The GM should stop me!

Started by Filip Luszczyk, December 26, 2009, 04:00:29 PM

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Filip Luszczyk

QuoteAre you just looking at the sort of hurdle of just pushing past the hang up and playing and then finding it's all fine anyway? (assuming he does - it could be that the hang up wins and he decides not to play because of 'that problem')


QuoteThough I'll be cheeky and note in the same way he sought authority you also reflexively sought to provide authority at the 'auto solve the adventure' bit. You'd both be moving on from something. >:) *smiley is a cheeky but well meaning smile*

And yes. Here, however, I understand my reaction.

Up to that point, most abilities in this campaign were rather low-key. Stuff like sniping, commando training, driving, stealth and the like. The most paranormal abilities available included psychokinesis, cryokinesis and telepathy. The most large scale ability on the master list was the golden credit card, guaranteeing some serious purchase power at least once per session. I have no idea how significant a puchase would its author allow - like, would an attempt to buy the Moon or something be vetoed as unrealistic? I believe so, but there's no way to know. The player who took this one had to deal with much more pressing expenses, like securing the purchase of a sniper rifle or an illegal cybernetic surgery, and no attempts to buy crazy stuff were made so far.

So, for the half of the campaign we have this resistance cell getting around, keeping low profile and shooting satanic cyborgs. There's this AI mastermind looming in the background... and suddenly the player in question decides to open an ability that allows, specifically, to short-circuit any electronic device, anywhere. Like with all abilities, at least a single success per session is guaranteed. One AI boss = one success.

At that point I recall some adventure from an old gaming magazine, where the author took great pains to stress how the GM should absolutely, absolutely make sure the party has no "solve the adventure" spells at its disposal. Funny how such random memes clutter the mind sometimes.

"Great," I think, "they've just killed the final boss." And here, the reflex.

Only, upon reassessment... so what? With or without the AI looming in the background, there are still some satanic cyborgs running around. And a handful of other problems to deal with, too, like those USSR nukes aimed at the country. The AI, that's no final boss, just a scary shape on the wall that they never interacted with directly anyway. The ability potentially shuts down a certain part of the fiction, but hey, it only shifts the campaign's focus to other stuff from our big list. Or hey, even if the AI actually is the final boss, and once its down, there's nothing important to do any longer... so what? It's just as good a way to close the campaign as any other. System-wise, it only means the player provides the group with a campaign off switch, so perhaps its time. As the GM, there's no need for me to protect the players from their own decisions. I only need to handle the world and go with the flow.

Another ability added by the player in question allowed for complete reshaping of the political landscape. So, the contribution makes perfect sense to everyone, based on the events of the campaign so far. I just sit and smile, my trust in the system re-established. The player's own doubts? Well, another player immediately bought this one, and used it to get the corrupt president out of the way. Should they try to do it step by step, it would take at least a session in our pace. This way, took them three minutes of session time, ha, ha. Smart move. Poof, the poor president is no more. Ha, ha.

So what? They're still the same resistance cell, getting around, keeping low profile and shooting satanic cyborgs, only now democracy is past and we have riots all over the country. Who says the politics were supposed to be the focus of these sessions, anyway? Poof, the president is out, and now back to satanic cyborgs.

Such a large-scale ability, but it changed the game so little, in fact.

QuoteIf I'm understanding you right on the impossible to screw up, that'd mean he doesn't need to self moderate at all (except at the most basic level of following procedure...assuming he can do so during those soft bits as well).

I miss-understood your point then - he doesn't need to self moderate?

I don't think the player has to worry that his contributions ruin the game, just as I shouldn't worry about that happening as the GM. It's possible to add an ability that pushes the game in an unexpected direction, but due to the self-correcting nature of the game, it wouldn't ruin the campaign. There is some basic level of self-moderation required, specifically:

a). Following the procedure, keeping in mind the "soft" advice. While the procedure is far from complicated, by adding some entirely random stuff the player would likely ruin the game for himself, though not necessarily for the group at large. This is the main point where responsibility comes in, I guess - you are likely to be the only one who actually suffers the consequences of your own irresponsibility. Say, by being too careless, you might exclude your character from trying stuff you'd like to do. You might suddenly find yourself outshined by the others by opening too significant options for them. Or, you might just compromise the consistency of your own vision. Most of that can be mitigated by your veto power to a certain degree, but the easiest way to avoid such problems is not to produce them through random contributions in the first place.

b). Making sure the ability is consistent with the pre-agreed genre/setting basics. So far I haven't seen anyone work against those, though. I guess this could be possible if not enough common ground was established initially, or if the player took active measures to crash the game for the group. In both cases, things would plain fail to work functionally from the very beginning. I can also imagine an accidental contribution like that, emerging from insufficient understanding of genre conventions. Still, even if some player wanted to, say, add magic spells in an explicitly mundane setting, there's no way to force the others to actually learn abilities inconsistent with their own vision. And should someone actually buy such an out of genre ability, well, that's already at least two players who effectively proclaim that stuff as in-genre, isn't it?

And similarly, no player should buy abilities that he or she doesn't want to use. Quite obvious, right?

Callan S.

I'm not sure. Remember the Ronnies where you had to use certain words, like 'rat' in the game or such (plenty of other RPG comps have done this too). It's a hurdle that helps inspire creativity and something you otherwise might not have done.

Here in your account they seem to have an ability to simply remove the creative hurdle? After that, what is the hurdle? Or if you end there - well, it's a very abrupt ending that doesn't seem to have much root in prior fiction? The story created doesn't seem to have much build up to an ending there?

I'm immediately thinking if they could only use the ability to change the hurdle rather than remove it...but I'm racing ahead in thinking that.


Quote from: Filip Luszczyk on January 02, 2010, 05:56:04 AM
With that, the player isn't expected to self-moderate any more than the GM would typically have to moderate himself in some other game. What strikes me is the player's expectation that there should be another layer of moderation when a certain portion of GM authority is delegated to him. Even in trad gaming, the central, all-powerful GM would have no such safety net to rely on. The fact that the GM is the final arbiter in the trad setup does not mean he does not have to self-moderate.

Do trad GM's really have to "self moderate"?  I could eat chocolate for breakfust lunch and dinner every day, but I don't, and it's not because I exert iron discipline against my cravings, its becuase the idea is silly.  I don't think that GM's who avoid descending to abusiveness are moderating their implied desire to do so.  I think this is another case of imposing an interpretation on what it is that trad GM's do that doesn't necessarily accord with reality. 

Well, I think the descriptors are adequate enough for the purposes of the discussion.

And I think they're emotive and offensive and suggest discussion rather less than criticism.

QuoteAlso, I don't think I recall ever seeing any instance of functional trad gaming that included the "nannying" thing. Similarly, I don't recall there being any "testing itself against unsympathetic reality involved" in such cases - at most, those games involved players testing their wits against unsympathetic GM, on a purely social level, should they refuse to submit to "nannying" in a particular case.

Which of course begs the question, how many games haver you seen?  You;re treating a pathology as if it were the normal state for this mode of play, which it is not.

The problem is, I can only remain unconvinced. In practice, I have never encountered the sort of hypotetical setup that you describe. The "appropriate expectations" seems to be the issue - such things tend to be very vague until a random transgression crashes the game, even in groups where the players think they know each other rather well.

Well, should I care whether you are convinced?  Not everyone has fun the same way - that doesn't seem too big a principle for me to expect you to accept it at face value.  All you're really telling me is that you don't enjoy that style of play, but I see no reason why I or anyone should need your approval any more than you need mine.  But I certainly do object to the intepretation you seem intent on imposing on this style and your insistence that it is some sort of learned behaviour or psychological distortion.

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Filip Luszczyk


QuoteHere in your account they seem to have an ability to simply remove the creative hurdle? After that, what is the hurdle? Or if you end there - well, it's a very abrupt ending that doesn't seem to have much root in prior fiction? The story created doesn't seem to have much build up to an ending there?

I don't think dramatically coherent "story" is of a particularly high priority in this particular game. Either way, I wouldn't say the sheer fact there's an off switch available forces anyone to actually use it.

As for the hurdle, I see it differently. They can point at a part of fiction that they no longer want to experience and push it away. This simply shifts the focus to other topics. Since definitive resolutions mechanically lead to the addition of new potential points of focus, there are always some proposed directions to choose. If none of those are attractive enough for the group at large, if none prompt further focus, well, obviously whatever was there to experience in the fiction has already been experienced. No point to prolong the game, then, time to move on.

QuoteI'm immediately thinking if they could only use the ability to change the hurdle rather than remove it...but I'm racing ahead in thinking that.

Nothing prohibits this particular application of the rules, I think. That's something the players are free to suggest to the others by adding abilities that do just that. The question is what the players want to see in the campaign and, consequently, how they use their occassional ability contribution opportunities.

That said, I'm not sure whether I've seen abilities specifically like what you have in mind in the campaign. What sort of changes are you thinking about?


QuoteWell, should I care whether you are convinced?

Oh, you certainly shouldn't!

Callan S.

QuoteAs for the hurdle, I see it differently. They can point at a part of fiction that they no longer want to experience and push it away. This simply shifts the focus to other topics.
Do the players know that's how they should be approaching it? They might be using the ability in some sort of attempt to beat the obstacle? Ie, instead of 'Hmmm, that's enough of the giant AI for now, I think" it's "We gotta beat that AI before he makes his big move! I know, I'll use my..."

QuoteThat said, I'm not sure whether I've seen abilities specifically like what you have in mind in the campaign. What sort of changes are you thinking about?
I think your asking something best answered in the heat of play itself! But I'll say what I was thinking was nothing that would have a radical effect on the disussion here :)

Filip Luszczyk

This is not explicit, and I didn't have a chance to talk about it with the group (some of the players might be reading this thread), so I'm not sure if they're fully aware of that. Still, note that nobody actually took the disrupt electronics ability yet, despite currently struggling against the AI. The option is there, but they seem to enjoy their step by step struggle to locate and hack its core, so nobody's reaching for the off switch.

On the other hand, they're investing in abilities such as interrogation, to circumvent certain obstacles on their way.

They're pretty close to reaching the AI's core after the last session, so it should soon turn out whether they choose to rely on the off switch or decide to find a less immediate solution.

I guess the system is also self-correcting here in a way. It's not in the player's best interest to open, learn or immediately use abilities that sidestep things they want to experience. Winning moves are nearly always potentially available, that only requires at least two players who want to see such abilities used. Stll, immediate victory, in struggles that matter, would go counter to the implicit agenda of the game. There's generally no reason to do it.

I think it's in a way a bit similar to how giving works in Dogs. In Dogs, a victory-oriented player never needs to give, so hypothetically conflicts could go on and on indefinitely. Due to the fact the tools for winning are always there, there necessarily also needs to be an inclination not to reach for them at times, or the game plain wouldn't work. Here, rather than to give when appropriate, the group needs to learn not to "win" when appropriate. A victory-oriented player could "win" the game with no real difficulty whatsoever. Only, the game is not about "winning", it's about getting there. I guess the game would provide the group with negative feedback should they approach things that way - i.e. the experience would stop being satisfactory.

Callan S.

Hi Filip,

I suppose I was just asking in terms of how were looking at the player having a hang up and whether that'll just come out in the wash. If their getting how you intended the tools to be used, yeah, I'd imagine it'd come out in the wash and it's interesting how it seemed an issue at the time. But if they don't get how to use the tools - well, I would say it's not a hang up but an accurate hypothesis. To me it's still in a delicate state so I can't talk with certainty about how it was a hang up.

I suppose one thing that can be said about hang ups is that sometimes they might actually be spot on - but these fears tend to be a sort of scattershot solution. Ie, firing wildly just in case they hit with something relevant.

Filip Luszczyk

Well, as far as the specific player in question is concerned, we won't know it seems, not on the basis of this campaign at least. He wasn't able to attend the next few sessions. Which prompts some questions regarding the nature of his absence, but it seems life was the reason. Meanwhile, the rest of us closed the campaign (and the system worked as expected here, i.e. the players started pushing off switches once the points of focus list got depleted of immediately interesting stuff).