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The Gank Effect and Social Contract Dogmatism
Topic: The Gank Effect and Social Contract Dogmatism (Read 3009 times)
The Gank Effect and Social Contract Dogmatism
November 20, 2011, 04:32:35 PM »
From a post by Zac
Well, the reason why it (now) looks like we should have rolled is because the character was making a demand of the NPCs. She wasn't merely asking them, "So, what's this line of work like?" or "So have you considered the error of your ways?" No, she went right in there with, "Repent, and free yourselves! You can still dedicate your lives to virtue, and achieve salvation!" (or something like that)
I guess, in my mind, there's this sort of implied Move in D&D3: When you try to manipulate someone without the threat of violence (implicit or explicit), roll +Diplomacy. Naturally, there is a parallel: When you try to manipulate someone using an implicit or explicit threat of violence, roll +Intimidate.
This could go into a whole thing about how much one should "just roleplay it out", but I'll say this - - in a game in which Charisma and social skills are things that can receive Currency/resources, we need to "honor" players' placement of resources in those categories by letting them roll the dice. In, say, D&D0e (let's go with Swords & Wizardry, to be exact), there's no such thing as rolling your stat value, and there are no "skills" - thus, there is no recourse but to roleplay it out. Since that's very close to actual, early versions of D&D, I think the roleplay-it-out mentality has lingered where it shouldn't have.
This issue does relate to incipient Narrativism in that if a player elects to use a particular mechanic to give some "oomph" to their character's course of action, taking that away is effectively muddying the waters of "who can do what, and when?" by giving more discretionary power to the GM and leaving less "input power" in the hands of the players. It's like a mechanical contract:
- we all roll up our characters
- we put our skill points in wherever
- during play, we roll our skill checks using the points we put in skills.
If you change that up, you're telling the players they invested in unsound currency. Maybe I'm kind of blowing this out of proportion a bit, at least with my choice of analogies, but there's an element of, "Oh. So, uh, why did I bother to...?" when we change things up like that.
Apocalypse World handles this kind of thing really well: if it sounds like you're trying to seduce or manipulate someone (in order to get something from them, and yes, sex is an example of "something"), then you have to roll +hot.
If you're just fucking with someone for the hell of it, just keep RPing. On the other hand, if you're fucking with someone so they do something for you, haha! Roll +hot, fucker. You're not getting away with this without bringing the dice into it!
You really have to engage in for-its-own-sake-only behavior in order to avoid touching the dice. Chit-chatting, asking someone about themselves, getting to know a new friend - - this stuff can all just be "roleplayed out" without issue so long as there is no real risk involved. No risk to the relationship, or to the people in it, means you don't need to pick up the dice at all. But even if it's something as simple as, "GOD, this guy's pessimism is suffocating! Are you trying to act like you don't mind his boorishness?" could constitute a social risk, and the MC could rule that "faking it" here counts as Acting Under Fire.
I'll present a hypothesis that often social pressures, including whole friendships, could rest on 'No, you can't do that' in a session. The hypothesis being that the social contract contortions to avoid this, particularly the unseen ones, become a dogmatic straight jacket, which gets carried from game to different game, even agenda to agenda.
This could go into a whole thing about how much one should "just roleplay it out", but I'll say this - - in a game in which Charisma and social skills are things that can receive Currency/resources, we need to "honor" players' placement of resources in those categories by letting them roll the dice.
If you look at raw rules in a traditional text (D&D 4E still being trad), no, with cruddy rules like the golden one and the others being mere suggestions on when a skill roll is required, there is no need to 'honour' anything.
So, how do many early teens use such power? Well, it's pretty sucktastic to be within its influence, enough to split friendships, as said. Thus social contracts form about what is a 'bad GM' and 'what needs to be honoured'.
Except what happens when actually, you'd be better off to not honour anything? Yet that social contract hovers there and the SC insists it's rules are above and beyond ANY game rules you might play? Ie, you can't say 'well, here it says the GM decides' because BA-BOW, the SC has mandated it is above such rules?
It means by written rules, you can never escape the game the social contract insists on. Always stuck playing the same game?
This issue does relate to incipient Narrativism in that if a player elects to use a particular mechanic to give some "oomph" to their character's course of action, taking that away
See here - if the rules didn't give the use of the mechanic to begin with and only insistant social contract 'gave' it, then again this dictates how much social contract is above and beyond the rules of the game. Because to follow RAW and not grant the use of that mechanic becomes an act of 'taking that away'.
I totally pay that rules which just leave activation at all up to GM whim kind of suck in a range of ways. However the cultural responce to this seems to be to make dogmatic social contracts, then keep writing games where activation is up to GM whim, which leads to dogmatic social contracts, etc etc and so on. Not only does the dogma carry from game to game (overiding the written text and to a large extent forcing the group to only play the same game over and over) such SC dogma can get in the way of shifting agenda to narrativism.
giving more discretionary power to the GM
By RAW, the GM already has these discretionary powers in most traditional texts. It's only insistant SC dogma that makes it appear to be 'giving' the GM anything.
I presume it becomes social contract dogma because of...lets call it the gank effect. The gank effect is where on a mmorpg some players waddling along, then two rogues unstealth and backstab him to death instantly. Possibly repeated times. I've had that in wow, for example, coming out of a PVP battle field into a supposed PVE world, but because the battle field still had me flagged, a stealthed rogue instantly one shotted my character upon teleporting back to the PVE world.
And that PLAYER pissed me off!
I was so fucking steamed! That's the Gank Effect - human psychology makes you look at the
who did stuff the most obviously. Thus you ignore that the ganking is actually coded in by the games developers - you blame the ganker, not the developers. Raise a forum topic on ganking and you will find myriad social contract rules people will assert in their posts. Most of them made genuinely really unhappy by ganking. None of them blaming the game structure, only the other person and insisting on all sorts of moral boundaries that other person must forfil. That's the Gank Effect! Only here it's targeted at the GM. It appears the GM is 'taking away' your 'agency', when by design of the author, you didn't have anything to take away to begin with. But because of the gank effect, all sorts of social contract dogma is built up about 'what makes a good GM'.
As a real life side note, it's also worth considering the gank effect in the media, where its made out someone did something wrong. Check who and what authority system enabled him to be able to do that to begin with. Sometimes blaming the person just helps let the real perpetrators off scott free.
So, quite a pair of hypotheses, eh? The Socila Contract Dogma one being semi dependent on the Gank Effect one.
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