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Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 16, 2005, 12:54:01 PM
Last night was the end of my group's Nobilis game, and while it ended the way I wanted, I'm not entirely sure if I'm happy with how it got there.

When we started the game several months ago, we decided to organize it around the theme of Vengeance. As a GM, I tried to add little revenge motifs to the game, but the action centered around the characters' plans to avenge the deaths of their Familia. I tried to be very hands-off in letting the players dig themselves into holes on their own, but when it came time to wrap things up, I came up with an idea that I thought would provide a nice thematic capper for the game. I made it happen last night, and I'm trying to figure out if I Forced it or not.

Here's what happened: The PCs had been on the trail of Coriander Hasp, the Excrucian who had killed their Familia. They knew he was up to something, and they were determined to stop it and to kill him. They also suspected that Lord Ananda was somehow involved, as they'd been turning up evidence of his influence in everything they'd encountered. Ananda's position was ambiguous, as some of the things he'd done seemed to help them, while others seemed designed to hurt them. The PCs were certain he was involved because various prophecies pointed to the imminent dawning of a new Age, somthing Ananda is tied to. The important piece of the story revolved around an Abhorrant Weapon called Vengence that had been used to kill an angel but had gone missing.

What Ananda really wanted was for the characters to seek vengeance against him and slay him with the Abhorrant Weapon, as he could only be killed someone who wielded it with the fires of revenge in their hearts. This would prevent the new Age from coming to pass (in which Creation would be destroyed) and fulfill his oath of vengeance against the PCs (as they would be hunted down and tortured for his murder, as well as having their names cursed forever). I need to find a way to make this happen.

During the final session, the PCs were involved in a fight with Coriander Hasp, who had just recovered the Abhorrant Weapon. Ananda showed up and made some cryptic statements about how Coriander was merely a pawn. One of the PCs asked if Ananda was willing to betray Creation to bring about the new Age (because they all believe he was trying to hasten the new Age and his own Glory). Ananda didn't answer. Here's where I think I may have Forced things. The NPC fighting Coriander Hasp cut off his hand, causing the Abhorrant Weapon to fall at the feet of the PC I had determined was most likely to use it against Ananda. After she killed the Excrucian with it, she did. Everything went according to plan, Creation was saved, and PCs died horribly because of their need for revenge.

Force or not?

Thanks,

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 16, 2005, 01:09:24 PM
Hiya,

I'd say "yes." I think so (which will always be provisional; I wasn't there) because of these specific phrases you used:

Quote
I came up with an idea that I thought would provide a nice thematic capper for the game


plus

Quote
I need to find a way to make this happen.


(in which "this" refers to a series of decisions/events on the parts of the player-characters)

plus

Quote
causing the Abhorrant Weapon to fall at the feet of the PC I had determined was most likely to use it against Ananda. After she killed the Excrucian with it, she did.


I'm also interested in pointing out all the specific techniques involved.

1. Pure-Drama resolution of a very important event (where the Weapon fell) of an ostensibly system-derived event (the hand-slicing)

2. Keen observation of players to find the one who would be most likely to do as desired

3. Not having Ananda answer, in any fashion, the player-character who asked him what he was up to, which (in many play contexts) means the players pretty much have to shift into kick-ass mode or not have much to do

Now! I desperately hope everyone is going to stick with me in agreeing that Force, as a term or play-phenomenon, is not like the Scarlet Letter A. You do not have to wander off into the night as the rest of us shake our fists and usher our children indoors.

A lot of groups rely on a single person to do this sort of thing, and in turn they more-or-less decide not to be critical or even to welcome the various Black Curtain techniques that get utilized toward it. It's illusionist play, Force is in evidence (I mean to us now, not to the group at the time), and everyone's fine with that.

[Frequent error: thinking consensual Illusionism must be Participationism. It's not. Participationism just leaves the curtain open.]

If that's the case, then all is well, you used Force in a skilled fashion, and everyone's cool!

... is everyone cool with it? Do you think that your players like this sort of "here's my Theme, oh look, you authored it, how about that" approach to play?

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 16, 2005, 03:06:32 PM
Quote
Not having Ananda answer, in any fashion, the player-character who asked him what he was up to, which (in many play contexts) means the players pretty much have to shift into kick-ass mode or not have much to do


That's a technique I hadn't considered. The in-game reason he didn't answer was that he couldn't explain his plan to the PCs or their fiery vengeance wouldn't have powered the Weapon to kill him. You're right, though: if he doesn't do anything, then either the players need to act or nothing happens.

Quote
I desperately hope everyone is going to stick with me in agreeing that Force, as a term or play-phenomenon, is not like the Scarlet Letter A.


Looking back on what I wrote, I clearly conflated the use of Force with Illusionism. It's the latter I was trying to avoid.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that Forced a character decision at all. It was entirely the player's choice to kill Ananda and accept the consequences, and (I think) I was ready to deal with Ananda not dying.

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Callan S. on February 16, 2005, 03:43:04 PM
Yeah, I agree with Paul. It doesn't seem like force (as I understand it)...but it does seem like egging the player on to do something that Paul wanted to happen. That's not direct control as I know it, but instead setting up a bunch of reward structures (I reward you to get angry at this guy...now here's a really nasty sword) so as to control the flow of a players actions.


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Marco on February 17, 2005, 09:20:09 AM
I'm gonna say "No. Can't be."

1. Ron's tell-tales are, IMO, on target (which is the problem with interpertations of what people say--it can mean a buncha different things).

2. Force (to my understanding) means taking someone's power over their character from them. It's explicit. Giving the Ring to Frodo and saying "either YOU toss it into Mt. Doom or Sauron" marches isn't Force (at least that's the take someone else had in a long PM conversation).

Frodo can say "Hey, okay. I barter it to Sauron for a place in the new dark order." Just having a lot of pressure and high-stakes in the game ain't enough. You gotta actually cross the line of taking control.

3. Players get to be predictable. Just because someone has strong (and well known) feelings on something (say a Premise question) doesn't make their play not-narrativist. Being predictable or 'conventional' isn't the determinant factor--it's just answering.

(I'm not saying this play was Narrativist--I don't know--but I do know that a player with a strong opinion isn't Simulationst by definition)

4. The rules-hijack Ron mentions (controling where the sword fell) is a good point--but since it's external to the character I think it's gotta be "not Force."

If a player exits a bank after a robbery and the GM says "you see a fast car with the keys in it across the street" is that Force? No. I don't think so. The player can say "too convinent. I run for a car stopped in traffic, brandishing my gun."

Not force.

5. GM's get to have preferences just like everyone else. They also get to "encourage" those preferences. If we say "that's Force" then there's "Force" in every game because a human who wants to see something they have a hand in go "their way" will exhibit bias no matter what controls are taken (this is why double-blind testing is so important).

So: no. The GM did not actually use Force.

However: if the PC had NOT used the sword then the GM might've gone further (based on the same text Ron called out) and that, IMO, might well be.

Finally: if the PC's were subjected to consequences they could not anticipate (I'm not clear if that was the case) then while it isn't Force by defintion (since the GM always gets to assign consequences in a traditonal style game for complex events like this) it could very well be dysfunctional.

It isn't Force to frame me to my front door. It isn't Force to kill my character with a bomb inside the door when asked "Do you go answer your phone you hear ringing in your kitchen" and I say "Yes."

But is an ambush.

(Now, I get the sense the players were all okay with the turn of events and this was not the case--but if someone said "you get the wand" and I said "I wave it." and the GM said "Ha! Ha! You all DIE!" that'd be pretty lame ... but not Force).

-Marco


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2005, 10:30:05 AM
Uh, no, guys.

Force does not have to be explicit. Let me break it down.

Participationism
Force is utilized. It is explicit. No one minds.

Illusionism
Force is utilized. It is not explicit (the "Black Curtain" is up).

a) No one minds, and in fact make fairly sure never to look at the Black Curtain, let alone behind it.

b) Someone would definitely mind (might even call it railroading), and hence there's an ongoing tension about the Black Curtain.

Unnamed category
Force is utilized. It either was implicit, but suddenly becomes explicit for some reason, or it wasn't previously used, but now it is. Most people find this jarring and some call it railroading.

I really don't think there's any difficulty with any of these terms. People are bringing in "directness" and "explicit" as confounding terms.

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Marco on February 17, 2005, 10:52:02 AM
By "explicit" I meant "explicitly making a decision for someone's character" not "obvious."

As I see it the player still had choices--she could've surprised the GM and not done it. I don't see how it can be considered Force when the GM presents a "golden opportunity" and a player takes it.

Edited to add: If the GM had decided that *anything* the character did would result in the preferred ending then, yeah, I agree: Force. I didn't get that though. It seems to me that things might've got there but didn't go far enough to qualify: The decision making power was never removed from the player (the temptation and opportunity was just set to "11").


-Marco


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2005, 11:07:26 AM
Hello,

There's almost always a choice, with the exception of the GM or someone else literally leaning over the table and socially forcing the person to conform, if they don't behave. Slightly subtler forms of coercion of this type include ignoring the person in later exchanges, or killing the character later.

But I'm not talking about all that. If Force relied only on such things, such that if the player balked, we'd really see abusive and rather ugly power get exerted, then it'd be a much more minor phenomenon in the hobby.

Sure the player could have done otherwise. Sure Grover was "prepared" for that eventuality, although I'm not entirely certain what that means in his case (doesn't really matter; I'm inferring the important part, that he would not have initiated one of the nasty things I talk about above).

But Grover had a Plan A. Grover put Plan A into effect because it went with Outcome A and Theme A. Plan A succeeded because the player is well-known to Grover.

I'll speak from the perspective of how I GM'd this way, all those years ago. Say the player had balked, for whatever reason - decided, say, that Ananda was not such a jerk and (who knows) come up with way around my entire planned Outcome A.

Let us say further that this end-run did not provide me with a really really cool, even better ending; it was kind of blah or for whatever reason I was still committed to Outcome A, or would at least prefer it.

My tactic would have been to stall it out, fast. Meaning, decided to kind of neutralize the whole conflict at hand, get Ananda out of there, and sort of smooth over the whole thing, in order to reserve the next attempt at Outcome A for the next session.

That's what I would have called "being prepared" for the player doing something else. And from my present perspective, it shows that I was indeed not willing for the players actually to "do theme" without my approval. Oh, I would have said, "Players can have their characters do anything they want." But by using techniques very much like my #1 tactic above, when they did so and I didn't approve it or even anticipate it, I'd stall it or nullify it in a way which eventually did come around to my planned outcomes and themes.

It's still Force if the player could have had their characters do something else ... if the "something else" can be rendered comparatively trivial, and the original goal preserved, or perhaps only transformed privately in the GM's head (to be fully realized later).

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Marco on February 17, 2005, 11:27:48 AM
Yeah, okay. I see what you mean.

Given the "inside track" (of what was in the GM's head) I can follow your conclusions about what might (likely) have happened.

If someone said "I don't want to do this Force thing and I did this thing with the sword ..." I would say "that's pretty leading at the very least so it's in the danger-zone.

However: there are a lof things that look just like this from a player-perspective where the GM is simply interested in turing the heat up. There are also situations that put a lot of pressure on a character without removing options (i.e. there are 3 fairly unpalatable options and one good one but the GM still isn't Forcing a choice and, in fact, will not nullify the player if he or she comes up with a 5th option that logically should work).

So I'm careful of saying X-is-Force when the nullficiation didn't actually happen in the game.

But, yeah, if your logic is on the money it was going in that direction.

-Marco


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2005, 11:53:05 AM
And I'm good with your qualifiers too, Marco. So much of this depends on the actual social and creative interactions at the moment, and for those people, that we pretty much have to keep the ifs sitting on our shoulders.

Paul, I accidentally called you Grover for some reason. Sorry 'bout that. Has this exchange been interesting or helpful to you?

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on February 17, 2005, 12:09:24 PM
Chiming in a little bit late; Seems you and Marco have pretty well hashed this out, Ron.

But for my own edification, and possibly Paul's, if he's still unclear:

If I understand correctly, the situation was not necessarily Force. It would NOT have been Force if the player with the sword were able to choose not to go with Plan A, and the GM just went with it, without using contingencies to put it back on track to his desired effect. It is only Force if the actions of the player do not ultimately effect the eventual outcome, but only affect the details that led to it.

Am I correct?


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2005, 02:46:00 PM
Hi Lance,

Close enough - the best way to look at it is from the point of view of the other person, the one who is "interfering" with the character.

If this person takes any actions (subtle/unsubtle, fiddly or iron-fisted) which puts the character and the character's actions under his control, without the consent of the person who "owns" the character, then it's Force.

One way to do it, the rudest and most obvious way, is to say, "No, you're not playing her right, he'd do this," and then carry on as if that settles it, and the character has indeed done "this."

I think many of us can recognize that behavior, sometimes ostensibly backed up through rules (e.g. Alignment) and sometimes not. Experiences of this kind may underly some folks' distaste for "behavioral mechanics," as they fear Force being exerted upon them.

Subtler ways usually involve opportunities, hints, and narrations of outcomes, all designed to nudge and tweak the events of play into a shape that the Forcer is most happy with.

(Participationism gets a little tricky, because it is defined more-or-less as pre-play consent, but we can still think of it as employing Force, I'd say.)

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Marco on February 17, 2005, 02:59:31 PM
I agree with Ron.

When I ran a game I wrote up here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12061) I was faced with the characters ending the game in a way I didn't especially like if they convinced an NPC that he needed their help (the Mayor of a town that was sliding into another reality). In this case everything was on the table: the odds, the roll--the criteria for success. It was discussed prior to the roll and when the PC's rolled they knew instantly what had happened.

But--I could've altered things after the fact to make the Mayor's help a lot less useful ... or even "not the solution at all" (even though, in my head, it was--if they got what they needed from him they'd solve the problem).

I could've manipulated NPC's to come down on them and create a showdown more to my liking (maybe). Whatever.

Also: the game rules we were using would allow me to simply have the Mayor "say no." He was sort of a 'named NPC' and therefore not necessiarily succeptible to psychology rolls.

But I wasn't gonna do that. I'd let the game end with a short flare of drama (a giant, mutant rat attack in the desert) if they'd gotten the roll down.

So I know what it's like (the roll came up 1pt short and the PC's did something totally thrilling to me and unexpected) and I know something else: with a traditonal GM it's really, really hard to distinguish Force from cause and effect.

As a player, for any single given incident: maybe impossible. I think that you pretty much have to either have a clear case of the GM wresting control (as Ron said) or you have to know the GM's mind.

-Marco


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on February 17, 2005, 03:08:07 PM
Hm. So, if more subtle and acceptable means of encouraging a certain outcome, without forcing an action or invalidating the impact of an action are still considered Force, I'm not sure how useful a term it can be. I mean.. Force can be bad or good depending on the level and specifics of the situation. In and of itself it is neither, despite the connotations of the word.. It's too ambiguous to be useful, isn't it?

If that's all it is, I'd be tempted to say "Yeah, it was Force. So?" Whenever the point comes up.

Or am I still missing something?


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Callan S. on February 17, 2005, 04:41:17 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
That's what I would have called "being prepared" for the player doing something else. And from my present perspective, it shows that I was indeed not willing for the players actually to "do theme" without my approval. Oh, I would have said, "Players can have their characters do anything they want." But by using techniques very much like my #1 tactic above, when they did so and I didn't approve it or even anticipate it, I'd stall it or nullify it in a way which eventually did come around to my planned outcomes and themes.

Heya,

Ah, I see. But we haven't actually seen that in the play example, correct? Weve seen things which indicate that may come about, but not enough of an example to actually see force come about. I'm not arguing or anything, I'm just checking how you were analysing this, with just what was in the example, or using a parralel from your experience (outside of the example) to fill in blanks.


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Callan S. on February 17, 2005, 04:50:01 PM
Quote from: Wolfen
If that's all it is, I'd be tempted to say "Yeah, it was Force. So?" Whenever the point comes up.

Good question. Is it perhaps that everyone is applying force in small degree's all the time ("My character sits at the end of the table (which means yours can't)). But basically everyones force is usally equal...and what were talking about here is apply an exceptionally large share of force, relative to everyone else? I'm prolly wrong, but that's the destinction I'd make.


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 17, 2005, 06:19:59 PM
Quote
Paul, I accidentally called you Grover for some reason. Sorry 'bout that. Has this exchange been interesting or helpful to you?


No problem; he was always my favorite Sesame Street character.

It has been both interesting and helpful. I thought about this further while I was offline, and I seem to have come to the same understanding. If had worked things out so that someone eventually had to kill Ananda, regardless of what the characters chose to do in the scene in question, then that would be Forcing. If, on the other hand, they didn't kill Ananda in that scene and thus Creation was destroyed, Ananda berated them about how they had failed their fallen brothers, and thus the annhilation of reality was on their heads, but they couldn't kill Ananda to fix things (which was the other possible outcome) then that isn't Force. Agreed?

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2005, 09:16:03 PM
Hello,

Lots of short stuff to reply to.

1. Lance, you seem to be surprised that the term Force does not ultimately give us the ability to say "that's bad" or "that's good." To me, that's a feature, not a bug, of the definition. Force is, as I've written, usually rejected violently by role-players who favor Narrativism. (In fact, Marco's example seems to back me up on that.) That doesn't mean it's evil or wrong, and it's mighty handy - although I personally happen to think the Participationist version is socially healthier than the Illusionist one.

As for your basic question of what "use" is it, and now that I've clarified that a term doesn't have to be a badge of Good or Evil in order to be useful ... the term is incredibly useful for helping people understand why others seem so unreasonable during play sometimes. I, for instance, would have looked Paul straight in the eye during the play of that scene, if I'd been present, and said, "Bullshit. Don't jack us this way." And I mean, it would've been serious.

I think this might be an important avenue for you to keep focusing on, because it's clear to me from your Dogs discussion that you are very, very accustomed to having control over scenes' outcomes as a GM, to the point where playing otherwise just seems weird or somehow unworkable.

So you say, "Yeah, it was Force. So?" just as you said. And yes, that is a good question. But be ready for someone in your group say something like, "And that's why it sucks." There is no better indicator, in all of role-playing, that a group contains a serious Creative Agenda conflict, usually involving dysfunctional Narrativism.

2. Callan, Force is all about taking over others' characters when a CA-relevant decision or action is on the line. It'll always be a situation like Paul was describing, although not always as climactic as his was.

So no, people are not using "minor bits" of Force on one another just because, for example, they are narrating what their characters or doing. Nor is scene framing typically an application of Force, although a skilled Forcer can use it that way. This is a very common misunderstanding of Force, by the way, that any input into play by a GM must be Force.

Also, yes, I was working inferentially when describing the instance as Force. If you look at my first post, you'll see that I acknowledged this from the beginning. That's why Paul's responses have been very important; I'm not sitting in the Odin chair and proclaiming "There I spy Force!"

3. Paul, I'm not sure if I've managed to get across that, based on your descriptions and responses, you were indeed utilizing Illusionist techniques, and you were indeed applying Force.

And like many GMs who've become good at this, you've also become good at "branching" and "Plan B," or at least not letting yourself get flustered if the players break the plan.

So yeah, if no matter what, Ananda gets waxed, then it's definitely Force. We're good with that, I think. But I really want to emphasize to you that your alternative is no alternative at all! It's basically just a scolding that they should have cooperated!

(Jesse Burneko, are you out there? This is just like your robot Queen Victoria campaign in Castle Falkenstein, which we discussed by email years ago. A binary choice at the climax is no choice at all, especially if one of them includes "oh, and the world blows up, you feebs.")

Contrast this with Marco's example. Marco, as far as I can tell, you were not doing the "Force Plan B" thing with your rats - because in your game, I think, you would have been accepting the alternate theme and appropriate climax that the players evidently preferred. In running Sorcerer, I call this "Never argue with the word of God."

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on February 17, 2005, 10:01:21 PM
...Ack. I give. Every time I think I have a handle on it, you say something else that makes me wonder.

From what I was reading prior, any time the GM did anything to encourage an outcome he prefers (something I consider, as player or GM, to be totally within his rights, and as a matter of fact, part of his responsibility as a fellow player in the game) then it would be Force.

Now you're saying specifically that it is not Force every time a GM acts.

So color me confused.

As for comments about what use it is: Basically, if a definition does not allow us to make a judgement based on our values, then it's not a useful definition. From what you're saying here, I gather that I'm totally not grasping it, because you mention that those with Narrativist-style values will make a "bad" judgement on acts which fall under Force.

Oh well.. I think this is just going to be one of the Forge concepts I never fully grasp.

Thanks for trying, Ron.


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 18, 2005, 12:09:30 AM
Quote
So yeah, if no matter what, Ananda gets waxed, then it's definitely Force. We're good with that, I think. But I really want to emphasize to you that your alternative is no alternative at all! It's basically just a scolding that they should have cooperated!


I'm not sure I follow that. Let me abstract it for a moment. What I set up was basically "If you do X, then A happens. If not, B happens. As a consquence either happening, you'll find out what the alternative would have been, which might seem better by comparison, depending on how we addressed Premise." I certainly would have liked for A to happen, but B is fine to. This doesn't seem like Force to me.

Now, applying that to my game, X is clearly "kill Ananda." A is "Creation is saved, you get your vengeance, but you all die horribly and have your names forever blackened." B is "due to your unwillingness to die horribly for vengeance, you will live, but Creation will eventually be destroyed."

How is "You chose not X, so B happens, and you'll get scolded about not achieving A" Forcing? Isn't that just pointing out to the characters what the consequences of their actions are? Given that X is the last choice in the whole game?

--Paul

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 18, 2005, 12:19:25 AM
Quote
A binary choice at the climax is no choice at all, especially if one of them includes "oh, and the world blows up, you feebs."


The way I see the scene is asking the Premise-addressing question "Are you willing to sacrifice yourself and deal a horrible blow to the universe in order to fullfill your vow of Vengeance?" That's necessarily a binary question; either you are or you aren't. I certainly would have preferred the answer to have been "yes," but "no" was also an acceptable answer. So why is a binary climax not a climax at all?

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 18, 2005, 07:12:37 AM
Hiya,

You guys are getting into a zone which can be very, very difficult to escape from, and which usually takes months of dialogue even for the person to realize they're in it. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to satisfy you at all. Let's try one more time.

Lance, there's a difference between a value judgment inherent in the definition, vs. a value judgment that a person then may make about the thing, based on his or her preferences. There is no value judgment about Force inherent in the definition. However, every single role-player in the world will bring in a value judgment about Force in a particular instance or in general, based on his or her preferences.

Imagine ... oh, an unusual sexual act. We can give it a name and define it, on paper, clinically, so that whenever we see any act, anywhere, we can say whether this real act is or isn't to be identified as the one we've named. Right? Pure definition, pure observation, pure identification.

But everyone out there can say either (a) "Ooohh, kinky," with a wicked smile; or (b) "Gross! I'd never!" with that 'how could you' look on their face. This is a matter of preference and value judgments, and, I'd suggest, not just a matter of "well everyone has an opinion" either - I'm talking about real values with real consequences in the real world.

Paul, addressing Premise means really addressing it during play - and reserving the "question asking" for a climactic battle decision in the final part of the final session of the game isn't enough. And furthermore, not letting the players know they're engaged in such a question, until after it's over, is not enough.

Many GMs who utilize Force a lot are very fond of tossing binary decisions at their players, and also very often just as you describe: about an NPC who is sending them constant mixed messages and has an agenda for them to do something "for their own good" without telling them.

Let's look at the basic story you guys made - who's the protagonist? It sure isn't the player-characters; it's Ananda. He made the hard choice. He sacrificed himself for Creation. He accepted the price of manipulating these Nobili, and put the plan into action at some risk.

To you, the player-characters were chances for his plan and his story to work out, and you were committed to seeing this through. Yes, with risks (their unpredictable behavior), but that only made the spice of playing his story, as your player-character, all the sweeter.

As for the Force itself, look back over your first post - you'll see, I think, that your presentation really focuses on what you wanted to have happen, and how far you were willing to go in order to make it happen ... and the real clincher, that you were successful in doing so.

So what is the deal with the binary decision, then? I think you may have missed my point, that it's not the binary quality in and of itself that connotes Force, but rather the major effort you were prepared to put forth to see one side of the decision get implemented. Until we can discuss this, then the points I want to make about the timing and the binary nature of the "decision" (because it really wasn't much of one, was it?) can't be addressed.

Best,
Ron


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Marco on February 18, 2005, 07:53:41 AM
Lemme take a stab at the is-it/isn't-it question. Ron can determine if he think's I'm on the money.

1. Force is defined as controling a CA-relevant action on the character's part away from the player's control. This may be in the sense of "making the character do X" or "Preventing the character from doing Y" or "Arranging it so that even if the character does A,B, or C the outcome was still the same as if they did X."

1.a. Implicit in this is that if the GM prevents an action through Force it must be an action that could have happened but for the GM's intent to use Force. That is: If a player says "My normal guy picks up THE MOUNTAIN RANGE!!" and the GM says "No, he doesn't." That isn't Force. Normally that couldn't happen.

1.b. Also implicit is the intent on the part of a GM to Force the "CA-Relevant" action. That is: If the GM has decided that there simply are no widgets in the whatsit and the character is seeking (and does not find) a widget then there was no real "intent" and it's not Force.

1.c. Force was first, and is most often, discussed in context of dysfunctional Narrativist play. I think this is key to understanding it's origins and maybe it's usage. While I don't know how Force is functional in, say, Gamist play (or how controling a CA-relevant action in Sim play is acceptable if the player disagrees with the direction taken) I think that there's some value to looking at a potential use of Force and saying: "Did this disempower the player and/or did this action mandate theme in a way a hypothetical Narrativist would dislike?" This is tricky: Part of the answer to his is unclear to me because the thread on Participationsim never went anywhere.

2. I think a great deal of confusion is that "what a CA-relevant action is" has a lot of gray-space. In my example (convincing the Mayor) *I* wanted a story with a stronger climax which brought in my cool NPC's and explained things (as opposed to a wrap-up which didn't really "resolve things.")

I think the players were immersive and simply wanted to prevent the end of the world (I don't think it's proper to say they'd have *preferred* the ending they were driving towards--I don't think they were thinking in those terms. I could be wrong, though).

Also: important to *my* example is an aspect of empowerment. The PC doing the convincing had sunk many points into being attractive and persuasive. I do not think this was done to game-the-system: I think that it was done to have an attractive character. However the character had, IMO, a fair expectation that a persuade attempt would work.

If I had invoked the "You can't persuade Named Characters" rule it would have been "acceptable" (the Mayor is certainly in the super-set of people who might be Named Characters") but I, as the GM, knew that while he didn't like the characters much, a well made offer of help during a crisis would be evaluated would be subject to his consideration and therefore Persuade-attempts seemd legitimate.

So here's the thing: I could've
(a) Prevented the characters in a "forceful" manner and if they were interested in getting a good climax it could have been judged to have not controled a CA-Relevant Action since the players were just "trying to solve the problem" and my steering the game towards a more interesting thematic question (not "Can you convince the mayor?" but "will you risk you and your friends for a shot at saving humanity?") might be judged "GM facilitation of Nar play." That is: the GM has the authority to rule that the game isn't ended on a roll (and the rules *explicitly* did give me that power) so the GM invokes that given power to keep the developing themes healthy.

(b) Prevented the characters in a "forceful" manner and because they felt disempowered ("He's just nullifying my action for *his* story!") then it would be judged a dysfunctional event and therefore probably Forceful.

(c) Prvented the characters in a "forceful" manner but they are okay with it because either they think that's what would really happen (so it's considered, by them, functional Sim--maybe) or they are trusting my judgment/leaving the story up to me in which case it is probably indicative of functional Sim since that is rarely considered the attitude of a Nar player. [NOTE: I think "calling this Sim" is a bad idea but it gets the point across about this not being Dysfunctional under some circumstances.

(d) Prevented the characters in a "forceful" manner and had them be unhappy because the theme they were producing with the attempt which was: :: thinks :: "How much will I risk (public humiliation) to set things right?" In this case, if I *denied* the roll, I am removing the risk entirely (no chance of success) and therefore stuffing the question at it's genesis.

Note: I think that people might judge (a) NOT Force. I think (d) is *classic* Force. I think (c) is why people say Force is "okay with Sim" (but I'm not sure that's a good perspective after reading the bricolage threads). I think that (b) is seen as dysfunctional Force but is often more about feelings of disempowerment than, say, "production of a unified theme" (if he player just felt he should get a damn roll it's not necessiarily thematic) and without knowing *why* the GM did it (which we do know here) it's a tough call.

Therefore: In the case in this thread the action is Force or not based on GM intent.

1. The GM had a stated intent to have a specific outcome.
2. The GM was willing to manipulate the game space in a highly specific way to create that outcome.
3.a. If we judge that the GM would not have stopped at simply *tempting* the PC, but rather would have worked coveretly with the original intent to continue tempting the PC until either the game broke down or the PC acted on the temptation then: YES. Force.
3.b. If the GM stated that this "was it" and "if the PC didn't take the sword and kill the guy then the test was passed and the game would run to its logical conclusion" (the end of the universe) then: NO. Not Force.

The dividing line is whether or not the initial intent extended to the control of the action which in this case is deemed CA-relevant (although we don't know what the CA is, it sounds thematic).

We also don't know if this was dysfunctional since the players might be okay with being "Forced" to take the vengance steps.

Finally: if the player came here and said "I kept going give me the sword, dammit. And the GM just keeps on doin' this other raising the stakes stuff and I'm all 'I'm there, man--let's go to climax! GIVE me the SWORD'." Then I think it only tenuously qualifies as Force. If the GM and player are both prepared to go full-out for the same thing in a game, even if the GM is prepared to use Force to do it, I'm not sure that the "taking control" aspect can ever actually be said to happen.

:: whew ::
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Lots of short stuff to reply to.

1. Lance, you seem to be surprised that the term Force does not ultimately give us the ability to say "that's bad" or "that's good." To me, that's a feature, not a bug, of the definition. Force is, as I've written, usually rejected violently by role-players who favor Narrativism. (In fact, Marco's example seems to back me up on that.) That doesn't mean it's evil or wrong, and it's mighty handy - although I personally happen to think the Participationist version is socially healthier than the Illusionist one.


Lotta people have told me they think that game is Sim (from the write-up). But whether it is, or it isn't. I can say for certain that that I was concerned about the themes involved in the story. I was concerned about un-wanted anti-climax, and I was concerned about keeping my 'GM-oath' of not screwing the players on a judgment call because of my story-concerns over their (i.e. everyone playing has an equal right to a cool story if they care).

Whether or not my players were thinking in terms of theme or whatever, *I* would've considered it bad form to reject the *chance* of a roll just to push things in my direction.

Quote

Contrast this with Marco's example. Marco, as far as I can tell, you were not doing the "Force Plan B" thing with your rats - because in your game, I think, you would have been accepting the alternate theme and appropriate climax that the players evidently preferred. In running Sorcerer, I call this "Never argue with the word of God."

Best,
Ron

The final Rat attack was simply "part of the situation" (in fact, it happened in the game but the PC's were there with a small, armed, army of people and the mutant rats were simply swept away). If the climax had been lacking drama, I would've probably played up the attack as much as I could (played combat music on the computer when the battle was joined, used spooky descriptions prior to the fight, etc.) But in terms of an "invention" it was more along the lines of "we have established monsters in the desert" and "if you go there alone you may get monstered."

So yeah: it's not Plan B. It wouldn't likely have had much impact other than ending the game on a slightly higher note than "Okay, make some science rolls! Yeah? You win!"

-Marco


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 18, 2005, 08:42:33 AM
First, thanks to everyone who's stuck with me on the discussion so far. I think discussion is really useful to me and my gaming.

Quote
Paul, addressing Premise means really addressing it during play - and reserving the "question asking" for a climactic battle decision in the final part of the final session of the game isn't enough. And furthermore, not letting the players know they're engaged in such a question, until after it's over, is not enough.


I'd like to think that this is merely the last in series of asked questions, that throughout the course of play we continued to up the ante while asking, "Is revenge worth this?" And I know that the player who actually killed Ananda knew that such a question was being asked, as she told me about it afterward. As a side question, does the presence of hidden consequences interfere with the Premise addressing issue?

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To you, the player-characters were chances for his plan and his story to work out, and you were committed to seeing this through. Yes, with risks (their unpredictable behavior), but that only made the spice of playing his story, as your player-character, all the sweeter.


Interesting. As this is not what I intended to do, and not what I believe I was doing, how would I have avoid it?

Quote
As for the Force itself, look back over your first post - you'll see, I think, that your presentation really focuses on what you wanted to have happen, and how far you were willing to go in order to make it happen ... and the real clincher, that you were successful in doing so.


You're right, and looking back my initial post, I've noticed that I had a real concern with the way the session was run. I had intended to create a Premise-addressing climax, and I initially thought I had, but I'm not so sure anymore. The real question for me now is how could I have created a real Premise-addressing climax?


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Paul Czege on February 18, 2005, 09:58:53 AM
Hey Paul,

I'd like to think that this is merely the last in series of asked questions, that throughout the course of play we continued to up the ante while asking, "Is revenge worth this?"

If the players had ever answered "no" to that question, what would you have done?

Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 18, 2005, 10:34:48 AM
Quote
If the players had ever answered "no" to that question, what would you have done?


The intermediate questions? I don't know exactly, but what ever it would been it would have followed from their answer. I know I wouldn't have gotten to the same ending session. The only reason that I put such a situation in front of the players is that I knew that they were likely to kill Ananda, and I thought they'd appreciate the consequences. If they'd said no to the questions earlier in play, we likely wouldn't have gotten to that point.

--Paul


Title: Re: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ian Charvill on February 18, 2005, 11:44:27 AM
Quote from: ptevis
When we started the game several months ago, we decided to organize it around the theme of Vengeance. As a GM, I tried to add little revenge motifs to the game, but the action centered around the characters' plans to avenge the deaths of their Familia. I tried to be very hands-off in letting the players dig themselves into holes on their own, but when it came time to wrap things up, I came up with an idea that I thought would provide a nice thematic capper for the game. I made it happen last night, and I'm trying to figure out if I Forced it or not.


If I could but in with a pretty elementary question:

How long before the final session did you come up with the idea for the thematic capper -- i.e. how many sessions did you have to do stuff to 'make it happen'?


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 18, 2005, 12:16:23 PM
Quote
How long before the final session did you come up with the idea for the thematic capper -- i.e. how many sessions did you have to do stuff to 'make it happen'?


I came up with the idea with two sessions to go.

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 18, 2005, 12:19:34 PM
Quote
I came up with the idea with two sessions to go.


To give a sense of perspective, this was in the context of a fourteen session game.

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ADGBoss on February 18, 2005, 01:46:11 PM
Paul

forgive me for jumping in at such a late date but I had some commentary which I hope is relevent.  I will try and be brief.

Quickly I will just say, to answer the question Did you use force? Yes I think you did.  That is not judging it as good or bad, just saying yes I think you did.

However, to fullly understand all of this myself, I need to ask a question.

The ending confused me. What was the purpose of the Characters and the Game? To save creation? To understand Sacrifice i.e. dying even though they saved creation? To understand the price of revenge, which turned out to be death?

Did the Players know that seeking and fulfilling their revenge would lead to their deaths? Did they know that not seeking revenge would lead to creation getting axed? Was the Player who killed Lord A even aware that he was guilty of anything when she offed him? Afterall, he did just stand their mute.

Did Lord A tell them, with his dying words, "Creation is saved, but you are doomed for killing me?" Also why did they all have to die?

See my feeling is that a binary choice CAN be a choice if the consequences have meaning.  Frankly here, the Players simply chose their way to die, there was no way out and frankly, however realistic it may be that sometimes Damned if you do and Damned if you don't, I personally would have let creation go bye bye for putting me in that predicament.

So a bit more clarification if you could on what the Players and their Characters were aware of.

Thanks

Sean


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Bankuei on February 18, 2005, 03:39:20 PM
Hi Paul,

I think this thread is digging a hole deeper into misunderstanding rather than getting us really out of it.  Instead of trying to analyze the imagined events in play, and the interactions of your group when most of us contributing to this thread were not physically present to witness, how about we step back and look at Force and let you apply your own observations?

1.  Input vs. Force

Let's say you have a game and a core mechanic is to choose 1 of any of the 26 letters in the English language.  That's input.  Force is when the GM says, "You can choose any of the 26 letters as long as they're A or B."  That's Force.  Mechanically, most games rule that the players have complete authority and input over their characters range of options and actions- Force is stepping in and limiting those.  This is neither good nor bad, but it works well with some styles of play, and poorly with others.  Period.

2.  Force in its various forms

a)  Social Cues

"You're going to attack the Super Death Lord? Are you sure?  REALLY SURE?  Oooookaaaayyy..."  Rolls eyes, frowns, shakes head, etc.  
Even children and dogs can read social cues.  Approval/Disapproval is a part of gaming- but using it as a means to influence decisions(before they are finalized, instead of afterwards) is a form of Force.

b) The loaded question

"Would you rather give me two 5 dollar bills, or a 10 dollar bill?"  Notice that the question doesn't leave any other options available- it assumes that A or B are the only options.  Paul- this is what is being pointed to with your binary question.  I'll talk more about this further down...

c) Destined to fail/succeed

Player is trying to get his or her character to sneak into the castle.  The GM has already decided that the character will fail at this.  So, the GM makes the player keep making rolls until failure results.  Luke Crane points out this problem in Burning Wheel's "Let it Ride" rules.  Likewise, you could also keep loading a player with chances to succeed until they succeed.  Beyond that, you could also load the odds to be so impossibly difficult/easy as to guarantee a certain outcome.

d) GM fiat

This becomes force when things normally determined through the use of the mechanics is overridden by GM decision.  This also comes in the form of the GM retroactively giving extra abilities, powers, etc. to NPCs in order to save their skins...  "Oh, Super Necro Lord switched himself with a body double just before the fight!"  Fudging dice also applies here.

e) Raw Railroading

"This is what you do"  Pretty clear sign of Force in effect.

So, check this out- Force can range from comparatively subtle("Are you sure?" raised eyebrow) to raw railroading.  This is where folks start getting confused- input is in accordance with the group's understanding of what everyone's range of input is supposed to be.  Force is going beyond that level of input.  This can be conducive to play, and, many people will argue that you can't possibly play any game without fudging the rules- a sign that Force is one way of dealing with a system that doesn't do what they want.  People can clearly see Force when it hurts, but they turn a blind eye when it helps.

Ok- that's Force.

Now on to your game specifically, Paul.  If your goal was to provide Narrativist play, with a Premise to be answered, then you cannot reduce a Premise question to a yes/no response.  Addressing Premise is always like writing an answer to an essay question- never a multiple choice.

Quote
I'd like to think that this is merely the last in series of asked questions, that throughout the course of play we continued to up the ante while asking, "Is revenge worth this?"


Now, consider the difference between the simple yes/no, and answers like, "No, not if it costs me the rest of what I was trying to protect", "Not if it makes me just like the enemy", "Yes, if I have nothing else to live for", "Yes, if it assures it will never happen again", etc.  Even these are simplified answers.  Consider all the various exceptions and conditional statements that come up with the question, "Is it ok to kill?" - For food?  For self defense?  What if someone else is going to shoot you unless you kill someone else? Etc.  All that stuff during play is Addressing Premise.

But the point is- what happens in play is the answer that the entire group creates by taking various sides and input to that question.  If you've decided the two possible outcomes, sessions in advance- then you've already decided to cut out all the other possible answers the group could have created.  That's Force.  Period.

Everyone has stated that Force in and of itself is neither good nor bad- depending on what the group is trying to do.  For Nar play- it is bad.  For Sim play, its functional, and perhaps even necessary to prevent it from sliding to other kinds of play.  For you, the question is, "What do we(the group) want to be doing, and is Force for us?"*

Does that clarify anything?

Chris

*In my head, I hear it like a tv ad, "Ask your GM if Force is right for you..."  :P


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Callan S. on February 18, 2005, 06:05:22 PM
Heya Ron,

Quote
Paul, addressing Premise means really addressing it during play - and reserving the "question asking" for a climactic battle decision in the final part of the final session of the game isn't enough. And furthermore, not letting the players know they're engaged in such a question, until after it's over, is not enough.


Quote
So what is the deal with the binary decision, then? I think you may have missed my point, that it's not the binary quality in and of itself that connotes Force, but rather the major effort you were prepared to put forth to see one side of the decision get implemented.

Oh, when you put it that way I can see the force now. I sort of just saw it as simulationist play...and didn't see any issue with the various rewards in place. But I'm probably in one of those 'Shit, I'm playing vanilla narrativism' mental modes, so I didn't see the play for what it was. I couldn't see it as a prob for sim (or gamism). But looking again at the definition now I see its about thematic control. Ah, my bad!


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: ptevis on February 19, 2005, 08:57:04 AM
Quote
1. Input vs. Force
2. Force in its various forms


Right. This is perfectly clear.

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But the point is- what happens in play is the answer that the entire group creates by taking various sides and input to that question. If you've decided the two possible outcomes, sessions in advance- then you've already decided to cut out all the other possible answers the group could have created. That's Force. Period.


Then I guess my question is, how could I have recast the situation in question so as not to use Force?

Quote
Does that clarify anything?


Quite a bit, actually. Sorry for not explaining more, but I'm at a convention and already sleep deprived.

--Paul


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Bankuei on February 19, 2005, 03:05:20 PM
Hi Paul,

Quote
Then I guess my question is, how could I have recast the situation in question so as not to use Force?


Here's a key difference between Sim and Nar play- Sim can ride on GM Force alone, while Nar requires everyone gets input and works as a group to address that question.  No single person can force-feed the premise to the group without their buy in and still get Narrativist play.  Nar play works with either putting the premise on the table up front(Dust Devil's devil mechanics) and/or the GM facilitating("following") the player's input towards premise in play.

So- in the first case, if everyone at the table is going with, "What is revenge worth?", then they all design characters around that concept, and work their characters to hit that note in whatever way they see fit.  The second part is a major feature of Nar play- sometimes it turns out the premise people thought would be interesting is actually weak compared to another issue, and the group focuses on that.

As a GM, your role then becomes to follow the players' leads and press buttons around what premises their characters are working with.  Some games like Dust Devils or TROS lays out what buttons the players want and you work with them.  Trollbabe or Inspectres hand the buttons straight to the players and the GM's role becomes to go with it.

So- the best you could have done is set up a situation that revolved around revenge, and let the players go to work.  For the most direct fashion- get buy in from the players at the beginning- "Hey, how would you guys all like to play characters with a vengence kick for this character/group of characters?"  They say yes, then let them go.  Or you could build a conflict and R-map with revenge at the center and get the PCs tied in via that- but there's no guarantee that they'll care at all about revenge- perhaps love, or forgiveness or some other thematic premise will seem better to them.

As you can see, this is 180 degrees opposite of the typical Illusionist/Sim advice that the GM is responsible for introducing and creating theme in play with the players utilizing their characters to "help".  Instead, the players make theme through their characters and the GM is the helper/facilitator.

Chris

edit- PS- There is also a way to make it "almost certain" to hit particular premises by highly loading a situation and dropping in pregenerated characters into play.  Ron's demon baby scenario in Sex & Sorcery comes to mind.  But even then, its possible for players to drive things into entirely different premises than what may have been pre-loaded :)


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Callan S. on February 19, 2005, 04:32:37 PM
Or you could make it clearly just sim, through explicit SC on the matter. I'm sure that's possible even as that NPC does stuff that seems nar, you can just explore it in a sim sense. Well, I assume you can do that. Anyone think I'm wrong?


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Madeline on February 20, 2005, 12:28:53 AM
Quote from: ptevis
Quote
But the point is- what happens in play is the answer that the entire group creates by taking various sides and input to that question. If you've decided the two possible outcomes, sessions in advance- then you've already decided to cut out all the other possible answers the group could have created. That's Force. Period.


Then I guess my question is, how could I have recast the situation in question so as not to use Force?


Sounds like the way to do this would be to make sure the players have all the information that you have.  You need to let them know what they have their hands on when you provide them with nifty tools like the sword of evil and the Lord of coming-destruction.  The dramatic-reveal-at-the-end style of gaming is not, I think, compatible with players sharing in the creation of premise.


Title: Is this Forcing?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 20, 2005, 08:35:15 AM
Hi everyone,

We're getting just a bit far afield and into more general topics, which, if people want to pursue them generally, might go into their own threads. I'll make two little points which unfortunately continue this trend, but I'll try to relate them to Paul and the Nobilis game.

Chris (Bankuei), that's all dead-on, although stated a little extremely. In most Sorcerer games, for instance, all the Color is right up-front, but the specific Premise tends to evolve through initial play. In my games, anyway, there's often a dreamy or otherwise "non-adventure" feel to the first session or two, and then a rather terrifying shift into frenetic exchanges.

The In Utero scenario is obviously tremendously different for con purposes, and it showcases only one or two features of Narrativist play.

Paul, I think this is relevant to your Nobilis game because the game is so rich in color and tone. (Whether it's "brilliant" or "evocative" or even "well-written" I leave to the individual reader.) In thinking about playing it, or discussing it with others, we would take a Sorcerer approach - really push all the atmosphere and color during character creation, and during play then everyone would look for fault points in the characters and most especially their little circle of connections. What would happen, who would oppose them, who would live or die, what Kosmik Hassle might be involved, would all evolve out of our group effort in putting pressure on the fault points.

Madeline, I hope it makes sense that therefore the GM can indeed have back-story and many "unknown things" ready to bring into play, in such a game. The players do not need to take on the full background knowledge in order for this mode of play to reach its potential. In some games, especially some of the really wonky ones here, they do - Capes and Universalis being the best examples. In others, most especially Dust Devils, Trollbabe, and Dogs in the Vineyard, they don't.

What's different, though - and here you're absolutely spot on - is how the various real people in play relate to knowledge about this back-story. Yes, you are correct that a GM in this kind of play is hampering everyone's enjoyment (including his or her own) by hoarding information and reserving it for a pre-designated session well ahead of time. They also hamper the fun when they stuff it down the players' throats in ways which are intended to prompt pre-expected actions - "You have a dream in which your cousin, bleeding from the eyes, begs you to come to Connecticut ..."

Instead, the information is there, the NPCs and objects in the game-world have it, and whatever they find out, they find out. If you want to know more about that, we should probably take it to another thread.

So the GM isn't a barrier to the information, nor is he or she leaving breadcrumbs in a specific trail. NPCs constantly give up information because they want the PCs to do stuff. The GM literally has no more notion about "where the story is going" than the players do, and ultimately it's the players who make value judgments that set up climactic situations.

Paul, I think this point is relevant to your Nobilis game, because I don't want to give you the impression that running NPCs with hard-core motives and hard-core manipulative agendas is somehow wrong or unworkable, for Premise-heavy play. I run such NPCs all the time, especially in our current Nine Worlds game.

It's when the NPCs' hard-core motives and manipulative agendas become one and the same with the GM's motives and agendas that things get sticky. That's what I was driving at when I talked about Ananda being the real protagonist in your game.

Best,
Ron