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Author Topic: A small clash of vision  (Read 2454 times)
droog
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Posts: 268


« on: May 16, 2009, 01:56:41 PM »

I've written before at greater length about an RQ game I used to run. I'd like to consider one issue here. Out of many years of play it sticks out in my mind as somewhat dysfunctional.

A lot of talk went on about this game outside of game hours, as the group was all long-term friends. In these sorts of conversations, Brett would often speak of an ambition for his chr. He wanted the chr to take a particularly long sea journey, pretty much so he could say he'd done this particular route.

That didn't square with any of my ideas about where the game should go at all, and I didn't like it. I never had a frank conversation with him about it. I privately resolved that if he went ahead I would follow up like a good sandbox GM, but damned if I was going to initiate it. So it never happened.

Whether I was sending out passive-aggressive signals and Brett picked up on it, or whether Brett realised that his ambition wasn't compatible with the game as a whole, I don't know. I do know that Brett never quite gave up on the idea, and that whenever he brought it up I would roll my eyes inwardly.

So, in retrospect, what would have been a way to resolve this minor but deep schism of agenda?
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Noclue
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Posts: 351


« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2009, 08:27:02 PM »

Did Brett notice this schism too? Maybe he just never saw a good opportunity to take his dreamed of trip and had no idea it was bugging you.
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James R.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2009, 07:29:48 PM »

Hi Jeff,

At first glance, this is posed in terms of absolutely pure imagined material: does this character go on a sea journey or not? But in reality, and as you rightly describe it, it is really not about the fiction itself but about how people who are involved in making the fiction parcel out authority, and how they communicate about that.

"I'd sure like to see him go on a sea voyage" (repeated for the fourth time)

What does that mean? Does it mean, "Cue card: time for the damned sea voyage. Please acknowledge. Over and out" (kkkk) Or does it mean "Gee, should you feel any sense of inspiration when I say that, it'd sure be nice if you could put my guy on a sea voyage, but hey if not, that's OK too."

As you've described it, neither of you really knew what that out-of-game dialogue was supposed to mean. Who was cueing whom to do what? I know that situation pretty well myself from ages and ages of Champions play especially. So yes, it seems like a case of the tossed ball. He tossed it to you, you said "what ball," he didn't press for whatever reason, and the actual knowledge of what one expected of the other remained unspoken.

Also, you say that as a sandbox GM (that term again ...), you'd go with whatever he said his character was doing. But was that actually possible? Did any character in the game, or his in particular, ever actually initiate scenes and entire adventures strictly through announcing actions, without you as GM facilitating it and without them knowing you were one step ahead and already on-board with what they were saying? (And if not, were you actually a "sandbox GM" after all?)

Best, Ron
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2009, 11:40:16 PM »

I’ve run Participationist games, Star Wars d6 especially, for a long time and this kind of OOC dialogue really reminds me of it. In such games the players are “trained” to follow the lead of the GM, because it’s his job to lead the characters to adventure. A good Participationist GM will know the player characters well and will provide them with a strong and plausible motivation. Therefore, the player cannot just decide that his character goes somewhere and does something: He needs the GM to provide the motivation.

If that was the kind of game you’ve been running, Jeff, from my experience with running Star Wars d6, I see two functional ways of dealing with it. The first would obviously have been to pick up his idea and incorporate it into your campaign planning. The second would have been to say: “Look, this sea journey really doesn’t fit my plans for the campaign, so I won’t get to it any time soon, is that okay?” And possibly: “I do have a break of a couple of months in-game time coming up, how about he goes on the journey then and you write me a few pages about it?”

- Frank
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Abkajud
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Posts: 285


« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2009, 03:42:55 PM »

I tend to take an extremely player-oriented approach to GMing, to the point where I consider more or less all player input to be gold to spend on moving the story forward.
Personally, I would have said "Okay, cool. What for?" and gone with it.
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droog
Member

Posts: 268


« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2009, 01:09:56 PM »

Also, you say that as a sandbox GM (that term again ...), you'd go with whatever he said his character was doing. But was that actually possible? Did any character in the game, or his in particular, ever actually initiate scenes and entire adventures strictly through announcing actions, without you as GM facilitating it and without them knowing you were one step ahead and already on-board with what they were saying? (And if not, were you actually a "sandbox GM" after all?)

I knew that term was totally ambiguous.

The answer would be yes and no. Players did initiate scenes and actions. Did they initiate 'adventures'? Once or twice. That was always either a case of me stalling until prep could be done, or a very cursorily-prepped adventure. One of the reasons I groaned inwardly at the sea voyage was the amount of prep I would have to do (and the realisation that if I didn't do it it was going to be a very shallow tour).

I've theorised that the sandbox as generally understood is not possible, and that there is always an edge to the board. I think I was sandboxing to the best of my ability within a circumscribed area, but that area was an area I'd maneuvered them into in the first place.
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2009, 04:44:41 PM »

One of the reasons I groaned inwardly at the sea voyage was the amount of prep I would have to do (and the realisation that if I didn't do it it was going to be a very shallow tour).
That's a good point, really - him saying he wants a sea voyage doesn't really tell you anything at all. It involves a hell of alot of prep because he's telling you so little.

One thing that can be done in roleplay and often is, is that play itself explores and largely invents on the spot what a sea voyage would involve. But since this is his idea, he needs to be somewhat in a designer mode himself because he can't just play, you have to invent the game, then play it. Or atleast that's how I perceive most RPG's - they are more like programing languages, or game engines, rather than an actual game. You can't sit down and 'play' a programming language (though a vast majority of roleplayers seem to have blurred the idea of playing and designing into one amorphous blob, generally for worse).

He may be under a spell, so to speak, and thinks this stuff comes without him in particular thinking about designing it?
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Abkajud
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Posts: 285


« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2009, 08:44:44 AM »

Just to make sure I'm on the same page with everybody, especially Droog and Callan - -

What do you mean by "prep"? Might seem like a silly question, but it's important here, if
Quote
him saying he wants a sea voyage doesn't really tell you anything at all. It involves a hell of a lot of prep because he's telling you so little.
In that statement, and in the one it's responding to, we get that word, "prep".

In most D&D games I've run, prep means stat blocks, graph paper, and consulting the random encounter generator (maybe that's the deal for RQ as well? It sure looks intimidating on the shelf at the gaming store). For most other games I've played, it mainly consists of thinking up names for the NPCs and places that I'll need in the next couple of scenes. That's about it: stat blocks are often much smaller for non-D&D games, and/or the actual, relevant stats for any NPC will be fewer in number. Because of this, I have to admit I don't know what the big deal is.
Secondly, since the player is giving you so little to work with, I'd consider it "not time yet" to start working on the sea voyage - no point in trying to guess what that player would enjoy or find fun! Getting more information and having a discussion about if and how to implement it in the game would seem to be the best thing here.
Too much info from the player could wreak havoc, as well - at that point, I might even consider rolling up a character of my own and handing the reins to the player who has such a specific vision for play. Something like that, anyway.

@Callan: I don't quite follow your "programming language" metaphor. I agree heartily that the mechanics for a game are like a programming language, and actual play is akin to running the program, but from there I'm confused:
Quote
roleplayers seem to have blurred the idea of playing and designing into one amorphous blob,
What does this mean? Since we're talking about prep time in this thread, do you mean that pre-game prep is akin to writing the software for the night's session?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2009, 02:38:19 PM »

Quote
Since we're talking about prep time in this thread, do you mean that pre-game prep is akin to writing the software for the night's session?

Both pre game prep and typically it seems, in game 'play' is writing new software just moments before running it. In terms of the design/play amorphous blob, without recognition that that is the case "Were just playing". So there is no self correction in terms of personal design goals (indeed, design goals usually aren't formulated at all, in any concious way)
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Alex Abate Biral
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Posts: 24


« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2009, 05:35:17 PM »

Hello Jeff!

Ron, I agree with you, and I had something similar happening to me once. Forgive me if all I don't add anything that you din't say, but I thought another example might be helpful. I was a player in a simulationist, one to one game over irc. I actually had much fun with that game, but it had some GNS problems. That game was a very simulationist (I am assuming that your game was simulationist as well) Masque of the Red Death game. In that game, we used character journals, supposedly to keep track of what my character was thinking at the time. In reality we ended up creating a communication medium that didn't break the SiS. I used author instance in these journals to say what I thought should happen.

There were other problems in that game, including that I was trying to push a narrativist agenda in the game without breaking the illusion (do I get a "I was a teenage most deluded gamer ever" t-shirt?). I, of course, didn't know this at the time, and I think that if I had understood the difference then, the game would have gone way more smoothly.

Yet, I think the main problem, the one that I think is the same you had. I expected that my input would, in some (big) way, define the direction the game would take. But, quite simply, it was an horrible way to communicate. I was trying to say something while looking like I was saying something else. It was a really bad way to communicate to the GM what I thought should happen. Just like your player, I never spoke directly what I was thinking and what I though would be a good direction to the campaign, and I really think that here lies the problem.

For example, I usually commented on the journal about how horrible the weather in New York was. The GM ended up taking this as a hint that I wanted to change locations. Another time, a situation was arising with which my character wasn't comfortable. His pupil began to show interest in him, and he really didn't like the idea. But there was no way for me to tell through that medium to the GM that this was my character's problem, not mine. In the end, the GM dropped the issue, afraid I wasn't ok with it.

I think that this problem stems from thinking that people shouldn't talk about the game directly, at least on simulationist games. I really think that simply discussing this openly. If you were not willing to use the player input, or were only willing to use it within certain constraints, maybe openly telling your players about it would help (like Frank suggested)? I really think that the big problem here is that, in this kind of game, direct input on the game is seem as "taboo", as if people thought that the only valid way to say something about or in the game was through the actor stance. What do you think? Would a more direct approach have helped?
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Alex Abate Biral
Member

Posts: 24


« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 05:41:38 PM »

Sorry for the last paragraph. I was editing it and clicked post by mistake. It should read:

I think that this problem stems from thinking that people shouldn't talk about the game directly, at least on simulationist games. I really think that simply discussing this openly would help. If you were not willing to use the player input, or were only willing to use it within certain constraints, maybe openly telling your players about it would help (like Frank suggested) would have avoided all this? I really think that the big problem here is that, in this kind of game, direct input on the game is seem as "taboo", as if people thought that the only valid way to say something about or in the game was through the actor stance. What do you think? Would a more direct approach have helped? Or does it really goes against some important part of simulationism?
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