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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on July 22, 2002, 02:38:16 PM



Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 22, 2002, 02:38:16 PM
Hi everyone,

I finally had the chance to sit down and parse out this issue. To give you the short form, the term "class" in role-playing design has entered that unfortunate realm in which it means so many things, it can mean nothing. So far, the Forge has been unexceptional; although many posts in the following threads are brilliant, I have not seen any actual take-it-home meat arising about the issue.

Roles and stances (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=767) to some extent
Have a little class, people (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2179)
Real world ideology reflected in games (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2216)
Classes Vs. Reality (http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2205)
Character classes II (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2292)

There are probably dozens of other threads that touch on the issue one way or another, especially in Indie Game Design. Links to any relevant threads are appreciated. For my money, one of the finest threads about this topic is Fundamental particles of character class (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1385) as well as Marco's prequel Particles of character class (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1383).

OK, now for my gruntings and other attempts at intelligent communication. I think there are FOUR levels of "role" categorization.

1) The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group. Who's the ... leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof. Fang has dealt with some of this very well in his Emergent techniques: Who's in charge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2801) thread.

2) The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters, relative to the metagame goals of play, whether explicit or implicit. If it's a combat-squad game, then we have the gunner, the techie, the brute, etc. If it's a social-intrigue game, we have the scheming skunk, the idealist-organizer, etc.

This level is a kind of interesting interface between the people and the characters, because these roles are expressed in terms of what characters do, but they (the roles) exist at the level of the social contract among the people. I expect this one to generate the most misunderstanding, because it's also the most covert of the lot in terms of actual game texts and designs.

3) The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc. For a game like Sorcerer or Ars Magica, you can also specify what sort of magic they do. "Race" in most RPGs is another example of this level in action. It's a totally in-game definition, not to be confused with the above.

4) The specifics and customizing of a given character's abilities, which at the most obvious are the actual effectiveness and resource values. However, this level is more important than it looks, because it also includes metagame tags and categories and actual contracts-of-play, etc. If Lightning Man is "hunted by Dr.  Gore-Spatter," then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" (just as Gareth says in his Magic & the Metagame (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2683) thread (I swear to God I'll follow up on that thread, one of these days, really, Gareth!). If Alizara the Elvish Babe is Neutral Good, then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" as well.

THE POINT
RPG terminology has done a terrible job of confusing these four levels almost inextricably. It began, of course, as "class" as employed in D&D, which referred almost exclusively to #2, using #4 specifications to enforce it. But I think this is a single version of a more basic problem across nearly all RPGs, which is trying to use elements of any given level(s) to enforce specifics of another level. When you combine this with an unstated desire to maximize diversity within each of the levels, you get what might be called "concept Currency" breakdown.

One attempted solution, found in many Fantasy Heartbreakers as well as in Jorune, is to create "adventurer" as a #3 category, which has a cart-before-the-horse quality. Another is to keep all the effort in #4 alone (GURPS), in which, typically, you get a bunch of plausible, skilled characters who aren't good "for" anything.

I've had most success with Hero Wars, with a very strong #4 emphasis, but also with highly adjustable abilities that permits #2 to be better expressed and developed as time goes by; and Sorcerer, which minimizes the mechanics-diversity of #2 and #4 very sharply, so that diversity of #3 doesn't really change much about the effectiveness of play. I should also cite Ars Magica, which I haven't played, for what appears to be an extremely clear combination of #2 and #3.

However, I think quite a lot remains to be said about this issue, especially in terms of recognizing that all four levels always exist, in practice. When people talk about "class-based role-playing," it's not a matter of having or not having character classes. It's a matter of how the levels are formalized and made interdependent (vertically).

Thoughts and comments, please. I still have no idea whether I've said something useful, or something which makes everyone look at me and go "Duh!," or merely made incoherent snorty noises in the delusion that I'm making sense.

Best,
Ron


Title: There's Role and then there's Role
Post by: Le Joueur on July 22, 2002, 03:09:00 PM
I had a recent epiphany about the meaning of "role" in role-playing games.  Now I see it practiced as 'role' as in "America played a major role in D-Day," as opposed to the common 'role' as in "For his role in Driving Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman won an Oscar" (don't quote me, I'm guessing on who won).  America was not 'protraying' anything, but their role was as significant¹ participant, they took part.  Not how so many arguments start with about 'role' as in playing a part.

I think Ron's onto something here, right along those lines when he talks about how we take part and not act out one.

Fang Langford

¹ And by significant, I mean tangible and measureable; insignificant would be invisible or unnoticeable.


Title: The class issue
Post by: jburneko on July 22, 2002, 03:24:25 PM
Hello,

A) I think Ron is REALLY onto something.

B) I think the distinction Fang mentioned is important and relates to what Ron said in that much of the "Classes are Great/Suck" debate comes from a serious confusion between #2 and #3.

I'm instantly reminded of a discussion I had with the GM of the current D&D game I'm in.

GM: I don't understand why Player X likes to play Clerics.  He's really bad at it.  He doesn't follow the tenets of his God, he refuses to attend to clerical duties, etc, etc, etc all reasons pertaining to #3.

Me: I don't think that's why he likes playing Clerics.  He likes playing clerics because he's really good at organizing the devine spell lists, he prefers to hang back out of danger and heal people as needed, etc, etc, etc, all reasons pertaining #2.

I don't think much thought is ever given to #1 and #4 seems to be most often used as a reinforcer for either #2 or #3.

So my vote is that the 'meat' of the class debate comes from the clash between gaming preferences of #2 and #3 much like what happens when a bunch of dissimilar gamers sit down and talk about being 'story-oriented.'

Jesse


Title: Class is In!
Post by: Le Joueur on July 22, 2002, 07:34:28 PM
Hey Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group. Who's the ... leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof. Fang has dealt with some of this very well in his Emergent techniques: Who's in Charge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2801) thread.

2) The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters, relative to the metagame goals of play, whether explicit or implicit. If it's a combat-squad game, then we have the gunner, the techie, the brute, etc. If it's a social-intrigue game, we have the scheming skunk, the idealist-organizer, etc.

This level is a kind of interesting interface between the people and the characters, because these roles are expressed in terms of what characters do, but they (the roles) exist at the level of the social contract among the people. I expect this one to generate the most misunderstanding, because it's also the most covert of the lot in terms of actual game texts and designs.

3) The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc. For a game like Sorcerer or Ars Magica, you can also specify what sort of magic they do. "Race" in most RPGs is another example of this level in action. It's a totally in-game definition, not to be confused with the above.

4) The specifics and customizing of a given character's abilities, which at the most obvious are the actual effectiveness and resource values. However, this level is more important than it looks, because it also includes metagame tags and categories and actual contracts-of-play, etc. If Lightning Man is "hunted by Dr.  Gore-Spatter," then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" (just as Gareth says in his Magic & the Metagame (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2683) thread (I swear to God I'll follow up on that thread, one of these days, really, Gareth!). If Alizara the Elvish Babe is Neutral Good, then that tag initiates a form of "task" or "role" as well.

THE POINT
RPG terminology has done a terrible job of confusing these four levels almost inextricably.

...However, I think quite a lot remains to be said about this issue, especially in terms of recognizing that all four levels always exist, in practice. When people talk about "class-based role-playing," it's not a matter of having or not having character classes. It's a matter of how the levels are formalized and made interdependent (vertically).

Thoughts and comments, please.

Be glad to.

I think your "grunts" and "snorty noises" make a lot of sense.  However, I'm not sure you are arranging concepts along a line of proper separation.  I've tried really hard to coax some archetypical roles out of 'above game' play without delving into social interaction theory (as you sited in #1), but I am not sure that all the others follow as the 'levels' below.

Part of the reason #2 and #3 get conflated so frequently is because they are largely unrelated.  Personally, I went to a great deal of effort to 'out' what you call "the most covert of the lot" (#2) with my work on Scattershot's Sine Qua Non Technique (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2009).  The whole purpose was to was to formalize the players' roles with their characters within game play.  As far as the Technique goes 'down,' it brushes the tops of #3, but limits itself that way only so far as 'niche protection.'  I consider 'niche defense' as important in preventing player-to-player deprotagonization and that sits pretty much at the #2 layer.

Conversely, I did some seminal work on Fundamental Particles of Character Class (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1385) which changes the 'standard' pixelated resolution of most point-based to a coarser grain, gaining some of what is attempted by so-called character-class-based systems, dovetailing into the 'niche defense' of the Sine Qua Non Technique (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2009).

Indirectly that explains how I feel about #3.  Roles of the characters within the context of the game are, I think, irrelevant to this analysis.  Why?  Because at some level it completely discludes the players.  #1 seems to disclude the characters, except the roles I site in Emergent techniques: Who's in Charge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2801) are all about positioning the players for character use.  How character ability describes player relationship to other players is the 'meat' of #2.  And #4, per my discussion in Fundamental Particles of Character Class (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1385), is about players entering into 'contract' via the construction of character.

Three out of four of your categories are about players-to-characters.  I think that means #3 belongs in a different theory.  I would suggest that since the remaining three are not a sequencial relationship.  #1 is player-to-player relationship as poised on character exploitation.  #2 seems like player-to-character relationships as roles to practice.  #4 resembles perhaps character-to-character comparisons in preparation for play.  Superfiscially that looks like a series, but I think differently.

I lay them out in a square.  The missing corner would be player-to-character (or maybe character-to-player) and conclude the value the character gives the player to the other players.  ("Gosh, Hubert, if your cloistered monk didn't know hold-out, we'd all be dead by now.")  But I think that orientation might be too covert to even consider.

What I do know is that I think that all of this is about player in-game efficacy and 'goals.'  When selecting 'character class,' when "specifying what sort of magic they do," or when choosing what "meta-game tags" to have in one's character I still see the player saying 'this is what I want to do.'  Whether it's 'these are the skills I want to employ,' 'this is the person I want to be,' or 'this is the kind of story I want to be a part of,' I still hear the same thing.  "This is what I want to do."

I can't separate any of your cases from this basic theme.  Are you talking about anything beyond that?  (If so, then it might include #3 better, so I'm game to hear it.)

Fang Langford


Title: Re: The class issue
Post by: lehrbuch on July 22, 2002, 08:35:13 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I think there are FOUR levels of "role" categorization.

1) The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group...

2) The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters...

3) The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc....

4) The specifics and customizing of a given character's abilities...


Hi,

I'm not 100% convinced that those are the right way to define class.  To me there are also four levels:

1) The player's social/game function...the same as your (1).  GM is another example of this.

2) The character's functional "type" for the purposes of game rules.  Pretty much what you mean by (2), as well.

3) The character's role within their society.  Again pretty much like your (3).

4) The character's role within the story.  For example, is this character the tragic hero, the repentant villain, the perceptive sidekick or the talking dog.  Which seems to be different to your (4).

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not convinced about your (4).  Your 4th category merely seems to be a modifier of the 2nd or 3rd.  I think you are confusing the fact that category 2 or 3 are implemented in several ways within some RPG systems, with the existence of some hybrid category of class.

I think it is difficult to talk about category 1.  I can see that acknowledging players take on different social roles within a group might be useful for conducting an autopsy of a particular roleplaying group- but it would difficult to say anything about these roles in general.  Having said that, player roles, in my experience, are quite fluid.  A player is not the "leader" in either all sessions, or all games, or all groups, or even from moment to moment.

Category 2 and 3.  I think that games tend to combine these.  D&D combines them, for example is a cleric a game function or a social one.  Does the existance of a cleric class mean that my fighter character is an atheist or merely ignored by the gods?  Player aggravation with classes occurs when the players see a distinction between game and social functions, ie category 2 and 3, but the game designers did not appear to.  Cyberpunk is another example of where a character's social and game function were confused.

My category 4, is something which tends to be ignored in games.  Most "traditional" games tend to assume that all characters have the same story role- basically heroes, who attempt to triumph over adversity and improve themselves.  Particular play groups may advance beyond this.  For example in the group that I play vampire with we have (pretty much accidentally) developed proper story roles for our characters.  I guess, "narrativist" games attempt to give characters a story role, but I'm not convinced they really do so successfully.


Title: Re: The class issue
Post by: lehrbuch on July 23, 2002, 02:04:02 PM
Quote from: lehrbuch
I'm not 100% convinced that those are the right way to define class.  To me there are also four levels:...


Actually, having re-read your original post, I think that possibly I am interchanging what you meant by category (2) and (4).  I still think that your categories are a bit fuzzy though.

If we could take as an example:  a character who is a member of the D&D fighter class.

This is a class that tells us something about how the character is treated by the rules system (eg, they have a d8? for hp).  

The class may also tell us something about their role in the fictional society they are a member of: for example, it may imply that they are a member of a "fighter's guild", or that they can speak a "fighter's language".  It also tells us something about their expected role in the micro-society of the party; they will be the one expected to hit monsters.

However it does not tell us anything about the role they are to play in the story; they could be hero or villian, for example.

Neither does it tell us anything about how the player will interact with the other players.

So, using my categories, the D&D fighter class is performing the (2) and possibly (3) functions of class.  Whilst using your categories it appears to be performing (2), (3) and (4)?  Because there is overlap between your definitions of (2) and (4)- I think.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Andrew Martin on July 23, 2002, 08:09:13 PM
I think there's a category 5; which are Gamesmaster and Player. Player has several subcategories, Newbie, Munchkin, RulesLawyer, as well.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Skippy on July 24, 2002, 08:59:44 AM
Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but...

Class systems are great because (insert pro's here) but bad because (insert con's here).

Classless systems are great because (follow same pattern as above).

Class is color.  Class is a way to help form a particular game/world/player relationship, ideally to maximize play, in whatever form.

Classlessness (?) is color.  It was created to help form a particular game/world/player relationship, etc.

Aren't these facets secondary to the social contract, implicit or explicit, among the players, particularly where GM's are concerned.  Before you can determine the subleties of class, you have to have a foundation for play, and the context of class within that structure.

Ron's introductory ranking of the functions of class seems to assume an importance of this within game context.  While functions of class/classlessness are built into the game (whatever game), the utility of the system depends on the social structure of the players, and not on the intentions (however well thought out) of the game designer.

Example 1: D&D campaign, three players: one wizard, two fighters.  Whether this dynamic works is entirely up to the social contract, largely implicit.  I.e. GM agrees not to damage characters so badly that Clerics are required.  GM agrees not to impose locked doors that require a thief.  Fighters agree to protect the spindly wizard from harm.  Wizard agrees not to set off close range fireballs, etc.  The game shifts to match the social contract, in the interest of fun (all about the fun, right?)

Or-

Example 1A: D&D campaign, same arrangement: Players understand that by-the-book GM will not make allowances.  Hirelings are added, or NPC's recruited, possibly adding depth to the party personality pool.  Wizard focuses on spells like Knock (to open doors in the absence of a thief), and Fighters develop secondary skills like stealth for scouting.  Everybody learns some rudimentary first aid, and money is spent on potions instead of newer, better weapons and armor.  All players involved agree this is a fun and challenging way to play (assumed for illustration purposes).


Where this breaks down is when the social contract is not observed, by one or more players.  I could drag up similar examples for GURPS or Sorcerer, or a dozen other games.  Note that I do not feel it is the responsibility of the GM to establish the contract, but of all the players.

This may be slightly off-topic, but I do feel that it is crucial to any discussion of class as it affects the role of characters or players.


Title: The class issue
Post by: lehrbuch on July 24, 2002, 03:45:53 PM
Quote from: Andrew Martin
I think there's a category 5; which are Gamesmaster and Player. Player has several subcategories, Newbie, Munchkin, RulesLawyer, as well.


Hi,

I think that is, partly, what is meant by category (1).

Quote from: Skippy
Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but...


It's not too clear to me what you're driving at here, but maybe you are not using a sufficiently broad definition of what "class" means.  *All* games "classify".  Hence *all* games have "classes", even if they do not explicitly identify them as such.

Take GURPS as an example.  Here there is a distinction between a character who is a PC and an NPC.  PC or NPC is a type of class, one that reflects how the rules system interacts with the character.  

Alternatively there is a class in GURPS called "characters with a STR of 12", this class determines in-game considerations (for example, they are physically stronger than characters whose class is "characters with a STR of 11"), it also has a rules system effect (they add X to STR rolls).


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 25, 2002, 10:55:34 AM
Hello,

Thanks to everyone for the input. I'd like to use this post for review and clarification, and I very greatly hope that people will continue this thread, based on a shared understanding up to this point.

Fang, I think we're speakin' the same language, and I think that your phrasing, "how we take part and not act out one," is brilliant. I imagine Vincent Baker would be one of the best people to champion this concept in terms of game design.

I do think that you're misreading my #3 as "discluding" the characters, which I don't think is correct. All of the four "levels" concern players, per se - characters are expressions of players, no more and no less. #3 is definitely more indirect - but it represents the "grounding" of the characters in an Exploratory (imaginative) context, without which the other levels kinda flail in space and cannot find expression through events established through role-playing. Therefore your missing corner is, I think, occupied in full by my #3 without any need for tweaking or adjusting.

Your phrasing regarding the overall purpose of these "things," in that they are a statement of the player in terms of "what I want to do," is in my view utterly, completely correct. I think that game design represents an offering, or organization of offerings, that function to "draw" or "inspire" the wants/goals of the player. And this, of course, brings us to GNS and System Does Matter.

Dan, your first post seems like it painted you into a corner, and I had a whole bunch of notes for a response, but as it turns out, your second post seems to have worked it out without me. I do think you're missing a key point, which is that these are not independent variables - game design, by definition, creates causal interdependencies among them. (The interesting thing is that different games do it differently, but that is a whole new avenue of discussion.) Therefore when you call attention to, say, the potential causal interface between the rules for a specific D&D fighter (my #4), and the category of a D&D fighter (my #2), my response is "Yes!" rather than worry that my categories "aren't separate."

Scott (Skippy), I don't think you're being obtuse, but I have to say that your comments are ... obvious. Yes, all of this is subordinate to the Social Contract. Everything in role-playing is subordinate to the Social Contract (see my recent post to Jake's GNS-decisions (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2806) thread). All of this "class" discussion specifically concerns game design and game rules, and I'm attempting to show that those designs/rules reverberate up through the outermost "box" of RPG theory.

Everyone, I'd very much like to continue this discussion. If possible, I'd like to see some discussions of actual game design and how the four levels of "class" are involved, explicitly or implicitly, and how those designs pan out in play, in individuals' experience.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: The class issue
Post by: damion on July 25, 2002, 11:41:42 AM
Quote

 The player's explicitly social role among the gaming group. Who's the ... leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof.


This catagory confuses me, as it seems to have nothing to do with gaming. Most of these roles could exists in a social group that never played a RPG together. Now you could put the GM/player classification in here, but that would seem strange as those roles do relate to gaming. Maybe I'm confused here.

All the other levels make sense to me: Here's my versions so you can see if I'm right.

#2 Relates to roles created by the goals of play, as Ron mentioned. I think an interesting thing here is how including elements in the game create these roles.  In DnD could be said to have goal of explore dungeons the the fact that dungeons can contain traps(and they are major obsticle without someway to deal with them) creates a role for someone who can deal with traps.  

#3 This usually seems to be specified as part of the genera
of the game. The utility seems a bit limited since it seems to be the same for every character in the game, mainly because you need SOME way to get all the charachters together.
For DnD it's 'adventurer', for Champions it's 'Superhero' for Shadowrun it's obvious :).

#4 Pretty Obvious.  Although I find grouping explicit mechanicl roles (eg fighter). With implict mechanical roles (Hunted by Dr. Lucky-which is more of a Bang than a role IMHO) seems strange.

Sorry couldn't get beyond the basics like your wanted Ron.


Title: Re: The class issue
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 25, 2002, 12:00:11 PM
Quote from: damion
This catagory confuses me, as it seems to have nothing to do with gaming. Most of these roles could exists in a social group that never played a RPG together.


Gaming is a social activity. So these categories also exist in gaming, as well as other activities. Their importance has mostly been ignored in RPGs so far. That doesn't mean that they aren't important to consider, however, and they certainly make sense in a discussion of the activity of playing RPGs.

Mike


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 25, 2002, 12:25:34 PM
Hi Damion,

No worries, if it's to be the basics, then so be it.

In my big ol' gaming essay, in the last section (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/gns/gns_chapter6.html), I present some of the Big Context for role-playing and situate everything that's gone before (Exploration, game design, GNS, etc, etc) within the social interactions of everyone just ... well, interacting.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no role-playing that is separate from that - you can't say, X is role-playing, but Y is the social interaction among the people, so thing-X can't be thing-Y, they're different. As I see it, anything that's X is, by definition, a subset of something Y. And yes, there are things that are Y that are not necessarily X.

To give an example: Bob is playing a troll-guy fighter, Andrea is playing an elfy archer babe, and Scott is the GM. Andrea and Scott are dating; Bob eats his heart out every night because he's got the hots for Andrea so bad he can't stand it.

Any and all interactions about Bob's lonely lust, his pathetic attempts to garner attention or approval from Andrea, his occasional rebellion against Scott's rulings ... of them are Social Stuff. Some of them might not have anything to do with the role-playing at hand - like who sits nearest whom, or who gives whom a ride or gets whom a soda, etc. Now let's take a look at any and all interactions among the troll-guy, the elfy-babe, and any and all NPCs. This is the "role-playing," correct? But it all occurs within the context of the Social Stuff too. It's a box within the Social Stuff box.

Therefore, all of my "levels" about character classes (by whatever name) are Social Stuff. They have to be, just as anything to do with the role-playing Stuff has to be. Your statement that Social Stuff has "nothing to do with the role-playing" is, to me, nonsensical.

Best,
Ron


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 25, 2002, 02:15:15 PM
I think I have a tendency towards idea algomeration or something. Maybe that explains this:

I read the roles described by Ron and I thought I saw some sort of direct relationship with GNS. I re-read them and it's definately not a 1-to-1 relationship (a G role, an N role and an S role). However, would it be useful to describe roles in function of the decision modes they stimulate on the player??

I'm assuming that roles can be understood as the way a player takes part in the game (as noted by Fang) and that there is an urge/necessity to, in fact, take part according to those roles. I'm getting a little entangled in my own idea.... basically for a "Techie" role to be esablished upon a player the other players must expect him to effectively act his role: to "be there" when a machine is to be repaired, etc. For a "funny guy" role to be established, the other players must expect him to crack some jokes during play, etc. If the other players don't expect a certain behaviour from a player then you can't really talk about a role being established upon that player.

Ok, I'm sure someone can make that point much more clearer than me. Hoping someone got it though..

Could a player's roles be understood as the "thing" that actually stimulates him to take a G,N, or S decision? I can't exactly pan out how to explain the idea, but maybe it's enough this far for someone else to make sense of it or point out why it wouldn't work. I'll follow up as soon as I get the idea woven together.

Anyway, I can't help but being drawn to the idea that GNS should actually be GNS+Social (game decisions that promote certai social behaviours -I'll fend of that troll because it's attacking the character of a cute player). Has this already been discussed? If not then I'll take it to an appropiate thread in the GNS forum.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on July 26, 2002, 01:22:33 PM
Quote from: Don Lag
Could a player's roles be understood as the "thing" that actually stimulates him to take a G,N, or S decision?


I think you're onto something here. Let's take a look at Ron's descriptions.

Quote
The character's explicitly functional role among the other characters, relative to the metagame goals of play, whether explicit or implicit. If it's a combat-squad game, then we have the gunner, the techie, the brute, etc. If it's a social-intrigue game, we have the scheming skunk, the idealist-organizer, etc.


Why would people assume these roles? The most probable reason is that there will be situations in which such a division of 'classes' will allow the characters to be more effective. This would appear to be a mostly Gamist concern, where the players try to beat a situation/scenario. It could also be used to give diversity to Simulation of Situation.

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The in-game character profession and activities, or the in-game explanation of what these characters do with their time, how they are perceived by NPCs, how they make money, etc.


Why would people assume these kinds of roles? Because they want their characters to blend in with the game world. It seems to me that these roles follow from Simulation of Setting.

Lehrbuch wrote:

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The character's role within the story. For example, is this character the tragic hero, the repentant villain, the perceptive sidekick or the talking dog.


This, once again, would be a division useful in a Narrativist game.

So, let's say for a moment that 'classes' are simply a way to talk about different roles from a certain GNS-perspective. I think it's not too far-fetched to claim that about the above examples. But does it also work for Ron's #1 and #4, which I sneakily didn't quote?

Not really. #1 seems to be about the personality of the gamer. Obviously, this will have a big impact on how he plays the game, but it's not something he wouldn't be without the game. Therefore, it can't be based on a GNS-perspective. (Though it might be one of the factors determining which GNS-perspectives the player prefers.)

#4 is somewhat difficult. I can't place it in a GNS-perspective, but I'm not quite sure I understand it anyway. How did 'has 14 Strength', 'is Neutral Good' and 'hunted by Dr. Gore-Spatter' end up in one category? The first and third are not a class at all, imho: the fact that a character has 14 strength does not tell you anything about what he's going to do (a 'fighter' is going to fight, but someone who is strong is going to do... wel, what? there's no reason to assume he'll actually perform feats of strength); and the fact that he is hunted by someone is more a thread in the story than an actual role he takes on. ('Hunted person' could be a role, but 'hunted by Dr. Gore-Spatter' isn't. It's too specific. Imho.)  'Neutral Good', on the other hand, could be placed under one of the previously stated instances of 'classes', as it can be a Simulation of Character tool, a Narrativist tool and a Simulation of Situation tool (probably among others).

I suggest that either #4 isn't a category at all, or someone explains it to me so I see where I'm wrong. :)


This leaves me with the idea that classes could be defined for any GNS-perspective. These would be levels that are more or less equal. They surely interact (if your 'Gamist class' is 'wizard', your 'Simulation of Setting class' had better be something compatible - like 'village wizard'.)

Ron's #1 is probably very important, but it's on another level, (it exists prior to the game, unlike all other classes), so I'm not sure we should use the same term for it.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 26, 2002, 03:02:16 PM
Hello,

Victor, I think you are missing my point that the term "class" is being exploded - that is, eradicated. The levels I refer to really exist; they are part and parcel of playing a character in a role-playing game. The term "class" has been applied to a variety of means to organize their interdependency, for given games.

Hence "class" in D&D is a Level 2 phenomenon, which has a causal effect on #4; that permissible combination of #4 stuff for a given class then has its impact on #1, during play. (D&D leaves #3 out of it, but a variety of supplemental material as well as house rules shoehorns it in, validating my claim that all four levels must exist.)

So don't look for "class" in the schema I've presented. Don't call them "classes," or "types of classes." Classes, so-called in one or another particular game, are a particular technique; my schema is the principle upon which that technique is trying to achieve functional play.

To clarify for some folks, using examples.

1) Otherkind distinguishes among characters mainly at level #3, using Race. In this case Race directly impacts #2, Character Role in Game, because it dictates the vector of response to losing Connection to Life, which is a variable in Otherkind that affects character behavior. Otherkind specifically forces all characters to be exactly alike in #4, which is unusual, but very appropriate for a game which purports (successfully) to be about decisions rather than capabilities.

2) Sorcerer specifies #2 very sharply, limiting its scope to a ferocious degree. Characters will be sorcerers who cope with Humanity loss via their interaction with demons and their (the sorcerer's) own goals. #3 is permitted to vary, but #4 varies much less than #3 (this is atypical, most skill-based or modern-day games are the opposite).

Always, always, the combination of #2-4 impacts #1 in practice; obviously, #1 as it stands will always influences choices made about #2-4 (ie "what to play").

Best,
Ron


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 26, 2002, 03:13:28 PM
Thank you Victor!!

I'd been trying to explain that idea for about an hour without being able to reach a parragraph I could understand myself.

Could I hire you as my translator?

Hoping I've finally gotten the GNS model right, here's a suggestion:

Game role: the role the character plays according to the game's mechanics or for what type of actions he is most effectively biased
(A wizard is given access to the spell mechanics of the game, a warrior has more effective combat mechanics, etc.). Sticking to this role results in gamist decisions.

Narration role: the relation the character has with the story (or it's Premise? not sure). In a game about the mora implications of wielding political power, is the character treacherous, loyal, merciful, cruel? Note that "loyal" would be an N-role only as long as it specifically referred to the role the character plays regarding the Premise. If the Premise was D&D-ish (will we be able to effectively kill everything that moves?) then loyal becomes more of an adjective of the character than an actual N-role. Sticking to this role results in narrative decisions.

Simulation role: the role the character has relating to the game's setting (the town mayor, a memeber of the thieves guild, etc.). Sticking to this role results in simulationist decisions.

Social role: the role the player has amongst his fellow players. I'm sure not everyone agrees this aspect of gaming should be considered formally, but at this moment I think it should. I believe game decisions can be made motivated by the way it would affect the players' social relations. Of course this also suggests tht, being there social decisions, GNS should be GNSC, letting C stand for soCial and C-role = social role.

Anyway, it's pretty clear that Ron's #1 corresponds directly to the C-role. G-role is pretty much #2 with some of the examples for #3 and relying on elements listed by #4. N-role doesn't seem to explicitely addressed in any of Ron's examples. S-role is very much the starting sentence for #3.

At this point I reflect on whether these definitions simply re-organize Ron's ideas or are in fact an orthogonal definition (point at different objectives). Also, are they a useful concept at all, or just a trivial spin-off from GNS?

I think it's clear that a class would be a design effort to condensate a role or comination of roles (as discussed here) into a mechanically manageable game term.

Also I'd guess that most RPG interacion among players pivots around the (usually tacit) agreement that we'll all stick to our expected roles:

Socially, everyone expects funny guy makes funny comments (that's how he gets the funny-guy role in the first place, from that expectation).

"Gamingly", everyone expects the warrior to concentrate on combatworthy enterprises. Nobody expects the wizard to spend time, expierence points, or any other game currencies in pursuing greater
effectiveness in combat.

Narratively, everyone expects a certain consistency with the character/player's angle on the Premise. Nobody expects the near-criminal berserker character/player to suddenly become a religiously driven evangelist.

"Simulationally", everyone expects the travelling bard to sing in taverns, seek attention and have knowledge of all kinds of lore. Nobody expects the barbarian to set up an industrial sword-making production line.


Of course, there are exceptions. But I'd believe that such exceptions usually fall into conflicts among roles. It would probably be acccepted that a wizard take into combat training (thus parting from his G-role) as long as it justifies sticking to some other role: perhaps his loved one had been brutally killed and he's preparing to personally seek vengeance or whatever (sticking to his N-role probably).

I can't see why any role should be permanent in time, so it's assumed that they're allowed to change by the players. The mechanism by which roles are morphed and how these changes interact among the roles might be pretty interesting. The way in which I change my N-role from being mean and cruel to being soft and caring (in a game about feelings I guess) might be explained (in-game) as a response to a traumatic event. This of course is part Simulationist and can be considered somehow as sticking to S-role. I fact, just how much of a change in the N-role would be "tolerated" by the other players would probably be related to how well it sticks to the S-role.

To depart from a role (as defined here) with no "justification" (such as sticking to another role would be) could be what most players recognize as bad roleplaying (and actualy it sounds kind of obvious).

D&D examples don't seem to be the most enlightening ones, but it's the most I've played and I can't refer to any others without getting some facts wrong and probably confusing everyone. If anyone agrees maybe the idea can be better illustrated by a more wide variety of examples.

I have a few more ideas and comments running around, but I feel like I'm going too fast already. Besides, this post is long enough as is :)


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 26, 2002, 08:13:36 PM
Hello,

Hey guys, I appreciate the interest in the thread, but I must say: the connection to GNS is a no-brainer. Of course the decisions about any of the levels, and how they relate, are GNS-relevant. Sebastian, I'm afraid that your attempt to correspond the levels to GNS categories is premature. We have lots and lots of comparative work to do among games, both regarding text and actual play, before such things can get worked out.

Similarly, of course, any decisions about anything during play are socially relevant. I am already on record, both in my article and multiple times in various threads, in defining role-playing as a subset of sociality (ie no "role-playing over here" vs. "social stuff over there").

Please see the current threads on GNS definitions and decisions, in the GNS forums, for my recent posts about this. If you want to discuss this further, please take it up on those threads and not here.

Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.

Best,
Ron


Title: The class issue
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on July 27, 2002, 03:35:00 AM
** Warning: I'll use 'class' in this post to designate the level 2 phenomenon called by that name in D&D. I don't know a better term for this, so I wish to use it, even if 'class' has some other meanings at well. **

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Hey guys, I appreciate the interest in the thread, but I must say: the connection to GNS is a no-brainer.


I don't think so; actually, I think some interesting ideas might be gained from pursuing the insight that 'class', interpreted in a narrower sense than you do, can be applied to the full scope op GNS-perspectives. As far as I know, but correct me if I'm wrong, there are no RPGs that make you choose a 'Narrativist'-class. Sure, the connection to GNS is obvious, but that's not the point. However, I'll create a new thread in the GNS-forum about it; this doesn't appear to be the discussion you were hoping for, so I won't fill your thread with it.

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I am already on record, both in my article and multiple times in various threads, in defining role-playing as a subset of sociality (ie no "role-playing over here" vs. "social stuff over there").


Where does that leave computer roleplaying? Ah, this is probably offtopic too, just ignore it if the answer is longer than one sentence.

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Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.


I don't think #1 has much to do with game design. It's just there, and it influences the choices a player will make regarding #2-#4; I don't think a game can relate it closer to #2-#4 than that.

It would be especially interesting to find games where #2, #3 and #4 are set equal. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, for instance, #2 and #3 are equal. A character's role in the game is set by his 'career' (more or less the equivalent of D&D's classes at level #2), which at the same time sets his role in society. This is a very close relationship, and level #2 and #3 are almost inseperable here.

D&D2E, on the other hand, has a more incoherent approach to the relationship between #2 and #3. It's 'classes' exist at level #2, but some of them cross over into #3. For instance, a 'fighter' could be anything in the world (almost no crossover to #3), whereas a 'bard' has a very narrowly defined role in society (huge crossover to #3). It should, however, be noticed that the bard's role at level 2 is not the same as his role at level 3. At level 2, his role is to strengthen his party member with his inspiring song, to be a surrogate thief when needed, to do some diplomacy when needed, etcetera. His role at level 3 is to entertain people. These two different roles have been compressed into one package. This is not necessarily bad, but it's a little strange that some 'classes' do, and other's don't have this feature.

Obviously, there are many other games where #2 and #3 have no connection. So, all levels of connection are possible.

On to level 4: what's it's connection with #2 and #3? There are probably some minimalistic RPGs where #4 and #2 are equal. A not-quite RPG like the board-game Hero Quest has a complete equality between #2 and #4: your character's 'class' (barbarian, dwarf, elf or wizard) completely defines all his game statistics. (In this game #3 plays no role at all beyond the assumption that you are some kind of hero saving the kingdom from evil.) Far more common is to have some interaction between #2 and #4, but not equality. Thus, in D&D, #2 lays down some restriction for #4 (or the other way around, depending on how you look at it). It's almost necessary for a game to have some connection between #4 and #2. The character's 'statistics' will reflect what he's good at, and thus will reflect what his role in the group is or should be. Only a few games that have no effectiveness values will be able to severe any connection between #2 and #4.

The connection between #3 and #4 is somewhat less clear. The character's role in the gameworld can be connected to #4 by itself, or through #2. If #3 and #2 are more or less equal, #3 will share (part of) the connection #2 has with #4. Thus, in AD&D, anyone whose job it is to entertain people by making music and singin songs will have [insert necessary statistics to be a bard in AD&D]. I can't, however, think of many RPG systems where #3 and #4 have a direct connection. (But my knowledge of RPGs is very incomplete.)

So, I guess the question becomes: what kind of connections are used / are useful in different types of game design? I guess a Gamist game, for example, would like a very strong connection between #2 and #4, with #3 being less important. (For example: D&D3E. They did this perfectly. There is a very clear connection between #2 and #4, and #3 is left almost entirely to the player - although there should be some connection to #2.)


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 27, 2002, 06:11:30 AM
Hi Victor,

Four things ...

1) Regarding GNS, my use of "no-brainer" refers to whether it is involved with the four levels, not how. Regarding how, important insights are definitely to be gained by discussing how these four levels relate to it - but as I said to Sebastian, I also think that it's premature to do so.

2) Most computer role-playing is irrelevant to most, although not all, discussion at the Forge. The activity we talk about here and that activity share a label, but very little content or procedure, except in certain cases.

(I am not referring to Pbem or on-line play, I'm talking about what people usually call computer role-playing games. If anyone wants to debate this, they're not going to get very far by pointing out the nuance in one game that corresponds to "our" sort of role-playing. I have already acknowledged that some areas of correspondence exist.)

Any and all discussion of this issue should be taken to a different thread.

3) My level #1 is probably going to be hard for some people to grasp, and I think that the "but that's social!" fallacy is what's responsible. Levels #2-4 do operate as a unit, but they are always, always informed (in the classic sense of word) by #1. The obvious example is flipping through the book and seeing what one "can" play. That's #1 "looking" at the #2-4 combination that emerges.

I do not consider this example trivial. What happens when someone fails to get a strong idea of #2-4 upon flipping through the book or asking one or two questions? Their interest drops instantly. Even in a game like GURPS, in which #2 is arguably absent from the text, both the illustrations and the examples are going to clarify to the reader that #2 may be easily constructed. If they don't, poof - interest in playing evaporates.

But that's just the easy example. #2-4 feed back into #1 in multiple ways during play. Here is indeed where GNS must be involved, and to discuss this, we'll have to take a mature understanding of GNS (and thus not say "A Gamist would ...") as well as a better grasp of the basics of my level-scheme, which is what this thread is for.

And then, also, during play, #1 is always acting upon and even altering #2-4. This is where people get defensive - for some reason, "social stuff" as a functional and powerful component of play (in this case, regarding character-role-and-function) is often considered some kind of horrid sin. So what if my Fighter-Guy went to some pains to defend the Elfy Babe from the goblins, just because I personally wanted to get into the player's pants? Granted, this particular instance is not edifying, and I imagine that various other goals of play (e.g. GNS) are potentially compromised, but this sort of thing is real and active in every one of you-all's games out there. It is the source of much fine and excellent role-playing as well as dysfunctional forms.

So level #1 is a necessary and functional part of the scheme, even if "one of these four is not like the others."

4) I like your breakdown of the different games. One thing that I hope people are picking up upon is that if a game text or descriptions does not include a specific designator at one or the other levels, then people construct them through play. For instance, in many D&D games, people take to treating the class designation as an in-game designation (#3). E.g., the NPC says, "Well, there's a powerful magic-user living down the street."

Now that I think about it, the D&D text does provide one small (and widely-ignored) example of this very thing: the names of the levels for the different classes, e.g. Prestidigitator, Conjuror, etc.
 
Another nugget to consider is that #2 is usually constructed as a composite. For instance, the qualities designated by D&D as "class" are only a portion of what constitutes #2 in D&D - it's also constituted by "race" (D&D's most-important and consistent concession to #3) and "level" (definitely a #4 thing). Dont' get me wrong - D&D's "class" designation is definitely a #2, and it's one of the few and most distinctive acknowledgments in game texts that #2 exists at all. That particular designation is not all of the level #2 content in the game, that's all.

Best,
Ron


Title: The class issue
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on July 27, 2002, 01:37:28 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Victor,


By the way, I never put 'Hi' and 'Greetings' or whatever in my posts. I hope this doesn't strike anyone as rude. The forum which I mostly hang out on has a long-standing policy against such greetings in posts, so I'm not used to it. Please assume I always greet everyone implicitely.

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So level #1 is a necessary and functional part of the scheme, even if "one of these four is not like the others."


Yes, but it's also important to note that it's not like the others. The main problem with #1 is, of course, that the game designer has no influence on it (unless he creates a game exclusively for his friends). There are a few things he can do with it, such as making a wide selection of available #2-#4 choices so he can reach a wider public in the #1 sense.

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4) I like your breakdown of the different games. One thing that I hope people are picking up upon is that if a game text or descriptions does not include a specific designator at one or the other levels, then people construct them through play.


With #2 and #3: undoubtedly. However, what about #4? All your examples seemed to be system-specific. I'm not sure how player whould come up with things like 'has 14 Strength'.

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For instance, in many D&D games, people take to treating the class designation as an in-game designation (#3). E.g., the NPC says, "Well, there's a powerful magic-user living down the street."


Yep, though not with all classes. More with bard and druid than with fighter (probably the most generic of them all - if you don't know someone's class, make him a fighter).

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Another nugget to consider is that #2 is usually constructed as a composite. For instance, the qualities designated by D&D as "class" are only a portion of what constitutes #2 in D&D - it's also constituted by "race" (D&D's most-important and consistent concession to #3) and "level" (definitely a #4 thing). Dont' get me wrong - D&D's "class" designation is definitely a #2, and it's one of the few and most distinctive acknowledgments in game texts that #2 exists at all. That particular designation is not all of the level #2 content in the game, that's all.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think D&Ds (2E) most important and consistent concession to #3 is the standard non-weapon proficiency method, where you roll a die and find out that you are a 'baker' or a
'brewer' or something like that.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 27, 2002, 05:43:30 PM
Ok then, let's keep the relation to GNS for later and concentrate on your proposed 4 levels of role categorization.

In which ways are you thinking #1 interacts with #2-#4 ? I can imagine this: say your character is a jester (#2-#4) then I guess you tend to be more talkative, not only IC but OOC too. My best example is a game partner we had who wasn't very bright (#1) and tended to create not-very-bright characters (along classes defined according to #2-#4). The reverse is certainly possible: if you take a #2 role of being the scheming-skunk, you tend to adopt the expected nuances of behaviour OOC also.

I'm not sure this is what you intend when stating that #1 interacts with #2-#4 and viceversa. I think it says more stuff about psychology than gaming. Could you please clarify that point (the way in whihc #1 interacts with the other levels)?


I'm thinking that your levels might have something to do with player/character consciousness??
#4 is percieved by player but not by the character; for example the concept of hit-points, levels, attribute scores, etc aren't available to actual characters ("Hi I'm Joe the Blacksmith, I'm neutral-good, level 1 and have 14 Strength"!!). However, characters do present some sort of recognition of these elements, but in othre terms (using other concepts): "I feel great", "I'm rather strong", "I'm good at X"...
#3 calls upon concepts like "baker", "mayor", "shoemaker" that are available to the characters and pretty much identical to the one the players handle.

#3 and #4 apply only to the characters. By having a blacksmith character you aren't expected, as a player, to actually do any smithing!

#2 is hybrid in a sense, it refers to concepts that are available to the characters but that would apply simultaneously to characters and players: a player taking on the "leader" role is supposed to be one among the players and, at the same time, his character is supposed to be a leader to the other characters (this is of course what I think you originally observed in the starting post).

#1 would refer to roles that could be exclusively recognized by the players; they can of course permeate to all the other levels. I'm still a little suspicious of #1 as a peer of #2-#4, ut I think it's important to see if you agree with any of the above perceptions.

The thing is, I agree with your levels to the extent that I recognize them as "things" that I can too percieve in gaming. But I'm not sure what the criteria for the categorization is, and it seems a bit in your first post that the division was like separating fruit into two groups: green fruit and yummy fruit. I'm sure you have some criteria for diding the levels as you did, it's just not evident to me yet.

Greets.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on July 28, 2002, 01:44:59 AM
Quote from: Don Lag
#4 is percieved by player but not by the character; for example the concept of hit-points, levels, attribute scores, etc aren't available to actual characters ("Hi I'm Joe the Blacksmith, I'm neutral-good, level 1 and have 14 Strength"!!). However, characters do present some sort of recognition of these elements, but in othre terms (using other concepts): "I feel great", "I'm rather strong", "I'm good at X"...


But some games state attribute score and such in terms accessible to the character; The Window, for instance, makes you write down 'my character is rather strong', or 'my character is very intelligent'. (Admittedly, there's the name of a die after it, which the character wouldn't understand. I'm sure there are better examples of games where there are no terms the characters can't understand.) Does this make those attributes #2 instead of #4? If so, the boundary between them is extremely vague, for the difference between 'my character has 18 strength' and 'my character is very, very strong' is largely cosmetic. And what's more, although we don't say that people are 'lawful good', characters in an AD&D-world might say so. (They've got all kinds of things that work only against good or evil people, etcetera. It would be a very natural division for them to make.)

Therefore, I'm not quite sure character consciouness / player consciousness is a very good way of classifying things. There are too many subtleties there. (O gods, it all breaks down when your start roleplaying characters who are avid roleplayers. :P ) And actually, I'm not quite sure that it is what Ron meant in the first place. To me, it seems more about 'roles': the role in the out-of-game social group, the role in the party, the role in society and the role in the game system.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 28, 2002, 12:28:41 PM
I'm still referring to roles actually. But it seems to me that the division among roles relates to who's concepts are being used in defining such roles.

The role of having Strength 18 isn't usually available to the character, not in those terms anyway, or at least it isn't intended to be explicitely known to the character accoding to the manual. If the characters acknowledge the difference betwee strength scores such as: I'm stronger (18) than Bob (17) and Andy (16, but Bob's stronger than Andy.... then what it looks like is that you're shifting the Strength attribute from #4 to #2; being "a strong/er/est guy" is #2.

Of course you usually wouldn't make a strength 18 character (#4) unless you're also sticking to a "strong guy" role at #2. But that's just the interacion among role levels that's acknowledged in Ron's original post.

Quote

The Window, for instance, makes you write down 'my character is rather strong', or 'my character is very intelligent'.


Maybe I haven't been consistent enough. When I mean "aware" of a role I mean that the role is expressed using the exact concepts of by which it is perceived. A character does not usually percieve the existence of attribute scores (and in The Window I still see them as attribute scores, although with a more elaborate name; at least by the examples you've given) even though he IS aware that he is less or more effective than average in certain areas.

Quote

...although we don't say that people are 'lawful good', characters in an AD&D-world might say so...


What I've usually seen is that character's aren't aware of explicit alignments in-game. I believe the AD&D books ad Palladium also, seem to support this idea by stating that character's should't speak in terms of alignment. Of course players do.

This all goes to saying that given a single game, different groups of players may assign certain roles to different levels, and what it seems to me is that these levels rely on who's concepts (the players' and/or the characters') are being used in their description. Of course the usefulness of the level scheme might rely on some other criteria I haven't bee able to percieve, I'd like for Ron or somone else to point out for me in that case.


Title: The class issue
Post by: lehrbuch on July 28, 2002, 03:40:46 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.


Hi,

Here's my attempt to show how your levels of classes occur in Vampire, or at least my experience of Vampire.  I should note, that I've only really played vampire as a political intrigue game.

Vampire Classes:

Level One: Player's Social Role.  The game explicitly divides players into the "Storyteller" and the "Players".  In the game text (particularly in the Black Dog supplements) there are comments made (mostly to the storyteller) about "what the player's feel comfortable with", both in game content and interaction between players.  Although, in my experience, this has never been a particular issue in tabletop Vampire (LARP, however is a whole other story). (Aside:  Player's Social Role, or at least misunderstandings about them, seem to be a Big Issue in LARPs- one reason is possibly because of the relatively large number of (part time) players.)

Level Two: Character's Functional Role.  If the game is played canonically then the player characters are either members of a Coterie or Sabbat Pack.  In a Sabbat Pack there are clear functional roles: Priest, Leader etc.  These are also Level Three (as the characters know about them).  Character roles are less clear in a Coterie.  Vampires are also divided by clan where bruisers, sneakers etc are more likely to come from particular clans.  Again, this is partly Level Three as the characters know about it.  In actual play, characters tend to specialise in an area, however in my experience player characters are as likely to be acting against each other as with- so they do not make the most efficient use of this specialisation.

Level Three: In-Game Roles.  There are in-game titles (Prince, Primogen, Bishop etc).  Titles are very important in the game and although player-characters tend to not initially have them they are something to strive for.    There are clans (discussed above).  The game text and actual play makes a lot of use out of each clans stereotypical perception of the other clans.  Clan is not however a totally in-game definition, as it marginally effects how a character's experience points may be spent.  Some clans (notably Ventrue) also have titles etc within the clan that define what a character does.  Characters may also be granted domain over particular resources or geographic areas of a city.  Protecting and administering one's own domain, and striving to not get caught interfering in another's domain is an important in game role.  Finally, a character is usually tied to other characters (PC and NPC) through favours owed and owned.  Gathering or paying these off is a significant definer of a character's role.

Level Four:  Rules bits.  In character generation a player assigns priorities to various areas of the character's development- for example, which gets the most points: Physical, Mental or Social attributes.  This has a bearing on how effective your character will be in various roles.  Character backgrounds- things like Herds, Resources, Fame, strongly influence what a character will do, for example a character without many Resources may spend a lot of time in-game trying to accumulate wealth.  Vampire also has a system of Nature and Demeanor, which are general statements about how your character is and appears, psychologically.  This can be an important driver of in-game activity as a character recovers will-power points by acting in accordance with their Nature.  Will-power points are usually expended to resist "mind-control" type effects.

Hmmm....that was long.  While I was writing this one thing that occurred to me, is that another distinction that can be made about classes in games is whether they are "descriptive" or "prescriptive".  This is parallel to Ron's levels.  For example if a Vampire Character was said to be a "toreador gun-bunny", then the "toreador" bit (a clan) is prescriptive.  It defines how she will be (initially) perceived by other characters and (partly) how she may expend experience points.  "Gun-bunny" is descriptive, it tells us that that the character probably has a lot of DEX, Firearms skill and celerity...and some guns.  It's kind of chicken and egg thing:  A "prescriptive class" *defines* how the character is, while a "descriptive class" *describes* how the character is.


Title: The class issue
Post by: damion on July 28, 2002, 04:30:37 PM
First off: I'm with Victor in the greetings. If anyone is offended by not having them, let me know, and I'll try to remember to put them in. (Anyway I could get a sig at the beginning?: )

Also, Victor, thanks for succinctly expressing my some of my confusion on #1. I think there are really two issues in #1.
1)What do people want during A Game? This seems to be Ron's Elf-babe example, and this seems to be the 'but it's social' issue.
I have to agree with Victor in that I'm not sure what you can do about it. The net effect would seem to be to add a Author element
to play.  
2)As mentioned in the original example, social roles. I think this element is addressed by people gravitating toward expressions of 2-4 that fit their #1 roles.  
Games seem to address this issue by limiting the choices for #2-4. The idea being that a person who can't find something that fits them won't play, thus avoiding problems.

I think the partly confusion between #2-4 arises because the game mechanics require quantification of the Competence of a charachter to a certian resolution. This resolution is usually greater than that available in RL. In RL we have a few broad catagories (Certifications, Education Levels(Ph.D, MD, ect), Testing, ect). Withing these catagories it's usually very sujective. Thus we have things like job applications where they talk to you and look at your experiance as way of differentiating the Competence of people.
In gaming there seem to be 3 solutions.
1)Very Low Resolution:Basicly characthers are described by a descriptor  the reflects special abilities. For everything else there some default mechanism. This basicly says that the level of competence isn't that important to the game. Occam's Razor.
Lot's of Narrativist RPG's use this method.
2)Low Resolution:In this you have a small range of Competence, approxametly similar to RL. The problem is that differentiating between people at the same level is difficult. Example:FUDGE?

3)High Res:Charachter competence is 'known' in Game mechanics to a much higer degree than real life. This is a sort of simulationist approach, which tries to model the 'real' spectrum of competence. It causes a problem in game because there is no way to express the info in game, despite the fact that it is relevent. It also causes the problem of breakpoints, or why GURP's characthers have 14s.

Hmm, hope that wasn't to far off topic.


Title: The class issue
Post by: lehrbuch on July 28, 2002, 05:40:49 PM
Quote from: Victor Gijsbers
But some games state attribute score and such in terms accessible to the character; The Window, for instance, makes you write down 'my character is rather strong', or 'my character is very intelligent'....


First, I'm not sure that what happens in real life is relevant, but people do say things like "my IQ is xxx" or "my grade-point average is xxx" or "I can bench press xxx kg".  Real life people *can* express how strong/intelligent/etc they are in numerical terms.  Of course, there are authenticity, accuracy, definition, and precision problems with these measures.

Quote from: damion
In RL we have a few broad catagories (Certifications, Education Levels(Ph.D, MD, ect), Testing, ect). Withing these catagories it's usually very sujective. Thus we have things like job applications where they talk to you and look at your experiance as way of differentiating the Competence of people.


"Classes" are not only used to differentiate competence, either in a game or real life.  They also define role and perception (both of the character and those that the character has of others).  

This is true of real life as well.  We don't usually look at formal qualifications or test results when we make judgements about people.  We look at: what they look like, what they are saying, what they are doing, what they have done and who they are with.  That is, we make a judgement about which class or caste they are in (although maybe we wouldn't use those words) and apply a stereotype we think is appropriate.


Title: Tastes Like Chicken!
Post by: Le Joueur on July 28, 2002, 09:50:33 PM
Hey Ron,

Since I assume you'd like to 'get back on track' with...

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.


Let's try Scattershot.[list=1]
  • As you point out, until recently this level was completely missed in published texts (at least as a separate idea).  As you also mention, Scattershot does go into issue with this not only with Emergent Techniques: Who's in Charge? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2801), but also with those for Solomon's Auction (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2803) (because it is strictly a player-versus-player issue) and Sine Qua Non (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2009) (because it calls for player-to-player negotiation).

    What I think you might be missing with your list ("leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof") is pretty much the whole 'ist' issue.  Some people very much identify with the 'isms' of the GNS; "I'm a Gamist," "I'm a Simulationist," and "I'm a Narrativist."  (I expect people will feel similarly with similar components in the Scattershot Gaming Model (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1662) and Ambitious Approach (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2142).)  I think you've got to admit that that appears here at this level primarily in the 'ism' self-identification way.

    Another thing that seems to be lost at this level (probably because it's so ingrained) is the whole 'gamemaster, player, host, organizer' logistics thingie.  A few of the upcoming 'Emergent Techniques' will deal with these issues, especially how they relate to 'refereed, totally Gamemasterful (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1662) (but consequently gamemasterless-seeming) live-action role-playing' gaming, otherwise I don't have anything for that yet.

  • The GNS/Approaches (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1662) thing comes up again here, but I think more implicitly than explicitly.  Scattershot works on this level primarily with Emergent Techniques: Sine Qua Non (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2009) and many of the 'niche protection' sub-topics throughout.  Of course the whole idea of keeping the players from deprotagonizing each other partly carries back up to the previous level too.

    One thing we also address at this level has to do with character design, but not the specifics of it.  For example, one player having a character that has 'secret information' unavailable to the other players (as seen in Emergent Techniques: Mystiques and Intrigue (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2173)).  This kind of 'player level' 'party connectedness' design seems quite absent until more recently.

  • Scattershot is almost silent on this level.  Largely due to the confusion generated in older game designs when it comes to the term 'class.'  While we will provide Exemplars - characters set up to be run 'right out of the box' like the archetypes (what were they called?) in Shadowrun - the difference will be, when you get right down to it, they'll be there mostly for 'obvious examples.'  This is hopefully a subtle ploy to demonstrate Scattershot's Genre Expectations (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2043) and how they color such choices at this level.  Our basic philosophy is to make these "professions" 'obvious' without establishing them as unavoidable templates, it's a flexibility issue.

  • As you cited in Fundamental Particles of Character Class (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1385), I talked about this from a 'abilities standpoint.'  One thing that seems to being lost in the subsequent discussion is what I consider abilities (and you'll notice Advantages and Disadvantages (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2850) as well) are 'rights' to control the narrative (what you call "metagame tags and categories and actual contracts-of-play").

    What I am a bit unclear on is how you seem to tie it back to the Genre Expectations (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2043) by saying that a character "is Neutral Good, then that tag initiates a form of 'task' or 'role.'"  Is that what you are suggesting?  The way that certain aspects of character 'request' certain treatment from the game based on how it plays in the game's genre?[/list:o]If that last part is the case then all of the above (although #1 only implicitly until recently) is strictly about the application of 'what a player wants' out of the game.  Both in how what they create and interrelate to other in-game aspects, expresses it (in some subtlety) and how their specific 'actions' state it in an 'actions speak louder than words' fashion.  That being the case, then one of the unwritten design specifications of Scattershot has been to 'out' this practice both in principle and in action.

    The thing that makes 'causally connecting' Scattershot to this list difficult is that so few things are as concrete as race or class or 'pitch of mechanics' in Scattershot because it is designed to be a 'generalist' game.  In a modern setting, 'race' (as expressed in the bulk of fantasy games) doesn't exist; everyone is human.  In different historic eras, 'class' has meant a lot of different things.  Being ultimately customizable, Scattershot has had to deal with these "connection" from more of a meta-game or Genre Expectations (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2043) level.

    I hope this analysis can get us 'back to the meat' of this discussion, because I am very interested in some fresh perspectives on #4 (when it applies to 'rights') and #1, neither of which sadly have not gotten much attention.

    Fang Langford

    p. s. Since you mention Sorcerer, this close to Gen Con, have you done much lately on the you-know-what supplement?  There's always been plans for a similar one for Scattershot, and this is another 'fresh perspective' I am looking forward to.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Andrew Martin on July 29, 2002, 12:09:08 AM
Quote from: Victor Gijsbers
I'm sure there are better examples of games where there are no terms the characters can't understand.


In my Star Odyssey game with Ratio mechanics, I designed the system so that it doesn't matter whether the character or the player states the values of the character's skills or attributes. That way the players never go out of character. I'm still working on a damage, protection, wound, healing system where it doesn't matter if the player or character speaks the values.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 29, 2002, 07:07:08 AM
As to the #1 topic, I think there is much to say. First, I think that there has been more written into games that address this than people realize. You just tend not to remember it. For example, some game I read not too long ago, suggests that the GM never be the host for sessions (frees him up as the most involved participant). This is an explicit example of #1. Some games have advie for what to do with obnoxious players (informs the GMs role, usually). I'm sure we could come up with lots more examples.

Further, because it is seen as somthing that is outside the scope of rules presentation it has been ignored. But is that a good thing? Perhaps in identifying this level, we can find new ways to address it, and to make it a grabby part of RPGs. Actually, thinking about it, I'm certain that this can and should be done.

Thirdly, as a one sentece response to Victor's CRPG question, I'd say that CRPGs are commented on all the time in terms of the simple fact that #1 is somewhat absent; a significant observation of itself. People often criticise CRPGs for exacly that reason, for instance.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Another nugget to consider is that #2 is usually constructed as a composite. For instance, the qualities designated by D&D as "class" are only a portion of what constitutes #2 in D&D - it's also constituted by "race" (D&D's most-important and consistent concession to #3) and "level" (definitely a #4 thing). Dont' get me wrong - D&D's "class" designation is definitely a #2, and it's one of the few and most distinctive acknowledgments in game texts that #2 exists at all. That particular designation is not all of the level #2 content in the game, that's all.


As a way of continuing to show the value of discussions on such topics, Iwould comment on how these things vary from playgroup culture to playgroup culture. For example, in much Japanese AD&D play (as I understand it; one can read the transcripts, tho), a lot of #4 Role stuff is known by the characters. That is, in play you will have dialog in which the characters will mention things like their level, and their strength attribute. As in, "I don't think we should take on this Magic-User, Shijei, he's eighteenth level, and know the magic missile spell!" All in character. In this case the NPCs level was "common knowledge" amongst the people of the land.

Sounds strange to most of us, but there is nothing in the D&D books that says not to do this. Apparently it was a literal reading in translation and devotion to the letter of the text that produced just this style of play in Japan. Again, if I understand the phenomenon correctly.

An interesting example of the use of this terminology.

I think that the "#" teminology is sorta difficult. I like Don's terminology, and I think it's just a restatement of Ron's stuff, essentially. That is, I'd adopt Social Role, Narrative Role, Sim Role, and Game role as levels #1 through #4 respectively as they are more descriptive, intuitive, and easily remembered. The only potential problem is that people might associate them with GNS on a one for one basis.

Social Role, Story Role, In-Game Role, and Mechanical Role? Perhaps?

Mike


Title: The class issue
Post by: Paul Czege on July 29, 2002, 07:20:24 AM
Social Role, Story Role, In-Game Role, and Mechanical Role? Perhaps?

Yeah, I thought Don's names were motion in the right direction as well.

How about, Social Role, Story Role, Setting Role, and Mechanical Role?

Paul


Title: The class issue
Post by: damion on July 29, 2002, 09:20:14 AM
To expand on what Mike said(Reading it was a mild epiphany).
Social Role(#1) is usually addressed in the 'advice to the Gamemaster' or 'how to run XYZ' section. Things like 'Robin's Laws' would also fall partly in here, I think. There is also a large body of advice on this topic online. Even DnD3 I think has a 'player type' breakdown in the GMG, it gives advice on how to deal with different player types.  I think an issue is the fact that the players roles are rarely explicitly addressed. (I've seen some stuff online, but that's it).

Fang: Shadowrun archetypes are actually a mixture of archetypes in the sense I think your thinking of and disquised DnD-style classes.
That brought up another issue-Can Roles be changed? How Easily? Is this another thread?
 
To address the issue at hand:

Game Role Deconstruction: Ars Magica

Social Roles:Player & GM(Storyguide I think :) ). Incidentally, it reccomends rotating these roles for 'troupe style'.

Story Role:      All charachters are assumed to share a Covenant (basicly an excuse for Magi to be together) and thus have a shared Story Role.
    All players have 3 types of charachters, Magi, Champions, and Grogs. Usually 1 of the first two, and many of the last type. Magi are obvious, Champions have the same 'starting resourses to create a charachter' as magi, but no magic. Grogs are basicly RedShirts. This actually reresents a combination of all 4 Roles, as 'lower' characthers are supposed to stay in the background a bit, letting 'higher' ones lead. Of course who plays the 'background' characthers rotates. You could call this trickle-down protagonism.    

       
In-Game Role:See Story Role  

Mechanical Role:Besides the Story role stuff, Magi are destinguised by their Magic,Skills and Stats. Other characthers are distinguised by skills and stats. There is a bit of overlap with In-Game Roles as grogs are primaraly distinguised by skills (blacksmith, thug, ect). Also Magi have a House(political group) and Parens(Who trained you?), which operate sorta like advantages and disadvantages in other systems(ad's and disad's, such as enemies, ect) are also present. Some are purely mechanical and others overlap with Story Roles(enemies, destinies, House politics that sort of thing).


Title: Clearing out the debris
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 30, 2002, 11:44:57 AM
TOPIC #1: CLEARING OUT THE DEBRIS

This is the first of three sequential posts regarding the thread so far. I am writing this to identify some issues that have impeded the discussion, so we can move on.

Let's deal first with the relationship of #1 to the others. If it seems odd to anyone that the social interactions of the real-live people is being discussed as part-and-parcel of character roles at any of my other categories, then please recognize that you're not "ready" for this thread. Sebastian, phrases like "seems more like psychology than gaming" are missing some very serious, foundational concepts that are taken as given by most discussions at the Forge. Above, there are many threads about this exact topic for you to follow up on, and I recommend a general review of posts in RPG Theory about role-playing as a function of real people's behavior.

Sebastian, Victor, and Andrew, player/character consciousness of the four categories is a blind alley (credit to Victor for questioning its relevance). Also, Dan is correct in questioning whether "in real life" is relevant, which was a secondary blind-alley topic off of this one.

I appreciate everyone's input so far, and I now recognize that this topic was far more surprising to many people than I thought it would be. I definitely don't want to discourage anyone's interest, but these topics should either be dealt with separately or passed by.

Best,
Ron


Title: Naming the categories
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 30, 2002, 11:45:39 AM
TOPIC 2: NAMING THE CATEGORIES

This is the second of three sequential posts regarding the thread so far. Its purpose is straightforward - let's name these puppies.

After some brow-wrinkling, here are the categories' names that make the most sense to me.

#1: Human Beings' Social Roles
#2: Characters' Values in Action
#3: Characters' In-game Labels
#4: Characters' Capabilities

I decided not to use "story" in any naming capacity, as this word is guaranteed to cause multiple miseries. I also want to emphasize that "Values" are expressed explicitly through characters' fictional actions - they are about the results of decisions, which is why this category has a direct connection to GNS. And "Capabilities" are obviously composed of all three components of a role-playing character outlined in my essay: Resources, Effectiveness, and Metagame.

I recognize that none of these terms are mellifluous or easy to use. This is on purpose. For instance, if #1 were called "Social Roles," people would continually apply #3 to it.

I'm open to further suggestions, but I'll stick by the principles I've mentioned (not using "story," being clear about human vs. character, etc) most tenaciously.

Best,
Ron


Title: Discussing the categories
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 30, 2002, 11:46:16 AM
TOPIC #3: DISCUSSION OF THE CATEGORIES

This is the third of three sequential posts regarding the thread so far.

#1 - Dan, this category does not necessarily include guidelines or terms in the rules and text - see my example of the lonely plight of Bob, above. However, Fang and Mike are 100% right that such material is not entirely absent from gaming texts. I remember a quiz of "player types" from Dragon Magazine from 20 years ago; does anyone remember this? It was a multiple-choice test, and (d) in each case represented the uber-power-killer player. A supplement from Hero Games called Strike Force provided a player-categories list that was so influential that it has shown up in diluted form across dozens of games since then. Robin's Laws is another recent example of this sort of analysis.

Such designations are important in this category because they represent who is bullying, seducing, cooperating with, competing with, and creating art with whom. (Add any interactions that you see fit; humans are a social bunch.) However, they are also relevant in #2, or to put it differently, historically, such designations fail to distinguish between #1 and #2.

Damion is exactly correct in his assessment that "what people want" is the real culprit in #1, but as it turns out, this point is exactly where my thread began, with Fang's essays about Particles of Character Class and Sine Qua Non. I really liked Damion's post on July 29, as it's kind of a "bing!" realization post and raised a lot of good issues.

Fang, I'm right with you regarding (a) the GNS issue and its relationship to this category,which I'd like to delay discussing for a while; and (b) the logistics of play, which believe me, I'm not missing at all. Just waiting. So to summarize, we have agenda-driven social stuff like "bully," or "leader" (among the people); socially-mediated game preferences/decisions as in GNS; and partly logistic-driven social stuff like "who's cooking."

Mike, thanks for your input, which was solid gold, as usual. I liked the example from Japanese play a lot.

#2 - Such player-types as described by Robin and others apply to this category as well, but in a different way. Here, such designations are meaningful insofar as the players affect one another emotionally through their characters' actions.

Dan, we're dealing with much less formal designators of "role" than Coterie vs. Sabbat, which are at the #3 level. I'm talking about things like "the betrayer," "the idealist," and "the brick." Movie and theater terms like Diva, Ingenue, and Villain all operate at this level.

Fang nailed this category as being related to his Sine Qua Non and to the issues often referred to as "niche protection" (which as a term I find problematic, but I'm referring to the concept as Fang and others have described it).

Damion, you almost got it with the Ars Magica example, but the Covenant is primarily a #3 category, as are Magi, Champions, and Grogs (all of which, admittedly, overlap into this category). However, let's take the Grogs alone, and think more in terms of Brute, Moral Compass, Romantic Lead, Victim/Outsider among them. That's more what I'm aiming at in this category, and that's why you had a hard time differentiating between #2 and #3.

#3 - Victor, you're right about the non-weapon proficiency in D&D2E, which I've never played and don't know very well. (D&D before that, though, I'm your man.)

Fang nailed this category as being related to his Genre Expectations. No argument there. I also agree that Scattershot is a game that drives from a #2 engine, and thus #3 and #4 emerge through pre-play and play, whereas GURPS is a game that drives from a #3 engine, with #4 emerging pre-play (via spending character points) and #2 emerging during play, covertly. I cannot express the serious differences between these two games more cogently than in exactly the terms of this thread.

#4 - Damion put it really well in differentiating among games which are very detailed regarding this category (ie the typical skill-list-heavy game) and those which are much more generalized (ie Sorcerer's Cover score). This issue of course has many procedural ramifications, which then feed directly to GNS in non-linear ways.

Fang nailed this category as being the most concrete way that people establish their "rights" to specific character actions (and hence #2 and #1 consequences). I've discussed it before myself, a long time ago, in exactly those terms - that having a "skill of 65%" literally means the "right to roll a d100" and the "right to be successful, potentially" regarding a given in-game action. (That's what ties this material back to #3, as well - #3 provides the language to discuss these matters in Explorative terms, rather than metagame ones.)

Fang wrote, "... all of the above ... is strictly about the application of 'what a player wants' out of the game." My response: exactly.

Everyone, thanks very much for participating in this thread. It's been thought-provoking and I think there's a lot more to discuss. Now might be a good time focusing very tightly on one or another issue that's been raised, and taking it to a new thread in this forum.

Best,
Ron


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 30, 2002, 06:50:02 PM
I feel that a question of mine hasn't been answered, and I feel it's an important one.

Ron,

What is the value of #1-#4 in RPG Theory?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I sense that pretty much everyone here agrees that the point of building a coherent RPG Theory is pretty much the same for building any theory: to organize a tool for better understanding and manipulation of the phenomenon. That is, to better understand roleplaying and, along with that, to better design roleplaying instruments such as the actual games.

I can appreciate GNS' usefulness in these terms, but I cannot with roles #1-#4.  I feel that GNS is a great step towards responding a significant question: "how does roleplaying occur?". It establishes a triad of fundamental game-instance particles that appear to be pretty accurate and allow a much better description of the gaming process. I do not see how the #1-#4 roles play a similar function. Currently, the 4 roles seem to me more of an : "I see 4 things happening here, and they all seem like roles", than an succesful attempt at trying to surface a underlying structure. It's not that I don't "get" the roles, I just don't get why you'd think that such a categorization is useful to any degree.

This is why I'm much more inclined to thinking of roles as the "thing" which actually motivates one towards a G, N or S (or C) decision, whereas the actual GNS model says nothing about what produces any of these decisions. Just that they happen. I find that even if is pretty much a trivial expansion, it does state something that I hadn't found stated elsewhere and tends towards a more complete explanation of the GNS phenomena. According to your last post, Ron, you would seem to suggest that a GNS-role approach would be applying as a sub-categorization to role #2. Am I correct in this supposition?

I'm sure you have a really good idea for thinking that #1-#4 are excellent concepts for RPG Theory, I'd love it that you could let me in on it.

PS: I'm trying to read as many GNS threads as I can, but it's quite some work and the timing stinks since I just started my semester. Thank you for pointing out topics that have already been discussed, I hope it helps my thread browsing :)


Greets.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on July 30, 2002, 08:02:40 PM
Don Lag,

I don't know what Ron's ideas are on this subject, but I know what mine are:

Knowing what sort of roles you want to focus on in your game can help you focus your game greatly. I started immediately thinking about Donjon when reading this today (I laid out 15 pages of it today, so that might have something to do with it.)

Donjon focuses on #1 and #2 more than anything else, with a little bit in #3. I believe your role in the social group as a player often determines what sort of character you're going to play. By allowing people to create the character they want (by creating a "class"), you allow them to play the character that fits their social style.

I ignore #4, in that all characters are just as effective, as your abilities are really interchangable.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 30, 2002, 08:12:50 PM
O fcourse Clinton, I agree that recognizing specific elements in play can help focus on them.

But what makes #1-#4 a "good" categorization? Again, what are the criteria validating them as useful concepts? I can "feel" that they are recognizable categories and that they effectively group certain types of roles, but I can't figure out exactly why they're a useful category. Do they explain/model anything? If so, then what?


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 30, 2002, 08:45:40 PM
Hi Sebastian,

That's a good, valid question. Here's my thinking on it.

Right now, my goal is "value added." I think that the current state of discourse on the issue of Character Class, both here at the Forge and out there in RPG discussions in general, is in disarray. People talk past one another, they apply the label of "class system" to games that are very different or exclude games that seem to have one, and so on.

However, it's a real issue, both in terms of game design and actual play. "What is my role here?" is a big deal. "What does this game 'let me be'?" is a central question, along with its partner, "What do you do in this game?"

At conventions, and on the backs of game texts, again and again, people eagerly tell me: "You can pick from eight character classes and nine races!" What they are telling me - and the question that many are bringing to them - is not about #3 or #4 stuff, even though it's couched in those terms. The real dialogue should be about all four categories, and how they interrelate causally. I have found that when I tell people about Sorcerer or my other games, that's when they respond in a way that lets me know I'm answering the questions they have not been able to articulate.

So by "value added," I mean that the framework and vocabulary we've discussed in this thread are better - for actual play and for design - than the disarray and confusion that I see regarding this topic, everywhere. Am I all done and right, forever? I doubt it. I think it's a better framework, and that's what I'm trying to build.

The evidence for its maximal utility, relative to well-articulated alternatives (which we don't really have right now) will come or will not come in time.

Best,
Ron


Title: The class issue
Post by: Don Lag on July 30, 2002, 08:57:42 PM
Thanks Ron.  Looking back I can see that this objective was stated less verbosely in you first posts. I think I needed the extra verboseness :)

It's evident that the #1-#4 scheme aims a different problem than my elaborations on GNS-roles do. I was excited about trying to nail down some basic structure of decision-making dynamics (and I hope we'll be able to eventually, along the GNS-roe line or otherwise). On the other hand it seems that the #1-#4 scheme relates to a refining of terms regarding player-player (#1) and character-character (#2-#4) interaction (player-character interaction seem to be smuggled in across the four).

I really hope I'm reading you right this time around and thanks for your patience :)

If I'm still a bit wrong maybe a PM will suffice or we can continue here.
Now that I'm much clearer on this point I'll start a GNS-role thread as soon as I can get my ideas on the subject in order.

Saludos!


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 30, 2002, 09:02:43 PM
Espero sus contribuciones con much gusto, amigo mio. Que vaya bien en todos.

Ronaldo Yzaguirre Edwards


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ian Charvill on July 31, 2002, 07:09:01 AM
Hi Ron

It seems to me that what you're trying to do is breakdown roles along two axes - player/character and social/game.  To whit:

Player's Social Function - this sits without further explanation on #1.

Player's Game Function - this would include all of the ways in which the player can affect the game world without recourse to the character.  This isn't limited to a player's ability to fast talk the GM.  It also resides in the player's ability to make meaningful choices for the character.  You choose for your character to open a door - the door opens - you find out what's behind the door.  The player's ability to choose what type of character they want to play, and what type of adventure they get involved in also features strongly here.  This ties to number #2.

Character's Social Function - this would encompass the character's role in the game world in the sense of being a priest, or having legal authority or being a wanted criminal.  The character's role within the group - as the party theif, for example - would be a subset of this function. This ties to #3.

Character's Game Function - this would include all of those features of a character that allow the character to interact with the game world through the mechanics of the game.  Statistics, attributes, powers, abilities and so on.  This ties to #4.

Is this a useful response to what you're trying to say?


Title: The class issue
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 31, 2002, 07:41:10 AM
Ian,

I'm not sure that this is what Ron has in mind specifically. However, I like the model as you propose it. Easy to remember, and functionally addresses all the possible roles. I'm a fan of matrices as well.

BTW, Ian, welcome aboard.

Mike


Title: The class issue
Post by: contracycle on July 31, 2002, 12:46:13 PM
Well, I came up with these terms for the four layers, as I read ‘em.  I’m not keen on seeing them as a matrix at this point as I feel they are not arranged on easy axes.  So I’ve come up with these to toss into the pot:

Human Social
Character Relative
World Realisation
Activity Vector

I would label the categories as above, on my readings of the initial description and subsequent discussion.  

Human social: the human level of interaction among the participants, including support and leadership behaviours as outlined by fang.

Character Relative: The relationship between the characters in terms of how they interact with other and the resonance that has for player-player interaction.  This can occur in terms of duty slots (thief, fighter) or stereotypes (sneaky ventrue, brash brujah) or job description (fixer, assassin).  These are the roles they take on relative to the group of characters.

World Realisation
This is the level at which the characters are defined in terms of the game: the abilities are broken up and defined in game terms.  The place in society of the role is defined, as well as the impact it has on society and its material context.

Activity Vector
Packaging of abilities and the like, merits and flaws, the specifics of the commitment the player makes to fulfilling certain tasks and informed b certain motives.


Analysis of AD&D
Human Social: There was discussion of a caller and hence efforts to mandate leadership among the group of players.  The players are implicitly encouraged to adopt functional roles in proportion to a stock distribution of classes for efficiency purposes.

Character Relative: The only motivation for character relationships addressed is that of efficiency and filling each of the broad effectiveness slots, combat, combat magic, healing, sneaking.  Although social interactions are implicit in its class structure, no mechanism is provided for addressing them nor are they addressed.  Personal interactions are addressed only in terms of alignment.

World Realisation: This is expressed almost exclusively in terms of the objective impact a character may have on the world through positive action; they make little mention of the world pushing back, bar weapon restrictions on some of the classes, and selecting a church according to alignment.  No specific context is designed in and hence much remains nebulous, frex the ambiguous status of alignment languages and assembly of weapons.

Activity Vector
Controlled by classes, spells, and proficiencies and magic items.  These were not consistent across classes even by type: thieves had on set of special abilities resolved a certain way, clerics had another.  As a result it was actually very explicit, both in terms of what actions a character was expected to carry out and how they were to do them.  The only exception was magic items, which allowed the GM a measure of influence over how the characters were empowered to act.


Vampire
Human Social: the game advocates that the dynamic of play should be conscious of moral consequence and reflective of the personal experience.  There is no pressure supporting a standard distribution of roles, and hence the group is may have a diverse array or concentration on functional/social groups from whatever human motive.

Character Relative: First of all, all characters are co-conspirators and therefore share a common interest.  Characters are empowered to act on each other through factions of the conspiracy and their historical/stereotyped interactions.  In this sense, a gangrels stock suspicion of a tremeres stock sneakiness is strongly supported.  Characters also often have a lot of power to effect other characters emotionally through mechanical action.

World Realisation: each group is rendered from its own perspective with commentary on stock opinions of other groups, with objective abilities to influence the external world.  There is a form-follows-function literalism in the expression of the characters power over the context and their niche within that context.  Back-story elements are primarily limits to action, or more accurately the abrogation of implicit limits, although the descent/mentor structure enables a lot of embedding in the world.

Activity Vector: Activity is strongly typical, in that characters are most empowered to act along the lines mandated by their contextual group membership, which are highly functional.  These can be moderated or amplified through parallel selection of complimentary abilities (skills etc).  However, strongly expressed resource shortages impel certain sorts of activities.

Cyberpunk 2020
Human Social: the players are expected to adopt an efficiency/problem-solving stance in relation to objective challenges.  An optimum minimum set focussed on division of labour is expected to motivate character selection, although this is not strongly required.  

Character Relative: Division of labour of the implicit group, the band of antiheroic freelancers, may prompt inter-character relationships and dependencies.  Characters are not obliged to be on truthful terms, but are expected to be on amicable terms, with each other.  Back-story is supported and may lead to a wide array of (uncoordinated) interactions and motivations.

World Realisation: Character groups are quite strongly defined through a special ability, but are not heavily prejudiced thereafter in terms of activity selection.  Back-story is strongly exploited to present particular pressures in the past and/or the likely future.  Personalisation through crunchy bits allows a lot of fine-tuning of the characters identity because of default resource shortages and the need to explain how the implicit limits were overcome.

Activity Vector: The character special ability as special ability (rather than default ability) lends a lot of versatility to the vector of activity the character adopts through other mechanical devices, the crunchy bits (cyberware, skills, weapons).  Most of these are available regardless of character identity, although many are focussed on avenues coincident with character functional roles.  The implicit functional motivation tends to produce specialisation around the character ability as a variation on a theme.  Only one notable exception exists, the decker, who operates quite literally in a parallel universe with its own rules.

Blue Planet
Human Social: Nothing mandated in terms of character interdependencies.  There is weak support for a “law on the wild frontier” structure that might encourage the proficiency niche approach amongst players, but this is not strongly reinforced.  The potential exists for a need for a specialist aquatic character of one of several varieties, but this is neither strong nor taxing.

Character Relative: Back-story hooks are provided but no mechanism or encouragement is advanced to interlink the characters beyond task-driven cooperation.  Background in terms of origin (incorporate, native, colonist) is important to character identity and perhaps implicitly inter-character relationships but this is not strongly reinforced.

World Realisation: This occurs through strong world-based background selection that governs abilities, although selection is freeform if limited. The individual experience of the world is reinforced and characters are not strongly grouped, bar the specialist aquatics. These are not especially difficult to explain/obtain, however, although resource limits do exist.

Activity Vector
This will have been heavily focussed by background selection and will focus on various functional areas, and there is encouragement for all characters to diversify into aquatics and combat.  Characters are not governed by post-creation prejudices, and may diversify where they see fit.


Title: The class issue
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 31, 2002, 04:04:40 PM
Wow!

Hello Ian, and welcome to the Forge. I liked the matrix you propose, but I think that it may be operative at a bigger scale than my #1-4 approach to "role." In other words, I think that what I've proposed may be part of what you're talking about, but lots of other things are too - Stance, especially, comes to mind.

I'm pretty convinced by Gareth's post. That makes a lot of sense to me. "Character Relative" is clunky as hell, but it's a bit better than my term.

I'm willing to call a Terms Fest Discussion - we have a bunch to pick from now. Maybe a new thread for that purpose alone is a good idea.

Best,
Ron