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Title: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 28, 2008, 11:14:33 AM
I've encountered an odd problem in some games I've played in recently that keeps taking on a very specific shape in my head. My issue is that this shape is not similar enough to any phenomenon described in The Big Model (or whatever) that I can find the terminology and prior insight to approach it.

What I'm picturing is a game where there is no Shared Imaginary Space hovering over the table, informing the players (GM inclusive) what is going on. Instead, everyone has their own image of the world where the only high-contrast, full-colour object is their own character, and everything and everybody else are nothing but ethereal, ghostly presences. In each individual's world, what the ghosts do is largely inconsequential - my character does not react notably to any events zie didn't cause hirself, and in extreme cases, perhaps not even to environmental occurrences (as described by the GM).

The phenomenon is characterized by the players being constantly engaged in dyadic (strictly two-way) communication with the GM, wherein they poke and prod at the environment without interacting or collaborating with the other players, In or Out of character. The main problem with such play - other than that it hogs GM time and slows the game down for everyone - is that a cohesive, coherent SIS is never created. From an objective standpoint, merging all the individual "ghost worlds", the story is disjointed and absurd. For me personally, I find it very difficult to connect with characters in such a story - my own and others' - as they seem 2-dimensional and crude due to their inability to react to external influences.

Illustrative examples.
Quote
Situation: An starship's engine is about to explode and the emergency alarm sounds. The crew of the spaceship all gather in the engine room trying to solve the problem.
Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a failed roll) "You think maybe the exhaust valve is blocked."
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a successful roll) "Seems like there's foreign substances in the core is causing a chain reaction. Those illirium crystals you picked up on Bane IV were probably impure."
Joe: "Okay, I'm going to try to clear the exhaust valve."
GM: "Upon further inspection, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the exhaust valve after all."
Adam: "I'll try to manually override the core to expedite the shutdown process." (rolls Propulsion System Engineering)
GM: "Okay, you think maybe it'll shut down in time now."
Joe: "Obviously I was mistaken about the exhaust valve so I will go back and check again." (rolls Starship Mechanic)

And so on. From an outside perspective, there are two perfectly silent and methodical individuals, part of the same crew, approaching the same problem from two different angles with no communication about their findings whatsoever. No "Hey Joe, what seems to be the problem?" or "Adam, what's that humming noise?" - they descend on a situation and circle around it completely unaware of each other.

I do not believe this can be chalked up to "bad roleplay", whatever that nebulous concept is. Even with some conversational colour thrown into the mix, the same events can occur. Instead, it seems the issue is that Joe and Adam, for whatever reasons, are disbelieving the existence of the other's character.

A more illustrative example:
Quote
Situation: The group has entered a room by force and realizes the rightful occupant has trained a gun on Joe.
Joe: "I say, 'If you shoot me, the rest of my companions will know where the shot came from and they'll come after you.'"
GM: "He seems to hesitate, just a little, before he responds. 'I'll be long gone before then.'"
Adam: "I light a fire over in the corner of the room. 'Oh! Fire! Big fire, go boom!'"
<nobody reacts - the negotiations continues for a little while>
Adam: "I clap my hands and do a little dance over by the fire."
<again, nobody reacts and the standoff is resolved>
GM: "The lieutenant walks over to his liquor cabinet to pour himself some whiskey."
Adam: "But... I lit the liquor cabinet on fire."
GM: "The lieutenant goes, 'HOLY CRAP! FIRE!'"

This one might be a little easier to explain - nobody wanted to react to the presence of a fire, because it'd have to mean dealing with it, which would've been anticlimactic since the standoff was far more dramatic. Still, I think there's a possibility that this is the same phenomenon - to the others at the table, Adam was a ghost, lighting ghostly fires that nobody wanted to react to or even acknowledge.

Can anyone explain what this is that I'm looking at, and how it fits in with existing theory? What are some methods designers or GMs have used to encourage a cohesive, coherent SIS? Are there any designs that tend to solve (or create) this problem, or is it purely a group dynamic issue likely to occur with any system?


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 28, 2008, 03:12:10 PM
Hiya,

Well, as far as how it fits with existing theory, I think you already did the job! You described a way for the SIS to fail, and what was going on socially (i.e. the "outer box" surrounding the SIS) that made it happen that way. I have definitely seen versions of this myself - it is clearly a fundamental failure of the medium, and just as one cannot write upon the empty air, a group can't play without the communication that you see breaking apart. It's only role-playing insofar as a cacophony of noodling solipsistic players of instruments could be called music, and I'm not PoMo enough to claim such things. To me, what you're describing ain't role-playing no matter how many dice may be rolled nor how detailed those character sheets may be.

I don't know if it needs a name or not, but I encourage you to come up with one ... incohesion is what you already sort of suggested in your title, which is fine, but I can just see all the confusions with incoherence or whatever. Besides, I'm partial to cute-ass names that resonate with people who've experienced the same phenomenon, so if you come up with one of those I'm all for it.

Now ... you began by talking about picturing this happening. Then you talk about something you're looking at. Are you describing phenomena you've actually observed or participated in? This isn't merely a thought-experiment, is it?

Oh wait, I looked again - you definitely encountered it. What games were being played? Who were the players, roughly? I am not asking these questions for form's sake; I think the answers will help us to understand why in the world human beings would persist in such a ... I dunno what to call it ... bogus activity.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 29, 2008, 09:56:30 AM
The reason I'm using words like picture and looking at is because an analogy to the problem, in the form of individual ghost worlds, is very visually clear to me. What I'm having some problems with is moving it into a semantic space where I can analyze and hopefully deal with it. I'm encouraged to do this because I'm currently diddling with a design intended to emphasize immersion - in the character identification interpretation of the term - and if the ghost world phenomenon would appear in such a game session it'd turn into a complete dud, guaranteed.

I suspect that this is not a problem that either exists or doesn't in a session - it exists to varying degrees in all games. It is also highly subjective - it could be that I detect the problem because I have a problem perceiving the SIS, and assume that others around the table suffer similarly. The only objective indication I have that this is occurring at all outside my own head is persistent dyadic GM <--> player communication, rather than more organic group communication.

I believe that if the group is engaged in group communication, the ghost worlds each player perceives is more colourful and alive. At a certain point, it doesn't even really matter if one person's ghost world varies from someone else's, because the play is objectively coherent enough that the players can engage in the luxury of subjective interpretation of game events (living their own personal fantasy) without compromising with the SIS.

Without getting into a discussion about what roleplaying is and isn't, I have to say that I believe a session can have lots of potential even without a fully functional SIS. I have most frequently observed this breakdown in games with conflict-resolution mechanics, because we tend to play such stories faster towards their conclusion. Thus, there is far less time to get to know the characters than in your typical never-ending fantasy campaign. But focused conflict-driven play tend to create more loaded stories. However, especially in the case of a really defunct SIS, each player may find their story only by approaching it as "Story After", an approach which by definition block out those features of the story that confuse the premise.

Just to note that while I recognize that this is dysfunctional play, I don't feel it's necessarily worthless or damaging. I'm even reluctant to call it a "bogus activity".

To answer your specific questions, the last game which I noticed this in was Dust Devils, with a homebrewed post-apocalyptic setting hack. Think Mad Max meets the Fallout video game to an 80s metal soundtrack. The characters are:
  • a gun-toting leather-clad badass out to revenge his family,
  • a split-personality, pacifist collector of ancient artifacts,
  • the feral kid with the mullet from Road Warrior,
  • an aged "devil clown",
  • and my character, a human-hating eco-warrior from a SoCal hippie tribe.
As for the players, since I am relatively new to this group I don't believe I know them well enough to describe them in a way that's conducive to analyzing any problems with group dynamic. Suffice to say  there are no obvious "problem players", unless I am one and don't know it.

My immediate thought as to why the breakdown may be occurring in this game is simply that all our characters are so, um, "special". Each of us could easily be the subject of our own short story - if you put us all together and put the pace on FF, it might be difficult for each player to make sense of his own story if those other strange characters also play protagonist roles. That is my immediate theory, anyway - if anyone has other theories I'd love to hear them.

In particular, I'd love to hear of any Techniques or other approaches to encouraging a strong, persistent SIS, either on the system and scenario level.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 29, 2008, 12:11:11 PM
In fact, this is the setting:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25311.0

And, I should add, outside of the obvious problem which I have described, I'm having a lot of fun with the game. I'm not trying to "fix" this game, I am trying to figure out what causes the problem so I can attempt to avoid it in my own games or designs.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Marshall Burns on January 29, 2008, 04:31:56 PM
Situation: The group has entered a room by force and realizes the rightful occupant has trained a gun on Joe.
Joe: "I say, 'If you shoot me, the rest of my companions will know where the shot came from and they'll come after you.'"
GM: "He seems to hesitate, just a little, before he responds. 'I'll be long gone before then.'"
Adam: "I light a fire over in the corner of the room. 'Oh! Fire! Big fire, go boom!'"
<nobody reacts - the negotiations continues for a little while>
Adam: "I clap my hands and do a little dance over by the fire."
<again, nobody reacts and the standoff is resolved>
GM: "The lieutenant walks over to his liquor cabinet to pour himself some whiskey."
Adam: "But... I lit the liquor cabinet on fire."
GM: "The lieutenant goes, 'HOLY CRAP! FIRE!'"

With different narration, and a different object being set afire, that exact thing happened to me once.

I play a lot of improvised music with other people who are also improvising, and this same phenomenon definitely can occur.  Someone told me there was a word for it (in music), but I can't remember what it is.  It has something to do with lack of accord, not listening, and everything going off in a different direction.  It wasn't "divergence," but it had a similar definition.  Arg.  This is going to haunt me.

-Marshall


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: masqueradeball on January 30, 2008, 12:15:53 AM
Just to clarify, is your goal here to name the phenomenon and sort figure out a way to diagnose it or is it to try and come with solutions. Not saying that either is better than the other, I just don't want to post a bunch of stuff you don't wanna hear.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 30, 2008, 07:15:18 AM
Yeah, good point.

Initially, I was certain that there was some theory out there that would explain and offer solutions to this problem. That's the reason I asked for someone to identify it using known terminology, so I could make it fit into a theory model such as TBM so I could approach it.

Since Ron has stated that other than "failure of the SIS", there is no better term for it, at this point I'd like to hear diagnoses and solutions.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: dindenver on January 30, 2008, 10:21:49 AM
Hi!
  I have experienced this to varying degrees. I tend to use a few tricks to prevent this and other similar problems
1) Let the players know what the game is about. Often, people can come to the table with different expectations of what the game is about. Even for highly focused games I have seen this, but for more traditional games like Exalted, this is a big issue. Many games can be seen through different lenses. As a GM, or "the guy who is getting everyone to show up" for GM-less games, let people know what part of the game we all will be focusing on
2) Overtly state any issues in the Social Contract that are deal breakers (for instance, for me, its PvP). And encourage others to do the same. This can be a bit of a mood killer, but it can also prevent issues early on.
3) When I GM, I set expectations for the campaign/story/whatever, statements like "you guys are all going to be criminals" or "No one can play a thief unless you all play thieves" work great on getting the players on the same wavelength. Of course, be flexible. If the players come back with, "we all wanna be heroes," then adjust, but either way, we are all on the same wavelength. And don't be afraid of limiting players' choices, sometimes restrictions breed creativity...
4) Encourage the players to talk and strategize. The more "experience" a role player has, the more they have probably been exposed to "You say it you did it" or "No table talk" type rules and you will have to work harder to break the habits of these kinds of players. But it will be worth it. When the players collaborate to find a solution you never could have imagined, its like gold-plated diamonds!
5) Put on the breaks. As soon as the situation develops, stop the action and find out what's happening. It could be a matter of "immersive roleplaying" in the form of "my character doesn't know what Adam is doing, he's on the other side of the ship" or it could be the Players working the angles in case the GM is steering them both down a wrong track, etc. Either way, it doesn't hurt to stop them and ask what is going on. Who knows, they may be having a grand old time playing with the GMs head...
  I hope that helps, good luck man!


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Hans on January 30, 2008, 10:46:52 AM
As the Dealer in the particular Dust Devils game Mikael is speaking of, I have some thoughts.

First, what is the SIS?  Each person has their own immaginary space (IS), so what is it that is shared?  Using some set theory-like terminology, I belive it is a very bad idea to think of the SIS as the union of the individual IS's.  Rather, it is the INTERSECTION of those IS's.  I can have a lot of stuff in my IS that isn't in yours, and vice versa  In fact I can have stuff in my IS that contradicts, or is impossible in, your IS.  As long as that contradiction or impossibility never comes up in the story or is never communicated, it doesn't really matter.  We still have a functioning SIS.

Now, I think there are really three different phenomenon going on here.  Hey, that lets me come up with THREE new terms!  Yahoo!  The two examples Mikael provides are perhaps examples of these phenomenon.  They have different causes and results, but are superficially the same.  Because Ron's musical analogy was really appropriate, I will use musical terms, and will try to make the cutesy where possible.

The first phenomenon I will call Suspension.  This is when players have IS's that contradict in some important way, but as yet the contradiction is not obvious to anyone.  At some point along the way, though, someone will notice the contradiction, and then it is resolved.  In my experience Suspension can range from the trivial ("What, there's a DOOR in the wall?!") to the complicated ("What, I have been playing for 45 minutes picturing the Italian Rennaissance and all this time you have been picturing 1970's exploitation film?!")  Suspension is something you only know occurred if it is recognized, and thus you can only identify after the fact.  One supposes a group of people could play an entire campaign, and then, years later in conversation, realize that one or more of them had a fundamentally different IS for the game than someone else.  Mikael's first example may be an example of this, at the moment of recognition by Mikael.  The solution to Supsension is communication; listen carefully to what people are saying and state clearly what you think is important.  Suspension can actually be a healthy thing in a game, if the resolution to the Suspension is somehow satisfying in and of itself ("Oh, so THAT's what was going on...wow, that's cool!") 

The second phenomenon I will call Cacophony.  Cacophony occurs when one or more player's IS's are in obvious conflict, but the player's themselves, for whatever reason, can't or won't resolve the conflict.  Mikael's first example is more likely Cacophony in action.  Maybe the player's are so caught up in the moment they don't realize they are stepping on each other's toes.  Maybe they have a particular idea as to what the problem is in the story, and are blinded to the other events.  Maybe they just don't like each other, and would rather interact at a distance, mediated by the GM, than directly with each other.  The solution to Cacophony is dependent on the reasons for it; it could be as simple as someone else pointed it out, thus turning it into Dissonance that is resolved.  But if it has to do with the interplayer relationship (i.e., they really don't like each other much, and hence don't listen to each other well), there may be no solution.

The third phenomenon is perhaps the most serious; I will call it a Making a Racket.  A player Makes a Racket when they prioritize entertaining themselves with their own narrations instead of entertaining others by engaging with, interacting with, or magnifying, other's narrations.  Making a Racket doesn't have anything to do with an IS conflict among players.  It has to do with one player essentially saying "look at me!"  Now, this can come from a good motive; the player might really think that what they have to say is more interesting/funny/dramatic/whatever than what other people are saying.  Heck, when they are right it isn't really Making a Racket; its just adding a cool off the wall narration.  Its only when a) the narration is viewed as disruptive to the rest of the players at the table and/or b) the player making the narration really doesn't CARE how it fits into what is going on that it is Making a Racket.  The 2nd example Mikael provides is, most likely, one player Making a Racket.  If the rest of the table had said "Awesome, starting a fire in the background of this tense scene, that is hilarious, well done!", then Mikael wouldn't have provided it as an example.

Tony LB addressed a very similar, perhaps the same, phenomenon as Making a Racket, or at least the motivations behind a lot of this, in a post on RPG.net, which can be found at the bottom of this page (http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/One_Simple_Thing) under the heading "Solitaire/Riffing", with some other relevant stuff up the page under the heading "The Story".  (It is interesting that Tony LB should be the one to describe this phenomenon, because I have seen more of all three phenomenon in convention-setting Capes play then in any other game/setting


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Danny_K on January 30, 2008, 11:32:50 AM
Nice terminology. 

I have to agree with Hans, what I'm seeing in that example (and I may be making way too much out of one example) is not divergent imagined worlds, but rather blatant privileging by the GM of Joe over Adam -- Joe's input is acknowledged, Adam's is not, everybody else follows the GM's lead. 

That might be because Adam is "Making a Racket" and screwing up the tense scene that everybody else is invested in, and so they just tune out his input; or it may be that Adam is always ignored, and so he's made his input more and more obvious to try to get at least a little attention.  Without that social information Ron was asking about, no way to tell. 

And this phenomenon (if I've got the right diagnosis) is really, really well known to me from Vampire:the Masquerade play, where there is often a player who picks the Malkavian Clan (congenitally insane vampires) as an excuse to Make a Racket.  These characters were called Fishmalks, and genuinely detested by most of the other players in the games I've played in. 


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Hans on January 30, 2008, 12:29:21 PM
I have to agree with Hans, what I'm seeing in that example (and I may be making way too much out of one example) is not divergent imagined worlds, but rather blatant privileging by the GM of Joe over Adam -- Joe's input is acknowledged, Adam's is not, everybody else follows the GM's lead. 
 

Ouch. 

As the GM in question, this hits the bone.  Because the GM you describe...wow, I REALLY don't want to be that GM. I had not considered the idea of Making a Racket being a strategy to deal with a GM that sidelines you.  That is a brilliant insight.   In fact, that is the exact kind of GM that tempts me to Make a Racket! 

Of course I never actually Make a Racket, because everything I do is so interesting and awesome.  That's like the joke about being drunk.  The first stage of being drunk is that you speak REALLY LOUDLY.  But that's ok, because in the 2nd stage of drunkeness, everyone is so very interested in what you have to say.

So now I have to think through my own behaviour and consider whether I'm doing this or not.  Is "Adam" being a Fishmalk, or am I, as the GM, essentially screwing "Adam" over by not listening to him?  Or is the truth somewhere in between?

Thanks for this, Danny.  Self-examination is a good, if painful, thing.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 30, 2008, 12:54:05 PM
It might well be that what I'm seeing as recurring problems with SIS incohesion are actually a large number of completely separate issues arising from problems with social dynamics. The reason I hypothesized that they were potentially the same issue in different manifestations, potentially with similar underlying causes, is that they tend to manifest similarly and exhibit the same symptoms:

  • 1. Dyadic communications player <--> GM with little or no group communication
  • 2. An objectively disjointed narrative

To put this in context of Hans' terminology:

Suspension seems separate from this phenomenon. It is by definition #2, but doesn't have to stem from #1 at all. Further, it is easily resolved as soon as the problem has been identified.

Cacophony is much closer to what I'm intending to describe. Like Marshall's mention of improvised music, everyone is playing the tune they (think they) want to hear without riffing off each other at all, with aesthetically unpleasing results. They do this by engaging in #1 and the result is #2.

Making a Racket can, but doesn't have to be done by engaging in #1. In fact, it appears more likely to me that a Prima Donna (http://"http://indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html") would be pushing hir ideas onto the other players directly for maximum effect. #2 follows only if the other players ignore the input given. However, if a Cacophony or some other phenomenon has previously damaged the SIS, a player may be Making a Racket involuntarily because they genuinely believe it's what people want to hear.

So primarily, I'm interested in solving the problem of Cacophony.

As an example of a design that limits Cacophony, I suggest the conflict rules in Spirit of the Century. An Aspect can be put onto a scene or character by one PC, which another PC can subsequently Tag for a bonus. The design provides benefits to the player for listening to and understanding what another player is trying to achieve, which promotes a coherent SIS.

Another example is hardcore-gamist D&D with players who have carefully tuned their characters to work well together - they need to be able to communicate with the group in order to time when to be outside a fireball's radius or which hydra head has already been damaged.

An example of negative reinforcement contributing to a strong SIS is any system where the GM is given arbitrary control over success or failure, dependent on how well the PC's action corresponds with the GM's interpretation of SIS. Here, all players must ensure they are all on the same page - the GM's - to ensure they don't get penalized. Obviously, such a system may have negative consequences, but does contribute to a strong SIS.

I would love to hear other approaches and/or analyses.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 30, 2008, 01:31:58 PM
I had not considered the idea of Making a Racket being a strategy to deal with a GM that sidelines you. That is a brilliant insight. In fact, that is the exact kind of GM that tempts me to Make a Racket! 

Of course I never actually Make a Racket, because everything I do is so interesting and awesome.  That's like the joke about being drunk.  The first stage of being drunk is that you speak REALLY LOUDLY.  But that's ok, because in the 2nd stage of drunkeness, everyone is so very interested in what you have to say.

So now I have to think through my own behaviour and consider whether I'm doing this or not.  Is "Adam" being a Fishmalk, or am I, as the GM, essentially screwing "Adam" over by not listening to him?  Or is the truth somewhere in between?

Thanks for this, Danny.  Self-examination is a good, if painful, thing.

I'm not going to stop you, Hans, but I don't think you need to self-examine too much. In this particular case, we were all guilty of ignoring Adam's input. By virtue of consensus, I think that means it was a genuine case of "Making a Racket" - which isn't necessarily something one does by malice, but rather by an attempt at Bringing The Awesome that's been sabotaged by one's misinterpretation of the SIS.

For our game, this is what the problem boils down to for me. I (the player) really want to care about Sand's dead wife and the fact that his recent freakout caused him to take yet another life. I really want to care that Mullethead's perception of how to treat women is shaped by the constant extreme violence surrounding him. I really want to find out what's in El Diablo's Damn Briefcase and why he kills anyone who asks about it.

(To be honest, I haven't been able to peg down the Devil Clown.)

The problems for me are two-, maybe three-fold. One, I'm stuck in the paradigm of "what would my character do", and frankly, these are human issues. He hates humans. Wants them all to die in a horrible radioactive conflagration, in fact. Two, I'd like to change the way he views things and what he cares about, but our sessions are pretty fast-paced and conflict-to-conflict (which is all well and good, from how I understand Dust Devils). Not a lot of room for, as we call them, 'Royale with Cheese moments' and accompanying character growth (I gave it a shot with the "offal discussion" I had with the techno-fetishists, but it didn't repeat). Three, there appears to be a kind of consensus at the table that we don't do story-180's - we're there to get in the face of Osiris Christ, and unless we're thrown a curveball, that's the path we will follow. To use yet another inside joke to make this whole post completely incomprehensible and useless to anyone else, we don't suddenly decide that we want to "dabble in human trafficking", or take some other off-path approach towards inducing character change.

So for me, it might well boil down to an idiotic stubbornness against "breaking character", but that still doesn't explain why other players do not appear to interact much.



Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Hans on January 30, 2008, 02:21:22 PM
  • 1. Dyadic communications player <--> GM with little or no group communication
  • 2. An objectively disjointed narrative

Point 1 got me thinking. 

Lets take a situation of two players in a game I was involved with, call them Amy and Beatrice (names changed to protect, etc.)  Amy and Beatrice both want positive feedback of their peers; laughter, gasps, rapt attention, all those signals that tell us that other people think what we are doing is cool.  That positive feedback, I am convinced, is the fuel on which ANY good game, regardless of creative agenda, rules system, etc., really runs. 

Here is the problem, pretty much everything Amy says, Beatrice thinks is boring and stupid.  Is everything Amy says REALLY boring and stupid?  I don't think so, but these are asethetic judgements, not principled ones.  Beatrice is entitled to Beatrice's opinion.  Beatrice is enough of a mensch to not actively harsh on Amy.  She doesn't (usually) come out and say "Amy, that was boring and stupid".  But, lets face it, Amy NEVER gets props from Beatrice.  Amy is lucky to even have Beatrice pay attention.  So, whenever there is an interaction between Amy and Beatrice's characters, what happens?

"Dyadic communications player <--> GM with little or no group communication".

That's because the GM IS providing that positive feedback to Amy, or at least more of it than Amy is getting from Beatrice, and Beatrice isn't really that interested in what Amy is saying anyway and doesn't honestly care for any positive feedback from Amy.

This can definitely lead to an "objectively disjointed narrative" because Amy and Beatrice aren't really listening to each other, only to what is happening as filtered through the GM.

Point #2 also has me thinking.

Cacophony either exists or not, but its effects are heavily contingent on the attitudes of the players.  Even if all the players agree there is an "objectively disjointed narrative", some may say "That's awful!" and others might say "yeah, so what?", or even "Wow, that's awesome!"  I think its importance is also contingent on the type of story being told; the faster the pace, the more frenetic the action, the less the details matter compare to the big picture, the more tolerance for Cacophony, I believe.  If you are playing Call of Cthulu in heavy investigation mode, whether or not people picture the knife as in the kitchen or the dining room could be absolutely vital.  If you are playing Dust Devils in whacked 1980's exploitation movie post-apocalyptic mode, it could be that Cacophony might even ENHANCE the fun, as everybody wonders what the hell everybody else is talking about.

Actual Play moment from the game Mikael and I are talking about: the devil clown player in one scene suddenly started talking about his character wanting to "suck the soul" out of one of the NPC's.  It was a bit left fieldish.  I asked the player what his intention was...."Do you want to kill the NPC?"  "No"  "Do you care if the NPC has any reaction at all, or is it enough for your character to think that the soul is sucked?"  "I'd like there to be a real reaction."  I though for a second.  Say yes or draw the cards is the rule in Dust Devils...so I said yes.  So we role-play out a scene in which the Devil-Clown character and the NPC kiss, and then the Devil-Clown acts as if he has just sucked in a tasty soul, and the NPC shudders and reacts as if something horrible has just happened.  Another player suddenly says something like "What the hell just happened?!  Did that Devil-Clown really just suck that guys soul out?  What the...that's crazy!"  He said this in a tone of voice that said a) that was cool but b) you guys are confusing the crap out of me here! 

Was this an "objectively disjoint narrative"?  I don't know.  It wasn't for me and the Devil-Clown character, but I think it was for the third player (although I think he thought it was cool anyway).  Was this Cacophony?  Probably.  Was the Cacophony in this place a bad thing?  I don't think so. 


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 30, 2008, 02:44:06 PM
I'll make this brief to give others a chance to chime in (if they want to) without derailing too much.

I don't think devil-clown-boy's soul sucking was an example of an objectively disjointed narrative, because no fictional character reacted counter to the logic of the reality that player had created. For example, I suggested that my peyote-hopping hippie would "see" a green, putrid mist moving from the NPC to the devil-clown at the moment of, um, consumption, thereby confirming that I recognized that player's action beyond the confirmation you'd already given as the GM.

For two crewmembers on a starship to attempt to fix an engine problem in complete silence and entirely in parallel, as if the other character was not even present, is an example of an objectively disjointed narrative. And although I sort of backtracked from the example as representative of the phenomenon, one character lighting a room on fire while everyone else just stands around talking, that's an objectively disjointed narrative.

This may be personal taste, but I don't find pleasure in being confused, on the player-level, as to what is actually going on in the narrative, or being forced to accept entirely illogical protagonist behaviour. I think it's awesome when the story takes a different direction than I suspected, of course - that's why I play with other people rather than write novels - so whenever I riff off of the actions of others, I do so to confirm and make sense of the events that just occurred.

That should give some insight into my motives for condemning disjointed narratives, so y'all can tell me that I'm just trying to promote my own uncultured and inflexible playstyle. :)


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: masqueradeball on January 30, 2008, 05:10:44 PM
As a GM I'd have to say that the best technique I think of to handle this would be to force the players to deal with the reality of the scene as created by the other players:

here's the starship situation as you presented it:

Quote
Situation: An starship's engine is about to explode and the emergency alarm sounds. The crew of the spaceship all gather in the engine room trying to solve the problem.
Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a failed roll) "You think maybe the exhaust valve is blocked."
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a successful roll) "Seems like there's foreign substances in the core is causing a chain reaction. Those illirium crystals you picked up on Bane IV were probably impure."
Joe: "Okay, I'm going to try to clear the exhaust valve."
GM: "Upon further inspection, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the exhaust valve after all."
Adam: "I'll try to manually override the core to expedite the shutdown process." (rolls Propulsion System Engineering)
GM: "Okay, you think maybe it'll shut down in time now."
Joe: "Obviously I was mistaken about the exhaust valve so I will go back and check again." (rolls Starship Mechanic)

Now imagine it went something like this:
Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a failed roll) "You think maybe the exhaust valve is blocked."
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: Hold on a sec, Joe still down there fiddling. What is it you do exactly, crawl in behind him?

Or some such... this kind of thing might get burdensome after a while, but I think forcing the players to interact by bringing the physical realities of the scene to their attention is a good thing.

As for your catching the room on fire example. I'd probably have the NPC's flee the burning building or some such.

I think the reason GM's might avoid doing this is the same old issue: they want to tell there story and goddammit no one's gonna get in the way. As the GM, I might think there's no place in the story for Adam's actions, or whatever, so I effectively ignore them by allowing them to exist in a vacuum that has a little possible effect on other aspects of the story as possible. By doing this with my GM hat on, I encourage others to do the same.

Does that help at all? Do I understand the points your making?


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 30, 2008, 07:23:48 PM
As a GM I'd have to say that the best technique I think of to handle this would be to force the players to deal with the reality of the scene as created by the other players.

Agreed - as a GM with a traditional apportioning of power. What about as a player? In most games, players do not have the same power to dictate what is "real" in the fiction as the GM does. Is there an approach a player can take to reinforce their vision of the Imaginary Space onto the group, other than overtly stating "how things are"? Also, can you think of any system-level or scenario-design-level approaches to the problem? How could you achieve the same thing in a GM-less game, for example?

I think the reason GM's might avoid doing this is the same old issue: they want to tell there story and goddammit no one's gonna get in the way. As the GM, I might think there's no place in the story for Adam's actions, or whatever, so I effectively ignore them by allowing them to exist in a vacuum that has a little possible effect on other aspects of the story as possible. By doing this with my GM hat on, I encourage others to do the same.

It's awkward that the main example I have chosen is from a game which Hans GMs. Let me assure you that from what I have learned of Hans' GM style, what you're describing is nowhere near accurate. That is not to say that your analysis might not be correct for some cases, but it isn't the case for this specific example.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: masqueradeball on January 30, 2008, 11:57:57 PM
What can a player do? Be courteous, I guess, bother to know about the other players and pay attention to them, to take into account their actions and pay attention to them. As far as rules... I really can't think of anything. Even with a rule set that might require high player interaction (like team tactics in Werewolf) I imagine that a player who persistently ignored others would continue to do so whenever it didn't benefit them to pay attention, and that a fair number of folks with this problem would do so even if it was openly flouting an in game benefit.

I think that a certain point, rules can't help. Its like playing poker when you don't want to play with real money... if you want to play seriously, you have to expect everyone to treat the chips as real cash, or very quickly everyone bets everything they have whenever they have anything higher than a pair or whenever they have nothing because their "bluffing." People think this behaviour is acceptable, "because its just a game." In poker, the meat of play is the interaction between the players, just like in RPG's, everything else is so much fluff... people who can't or won't focus on the interaction and its health should probably pick another activity.

Good news though, I thinks its mainly an accident, and communication should solve it.

Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a failed roll) "You think maybe the exhaust valve is blocked."
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
Joe: "So, Adam, is your character their in the engine room with me?"
Adam: "Um, I guess so. Yeah."
Joe: "All right, I check my findings against Adam's."
GM: "OK, Adam go ahead and roll."


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: contracycle on January 31, 2008, 05:28:26 AM
I think an important step is realising that perceptions differ and that these have to be managed purposefully and directly, not left to themselves.  That is one of the GM';s duties, to synthesize and to feed back the actual content of the SIS.  Another thing a GM can do is interrogate the players as to what they think is going on.  There is no harm in actually asking this directly, and getting feedback from the players directly.

I am struck by the failure, in the fire-lighting scenario, to acknowledge or endorse the players action by the GM, and then subsequently treating it as if it had happened.  I would at least have said either "ok" or "what? why?" in response to the player's stated intent to start a fire.  That should have been resolved right away, confirmed publicly as having entered the SIS or not.  Neither acknowledging nor rejecting this action left it indeterminate.

Different descriptions of the same event can also be given to different players.  If a game has a Perception-type stat this is something I make a point of knowing, and sometimes give differing descriptions accordingly, or add an element that the high Per character notices and the others do not.  This at least brings the issue of varying IS's into the open and reminds everyone that such divergence is possible.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Hans on January 31, 2008, 07:34:41 AM
And although I sort of backtracked from the example as representative of the phenomenon, one character lighting a room on fire while everyone else just stands around talking, that's an objectively disjointed narrative.

Picture a film.  The main focus of the camera is a tense, dramatic conflict, a standoff between two opposing forces.  But, what's this, in the background, what is that crazy kid doing?  Oh crap, that crazy kid, he's going to ruin everything, he's lighting the Lieutennants liquor on fire!  The camera now begins to zip back and forth between these two bits; tense standoff, crazy kid enjoying the fire.  Why is that kid doing that?  As an audience member, you'll be thinking to yourself, why the heck did the scriptwriter put this in?  And then, the tense standoff ends abruptly, the Lieutennant says, "Let's drink on it!" turns and finds all his liquour burning in a corner and starts swearing like Yosemite Sam.  "Ah", you say to yoursefl, "Now I see what the scriptwriter had in mind, the thing I thought was a tense standoff was really just a long set up for a joke with a rather silly punchline.  Eh, Not what I would have done."

To me, this is not a objectively disjointed narrative.  It might be a crazy narrative, a surreal comedy narrative, who knows what kind of narrative, but objectively disjointed...no. "Objectively" assumes there is some kind of standard that one can judge the "jointedness" of narratives by, and I don't think that exists.  People are all going to have their own personal standards for this.  However it is defintely a "subjectively unsatisfying narrative", at least for you.  This is because in the movie that is playing in your head, what just happened was, well, silly.  It left you cold. 

Disjointed narratives in the moment are stock and trade of fiction; we can all think of examples where things happen and you say "What the...what was that?!  What just happened there?  That made no sense!"  Vega and Jules come into the bar wearing t-shirts and shorts, when the last time we saw them they were wearing natty black suits.  But then later, when Vega blows the brains out of that poor schmuck in the back seat, and everything is explained we say "AH, now I get it!"  In fact, it is part of the trust we place in the author/director of a piece of fiction that we trust that when things SEEM disjointed, they really aren't. 

But in a story game we have two problems.  First, people narrate for reasons other than creating interesting fiction.  They might just have pet things they want to do regardless.  They might be angry at someone else, or demanding attention from someone else in some way.  Who knows?  Second, in a story game we have no luxury of time.  You don't have days to figure out the perfect line for the hero to say like you might when writing a novel, you have about 3 seconds.  So people make mistakes.  They lose track of what is happening.  They get confused.  They simply can't deliver at speed entertainment.  So, unlike fiction (or at least, well written fiction) things can get disjointed (Cacophony) due to no one person's conscious effort.  And yet, as fiction, we expect that if Cacophony occurs, it will have a satisfying resolution.  What to do?

My answer is its your job to MAKE the narrative not only coherent, but satisfying to yourself.  To always take on board what the other guy is saying, at face value, and then integrate it into your own IS in a way that makes some kind of sense. I think this is the fun challenge of story games like Dust Devils and Capes, one might even say a place where the gamist in me Steps On Up on the story level.  When someone hands you kids trying to light fires with the bad guys alcohol, you take it and make it satisfying to yourself.  Because, ultimately, its your responsibility to make things make sense and satisfy you. 

It IS true, though, that this often means you will end up with surreal comedy instead of what you were hoping for, because its only as surreal comedy that you often CAN make satisfying sense of all of the weird ass things people are saying.  I commented on this in a thread a while ago in the Muse of Fire Games forum with regards to Capes and something I called the Silly Limit (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=23457.0).   

I am struck by the failure, in the fire-lighting scenario, to acknowledge or endorse the players action by the GM, and then subsequently treating it as if it had happened.  I would at least have said either "ok" or "what? why?" in response to the player's stated intent to start a fire.  That should have been resolved right away, confirmed publicly as having entered the SIS or not.  Neither acknowledging nor rejecting this action left it indeterminate.

As it was happening, I was acknowledging that the fire-lighting was taking place.  I was saying things like "Ok", a perplexed "Fair enough", and I might even have magnified a bit at one point with something like "Blue flames rise up" or something, although that might be just me filling in blanks in my memory.  But I wasn't denying the entry of the fire-lighting into the SIS; in fact if I had I think Mikael would have not used this as an example.  It is was exactly because both the fire-lighting and tense standoff were in the SIS that Mikael was having a problem. 

But really, mea culpa, in the end it slipped my mind.  I was caught up in the tense standoff and to me the fire lighting was just a distraction.  It didn't have anything to do with coherence...I just didn't see how it would be INTERESTING in the long run, so I simply ignored it (like everyone else, I think).  I freely admit that all the advice I am giving up above I was not putting into practice in that moment.  When I was forced to take it into account, I then attempted to resolve it in a satisfying way for myself, and, in hindsight, I actually think the scene was funny.  But I did have to be forced to do it, by the player reminding me of his own input. 


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Hans on January 31, 2008, 07:51:52 AM
I think the reason GM's might avoid doing this is the same old issue: they want to tell there story and goddammit no one's gonna get in the way. As the GM, I might think there's no place in the story for Adam's actions, or whatever, so I effectively ignore them by allowing them to exist in a vacuum that has a little possible effect on other aspects of the story as possible. By doing this with my GM hat on, I encourage others to do the same.

Ouch again.  I disagree with Mikael, and will say that what you describe here is EXACTLY what was happening.  My only defense is that I was not so much telling the story MYSELF as it was myself and three other players telling one story (the tense standoff) and me ignoring (and perhaps encouraging others to ignore) the fire-lighting thing because it wasn't part of that story.  In other words, if it was a railroad, it was a highly consensual one among four out of the five people playing.  But still, you've hit the nail on the head here.

Now, what could I have done, in a Dust Devils context:

* Establish true intent at the first narration: "This alcohol lighting thing...what is your intent with that?  Are you trying to set the whole place on fire, or just make some pretty lights? Are you expecting an immediate reaction from the PC's or the NPC's?  Or do you mind if it sort of hovers in the background and then, at some point in the future, everyone notices that you have been busy lighting fires?"
* Go straight to conflict: "Hold on, you are trying to light his alcohol on fire?  Man, that's a conflict, he LOVES his alcohol.  Do you want to risk harm over that, because, if so, we are drawing cards!"
* Reflect it back: "Did you say you were lighting fires with the alcohol?  Holy crap, that is wild.  What do YOU think happens with that?"

Any of the above might have been better than what actually happened, and I think those are the kinds of techniques I usually use; I just failed to do so in this moment.

(Sorry that last post was so bloody long, by the way.  Brevity is not one of my virtues.)


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: masqueradeball on January 31, 2008, 09:43:04 AM
I don't know Dust Devil at all, so I can't speak on a system level. What I've noticed no one's brought up is the idea of asking the player to cooperate in the scene at hand.

Example:
Players A, B and C are all study Mr. Body, trying to figure out what might have killed him. Player D is break dancing.
GM: So, whats up with the break dancing?
Player D: My character's a Malkavian, his derrangement is uncontrollable break dancing.
GM: Can we highlight in a different scene? This one's about investigating Mr. Body here,
Player D: Sure.
GM: Cool.

or

Player D: No way! My guy's totally break dancing!
GM: Alright, that's not part of this scene, so, me and A, B and C will wrap up and then will do a scene about the break dancing...

Something like that... you know, asking disruptive players to cooperate. Still, this doesn't seem like the same problem as the one the thread started with, it's more about disruptive players, kind of, or, in a bigger sense, its about story controls and player rights to scene presence, etc...

Also, A is A... you know. So there's definately a way to come up with a working definition of an "objectively disjointed narrative."


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: dindenver on January 31, 2008, 11:39:28 AM
Hi!
  Well, to be fair, one of my recommendations was to stop the action and figure out what's going on.
  But it sounds like this has been figured out. One person is not jiving with the group and no one wants to deal with it.
  Anyways, I like Spacial Dissonance (the others are fine though) as a term. Spacial because it involves the SIS and Dissonance because it denotes action and/or voice that are happening, but not necessarily in harmony... And maybe a definition of "An event or events that occur within a roleplaying group that suggests that the SIS is not, in fact, shared properly." or something like that...


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on January 31, 2008, 12:18:30 PM
I appreciate everyone's input. I think everyone's suggestions have been functional and well-informed.
We've diverted pretty far from the intent of the thread, though, which was to systematically analyze and approach a general problem of spatial dissonance (din, I think this term fits perfectly what I'm trying to describe).

As I see it, these are the viewpoints that have been presented so far:

  • Spatial dissonance is not a problem. It can be humorous or aesthetically pleasing in and of itself, like an absurd comedy or a David Lynch film. It is up to the player to find meaning among the dissonance.
  • Spatial dissonance is a problem, and it is caused when people engage in dysfunctional play for social reasons. Fixing the dysfunction will fix the spatial dissonance problems.
  • Spatial dissonance is a problem, and it can occur spontaneously between perfectly functional people who normally play well together.

Of course, all three can be true, but for purposes of this post I am personally only interested in addressing the last of the viewpoints.
Hans, I agree that spatial dissonance is not always a problem for the reasons you've listed (Lynch is a flippin' genius), but stating that this is always the case and putting the onus on each player to individually make sense of a story that might possibly consist of nothing but Racket is a little too dirty hippie for me to swallow.
I'm also not looking to solve the entire field of social dysfunction in RPGs in this post. All the comments about talking to your players / GM, negotiating theme etc are excellent, but tangential to the issue I'm trying to address.

So feel free to take this in any direction you like, but my preference is to discuss how techniques, scenario-design and system can be utilized to enhance inter-player communication and build a strong SIS.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: dindenver on February 01, 2008, 07:30:40 AM
Hi!
  Thanks for the nod.

  OK, but in the larger "Theory" sense of the word, Social Contract (and the resulting dysfunctional play from a bad social contract) is part of the "System." That's part of what Indie/Forge-style design is about. Forget about the dirty hippie vibe some games give off and look at the core. Its about a game that some how encourages good social contract, good themes, good mechanics and good techniques that are all tied together by a cohesive design philosophy motivated by actual play and not high-minded theory. So, when you say that dysfunctional social issues is outside the scope of System, technique and scenario design, that doesn't leave a lot left to try, does it?
  I am not trying to say I have all the answers, but I wold like to put forth the idea that the answer lies at the earliest moments of RPG gaming, social contract. That narrow little window where players can talk about what they want from a game, what they like in a game and what they expect from a game before everyone assumes they know the answer. In an ideal system, this would be an on-going process, but in most gaming groups, you get a window that is about 10-30 minutes after the group switches GMs/Campaigns/Systems to state your needs. And after that, its assumed that the group knows/understands. Can a system change the trend? Can Scenario design, is there a Technique that solves that issue?
  I think there is and I listed the heavy hitters before. But the main point I want everyone to take away from this is: Social Contract is malleable. It changes from moment to moment. It is impacted by the flow of the game, the flow of the group and outside factors that the group has no control over (reading an article in a newspaper or a post on a forum can totally change your mind about issues like abuse, dysfunction, etc. And there is no RPG group structure that can affect that, is there?). So, its almost like "where people are at with their Social Contract Issues" is a submarine and you have to constantly ping them to find out where they are at, no?


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: contracycle on February 01, 2008, 09:12:46 AM
I was thinking the other day, in relation to the murk-in-combat discussion, that you could use a picture of a place in a similar manner to the purpose served by maps.  Maps are of course top down and pictures usually horizontal, similar to human eyesight.  Using a picture or photograph of a space, you would not be able to put tokens on it, nor count squares probably (you could with a perspective overlay), but you could still say that someone was "here" as opposed "there", and get some idea of movement distances, line if sight etc.

Similarly I think pictures of people are important.  One of the "murkiest" things in my experience is what NPC's look like.  A verbal description of a person is highly unlikely to make a lasting impression, I find, unless its reliant on gross or abnormal features.

I think ion some respects the DIY tradition of RPG has become slightly counter-productive here; there are things we could do with properly constructed props that we cannot do with description and gesture.


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: Balesir on February 06, 2008, 07:32:26 AM
Hi,

I may be way off, here, and it may just be due to the phrasing of the example given, but I have an observation that addresses the original question, I think.

In the example:
Quote
Situation: An starship's engine is about to explode and the emergency alarm sounds. The crew of the spaceship all gather in the engine room trying to solve the problem.
Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a failed roll) "You think maybe the exhaust valve is blocked."
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case." (rolls Starship Mechanic)
GM: (notes a successful roll) "Seems like there's foreign substances in the core is causing a chain reaction. Those illirium crystals you picked up on Bane IV were probably impure."
<snip>

It strikes me that there is a pattern (in both examples, actually) of:

  • Player action described
  • Player action resolved
  • Player action described
  • Player action resolved

...and so on.

After each action is resolved there is scope to go back and revisit other actions, but I can't help thinking that room for intersection of intent is not being allowed, here.  Each player's input is being closed out as soon as it is made.

If the model for action determination were more like this:

  • All players state their character's intended course of action (including the GM for NPCs, but possibly only mentally/internally)
  • Synthesise from the intended actions the probable interactions, interferences and conflicts that arise
  • Resolve the conflicts (including skill rolls for 'conflicts with the environment') in the order in which they would logically resolve

The outcome should then encourage a joining/interaction of the IS's:

Joe: "I'm going to try to figure out what's going on with the engine."
GM: OK - hold that roll a minute.  Adam?
Adam: "I'm going to try to double-check his work. Just in case."
GM: OK - are you cooperating in the diagnosis or both going through the whole drill?
Joe: "Um - given the urgency, do you just wanna give me a hand, here?"
Adam: "Oh, er, yeah - OK"
GM: OK - make a roll with an assist (or whatever - two rolls maybe, depends on the system you're using)

The GM then relates the outcome based on the total resolution.

Is that the kind of technique you had in mind?


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on February 06, 2008, 07:56:15 AM
Andy, that's a good example of a technique I'm interested in.

Your suggestion also leads me towards another observation - in past games that have been faltering in this way, my interest has occasionally piqued when the game enter "combat time" - i.e. a structured and heavily moderated chain of events like what you describe. To moderate the entirety of the game in such detail would no doubt be overwhelming for the GM, but to utilize it as a technique when you find that the game is deteriorating into incoherent solitaire play sounds like an excellent idea.

 


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on February 06, 2008, 08:16:52 AM
Dave, I'm confused. Are you saying that problems with spatial dissonance originates with confusion about social contract? I guess I'm not disagreeing with you per se, I just feel it's too wishy-washy to be useful to me. I'm uninterested in discussing social dysfunction because, while I recognize its importance, I believe we can cover more ground by leaving such considerations for another day.

A good game design cannot "heal" a dysfunctional group, although it may be able to alleviate the symptoms temporarily by avoiding the contentious issues.
A poor game design, on the other hand, can cause a previously functional group to be unable to play successfully.

So, what I'm interested in are approaches to system, scenario design and techniques that, when utilized by previously functional groups, contribute to strong SIS. It is true that if the social contract (specifically, sub-contracts like theme and mood) is not coherent between players, spatial dissonance will occur. I'm consciously assuming this is not the case, for purpose of exploring such techniques.

Or did I misunderstand you?


Title: Re: Name the phenomenon: Inter-player SIS incohesion
Post by: lachek on February 06, 2008, 08:30:43 AM
contracycle, using pictures and photographs to strengthen the SIS is a great suggestion. I agree, it is something that used to be very common when published modules were what people played, and it's a facet of gaming that has fallen by the wayside to some degree, I think.

My wife uses this to great effect in her All Flesh Must be Eaten game. She printed off series of portrait photographs from Flickr - in particular, photos tagged with "Homeless" - and glued them onto bristleboard for longevity. It is much easier to attach a voice and personality to a photograph than to a verbal description, and this has made the NPCs really spring to life for us.

Obviously, this technique involves strong GM direction and imposition of their IS onto the rest of the group. Is there a way something similar could be used in a more collaborative environment? Since it requires pre-game prep, I suppose not.