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Author Topic: Facilitating Coherent Play and the Shared Agenda  (Read 4099 times)
FredGarber
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Posts: 95


« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2008, 11:28:29 AM »

I first did some GNS analysis of MMO games (finding them to be systematically designed to reward Gamism, some players like to work "outside" the system for a Simulationist model, and the limitations of being Massive means there's very little Narrative elements(*)).  I was hoping we could talk in terms of the GNS/Big Model.

However, when we talked about what elements they liked about the game, the discussion was entirely about Ephemera in the Big Model: Color, Situations, Immersion levels, etc.  There wasn't much talk about the reward system, because it became very clear that the MMO model was what my group considered a "roleplaying game."  The System was almost considered to be neutral: different systems rewarded different types of "adventures," and a widely flexible system was better than a narrowly focused system.  GNS never entered into it:  Our group's social contract determined the GNS: Players wanted their characters to increase in effectiveness as a result of Stepping Up, and they also sought social rewards from the group ("Good roleplaying") for excellent Support of the Dream.

As far as the Gurpish homebrew: characters were stat/skill based, with the higher skills indicating higher effectiveness.  It was actually very similar in system to the WWGS system, excepting that the dice (and therefore mathematics) were different.  But, again, GNS/CA was set by the social contract, by the definition of "This is what Good RolePlaying is."  The system didn't matter to them, except as it facilitated or hindered their ability to Immerse themselves when they wanted to.  The system also had rules for social, mental, or physical solutions to the challenges.

The players wanted what I like to call "Reverse Illusionism."  They wanted to be able to exert Force upon the plotline, so that a certain point, they could realize they're at the Climax of a story, and afterwards they could look back and reminisce about the Narrative.  However, they didn't want there to be any mechanical system around it, nor did they want to have to overtly signal that they were using Force.  It was the task of a Good GM to take the various Forces which the characters were exerting, weave them around, and knit together coherent Narrative Events.(**)

With the GNS model, - I've found it paradoxical to put in practice in "live play." The reason is that, either as a player/GM, there is a particular Creative Agenda that I wish to pursue. However, GNS describes the reward system: which is not controlled by me.  If I am a player, my GM determines what actions give me effectiveness points, and my fellow players determine the social kudos for pursuing my agenda.  If I am a GM, then the player's feedback determines my success.

And both sides of that that involve feedback!  It means that even if I think I was funny and dramatic and challenging and interesting to ME, if I didn't engage fellow players, then I failed.  I can't control my own roleplaying experience, which is why I feel that many in the "gamer" subculture aren't interested in the "roleplaying" part of it: If they can't control their own levels of fun, then they aren't interested.  (I now get off my pulpit)

-Fred

(*) Most MMOs have a "get gear->fight monsters->get better gear as loot->seek out tougher monsters" play system.  That's rewarding Challenges, to me.  Many players (RP servers) try to heighten Immersion, and give social Kudos for characters that try to "roleplay" why the character is sent out to kill 100 frog people to save the village.  I find that Simulationist, because it reinforces the SiS, and not Narrative, because the plot and direction of the metastory is never under the player's control. Every player has the same basic plot: I start as a newb, and become leet, having adventures along the way.  Rarely does a player has the ability to come back to the quest-giving NPC and say "I decided instead to talk the Frog People out of attacking your village. All of you go in peace."

(**) Remember that Masters degree in English, and the Theater degree?  The Psychology degree had a minor in Creative Writing, too.  Our group was very high in the Ability to Tell Stories.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2008, 12:20:48 AM »

Hi Rustin,

Quote
Major Responsibility: Play only if you are serious.

I would say this group does not follow the major responsibility.  The norm is to allow people to show up and play whatever their scale of interest in the game might be.

I wouldn't say play serious - it's like learning to ride a bike. It takes a little bit of effort and perserverance, but after awhile its not serious, its just easy to do and fun. Well, usually - I'll grant some systems are more like learning a unicycle...

Anyway, you got the gist of what I meant. Doesn't this seem a dead end to you even as you say it?

This idea comes to mind: They have to have gotten to X point in the game after Y minutes of real time (say 30 minutes or an hour), otherwise play closes for the night wherever they are. Bring a movie or a boardgame in case this happens, because it's not a bluff.


Hi Fred,

I was interested to hear that account. But the blending of the hard mechanics of a computer game I was hoping I might see seemed to evaporate into freeform something.
Quote
And both sides of that that involve feedback!  It means that even if I think I was funny and dramatic and challenging and interesting to ME, if I didn't engage fellow players, then I failed.  I can't control my own roleplaying experience, which is why I feel that many in the "gamer" subculture aren't interested in the "roleplaying" part of it: If they can't control their own levels of fun, then they aren't interested.  (I now get off my pulpit)
I'm not sure if your advocating this or denouncing it? I could read either tone. To me it sounds ghastly (though I'll grant most people laud it as good gameplay and I gunned for it in the past) - it'd be like if I wrote up a spiritual attribute in the riddle of steel and if it failed to engage my fellow players, I failed. There's a certain punk attitude that mechanics can facilitate - a 'Take this and suck on this, like it or not!' attitude. The value of that is when someones forced to actually think about something they don't like for awhile, they might see some value in it (or something they didn't previously). But if they get to say you fail for not engaging them, then they'll never see the value in anything thats outside their harmoginised little world. Hmmm, I seem to be standing in a pulpit at the moment as well...

Of course it's alot easier to take having to 'suck on this' if you had a random chance of avoiding it first or could have resource manouvered out of it somehow. I think 'you have to engage me' is a sort of wonky attempt at that, where if the GM can't engage you on something, then you don't have to suck it up. That's the 'stage' for chance and manouvering to avoid it. I was really hoping to see the hard mechanics of computer games transfering over, even if in simple ways (like "Oh, I hate that jungle zone in the mmorpg...so I'll just go the long way around").
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2008, 03:09:02 PM »

I've been trying to explain Big Model stuff to my play group ever since I read all the articles hear at the Forge. The problem with this has been the hit/miss nature of the conversation. None of the people I was talking to had read the articles themselves, so I easily spent as much time teaching theory as talking about how to apply it. So, my first suggestion would be to direct your players here and have them read the articles, or, before even that, ask them if they're interested in having a theory level conversation and if so, if they'd be willing to learn so Big Model terminology to facilitate this. If so, making sure everyone is using the same words to mean the same thing is a great starting place.

In my own group, a very gradual increase of awareness has started to have an effect on play. People are starting to think of they do play and how they could play, and that's good and worthwhile, but I'd say 2/3rds of theory conversations end with someone getting defensive about "how they play," whether or not we managed to reach any kind of understanding by then.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2008, 01:49:36 PM »

I think I went a bit OTT with the ghastly comment - a chord was struck like with the TROS example and...yeah. Sorry, Fred!
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Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2008, 03:23:01 PM »

Callan,

I like the suggestion of playing for 30 min, then evaluating and deciding on if we need to adjust or change activities.  In many ways this has sort of happened, we take a beverage break, and end up shooting basketball for awhile.  So, we are breaking, just not communicating why we are interrupting play.

With over 20 years of playing with this group I donít see it as a dead end; more like things changed and we need to adjust.

Fred,
Thanks for the reply.  Your group is much different than mine, most significantly in the willingness to talk about what they want out of play.   

Masq,

My attempts (several years ago) to discuss Forge stuff have been huge misses.  Which makes me suspect Big Model language does not help in that Facilitation phase of gaming.  This makes me feel there is a niche there for a primer on social rules that coach on agreement, boundaries and communication.

I am thinking this discussion never quite settled into an Actual Play experience as much as I thought it would.  So I donít know if we should continue with the thread.

Iím toying with the idea of coming up with some Pre-Game discussion guidelines or rules or maybe even make a game for pre-game things.  If I settle on any rules, I plan on posting them in the First Thoughts forum.  Maybe this has already been done. (Does someone know if there is anything like this in Play Unsafe? Play Sorcerer?) 
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Callan S.
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« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2008, 07:54:06 PM »

Rustin, no, that wasn't my suggestion at all. I didn't suggest evaluating and deciding adjustments. If they are not at point X by Y minutes, you cease playing.

It's probably jarringly different. But to quote Albert Einstien "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them."
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FredGarber
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2008, 03:22:29 PM »

No prob, Callan.
It wasn't quite freeform.  Opposed noncombat and combat actions had skill/stats determining a target number, with a Fortune Roll to reach that target. 
I allowed a well stated Intent phase statement to earn a bonus (or penalty) to the Fortune roll.  After the roll, unsuccessful players got to Narrate the outcomes (my group seemed to accept failure better if they got to narrate someone else's successes along with their own failure). 
The unspoken Social Contract included "don't be a jerk," so I didn't really have a problem with people overreaching on the Narration.

Not to fork the thread, but is there an official Glossary Term for "Reverse Illusionism?"
It's like we had a solution for the "Impossible Thing Before Breakfast": Make the GM do a lot of work, some of it bordering on telepathy.

-Fred
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2008, 02:52:50 AM »

Hi Fred,

There is indeed a term: Participationist play, courtesy of Mike Holmes. You can run a search on "participationist" and "participationism" for some really long, really involved, and often baffling threads which eventually produced great results. I most recently wrote about it in detail in [NWOD][VtR] New Game - New Possibilities - New Questions!, which I think is pretty relevant to your question, starting about halfway down the page.

Rustin, one quick point: the discourse and terms at the Forge were developed strictly as a discussion among interested parties and were never intended as an outreach device. You're absolutely right that such a device is needed.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: December 18, 2008, 02:54:33 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
matthijs
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« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2008, 04:28:08 AM »

Rustin, from the examples of what you enjoyed in play, it seems to me that perhaps you're trying to make this campaign do several things at once, which might not be possible.

The tactical gaming with miniatures is something you and your group like. It's based completely on systems that let you get into friendly competition/adversity mode, where everyone is on the same level: You're all controlling the same type of resources, following the same rules etc. Yet, you say you would also like to play in a style where the GM is final arbiter of consequences. These two things don't match.

You and your group seem to have enjoyed making up stuff before the game - but that's, in my experience and opinion, a very different activity from actually playing the game. Unless the things you create before-game actually affect the game (for example, what resources the players can use at specific times, or what adversity they will face), the game can easily fall flat despite great pre-game brainstorming.

Your players are very into WOW, while you're not that fanatic about it. Perhaps this indicates that you have different desires from the D&D game? Your players might want more tactics, more resource management, more encounters, while you're looking for something more/different? If so, you've got some thinking to do.
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Erudite
Member

Posts: 27

Games designed to catch everyone may catch no one


« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2008, 07:36:37 AM »

My group recently ended its fourth 4e campaign within the last year or so.
I suspect incoherent play caused each attempt to fail. (E.g., People "checking-out" when not spotlighted, lots of talk about WOW, computer use etc..)

This is a tough problem to combat.

One of my most successful techniques I have employed is having players write game recaps and rewarding experience points for doing so. The exp rewarded for the recaps is based on the quality of the recap. This alone has helped keep some players paying attention as there is a tangible reward. And, just pulling one or two players back into the game can disable the others who were not paying attention.

I would recommend finding ways to draw each player back in individually. Typically from what Iíve seen as long as you can keep most of the players focused, the other will follow suit.
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Leilond
Registree

Posts: 1


« Reply #25 on: December 22, 2008, 08:21:05 AM »

My group recently ended its fourth 4e campaign within the last year or so.
I suspect incoherent play caused each attempt to fail. (E.g., People "checking-out" when not spotlighted, lots of talk about WOW, computer use etc..)

This is a tough problem to combat.

One of my most successful techniques I have employed is having players write game recaps and rewarding experience points for doing so. The exp rewarded for the recaps is based on the quality of the recap. This alone has helped keep some players paying attention as there is a tangible reward. And, just pulling one or two players back into the game can disable the others who were not paying attention.

I would recommend finding ways to draw each player back in individually. Typically from what Iíve seen as long as you can keep most of the players focused, the other will follow suit.

I instead use the "player roll everything" tecnique. If a monster attack a PC, I do not roll "Monster Attack vs Character AC", the player rolls "Character AC vs Monster Attack"
Add 10 to the monster attrack bonus, subtract 10 to the Characters AC, and you'll have the same math results
If the monster has +8 to attack, and the Character has 22 AC, the monster usually need a 14 to hit (30%)
With my rules the character will have +12 AC (22-10) and the monster will have 18 attack. The player will need a 6 to avoid being hit (70%)
This help a lot taking player into the game during combat.
You can apply on every roll. If you need a result of X to hit, you need a result of 20-X to avoid being hit.
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Erudite
Member

Posts: 27

Games designed to catch everyone may catch no one


« Reply #26 on: December 23, 2008, 10:32:16 AM »

I instead use the "player roll everything" tecnique. If a monster attack a PC, I do not roll "Monster Attack vs Character AC", the player rolls "Character AC vs Monster Attack"

I have occasionally had players roll for me instead of me rolling things. This can also help get the players pulled into what is going on. Also, on this note. Often during combat or when players are involved in tense action, the other players pay attention anyway.

Thinking about it, a lot of the time when the focus is on only part of the group, I donít mind the rest of the group not paying attention. It makes it easier for them to RP when the group is back together and they have to fill each other in.

I think the only time I mind players slacking off is when they donít readily get back into the game when it is time or if their side action distracts the active players. Iíve seen this as more of a problem with some than others. I think that comes down to group dynamics.
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