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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: TonyLB on May 28, 2005, 06:28:32 AM



Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 28, 2005, 06:28:32 AM
Reading Ben Lehman's excellent blog-post (http://benlehman.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_benlehman_archive.html#111696847515095175) on Social Agenda I came upon this statement:
Quote from: This is my Blog
In terms of grief players, well, we don't have anyone at the Forge claiming to be a grief player, so I can only talk about how they are discussed by others, not how the represent themselves. A grief player (AKA an obstructionist) is someone who is getting their joy out of damaging other people's play – if another player is having less fun, the griefer is having more fun.

Well, I'm going to make a one-word modification:  Replace "damaging" with "threatening."  Given that modification?  I am a Griefer and I am proud.

The social contract of many games treats players as if they were helpless, fragile little things who can't bear the slightest touch of adversity or disagreement.  By all means, make their characters miserable, but only if it's voluntary, only if it's the misery that the player wants.  Never, ever, should anything happen in the game which has the potential to make the player unhappy.  And certainly you should never seek to do anything which, if you succeed, will make the player unhappy.

Codswollop.

We're not children.  Even when we were children, we weren't this fragile.  The motto of the defeated shouldn't be "You big meany!  How could you do that?"  It should be "Oh, I am so going to get you next time!"

One of the truisms of gaming is that if your character achieves something without any opposition, the achievement is less enjoyable than if they achieve it against great odds.  Well guess what... same thing applies at the player level.  If I know that I'm going to get what I need to be happy (whatever that is) because everybody is invested in my happiness then there is no achievement in doing it.

So what if the thing you need in order to be happy is a sense of achievement in the face of people who want you (as a player) to fail?  What if what you really need, actually, is to sometimes fail to have fun?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with providing a credible threat to the fun of another player.  On the contrary, if it is an accepted part of the social contract then that threat will energize and engage them.  To be credible, that threat must occasionally come true.  If you flip a coin a hundred times and it comes up heads every time, nobody has any sense of tension about the 101st flip.  So, to energize and engage your fellow players you sometimes need to make them not have fun.  Take something they really like, and squash it.  Oppose a goal they were really hoping for, and prevent them from achieving it.  Go read Michael Miller's Manifesto on Mastery (http://www.chimera.info/daedalus/articles/spring2005/mlwm-manifesto.html).  This style of interaction isn't some special case, unique to My Life with Master:  It can be a functonal tool in any type of game.

And it's particualrly powerful, of course, when you as player have a reason for wanting to ruin someone else's fun.  For instance, maybe the two of you disagree about how the game should proceed.  You don't need to reach consensus.  Consensus is for the birds.  If you have a system that lets you decide "I win, you lose, I get my way and you don't" without rancor then that is better than consensus.  It's cleaner, it's simpler, and it makes your player achievements into achievements in the face of adversity.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Ben Lehman on May 28, 2005, 06:51:49 AM
Tony --

I'm pretty much right behind you.

Two things.

1) You aren't a griefer.  Saying that you're a griefer is like saying I'm a duck, because if you replace "human" with "duck" in the sentence "I am a human" you get "I am a duck."

2) If you were playing, say, a chess game, and made a brilliant move that would win you the game, would you describe that as "threatening the other player's fun?"

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Jasper on May 28, 2005, 08:09:10 AM
Following on Ben's #2: I'd replace "threatening another player's fun" to "threatening another player getting just what he wants."  Because  you're not actually talking about aiming to threaten fun per se--as an end in itself--but as a means to engaging the other players.

If I'm RPing and what I want gets threatened or even doesn't come true...that can still be fun. I can still enjoy the overall experience. If my fun in RPing is ruined just because I don't get what I want, then it's me who has the problem, not a threatening, wannabe-griefer like Tony :)


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Grover on May 28, 2005, 09:38:21 AM
I agree that disagreement != dysfunction, but I'd never call you a griefer.  In my opinion a griefer is someone who derives their enjoyment of the game by demosntrating their power, and they demonstrate their power by making the other players unhappy.

Steve


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 28, 2005, 11:16:55 AM
I wonder whether people quite grasp that I'm talking about targetting the players creative goals, rather than their goals for their character.  This isn't "I am threatening Sydney's chance to be happy," it is "I am threatening Joe's chance to portray Sydney as a competent super-spy."

So, to take Ben's metaphor:  If I make a brilliant chess move then, no, I'm not targetting the player.  But if I know that Eddy likes to play a free-wheeling, fast-moving game and I play a locked, rigid pawn structure to utterly frustrate that, then yeah I'm targetting his fun (as well as pursuing my tactical goals).

But hey, if people totally get what I'm saying and it's non-controversial... okay, actually, I must admit that I'd be mildly disappointed that my "rant" didn't incite much discussion.  But I'd also be pleased to hear that this sentiment is one that makes sense to people.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Jasper on May 28, 2005, 11:33:25 AM
Quote
But if I know that Eddy likes to play a free-wheeling, fast-moving game and I play a locked, rigid pawn structure to utterly frustrate that, then yeah I'm targetting his fun (as well as pursuing my tactical goals).


I thought I was getting you, up until this. So we're talking about completely different approaches to a game? This seems like saying "Eddy likes to play chess, so I target his fun by forcing us to play Candyland instead." What kind of tactical goal are you achieving?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 28, 2005, 11:41:35 AM
No, we're not playing Candyland, we're still playing Chess.  I'm just not allowing him (absent his fighting to make it happen) to play chess in the style he enjoys most.

Tactically:  He's probably really good at playing chess that way, and not as good at playing it other ways.  So why would I just let him play to his strengths?  Kind of hard to translate the tactics of that same example into RPGs though (where people can, often, play their own style no matter what other players do).


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on May 28, 2005, 11:49:12 AM
Yeah, this wasn't very interesting until you said that thing what Jasper quoted.

Now I am led to think there there are two possibilities.

Possibility 1: This is good for play.
This means that you're really not doing a good job communicating what you're meaning with the chess analogy. Your prior post seems to say, "My behavior is intended to make the achievements of other players more satisfying by providing opposition." That is, you're not in fact threatening the ability of other players to have fun; you are using a method that unreliably makes them have more fun.


And, well, yeah. That's not very interesting, and it's also not griefing by a long shot. It just kinda sounds like you're using "griefing" to try and sound macho and badass.

Then this other post says, "I get my jollies out of making it impossible for other players to have fun." It can't be both of these.

Possibility 2: This is bad for play.
This means that your chess post is the accurate description of the situation, and you're out to threaten the ability of players to have fun, which is to say that you're using a method that unreliably makes people have less fun. If this is the case, then it's not only not very interesting, but also kind of a surprising thing to post.

I'll note that it's possible for these two effects to be present simultaneously. But I'll also note that I'm a bit confused and put off by your presentation of your idea, in terms of your eagerness to say that your goal is to rain on everyone else's parade.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: James Holloway on May 28, 2005, 12:13:10 PM
Is "having your creative agenda fulfilled all the time" necessarily the key to fun?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 28, 2005, 12:28:55 PM
I game with Tony at least twice a month. Strong personality? Yes. Systematically out to piss other people off? No.

But.... and I think this is what Tony's trying to get at in his rant.... if there's something you want to have happen in the game -- and I'm talking about you-the-real-person, not your character -- then Tony will often cheerfully threaten it, either as a GM or as a Capes player (which is just distributed GMing). And if you don't defend that which you want skillfully and strongly enough, Tony will quite happily take it away from you.

And remember that word "immersion" everyone throws around without having a meaning? I'm gonna invoke it here. Because this is, I think, the very minimum of immersion, the sine qua non: I the real person like X, my character likes X; my character is worried about X being taken away, and I the real person am worried about X being taken away. If my character is worried and I "roleplay" that brilliantly, but I myself am perfectly happy either way, whatever I am, I'm not immersed. It's the difference between watching football (or playing football) and cheering or groaning at every goal, or sitting there calmly contemplating athletic form.

Yes, in this situation, I the real person am anxious, even potentially unhappy. But it's only by having something at stake that I can be emotionally (as opposed to intellectually) engaged in the game.

Thus:
(a) No threat to my enjoyment at this moment = lower enjoyment overall
(b) Genuine threat to my enjoyment at this moment = higher enjoyment overall
(c) Constant preemptive strikes to disrupt my enjoyment against which I have no defense = no enjoyment

I think a lot of freeform (and Scandinavian (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=14730)!) roleplayers who prize cooperation end up in (a) -- ironically at the expense of "immersion," which they also prize. I think Tony is (b). I think a griefer is (c).

So, sorry, Tony, you're not a bad, bad man.

Okay, and now I've got to go get some boxes to store books in 'cause I'm moving.... curse you, real life!


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Blankshield on May 28, 2005, 01:29:40 PM
Tony, it sounds to me like all you're talking about is providing functional opposition.  Seems to me like (lacking more information than is presented in this thread, mind!) that you're talking about gamism at a very fundamental level.

You don't want to break the game, you just want to make damn sure people have to work for it.  Step On Up at it's simplest level.

James


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 28, 2005, 02:15:32 PM
Shreyas:  I think you're excluding some possibilities in your break-down.  Specifically, you seem to assume that I intend the players whose fun I threaten to either succeed or fail at getting their fun.  Either I'm threatening the fun, but always intending them to actually get what they want, or else I'm threatening the fun and always intending to take their fun away from them.

It's not either of those things, as Sydney points out.  I'm threatening and seeing what happens.  If they work hard, and get lucky, then maybe they get to do what gives them pleasure.  If they blow it, or just get unlucky, then they don't.

Sydney:
Quote from: Sydney Freedberg
So, sorry, Tony, you're not a bad, bad man.

I think you and others have correctly judged that I have an unconscious and unstated desire to have people say "No, you're wrong to do that!" so that I can argue against my own inner doubts by way of an external champion.  Insightful lot of folks here.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: John Burdick on May 28, 2005, 05:00:52 PM
Tony,

I would find it tedious if you are incapable or unwilling to give it a rest. That would be the same as any one-dimensional attention hogging behavior. Replacing "never" with "always" in your rant, and I see a position as narrowminded and boring as the one you're rejecting.

Since we are making game analogies, let's consider a card game played as partners. It's pretty easy to shaft your partner. Much more challenging is working as a team to dominate the other pair.

If you tell me that you won't enjoy playing unless you can push, that would just narrow the kinds of play experiences one could have with you. If you dishonestly say that you'll play supportively and then shake everything up, that would make you a griefer. Lucy in Peanuts is a griefer when she tricks Charlie Brown into trying to kick the football.

I don't see why you would include rules and structure in Capes for tearing apart ideas in turns if that's what you wanted. Instead you would want to lull the suckers into a false sense of security while you can spoil their every move.

This is the best adversity I can manage at the moment. Hope it helps.

John


Title: Re: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on May 28, 2005, 05:17:54 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
So, to energize and engage your fellow players you sometimes need to make them not have fun.  Take something they really like, and squash it.  Oppose a goal they were really hoping for, and prevent them from achieving it.

Are you sure that's what you mean?

The reason roleplayers tend to harmoginize and not conflict, is the need for credibility. I can't just blow up your half finished castle, because I need your credibility to do that.

Which leads to the most effective way of opposing someone when crediblity is required...give them enough rope so they hang themselves. Giving rope may not seem obvious at first. For example, if you hand me the RP book and I make a fighter with 100 HP's, hey, you didn't give me any rope, right? Well, actually you did...I have now invested in the idea that my character is alive while he has HP. And you now have the tools to remove those HP. Oh, I wonder what will happen next!?

So I don't like your advice as presented, because it skips any mention of the rope step. Making them not have fun? Making something happen with force techniques is easy...all too easy. I think you might be promoting a technique you didn't intend to. Giving them enough rope so they put a noose around their own neck, then pulling it tight? That's horrid and very fun for everyone! But I might be making assumptions of what you mean when you say to make them not have fun.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 28, 2005, 06:05:12 PM
John, Callan, are you each assuming that I am acting from a position of overwhelming power?  Like, the full extent of my effort in destroying the fun of another player would be to say "And then your castle blows up... BOOM!  Teeheehee!"

That'd be downright boring.  I tend to say (at the most raw and unsubtle) "Hah-HAH!  There's a mystic bomb planted in your castle, and you have a pretty decent shot at finding it... but, also, a pretty decent shot at failing.  It'll depend on skill and luck and all that.  And if you fail?  BOOM!  Yes, I know that the castle is something really precious to you, the player.  That's why I'm threatening it.  The clock's ticking, what do you do?"

So, specifically:

John:  I'm not dishonest with anyone.  Why would I be?  I say very clearly (for instance) "I want to damn Kettridge's son to an eternity of torment, because I know that you, Sydney, want to play your character's growth into being a good father, and this would make that much more difficult.  I'm going to do my best to screw you over.  Let's see what you've got to oppose me with."

Callan:  Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what I meant.  I can earn the credibility to blow up your half-finished castle by beating you out at a fair contest.  And I will, if you don't stop me.  I appreciate the technique of giving people lots of rope, but I don't think it's what I'm talking about here.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Bill Cook on May 29, 2005, 12:08:38 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
So, to energize and engage your fellow players you sometimes need to make them not have fun. Take something they really like, and squash it. Oppose a goal they were really hoping for, and prevent them from achieving it.


Meaningful adversity in the context of investing material is vital. One pitfall is to pile on adversity blindly without having established what play is about. This can even be a subconscious expression of frustration with the inability to make that determination.

Also, there's the issue of style. There are certain flavors of adversity that offend sensibilities. Pick any game. There is generally a handful of nuances that are, technically, adverse. But it would just be in bad taste to play them.

There is a base layer to rise above. Above that, you pommel full on, or you're a ninny.

Quote from: TonyLB
If you have a system that lets you decide "I win, you lose, I get my way and you don't" without rancor then that is better than consensus.


It's valuable to have a clear reference point. (1) Argument that doesn't lead to agreement and (2) unwarranted re-opening of settled issues are both divisive. Rancor need not be so feared that argument is avoided. In any case, all you have from one moment to the next is a meeting of minds. Right or wrong, what you agree to is the game you're actually playing.

Quote from: Jasper
If my fun in RPing is ruined just because I don't get what I want, then it's me who has the problem ..


I have a quibble with 'getting what you want.' There needs to be agreement about what's at risk. And consent to establishing conditions. To me, it's okay that 'you might not make it' or 'things might not go according to plan,' but where 'not getting what you want' becomes code for 'no one likes a whiner' in the context of veering outside the channel of investing material, then game-stopping dissent is very appropriate.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Jasper on May 29, 2005, 07:14:34 AM
Bill, that's pretty much what I meant. My point was merely that a player needn't have every desire about how things go satisfied in order to have fun; that the two are not synonymous. Which is of course obvious.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 29, 2005, 08:47:32 AM
Bill, what's "investing material"?  I tried the Glossary, and tried searching past threads... though you've used the term before, I can't find any place where it's actually defined.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Bill Cook on May 29, 2005, 01:50:12 PM
I guess investing material is what a player calls fun. When you're talking about simulated realities, it's easy to put the whole kitchen in the pot. Picking a genre or world concept can provide vision for play. Control settings, area of  focus and particular technicalties can further refine the type of world and middleground of play material. Statements of character concept are great aids in explicating themes and treatment that players care about. And the final proof is in the play. The GM fills requests, they give tells, and you know you've got 'em.

One of my players is really good about making clear what he wants to do in play. I give him what he asks for and he gives every indication of really enjoying it. When he fails in his attempts, as long as I dropped him in the right arena, though he may express frustration, it's clear that he is still satisfied to have taken an appropriate opportunity. However, this same player has very little tolerance for being caromed into tangential lines. Oh my god, the bitching and moaning.

Another player of mine is an utter mystery. He evaporates in the limelight. Getting authorial type input out of him is like digging for a lung fish. (His greatest strength is as a multiplier of related narrative threads.) I typically have to make multiple suggestions and quietly wait through long pauses before he gives answer. So he's hard to prime, and all his character handling is close to the vest, but he's a lot more agile and unassuming about where he gets dropped.

And those are just two examples! Players are so individual. I agree with you that spoiler and turtle types are pretty dysfunctional. My essential point is that negative feedback about the direction of play is a vital conduit. Such exchanges can do as much to promote group health as to destroy it.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on May 29, 2005, 07:21:32 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
Callan:  Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what I meant.  I can earn the credibility to blow up your half-finished castle by beating you out at a fair contest.  And I will, if you don't stop me.  I appreciate the technique of giving people lots of rope, but I don't think it's what I'm talking about here.

Okay. Normally about now I try to give several arguements from different angles, but from what you say, I think (from previous experience) that's not what you want me to get into here.

On the chess example, though, I can think of where it almost becomes true griefing depending on interpersonal dynamics. I'm reminded of a recent RPG.net post, where the poster was sick to death of magic blue decks. Apparently all they do is deny the other player their cards. Now, that could make the other player unhappy in a way that they have to expand their repotoire (sp?) to be happy again. Or it could just shit them to tears over and over. I think there definately is a point where someones prefered provocation style just doesn't mesh with another persons. It's still not griefing at that point either, I think. I think it's greifing when the player initiating it, knows the other person just doesn't match up with that provocation style, and is initiating it for that very reason.

For anyone else: Fair contest == giving rope, IMO. Tony's castle example has plenty of rope "C'mon, you've got a chance at this...give beating this a go!". The listeners own pride or sense of self ability, provokes them to take up the rope. I mean, the idea of something being 'fair' is one of the most beguiling words in the world. It doesn't force someone to take on the challenge, it instead draws them like a moth to the flame. If the castle explodes/the get burnt, its something they did to themselves. It's very hard for an honest person not to give that credibility, no matter how debilitating (especially since its 'just a game' so being whipped in it atleast doesn't hurt your real world interests).

Edit: Actually, Just thinking about it: I don't think your 'earning' crediblity, as is usually stressed in the lumpley principle. This isn't about the castle owner giving you, the exploder, credibility for anything you did. This is actually about manouvering the castle owner to not treat this as your action, but adopt this as his own action. Once its him doing this to himself, he can't help but give his own actions crediblity. This uses the same behavioural principle various posters have seen, where a player will gleefully hose their own PC in ways no other player could do to them. Now, if you get a player to adopt the castle bomb as their own action, they will happily hose themselves. But they are granting cred to their own SIS actions, not yours. Thoughts?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: contracycle on May 30, 2005, 02:18:35 AM
Well  reading this, it seems to me that the initial argument was to say that sometimes behaviour may be identified as grieferdom when in fact they are just incompatible modes of competition, like the blue deck example.

Another example might be the serve ace in tennis.  One player may prefer this style of play, and be weak in the rallies, while another tries to break the serve and then dominates the rallies.  Whichever player manages to dominate the game with their style is necessarily going to crampe the style of another.

And this may be so profound that it feels deprotagonising.  Kinda like the sniper character who never gets the opportunity to snipe becuase the other players tend not to go for that kind of ranged engagement.  But in these cases, accusing one another of just trying to spoil the game may be substantially less useful than discussing our modes of preferred play.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 30, 2005, 05:02:01 AM
Contra:  I don't think your two examples are about the same thing.  Which may, in fact, be what you're trying to convey ("compatible vs. incompatible modes of competition").

In the tennis game, aces and rallying are deliberate.  Each player knows that they're opposing what the other player wants.  And that's good, because the contest is fair and both sides have a chance at what they want.    You wouldn't discuss preferred modes of play in that example, would you?  Or, if you did, you wouldn't expect any resolution:  "Dude, I hate it when I make a really nice serve, and you smack it right back in my face."  "Yeah, I know.  I rock!"

In the sniper example, however, you seem to be talking about a wholly different situation.  The opposition isn't deliberate (I suspect) and the contest isn't fair (if the sniper can't effectively fight in-game to change the preferred mode of engagement).  In that case, yes, it makes sense to discuss preferred modes of play.  But that's because it's an entirely different issue, right?

Say, on the other hand, you return my ace in tennis, and I say "We need to talk.  I prefer it when my aces go unreturned.  Let's discuss what we can do in this game in order to both get what we want."  That's not productive, is it?  I mean, of course I prefer that my aces dominate you.  It goes without saying.  It also goes without saying that you won't consent to that.  It's rude (if not crazy) of me to imply that you should.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on May 30, 2005, 05:51:51 PM
There seems to be a bit of a difficulty in terminology here, between cramping someones style, and pushing someone outside their comfort zone.

It's difficult, because they are both the same thing, but were trying to seperate them.

I can only think of a dating analogy, where two people go out on a date, but find too much friction between each others preferered lifestyles. But in another couple, the friction is actually attractive, each bringing out of the other something they couldn't have brought out of themselves.

I think the prob here is the old geek falacy of having to play with everyone. That everyone should be able to play with everyone, in beutiful harmony. Which doesn't allow for people just not being compatable, like the dating analogy does.

And on a side point, I'd like to extend that dating anlogy, to the couple who are just so similar there is no spark between them. So they go their separate ways. I compare this to the harmoginised play group, who have worked so hard to iron out differences, they just don't seem to find the time to play anymore. And why would you, when your so harmoginised you know how the session will go without actually going?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: hyphz on May 31, 2005, 08:40:15 AM
About the reference to a "blue deck" in Magic - what that kind of deck does is to attempt to cancel everything the opponent does.  Not to undo it or to work around it but to cancel it before it happens at all.  "I summon a monster."  "Counterspell.  It doesn't happen."  And both cards get thrown in the discard.

What Tony's describing isn't that kind of thing.  "There's a bomb in your castle, but you might be able to defuse it" is inspiring action, not negating it, whereas the classic griefer behaviour is all about preventing people taking action.  Likewise, in the tennis example, saying "I'll try to return all of your aces" doesn't stop you serving aces.  

It's the line between making action interesting and preventing it - the same line that Story Now gets stuck on in some game sessions..


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Madeline on May 31, 2005, 09:16:00 AM
Having been in a game where I was constantly running into stuff like "We need to talk. I prefer it when my glorious NPCs go unchallenged," I'm loathe to encourage ideas like "you're not to look out for the fun of your fellow gamers."  Sydney had a good explanation of how screwing with other players can increase their fun by increasing intensity, but I'm curious how you'll know when you're going over the line.

For instance, you talk about fair contests.  Would you apply any limits to the usage of "threaten the player's fun" when it's coming from a player who has far more power over the gameworld, like (in many games) the GM?  How do you avoid things like, "Ok, I summon up some goblin-spiders to find the bomb in my castle."  "They're not good enough at searching.  BOOM!"


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Bill Cook on May 31, 2005, 09:53:45 AM
I call that the Right of Attempt. I see the line being drawn in the setup for a scene. As long as the SC allows putting the castle at risk, assuming the player even cares about it, starting out with a bomb ticking away sounds good. Starting out with a bomb blowing up is just injurious.

Another critical caveat: whatever the players do, it must be possible for them to progress or succeed.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 31, 2005, 12:05:43 PM
Madeline:  Good question.  It must be possible for the GM to try their hardest and still lose.  If you don't have that then the moment the GM sincerely throws everything against a player, that player is doomed.

So, yeah, let that settle in for a moment:  You're the GM, and you lose.  Not that you let the players win, but that you did everything you were permitted to do and they won anyway.

There are games that do this:  PrimeTime Adventures and Dogs in the Vineyard do it with a GM by limiting his resources.  Capes and Universalis do it by putting all players on a level footing.

Alternatively, many GMs wilfully drift the rules of other systems by playing within self-imposed restraints... like "I'll run a specific published module, and I won't change the number of enemies half-way through the session."  You're no longer playing (say) D&D at that point, but you may be playing a close cousin that gives you what you need in order to sincerely attack the players without overpowering them.

So there's my answer.  Would I apply limits to what the GM can do?  Well, I'd make sure I was playing in a game system where the players had a fair chance of trouncing the GM's full power.  If that means I need to apply limits as part of drifting a pre-packaged rule system to something else, then yeah I'll apply limits.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 31, 2005, 12:14:41 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
You're no longer playing (say) D&D at that point....


Actually, isn't the idea of the "referee" (which evolves to DM which evolves to GM) running a scenario (=> "module" => "adventure"), with strictly defined resources and limited response options for "the enemy" (=> "monsters" => "NPCs") one of the foundational ideas of the hobby, dating right back to those infamous "wargaming roots"? And wargames are all about giving the other guy as much grief as you can within the rules.

I don't know the hobby history well enough to do more than speculate here (comments from those who know it are more than welcome, although maybe history should be its own thread). But it seems as if the whole idea of "the gamemaster is not an adversary but the impartial god of the gameworld, the players aren't competing but rather cooperating, and there's no winning or losing" are all second-generation ideas grafted onto the original wargame-influenced RPGs -- grafted rather awkwardly, at that, with all sorts of unpleasant consequences that, what, twenty years later Tony still has to debunk them.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Adam Cerling on May 31, 2005, 01:26:26 PM
Tony,

Is there any aspect of another's fun that is inviolate? Anything you will not threaten? There are times I can think of when something valuable to me was threatened and I had fun defending it, but there are also times I can think of when something I valued was threatened and I had no fun (not even in the big picture) because losing would destroy something fundamental to my enjoyment.

An example of this second situation: in a Werewolf LARP once, my PC made a mistake while trying to solve a puzzle involving ancient relics, and the power he unleashed stripped away his werewolf nature. He became an ordinary wolf, whose werewolf intellect was gradually returning to that of an ordinary wolf, and before his intellect was gone he needed to figure out how to undo the damage he'd done.

I did not find this fun, because failing in the task would not only destroy something I valued, but also would result in a PC I wasn't interested in playing any longer. I wanted to play a werewolf, not a wolf. Furthermore, solving the problem didn't address any premise that interested me. It was just an obstacle I had to clear before I could get to stuff I actually cared about.

I did get my PC's werewolf nature back in the end, but victory did not somehow transmute the episode into fun. Mostly I just wish I hadn't had to deal with it.

Your rant, Tony, brings to mind friends who uphold the risk of character death as necessary for fun. My sympathies for that position is similarly limited. I don't much enjoy Step On Up.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 31, 2005, 02:25:05 PM
Quote from: WhiteRat
Is there any aspect of another's fun that is inviolate? Anything you will not threaten?

I don't know... what is this mythical "Thing so terrible I could never have fun again if it happened" of which you speak?  Maybe if I believed in the existence of that then I might shy away from threatening it.  Short of that?  No.  Everything's fair game.

FYI, I've done the "turned into a mindless bunny" thing, in LARP no less.  You missed out on a terrific, fun, memorable opportunity there.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Blankshield on May 31, 2005, 02:43:30 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
Quote from: WhiteRat
Is there any aspect of another's fun that is inviolate? Anything you will not threaten?

I don't know... what is this mythical "Thing so terrible I could never have fun again if it happened" of which you speak?  Maybe if I believed in the existence of that then I might shy away from threatening it.  Short of that?  No.  Everything's fair game.

FYI, I've done the "turned into a mindless bunny" thing, in LARP no less.  You missed out on a terrific, fun, memorable opportunity there.


Fun for you, maybe.  Fun for everyone?  No.  I think that's something you're not quite catching here, Tony.

Just because you get more out of the game by having to work for your fun doesn't mean everyone does.  Don't fall prey to the One True Way.

James


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on May 31, 2005, 04:16:18 PM
Quote from: hyphz
About the reference to a "blue deck" in Magic - what that kind of deck does is to attempt to cancel everything the opponent does.  Not to undo it or to work around it but to cancel it before it happens at all.  "I summon a monster."  "Counterspell.  It doesn't happen."  And both cards get thrown in the discard.

What Tony's describing isn't that kind of thing.  "There's a bomb in your castle, but you might be able to defuse it" is inspiring action, not negating it, whereas the classic griefer behaviour is all about preventing people taking action.  Likewise, in the tennis example, saying "I'll try to return all of your aces" doesn't stop you serving aces.  

It's the line between making action interesting and preventing it - the same line that Story Now gets stuck on in some game sessions..

Through this thread I keep seeing stabs at defining "what's okay (and thus, what's not)"
I'll quote Whiterat:
Quote from: Whiterat
It was just an obstacle I had to clear before I could get to stuff I actually cared about.

I'll ask you and Tony, if it's on your list of okay provocations to do, then do you feel you can do it without asking consent? If you compile a list of okay things to do, without actually consulting with the person your going to do them to...are they okay to do?

Edit: To be clear I'm not actually suggesting you would work without consent. It's just that I see from Tony's doubts about applying provocation, and trying to generate some list of "okays" from past experience. This'll be an odd analogy, but it's like the guy who has bought dinner for scores of women, and then gotten to have sex with them. But when he tries to put together the idea of "Buying dinner means they will give me sex" he has doubts about it. It corelates with past data, but just doesn't feel right. Because each time it was about getting consent.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on May 31, 2005, 07:27:27 PM
James:  Yes, James, I get it... there are people who, presented with a sufficient blow to their desires, are totally unable to integrate it, or to ever have fun in the game again.  For them, this technique will not produce fun, they will hate the person who does it, and cease to game with them.  I can live with that.

Callan:  This isn't dating.  It isn't sex.  It's a game, and people signed on knowing it was a game.  I don't ask a tennis partner's consent before I serve hard.  I don't ask a pitcher's consent before I bunt.  And I don't ask an RPG player's consent before I make him fight for his fun.  Any doubts I had on that score at the beginning of this thread have since been allayed.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: John Kim on May 31, 2005, 08:26:06 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
Quote from: WhiteRat
Is there any aspect of another's fun that is inviolate? Anything you will not threaten?

I don't know... what is this mythical "Thing so terrible I could never have fun again if it happened" of which you speak?  Maybe if I believed in the existence of that then I might shy away from threatening it.  Short of that?  No.  Everything's fair game.

I think this is a crock.  That is, I can play in a game with you and destroy your fun.  The thing is, you are looking for a particular type of conflict within the game.  That's your fun.  You claim you want someone to threaten your fun, but really you want them to threaten your in-game pieces (i.e. characters, situation, etc.), which isn't the same as threatening your fun.  

I can threaten your fun by dodging the challenge.  For example, I have my character casually chat with another character for a while.  On your turn, you try to break it up, and then I just find something else to amuse myself in the game.  You kill my character, I just roll another one up.  After a while, I predict that you would grind your teeth and complain that I'm not playing it right.  In short, you would hate it.  

Quote from: TonyLB
James:  Yes, James, I get it... there are people who, presented with a sufficient blow to their desires, are totally unable to integrate it, or to ever have fun in the game again.  For them, this technique will not produce fun, they will hate the person who does it, and cease to game with them.  I can live with that.

So really this is just a basic style clash.  You prefer to play with a certain level of detachment from the game such that it doesn't majorly reduce your fun for any piece of play to be hurt or destroyed.  Other people are different.  They may prefer greater levels of emotional identification or attachment, and different levels of or types of conflict.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Brand_Robins on May 31, 2005, 08:38:08 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
This isn't dating.  It isn't sex.  It's a game, and people signed on knowing it was a game.  I don't ask a tennis partner's consent before I serve hard.  I don't ask a pitcher's consent before I bunt.  And I don't ask an RPG player's consent before I make him fight for his fun.  Any doubts I had on that score at the beginning of this thread have since been allayed.


True, but I might ask what the rules were before I gave the tennis player the one two punch, or went after a boxer with a paintball gun. Or I might not, but in that case I'm being an ass. Playing hard and playing mean aren't the same thing, and neither is the same as playing dirty.

If people go into an RPG with a confrontational mindset, with everyone knowing its going to be that way, then I don't see the problem. Not everything in life needs to be nice, and "always place nice" is as much a one true wayism as any other. Sometimes some good old confrontation is a good thing, and I know I've played in a good share of narrative RPGs (as well as gameist ones) in which part of the fun came from totally schooling other players.

However, if you're playing a game in which people play by certain rules and you don't play by those rules, you're in violation. And for a lot of people an atmosphere of cooperation is necessary for them to have the comfort level necessary to do what is fun for them. Saying that their rules are namby-pamby sissy rules doesn't change the fact that if you’re fucking with people who have a “no fucking” clause, you're the ass.

Really, isn't this a social contract issue? I see nothing inherent in any game mode that makes cooperation in all things and niceness at the table necessary. You could have a perfectly narrativist game in which people get punched in the head. (Yes, I hit at the gaming table.) But if you play with people that don't want that, that find it unacceptable for other reasons, then it isn't acceptable at their table.

So, to go back to the original post about the originally provocative article, I see the difference between a “griefer” and an “TonyLBer” is a lot the same as between a muchkin and a power player. One plays within the rules of the system to get the result they find fun, the other bends and twists the rules in every way possible in order to maximize their own enjoyment at the expense of others.

Or am I misreading you Tony? Isn’t it part of your social agenda to make games in which you have to earn what you get in order to avoid the often-slung insult that narrativist games are little more than mutual masturbation? You aren’t trying to get your kicks by fucking up the game, you’re trying to make a CA in which accomplishment means something and the PCs help with that by messing with each other as much (or more) than they help each other. Right?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: John Burdick on May 31, 2005, 09:00:13 PM
Tony, you mentioned baseball. Any one playing baseball that isn't striving to help other people is loser. He isn't playing baseball the way it needs to be played. The social contract and rules are such that you compete with a group of people while helping another group.  The helping your team part can not be left out of the game.

Where the boundaries will exist does need to be established by tradition, ruling body, or by negotiation of the players. Claiming otherwise in sports is a silly distraction.

John


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on June 01, 2005, 02:37:25 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
Callan:  This isn't dating.  It isn't sex.  It's a game, and people signed on knowing it was a game.  I don't ask a tennis partner's consent before I serve hard.  I don't ask a pitcher's consent before I bunt.  And I don't ask an RPG player's consent before I make him fight for his fun.  Any doubts I had on that score at the beginning of this thread have since been allayed.

And you don't ask for crediblity, either?

Social contracts usually involve asking something like "Rather than tell me every time you give me cred, can I assume I am getting credibility from you, until you give some sort of notice that I now am not?". Instead of waiting on someone to indicate "I give you cred" for your every action, your now waiting for them to indicate "I've stopped giving you cred now". You'd agree, someone can sign on for the game, then mid game turn to you and show they have stopped giving you cred?

Though I might be overextending the idea of cred with drawing a link between crediblity and consent. Anyone want to call me on that?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Ginger Stampley on June 01, 2005, 04:28:34 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
Callan:  This isn't dating.  It isn't sex.  It's a game, and people signed on knowing it was a game.


Actually, in the circles I game and discuss roleplaying in outside the Forge, the metaphor of sex for RPGs is common currency, and people often say "gaming is like sex because ..."

"... part of your fun comes from helping the other people get their fun."

"... you never know what other people bring to the encounter."

"... some people like one-afternoon stands but other people like long-term relationships."

etc.

One of the ways that an RPG is like sex is that many people like to have a certain trust and intimacy before they hand power over them/their character to another person. "I don't think there's any way I can break your fun" is not an encouraging statement to these people, especially those who have had their fun ruined by clashing styles of GMing or play in the past. There's nothing wrong with pushing or opposing people to help them achieve their agenda, but claiming that you can't break their fun is overstating the claim for fun opposition and, in my experience, untrue.

When I learned how to play tennis, I learned that there were two sorts of game. One was a competitive game in which the objective was to crush your opponent and hear the lamentations of his women. The other was a social game in which the object was to bat the ball back and forth over the net as many times as possible with the other player. One trick of being a good tennis player was to recognize which players were playing in which style and playing with them accordingly. Balancing things in an RPG with more than two players makes it harder, but the point that playing how others like to play is more fun for them remains the same.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Adam Cerling on June 01, 2005, 06:21:58 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
I don't know... what is this mythical "Thing so terrible I could never have fun again if it happened" of which you speak?  Maybe if I believed in the existence of that then I might shy away from threatening it.  Short of that?  No.  Everything's fair game.


Believe. Maybe such a terrible thing does not exist for your play, but it does exist for mine. It's difficult to be specific about what it is, since it depends on the people and the game, but when it happens, I don't feel inspired to defend my stuff more vigorously in the future. Instead, I just feel bullied.

While it would be hyperbole to say "I could never have fun again if it happened," it would be damaging. My fun would have to heal. My comfort with having the person responsible at the table would have to heal.

Quote from: TonyLB
FYI, I've done the "turned into a mindless bunny" thing, in LARP no less.  You missed out on a terrific, fun, memorable opportunity there.


To me it just felt deprotagonizing. I felt like I'd been suckered into higher stakes than I wanted to play for.

Tony, how is this technique different from requiring a player to Step On Up? How can it be compatible with Creative Agendas that don't include Step On Up?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on June 01, 2005, 07:15:56 AM
Brand:  Absolutely.  If rules are set down then they're rules.  If you hit a baseball backwards into the stands, that's not a home run, it's a foul ball.  Threatening to hit it back and run the bases is nonsensical.

So if people have said (for instance) "Player characters will not be killed" then I'm not going to threaten to kill a player character.  Even if I "did" it, that input wouldn't be accepted into the SIS.  It's pointless to threaten.  

But if that hasn't been said then killing them is (probably) fair game.  And if the player being threatened feels that the death of their character is extremely undesirable... well, good!  It's meant to be extremely undesirable.  But if the kill is supported by the Lumpley-System of the game, it is not unacceptable.  If it happens they'll accept that it happened.  They'll just be pissed.

If they really can't accept it (if play literally grinds to a halt) then you've just learned something about the actual Lumpley-System of your game, as opposed to the previously stated one.  Apparently you have more rules than you thought you did.

Adam:  Yes, it's meant to be less fun.  But not no fun.  Which, honestly, I think you're agreeing with.  What I think you're disagreeing with is the notion that it can be functional for another person to deliberately reduce your fun in the game.  Is that right?

As for Step On Up... I don't know.  Maybe this is Step On Up.  But, at the same time, I'm using it in a game that I can only conceivably describe as heavily Narrativist, and I've used it in many other games that I would confidently, but not unarguably, describe as Narr.  So where does that leave us?  Maybe Step On Up isn't as incompatible with Narrativism as it seems.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 01, 2005, 08:45:34 AM
Hiya,

GNS point, not intended for major discussion: all role-playing is subject to social expectations, whether of "quit cryin' you baby," or of "hey we're trying to get along here," or of any combination of the two. I don't see this topic as being especially restricted by Creative Agenda.

Best,
Ron


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on June 01, 2005, 08:49:46 AM
You're saying, I figure:  "Step On Up can be required in a Social Contract without being the point of the Social Contract, and therefore its presence is not a reliable indicator of any CA."  Is that about right?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Adam Cerling on June 01, 2005, 11:02:38 AM
Tony --

Quote from: TonyLB
Adam:  Yes, it's meant to be less fun.  But not no fun.  Which, honestly, I think you're agreeing with.  What I think you're disagreeing with is the notion that it can be functional for another person to deliberately reduce your fun in the game.  Is that right?


Well, if you're saying it can be functional, I don't disagree. But it was statements like this:

Quote from: TonyLB
And it's particualrly powerful, of course, when you as player have a reason for wanting to ruin someone else's fun. For instance, maybe the two of you disagree about how the game should proceed. You don't need to reach consensus. Consensus is for the birds. If you have a system that lets you decide "I win, you lose, I get my way and you don't" without rancor then that is better than consensus. It's cleaner, it's simpler, and it makes your player achievements into achievements in the face of adversity.


...that made it seem to me like you were saying it is often (if not always) functional. Perhaps I'm fixated on the word "better" above. I don't think it is better unless there's that Step On Up aspect present in the Social Contract or Creative Agenda.

Alternatively, I might be misinterpreting your use of the word "ruin." Perhaps it's the parallelism with the idea of "griefing" you create that makes it seem so dysfunctional to me. "Ruining" someone's fun implies more to me than simply providing legitimate threats: it implies that you're striking at the reasons a player stays at the table. To turn things backward a bit, I could understand "ruining" the fun of a Gamist as deliberately failing to provide legitimate threats!

Quote from: TonyLB
As for Step On Up... I don't know.  Maybe this is Step On Up.  But, at the same time, I'm using it in a game that I can only conceivably describe as heavily Narrativist, and I've used it in many other games that I would confidently, but not unarguably, describe as Narr.  So where does that leave us?  Maybe Step On Up isn't as incompatible with Narrativism as it seems.


Story Now and Step On Up are said to be close siblings, no? Both care about a kind of "challenge."

Before I absorbed the Forge meaning of the word "challenge," I would have described my Narrativist tendencies as a longing for challenging roleplay. Except it isn't the challenge of tactics and resource-management and gambling that I seek: it's the challenge presented by making difficult moral choices through the lens of my PC.

Perhaps "threatening a player's fun" is a technique you've discovered to demand that players make those difficult Narrative choices. You're proposing the premise, "What would you do to save [X]?" And you're finding that addressing that premise is more effective when the threat is real.

You're right, that is good Narrative fun -- as long as the premise being created is engaging to the players. Not every "What will you do to save [X]?" will be an engaging premise. So in my opinion, you have to take care when choosing [X].


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on June 01, 2005, 04:31:22 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
So if people have said (for instance) "Player characters will not be killed" then I'm not going to threaten to kill a player character.  Even if I "did" it, that input wouldn't be accepted into the SIS.  It's pointless to threaten.  

But if that hasn't been said then killing them is (probably) fair game.  And if the player being threatened feels that the death of their character is extremely undesirable... well, good!  It's meant to be extremely undesirable.  But if the kill is supported by the Lumpley-System of the game, it is not unacceptable.  If it happens they'll accept that it happened.  They'll just be pissed.

Emphasis mine.

I've not added much to the thread. But what I meant to get across was almost exactly the same thing that that 'probably' says. And I wanted to get more into how significant it is, to this threads issue.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on June 01, 2005, 04:34:35 PM
Callan:  That "probably" is to account for the cases (as I point out) when people have not communicated what they want from the game.  Is that what you're thinking also?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on June 01, 2005, 05:02:51 PM
Yes, but an extension on that wording, which accepts that its just not possible to discuss every game eventuallity (and set rules for them) before the game. Something like "To cover when people have not communicated what they want from the game...because no one realised that situation X would come up and thus haven't actually had a chance to say what they want from the game, in regards to situation X"


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on June 01, 2005, 05:05:41 PM
That makes sense.  Now, where do you think the burden of communication lies?

Is it up to the people who want to threaten something to first make sure that it's "safe"?  Or is it up to the people who want to protect something to clearly mark it as off limits?


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Blankshield on June 01, 2005, 05:39:35 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
That makes sense.  Now, where do you think the burden of communication lies?

Is it up to the people who want to threaten something to first make sure that it's "safe"?  Or is it up to the people who want to protect something to clearly mark it as off limits?


The burden of communcation lies on everyone at the table.  This is pure social contract you're talking, now.  It's basically "what do we want to do?"

If it's a new situation, the burden is born fairly equally.  If it's an existing situation, then the person who wants to push the status quo needs to bear that burden.

And hey, that last bit is just me pushing my expectations for social contract.

Is it just me, or has this thread started to meander wildly?


James


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: TonyLB on June 01, 2005, 05:46:08 PM
Definitely.  I do believe we're done here, folks.  Thanks!

If you have further items that you still want to discuss, please do feel free to spawn other threads with more specific topics.


Title: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction
Post by: Callan S. on June 01, 2005, 05:57:19 PM
Well, if you can forgive me for returning to it, that's why I brought up the 'give them rope' technique. If they reject the rope because they feel it'll take them to some type of situation X, all is well. If they accept the rope and it takes them to situation X that they don't like...well, they are doing this to themselves.

You present the rope. The other person decides whether it's safe for them and if it is, loops it as a noose around their own neck.

Anyway, that one method of dealing with the burden of communication problem that comes to my mind. I think it can still take a player to a situation they don't actually like. But for some reason, if you take yourself there rather than get pushed by someone else, its easier to accept. I can only think of a gamist example right now, but if the GM plops me in the middle of a nasty battle and I die, it sucks. But if he eggs me on to jump into the middle of the nasty battle, and I decide to take that on and then die, then I can learn something from that. I'll think "Well, I chose to jump in...is there anything I could have done differently about that choice that would have made me live?". If the GM just throws me in to the fight, I can't think that, except at a meta game level "Is there anything I could have done to change the GM's mind about this, like throw a book at him?"

Mmmm, now I look at it so closely, it's telling me something. Someone elses choice (choosing to throw me into the fight) wasn't useful to me, because it's so meta game, I think. When its someone elses choice, the only thing I might learn from it is how to change their metagame choice with metagame actions. But when I adopt their suggestion, I make it my own choice. And then I can easily think of ingame reasons that WILL chance that choice. And so I can improve my ingame strategy, rather than my metagame skills.


Side note: please ignore this if I'm confusing again, I'm happy that atleast the last two posts were clear and I don't wish to make things go backwards with this one.

Edit: I was composing this at the same time the thread ended, scuse the add on post.