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Author Topic: Educating your group on CA to prevent premature hair-loss  (Read 1843 times)
Eric Schwenke
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Posts: 5


« on: September 06, 2010, 01:46:36 PM »

Hello, I've been an on-again off-again lurker for about a decade now.  A few years ago I made a post or two in "First-Thoughts" about my quarter-baked ideas for a Purist-for-System game, but didn't follow p on it.  Since then, my mind keeps coming back to ideas for the game that is slowly baking more and more.  I'm really excited about some of my ideas and want to talk about them...  but Ron says that I should post here first. 

OK, so I haven't been able to game for a while now, partly due to the social strangeness that is common to new parents.  Unfortunately, I don't think that our new son was the only reason that my wife and I slowly found ourselves not gaming with our group anymore.  I think the biggest problem was not so much that our CAs were different from the rest of the group, but because I couldn't quite get them to understand CAs and Stances and to respect our differences.  My wife and I are primarily Sim-minded, but the DM (D&D 3.5) is pretty Nar focused.  Throughout the few years that I played with him, he would occasionally bring out his "Vogue Point" rules, which was his tacked on meta-game mechanic that would allow the player to break the rules and even take Director Stance.  I generally kept my use of them to a minimum using them in-game only to avoid certain death (ie. stabilize at -9 HP, make a failed Save-or-Die) or in a meta-game fashion to exchange them for XP if it meant leveling that session.
  When I first started playing with him it seemed to be OK, because it was just him, me and his wife, but eventually the group grew to an unwieldy size due to my wife (an inexperienced gamer) trying to solve the problem of too few players by getting other friends of ours into the group, growing the group from four to seven.  Frustration rose, especially as I heard the DM frequently make use of phrases like "speed of plot" and "plot o'clock", and one of the new players (an attention whore that always tried to steer the conversation towards tentacle-rape and other bullshit would gleefully say things like "logic has no place in a fantasy setting", effectively defecating all over my Sim.  Towards the end, I was finally able to get the DM to read ["GNS and Other Matters..." but he didn't seem to get it.  Even after I tried to talk about it with him, he would pressure me to use Vogue Points in ways I found unacceptable, and with other players backing him up it got really annoying.

So, does anyone have good experiences and tips on getting people to understand and respect CA that might be resistant to reading and thinking on Ron's articles,?
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2010, 08:40:33 AM »

So, does anyone have good experiences and tips on getting people to understand and respect CA that might be resistant to reading and thinking on Ron's articles,?

Can't be done. That is, of course there are other texts one might push at others and so on, but who ever learned something while being "resistant" to it?

My experience with similar situations is that trying to solve your agenda issues by teaching CA theory to the other people in your group is like trying to solve your interpersonal problems by teaching psychoanalysis - it just might work with the right group of people, but most will consider the very idea of delving into an esoteric pseudoscience to solve straightforward (to their eyes) interpersonal issues laughable at best, or an effort at dodging the issue or brainwashing at worst.

The only successful method of communication I've had in this sort of situation has been building a solid creative basis for my disagreement and then demonstrating in practice how I'd like to do things differently. In other words, I get a different game and play that with the people in question, after which we'll know much more about our mutual preferences. If this doesn't seem viable, then perhaps there is not enough commitment in the group to playing together in the first place; it's entirely possible that this particular game is more important to this group than the people they play with; if this is the case, then there's little to be done except to either play the game the way the GM wants or get out.
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Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2010, 07:15:55 AM »

Hi Eric,

My take is not much more optimistic than Eero's. It might help to break things out a little bit in terms of people. You have the GM, his wife, you, your wife, and then three more people. I don't know whether the anti-logic, tentacle-rape guy is one of the latter three, but I presume so. It seems a little odd to me ... if that's the case, then he's one of the people invited in by your wife, so it's unclear whether the GM likes his input either. It's not easy to tell whether play is being disrupted primarily by the GM's techniques or by the presence of this other guy; if you dislike both, or may be conflating the one with the other.

What I'm driving at is that you may do well to organize a group of your own, or at least an auxiliary or alternative meeting (then again, you're not meeting with this one any more, so yeah, a group of your own). Perhaps one or more of the others in this group may be interested in what you'd like to play, once out of the somewhat tricky social dynamic of the current game. It may also be worth considering whether your wife is in fact interested in playing the way you'd like to, which may or may not be a private matter. If you do set up a new group, then I suggest keeping it small, four people including yourself at most.

I'm glad you posted this, because it really is quite orienting for me and others when you start posting in First Thoughts. Purist for System design is definitely not easy and would be hard to deal with if people helpfully suggest some equivalent to Vogue Points without knowing that you have no interest in them based on hard experience.

As a minor theoretical point, because it seems like you're generally interested, I'd like to distinguish between genuine Creative Agenda vs. competence regarding particular Techniques.

Leaving aside what sort of Agenda any individual at the table, GM and otherwise, may want to experience in play, it strikes me that as a group, they aren't especially good at the Vogue Points, or at least, not in the presence of that one guy. I'm also a little dubious concerning the "plot" language that you're reporting as well, because that can mean very different things for different people.

Best, Ron
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Clay
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« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 09:09:18 AM »

If I may make a suggestion, don't talk about Creative Agenda at the table, and don't suggest "educating" the other players.  Reading theory articles about games is about as exciting as reading about new dovetailing techniques: a small number of people will be fascinated, and the rest will be eating their own feet out of boredom and frustration before it's done.

Creative Agenda is another way of saying "what do I want to get out of this game?"  Answer that question for yourself.  Discuss it with the game master outside of game time, if you're determined to stay with that group.  Or take Ron's suggestion and start your own group, and be up front and open about what you want out of that game.

This isn't to run down Ron's gaming essays.  They've been very helpful for me to focus on the kinds of games I want to play, and to improve the experience at the table for everyone when I'm running the game.  But I don't discuss theory at the table with my players.  Instead we talk about how we liked what someone did, or how we'd do something different in the future, as a way to reinforce the things we like and discourage the things we don't like.
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Baron
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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2010, 05:08:24 PM »

I agree with Clay.  I've started a group, from scratch, only after consuming as much CA as I can from the essays.  I've dropped CA-speak while in the game as naturally as I might talk about the weather, but to them its moon-man talk.  If you were GM-ing, what you might do is say "this is a gamist game" and leave it at that.  Or "this is generally a gamist game, but all this effort about time management, that's kind of Sim" and leave it at that.  If they're interested, they'll ask you, and you can pick it up later.  Only after some time and shared reading will true discussion of CA become possible.  If you're not GM-ing, well, I suppose the only way is through completely off-table discussion with the GM.  And even then it's kind of personal.

This is a topic for a different post, a separate post, but there's the kernel of it in Eric's and my posts: how do you teach this?  The source of the theory, and correct me if I'm wrong, is actively decreasing disfunction.  Disfunction occurs when everyone at the table has divergent CA tastes and cannot communicate those desires.  The cure for disfunction is better (more aware) design.  But is better design via the Forge for the people already experienced, already with 10+ years of RPGs under their belt, already have design credits?  I know I have my tastes, but what about the new guy, the guy who's never played before, or who's only played one game over and over?  How does he really learn?  Is the way, as I've planned, to try one of each and whatever sticks, sticks?  Try another until everyone's satisfied?  Or add/subtract Sim/Nar/Gam elements from your present game until everyone's satisfied?  Or the deadly solution: find a new group?  I think, somehow, now that we have the theory, we can design adequate training wheels.  Where are the games - rooted in this theory - that teach?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2010, 07:22:29 AM »

Hello (and Baron, welcome),

I think it's important to distinguish between teaching a game and teaching a Creative Agenda. Both have their pitfalls, especially relative to one another.

Teaching a game is easy and fun if the game facilitates a particular CA and the people in question are inclined toward that CA. It doesn't matter whether the theoretical term is employed or not in this case, and I stress that I did not promote the term as a teaching device in the first place.

Teaching a game is not easy or fun when either the game fails to facilitate a particular CA or if the people in question are not inclined toward one (meaning "any") anyway. I need to clarify that the latter phrase is not talking about their psychology, but their habits. In the first case, it's at least possible that the group will Drift the textual rules (with the promoter of the game as first-among-equals I guess) in a way that's fun for them. In the second, it probably doesn't matter much what the textual rules are. If both apply, then you get Zilch.

So much for teaching a game. What about teaching a CA? My line, for years, has been, you pretty much don't. It's more useful to consider it a matter of discovery - who, among the gamers I know, is interested in playing for this? Clearly those entrained to Zilchplay have to be abandoned, which is often traumatic because they are among the most faithful of players in ordinary subcultural terms. But then again, some of them may well be long-standing would-be primary-CA players, if they'd only found the group and rules which facilitated it. And some of the most difficult or frustrated players may be CA-clash veterans who will settle into enthusiastic, focused, and socially-constructive players as soon as the clashing is resolved.

If one is working on getting such a group together, then in my experience, it's not a matter of transforming an existing group so much as the process similar to forming a band. Those members who work out their desires and goals stay, and some people phase out, and one or another new guy phases in. So the CA is not really being taught so much as being refined in a particular expression, both procedurally and socially.

And here's my final point about that: it may well help to be using a game which facilitates a particular CA well, but not if the game chosen is out of the comfort zone in terms of techniques, for whatever reason. Depending on the group, they may do better to stay with a fairly incoherent game while they get themselves together, at least for a while. Or in another group, "system shock" is a constructive experience after all.

I hope this shows why I think that creating the Narrativist-teaching RPG (for instance) is probably a false hope.

Best, Ron
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2010, 11:14:47 AM »

Hi Eric,

I've occasionally been in the position where I know that I want to play a certain game Simulationist rather than Gamist, but I'm also aware that the rulebook procedures themselves won't make this clear.  So, when I'm introducing the game to a bunch of players who I know enjoy Gamist play, I'll insert a lot of my own caveats ("There's no way to win.  No one cares how good you are at building the most effective character.").  Hopefully this will allow them to (a) leave behind some unsuitable habits, or (b) decide this game (as run by me) isn't for them.  I've actually achieved a good amount of (a)!  But then, I've had a lot of practice.

I think this qualifies as an example of what you asked for: getting people to understand and respect a CA issue.  Whether you ever use CA terminology or not is up to you.  Personally, I've found it to be more a barrier than an aid to getting practical issues sorted out; I save it for theory chats.

Ps,
-David
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Ar Kayon
Member

Posts: 438


« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 08:50:25 PM »

I've been into philosophy for years.  It took me this long to realize why people do not believe that philosophy is useful for anything.  From my experiences, I'm inclined to believe it is because exponents typically fall into the trap of theorizing everything.  You sit around the house in between sessions of your intellectual circle-jerk thinking:
"Everything is nothing"
"There is balance in all things"
"Sitting on a mat thinking about nothing and answering koans is what zen is really about"
"Objectivity is intrinsically subjective"
"A priori as opposed to a posteriori knowledge..."

How does one turn this into a happier relationship with one's spouse, family, or peers?  How does this mitigate suffering and lead to happiness?  These theories, to those who aren't predisposed to introspective cosmic musings, have no connection to the world right smack in front of our faces.  And those who continue to contemplate Life, the Universe, and Everything are at risk of becoming completely disconnected from reality.  You also see this phenomenon with the psychobabble morons the other poster was talking about, who read too much Freud and all of a sudden everything in life is a penis metaphor, or because you like cheesecake, you want to have sex with your mom.

I hope I didnít lose you yet.  Iím getting to my point.

My point is that although theory is necessary to comprehend the underlying functions behind things, when disproportionate to first-hand experience, you essentially begin to hammer contrivance into your head until you are adamant it is true. 

You have the experience.  Youíve read all the articles.  Now itís time to stop reading and forget about the terms so you can start connecting with the game itself rather than the meaning behind it.
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