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Author Topic: non-play  (Read 6769 times)
Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 771

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« on: October 25, 2011, 06:00:00 PM »

I like Fluffy Bunny by Emily Care Boss. Not because it's a good game (it's crap). I like it because it so accurately summarizes certain segment of the hobby, and in such a witty way.

The thing about this segment is that it's composed of people who don't know what they want. They just want to have fun. And they want somebody to serve it to them on a silver platter.

"Fun" usually means that they seek to be entertained and amused in a mildly engaging manner. Sort of like half-watching TV, only in a nice social context, among people who - more or less - share their nerdish interests. Typically, obsession with select aspects of genre fiction. I noticed this sort of specific taste convergence proves somewhat rare in actuality, but with superficial enough communication it's easy enough to assume by default, and as long as nobody stomps on sacred cows any nice company is nice.

Conventions in particular tend to be rife with such clueless young people.

Now, obviously, I can only speak of local Polish conventions I've been to, which were crap. I've heard foreign conventions are different. I've also heard they are not.

Years ago, there was this random convention in Cz?stochowa and at a late hour there wasn't much to do past idle socializing in the sleeping room. Assorted culture trivia for those who don't know: forget hotels, it's poor. Most Polish conventions traditionally take place in relatively cheap to lease school buildings, some classrooms designated as "sleeping rooms" to host guests on cold floor. Most gaming takes place either there or in corridors, though occassionaly some separate gaming space is provided. Why people bother traveling half the country and put up with such conditions is beyond my grasp, even though I used to do that for several years myself. But I digress.

Some dude I didn't know well offered to run D&D and rallied our idly socializing company to the table. Cool, D&D. I used to play it a lot back then, this being the middle of the whole d20 boom and all. Oh, but the guy proceeded to explain he was going to run "storytelling D&D". Uh, oh, that meant freeform. So much for the game as far as I was concerned, but whatever, not much else to do anyway. I decided I might as well try to contribute and - since I had my laptop with me - offered to take care of the soundtrack. Any good storytelling session needs good atmospheric soundtrack, went the popular gaming meme.

So, I loaded my fav playlist and tried dynamically matching songs to the situation at hand. Some local gaming traditions make it the GM's, er, the Storyteller's job. Never seen it working well in practice though, as going DJ usually diverts too much attention from actually running (ruining?) the game. Worked well enough when another person handled the music apparently.

Ok, I managed to have some fun after all. What, we're fighting wolves in a snowstorm? Here, have some Liberi Fatali, this piece never gets old... and here goes a mandatory Final Fantasy discussion. Fifteen minutes later, back to the wolves. And so on.

I had my character, but I actually stopped caring about it all like half an hour into the game. Or perhaps even before it started? So we took our turns narratively fighting monsters, like there was ever any doubt as to how it ends. While the GM, er, Storyteller was busy trying to be scary with all the acting tricks he learned from his gaming magazine, half the party sort of listened trying to respond with some declaration here and there, while those sitting closer to me were mostly engaged in browsing my collection of pirated pdfs. Then a person or two went to sleep, and the activity continued like that for another hour or two, until it fizzled.

A fun game! I played some cool songs and discussed recent supplements a bit.

But the real fun part? Months later I met some of the participants again. It was then that I learned there was a fun session of D&D that night that I was GM-ing. Uh-huh. Sure I was. If you say so.

And I'm pretty sure for some of them, that was all the gaming they knew. Sitting together, randomly switching from engaging in nerd-approved antics to allowing that crazy Master dude to amuse them. When nudged. Perhaps when threatened with an XP penalty. But most importantly, sitting together. With other fans.

I seriously doubt any of them are still in the hobby. Perhaps they didn't need it from the start?

Characters
Type: Clueless

Traits
genre: grimdark fantasy sci-fi anime
shirt: metal geek funny
body: skinny obese
hair: long short

Stats
Happiness: Maximum = 10

Feats
Eat snacks
Talk crap
Role-play
Roll dice
Not care

System
Perform Feat. Increase Happiness level to Maximum.

The End

Actual play highlights:

"Let's do some RP!"
"Cool. What game do you want to play?"
"Something fun."
"Like what?"
"You tell me."

"How was the session?"
"It was fun."
"How so?"
"It was fun."

"So, what do you think about that system we played last time?"
"It was fun."
"Oh? What was so fun about it?"
"The elephant was fun!"
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2011, 05:35:28 PM »

So, hypothesis time?

I'm reminded of the warhammer quest board game, in terms of a constrasting opposite. The warhammer quest system generates situation, enough to play right through to the end of a game session (one dungeon).

It's occured to me recently how to describe alot of traditional RPG's - they are like describing the ways chess pieces in excruciating detail (oh, the combat sections...), but absolutely nothing on situation/ie, where to set the pieces on a chess board, or even describing a chess board.

One thing I think design comes up against, and maybe this is projection on my part, is that there's this terror of the board game. I think people are used to what happens in the play account and...they start to design around the idea that that is roleplay. You can't interupt that with this board game playing!

In a way, they are right, if a hyper allergic reaction right. A complete board game would hinge not at all on fictional content, like warhammer quest doesn't (well ignore any "I wont help you because I'm an elf and elves hate dwarves" fictional input for now).

However, you can design a system where some resources are set aside by rules and the rules dictate that those resources are gained purely on fictional judgement by someone.

While in traditional design, vast resources are under the call of fictional judgement. The GM sets difficulty rolls to whatever the hell he pleases, the results to whatever the hell he pleases, if you stumble upon a chest or dragon on leaving the tavern, it's whatever the hell the GM pleases - massive amounts of resources on any fiction judgement call. And the traditional responce is the self flattering "Oh, my GM wouldn't just do that lame stuff! He's really objective!". When really, if he were as objective as rules then you could just use rules and get the same result. The reason rules for assigning resources aren't used (apart from the effort of writing them up)? Because the whole thing is an exercise in sycophancy - the phenomina of thinking you face some sort of objective force, and yet the miraculous track record of winning over and over and over? What luck or talent or both, aye!? Further this with a culture who has often had their ego's beaten down by calous interactions in the past, so will they question the source of their own sense of ego and pride over the accomplishments? Are all the players in the account really clueless, or staying in an ego boosting rut, playing "the hero" to make up for school years spoilt by the ego of other children?

So I suspect advancement in design is stiffled, because the suggestion of something else invalidates the many months and years of herodom and personal identification with that.

Certain the subject always gets seen in the binary "Oh, so you mean a board game", rather than a blend of board game with some resources that can be gained, gained purely by fictional judgement call. Like a simplistic example is warhammer quest but say with treasure chests here and there, but only there based on rules which say someone judges the prior fiction. So maybe if you had said you looked behind the tapestries, when the 'The GM determines if you get a treasure chest' card came out of the deck, you might have gotten it IF you had spoken that fiction. And maybe that gold would have been just in time to buy the item that saves you from dying in the next encounter, except you didn't speak the fiction so by consequence, you die. Thus fiction matters! Or maybe by board game skill and lucky dice, you survive the encounter, just. Does this mean fiction doesn't matter? No, it just means it doesn't dominate the outcomes of play, it merely has an influence on them.

Okay, so there's my ra-ra-ra for why such play in the account continues rather than evolves into something else and a suggestion for something to evolve into, as a contrast. I've really no idea if it'll get anyone out of mire and murk, but it's my only real bet so far.
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 726


« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2011, 06:21:35 PM »

Filip, that sounds pretty horrible.  I'm sorry you had that experience.  If it's any consolation, I've found that gaming with total strangers is frequently (always?) disappointing, sometimes so disappointing that it causes me to painfully introspect about the amount of my life I've spent playing these silly games.  None of my experiences have been as bad as yours on the creative agenda front, though.

Although, maybe one time it was that bad!  Kat Miller was running a With Great Power... game, I want to say Dreamation 2009 but it might have been 2008.  I was (am) a big fan of With Great Power... and had spent years wishing I could make it out to Dreamation to hang with all the Forge / Story Game peeps I knew on-line.  Kat's game, however, consisted of me, two pre-teen girls Kat was babysitting for a friend, and a middle school science teacher. 

With the exception of me and Kat, none of them cared a lick about super hero comics, none of them gave a shit about With Great Power..., and none of them were there to actually, y'know, play role-playing games.  The girls were politely bored.  The science teacher guy took every moment to point out to the children that none of this was real science, kept breaking into Monty Python jokes, and just blither about different, impliedly better role-playing games.  The bored children I can forgive.

I think I've seen Ron or Vincent or somebody use a metaphor about people needing to agree to get together, with these particular people, to do this particular thing (play volleyball or have dinner).  In both of our stories, it sounds like the other players didn't really give a damn about who they were meeting with, and also didn't give a damn about what they were ostensibly there to do.  Bad times.

Thanks for pointing me to Fluffy Bunny, too.  My happiness is now set at maximum.
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Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2011, 09:39:44 AM »

However, you can design a system where some resources are set aside by rules and the rules dictate that those resources are gained purely on fictional judgement by someone.

Callan, but do you honestly think that would work for people representing this particular segment of the hobby?

The current edition of D&D has pretty elaborate rules on resource distribution. Can't say how effective they are after playing just a few sessions, but they are right there in the manual. So what? Many GM's ignore those rules and just make shit up. Many players don't care, because "they just want to have fun".

Like, just this month, some dude offered to run the current edition of D&D for me and my friends. He was new to the hobby apparently, only gaming for half a year or so and only having contact with this one edition. Still, based on conversations we had, he seemed already infected with the "fast & loose" disease. When some of us demanded he runs the game RAW, he got really angry. We could have pulled the Smelly Chamberlain trick on him just to see how it goes, but after wasting enough time creating our characters, we just parted our ways even before the first actual session.

Actually, every earlier edition of D&D had rules for that in some form, though never so elaborate and strict. Many GM's kept ignoring those and just making shit up. Many players never cared, becase "they just wanted to have fun".

Do you think it would be any different if those rules had a stronger connection to the fiction?

And what stops them from ignoring such rules as well in order to "just have fun"?

Note that we're talking people capable of mistaking the soundtrack guy for the GM. In that opening account, I did not contribute to the fiction at all. I contributed to the ambience at best. I mostly contributed socially. But that was enough to fulfill the entertainer role for the evening. For those people the GM was primarily the entertainer. Therefore, since there was some game and I was the entertainer, I must have been the GM, right? They just did not remember the other guy.

So, what fiction?

It seems people like that have no strong sense of the fiction just as they have no strong sense of the game. They mostly have a sense of social meeting. They are like: "we are gamers, so this thing we are doing now is the game" and leave it at that. They "just want to have fun" which translates to "somebody please increase my Happiness to 10 by means of some gaming-associated activity".

You can set aside whatever resources you want and assign them by whatever system you want and it won't do anything for them when they don't recognize those as resources of use.

And they likely won't see the purpose of those resources. That's because they won't read and understand your theory. Even if you hard code it into the ruleset, it still won't do anything. They won't bother to read and understand your manual on their own. Their GM will not take his time to teach them the rules. Or he will, but they won't grant it enough attention to understand. Or perhaps the GM will ignore those rules in the first place and they will "just have fun". Probably spending half their time on Monty Python jokes and unrelated Star Trek discussions or some other diversion.

That a set of pretty well designed rules exists on paper will not matter in the end.

And yet, such people form a certain segment of the hobby. Sometimes, they strongly identify as "gamers" themselves and obsess over all sorts of gaming-related things. After closer scrutiny their interest in the content tends to prove very superficial and their involvement primarily social. I notice most of them drop out of the hobby after just a few years, as they rarely have enough dedication to keep arranging for gaming meetings throughout their adult lives. Often, the breakup of their initial group is enough. Occassionally though, some will linger in the gaming fandom for years, maintaining heavy, time-consuming involvement of some sort even despite no longer gaming at all.

I believe it's a dead end.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2011, 10:27:47 AM »

Hi,

I'm fully in agreement with Filip on this issue. It's one of the reasons I've always specified that the Big Model is about play, subject to the (usually tacit) Social Contract statement that we are in fact playing at all.

People who seriously study martial arts know all about this. Any martial arts community, across various schools in a given area, has its share of people who simply aren't participating in any real way but are simply, and all too often, "there." I'm not talking about those who are limited in time but are reasonably dedicated, and I'm definitely not talking about differences in personal ability. I'm talking about seriousness - people who attend, but don't bring the fullness of attention and commitment to their or to others' development. Some stay with a given school forever, identifying with it; others become the dreaded wandering green belts who often think of themselves as well-rounded or eclectic. Frankly, they suck. And I'm not talking about for themselves, because that's their business, but for the rest of us. They're lousy partners, poor contributors to the shared energy and learning of a given class session, and worse, they talk and fucking talk, both in and out of class, in a uniquely non-constructive and yet highly-self-inclusive way.

So, my take is that in the case of gamers, we're talking about the social identity of "gamer" without reference to actually playing. Even sitting around a table and rolling dice and "having a character" - it's not play. It's just ... being "there." And in which case, my attention as a practitioner and as a reflector upon the experience, is instantly diverted away. This is emphatically not about styles, modes, goals, or techniques of actual play. It's about playing at all. No play? Off the screen.

Best, Ron
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Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2011, 11:47:07 AM »

Filip, that sounds pretty horrible.  I'm sorry you had that experience.  If it's any consolation, I've found that gaming with total strangers is frequently (always?) disappointing, sometimes so disappointing that it causes me to painfully introspect about the amount of my life I've spent playing these silly games.  None of my experiences have been as bad as yours on the creative agenda front, though.

I don't think familiarity or the lack of it is the core of the issue here.

I don't think the activity was dissapointing for other participants.

I can think of another group in Cz?stochowa from that same period. It was an anime "club" of sorts, perhaps up to two dozen fans who used to meet at the plaza every Saturday to hang out together. For about half of them, about half the time, hanging out meant gaming. Unless one gravitated towards the tight group of yaoi fangils, who were a separate world unto themselves, it was largely socially expected that if you are there, you participate in the game. Games with ten or more participants were not unusual.

I've been hanging out with this crowd for some years, sometimes joining their games, though frankly I preferred those yaoi girls.  I've run some one shots a few times, always limiting participation. I had my regular gaming group outside that environment and at times I tried to recruit more promising individuals, but nothing ever came out of it.

For all I know, those Saturday meetings constituted most of their gaming at the time.

It typically worked like this. One of their GMs brought the book and rallied players. Then, rarely the same week, they started creating their characters. They rarely finished this in a single meeting - partly due to group size, partly due to their general inefficiency - and it sometimes took a month to kick off the game. Sometimes, they would abandon a game at that point for reasons or no apparent reason, only playing once or twice or not at all, and they would start this endless prep routine again. Occasionally though, to my surprise, they would pick up something they started playing months or years before.

They were mostly playing in public sites. A park when the weather was particularly good, but usually McDonalds. They would order something cheap just so that employees don't boot them out, as the surrounding tables tended to be empty, for obvious reasons. At times, a dozen people would just come to somebody's cramped flat.

Fun times. Games were not what made them fun for myself though.

Like, I recall this game of Legend of the Five Rings where the GM started by asking if we saw Seven Samurai and when it turned out me and someone else had actually seen it, he asked that we refrain from using our knowledge of his adventure's plot to our advantage. The game lasted for a while, but no plot seemed to actually be there and things weren't really moving forward until some fight near the end. Notably, most of the players were sitting silently most of the time, unless somebody cracked a juvenile joke about "Castle 69" (it was right there on the world map) or something.

Or, I was in their game of Vampire: The Masquerade once. Very large group, but only two or three players were genuinely trying to do anything. The GM himself was mostly focused on the single female player, who played for her first time I think and didn't seem to understand much of this crazy gaming thing, but was apparently happy to receive all the attention. The rest was busy with the host's new ASG rifle and seemed largely disconnected from the game, until some fight broke out and their Assamites from frickin' Kabul had a chance to shine. The fight was mostly chaos with people shouting past each other and the visibly frustrated GM making most rules up on the spot, with little to no consistency. The chaos lessened a bit once I pointed the GM to the initiative procedure in the manual, but I wonder how it would turn out if I wasn't there or didn't say anything.

Virtually all their gaming was like that. No direction whatsoever, no creative content of note, no gameplay to speak of.

They were doing it month after month for years.

Quote
I think I've seen Ron or Vincent or somebody use a metaphor about people needing to agree to get together, with these particular people, to do this particular thing (play volleyball or have dinner).

Yes, I know Ron Edward's metaphor. The thing is, it's apparently not true out there in the Real World, where a significant segment of the hobby doesn't work like that, but it's still "gaming" for them and some will even claim to love it. And it would seem sometimes cheerleaders are enough for successful volleyball or finery enough for a successfull dinner, once you put away the issue of preference.

I wonder. Does the lack of clear and voiced disagreement count as agreement by default?

Quote
In both of our stories, it sounds like the other players didn't really give a damn about who they were meeting with, and also didn't give a damn about what they were ostensibly there to do.  Bad times.

Not really. It wasn't the case in the game described in my account.

Of course those people cared about who they were meeting with. They cared about meeting other enthusiastic young nerds, to the point of traveling to the convention and spending a night or two on cold floor. Not all of them were total strangers to each other too. Socially, they totally cared. About as much as people care who they visit a pub with, but still.

They also did care about what they were there to do. They were there to "just have fun". And so they did, in their own way.

You seem to assume that the game in itself was the point of that activity, where it was just a pretense. When I think about it, seems to me most participants actually understood that on a social level, as most or all of their gaming was more or less like that.

It's like a TV working in the background of a family meeting, some people half watching it and half listening to what others have to say and half caring about both. Occassionally what's on becomes the topic of the conversation and then it moves to different topics.
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2011, 12:35:47 PM »

I wonder if RPGs are more prone to this phenomenon (people who don't want to really do the activity showing up to it anyway) than other social endeavors?

My first thought is "no".  I've seen mixed levels of participation in just about every game or sport I've ever played.  I haven't noticed "gamer" identities contributing to more of this than "frisbee player" or "person who's a good sport about playing charades at parties" identities.  (Or the "well-rounded, eclectic martial artist".  Heh.  I totally know that guy.)

My second thought is that maybe conventions are a weird special case, where you roleplay with strangers.  It's like joining a pick-up team at a soccer tournament; you never know how many awesome, half-assed* or outright interfering people you might get stuck with.  It's the risk you sign up for, and it can definitely go badly.

My third thought is that someone is more likely to get kicked out of an activity for interfering if (a) it's clear and obvious what counts as interference, and (b) it's clear and obvious whose call it is.  A soccer goalie who gets scored on because they're talking on their cell phone will be run off the field instantly.  A martial artist who draws blood in "no contact" sparring will be instantly reported to the person responsible for the class and/or dojo.  An RPG can be similarly clear, but it can also be completely unclear.  I don't know any convention organizers who come by the table, saying, "You!  You paid money for this, but so did these other people, and you're sabotaging their activity.  Out!"

As for groups who get together to not really do an activity, but to use that activity as a way to add a small amount of structure to "just hanging out", well, I guess all we can really ask for is truth in advertising, so no one gets fooled into thinking they'll actually be doing the activity.  Which, I guess, might be a tall order, as the non-activity folks don't have too much personal incentive to identify and communicate the difference.  In my experience, I've generally been able to spot it immediately and bow out if I wasn't into it (which is fine if it was a ten minute walk to get there, and horribly frustrating if it was a 90-minute train ride).

*While I think interfering non-participants must go, I think non-interfering non-participants can be integrated.  In high school, Andy's 5 best friends in the world all played in my Pitfighter RPG during the main time that he was free to socialize.  So, he joined us, and even though he had little interest in roleplaying, he didn't interfere with us doing it, and he got to see his friends.
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David Berg
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« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2011, 12:44:45 PM »

Filip,

The last bit of your last post reminds me of my friend John's account of a Shadowrun game he checked out.  The GM kept the fiction moving, while everyone else wandered in and out of the game itself and the room the game was played in.  When a new person sat down and got interested, another player would summarize to them what they'd missed.  I believe the event was billed as "come play Shadowrun" but was understood by everyone as, "come to this party, at which there will be Shadowrun".

Does that sound similar to what you've seen?

I actually think it'd be interesting to design a system that's optimized for this kind of play.  I'm working on an attempt called Mead Hall Tales, where there's one Bard telling a tale of various Heroes, and the Heroes have specific, themed ways to interject their accomplishments into the fiction as the players desire.  So, people can come, go, watch, or participate, and the GM gets to keep the activity alive, and everyone knows what they're getting into.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2011, 03:24:50 PM »

Quote
Callan, but do you honestly think that would work for people representing this particular segment of the hobby?

I don't know - they never seem to make contact with such materials to actually test the theory? Take this, for example:
Quote
When some of us demanded he runs the game RAW, he got really angry.
Doesn't the RAW contain the (dumb ass) golden rule? So technically by chopping and changing, doing whatever the hell, the GM is playing by the RAW? And indeed, as much as I don't want to advocate this, the person pushing to play by RAW is actually pushing not to play the rules as written. To skip the hallowed golden rule. Really you've got TWO people who 'just wanna have fun' in that regard, not one person. Except one of them actually has a rule behind him, even if it's a stupid rule like the golden one.

Tons of materials with this sort of shitty golden loop hole, which, I hypothesize, actively encourages this non serious stuff you and Ron mention. Further, even without the golden rule, D&D (especiall earlier editions) and other trad games have massive procedural gaps, ones which any human with half a brain can manipulate into a golden rule equivalent.
Do you honestly think you feed these people wreckage and your going to see anything other than wreckage?

I mean, I know what your talking about - a friend of mine's previous girlfriend was said to have roleplayed before. Funnily enough though her responce to our roleplay was "Why are you guys so serious about it?" (funnily enough, in regard to this thread) and she wouldn't take part (we were doing 3.5 at that time, which we actually became more cohesive around and got up to level 10 on average). When talking alone with my friend I hypothesized to him that basically her RP involved smoking a bong and laughing while the GM 'did his thing' a certain distance away. He hadn't been her boyfriend at the time, but knowing her he gave it a nod of plausibility.

Quote
That a set of pretty well designed rules exists on paper will not matter in the end.
Maybe. But do we work off simply thinking it the case, or running some sort of scientific test, actually exposing them to such rules and checking the results? I'll play some will just go on smoking their bong. But some of them just keep smoking, because really there isn't anything in the text to read - they've tried and it's full of procedure breaks (which the GM resolves as he sees fit) and golden rule BS. So they bong on. Can you be 'serious' when you've got a joke of a text to work with?

I've snipped a bit I had about a potential second half of this equation, that of "True believers" as it might not apply at all here (hopefully so).

Anyway, given where I've placed my bet, my problem seems to be the lack of cultural connection to latch onto, taking fiction to be a largely cultural thing. Very much indeed "what fiction?" - it's all kept hidden, because the activity is so shit at handling it they sensibly keep their fiction hidden (perhaps a sort of defence against brain damage, eh?). So what fiction do they find electric and hot? Not 'Vampires and/or zombies and/or steampunk' - if you take moving fiction as the cusp of cutural change, where is the movement they currently find hot? Or have they lost track of that and been left to cultural stagnation? Okay, this is all a second topic. Just raising it to give one idea of where else to go.
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contracycle
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« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2011, 03:58:18 PM »

This thread makes me want to saw off my own arm with a rusty spoon.

So, there are people out there who eat food, but they aren't chefs!  There are even people who have the cheek to comment that they parrticularly enjoyed such and such a dish and this or that restaurant, but they've never gutted a fish and sauteed it over a slow flame.  Horrors.  Now that we're done pointing and laughing, can we move on?
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"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
KevinH
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Posts: 19


« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2011, 10:23:08 AM »

So, there are people out there who eat food, but they aren't chefs!

I have to respectfully disagree, it's more a case of "there are people who turned up at the pot luck and didn't bring any food."

I recently went through this with a game of PTA where one of the players was extremely passive, disengaged from play and unwilling to contribute in a meaningful way. Admittedly, PTA requires a lot of player effort, but this player would not contribute at all.

Week after week, for a five episode series, the rest of the players would have to coach him through scene creation. Generally, his scenes would just be a continuation of the previous scene. He seemed to be playing the game as though it was D&D and it was just his turn to act.

The final straw for me was when it came to his turn and he sat silently, apparently thinking about his scene. This went on for so long that everyone else got bored and started a side convrsation, at which point he "woke up" and got involved in the chat. At that point, I decided his behaviour was deliberately destructive to play and stopped the game, which was a pity as everyone else was really enjoying it and bringing a lot of energy to the table.

The question raised is, is what such people do play? I'd probably say no. If we're meeting up in a pub to drink, chat and discuss movies/books/RPGs, that's one thing. That's general socialising, no different than if we'd met up to drink, talk about football and try to get into the pants of that hot blond at the bar, no the pretty one.

If we've met up, in whatever venue, to play then we should play. I'm not going to argue for some kind of time-in nazism, but I think it is part of the social contract of gaming that we owe it to the other players to get involved and remain involved, in the fiction.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2011, 03:22:42 PM »

If we've met up, in whatever venue, to play then we should play. I'm not going to argue for some kind of time-in nazism, but I think it is part of the social contract of gaming that we owe it to the other players to get involved and remain involved, in the fiction.
Gah. Be creative because the social contract demands it? You owe someone creativeness?

I think you create when you enjoy it. I think the way creativity works (as far as I estimate) the social contract aught oblige someone to consider if they enjoy creating stuff, ever, and if not, not to attend. The guy in your account sounds like he doesn't enjoy creating (heck, it sounds like creativity doesn't even 'fire' in his head). Or even if you've had a hell of a week at work and have no creative juices, estimate that in yourself and don't attend (and under the SC, others are to understand and even value that sort of choice of someone not attending. This isn't just about 'being together', it's actually attempting to craft something).

I mean, why was that guy invited? The traditional gamer paradigm of including everyone? It's kind of not his fault if he has no creative impulse, yet he gets scooped up by others into an activity he has no talent for.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2011, 04:10:07 PM »

I'm with ya, Kevin.  Though I am curious about how that situation arose.  Was it a simple, "We want to roleplay and hang out with Bob, but Bob hates roleplaying," dilemma?  There's certainly no magic solution to that!  Not unless you have a lot of free time in your schedules, anyway.
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2011, 09:20:08 AM »

So, my take is that in the case of gamers, we're talking about the social identity of "gamer" without reference to actually playing. Even sitting around a table and rolling dice and "having a character" - it's not play. It's just ... being "there." And in which case, my attention as a practitioner and as a reflector upon the experience, is instantly diverted away. This is emphatically not about styles, modes, goals, or techniques of actual play. It's about playing at all. No play? Off the screen.

So, "off the screen", but how?

Like: "You, you and you. Off the screen, now, and close the door while you're leaving"? Probably not what you mean?

So, you seem to be saying it's not worth taking into account in a gaming discussion, which sort of makes sense but also makes no sense at all when I think about it. Not worth dealing with in actual practice, too? "Their" presence "in the hobby" appears a fact difficult to ignore, no matter how inclusive or exclusive view of the hobby one holds (as in: which systems or practices or whatever still count as part of "it"). Many if not most groups have at least one person like that. Some groups are composed mostly or even entirely of this (broad) type. I think it's safe to assume "they" were a factor in a significant number of sessions discussed in actual play forums here and elsewhere, potentially leading to inaccurate conclusions when the factor remained unspoken. Heck, there are people who design with such audiences in mind, and possibly it was often the case historically, shaping the prevalent forms of gaming texts and traditions and through that the hobby at large.

I'll posit it's pretty much impossible not to encounter "them", unless someone's lucky enough to have a single perfectly dedicated and functional group for their entire time "in the hobby", which seems like a rather unlikely thing to me in most conceivable cases.

I do wish "they" could be put "off the screen" in everyday gaming practice as easily as for the purposes of online discussions. Personally, year after year I'm getting increasingly tired filtering new people, and the only alternative seems to involve no longer inviting at all. That's no alternative however, in the long run, as long as I want to continue gaming and in a manner that is more or less satisfying to me.

For one, how and where to actually draw the line between your "serious practicioner" and "off the screen" type? How serious is serious enough? At what point is it no longer "lack of experience" or "poor skill" or "bad day", but rather "off the screen"?

I find it funny how whenever I state publically that I refuse to play with people who do this or that, there's always somebody waiting to aggressively remind me they are humans too. Also, you know, "gaming should be fun not a chore!"
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Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2011, 10:53:08 AM »

I wonder if RPGs are more prone to this phenomenon (people who don't want to really do the activity showing up to it anyway) than other social endeavors?

Well, probably "no", but is it actually that important when discussing gaming matters specifically? More important, I guess, is how the phenomenon impacts this particular hobby compared to others and how to handle it.

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My second thought is that maybe conventions are a weird special case, where you roleplay with strangers.

I didn't want it to sound like the issue is limited to conventions, see my latter post. Conventions just make some things painfully obvious, as social bonds are weak enough not to cloud the judgment.

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Which, I guess, might be a tall order, as the non-activity folks don't have too much personal incentive to identify and communicate the difference.

A tall order indeed, so perhaps it's worth to consider other options?

And yes, with some experience one typically knows who one doesn't want to play with, sometimes to the point of accurately spotting warning signs before even starting the game. It doesn't change the fact that the segment of the hobby in question is still there.

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While I think interfering non-participants must go, I think non-interfering non-participants can be integrated.  In high school, Andy's 5 best friends in the world all played in my Pitfighter RPG during the main time that he was free to socialize.  So, he joined us, and even though he had little interest in roleplaying, he didn't interfere with us doing it, and he got to see his friends.

It reminds me of my high school AD&D group. One of the players was only there because he and some other players were good pals. He played a fighter and his only contributions to the game involved: being there regularly and rolling to hit when asked. As in, literally, rolling to hit and damage and tracking hit points, money and experience were his only activities at the table, 99.9% of time. I plain fail to remember the guy doing anything else throughout about two years of more or less regular gaming together.

Was he interfering or not?

There in fact was a clearly interfering player in that group, but that one was actually more of a "serious practicioner". The fighter player wasn't actively backstabbing the party or anything. He wasn't diverting our attention with needless and unrelated chit-chat or jokes. He also wasn't paying attention that much or offering solutions to problems or combat strategy or even role-playing his character (which we didn't do a lot in AD&D, but still).

He did however consume his share of our DM's attention, our time, our loot, our experience points, our physical table space and our snacks. It's just, an NPC hireling would do the job well enough, at the same time consuming less of our general gaming resources.

Is that enough to call that interference?

Because players like that always drain some resources, even meta-resources like time and attention (and snacks). It's just unavoidable. You can't have an additional player in the game without some additional strain, as trivial as it may be.

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The last bit of your last post reminds me of my friend John's account of a Shadowrun game he checked out.  The GM kept the fiction moving, while everyone else wandered in and out of the game itself and the room the game was played in.  When a new person sat down and got interested, another player would summarize to them what they'd missed.  I believe the event was billed as "come play Shadowrun" but was understood by everyone as, "come to this party, at which there will be Shadowrun".

Does that sound similar to what you've seen?

Ah, not really. I don't think I've ever been in a gaming situation where playing the game wasn't explicit and "official" purpose of the meeting. It's more about how people involved seemed to understand "playing the game".

But obviously, this account seems to fit into the general topic.

Did your friend say whether they his guests were newcomers to the hobby, or people already identifying as gamers, or people with some gaming experience who did not identify as gamers, or some mix?

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I actually think it'd be interesting to design a system that's optimized for this kind of play.  I'm working on an attempt called Mead Hall Tales, where there's one Bard telling a tale of various Heroes, and the Heroes have specific, themed ways to interject their accomplishments into the fiction as the players desire.  So, people can come, go, watch, or participate, and the GM gets to keep the activity alive, and everyone knows what they're getting into.

I must ask, what's the point of designing for such an audience?

Other that, you know, design for its own sake?

Because, how do you optimize play for something that is not play?

Dead end is all that comes to my mind.

However, I have some thought on designing games optimized for this sort of audience rather than this sort of play. I think the game should be designed as a thick full color hardcover with eye-catching layout and abundant interior art, a remarkable genre artifact in its own right. It should be designed to fit the 40-100$ price range, so that the audience feels it's an important purchase. It should be designed with robust chapters like character creation, equipment, skills and powers, fluff heavy setting written in the best fanfic prose style, some standard issue basic GM advice section and perhaps an appendix with a few example enemies to fight. It should be designed to communicate an overall sense of richness and promise beautiful supplements to come. It should be designed with no real concern for being a complete or working game, more like a box of toys that the reader can randomly take out on a whim and play with a little bit. It should be designed to constantly remind the reader it's not imposing it's systems and content on the group's desired activity.

In other words, it should be like Fluffy Bunny, only 400 pages long and with bunny-free content.

It should be designed as a physical totem, as that's all it ever needs to be.

Lastly, something strikes me as wrong with the "everything goes as long as you know what you are getting into" approach. Hmm, no, I don't think it's like that. You never know exactly what you are getting into before you try. Even if you actually read the manual, no matter how many times you read it, it's not the actual experience. And in the end, that you know what you are getting into still doesn't mean it's in any way good. If I state "this is broken" on the cover it won't change the fact it's broken, even though now everybody who reads the small print knows what they are getting into.

I think it's not very fruitful to disclaim the responsibility or shove it onto the audience. I think it would be more fruitfuil to design the game so that it actually changes the audience through play, teaching participants how to play and more importantly how to enjoy play via tools that wouldn't be possible to ignore. Still, in the tabletop medium, that's probably a fucking utopia. Some video games do a decent job with that, I guess.
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