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Author Topic: The Great Social Shakedown  (Read 1508 times)
B4GD
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« on: April 08, 2011, 10:30:28 PM »

I've been reading Heroic Worlds  from Lawrence Schick for some projects unrelated to playing games. Insomuch that i've spent a large portion of my life devoted to studying society in a variety of ways, I constantly think about connecting the role we all want to play, the role we make for games and the player of that game. I bring up Schick's work because it tells an important story:

Quote
"At first, the player characters were deemed to be the players themselves who had been sucked through  time warp, but some of the players weren't comfortable with this. Further, they found that the game's dramatic impact was limited, as there was no danger. Arneson would threatn but never kill characters that represented the actual players" (18).

I have read this bet several times. It is a really fascinating idea and one that I think has not been really developed. This was in the early 70s. Since this time, there has been dozens of socially intense gaming experiences; a myriad of potent, awkward situations that games put people in; and a general but noticeable trend within society to connect all of our little details to other people's little details.

Is it time for us to play ourselves? A long time ago when I was still involved withe Gaming Outpost, I had really tried to get some folks together to try it out. I think it's something that people need to do with people they know...sort of well. But you can justify it in different ways.

So, the character creation i was thinking about involves secrets.

Each person rolls 1d4 and keeps this roll on a piece of paper. These are your secrets

Next, each person in the game judges you for a standard set of criteria:

Strength
Grace (Agility)
Stamina
Willpower
Intelligence
Charisma

Each player writes down a corresponding number to the maximum of the die you will all use. For example, a group could have nothing but d6's so it'd be a rank of 6 or less. d20s would be on a scale of 1-20.

Average all players inputs on all characters for each stat. 5 players using d20s mark my strength as around 10,12,9,11,14 = 58/5=11.6 round up=12. So, my strength in game would be 12. Do this for each stat.

Next, each player takes their secrets and writes a sentence about themselves on a piece of paper. This sentence should be relevant to one of those scores and in the context of the world they will play in. For example, if I am in a world of dinosaurs, I could say that my dad used to take me hunting every Sunday. So, for each roll involving hunting, especially with guns, I have an advantage.

So, each player basically knows each other. We know how brave they are, how aggressive, how crazy.

Each time a player takes an action, the other players have the ability to let them perform the action, stop them, help them, or question that character.

When this happens, the players discuss what they as characters would do in this situation and why. they must also explain this to the Game Master.

To add more depth to the social aspect of this game. The Game Master is a (Good/Bad/Vengence/Pious) person. The GameMaster should be a person the game masters don't know very well, if at all.

Depth, Danger, and excitement then, take on the form of having to live up to this not so hidden pantopticon of judges in our lives.

I think this is a good start. Anything catch anyone's critical eye?

Nick

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5niper9
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Posts: 68

My name is René.


« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2011, 11:46:55 PM »

Hi Nick,

three things come to my mind.

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager in a small group of friends who not only met for roleplaying, there was a Vampire game. Part of the group was a girl I fancied, a confident, but not bossy guy, another girl and me. We were all of approximately the same age. Usually the group was even bigger, but for this instance of the game there were just the four of us.
So we get the idea of playing ourselfes, all through the process of becoming a vampire and the other guy says he would play the GM, if nobody minded. We were okay with that.
I think adjusting points for oneself is not a problem, but as you may know several of the vampire families in the game have different flaws. As we played as humans in the first place, the GM should choose the kind of vampire family we would be adopted to and thus chose our flaw. As it happened he gave the flaw of feeding restriction to me, which meant, that I had to choose a subgroup of people which would be the only kind of people the character could drink from. As I was humming and hawing he said: "Just tell us what kind of girls you like and we'll restrict to that." And suddenly this activity had turned from an escapist roleplaying to Thruth and Dare without dare. I was not comfortable, but teenage me would not lose a word about that. So I said something and we played along for maybe an hour. But all through a tension or uncomfortableness was lingering between us. So much for my experience with this kind of game.

Next point is this:

Next, each person in the game judges you for a standard set of criteria:

Strength
Grace (Agility)
Stamina
Willpower
Intelligence
Charisma
I think this is unsafe and will lead to unpleasant situations. Judging them without anything to point to for reference seems to me like a really bad idea. I would prefer something like roll 9D[die-size] for each friend at the table and distribute six dice from each set of nine dice to the characteristics named above. Then take the average for each player as stated above. In that way when someone gets pissed because his/her Intelligence [or whatever] is too low, the person giving the dice can cede responsibility to the dice. Furthermore, people do not have to invent a scale, but just need to a an ordered relation between the characteristics of the person to be judged.

Third point is that I do not understand what you want to express here:
To add more depth to the social aspect of this game. The Game Master is a (Good/Bad/Vengence/Pious) person. The GameMaster should be a person the game masters don't know very well, if at all.

Hope this helps.
Best,
René
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2011, 04:04:18 AM »

Hello Nick,

Quote
Depth, Danger, and excitement then, take on the form of having to live up to this not so hidden pantopticon of judges in our lives.
I'll ask why though? As I'm reading you, your just creating this circumstance. I mean, one reason why that comes to my preferences is to reflect on the judgementalism. But here your just recreating only - there is no reflection stage built into the activity? I mean, right now maybe your not realising that right now your seeing it from the outside. And that's what's interesting. But you start doing it - you'll be too busy doing X to see X from the outside.

And if not for reflection, what for? It's like a prisoner making a tiny diorama of his cell and then playing out a little prisoner inside it?
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B4GD
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2011, 07:26:35 AM »

Hi, thanks for the comments! Thinking about this type of game has always been useful to me.

And suddenly this activity had turned from an escapist roleplaying to Thruth and Dare without dare. I was not comfortable, but teenage me would not lose a word about that. So I said something and we played along for maybe an hour. But all through a tension or uncomfortableness was lingering between us. So much for my experience with this kind of game.

I think this type of game is more common than we'd all probably like to admit. I think most of the groups I have been in that played longer than a session or two ended because of sexual tensions and discomfort. I think that by making it a conscious part of the game rather than unconscious, it will lose some power. That said, a caveat for this type of game will require a modicum of self-understanding and a larger degree of humility. These days, we could all use that.

Next, each person in the game judges you for a standard set of criteria:

Strength
Grace (Agility)
Stamina
Willpower
Intelligence
Charisma
I think this is unsafe and will lead to unpleasant situations. Judging them without anything to point to for reference seems to me like a really bad idea. I would prefer something like roll 9D[die-size] for each friend at the table and distribute six dice from each set of nine dice to the characteristics named above. Then take the average for each player as stated above. In that way when someone gets pissed because his/her Intelligence [or whatever] is too low, the person giving the dice can cede responsibility to the dice. Furthermore, people do not have to invent a scale, but just need to a an ordered relation between the characteristics of the person to be judged.

The point of reference here is how we judge ourselves versus how others judge us. It is uncomfortable to see this in play but it is that discomfort that interests me. The order of the scale is a predefined (by the players) one because each group is different and the power of the scale in each step should be a consideration in the setup of the game. A scale of 4 will not tell you as much about yourself as a scale of 20 would, for instance. The details are important to some folks, not important to others.

Third point is that I do not understand what you want to express here:
To add more depth to the social aspect of this game. The Game Master is a (Good/Bad/Vengence/Pious) person. The GameMaster should be a person the game masters don't know very well, if at all.

This is something in relation to the power of the person outside the group. If you are playing yourself, you need to have a reason to do so. Dream sequences, time travel, or even an explosion of alien or zombie activity in the town you are in. The personality type of the GM is pre-determined by the GM. They write it down and set it aside. A Good Game master will run a story that allows everyone to experience hardship and perhaps overcome it. A Bad game master would challenge a group and perhaps use weaknesses of the group against them.  A vengeful GM will perhaps wait and lay traps for the group because they are someone from their past.

The danger then, is based on a pre-set condition and it'll be up to the players to figure out how to cope with it.

In the end, most of the games i've made over time are better used in a social science course lab than the game table. I'd imagine this is one of those but it would be a great one to see outside the class.
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B4GD
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2011, 07:41:39 AM »

Hello Nick,

Quote
Depth, Danger, and excitement then, take on the form of having to live up to this not so hidden pantopticon of judges in our lives.

I'll ask why though? As I'm reading you, you're just creating this circumstance. I mean, one reason why that comes to my preferences is to reflect on the judgementalism. But here you're just recreating only - there is no reflection stage built into the activity? I mean, right now maybe your not realising that right now your seeing it from the outside. And that's what's interesting. But you start doing it - you'll be too busy doing X to see X from the outside.

And if not for reflection, what for? It's like a prisoner making a tiny diorama of his cell and then playing out a little prisoner inside it?

There are a variety of reasons to do this sort of thing.

How would you react to circumstance when your reactions are based on those around you rather than just yourself? It gets into the things we pull from when role-playing and is a wholly exploratory activity as a group. Essentially, you are not so much playing yourself as you are all playing each other in some fashion. The actions we all have control over are those things that have no impact on the group of people.

Quote
I swing my sword at the ogre becomes,

Player 1 - "I think he'd swing his sword."
Player 2 - "I think he'd pause from fear."
Player 3 - "He's quite wise and he's in danger, he'd swing."

GM - Alright, you swing your sword at the ogre. Damage is ______.

Role-playing by committee.

I am interested in making conscious a lot of the unspoken things we do at the role-playing table.
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Chris_Chinn
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Posts: 280


« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2011, 08:46:12 AM »

Hi Nick,

It's been awhile since I had seen it, but I'm fairly certain BTRC's Timelords actually had specific rules for playing yourself as a character.  It had criteria for each stat - like strength was based on how many pushups you could do in a certain time frame, agility on juggling, etc.   You might want to check that out as an alternative way that removes a lot of the social interaction of rating each other.

Ben Lehman's Land of a Thousand Kings is also based on that premise, but instead of having a set group of stats to judge, it's about positive memories the players have about each other- a method that, I think, helps keep the social judgment method in a good place.  Here's an Actual Play Report:  http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=3249

Another game by Ben, "Beloved" also has you playing yourself, though it's a solo rpg.  I think there's something really interesting and powerful because it takes place only in your imagination that allows you to be more honest with yourself- and the game is a slick way of forcing your to explore who you are in the process of playing.  Some AP and thoughts here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=31241.0

I guess the question to ask, is what are you aiming to have this game do, that playing yourself can do that you can't do with an imaginary character?

Chris
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2011, 02:59:48 PM »

Quote
I am interested in making conscious a lot of the unspoken things we do at the role-playing table.
Do you think it will definately make concious the unspoken things? Or could the unspoken just remain unconciously enacted even as the rules explicitly facilitate it?

I guess you could just run it to test the hypothesis, but how does one measure whether something was made concious or not? When I wrote a game called secret lies of roleplayers (which is also a game to make concious unspoken things), I embeded a certain amount of distance from the characters in the structure of the game. Distance lends perspective. While lack of distance...well, to quote an author I like "What does the brain look like when viewed from within? The world."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2011, 05:10:25 PM »

Hello,

Everyone, please review the topics standards for the forums at the Forge. This is clearly about a game design idea. It cannot be a topic for the Actual Play forum, and I think the people who've replied should have recognized this as well. When a topic like this gets posted, don't reply. I know that a juicy idea is terribly tempting, but please don't. It only confuses the person, thinking he or she has been "accepted," and then my moderation is perceived as arbitrary and not socially supported.

I will be moving this thread to the Game Development forum, but Nick, please note the requirements for that forum, which will be applied to this topic once it's there.

Or if you'd like, provide a solid account of one or more play experiences which led you to think about this, as best as you can tell. With that in the thread, you're golden to stay right here.

Either way would be very welcome to me because I do not want to step on the idea itself. Its presentation simply has to conform to how things are discussed here, that's all. Everyone else please wait for Nick's reply.

Best, Ron
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B4GD
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2011, 08:35:27 PM »

I will be moving this thread to the Game Development forum, but Nick, please note the requirements for that forum, which will be applied to this topic once it's there.

Ah, I see. I was taking it as a interpreting my post as a discussion of actual play a bit too literally. I am interested in focusing on the spirit of play that we cannot or do not need to define. I did not view it as a game development question but I suppose I could see it as such given the frame you've described and the structure of my initial post. I could go either way but as this is your forum, do as you see fit. If it is too confounding a topic, I have no problem in dropping it altogether.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2011, 05:29:21 AM »

Hi Nick,

It really is your choice, but I can clarify what that choice is about. If I'm understanding your post correctly, you do not have a game in design using this feature, or trying to. If that's the case, then please consider instead keeping the thread here in this forum. To do that, please tell us about some instance of real role-playing you've experienced which, in any way, is relevant to what you've presented so far. Negative examples are just as good as any other.

"My forum" has nothing to do with that. Whether this conversation continues - and I hope it does - is completely your call.

Best, Ron
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