*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
August 15, 2018, 02:42:11 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 33 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion  (Read 10682 times)
lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« on: January 28, 2008, 11:14:33 AM »

I've encountered an odd problem in some games I've played in recently that keeps taking on a very specific shape in my head. My issue is that this shape is not similar enough to any phenomenon described in The Big Model (or whatever) that I can find the terminology and prior insight to approach it.

What I'm picturing is a game where there is no Shared Imaginary Space hovering over the table, informing the players (GM inclusive) what is going on. Instead, everyone has their own image of the world where the only high-contrast, full-colour object is their own character, and everything and everybody else are nothing but ethereal, ghostly presences. In each individual's world, what the ghosts do is largely inconsequential - my character does not react notably to any events zie didn't cause hirself, and in extreme cases, perhaps not even to environmental occurrences (as described by the GM).

The phenomenon is characterized by the players being constantly engaged in dyadic (strictly two-way) communication with the GM, wherein they poke and prod at the environment without interacting or collaborating with the other players, In or Out of character. The main problem with such play - other than that it hogs GM time and slows the game down for everyone - is that a cohesive, coherent SIS is never created. From an objective standpoint, merging all the individual "ghost worlds", the story is disjointed and absurd. For me personally, I find it very difficult to connect with characters in such a story - my own and others' - as they seem 2-dimensional and crude due to their inability to react to external influences.

Illustrative examples.
Quote
Situation: An starship's engine is about to explode and the emergency alarm sounds. The crew of the spaceship all gather in the engine room trying to solve the problem.
Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a failed roll) "You think maybe the exhaust valve is blocked."
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a successful roll) "Seems like there's foreign substances in the core is causing a chain reaction. Those illirium crystals you picked up on Bane IV were probably impure."
Joe: "Okay, I'm going to try to clear the exhaust valve."
GM: "Upon further inspection, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the exhaust valve after all."
Adam: "I'll try to manually override the core to expedite the shutdown process." (rolls Propulsion System Engineering)
GM: "Okay, you think maybe it'll shut down in time now."
Joe: "Obviously I was mistaken about the exhaust valve so I will go back and check again." (rolls Starship Mechanic)

And so on. From an outside perspective, there are two perfectly silent and methodical individuals, part of the same crew, approaching the same problem from two different angles with no communication about their findings whatsoever. No "Hey Joe, what seems to be the problem?" or "Adam, what's that humming noise?" - they descend on a situation and circle around it completely unaware of each other.

I do not believe this can be chalked up to "bad roleplay", whatever that nebulous concept is. Even with some conversational colour thrown into the mix, the same events can occur. Instead, it seems the issue is that Joe and Adam, for whatever reasons, are disbelieving the existence of the other's character.

A more illustrative example:
Quote
Situation: The group has entered a room by force and realizes the rightful occupant has trained a gun on Joe.
Joe: "I say, 'If you shoot me, the rest of my companions will know where the shot came from and they'll come after you.'"
GM: "He seems to hesitate, just a little, before he responds. 'I'll be long gone before then.'"
Adam: "I light a fire over in the corner of the room. 'Oh! Fire! Big fire, go boom!'"
<nobody reacts - the negotiations continues for a little while>
Adam: "I clap my hands and do a little dance over by the fire."
<again, nobody reacts and the standoff is resolved>
GM: "The lieutenant walks over to his liquor cabinet to pour himself some whiskey."
Adam: "But... I lit the liquor cabinet on fire."
GM: "The lieutenant goes, 'HOLY CRAP! FIRE!'"

This one might be a little easier to explain - nobody wanted to react to the presence of a fire, because it'd have to mean dealing with it, which would've been anticlimactic since the standoff was far more dramatic. Still, I think there's a possibility that this is the same phenomenon - to the others at the table, Adam was a ghost, lighting ghostly fires that nobody wanted to react to or even acknowledge.

Can anyone explain what this is that I'm looking at, and how it fits in with existing theory? What are some methods designers or GMs have used to encourage a cohesive, coherent SIS? Are there any designs that tend to solve (or create) this problem, or is it purely a group dynamic issue likely to occur with any system?
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2008, 03:12:10 PM »

Hiya,

Well, as far as how it fits with existing theory, I think you already did the job! You described a way for the SIS to fail, and what was going on socially (i.e. the "outer box" surrounding the SIS) that made it happen that way. I have definitely seen versions of this myself - it is clearly a fundamental failure of the medium, and just as one cannot write upon the empty air, a group can't play without the communication that you see breaking apart. It's only role-playing insofar as a cacophony of noodling solipsistic players of instruments could be called music, and I'm not PoMo enough to claim such things. To me, what you're describing ain't role-playing no matter how many dice may be rolled nor how detailed those character sheets may be.

I don't know if it needs a name or not, but I encourage you to come up with one ... incohesion is what you already sort of suggested in your title, which is fine, but I can just see all the confusions with incoherence or whatever. Besides, I'm partial to cute-ass names that resonate with people who've experienced the same phenomenon, so if you come up with one of those I'm all for it.

Now ... you began by talking about picturing this happening. Then you talk about something you're looking at. Are you describing phenomena you've actually observed or participated in? This isn't merely a thought-experiment, is it?

Oh wait, I looked again - you definitely encountered it. What games were being played? Who were the players, roughly? I am not asking these questions for form's sake; I think the answers will help us to understand why in the world human beings would persist in such a ... I dunno what to call it ... bogus activity.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: January 28, 2008, 03:17:13 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2008, 09:56:30 AM »

The reason I'm using words like picture and looking at is because an analogy to the problem, in the form of individual ghost worlds, is very visually clear to me. What I'm having some problems with is moving it into a semantic space where I can analyze and hopefully deal with it. I'm encouraged to do this because I'm currently diddling with a design intended to emphasize immersion - in the character identification interpretation of the term - and if the ghost world phenomenon would appear in such a game session it'd turn into a complete dud, guaranteed.

I suspect that this is not a problem that either exists or doesn't in a session - it exists to varying degrees in all games. It is also highly subjective - it could be that I detect the problem because I have a problem perceiving the SIS, and assume that others around the table suffer similarly. The only objective indication I have that this is occurring at all outside my own head is persistent dyadic GM <--> player communication, rather than more organic group communication.

I believe that if the group is engaged in group communication, the ghost worlds each player perceives is more colourful and alive. At a certain point, it doesn't even really matter if one person's ghost world varies from someone else's, because the play is objectively coherent enough that the players can engage in the luxury of subjective interpretation of game events (living their own personal fantasy) without compromising with the SIS.

Without getting into a discussion about what roleplaying is and isn't, I have to say that I believe a session can have lots of potential even without a fully functional SIS. I have most frequently observed this breakdown in games with conflict-resolution mechanics, because we tend to play such stories faster towards their conclusion. Thus, there is far less time to get to know the characters than in your typical never-ending fantasy campaign. But focused conflict-driven play tend to create more loaded stories. However, especially in the case of a really defunct SIS, each player may find their story only by approaching it as "Story After", an approach which by definition block out those features of the story that confuse the premise.

Just to note that while I recognize that this is dysfunctional play, I don't feel it's necessarily worthless or damaging. I'm even reluctant to call it a "bogus activity".

To answer your specific questions, the last game which I noticed this in was Dust Devils, with a homebrewed post-apocalyptic setting hack. Think Mad Max meets the Fallout video game to an 80s metal soundtrack. The characters are:
  • a gun-toting leather-clad badass out to revenge his family,
  • a split-personality, pacifist collector of ancient artifacts,
  • the feral kid with the mullet from Road Warrior,
  • an aged "devil clown",
  • and my character, a human-hating eco-warrior from a SoCal hippie tribe.
As for the players, since I am relatively new to this group I don't believe I know them well enough to describe them in a way that's conducive to analyzing any problems with group dynamic. Suffice to say  there are no obvious "problem players", unless I am one and don't know it.

My immediate thought as to why the breakdown may be occurring in this game is simply that all our characters are so, um, "special". Each of us could easily be the subject of our own short story - if you put us all together and put the pace on FF, it might be difficult for each player to make sense of his own story if those other strange characters also play protagonist roles. That is my immediate theory, anyway - if anyone has other theories I'd love to hear them.

In particular, I'd love to hear of any Techniques or other approaches to encouraging a strong, persistent SIS, either on the system and scenario level.
Logged
lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2008, 12:11:11 PM »

In fact, this is the setting:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25311.0

And, I should add, outside of the obvious problem which I have described, I'm having a lot of fun with the game. I'm not trying to "fix" this game, I am trying to figure out what causes the problem so I can attempt to avoid it in my own games or designs.
Logged
Marshall Burns
Member

Posts: 573

American Wizard


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2008, 04:31:56 PM »

Situation: The group has entered a room by force and realizes the rightful occupant has trained a gun on Joe.
Joe: "I say, 'If you shoot me, the rest of my companions will know where the shot came from and they'll come after you.'"
GM: "He seems to hesitate, just a little, before he responds. 'I'll be long gone before then.'"
Adam: "I light a fire over in the corner of the room. 'Oh! Fire! Big fire, go boom!'"
<nobody reacts - the negotiations continues for a little while>
Adam: "I clap my hands and do a little dance over by the fire."
<again, nobody reacts and the standoff is resolved>
GM: "The lieutenant walks over to his liquor cabinet to pour himself some whiskey."
Adam: "But... I lit the liquor cabinet on fire."
GM: "The lieutenant goes, 'HOLY CRAP! FIRE!'"

With different narration, and a different object being set afire, that exact thing happened to me once.

I play a lot of improvised music with other people who are also improvising, and this same phenomenon definitely can occur.  Someone told me there was a word for it (in music), but I can't remember what it is.  It has something to do with lack of accord, not listening, and everything going off in a different direction.  It wasn't "divergence," but it had a similar definition.  Arg.  This is going to haunt me.

-Marshall
Logged

masqueradeball
Member

Posts: 346


WWW
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2008, 12:15:53 AM »

Just to clarify, is your goal here to name the phenomenon and sort figure out a way to diagnose it or is it to try and come with solutions. Not saying that either is better than the other, I just don't want to post a bunch of stuff you don't wanna hear.
Logged

lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2008, 07:15:18 AM »

Yeah, good point.

Initially, I was certain that there was some theory out there that would explain and offer solutions to this problem. That's the reason I asked for someone to identify it using known terminology, so I could make it fit into a theory model such as TBM so I could approach it.

Since Ron has stated that other than "failure of the SIS", there is no better term for it, at this point I'd like to hear diagnoses and solutions.
Logged
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2008, 10:21:49 AM »

Hi!
  I have experienced this to varying degrees. I tend to use a few tricks to prevent this and other similar problems
1) Let the players know what the game is about. Often, people can come to the table with different expectations of what the game is about. Even for highly focused games I have seen this, but for more traditional games like Exalted, this is a big issue. Many games can be seen through different lenses. As a GM, or "the guy who is getting everyone to show up" for GM-less games, let people know what part of the game we all will be focusing on
2) Overtly state any issues in the Social Contract that are deal breakers (for instance, for me, its PvP). And encourage others to do the same. This can be a bit of a mood killer, but it can also prevent issues early on.
3) When I GM, I set expectations for the campaign/story/whatever, statements like "you guys are all going to be criminals" or "No one can play a thief unless you all play thieves" work great on getting the players on the same wavelength. Of course, be flexible. If the players come back with, "we all wanna be heroes," then adjust, but either way, we are all on the same wavelength. And don't be afraid of limiting players' choices, sometimes restrictions breed creativity...
4) Encourage the players to talk and strategize. The more "experience" a role player has, the more they have probably been exposed to "You say it you did it" or "No table talk" type rules and you will have to work harder to break the habits of these kinds of players. But it will be worth it. When the players collaborate to find a solution you never could have imagined, its like gold-plated diamonds!
5) Put on the breaks. As soon as the situation develops, stop the action and find out what's happening. It could be a matter of "immersive roleplaying" in the form of "my character doesn't know what Adam is doing, he's on the other side of the ship" or it could be the Players working the angles in case the GM is steering them both down a wrong track, etc. Either way, it doesn't hurt to stop them and ask what is going on. Who knows, they may be having a grand old time playing with the GMs head...
  I hope that helps, good luck man!
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2008, 10:46:52 AM »

As the Dealer in the particular Dust Devils game Mikael is speaking of, I have some thoughts.

First, what is the SIS?  Each person has their own immaginary space (IS), so what is it that is shared?  Using some set theory-like terminology, I belive it is a very bad idea to think of the SIS as the union of the individual IS's.  Rather, it is the INTERSECTION of those IS's.  I can have a lot of stuff in my IS that isn't in yours, and vice versa  In fact I can have stuff in my IS that contradicts, or is impossible in, your IS.  As long as that contradiction or impossibility never comes up in the story or is never communicated, it doesn't really matter.  We still have a functioning SIS.

Now, I think there are really three different phenomenon going on here.  Hey, that lets me come up with THREE new terms!  Yahoo!  The two examples Mikael provides are perhaps examples of these phenomenon.  They have different causes and results, but are superficially the same.  Because Ron's musical analogy was really appropriate, I will use musical terms, and will try to make the cutesy where possible.

The first phenomenon I will call Suspension.  This is when players have IS's that contradict in some important way, but as yet the contradiction is not obvious to anyone.  At some point along the way, though, someone will notice the contradiction, and then it is resolved.  In my experience Suspension can range from the trivial ("What, there's a DOOR in the wall?!") to the complicated ("What, I have been playing for 45 minutes picturing the Italian Rennaissance and all this time you have been picturing 1970's exploitation film?!")  Suspension is something you only know occurred if it is recognized, and thus you can only identify after the fact.  One supposes a group of people could play an entire campaign, and then, years later in conversation, realize that one or more of them had a fundamentally different IS for the game than someone else.  Mikael's first example may be an example of this, at the moment of recognition by Mikael.  The solution to Supsension is communication; listen carefully to what people are saying and state clearly what you think is important.  Suspension can actually be a healthy thing in a game, if the resolution to the Suspension is somehow satisfying in and of itself ("Oh, so THAT's what was going on...wow, that's cool!") 

The second phenomenon I will call Cacophony.  Cacophony occurs when one or more player's IS's are in obvious conflict, but the player's themselves, for whatever reason, can't or won't resolve the conflict.  Mikael's first example is more likely Cacophony in action.  Maybe the player's are so caught up in the moment they don't realize they are stepping on each other's toes.  Maybe they have a particular idea as to what the problem is in the story, and are blinded to the other events.  Maybe they just don't like each other, and would rather interact at a distance, mediated by the GM, than directly with each other.  The solution to Cacophony is dependent on the reasons for it; it could be as simple as someone else pointed it out, thus turning it into Dissonance that is resolved.  But if it has to do with the interplayer relationship (i.e., they really don't like each other much, and hence don't listen to each other well), there may be no solution.

The third phenomenon is perhaps the most serious; I will call it a Making a Racket.  A player Makes a Racket when they prioritize entertaining themselves with their own narrations instead of entertaining others by engaging with, interacting with, or magnifying, other's narrations.  Making a Racket doesn't have anything to do with an IS conflict among players.  It has to do with one player essentially saying "look at me!"  Now, this can come from a good motive; the player might really think that what they have to say is more interesting/funny/dramatic/whatever than what other people are saying.  Heck, when they are right it isn't really Making a Racket; its just adding a cool off the wall narration.  Its only when a) the narration is viewed as disruptive to the rest of the players at the table and/or b) the player making the narration really doesn't CARE how it fits into what is going on that it is Making a Racket.  The 2nd example Mikael provides is, most likely, one player Making a Racket.  If the rest of the table had said "Awesome, starting a fire in the background of this tense scene, that is hilarious, well done!", then Mikael wouldn't have provided it as an example.

Tony LB addressed a very similar, perhaps the same, phenomenon as Making a Racket, or at least the motivations behind a lot of this, in a post on RPG.net, which can be found at the bottom of this page under the heading "Solitaire/Riffing", with some other relevant stuff up the page under the heading "The Story".  (It is interesting that Tony LB should be the one to describe this phenomenon, because I have seen more of all three phenomenon in convention-setting Capes play then in any other game/setting
Logged

* Want to know what your fair share of paying to feed the hungry is? http://www3.sympatico.ca/hans_messersmith/World_Hunger_Fair_Share_Number.htm
* Want to know what games I like? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/skalchemist
Danny_K
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2008, 11:32:50 AM »

Nice terminology. 

I have to agree with Hans, what I'm seeing in that example (and I may be making way too much out of one example) is not divergent imagined worlds, but rather blatant privileging by the GM of Joe over Adam -- Joe's input is acknowledged, Adam's is not, everybody else follows the GM's lead. 

That might be because Adam is "Making a Racket" and screwing up the tense scene that everybody else is invested in, and so they just tune out his input; or it may be that Adam is always ignored, and so he's made his input more and more obvious to try to get at least a little attention.  Without that social information Ron was asking about, no way to tell. 

And this phenomenon (if I've got the right diagnosis) is really, really well known to me from Vampire:the Masquerade play, where there is often a player who picks the Malkavian Clan (congenitally insane vampires) as an excuse to Make a Racket.  These characters were called Fishmalks, and genuinely detested by most of the other players in the games I've played in. 
Logged

I believe in peace and science.
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2008, 12:29:21 PM »

I have to agree with Hans, what I'm seeing in that example (and I may be making way too much out of one example) is not divergent imagined worlds, but rather blatant privileging by the GM of Joe over Adam -- Joe's input is acknowledged, Adam's is not, everybody else follows the GM's lead. 
 

Ouch. 

As the GM in question, this hits the bone.  Because the GM you describe...wow, I REALLY don't want to be that GM. I had not considered the idea of Making a Racket being a strategy to deal with a GM that sidelines you.  That is a brilliant insight.   In fact, that is the exact kind of GM that tempts me to Make a Racket! 

Of course I never actually Make a Racket, because everything I do is so interesting and awesome.  That's like the joke about being drunk.  The first stage of being drunk is that you speak REALLY LOUDLY.  But that's ok, because in the 2nd stage of drunkeness, everyone is so very interested in what you have to say.

So now I have to think through my own behaviour and consider whether I'm doing this or not.  Is "Adam" being a Fishmalk, or am I, as the GM, essentially screwing "Adam" over by not listening to him?  Or is the truth somewhere in between?

Thanks for this, Danny.  Self-examination is a good, if painful, thing.
Logged

* Want to know what your fair share of paying to feed the hungry is? http://www3.sympatico.ca/hans_messersmith/World_Hunger_Fair_Share_Number.htm
* Want to know what games I like? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/skalchemist
lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2008, 12:54:05 PM »

It might well be that what I'm seeing as recurring problems with SIS incohesion are actually a large number of completely separate issues arising from problems with social dynamics. The reason I hypothesized that they were potentially the same issue in different manifestations, potentially with similar underlying causes, is that they tend to manifest similarly and exhibit the same symptoms:

  • 1. Dyadic communications player <--> GM with little or no group communication
  • 2. An objectively disjointed narrative

To put this in context of Hans' terminology:

Suspension seems separate from this phenomenon. It is by definition #2, but doesn't have to stem from #1 at all. Further, it is easily resolved as soon as the problem has been identified.

Cacophony is much closer to what I'm intending to describe. Like Marshall's mention of improvised music, everyone is playing the tune they (think they) want to hear without riffing off each other at all, with aesthetically unpleasing results. They do this by engaging in #1 and the result is #2.

Making a Racket can, but doesn't have to be done by engaging in #1. In fact, it appears more likely to me that a Prima Donna would be pushing hir ideas onto the other players directly for maximum effect. #2 follows only if the other players ignore the input given. However, if a Cacophony or some other phenomenon has previously damaged the SIS, a player may be Making a Racket involuntarily because they genuinely believe it's what people want to hear.

So primarily, I'm interested in solving the problem of Cacophony.

As an example of a design that limits Cacophony, I suggest the conflict rules in Spirit of the Century. An Aspect can be put onto a scene or character by one PC, which another PC can subsequently Tag for a bonus. The design provides benefits to the player for listening to and understanding what another player is trying to achieve, which promotes a coherent SIS.

Another example is hardcore-gamist D&D with players who have carefully tuned their characters to work well together - they need to be able to communicate with the group in order to time when to be outside a fireball's radius or which hydra head has already been damaged.

An example of negative reinforcement contributing to a strong SIS is any system where the GM is given arbitrary control over success or failure, dependent on how well the PC's action corresponds with the GM's interpretation of SIS. Here, all players must ensure they are all on the same page - the GM's - to ensure they don't get penalized. Obviously, such a system may have negative consequences, but does contribute to a strong SIS.

I would love to hear other approaches and/or analyses.
Logged
lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2008, 01:31:58 PM »

I had not considered the idea of Making a Racket being a strategy to deal with a GM that sidelines you. That is a brilliant insight. In fact, that is the exact kind of GM that tempts me to Make a Racket! 

Of course I never actually Make a Racket, because everything I do is so interesting and awesome.  That's like the joke about being drunk.  The first stage of being drunk is that you speak REALLY LOUDLY.  But that's ok, because in the 2nd stage of drunkeness, everyone is so very interested in what you have to say.

So now I have to think through my own behaviour and consider whether I'm doing this or not.  Is "Adam" being a Fishmalk, or am I, as the GM, essentially screwing "Adam" over by not listening to him?  Or is the truth somewhere in between?

Thanks for this, Danny.  Self-examination is a good, if painful, thing.

I'm not going to stop you, Hans, but I don't think you need to self-examine too much. In this particular case, we were all guilty of ignoring Adam's input. By virtue of consensus, I think that means it was a genuine case of "Making a Racket" - which isn't necessarily something one does by malice, but rather by an attempt at Bringing The Awesome that's been sabotaged by one's misinterpretation of the SIS.

For our game, this is what the problem boils down to for me. I (the player) really want to care about Sand's dead wife and the fact that his recent freakout caused him to take yet another life. I really want to care that Mullethead's perception of how to treat women is shaped by the constant extreme violence surrounding him. I really want to find out what's in El Diablo's Damn Briefcase and why he kills anyone who asks about it.

(To be honest, I haven't been able to peg down the Devil Clown.)

The problems for me are two-, maybe three-fold. One, I'm stuck in the paradigm of "what would my character do", and frankly, these are human issues. He hates humans. Wants them all to die in a horrible radioactive conflagration, in fact. Two, I'd like to change the way he views things and what he cares about, but our sessions are pretty fast-paced and conflict-to-conflict (which is all well and good, from how I understand Dust Devils). Not a lot of room for, as we call them, 'Royale with Cheese moments' and accompanying character growth (I gave it a shot with the "offal discussion" I had with the techno-fetishists, but it didn't repeat). Three, there appears to be a kind of consensus at the table that we don't do story-180's - we're there to get in the face of Osiris Christ, and unless we're thrown a curveball, that's the path we will follow. To use yet another inside joke to make this whole post completely incomprehensible and useless to anyone else, we don't suddenly decide that we want to "dabble in human trafficking", or take some other off-path approach towards inducing character change.

So for me, it might well boil down to an idiotic stubbornness against "breaking character", but that still doesn't explain why other players do not appear to interact much.

Logged
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2008, 02:21:22 PM »

  • 1. Dyadic communications player <--> GM with little or no group communication
  • 2. An objectively disjointed narrative

Point 1 got me thinking. 

Lets take a situation of two players in a game I was involved with, call them Amy and Beatrice (names changed to protect, etc.)  Amy and Beatrice both want positive feedback of their peers; laughter, gasps, rapt attention, all those signals that tell us that other people think what we are doing is cool.  That positive feedback, I am convinced, is the fuel on which ANY good game, regardless of creative agenda, rules system, etc., really runs. 

Here is the problem, pretty much everything Amy says, Beatrice thinks is boring and stupid.  Is everything Amy says REALLY boring and stupid?  I don't think so, but these are asethetic judgements, not principled ones.  Beatrice is entitled to Beatrice's opinion.  Beatrice is enough of a mensch to not actively harsh on Amy.  She doesn't (usually) come out and say "Amy, that was boring and stupid".  But, lets face it, Amy NEVER gets props from Beatrice.  Amy is lucky to even have Beatrice pay attention.  So, whenever there is an interaction between Amy and Beatrice's characters, what happens?

"Dyadic communications player <--> GM with little or no group communication".

That's because the GM IS providing that positive feedback to Amy, or at least more of it than Amy is getting from Beatrice, and Beatrice isn't really that interested in what Amy is saying anyway and doesn't honestly care for any positive feedback from Amy.

This can definitely lead to an "objectively disjointed narrative" because Amy and Beatrice aren't really listening to each other, only to what is happening as filtered through the GM.

Point #2 also has me thinking.

Cacophony either exists or not, but its effects are heavily contingent on the attitudes of the players.  Even if all the players agree there is an "objectively disjointed narrative", some may say "That's awful!" and others might say "yeah, so what?", or even "Wow, that's awesome!"  I think its importance is also contingent on the type of story being told; the faster the pace, the more frenetic the action, the less the details matter compare to the big picture, the more tolerance for Cacophony, I believe.  If you are playing Call of Cthulu in heavy investigation mode, whether or not people picture the knife as in the kitchen or the dining room could be absolutely vital.  If you are playing Dust Devils in whacked 1980's exploitation movie post-apocalyptic mode, it could be that Cacophony might even ENHANCE the fun, as everybody wonders what the hell everybody else is talking about.

Actual Play moment from the game Mikael and I are talking about: the devil clown player in one scene suddenly started talking about his character wanting to "suck the soul" out of one of the NPC's.  It was a bit left fieldish.  I asked the player what his intention was...."Do you want to kill the NPC?"  "No"  "Do you care if the NPC has any reaction at all, or is it enough for your character to think that the soul is sucked?"  "I'd like there to be a real reaction."  I though for a second.  Say yes or draw the cards is the rule in Dust Devils...so I said yes.  So we role-play out a scene in which the Devil-Clown character and the NPC kiss, and then the Devil-Clown acts as if he has just sucked in a tasty soul, and the NPC shudders and reacts as if something horrible has just happened.  Another player suddenly says something like "What the hell just happened?!  Did that Devil-Clown really just suck that guys soul out?  What the...that's crazy!"  He said this in a tone of voice that said a) that was cool but b) you guys are confusing the crap out of me here! 

Was this an "objectively disjoint narrative"?  I don't know.  It wasn't for me and the Devil-Clown character, but I think it was for the third player (although I think he thought it was cool anyway).  Was this Cacophony?  Probably.  Was the Cacophony in this place a bad thing?  I don't think so. 
Logged

* Want to know what your fair share of paying to feed the hungry is? http://www3.sympatico.ca/hans_messersmith/World_Hunger_Fair_Share_Number.htm
* Want to know what games I like? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/skalchemist
lachek
Member

Posts: 91


WWW
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2008, 02:44:06 PM »

I'll make this brief to give others a chance to chime in (if they want to) without derailing too much.

I don't think devil-clown-boy's soul sucking was an example of an objectively disjointed narrative, because no fictional character reacted counter to the logic of the reality that player had created. For example, I suggested that my peyote-hopping hippie would "see" a green, putrid mist moving from the NPC to the devil-clown at the moment of, um, consumption, thereby confirming that I recognized that player's action beyond the confirmation you'd already given as the GM.

For two crewmembers on a starship to attempt to fix an engine problem in complete silence and entirely in parallel, as if the other character was not even present, is an example of an objectively disjointed narrative. And although I sort of backtracked from the example as representative of the phenomenon, one character lighting a room on fire while everyone else just stands around talking, that's an objectively disjointed narrative.

This may be personal taste, but I don't find pleasure in being confused, on the player-level, as to what is actually going on in the narrative, or being forced to accept entirely illogical protagonist behaviour. I think it's awesome when the story takes a different direction than I suspected, of course - that's why I play with other people rather than write novels - so whenever I riff off of the actions of others, I do so to confirm and make sense of the events that just occurred.

That should give some insight into my motives for condemning disjointed narratives, so y'all can tell me that I'm just trying to promote my own uncultured and inflexible playstyle. :)
Logged
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!