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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 31 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [The Secret Lives of Serial Killers] Rational musings (split)  (Read 3778 times)
Roger
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« on: February 25, 2011, 12:15:28 PM »

Maybe I've just seen Inception too many times, but this makes me wonder how deep you could go.

Could there be /another/ layer, in which the 'victim' is the guy who *really* knows what's going on, and who is merely playing along with the two 'jerks'?

Is there any limit to the number of false pretenses that could be stacked up?  Sadly only a rhetorical question at the moment, but it seems like it should be possible to get an actual answer through research and experimentation.


Cheers,
Roger
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 12:32:56 PM »

Hey Roger,

The additional layers would require, I think, some kind of mechanics impact in order to be more than a curiosity. The baseline deception is mechanically reinforced by the difference between the rules for the Recluse (as the Sunshine player is told) vs. the actual rules, for the Killer, as the Killer player and the GM know. If the Sunshine player knows the deal ahead of time, it's not like they get some kind of mechanics reversal to pull on the others, for instance in the final scene.

I was, in fact, thinking about whether the game is fun in the absence of deception. Or could be, or whether it might be a design consideration to make it fun along that vector in addition to ... well, "fun," along the original vector. That's the opposite of what you're talking about, but it might be surprising if possible.

Best, Ron
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Phil K.
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2011, 01:24:43 PM »

Serial killers and horror movies are a particularly bad touch point for me (my family's from Plainfield, WI and Ed Gein was a friend of the family*) so the only way I could imagine myself reacting as the victim would be punching whoever was on the other side of the table. That aside, it's an interesting thought experiment on what makes a game and to what extent people are willing to abuse one another because it's sanctioned by rules.**

Is it possible to use this sort of deception in a more positive, or at least less offensive/brutal, way? Has anyone explored deliberate deception as a game mechanic for creating drama?

Given the hyperviolent tendencies of a "traditional" role playing protagonist, could a game explore themes of insanity, perception and reality by flipping the perceptions? That is to say, the player thinks he is fighting monsters and saving the world. Through the course of play, it is eventually revealed that, no, there are no monsters. The world is not in danger. The character suffers from delusions of these creatures and is a danger to his community.***

There certainly examples in TV where deception has been used to create humor (for the viewer). The classic "Candid Camera" (and its spiritual successor "Punk'd") is probably the best known example. More recently there was "I Survived a Japanese Game Show."  Has this been explored?

I'm mostly asking these questions because my own knowledge of RPGs is fairly limited and I'm wondering if Willow's deception is new or just the first time it's been "functionally" applied to a game.

-Phil

*Ed gave my grandma's family the livers from any deer he shot every hunting season. That's gotta make you wonder...

**I also think the game, as written, is the greatest break-up tool (read: most passive aggressive tool for people without a spine) for an RP group ever devised. Don't like someone in your group? Run them through Sunshine Boulevard. I do not advocate this course of action.

***Or is he the only sane one in the world? Done properly, I think a game like this could get people to ask questions over and over and over again as they debate the themes of the game. Provided it's done well.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2011, 01:43:23 PM »

Hey Phil,

In the playtest thread (or rather, the thread where I split the playtest posts to), I talked about Violence and Power/Kill. The latter does exactly what you're talking about.

I can't help but think that Sunshine Boulevard/TSLOSKs actually has something to offer in this regard. The various reactions by readers seem to me to be extremely kneejerk, which is to say, not entirely unjustified but still without reflection. I really don't think the game is merely a explicit or extreme form of simply shitty play, and I definitely don't think it "makes abuse OK because it's a rule." I think it's something else.

For a moment, let's look at Devon's playtest. Did the deception work just as Willow's text facilitates? Yes it did. Did it traumatize the person? Did it create enemies? Did it damage the integrity of the existing role-playing group? No, none of those. Are we to assume that Devon's group is characterized by utterly atypical, one-of-a-kind, phenomenal social glue which can withstand anything. I don't think so, I think they're humans like the rest of us.

And now ... did the game-experience, including the deception, become more fun for the Sunshine player after the truth of the matter has sunk in? I don't necessarily mean at the moment his character was being captured and tortured, specifically the point when that player realized his narration rights were not the equal of the other players. I mean the completion of that phase, when "what the fuck" becomes "hey now" ... does it then turn into "oooooh"? I think that's a question that we should consider about the game, and not as a quality of some group or not in another group.

All the ohmygods and ain'titawfuls are failing even to see that question let alone to look over the text without shitting a brick, and asking it.

And I especially like it because Power/Kill's weakness, and Violence's, is that it's directed toward players for whom the author had absolutely nothing but contempt. Whereas this game is directed toward a viewpoint and dramatic topic, as I described in my first post, that is bigger than gaming and its little quirks, and is a genuinely substantive issue of cultural blindness.

Best, Ron
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Phil K.
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2011, 11:37:24 PM »

Ron,

In the playtest thread (or rather, the thread where I split the playtest posts to), I talked about Violence and Power/Kill. The latter does exactly what you're talking about.

Does this refer to the idea of shifting perceptions and casting the PCs as vicious murderers or about deliberate deception? My reading of Power/Kill is that everyone is complicit in the criticism of the characters' actions.

I really don't think the game is merely a explicit or extreme form of simply shitty play, and I definitely don't think it "makes abuse OK because it's a rule." I think it's something else.

It strikes me that people seem to be treating TSLoSK as sort of a RPG version of the Stanford Prison Experiment wherein one individual is empowered to dehumanize another. I don't think that's entirely without merit but it's not a full consideration of the game, either.

The fact that Devon's play test was successful shows that the deception/reveal interaction can create interesting drama and possibly remain functional with the Big Model. Can this mechanic be presented in a game that isn't greeted with the knee-jerk emotional reactions?

How does a deliberate deception work within the Big Model? On the face of it, the creative agenda is cleft in twain. People have agreed to play entirely different games, right? Well, maybe. It might not be that simple.

I posit that it's possible to create a game where the deliberate deception is a part of it on both sides. I don't mean to say that the players know they are being deceived (that would remove the shock of the reveal and lead to players constantly guessing about the twist) but using a setting and premise that is conducive to such a mechanic. Ultimately, creating a game that leaves the players surprised but not shocked when there is a sudden and jarring twist.

Roger thought of "Inception*" and adding layers but I think of "Shutter Island" or "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick and turning the tables on the player.  A mystery game with the deception of the PC is a killer and he is ultimately searching for himself could meet this criteria, I think. A sudden, shocking twist certainly fits in murder mystery fiction.  As a game it would be limited; good for a single good shock and then toothless as a repeat for the same audience. It would also be a bit of a one-trick pony without significant fleshing out from this simple idea.

I'll think about this some more tomorrow.

-Phil

*With regards to adding another layer: I see the third layer as playing a psychologist taking notes about what is going on in the game and asking the GM questions. How that person knows things about the game that the GM doesn't I haven't figured out.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2011, 04:49:19 AM »

Here's another thing I was thinking about. In other media, late-stage information that forces the reader/viewer to fully recast all that has gone before into a new mold is an acknowledged technique. It's definitely not the default way to tell or experience a story, and some people absolutely despise it, but it is doable, many people like it if the "new" (i.e. revised) story is good, and some people absolutely love it and even crave the more arcane and misleading forms. None of which, in my opinion, has anything to do with abuse of the reader or viewer.

Furthermore, there is a difference between the reality that some audience members simply don't like such things, and the reality that some who do, or might, don't like bad implementations of it.

What I'm saying is that it is possible that a person might play the Sunshine and be totally engaged in the Sunshine Boulevard "thing" going on, get caught totally flat-footed by the final phase, but the revelations and events of that phase make everything that has gone before make more sense, and furthermore, upon full reflection, are actually a much better story than the original or as-experienced one. This is absolutely nothing more than what movies like The Sixth Sense do. The questions are only (i) whether the new understanding utilizes the existing information more completely than the previous understanding and (ii) whether the resulting story as it's now understood is more engaging, has a more relevant theme, than the story as it was previously understood would have had.

It's true that the Sunshine Boulevard / TSLOSKs transition is far more radical in terms of content, and that is a legitimate concern for discussion. But a good deal of the reaction I've been seeing seems to be based on the idea that role-playing is only functional insofar as everyone is fully informed about all the content ... and we know that's not true, on the basis of GM-only backstory, player-owned secrets, and other similar things. I'm saying that the bait-and-switch is a version of such things, and in terms of pure content it is not itself, as a technique, automatically abominable.

Best, Ron
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2011, 09:56:51 AM »

Quote
Roger thought of "Inception*" and adding layers but I think of "Shutter Island" or "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick and turning the tables on the player.  A mystery game with the deception of the PC is a killer and he is ultimately searching for himself could meet this criteria, I think. A sudden, shocking twist certainly fits in murder mystery fiction.  As a game it would be limited; good for a single good shock and then toothless as a repeat for the same audience. It would also be a bit of a one-trick pony without significant fleshing out from this simple idea.

This reminds me that I think I forgot to state the most obvious and important feedback of all here.

SLoSK is ENTIRELY a one-trick pony.

I mean it is a game it is almost literally only possible to play once (unless you want to look outside your usual gaming group to find another victim, you sadist you) ever.

The problem with building a longer and more elaborate game around a similar deception is that that game would too, by necessity, be a one-trick pony. Perhaps even more importantly, even that one reveal would be entirely predicated on what amounts to a very fragile deception. All it takes is one player getting curious and reading the forbidden sections of the rulebook, or an online review, or a playtest report at the Forge, to ruin the big reveal forever. So I'm not sure this sort of model is tenable for any game that isn't textually and mentally bite-sized.
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