without the damage. I consider this utter terra incognita, culturally, creatively, and commercially. It cannot and will not have any kind of relevance for gamer culture or commerce. As a survivor of the damage, I may fail miserably. But this topic is not relevant to the present point.]

If people are interested, I will explain my references to brain damage, for which missing limbs were a stand-in in this post. You may not like what I have to say.

And he did, after being requested to in that thread. With the most infamous thread in the history of the Forge (with over 57.000 views and 132 posts, against the usual 2-3000 views for a Adept Press Subforum thread):  Brain Damage

I am not going to banalize Ron's long explanation by summarizing it, you will have to read it yourself. But what jump at me, in the replies, is the way almost nobody is really answering to what he said. Most of the replies are knee-jerk reactions to the words "Brain Damage".

This was, and still is, laughable to me. At the time I was still following the usenet newsgroups about rpgs, they were almost dead but still most of the posts were full of insults to the way other people played. How could someone SURVIVE in this hobby having that reaction to any perceived insult (an "insult" in this case clearly aimed at a tiny sector of player, not even a big part of the players of Vampire, so it was classic interned "I am offended in other people's place"), still escape me.

What did really jump at me in that thread was not the "brain Damage" thing.  It was something other, that most people completely missed. It was something that is the single bit of forge posting I have quoted more times in the last years to people who had difficulties with their gaming group.  It was cited a lot of other times here at the Forge. But this is the thread where this bit was written the first time:


To engage in a social, creative activity, three things are absolutely required. Think of music, theater, quilting, whatever you'd like. These principles also apply to competitive games and sports, but that is not to the present point.

1. You have to trust that the procedures work - look, these instruments make different noises, so we can make music; look, this ball is bouncey, so we can toss and dribble it

2. You have to want to do it, now, here, with these people - important! (a) as opposed to other activities, (b) as opposed to "with anybody who'll let me"

3. You have to try it out, to reflect meaningfully on the results, and to try again - if it's worth doing, it's worth learning to do better; failure is not disaster, improvement is a virtue

My claim is that the hobby of "story-oriented" role-playing as expressed by its most aggressive marketer of the term, and as represented and imitated by countless others, fails on all three counts. (1) Since the procedures don't work, and everyone knows it, you get the Golden Rule. (2) Since there is no "it" to do, and since social function is ignored as the necessary context, the ideal becomes to play "at all," with no social or creative metric to judge it as successful. (3) Since play is not fun, the only way to enjoy or validate the activity is to edit one's memory of play to recall it as fun, which carries the additional negative safety feature of critical repair of the techniques.

The fictional content itself is characterized by a hell of a lot of fictional "wandering," and not in the sense of setup or atmosphere, either. Fictional confrontations tend to be extremely inconclusive, what a movie-viewer would call a "meaningless car chase" or "chewing the scenery."

This is simply a summary of everything that went wrong with traditional role-playing, and a list of instruction to follow to have better gaming.

The entire gentechegioca community and forum is build upon that Big Picture. It's so simple, and it's the most difficult thing to do in traditional gaming culture.

Really, if you are dissatisfied with your gaming experiences, and want to understand how to improve them.. read that thread.

Other quotes:
Consumerism and subcultural identification
Owning walls and walls of books from one or very few companies, in a classic expression of brand loyalty - the cultural code-word is "support," but it's really about staying committed to "fun eventually" at the expense of fun now
Application of the periodical model (comics, magazines) to the role-playing product - one must buy regularly in order to be involved
Frantic attention to what's coming out next, feverish interest in what everyone else has heard or might be interested in
Consistent impulsive and submissive purchasing habits at specific stores, as influenced by specific people there

Cronyism and isolation
Confounding inclusion in play, friendship, and social appreciation in the fashion I described in Social Context (see the Infamous Five)
Social huddling as opposed to social endeavor or friendship
Intense, long-term tensions based on romantic partners who do not support one participant's inclusion in the group; usually accompanied by an increase of dishonesty among former friends

"Story-oriented" without story
Deprotagonizing is the baseline, the pure default of play; when that's the case, "permission" for one's character to matter, however momentarily, becomes the key reward, often withheld
No situation or conflict yielding Premise, therefore no developing of Premise through fictional events
No consistent use of a given technique for a given situation - sometimes you roll, sometimes you don't; sometimes a shouted announcement "counts," sometimes it doesn't
Disappearance of the reward system, replaced by fiat and the fact of inclusion
* Force is the basic technique, the only accepted manner of generating story-ish content, and it is usually expected to be invisible *

[Side note: it is no surprise to me that of every term I've ever suggested, introduced, or adapted in my writings about role-playing, Force is the one most consistently elided or illustratively mis-applied by readers. You should go read the definition in the Glossary again. It doesn't say what you probably think it says. The damage to your own intellectual pathways is preventing you from reading it.]

Co-dependency and reinforcement of emotional dynamics which aren't rewarding
Childish behavior during play: pouting, crumpling up papers, tuning out, arguing to disrupt
Ongoing power-struggle over outcomes of game techniques, a brinksmanship of flouting "rules"
Socially poisonous dynamics surrounding play: ostracizing, overriding, currying favor, participating in a running dialogue of "who said what about whom"
Specific and utterly tacit power-structure reinforced by the above: impossible expectations of fun - you have to guess what I want and provide it consistently

Disconnection between what is done and what is produced
Hyper-tension about one's investment in a given character creation (not play, creation), resulting in posturing and defensiveness during play, which can only be a threat to the potential of that creation
Inability to reflect meaningfully on the experience, including resisting discussing actual play in any accurate or critical fashion
Inability to identify a reward system, "play is its own reward" - which means, inclusion is the best one can hope for
Insistenced that play is awesome and that the other participants are the best possible, focusing on rare and fleeting instances of shared imagination as evidence

We are all familiar with this state of mind - it is precisely the profile of those individuals committed to storytelling role-playing as presented by White Wolf games and many similar others that preceded them or came afterwards. Its origins in terms of game texts are probably traceable to AD&D2, for content, and to some applications of Champions, for rules.

And by "state of mind," I mean something profound and developmentally reinforced, a value system, not just a momentary mood or habitual tendency. For people who are in the "zone" of the age and subcultural target market, they try to make it work (after all, it should work, they think) and in failing, adopt this new value system instead, and eventually they leave, their original interest in the activity (which they never experienced because it didn't happen) diminished. For the people who do more than dabble in this ... thing ...., they undergo forms of indoctrination which are rather horrible to watch, and their behaviors are most especially fascinating when the following opportunities are made available.

1. Actual Play posting - they flatly cannot do it

2. Encouragement to identify their personal creative goals - they react with rage at being labeled

3. An assortment of low-buy-in games, rather than a single "chosen" high-buy-in one - they defend their own consumerism

4. Rules which actually work - they hysterically insist such rules couldn't possibly work, and they cannot actually bring themselves to pay attention to the rules during play, and resist learning at all costs

Sound familiar?

What doest it means? I, too, was "Brain Damaged"?  I don't know. Ron use the term in scientific sense, not in the colloquial one. I don't meet the qualifications he specified in the thread (I started role-playing when I was 22 years old, not an adolescent). I can't judge how much "Brain damage" is scientifically applicable in my case.

What I know, with a shiver in my spine, that that list I quoted above describe not only my own role-playing history with "traditional" games, but what I observed in every single "traditional" gaming group I ever saw playing.  Some more some less, some more strongly and some not in so noticeable manner, but... really, everyone. That list IS what I was fighting with.

Just be honest.  Don't be fooled by your anger. Read that list.  Can you REALLY say that you don't know what it describe?

But that post says another thing: that that list is NOT what roleplaying is. That you can have role-playing without all that shit.

And it's true.  Really true. You can have role-playing, fulfilling role-playing, without all that....


...the nerdrage did go on and on, with a lot of angry posts elsewhere, about which I don't give a shit, so I am not posting links or quotes about them.  But it was useful in proving the point.

Ron replied in another thread, Followup to the Awful Thread of Awfulness, and then  talked again about it in 2007 in the Theory from the Closet podcast I talked about before.

Apart from all that nerdrage, what happened?

Having finally realized what was keeping me back I "cured" myself with a lot of good games, and now I am enjoying role-playing games as never before.

Ron finished Spione, and it's  all what he said and more. I have played it a lot of times even with people who never role-played before, and it's much simpler for them.

Other people created a lot of very good games, and game design goes on. And no, I am not talking about D&D5. Seriously.

And what about you? Your gaming sessions are described by the "big picture" quote, or by the other list?

In any case, it's your choice. Think about what you want from your games, and decide.

 on: May 31, 2012, 07:21:24 PM 
Started by fodazd - Last post by fodazd
It's a shame this site is shutting down really, as I'd quite like to discuss this further, and I haven't really settled on a venue to do it in, but we probably have a few hours yet.

Ok... I probably wouldn't have started a new thread like this if I knew this forum would be closed in less than a day. I guess this serves me right for not reading the site discussion area...

 on: May 31, 2012, 06:45:04 PM 
Started by Ron Edwards - Last post by Moreno R.
I was hoping that someone would say what i wanted to write better that I would have. Thanks, Larry, I am adding my signature to your post, if you don't mind.

Thanks Clinton and Ron and Vincent for everything. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this cool thing. Thanks to everyone who figured out how to get their awesome game realized and into my grubby hands.

The Forge was not merely the thing which breathed new life into a hobby I was basically ready to abandon out of frustration. It was something really special on the entire Internet. Ron's moderation brought a unique combination of academic rigor, cutting through the bullshit which plagues 99.999% of online discourse, paired with a kind of straight-talking enthusiasm for a number of geeky pastimes, which given the topic at hand was necessary for any of this to be genuine or to matter. It brought together the shared expertise of hundreds of scattered subject matter experts who had probably never thought of themselves in those terms. It was a model for Internet discussion. It was what any hobby's community wishes it could achieve.

Everything is different and better.

What the forge did, for me, was to show me that the hobby I was leaving behind, disgusted by what it had become, had worth after all. That it could be something better, with better instruments, better procedures and better practices.  That it was not necessarily poisonous.

I did sign up in early 2006, so this mean that I was here for more than half of the forum history. There is more Forge with me than without me. It's strange to think about that, I am still seeing myself as the new guy who has to go read the old posts to understand what the others are saying. And reading the old posts I realized that I had it easy, coming here when all the difficult work was already done, the "forge theories" proved beyond any rational doubt by new games that surpassed everything that had come before, the big model already drawn and explained with years of experience explaining it. It had to be much more difficult believing in what the Forge stood for in 2001. But reading these first threads, I would have liked to be there at the beginning. instead of wasting more years with broken games and bad habits..

When I started to flame after that against these same old useless habits and broken games in Italian forums and conventions I was only venting my rage, but I found that really a lot of people shared that rage and were searching for something better.  A lot of these people became my friends, and the Italian gentechegioca community has grown both in number and in sociality in a way I would not have considered possible only a few years ago. And nothing of that would exist without the Forge.

And finally, without the Forge I would not have known and I would not have met Ron, Vincent, Meguey, Paul, and Danielle, and that would have been really a pity.

I am not happy to see this place closing. I will miss it, even if was almost empty at the end. And about that... I consider it the biggest failure, not of the Forge, but of the community that was attracted by this forum in 2001-2005. The way a lot of people did read "talk about theory only in Actual Play terms" as "you can't talk about theory anymore" (or maybe it was honestly a "if I have to play to talk about theory, I am leaving this place").  I think that a certain point, in this community, commerce and/or status games took the place of actual play and reflection for a lot of people, with bad consequences both for the forum and the community.

The Forge would have been closed anyway, this is clear from at least 2005.  The pity is not that it's closing (even if I will miss it a lot...), it's that it was not more used it the last years that it was open. Now it's too late.

Too late to post new threads, anyway. But luckily the forum will stay here, and there are still a lot of interesting threads I have still not read...

 on: May 31, 2012, 06:36:25 PM 
Started by James_Nostack - Last post by James_Nostack
Because the Forge is going quiet in a bit, I wanted to express my thanks to Ron, Vincent, Clinton, and everyone else involved in running the Forge, and also in contributing to it.  Although I've never designed a game, the Forge impacted my "actual play" enormously, and I feel has been instrumental in improving my skills as a player and GM.  You guys made a huge difference to me.  Thank you.

I found out about the Forge sometime in the Spring of 2004 through an RPG.Net thread about Donjon, which I absolutely loved.

Around that time, I was running a long Alternity campaign which had become somewhat railroady and frustrating.  Several of the Forge discussions back then were focused on stakes-setting techniques, and these ended up saving the campaign for me. 

In early '05 I got a chance to play the old, non-Fudge version of Shadow of Yesterday, which became my go-to game for much of 2005. 

Via a game of Primetime Adventures I got involved with NerdNYC, which has become a big source of friends and good times over the last seven years.

After struggling a bit with Sorcerer in Summer '06, we went back and did it again in Summer '07 and it was a great experience as I learned to completely let go of managing "an adventure."  This was a seminal moment in my gaming career, I think.  Without this lesson, I wouldn't have been as receptive or as capable of doing sandbox style play with the New York Red Box, my current gang.

Along the way I've had lots of fun playing With Great Power, Dogs in the Vineyard, My Life with Master, Trollbabe, Burning Wheel, Paladin, Capes, The Pool, and Breaking the Ice.  Through the discussions and articles, I've learned about Puppetland, Prince Valiant, King Arthur Pendragon, and Dying Earth, games that I probably never would have heard of, let alone played and fell in love with.  Somewhere in early 2008, one of the Ben's posted a thread about playing early-edition D&D again, which was one of the catalysts behind forming New York's largest OSR gang. 

Thanks to those experiences - particularly with learning to loosen up the Alternity game, and figuring out the "create a tense situation; let the players disturb it; play out the consequences" style of GM'ing in Sorcerer - I've come to view gaming as a kind of dialogue, a collaboration.  (I won't use Ron's jam band metaphor because it's over used, but it's exactly on point.)  Or, rather - I had been told all along, in all these countless GM books, that running a game was a collaboration with the players, but they didn't teach me how to collaborate.  These Forge games and discussion threads, at that particular time, for this particular gamer, taught me these things.

These games were fun to play, but the act of playing them improved the play of a lot of other games too.  People put a lot of hard work into this site, and that hard work led to me and my friends having an enormous amount of fun.  I can't thank y'all enough.

 on: May 31, 2012, 05:50:59 PM 
Started by Ron Edwards - Last post by charlesperez
Yes, it has been quite a time, both lurking these years and making the occasional post.


 on: May 31, 2012, 05:02:27 PM 
Started by David Berg - Last post by JoyWriter
There's one final reward type I can think of that I didn't include before: (no idea why really as waiting for other people's responses at this late stage is a bit of a fool’s errand!)

Another type of reward is sculpted situations that allow players to embody certain positions. Whether it's imperious victory, being proved right against opposition, heartfelt moments, all kinds of stuff. The game can be set up so as to be psychologically manipulative in the sense that it sets up for certain moments where the player is encouraged to relate to the world in a certain way. Just like crescendos of musical pieces, villains can be set up specifically so that they can be taken down, people can oppose them specifically so that at a certain moment they can be reconciled, and hope can be crushed so as to have the players be the ones to reveal it.

If plot threads assume and involve these moments, which play to the emotions of players, then following the GM's thread will allow him to set up scenes, that are not merely dramatic in the sense of imaginary pyrotechnics or staging, but because they position the player with respect to the NPCs and situations in a particularly potent way. That's the key thing, relationship and embodiment, unique features of interactive behaviour that can be crafted by positioning the player with regard to certain thematic cues and npcs.

Many games are enormously effective at producing these moments automatically, setting up certain patterns of relationship, certain relations to the world, my life with master being a classic example. But in a preplanned game, it is often possible to set particularly personal things up if you have a suitable understanding of your players. Many of these moments will fall flat, or not be as potent as expected, and so should not be given any fanfare aside from the setup required, but other times they can be very significant.

Unlike in a story now game, these events will generally not be potent in both large scale plot and character emotion, because the freedom required in making these moments authentic tends to make them perfect places for a plot to become derailed. This is a classic reason to have the character's plots be entangled with but not identical with the pre-planned one, so that these moments of uncertainty can be adapted to and times of procedural significance can be safeguarded. Sometimes they happen in the dénouement of big moments of the GM's plot, with the procedural climax leading to a few pre-arranged personal moments. This is a pretty safe place to put them as the medium term GM plans have probably just gone off, and the lull leaves more leeway for correction.

Because this is manipulative and basically involves using the situation to position a player in a certain way to push their buttons, this is a kind of thing that can easily go wrong. I've stopped a GM short who was using these techniques before by saying "yes, I meet someone I love who has died, in the clouds and it's very touching" in a kind of fastforwarding way, which sort of discouraged him a little, but was because I didn't value people trying to manipulate me for my own entertainment, certainly not with the level of trust we currently had. We basically skipped my scene and carried on to the other people's who actually appreciated it, and considered it a good session. I get the impression that jeepform or other kinds of north-european larp is very strong on this kind of reward also.

 on: May 31, 2012, 04:54:16 PM 
Started by Ron Edwards - Last post by Larry L.
Thanks Clinton and Ron and Vincent for everything. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this cool thing. Thanks to everyone who figured out how to get their awesome game realized and into my grubby hands.

The Forge was not merely the thing which breathed new life into a hobby I was basically ready to abandon out of frustration. It was something really special on the entire Internet. Ron's moderation brought a unique combination of academic rigor, cutting through the bullshit which plagues 99.999% of online discourse, paired with a kind of straight-talking enthusiasm for a number of geeky pastimes, which given the topic at hand was necessary for any of this to be genuine or to matter. It brought together the shared expertise of hundreds of scattered subject matter experts who had probably never thought of themselves in those terms. It was a model for Internet discussion. It was what any hobby's community wishes it could achieve.

Everything is different and better.

 on: May 31, 2012, 04:12:43 PM 
Started by fodazd - Last post by JoyWriter
I think this is a perfectly reasonable position! There's been a few discussions on this in various places.

If a GM (or other players if you have more expansive authorship powers) dedicates himself to resolving things based on certain principles, then the expressiveness of the rules system is expanded according to those principles. In those areas that you value consistency over ends, multiple interesting unexpected things could happen.

It's a shame this site is shutting down really, as I'd quite like to discuss this further, and I haven't really settled on a venue to do it in, but we probably have a few hours yet. I personally think the issue of GM impartiality goes much further than a single players role and expands to the very idea of trying to play by the rules; instead of seeking my end directly, I will impliment a system to hopefully get there indirectly, in the hope that this will produce a better experience, and a more social one.

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