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Independent Game Forums => Adept Press => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on November 24, 2007, 02:22:34 PM



Title: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 24, 2007, 02:22:34 PM
Hi there,

Clyde has now posted his GenCon interview with Vincent and me at Theory from the Closet (http://theoryfromthecloset.com/); it's Show 025.

I really enjoyed the discussion here following my previous interview with Clyde, so again, if anyone has any questions or comments for me about it, please fire away.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: ADGBoss on December 07, 2007, 01:44:14 PM
I have been away a long time

Bare with me, this could get long. I was definitely in the situation where I had stayed away from the Forge for a bit and the longer I stayed away, the harder it was to come back. Let me say that no one drove me off, turned me off, or soured the milk. I had come to a point where there was so much noise and people were talking trying to understand things and kind of missing the points, IMHO so I became less active, didn’t feel the need to help their learning process because it didn’t feel like that.  It had the feel of the floor of the stock market where ideas were being bought and sold.  I felt very much like a guy who wanted to buy a few shares of IBM surrounded by day traders. I wasn’t that guy anymore.  I wasn’t getting OR giving as much anymore as I used to and the latter maybe is more important than the former. Dovetailed with that was the fact that being an admin for a Living campaign took up a lot of time and emotional energy, so there was less time for personal pursuits like the Forge.

So I was speaking with my friend Dave last night at the noodle place and he mentioned something about the Forge. One thing lead to another and he mentioned some of the sub-forums had been closed down. People were moving on to topics other than GNS and the Forge was healthy. I believe I actually said to Dave (could be my memory, not sure):

“I have been away, a long time.”

Got on this afternoon, took care of some minor profile maintenance and at the same time I started perusing. Its not a totally different place but it is different. I managed to catch the interview thread, figured it was a minor Q&A and it turns out, no its more than that.

So I listen. I rarely listen to any interview all the way through without skipping. One might say never. Even Stevie Nicks, who I adore, I will skip through sections of an interview cause so much of it is just noise. This was different. I sat there and listened, smiling and nodding my head. This is the kind of discourse I have been missing. It’s the kind of thing that gets juices flowing.  It’s not noise, there’s a rhythm to it.  Realized that I can still maybe get something from this place and more importantly maybe give something as well.

Kudos to Clyde for not forcing the interview into a formulaic kind of thing but instead letting the listeners hear those thought processes.  I don’t think it sucking up or sycophancy to say that it is a privilege to listen to artistic people share some of their thought processes. Kudos all around really.

Sean


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 07, 2007, 08:32:42 PM
Hi Sean,

I'll tell you this: 2004-2005 was a bad time for this site. 2002-2004 was a time of massive attraction to the Forge, and so much of that was fantastic and fruitful and exciting ... but it also brought new problems. We'd exerted a good enough social scene to avoid the typical internet bullshit, but had inadvertently managed to permit a particular mutant strain to emerge. Under cover of discourse, bullshit artistry became a way to interact and play status games without actually entering into the real honest work of thinking, playing, designing, and communicating.

This sort of thing happens in any discourse community to some extent. The trouble is, a real-world community of this kind has a definite achievement hierarchy: degrees and graduation (and leaving) for an academic school, increased responsibilities with increasing rank at a martial arts school (with the option of branching out), and similar. I came to realize that the Forge had no "OK, you're done, go and work with it" mechanism, and similar (and worse), it had no way to establish to people that they were not improving their understanding. There was no way not to pass your orals, or to fail to break the board, or generally to realize, without negotiation, that you had to back up and reflect differently and better.

In the absence of such a thing, evil flowers bloomed. One such flower was assuming a particular status attendant upon publishing a game. That is horrible and is grossly unwelcome at the Forge. Another such flower was staking out turf based specifically on a disagreement with me personally, or a presumed disagreement. Many of the latter were nonsense, but the person would never admit it, or give up on it, or take the chance of actually asking me directly - that would threaten their "not like Ron" or "tough enough to stand up to Ron" internet identity.

The biggest problem with all of this is that some folks were able to exploit the site. Contrary to any number of claims out there, I never exert moderator power over what anyone says. I try to foster an environment in which bullshit can be called out, and the person can be given an infinitely-repeating chance to improve their behavior or quality of thought. But that doesn't mean I can wield a personal little Ron-wand that taps people and says "you are right, you are wrong." I can tell people when their claims of being consistent or inconsistent with my ideas are correct or not, which is not the same thing; I can tell them when they are being unfair or inconsistent themselves. I cannot tell them to stop bringing up a particular topic or to arrive at a conclusion of my choosing. I do not practice thought-control here. So that means if a group of people engage in bullshit but do not call one another on it, and instead feed upon one another and thus create a sub-Forge of godawful stupidity, well, they just do.

I had to think a lot about this. The first step was effectively to dis-invite people who were complaining about one or another aspect of the site, or as I put it in a Site Discussion thread, "(said nicely) go away." Meaning, if someone wanted something different from the Forge, they should start their own site. I also put in the recently-discussed truth that the Forge was intended to be a finite project, and someday, the Big Bang would be over and all that would remain were the glowing stars. I encouraged those stars to start up. I figured this had two benefits: some of them would become wonderful stars, and others would get at least some of the problem individuals (or better, cliques) out of the Forge's collective hair.

Well, that worked pretty well, actually. I was especially glad to see an instant drop-off of certain members' activity on the basis of, "Well, if it's going to be over, then I don't want to be there." Anyone for whom that logic makes sense is not intellectually or emotionally ready for the Forge anyway.

After a bit, though, I realized that the most difficult participants - the ones who could transform a whole thread into mucky hell with a single post - the ones who were the least helpful, welcoming, and critical, while being the most verbose and controlling (through chaos-methods) - were still staying. They liked it here. They'd also managed to render the two great forums, RPG Theory and GNS, into everything the Forge's critics had always accused us of: over-precious, abstract in the negative sense, exclusive, snobbish, incapable of reaching conclusions.

I'd done my deed, basically. Hundreds and hundreds of people contributed to the creation of a real model for this activity that we do. The Big Model is intact, and to this day stands without meaningful challenge. (Incidentally, the typical angry anti-Forgie I run into these days begins with, "All that shit is crazy and wrong!" and then when I describe it, resorts to, "But that's so obvious!" as a criticism. It's simply emotion run rampant and does not actually raise meaningful objections.) I still wanted to keep it open for real critique ... but that's not what it was getting. The sophomoric agenda had taken over, mainly because the role of a moderator at this site has to permit that activity as a developmental stage. The problem is that for a core of about ten people, it wasn't a stage - it was what they wanted. They were high-flyers in Social RPG Thought 201 and they wanted to stay there for the rest of their lives. That makes the activity intolerable for new people entering it who are able to work through that stage and defeats the entire purpose.

So. RPG theory and Big Model talk are still active and welcome at the Forge. Critique the Big Model, have a cow about GNS, all you want! But it has to be rooted in actual play discussion. We have to know what you mean by phrases like "a good GM." We have to know what you think is "obvious" for "anyone." We have to know what experiences are involved. Actual Play talk is not about proof. One does not prove a point by providing evidence via discussing actual play. That's not what it's for. It's for grounding the discussion of whatever else is on the table, by looking at the experience itself.

Clinton and I really went over and over it. We arrived at the new configuration, with an eye toward the site's purpose - to be exciting and relevant because it brings attention to a reality. That reality is specifically that people are writing new, great games all the time. All kinds of things emerge from that; for instance, that even the effort devoted to one's derivative, halting first attempt is still laudable effort. Another: that communal attention and planned activities yield phenomenal results. So we built a new forum structure that laid out these features and purposes; we came up with First Thoughts because we knew a kiddie pool was going to happen anyway, and might as well be contained and have a definite "step out of it" boundary (playtesting). We made structure out of what had become a constant recommendation on our parts, to reflect upon oneself as a practitioner as the first and most powerful step of the intellectual activities here.

And wham, bam, the problem people vanished like spring frost.

I love the Forge. I'll tend it through its autumn, which is now, and lie down with it in the winter when the time comes. I'll walk away then. I'm hoping that a lot of you will stay with it through that final journey as well.

Best, Ron




Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on December 09, 2007, 10:41:41 AM
Great interview and great post. Thanks!


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 09, 2007, 01:50:23 PM
Hi Christoph,

Thank you!

Again, I'm OK with following up on multiple points from the interview, if anyone's interested. I don't have the time or ability to do so in the form of essays or mission statements, but it will work very well if any particular point seems interesting or, for that matter, wrong or unclear, and if someone asks about it.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: ADGBoss on December 09, 2007, 03:31:48 PM
Ron

Without in any way making this a political discussion I wanted to bring up my thoughts about the idea of the Forge being a finite thing. My impression of that now and of the board in general is much different than of the board previously.  I always felt that the Forge (well initially GNS but then I came to think of them as separate entities which they are) as revolutionary.  Thinking for one's self is not a revolutionary concept but it is one that needs to be brought up in any artistic endeavor so that people remember it and take it to heart. 

I see the site now more of Evolution and perhaps even counter-revolution or taking back the revolution* but some of my impressions of what you have said still tempt me to look upon it as structurally designed like Marxism was structurally designed in its revolutionary phase. Now I am not saying that the Forge is communism/socialism/Marxism in any way, shape, or form but there are structural similarities, at least superficially.  I should say there is one structural similarity that to me seems interesting: the concept of Vanguard of the Proletariat.

This Vanguard helps lead the revolution and then eventually gives up its power as society reaches the communist end game and everyone owns everything, etc..  Similarly the Forge seems to be designed to 'lead the masses' (that sounds more pretentious than it is meant to be) or show by example and then, when the society it fosters no longer needs it, the Forge/Vanguard will go away.  Mileage may vary and I may be totally off base but that is my impression of the situation.

So, extending the basic concept, the period of 2004-2005 might be seen as period of 'hijacking the revolution' where the goals of the original concept were lost, waylaid, or abandoned. 

I also think that the idea that "if you don't like it start your own board" does not have to be a negative one. In many ways its a logical step for some people who might wish a different kind of structure and who might want to tackle different kinds of topics.

Sean

*Depending on how someone sees Role Playing games themselves. Did they evolve from table top gaming or it was it a revolutionary leap? Did big corporations hijack the revolution or are they counter-revolutionary? Really its an intellectual exercise that most people likely find boring but one I find some fascination in.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 09, 2007, 06:44:31 PM
Hi Sean,

I used that precise analogy in my discussion of the situation all the way back in the first Site Discussion thread about it; do a search on "Stalin" in that forum and you should find it. (Although that post did elicit an extensive and indignant lecture on Marxism by private message ....) For what it's worth, I do not consider it insulting or alarming to be analogized to communist stuff, so please, feel free.

Regarding the "go start your own site" concept, yes, it was stated positively and in many cases understood positively, and acted upon positively. That worked out pretty well.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 09, 2007, 09:36:52 PM
Whenever Ron starts talking about the Forge diaspora, it makes me sad.

I mean, I understand it, and I'm coping, but it makes me sad nonetheless. I like the Forge's no-nonsense policy. I don't want to go to 3 different sites to get my indie-rpg talk.

The effort of keeping up with just the sites I do keep up with, and I'm sure my rpg site list is shorter than most, is enough.

I guess it's the loss of convenience that makes me want to cling to the Forge, but I also think it's more than that. The culture is different on the other sites. Not worse or better, but different. I now read regularly on Story Games, and I enjoy the discussions that go on there. Many of them could never take place on the Forge, except for a few days a year. I rather like the focus on the work of making and publishing games, even when that work is a lot of fun.

I dunno. I think maybe I'm contributing to the derailment of this thread. But the discussion made me want to speak up.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 10, 2007, 09:59:07 AM
Hi Lance,

You're definitely not derailing the thread. This is one of those moments for talking about how we feel, I suppose.

There are a few functions and practices at the Forge which I would like to see preserved or carried on elsewhere, if possible. Clyde had deduced this on his own, and I think he chose his interview topic with an eye toward getting my views about it into the open. Certainly the moderator and functional-community issues are at the top of the list.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Valamir on December 10, 2007, 10:17:41 AM
In that case:

I hear you Lance.

It frankly upsets me that the Forge has ceded its position as the premier site to discuss RPG theory, and the Big Model is now largely discussed as something to move beyond that happened in the past tense back in the day on the Forge.  Whatever moving beyond there is to do, should be being done here.

I hate having to go to a ton of different places to hear the latest thinking around RPG theory...thinking that used to take place here...that should be taking place here.

I hate that few (none?) of those places has the breadth of participants and diversity of play backgrounds that the Forge had making most (all?) discussions fit into very narrow channels limited by a ton of group think.

I view the diaspora as pretty much an unmitigated failure and a colossal disappointment.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 10, 2007, 01:58:51 PM
Hi Ralph,

Here's my take on that.

1. I can't hold hands and wipe noses forever. If the community at large can't learn the lessons of the Forge and apply them at new sites, then there's no point in carrying on here - doing so eventually would bring my efforts and attention to the site into direct conflict with other needs in my life, to the detriment of both. At least this way makes it explicit that the goal is in others' hands now, in addition to mine.

2. I think the first-stage diasporan efforts were about 10% successful, but I'm primarily interested in what the successful minority did and continues to do. I'm encouraged by some of the great, exciting, and unstoppable new posters at the Forge, because that's where I'm looking to see the torch passed successfully, in the long run.

i) Sub-point: I think it's important to recognize that one part of the Diaspora and the re-structuring was to remove specific components of the Forge at that time: the blowhards, the haters, the adolescent theoreticians concerned with status, the self-elected rebels, the ego-boys who defined themselves by carping, and so on. I don't consider a website dedicated to any of this activity, by intention or not, to be a failure - to me, it's a success because the aforementioned people are not here. So yes, they are aggravating if one bothers to attend the sites in question (and why, anyway?), but I don't think they count as failures.

ii) Another sub-point: it's easy to miss just how much has in fact been accomplished, and that plenty of truthful things which were originally utter heresy and insanity except here at the Forge, are now taken as plain and simple realities - even among those who would rather eat bugs than ever say anything good about the site or about you or me. The economic culture, the international dialogue, the general sense of "publish my game as I see fit," are all transformed. We did that.

3. One of the most important features of discourse here on the Forge was to arrive at conclusions. This is not tolerable to those who delight in endlessly flexing their verbosity at one another, but it does happen when people discuss something clearly and maintain an institutional memory. One sort of conclusion is to generate a larger picture, and by introducing a new key variable (GNS) we were able to arrive at that larger picture (the Big Model). It wasn't just a matter of hashing out my personal dogma and inflicting it on others; tons of the Model's features and details are the result of people providing better arguments than I did about them, in the forums. My role was mainly to keep at it, and to enforce, over and over, that field-tested points were stronger than "gee what if" points.

Does that mean the process is over? No - once a model exists, then it can be challenged, from the smaller levels of refinement to the largest possible levels of whether it needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt. The thread about The Mountain Witch resulted in my first-ever breakdown of a key feature of Social Contract, as well as a set of Techniques which probably couldn't have been explained until after the Model was up and running.

i) If there's one big failure of the last couple of years at the Forge, it's the widespread assertion about theory not happening here any more, or that one must skip about to multiple locations in order to keep up with theory discussions. Bluntly, I don't think any other site has generated any theory, in the technical and valuable sense of the term, worth mentioning. The best of them (anyway, Deep in the Game, Ben's blog) were able to summarize the existing stuff and raise a couple of in-context questions, but that was all. I think the place to be for that is still the Forge, and there's no reason to think that will change any time soon.

GNS stuff can be addressed here with no hassles at all. I think Levi's threads about his Frostfolk game were crucial regarding Narrativist play; I think Frank and Eero have done a fantastic job of outlining Simulationist features of play from different directions. Anything else about the Big Model is similarly up for grabs, refinement, and challenge. 

Lance, if you want to stay involved with those issues about role-playing, then I suggest not bothering to try to hoover up everything wherever it might be said, but instead, recognize where the action is and contribute here. The same goes for Mark J. Young, who I think was a little precipitous in saying "Oh gee, the party's over" and wandering off.

ii) Larry Lade and I are working on a user-friendly presentation of the Big Model, as well as an organized process to refine, to apply, and to challenge it. Our first try to get it going, earlier this year, didn't work so well, but we're re-thinking and trying again. So if anyone's interested in working with us in the early stages, please get in touch by email.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 10, 2007, 04:11:07 PM
It's not just about theory for me. I've always had a little trouble wrapping my head around the theory and applying it in play. It's the ideas and techniques that come out of that theory that interest me. You know though, Ralph hit that "something else" I mentioned in my last post.

The problem is when a couple sites are talking about techniques that are similar or the same. There's two conversations going on, because it's two different sites. When it was just the Forge, there was one conversation going on about a given topic. So if I want to talk to two different people who have really good ideas about something, but they frequent different sites, then I've got to hop back and forth. This hasn't happened a whole, whole lot yet, but there's been a couple times where there's been one conversation split between two sites, with each occasionally linking back and forth between the two sites. It's hard to keep up with if you try, and frustrating when some participants in both threads don't try, so therefore can't absorb the ideas from the other site unless someone acts as the summarizer of key points in each.

I suppose that's life at this point, because it's begun regardless. It also doesn't help when people with good ideas are among the haters that you wanted to move on, because when those two-site discussions happen, they're among the ones who refuse to read related stuff here. When it was just here, either they didn't contribute to the discussions at all because they didn't read here, or they were already sucking it up because they're already here.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Darcy Burgess on December 10, 2007, 06:16:47 PM
Hi Ron,

I don't know if you've spelled this out somewhere else.  However, I'd appreciate it if you did it here.

You mention the Forge's "winter", which I equate to a shut-down as an active site.  I imagine that some archive may remain, but as far as a place to actively participate, it will cease to exist.

When does winter start?  Is it a concrete date on a calendar somewhere?  A specific set of goals that need tending to?  Your gut telling you that it's time?

Please understand that this question isn't rooted in panic, but rather in a need to know.

Cheers,
Darcy


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 12, 2007, 12:33:13 AM
Hi Darcy,

There is no determined calendar. Clinton and I started thinking in terms of the Forge's eventual closure quite a while ago, and autumn began when we restructured the forums. That's also when I started promoting and encouraging extra-Forge sites and business too. So far, it has lasted over two years, and I imagine will continue for some time. Function, not the calendar, will determine the transition, and I don't think the autumn functions have really hit their peak, or maybe the peak will be evident afterwards.

Also, "winter" doesn't mean shutdown. That comes at the end of winter. Winter will have its own structure and functions, and in some ways, I think it will be most exciting of all. How will it work, exactly? I don't know yet. Forge structure and function always develops through me and Clinton (and now Vincent) having conversations, based on how things work out.

So my answer to your need-to-know is, there is no reason to fear an unexpected or all-too-soon shutdown. Any publishing plans which include the Forge can count on its presence for the forseeable future.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Nev the Deranged on December 13, 2007, 06:00:42 PM
Damn, Clyde does great interviews. Thanks, all three of you, for another good listen. I only wish there had been time to explore the things that didn't get discussed.

I look forward to the next one!

D.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Callan S. on December 14, 2007, 04:47:11 PM
The dogs in the vineyard thing surprised me, where the GM is supposed to play it as if there was no god in that game world. From actual play accounts, it seems like the dogs call the shots and god is this bit part kinda non important guy that players don't really talk about. But I thought he was just de-emphasised a great deal, not absent. The 'changing faith' bit at the end is interesting, because while the dogs might be made to kneel and repent their actions, if it goes the other way the faith acts as if what the dogs did is how its always been. The faith either resists the change, or acts as if there was no change at all. I think I've gotten the dogs mechanics before, but the interview kinda showed that extra angle.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Nev the Deranged on December 14, 2007, 05:46:23 PM
Yeah, that took me off-guard, too; since when Dogs plays in my head, it's got the supernatural dial up a few notches. Who was it who did the badass animation? That was just about perfect for what was in my head. Now, I understand the power of the game with the supernatural dial turned to "off", and I'd be happy to play that way, but how does a GM "pretend God doesn't exist" in a game with the dial at 11, frinstance? Supernatural stuff happens, but God has nothing to do with it? I suppose this can be done- if by "God" you mean "higher morality that casts/implies/can-be-appealed-to-for final judgement of any kind", and I think that's more what Vincent was trying to say. Unless of course, I'm wrong.

D>


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 14, 2007, 05:54:46 PM
Hi Dave,

Yes. You are right. Turn up the supernatural dial 100x higher than that flash animation, and there still isn`t any God to be found in Dogs play. Otherwise it´s not a Dogs game, it´d just be another RPG setting with fancy coats.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Nev the Deranged on December 14, 2007, 06:32:26 PM
Right. Now that I think back on it, I don't think that all the demonic auras and exorcisms and craziness that was in my head ever really had anything to do with "God"... because God (or god) has never really been a part of any of my gaming.

Which does not mean that the Dogs doing such things can't be invoking the King of Life and His Authority and whatever other Capital Letter Stuff you want, but it's the dice that say whether or not that "matters" in the sense of having mechanical impact. Calling on the King's Power is great color- but it doesn't get you dice (unless of course you have "Calling on the King's Power" as a trait).

So, yeah. But hearing Vincent say it out loud was still kind of a shock.

I really want to hear part 2 of this interview... heh.

D.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 15, 2007, 05:09:42 AM
Dave,

What questions would you like to see asked in that second interview?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Nev the Deranged on December 15, 2007, 08:13:46 AM
Hm. Well, I'd have to listen to it again with a notepad in front of me to pull out specific questions (I do my webcast listening on the road). But there was a lot of frustratedly inarticulate grunting from Vincent, particularly toward the end. That tells me (and maybe I'm making too much of it) that the answers he was having trouble coming up with would be really goddamn interesting if you guys had the time to hash them out. Now, maybe this is stuff that he's already talked a lot about at Anyway (which I read sporadically), and Knife Fight (which I was only peripherally aware of before this interview), and maybe even here on the Forge; but my forum/blog reading time is limited (I seriously don't know how you guys do it). Frankly, the advent of webcasting has been an immeasurable boon to me for keeping up on things, since I spend most of the day driving around or with my mp3 player in my ear, and far less of it with a book or magazine or computer in front of me.

I did listen to Clyde's first interview with you several times, and I may very well listen to this one a few times as well. If I think of a specific question the next time through, I will jot it down (I always carry a small notebook with me for just such purpose).

Thanks!

D.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: lumpley on December 16, 2007, 07:08:25 AM
That's about as close as I've come to successfully talking about it. I haven't written about it anywhere, just occasionally expressed my bafflement down in the lumpley games forum here.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Callan S. on December 16, 2007, 10:10:12 PM
I was also listening at the end and thinking "Wait, the progress bar is nearly at the end - they aren't gunna cover this in time! Aww!"

If you can't describe it, perhaps a recording of a dogs actual play, or snippets of actual play? There's probably some practicality that gets in the way of that, but while writing this it sounds good :)


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Noclue on December 16, 2007, 11:57:41 PM
Dog: "I call upon the King of Life! 2d8!"
GM: "Fine, he comes! 10d10!"

I'd like to hear more discussion about right and wrong, and why players seem to get so hung up about whether or not their characters are right.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on December 17, 2007, 03:35:14 PM
If I may: I would love to know what G, N and S does inside both of your heads. What it feels like, if you know what I mean. Or is that only when we drink tequila?


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: lumpley on December 17, 2007, 06:05:11 PM
Was it walking back from, or to, that interview, Ron, that you told me that thing about you playing gamist?

When I play gamist, which I have only a couple of times, it gives me the same "hey! so THAT's how these rules work! Fun!" that games usually do. It doesn't bring out the competitor in me (the internet does THAT). It makes me happy.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 18, 2007, 07:12:30 AM
Hi Christoph,

I'm not really sure how to answer. The vast majority of my reviews and actual play accounts are dedicated to doing just that.

Gamism: Beast Hunters, The Great Ork Gods, Tunnels & Trolls, Drowning & Falling
Simulationism: Fvlminata, Dread (first version), Godlike, Dead of Night
Narrativism: D&D 3.0/3.5 (our drifted version), The Pool (see the Dragons & Jasmine account), Hero Wars, Sorcerer, Trollbabe ... geez, I dunno, lots of them.

I'll try to address your question in terms of what I like.

When I play Gamist, I love winning and at the very least, trying to win. Depending on the game, this can involve teamwork and sometimes sacrifice for another, or it can involve brutal competition up to and including interfering trash-talk. I really like those times when no one can lock down the results of a given exchange of game actions, and risk plays as big a role as preparation and commitment. I also think that the loss-moments are crucial; we have to know, after all, that winning means you really won, and even in games in which winning isn't well-defined, loss always is, whether small and in-the-moment, or overall. So Gamist play is especially sweet when that brutal reality is made manifest, even if it's me who (curses! fuck! piss!) loses at that time.

When I play Simulationist, I love the moments when we suddenly notice that "we did it right" without trying, because the rules and our shared understanding of the content all worked together, as well as the moments when the sensations of the characters are felt keenly. Not necessarily that I feel those sensations myself, but I feel that they feel them. I'm never actually scared while playing Dead of Night, but I feel much as if I were, as with seeing a really fucking scary/fun movie or reading that kind of book. It's like the very best of fan-gathering moments, as at a convention when a beloved creator or star really connects with the audience at a talk and vice versa.

When I play Narrativist, I love the way that a story, or conflict within it, punches home in unexpected ways, without anyone pre-meditating or analyzing. The best is often tagged later, when someone says "I never planned that [my character] would ever do such a thing, but I had to." There's also kind of a group shudder that borders on the musical or the sexual, when such moments are building during play. That can include fear, love, loyalty, disgust, glee, or rage ... and it's often quite genuine. It's not like seeing a movie or reading a book at all; it's like (or is) creating them - the passion of the driven author + the invoked passion of the audience who will leave the theater or put down the book and go do something.

Looking over those paragraphs, I am reminded that I dedicated a small amount in each agenda-specific essay to these same things.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on December 18, 2007, 12:49:46 PM
I was extremely unclear, I had in mind you were collecting possible questions for a possible future interview and thought this could make a good conversation, but this was addressed to Dave.
Thanks for these clear restatements anyway. Now that you say it, of course you've both already written about the topic, for some reason it was just not on my conscious radar. Now the pieces start falling together.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 18, 2007, 06:40:50 PM
Hi Christoph,

What was addressed to Dave? I don't quite follow you.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on December 19, 2007, 05:35:12 AM
Hi Ron,

What was addressed to Dave were "what questions [he] would like to see asked in that second interview." I followed that without specifying that I was doing so, hence what I perceive as a lack of clarity on my part.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 19, 2007, 07:24:58 AM
Hello,

I understood you correctly, then. My question was addressed to Dave, but certainly anyone is free to ask it. Your perception about that is correct, and it's still correct. I plan to answer the questions that are asked, just as I did my best to answer yours. There is no confusion.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on December 19, 2007, 02:11:55 PM
Cool!


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on December 28, 2007, 08:38:07 PM
Hi all,

I enjoyed the interview.

The two sections that made a big impression for me were the discussions about site agenda/moderation/mechanics, and the quick discussion about Dogs.

I found myself nodding as I to Ron's comments about what it's like moving across web sites where the moderation isn't especially clear.  I found that last year, when I finally threw up my hands and gave up on many of the sites, I was often frustrated that the sites I was posting at didn't have a clear purpose or agenda.  I didn't recognize this at the time, however.  I'd get frustrated that people would make strange, often specious comments, and that other members of the site wouldn't rise up en mass to address the nonsense.  I became my own version of a bully -- trying to enforce policies of discourse and a responsibility to logic that no one had asked me to enforce.

I'm only repeating or paraphrasing things Vincent and Ron said, but it's really about the agenda of a site.  If the agenda is, "Let's post things about RPGs..." well, okay... But then ANYTHING is of value as long as it's posted.  And that's a pretty low bar for success.

(At some RPG sites comparing the number of daily/monthly posts of one web site against another is the mark of success.  That's like saying, "Well, I spoke more words than anyone else today, so I'm a better speaker."  Um, okay.  I guess.)

So the question is, Why have a site? Why post? 

While I don't post often, the site I enjoy reading the most still remains The Forge.  The posts are informative, imaginative, and geared toward concrete examples of play.  Other sites seem to move in cycles of inventing/writing about RPG conceptual terms that never seem to  nail these ideas down in examples of actual play -- and seem to encourage people to flip out when examples of actual play are asked for.  As if connecting what you claim people do with actual people actual doing them is some sort of small-minded imposition that misses the bigger point of talking about RPGs.

I really enjoyed Clyde commenting about how he started using his real name at The Forge, gave up his handle, and never went back.  Years ago, when I first showed up, the lack of handles was one of the reasons I stayed.  I had never been part of the Internet culture, didn't get handles.  They seemed a way to hide and created a "persona."  My attitude was, "Who the hell cares about your persona?  Who the fuck are you?"  I created a sig for a while: "Adult, human names. They prove you're adult.  They prove you're human."  Some people were pissed.  But I can say it wasn't about stirring up trouble or, in my view hyperbole.  It really was a choice about being an adult and being human.  Ron used the term "homunculus" in the interview to refer to the "thing" that people carry around when they've got a handle (or keep posting as if they have one).  Exactly.


On a personal note, I have found that the strange creep of identity politics (or whatever awkward name should be used) to be a sad thing to move into RPG discussions on many of the new sites. 

I'm not talking about raising the issues of sexism or racism, at all, nor people bringing to the table what matters to them.  I'm saying that at many sites, where certain cliques are in place, there's a kind of "I really am more enlightened than you, and when you say what you're saying, I can tell you, you're actually betraying an unenlightened racism and not asking about the rules at hand...." when, in fact, the person was asking about the rules at hand. 

"You're not feeling your white guilt the right way," is the phrase I use to sum up this frame of talking at people.  I'm not sure where the heck it came from, but I don't think it's doing anyone any good.  (And Vincent, thought I respect your work, I am looking at you.)


I found the discussion of Dogs and how people, again and again, don't understand how Faith and Religions work in the game interesting.  Like Ron and Vincent, I don't quite get the confusion.  I think Vincent's comment that the GM has to play the game as if there is no God was concise, informative and to the point -- and I think that it will do little good to help confused people leave their confusion behind.

The discussion touches on bigger questions for me -- the bog assumptions people make about the internal logic of RPG worlds; the need to give up the power of their choices (and their PCs choices) to the decisions and authority of the GM and more.  I'm not sure if I'd need to hear more about this in another interview.  I'm always just sort of amazed at how dull people are when it comes to assuming what an RPG is, how certain conventions from a half-dozen games define for so many what "works" and what makes sense.

I'm not saying those conventions don't make sense for some games.  I'm saying, I'm amazed that when people are confronted with a game like Dogs they can't wrap their head around the notion that their characters get to make choices about morality that define their character -- without the GM or an Alignment system to use as a crutch -- and their brains freeze up and simply can't move forward into that space at all. 

I'm not sure any fruitful discussion could come of this subject -- especially on the Internet -- but it does baffle me.  Is it really just RPGs?  Gamers?  People in general who don't want this responsibility of accepting the fact that they make decisions every day that have consequences and it's simply dumped out into the open in this weird little hobby? 

What is it about people who want to make sure their tales (the tales they tell, the tales they hear or see) are so scrubbed of any content or complex points of view?  This clearly isn't a matter just of games.  Most pop culture (of all times -- fairy tales and the rest, included) -- depend on simple morality and an avoidance of actual issues.

But living as we are in dangerous times, I find this inability or lack of desire to actually participate with narrative except in the Fairy Tale style genre (a genre I love by the way), to be terrifying.  It makes The Other too convenient, too easy, and absolves us of all responsibility for our actions and examining our responses to threat. 

What I have loved about finding The Forge -- and especially Story Now -- is that there are means of creating stories in the tradition of the tales I love as much as Faiy Tales -- the Greek tragedies, Shakespeare and more.  And yet the point of view of so many people is, "Let's make Robotech again!"  And that's fine.  But I'm really more interested in going to town with how it's complicated to be a person, how society and life are complicated.  And I still haven't found the people to go full steam with that agenda.

Again, it's not that I expect everyone to jump on board with my agenda -- they already have theirs.  What fascinates me about the reaction to Dogs is how, for so many, the game exists in a null set of logic for so many, where the game simply doesn't work, or, perhaps more strangely, gets reinterpreted into a religious tract where the GM forces the players to be gun wielding religious fundamentalists who have no choice in how to behave.  I mean, even here, it's like asking people to do a Mensa puzzle to wrap their brain around the game's logic. What is that about?  That's a really interesting question to me.


Clyde, thanks for conducting the interview.  Ron and Vincent, thanks for participating.

As a side note: Ron! Congratulations!

Happy New Year to All,

Christopher

edited to fix a key typo at CK's request - RE


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Marshall Burns on December 31, 2007, 12:34:06 PM
Hi,
Is there a transcript of this anywhere?
I only have internet access through public terminals at my local library, and the connection is too slow for the mp3.

-Marshall


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Clyde L. Rhoer on January 01, 2008, 04:58:07 PM
Hi Marshall,

If you want to send me an email at theoryfromthecloset via a place called gmail dot com, and reference this conversation I'll burn a CD and mail it to you. I can't afford to have transcripts made.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 02, 2008, 08:54:22 PM
Hi Christopher,

PART ONE

I hope that interview spurs, at least for one person at one site, some positive action about agenda and comportment. I agree that if all people want is an internet version of a self-affirming, go-nowhere hangout, then there's no reason they can't have one, or a hundred. My hope is that if some one or few folks want something else, they recognize what it takes to get it, and start taking steps.

Here's my nagging personal question about that issue, though: why do people who know full well the problems and hassles that we're discussing here, continue to frequent the sites in question? Why did you, for instance, post and post as the "do it right" bully for so long? Why does Matt Snyder go bang his head against the wall at a site in which defying and frustrating him with illogic has become a status symbol? Well, these are rhetorical questions and not answerable except for a given person about themselves - no one owes me an answer about them. And maybe the phenomenon reflects the people's degree of good will that they bring to a site, which is commendable. But at this late date, I think it's time to reconsider the effort.

Your points about calls for actual play bear special attention. Looking at what happens at Story Games, when someone poses some idea or makes some claim about role-playing, and when another someone says "Where's the actual play," I typically see it read as meaning, "Prove it!" I think that's counter-productive and, well, rude; at the very least, it's not going to serve as a door to understanding a valid idea. A lot of my ideas have been used as big sticks by over-eager Forge participants on other sites or among their acquaintances, and the net result is to piss people off and, incidentally, to get me personally vilified as some kind of cult leader. The actual-play concept for discourse is just another in that long line.

Which is not to diminish the primary point that the proposition is most likely not very strong anyway. Again, based on my readings of the posts, the first someone is often talking out of his or her ass, if not actually dishonestly (also sometimes the case). I think a given website can be tagged as a place where either this sort of thing gets head-smacked at the very outset, or it doesn't. If it does, then cool. If it doesn't, then bringing the desire to critique at all to that site is a vain hope from the start, because the person is probably just angling for status at the site, or trying to say something without saying it, as with a case we've discussed privately in detail.

-----

PART TWO

Regarding identity politics, check out this article from Zmag, ten years ago: Editorial: The personal is the political?! (http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/julyeditorial97.html)
...

Great, isn't it? I'm restraining myself from unleashing bolts of rage at what that article criticizes, left and right, all and sundry. Talk about cultural malaise; this is the curse of our times. "I sleep with rutabagas, that makes me political. I'm done!" "I shop at XYZ supermarket, that makes me political, I'm done!" "I have this haircut, that makes me political, I'm done!" Fucking consumerism co-opting dissent. Who would have thought it would ever have become this complete? In retrospect, I might even be able to point to the month, I think, when I heard a nasty wet "snap" in the atmosphere, denoting the inflection point of the transition, sometime in 1985-86.

-----

PART THREE

You're a bit harsh on how dull "other people are," don't you think? Well, OK, this is the tequila forum, after all. A bit of excess is part of the fun.

Quote
I'm not sure any fruitful discussion could come of this subject -- especially on the Internet -- but it does baffle me. Is it really just RPGs? Gamers? People in general who don't want this responsibility of accepting the fact that they make decisions every day that have consequences and it's simply dumped out into the open in this weird little hobby?

You know my thinking on this. I think there's a general subcultural flaw in gaming, as currently constructed, which I think got fairly well outlined in the Infamous Five postings. The good news is that this flaw is rapidly disappearing, internationally, due to about a dozen activities which emerged from this site. I also think there's a specific pathology that applies to the little part of it that you and I like the most, which is the whole brain-damage issue. That concept is steadily progressing through the usual steps which end at "Everyone knows that, it's obvious" - about the 70% mark, at this point. All of this is highly specific to gaming, however.

Regarding pop culture in general, my first response was to disagree with you, because I think over-blown symbols and extreme fantasy can be powerful vehicles for dissenting views or at least for grappling with problematic conditions. But maybe that's a matter of definitions, and maybe I'm thinking too broadly. To focus on here-and-now today, I agree with your point, because I think our current pop culture, well, isn't. I think it's a consumerist effluvium from yesterday's pop culture, and that we as a culture are currently struggling to create a new one, in extremely adverse conditions. As long as the conceit that one (or anything) can be apolitical persists so widely, then we'll have to keep struggling.

Quote
It makes The Other too convenient, too easy, and absolves us of all responsibility for our actions and examining our responses to threat.

In that, we are agreed in full. There's a reason that my creative energies are now turned toward communist spies, Arabic terrorists (as we call them), Cuban soldiers, and Asian insurgents, drawing upon different but related points in my and my parents' lifetimes. I am also discovering, over and over, the truth and nuances of Walt Kelly's phrase: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Quote
What fascinates me about the reaction to Dogs is how, for so many, the game exists in a null set of logic for so many, where the game simply doesn't work, or, perhaps more strangely, gets reinterpreted into a religious tract where the GM forces the players to be gun wielding religious fundamentalists who have no choice in how to behave. I mean, even here, it's like asking people to do a Mensa puzzle to wrap their brain around the game's logic. What is that about? That's a really interesting question to me.

As you know, I agree with you, although my reaction is usually one of frustrated expostulating rather than interest, so my real interest lies in seeking successful play-accounts as counter-examples. We're blessed with a bunch of them lately. Jesse's current thread seems like a perfect example of people who share your agenda, understand the rules of this particular game, went into play with no pre-conceptions about what the story would be, and emerged as authors of a story they'd created, there and then, about important stuff.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Callan S. on January 03, 2008, 01:31:01 AM
Regarding identity politics, check out this article from Zmag, ten years ago: Editorial: The personal is the political?! (http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/julyeditorial97.html)
Pretty tangental, but that article describes and also continues a particular blindspot, from how my eyes read it. I mean, if someone came and yanked your your wallet out of your pocket, you'd see them as an assailent - as an enemy, at least for that moment. The article instead describes, from one example, the civil rights situation of black people as a fault in the system. It's like describing the guy yanking your wallet as sharing some sort of system with you - but there's just a fault in the system. For me the disturbing bit is just behind that - it's treating what their doing as if its part of something, some system you agree with. It would seem horribly easy, with just the right pressures and forces, to reverse the complaintents proposal that it's a fault and instead put extra emphasis on their agreement with the system. Ie, in the heat of the moment get them to just think about how they agree with the system and legitimize it - institutionalise the wallet grab. Even if the offender does change behaviour, it's not acknowledged they were wrong, they were just following the system 'incorrectly'.

On topic, jesus, no wonder when it gets that murky a whole bunch of shit turns up in various associated activities.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 03, 2008, 07:42:20 AM
Hi Ron,

Here's my nagging personal question about that issue, though: why do people who know full well the problems and hassles that we're discussing here, continue to frequent the sites in question?

Although I don't "owe" you anything, I already discussed this with you on the phone, so I'll post here: For me it was because the people I know in real life and meet with at local cons post on those threads.  I think that connections made in the flesh trump (or lead) Internet connections -- at least for me.


...when another someone says "Where's the actual play," I typically see it read as meaning, "Prove it!" I think that's counter-productive and, well, rude; at the very least, it's not going to serve as a door to understanding a valid idea.

When I ask it, it's because I can't figure out what the person is saying.  Someone on Story Games can say, "Let's talk about Thematic Calibration..."  But I need  pictures to go with the words to know what's going on in that thread.

Do people use the "actual play" request as a stick to beat people up?  I'm sure they do.  People do all sorts of things.  But now we're in the realm of intentions and what the person meant.  It still doesn't seem too much to ask that if people are going to talk about RPGs they are able to reference something from the actual play of RPGs.  This isn't String Theory.  It's like Football or Pokemon -- it either happens in play or it doesn't.


Regarding identity politics, check out this article from Zmag, ten years ago...

This had nothing to do with what I was talking about -- but you clearly wanted to share, and I'm glad you had the opportunity!


You're a bit harsh on how dull "other people are," don't you think?

Yes. I was.  Good call.  I was thinking of all the 40 page Dogs threads I've read on this point-of-confusion, but I was overstating by a long-shot.  Thanks for the reality check.


because I think over-blown symbols and extreme fantasy can be powerful vehicles for dissenting views or at least for grappling with problematic conditions. But maybe that's a matter of definitions, and maybe I'm thinking too broadly....

I'm surprised you thought that's that I was dismissing "over-blown symbols and extreme fantasy" -- I mean, what???.  But I'll move on, and your point about "consumerist effluvium from yesterday's pop culture" is my point exactly.

On the other end, No Country for Old Men, There Will be Blood, The Shield, and other movies and TV shows deliver what I want in spades. 

The problem with "extreme fantasy" at the movies is economics -- the more expensive the budget the greater desire to never, ever offend anyone.  The job of a summer blockbuster is roll everyone in, give us a lot of visceral jolts, and roll us back out into the sunshine.  That's not a function of fantasy or overblown symbols.  That's about the contemporary economics of Hollywood.

Christopher



Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Larry L. on January 15, 2008, 10:06:37 PM
Okay, I got some technical glitches worked out and finally listened to this thing. Good stuff. This thing Clyde does is nice.

There were several topics that came up I'm interested in discussing, I'll have to organize my thoughts on these first. (But the gist is: Yay!)



Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Marshall Burns on January 18, 2008, 02:30:06 PM
Ron, Vincent, and anyone else,
Ok, I got to listen to it now (thanks again, Clyde), and here's something I'd like to talk about.  It was mentioned that, in DitV, if someone makes a lethal-force move against your character, you can "Give" and take the bullet between the eyes and just die.  Self-authored character death? That is fan-frickin'-tastic!

Now, maybe people are looking at me like I'm crazy at this point, so I'll explain where I'm coming from.  Why would I voluntarily let my character die?  Simple:  for the sake of the emotional and aesthetic impact of the story that is being created through play. 

I'm trying to get this kind of dynamic into one of my own games (The Rustbelt), to even a radical degree as one of my design goals: I want to see at least one PC die in every session.  Not because of bad rolls or "rocks fall and everyone dies," but because it benefits the story so that the players let it happen.  I'm beating my head against the wall trying to figure out ways to encourage this. I've come up with a resolution system in which you roll not against a difficulty but a "Price," such that your rate of success is determined ultimately by how much character is willing to pay for it in blood, sweat, tears, and humanity. (And that "willing" is explicitly provided entirely by the player, as blatant, pretense-free Author Stance).  If the Price is high enough, it means death, but accepting that death also means accomplishing whatever the goal in question was.

But I worry that this isn't enough.  There's a trait I've seen among many, many roleplayers I've met, that I think of as the "My Guy mentality," where they become attached to their character as something beyond a tool for achieving the aim of play.  You can tell these people from the way they say "My Guy slew a dragon" or "My Guy became the king"; they really say it with capital letters.  It seems that most of the time the character is an extension of their ego and adolescent-like power fantasies -- which disturbs me.  Maybe there's nothing wrong with it, but it disturbs me.

Then there's also this strange mental tautology I keep seeing:  "Death = Ultimate Failure."  I don't get it.  Maybe it's because I'm largely ignorant of the history of the hobby, but I just don't get it.  Especially in the Story Now mode of play.  I mean, consider ANY of Shakespeare's tragedies, and the role that protagonist death plays in them.  Now, who in their right mind would say that those deaths are failures on Shakespeare's part?  And, of course, in Story Now the players are in Shakespeare's position, sitting in the author's chair.

I get the impression that though voluntary PC death is mechanically possible in DitV, it doesn't happen very often, if at all.  I'm guessing that it's related to those two things I mentioned above, but there might be more to this.  Which is what I want to discuss:  why people are reluctant to do this, and how can a game encourage them to break through that reluctance?

-Marshall


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 18, 2008, 03:27:13 PM
Speaking of story-game mode, as you put it, my experience is that people will throw their characters off a cliff if that's what the story is about. Simple as that. You don't get it often in DiV because it's not really worked up as a tragedy, but try Polaris (http://www.swingpad.com/dustyboots/wordpress/); I haven't yet heard of a Polaris campaign arc that didn't involve one or more characters dying horribly and wholly with player-authorization.


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 21, 2008, 09:23:33 AM
Hi Marshall,

Your points about self-authored character death and My Guy (spoken of as a “syndrome”) are foundational here. These were two seminal insights which helped the original creation of the community which is now informally thought of as “the Forge” as distinct from the physical website. The third related insight dealt with multiple-person contribution to the situations and descriptions of play.

Key members of that discussion included Scott Knipe, Mike Holmes, Paul Czege, Jared Sorensen, Mark J. Young, Josh Neff, Dav Harnish, and a few others; key games were Soap (Ferry Bazelmans), InSpectres (Jared Sorensen), Sorcerer (me), Schism (a supplement for Sorcerer, Jared Sorensen), Wuthering Heights (Philippe Tromeur), and The Pool (James V. West). Key events included GenCon, Origins, and DemonCon during 2001. Dust Devils, Universalis, and My Life with Master were not yet a-born, and Vincent Baker was not yet a part of the discourse community.

All of which is to say: “Yes!” You’re gonna like this place more and more …

Regarding the gamer-culture baggage of character death = failure, I think the answer lies quite clearly in one procedural feature and in one aspect of the historical context of early role-playing. The procedural feature is that, if your character dies, you cease to play. So that’s pretty un-fun, case closed … unless you want to cease to play, based on intrinsic satisfaction (Sorcerer’s Kickers are designed for this). However, now for the historical context: the tourney D&D game, in which dozens if not hundreds of people are scattered, twelve to a group, across a sea of tables, each with a staff GM who runs precisely the same tactical challenge at them, and they are all scored upon how many characters live, how many foes are defeated, and how much treasure was gained (this is the origin of classic experience points). In which case, character death is a dead loss in Gamist terms.

Taken together, it’s fascinating how hard it stuck – even for games like Champions, which was exemplary in how it abandoned hundreds of assumptions of pre-existing games, but which could not manage to deal with character death in ways that superheroes or supervillains “die” (i.e. not die) in comics, without relying on what-rules-GM-says-so.

Alternatives vary quite widely. Here are just a few, in order of publication date.

- The Castle Falkenstein way: characters typically cannot die due to resolved outcomes, but on occasion, if failure seems like it would have to be lethal to the GM, he makes it clear that character death is now “on the table.” The game is a little bit unclear about whether and how the player can opt not to enter that particular zone of play, once announced.

- The Elfs way: a modification of the above way, the GM designates a particular situation as lethal well before any rolls or actions occur; note that only players roll in Elfs, and usually their announced actions signal rolls to the GM, rather than the other way around.

- The Soap way: characters are immune to death as long as their Secrets haven’t been guessed, but after that, they freaking die all the time, whenever anyone says! However, notice that a big part of Soap is screwing with others’ characters situation, so you keep playing perfectly fine after your character bites the big one.

- The Schism way: characters have a score which can go up or down due to various things (all ultimately under player’s authority, if not total control in detail); when it hits 0, that character’s next scene of play must kill the character, regardless of any dice outcomes.

- The Universalis way: all game components, characters included, are measured in “coins” spent to buy them and to increase their value. If a character is narrated as dead, it can mean either (a) the player has spent enough coins to buy the component out of play forever, or (b) the player has spent a coin or more on adding “deadness” to that character. In the latter case, the component is still a consequential and usable piece of play, it’s just that you have to include the deadness. (E.g., the character may be quite influential as a memory.)

- The Trollbabe way: players have the option to move characters further and further along a line of repeated tries, but incurring increasing risk culminating in character death. If you don’t want your character to risk dying, just don’t move far enough along that axis.

- The Mountain Witch way: when a character dies, the player continues to play the character as a memory or other influence, perhaps even a ghost most literally but least interestingly. Nearly all the rules are preserved just as they are for that player, as the only things affected are the details of narration. It’s kind of fun to have your character automatically be in every scene. (I’ve always wanted to see the situation in which only one ronin is left alive, but effectively haunted by the memories of his fallen comrades.)

 
Quote
why people are reluctant to do this, and how can a game encourage them to break through that reluctance?

Eero's right! A lot of people aren't reluctant; they simply have never seen it before or never conceived that such a thing could be part of what they think of as role-playing.

I’m currently composing a post for Joel’s (Melinglor) actual play thread, and my answer here is related to the same issue. The answer isn’t actually much fun to say or to receive: you must abandon your goal as it’s currently stated. The game can facilitate and provide means, but it cannot provide the ends, i.e., the desire to do it. The most it can do is make the options/techniques available for people who want to do it, and would love doing it, but don’t realize it yet.

My advice to you is not to write Rustbelt to encourage or educate people who don’t want to do it, or who never heard of it, or who can’t see it. Write it for you, and for me: people who love the idea upon hitting upon it themselves or hearing about it from others. There’s a hell of a lot of us, and we’ll all “get it,” and we’ll all enjoy playing the game.

I also recommend reading the discussion The Fruitful Void (http://www.lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=119), based on my phrase and illustrated in a variety of neat ways by Vincent. His Role-playing theory hardcore (http://www.lumpley.com/hardcore.html) also has stuff you’ll enjoy.

Best, Ron
edited to fix link format


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Marshall Burns on January 22, 2008, 02:52:19 PM
Wow.  I don't know what to say except that all of this is quite heartening, and also a tad stunning.  Thanks.

-Marshall


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Marshall Burns on January 25, 2008, 10:52:02 AM

note that only players roll in Elfs, and usually their announced actions signal rolls to the GM, rather than the other way around.

Hey Ron,
Can you clarify that?  I mean, what is "the other way around?"  See, the way I've always done things is this:  the players announce their actions, and the GM (usually me) says, "Okay, you've got to make a Response roll vs. X difficulty for that to succeed; if you fail, (blank) might happen," and then the player rolls their dice.  How else is it done?

-Marshall


Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 25, 2008, 04:32:58 PM
It can be done lots of ways. The specific difference I was talking about is more complex that my quick comment could capture.

The first issue concerns who rolls at all.

In many games, the GM rolls for his or her characters' actions much as players do for theirs. This is neither good nor bad; it's what happens in Sorcerer, for instance, just as much as in GURPS or whatever.

I think the first game in which the GM never rolls, just the player, was Legendary Lives. There are a few others too. Elfs is like that.

The second issue concerns who calls for rolls, or rather, when someone rolls, who had to speak before that. In most of the play I experienced before 1996 or so, this was highly tuned by a given group. In one Champions group, for instance, people played much as you describe - the players say lots and lots of stuff, and when some of is a conflict or difficult in some way, the GM says "roll." In another group, it might be very different - during most of play, the GM hits the characters with a lot of stuff that absolutely demands specific rolls, most typically Perception or defense rolls of some kind, and the player-prompted rolls usually occur only within the strict framework of combat routines. (One can also find these extremes, and the spectrum between them, across Call of Cthulhu play.)

Now let's put these together. In Elfs, only players roll. Taking damage, for instance, is the result of an abysmally missed attack roll. Also, in Elfs, what the characters do is fantastically wide open across all the options, regardless of the situation, and there's really no way for the GM to say "X happens, therefore you have to roll for [whatever]." Although the GM can and should set up outrageously funky mini-situations (the model is early AD&D modules, in fact), what ensues is indescribably unpredictable. That's so because the players do God Knows What and the GM has the fun of responding totally verbally, riffing off and mechanically applying the results of their rolls.

Does that make sense? I'm fond of Elfs and I am sad that it hasn't been more widely played. It ain't parody; it's satire, and as such can cut pretty deep.

Best, Ron



Title: Re: Interview with Vincent and me
Post by: Marshall Burns on January 28, 2008, 01:11:47 PM
Okay, yeah, that makes sense.

And it seems I'm gonna have to check out Elfs at some point.  I won't lie to you, when I saw the ad for it in Sorcerer (which I bought not too long ago) I went, "ern."  Ordinarily, I'd go, "arrgh," because I don't like fantasy in general (I like Tolkien, Bradbury, Gaiman, Dunsany, Howard, and that's pretty much it), and because I absolutely HATE the way the word "elf" is used by fantasy; it makes me want to punch things (Tolkien had his thing and he did it well, and he knew what the word really means, so I'm cool with that).  The reason I said "ern" instead of "arrgh" is because I suspected that maybe this was something different -- which it seems it must be.

And I'm way off the topic of the interview.  Which I rather enjoyed, by the way.
-Marshall