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Title: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on June 27, 2009, 11:41:40 PM
Played some warhammer RP (the new book) with some friends last night (Daniel and Matt, who are also brothers, Matt younger. Daniel is GM). There's this odd thing that I'm not sure I can describe well (I so wish a transcript was magically recorded during play), so maybe this threads shot in the knee already. But weve been hired to do a job, as sometimes happens. Anyway, it seemed in doing anything, particularly in traveling, I'd say "Okay, we head off then!" when I was sure Matt, the other player, was pretty much ready (I'm sure he'd instantly interupt that if not, so that's worked out). But nothing would happen? Well not nothing, but as far as my fuzzy memory goes, I'd say something like that then somehow the subject changes to some gear or something related or semi related. This would go on, for awhile and then we'd do this about twice more before we'd head off, down the road toward the destination. I don't think we were even doing anything at all that was 'against script', so to speak. It was like you just couldn't DO anything - not straight away - only after awhile would it sink in. I don't think this is new, but at the same time it was really quite noticeable this time.

Even just crossing a room with mini's and a grid - I think I moved my mini (not in combat) across a room and we then had to go into everything that happened before that (I think there were some mushrooms would could have found in the dark room). Even though the figure was across the room (not a remarkable thing), it couldn't just happen - all this stuff from before it happening had to be gone over first.

It's like moving through molasses! It's not a terrible thing, but it a little frustrating to not be able to just do something. And it makes me wonder what that is? I'm trying to get my head around it and I can't really grasp anything about it. Anyone heard of anything like it? Is it like some sort of responce to player action, but rather than getting onto what happens after a character does X or even what happens when they try to do X, it's like going "Ah, you made an action - and since you did that, now we have to work out a bunch of stuff leading up to the action you made/about to make!". Once it actually came to the action - like traveling out of the city for a day then staying at a coach in, it'd basically just happen in a snap. I'm wondering if it's just trying to fill out player actions in what would otherwise happen in a few seconds. Well, I'm trying to work out some sort of fun (doesn't have to be my sort of fun) reason for it.

Also on another topic, interesting to see that a 50XP bonus (the largest spontaniously handed out) was for Matt thinking an NPC's name sounded like it was from a certain region (it was) and when I recognised the past nesting spot of some ravens previously mentioned. All rewards for 'getting' the world, basically.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on June 30, 2009, 03:45:25 AM
Even just crossing a room with mini's and a grid - I think I moved my mini (not in combat) across a room and we then had to go into everything that happened before that (I think there were some mushrooms would could have found in the dark room). Even though the figure was across the room (not a remarkable thing), it couldn't just happen - all this stuff from before it happening had to be gone over first.

I'm not sure I follow you completely, but this sounds like an obtrusive reality simulation engine is at work. Something that might work if performed in a millisecond by a computer, but not if it's manual. This might also reflect back on the first part of your post, which seems to be about inventory micromanagement versus action.

Does the new book give you the impression the game's written for computers, instead of for people? D&D 4e comes to mind...


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 30, 2009, 04:06:45 AM
Hi Callan,

I've been thinking & thinking about this.

A while ago, I wrote about what I called "the murk," which primarily had to do with when and how conflicts (crises, fights, whatever) arose during play, and how people often seemed to play in a fashion in which trivial stuff was treated as a conflict and no one knew how "real" conflicts were supposed actually to start.

It's possible that you're talking about the same murk on a larger scale - not even really knowing how characters get from here to there. But I'm still trying to articulate how it relates to games of this kind, in which "roll to see if bandits attack" is a textual instruction regarding travel. The various questions for such games should include:

- is there travel which can be treated as instant? Must bandits or whatever be rolled for, always?

- how does it initiate? Do you have to play the decision to travel in "real-time play" in order for the traveling to occur?

- once initiated, can't it just start? Do you have to play the provisioning, the getting-around-to-it, and the various possible leave-taking events too?

The reason it reminds me of the murk is that there's this same funny emphasis on "if we skip something, we break the SIS." And oddly enough, playing everything means the stuff we want to play ends up not happening, happening rarely, or happening hit-and-miss.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: JoyWriter on June 30, 2009, 06:17:21 PM
It reminds me of a criticism a friend of mine made; "Tolstoy is a terrible writer, he takes a page to describe a table!".

Tolstoy isn't terrible to me, but his prose is slow moving, because of the depth of description. Now it sounds to me like the GM is doing that to the max; when you move through a room, you might take a quick glance around and look for the exit, but the GM would notice the patterns of the light on the walls, and you are stuck with the GMs pacing for everything. Imagine the game runs at 50 details per second. Well because he wants more details per action, less happens. If your not into the colour, then you will just be like "come on, I said what I wanted hours ago!!", but he's like "yes you did, and so you walk through the hallway, decked out in the colours of ........ and through the door, which is in the style of ........ until you find yourself outside in the cool light of......" etc!

But accompanying that, I think the GM is just not getting what you are not caring about, and sticking it in anyway. So it's like he's thought what is in every book in a library, and you want one of them, but he can't resist telling you what's in the one's you didn't pick, cos he likes them too. Now that is just wanting to make your creative efforts count, not to waste them which I think you mentioned before as a concern of your own, but in this case he's not giving in and just going on about it anyway, backed up by GM power. Is there another way? Well one way to make what he is interested in relevant to you might be to build it into the

Ron, do you watch many soap operas? Cos they can be full of "weak" conflicts and low stakes, but some people like that! Friends and pre-teen dramas can be strangely similar in the lack of substantial things that happen. And some people don't like that, but aren't sure how to do much better. Does that stuff fit your part of your "murk" idea? Basically I'm trying to get a feel for what separates real and trivial conflicts from your perspective, is it just what we want to do vs what we feel is required as a pre-requisite?


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on June 30, 2009, 07:06:41 PM
Thanks, Jasper & Ron!

I think that all ties in. Groping for a structure I think it's like "There has to be more to it than just...going there? So I'll ignore that and...ah ha, there is more to it!" when obviously if you ignore the travel request, more 'stuff' will happen before travel (unless I insistantly kept repeating 'were going', which I'm obviously not going to - instead I'm going to say something else to avoid being repetitive/rude - thus more stuff happens). It's like "Well, it's a dangerous, savage world - the books say so in it's fluff over and over. If just going means no real sense of danger or tension to travel, then the travel request isn't quite right compared with what the books always talk about...there must be something else to it...so I'll ignore it for now until we get it just right...".

I mean, as said, I even got that when I charged once - our mini's were placed and on my turn, I moved the amount of squares granted for a charge and placed my figure next to a chaos warrior...annnnd Dan says something like "Okay, your about to charge...". No, I have already charged! This is a dead parrot! ('scuse the python reference). It's a guess on my part, but I think it's trying to build it up to be so much more than a minature moving eight inches across a board. I'll grant it does add a tension to the RL atmosphere of play, but its composed of not a little frustration.

Also in the past Matt's asked my opinion on what to do with travel, for when he GM's (typically GM'ing for his friends/another group). I think he said something along the lines of "How do you do it, so it doesn't just happen - your not just suddenly in another spot?". At the time I suggested players briefly describe some events (what happened and how it ended), hand out some XP for description, and move on. I think I got what he meant - I also think, to a degree, that if your engaging this idea of a dangerous world, but then you have a suggestion of a huge track of land that's essentially safe and nothing happens, it waters down the whole thing. My idea, if I'm recalling it right (I might be inventing this now. I'm not sure), wasn't to really engage any mechanical risk, just have some narration of supposed risks dealt with - keep up an illusion of danger until we get to a place with some real danger.

That's probably another factor in this - players don't really contribute to a sense of tension in our game. You do stuff, but that doesn't build up any sense of tension in itself. That's all on the GM's shoulders. If I were to try and talk up the dangers in the world (I know, pure narration and an attempt to evoke the danger in the books fiction - but what else do I have? I can't make monsters appear), even just a sentence or two, I'd get a funny look - perhaps even a look of stepping outside my job as player. I think I've even done this in the past once or twice out of reflex - it's like I threw a ball toward someone else to catch and run with, then watched the ball hit the ground, bounce a little then lay still. Not even in a 'well, not that ball, but perhaps another type of ball' way. Anyway, basically it's all on the GM's shoulders. So maybe Dan was sitting there thinking "Traveling is supposed to be tense...nah, nah, your not traveling yet..." while I feel no sense of tension and just want to head to a place that has tension/conflict.

I'm also kind of thinking of the term 'hardcore', not for it's gamist context, but for the direct contact between social contract and mechanics - I'm wondering if this is an attempt to stuff fiction in between SC and mechanics rather than let the travel option contact directly with 'your figure is now here' mechanical outcome. Ron, doesn't your question about instant travel strike you as direct SC contact with mechanics? I have no issue with that myself, but I could imagine someone, perhaps in a defensive way, stuffing fiction in between SC and mechanical outcome "Oh, not always, all sorts of events could happen in the world that can get in the way of travel..." etc etc, quickly trying to jam fiction into the direct, almost audible contact of SC onto metal mechanics.

Also on that note, I'm pretty sure this edition of warhammer is another RPG with 'the GM can do anything' in it somewhere(in cheery prose, as usual). Ie, the GM is given a blank cheque. Or atleast I've assumed so - so I've agreed to a system that gives the GM a blank cheque. Or more directly, I've given the GM a blank cheque. So if he wants to write out a cheque for 'Stuffing fiction in between SC and mechanical outcome' I can't exactly argue it without dishonouring my agreement to hand him a blank one. So questions like "Must bandits be rolled for" could be answered with "Must I hand him a blank cheque to begin with, on the matter?". Alot of the questions come right back to me, in that regard.

I suppose, like for many years, I've wanted to sever the blank cheque shit, either from something I wrote or from an existing RPG (verbally, explicitly exponging it from a session I'd propose to my friends), but I want to know what is so important to him on the matter? What's the most important thing, if I can condense it down to something and cut off the extra time chewing stuff that isn't for me. Because without the old blank cheque model to allow it to exist, it'll need some sort of mechanical procedure to make sure it exists. But I need to know what it is before I could make that, assuming I could even make it. Or is it inseperable from the blank cheque model?

Note: Cross posted with Joywriter and I'm kind of spent having written this - I'll reread your post tomorrow, Joywriter :)


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 01, 2009, 01:11:03 AM
Callan, that sounds familiar. Back in the old days we were moving through a molasses, too. We somehow had that idea that you had to go through everything in detail. If was fine to finish an adventure and then start the next one a few months of in-game time down the road. But once you started playing, you had to go through the details. You could not, for example, move to the next morning before you had established how everybody spent their evening. You could not just say “we go to a bar”, you had to describe the bar, you had to order your drink… and while you were there and playing through it, naturally your tried to make the scene somehow interesting, stretching it even further.

Sometimes these scenes turned out to be tremendous fun. Sometimes we even embraces these scenes because they were giving us a break from the GM’s railroading us into some sort of nonsensical task that our character had no real motivation for. At other times, these scenes were just dull and boring, but you had to go through them, didn’t you? We never questioned the way we played, at the time. It was the only way we knew.

We made the best of most of these games, but I have a theory where that notion of “you have to go through every detail” originates from. Ever seen a group where the players try to outsmart the GM? Because the GM is trying to railroad and the players are trying to avoid being railroaded, or because the GM is trying to spoil the players’ plans by any means, and the players are trying to put him back to the wall where there is nothing left he can pull out of the hat to stop them? Awful, dysfunctional play.

A group that plays that way is bound to constantly argue about what happened when, who was where, and why what the GM says can’t happen. Anything that was left open could be used by the GM, so the only way for the players to pin down the GM was to mind every smallest detail, from A to Z.

So yeah, that’s my theory as to the origins of this “slow paced” approach. I guess some groups keep it out of habit. I don’t know if that’s what’s going on in your group, actually the charge example makes me doubt it. Maybe and it’s rather that your GM is trying to invoke some sort of atmosphere and thinks that taking his time is necessary for that.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 01, 2009, 01:34:47 AM
I mean, as said, I even got that when I charged once - our mini's were placed and on my turn, I moved the amount of squares granted for a charge and placed my figure next to a chaos warrior...annnnd Dan says something like "Okay, your about to charge...". No, I have already charged! This is a dead parrot! ('scuse the python reference).

Could it be an IIEE issue? Vincent's recent Rock of Tahamaat (http://www.lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=462) example comes to mind here. I'm not sure because I don't know if your issue is forcefully injected color, or system.

It's a guess on my part, but I think it's trying to build it up to be so much more than a minature moving eight inches across a board. I'll grant it does add a tension to the RL atmosphere of play, but its composed of not a little frustration.

If it's like forcefully describing every to-hit roll, then I think it's bad. I've seen it fall flat countless times in miniature combat. It's just not sustainable. "Make every action interesting" is bullshit advice if the average action is insignificant. Personally, I prefer to quikly handle them and only focus on moments worth mentioning. I dunno, stuff like crits and kills.

The same goes for travel. But opinions differ a lot here. Isn't it an issue of working out together how you should handle this? Experience taught me that not talking about this gets you mired in muck fast. Assuming the book is firmly traditional in a Gygaxian sense, it probably won't be much help here.

From the rest of your post it sounds like your play is well-entrenched in GM-entertains-passive-players mode, and you're not happy with it. What can you do if that is true? I'm afraid you suck it up, abandon the group, or talk it out...

(Crossposted with Frank)
An additional common defense of "you have to go through every detail" play: "It's not roleplaying if you do not act it out."


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 02, 2009, 09:14:21 AM
Hi Frank,

Yeah, in terms of Rons comment
Quote
And oddly enough, playing everything means the stuff we want to play ends up not happening
The thing is, it's not stuff 'we' want to play - or atleast that is not certain for the GM from the outset. In the end I think we played to the GM's predefined script fairly closely - and to be honest I was pretty okay with that this time (hesitant more because I don't know in advance what's in the script, rather than because I'd be following a script). But the GM doesn't really know that. So all this fuzting around is perhaps to give the sense of player agency and capacity to choose, when really it's just sweating the small stuff. Perhaps it's not just to give the impression to players, but also to give the impression to himself that all sorts of things could happen, rather than just what he's scripted.

Our friend Chris ran a game once and at the end in private Dan said it was a good one and Chris was learning and getting out of his heavy railroad ways - I was a little surprised and said to him I think we pretty much went through everything Chris had prewritten. Since there wasn't really anything else but the prewritten stuff, we had gone from one piece to another, like moths attracted to the next beacon of light - sure it might have felt like we were doing what we want, but there weren't exactly two sources of light on offer - just a linear path of single beacons (one beacon at a time). Well, I don't think I described it that clearly at the time, but it seemed to sink in a little and he wasn't so certain it wasn't a railroad. Though he's probably right in that it's not a heavy railroad - instead it's one strung together by our 'moth like reflexes' as you might call it (what we drift toward reflexively), rather than overt force. A much more subtle railroad. One that panders to our reflexes so much we railroad ourselves.

Actually that makes me think of something constructive I could talk about with him - something like "Okay, the player groups attracted to certain stuff like a moth to the flame - but if you only put one up a single flame at a time, clearly we'll just drift toward it. That's kind of following a railroad. So what if we zip past all the single flames you'd find in the fictional world, and find where two flames would show up at once - which one would we drift towards and engage in? There's uncertainty there" or something like that...


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Emily Care on July 06, 2009, 07:25:47 AM
You may be interested in a set of 10 scenarios based on the Warhammer universe that folks in Denmark put together for a con. They keep the flavor of the war against chaos, while tripping you through some moving and hysterical situations of play. Nice to have that dark, bitter taste but in a less sticky and sloggy form. The scenarios are extremely pre-written, but that is all on the table and transparent for the players. There they embrace the railroad.

They are in the process of being translated to English and are available here:
Imperiet, The Empire Anthology (http://gnavpotveksler.wikidot.com/the-empire-anthology)

edited once to add:
(En Sommernats Fortaelling, Krigshammeren, Returning Home, The Butterforger and The Hunt have been translated so far.)
 


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 13, 2009, 02:51:02 AM
Thanks, Emily!



We played again recently. I think Matt is actually part of this issue, though it was hard to see/remember in the first game. Basically we were to head up to this cave where some orcs were near it and retrieve some treasure for our employer. The description was as vague as that. Weve stopped off at this wizards place, who has many potions and some supplies. And Matt gives plan upon plan upon plan, buying nets and morph potions and more and it keeps going. The thing is, I can't knock this - if you have unlimited time to plan ahead, it makes sense to take your time. For myself, given there was little description of it, I couldn't form any real plan and I decided to just go there and wing it - sometimes the most efficient thing to do is just go, instead of trying to plan for a million things. Plus, it's a game - it's okay to lose. But Matt keeps coming up with plans. I ask about this and he says he doesn't want to get there and then they could have had just the perfect thing but forgot it. I said it's okay, we don't have to be perfect, but...it keeps going. Again, I'll say it makes sense to keep planning when you have time to - this is where some hard mechanics should put a real life time limit on this stuff.

Which leads me to a sublime point - I didn't feel I could just say that. Because for me, roleplay games seem more like a book full of disparate parts - more like a dictionary than a novel, so to speak. You have to act as designer. But I'm not sure Matt was taking on any sort of designer position, he was just playing it. I couldn't suggest adding a time limit to the game, with someone who isn't taking on a designer role.

I considered just stating I was riding ahead. But then I knew what would happen - I'd be acknowledged as 'riding' and the attention would pan back to the planning. If I asked if I'm there I'd be told no, because the amount of time that had passed would be based on how long this gear negotiation would take - ironically too short a time to get there in game, and too long a time in RL. There was no way to escape the molasses!

After a long while, where I'd sort of gone silent because what else could I add, Daniel said to him "So your going now?" and he said "yeah". I wonder if Dan hadn't said that, would he have continued on...and for how long?

Hmm, I really don't want too sound down on this. It might seem like I've written alot, but given the time spent at this stage of RP, I'm not spending much time detailing this relative to the time spent on the activity.

Further in the adventure we came across a fairly classic beaten peasant, who's family and friends were under siege by orcs. Will we help him? I kind of guess this was optional and I was considering it in terms of my character, thinking maybe because it might be the same orcs as we were headed toward and we could whittle them down. Matt says yeah, we'll help you (there's also several NPC's (employers dirty jobs man and NPC friends)). I start to say well yeah, uh, this might help whittle the orcs so...but it's kind of missed in the board set up. I'm wondering if this happens again and my character were, after Matts says we'll do it, to say fuck it, no and stick to that, what would happen? But I think I'll be left wondering because I'm inclined to go with what my characters reflex is, rather than just do it to find out. I don't want my PC to say fuck it, just to see whether that's supported at all.

We pick some orcs off, I shoot one in the back of the head really, really hard. The atmosphere at the game table is a little more towards electric. We save the villagers...and head back to the road. It's kind of not important - theres no real sense of climax - like it was put there to give choice, but it's perhaps not a choice Dan really cared about, except to put it there in case we cared about it.

We get to the cave and the orcs have a camp about 700 meters away from the cave. Blessedly there isn't any huge planning stage this time - go in at night and stuff coins into a bag of holding handed to us for the job (yeah, bags of holding kind of jar me in terms of warhammer, and I haven't even read it as much as Dan and Matt? Or am I way off in getting warhammer? Oh, and it was a box of holding...if that makes a dif). Perhaps too many unknown factors makes Matt overplan? He gets in there, uses the tarp over the treasure to block the entrance and pours coins into the bag. Can't get the bigger tapestries and stuff into it, though. Really I thought this was a risk/reward assessment up to our employers goon but I dunno who decided to go to the cave with the cart. Anyway, while were doing this, the orc camp is attacked by a couple of dozen chaos dudes (some chaos dudes (same ones?) dumped the treasure here previously, because they were under attack). When were just finishing, they see us and start riding over - which is the end of the session. Which I kind of try to find a climax, but at the same time it just feels like it was put there - I can't feel "OMG, no!" like if you rolled high/bad on a critical roll on your PC. This wasn't a roll, it was just...put there? Hard to describe it. Also, there's more to the script, but I'm glossing over it - ask if you want extra details.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 13, 2009, 05:15:51 AM
What do you think Matt's overplanning is a symptom of? Does he just love to make up plans? Is he a perfectionist? Is it a defense mechanism against a screw-you GM? What's Daniel's place in this?
I feel your pain! Personally I despise this kind of play. It's boring, based on nothing but second-guessing, and probably totally irrelevant later. Couple this with a GM who instinctually counters any plan the players come up with, and you have a colossal waste of time.
To me, it's not playing, it's making up what-if scenarios. Ok if everyone wants to do that, but if it bores you, perhaps you should say so? Why won't you? So you'll keep sacrificing for them, so they don't need to sacrifice for you? Why not demand an equal share of fun? You're tuning out!

Ok, past that specific issue. Now I'm going to jab hard at what I think is the core issue, to see if I'm anywhere on target. Correct me if I'm talking nonsense.

The main vibe seems to be that your contribution doesn't matter, that it's all between Matt and Daniel. And they just happen to be brothers. They're attuned to each other, while you're the misfit left in the water outside the boat.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 13, 2009, 06:47:49 AM
What a fascinating thread - so much to think about based on one thorough description of what play is like. I thought I'd provide some background threads which play a big part in how I'm reading this one, which again involves the term "murk."

Bangs&Illusionism - in which Ron beats down Confusion (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21694.0) - I don't think the thread itself was particularly successful, but on the second half of the final page, that's where I proposed the term "murk" for a very specific phenomenon of play. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21775.0) - a follow-up murk thread which elaborated upon a particular example. And Spot the sim-clue-ationism (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=22400.0) was Callan's thread regarding the same group - I found it valuable reading as a foundation for this one. ... And as optionals for people who enjoy the topic, here are Incoherent Play and Bucket Seats  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=22317.0) (and to some extent its linked parent thread), Bangs and Framing (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25584.0), and [PTA] Players wanting their PCs to fail? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26413.0), to see how the same issue cropped up a lot.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: JoyWriter on July 13, 2009, 08:47:16 AM
Don't forget that you could be oscillating; what if Matt got the reward for detailed play in the last game, so stepped up to the detail role, with Dan pulling back because he could see he was annoying you last game?

But that effect would only be a very small amount of the problem. The other problem seems like classic compulsive future proofing, and there are three ways I can think of to deal with it on floor level; time limits as you suggested make the choice more pointed, super GM creativity to make the situation one that his tools cannot solve, whatever they are by listening to his plans and bypassing them all, and actually letting him retcon his prep time, but setting out "how long it took him" before you set off. The latter seems the one that would most suit him, for these reasons;
he is forced to consider the time his character would use to plan at the outset, considering you by proxy,
he is able to work out the perfect solution and have satisfaction in it, (although I would have it so in playing out the prep he should be required to make some irrelevant prep too, for suspension of disbelief purposes and so he still thinks ahead a little)
he is more aware that he is interrupting you by how it interrupts the flow of events.

The question is then how to broach such a subject, as well as dealing with the decision making thing. The social element Jasper mentions may well be true, (me and my brother have done that before now to newer contributors by accident) but these things can break down really quick if you approach them right, especially if you have a solid group going:

I get the impression you're not much into out of character table talk, more out back chatting. In that case, how about having a talk to Dan about the pacing thing, and the causes for your lack of engagement with the fiction (from here it feels like pacing + tension + slight breaks in your personal warhammer suspension of disbelief/genre conventions). If we can hammer out some possible solutions here maybe he would be interested in implementing them, as he is more likely to be in a design frame of mind. You'll probably want to avoid hitting him with a new game text and an ultimatum though :P

Got an idea for two birds/one stone solution, to travel + lack of player involvement in tension, based on rustbelt last night:
One player rolls to "avoid trouble" which is sort of the equivalent of a stealth check, and explains how, imagining what dangers could be there and how to dodge them. The next part uses price pretty heavily, but weirdly, as if they fail we think up piddling little adversities or avoidance challenges they come across in trying to avoid the main threat(s). Anything from crawling into brambles, loosing equipment scagged on bushes, or little challenges where your attempt fails a little but you have a chance to recover. Heavy interaction between GM and player to suggest acceptable price, and in doing so the journey is given character.

Very little idea how it works for multiple journey-ers yet, and would probably require adjustment for WFRP, but I thought I'd add it just in case.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 13, 2009, 10:31:45 AM
Hey, I once knew a player who liked to plot every detail in advance. The trick was to give him something to work with, because otherwise he would go through all the possibilities and would just refuse to go anywhere until he had it all thought through. That player knew exactly what he was up to and what he liked about role-playing. He would appreciate an easy victory that he had earned through careful planning. Not so much the style of play I enjoy, personally, but at least you knew what to expect of that player.

In your example, Callan, I suspect that one should not read that much purpose into the individual actions. These guys seem to me as if they don't have a clue what they're doing, or why. If I may be so blunt.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 13, 2009, 04:31:03 PM
Well, to me that raises the question: And you do know what your doing? Isn't that what my group would say as well? With the very same emotional certainty?

In accounts I've read for years, it seems hundreds of groups take a text which is, as I said before, more like a dictionary than a novel. Their texts contains rules, yes, and like in Ron's murk example about fights and yes, we have rules for a fight, but how and when does one start - how does it's results link into anything else?

If I were to just write a hundred rules, with no intent on my behalf for them fitting together in any way at all, I'm sure on exposure to them (perhaps with some nifty fluff text and art) some group somewhere out there would "Know how to do it" with my hundred rules. When there is no fucking way to do it - I specifically just randomly threw rules together! I'm pretty damn sure that would happen - people would see a 'procedure' and 'the right way to do it' when there was none at all.

Further, in terms of murk, there was this TV program called 'How art changed the world'. It looked at cave paintings and how flickering lights (like a flaming torch) could in a partly sensory deprived environment, start causing halucinations. Indeed, there were often squares and odd geometric shapes in the animals they painted in caves. The presenter actually went to a science lab where they stimulated the same geometric visions in him with some goggles.

Eventually they brought images out of the cave and onto stone pillars as stone carvings. Eventually they didn't have to go into the cave for it to happen, they could produce images from memory and produced them because they facinated them (and others)

Perhaps it's a long draw of the bow on my part, but it seems roleplay culture is still in the halucination phase, still crawling down into a dank cave (so to speak) and sitting there for hours (literally?) until it comes. The bad bit isn't halucination - inspirational halucination is great! The bad bit is the absence of recognition that it's a halucination - there's instead this certainty that "That's how it's done!", when it isn't how it's done, it's something they've invented - they are as much the author of their halucination as everyone is the author of our own dreams at night, even though you don't realise while dreaming, that you dream and author it.

I'm not sure it's just about talking with Daniel about designing. It's hard to describe - it's again like Ron's example of the fight rules - as we all see, combat rules are often quite detailed. It's like many designers tried to get designery with them and...still just left it to the halucination as to when a fight starts, what the ongoing ramifications are, if any, etc. There's not much point getting into design, if you then let the halucination run rampant everywhere else. The halucination has to be contained and constrained, with no leak points, otherwise it just pwns any other design element with it's halucinegenic ways. And for that, A: the hard one, you have to recognise its a halucination and the harder one B: you have to want to constrain it. Alot of people just wouldn't call it roleplay "It's a board game!". So there's a philisophical hurdle, then a choice I can't make for them.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 14, 2009, 12:58:34 AM
Eh, maybe I can get away with saying "Same thing but faster" and it'll have an effect rather than raising eyebrows and having no chance of any change. Maybe some here wouldn't like it, but I like the session - if it was more condensed. I said basically the same thing about the David Lynch movie, "The lost highway" :)


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 14, 2009, 01:51:17 AM
It seems you're stepping away from your own AP an into murky play (and murky design) in general. Just pointing that out, it's ok if that's the direction you want.

Right now I'm still focusing on your case specifically though. Looking at Ron's links, it appears the brothers vs you stuff has been going on for years, without ever being resolved. You didn't respond to my poking, so I either completely missed or you're dodging. I can't tell. Is this setup your main source for roleplaying? If so I'm starting to understand where your general "this cannot ever work" disposition is coming from. I might be totally wrong about that, but it's what I read between the lines of lots of your posts.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 14, 2009, 10:14:18 AM
Hi Callan,

Quote
If I were to just write a hundred rules, with no intent on my behalf for them fitting together in any way at all, I'm sure on exposure to them (perhaps with some nifty fluff text and art) some group somewhere out there would "Know how to do it" with my hundred rules. When there is no fucking way to do it - I specifically just randomly threw rules together! I'm pretty damn sure that would happen - people would see a 'procedure' and 'the right way to do it' when there was none at all.

I agree, though a more purposefully designed set of rules would certainly give that group an easier time. I believe that coherent play is something that only the group itself can achieve or arrive at. We can give them rules that make sense, and cleverly written instructions, but they’ve got to get there themselves. Some groups do this effortlessly, those would be having fun with your 100 random rules in an instant. Other groups… don’t. So when you say:

Quote
The bad bit is the absence of recognition that it's a halucination - there's instead this certainty that "That's how it's done!", when it isn't how it's done, it's something they've invented

The thing that bothers me is the „how it’s done“. What is „it“? The way it should be done? According to whom? Every group must find, invent so to say, their own way. You are certainly right that there are many groups that haven’t, but think/claim they had.

But what kind of „design“ are you imagining that would „contain and constrain“ the hallucination? I would rather tend to think that no design, but the group's capacities of human awareness and communication would be the remedy.

-   Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 14, 2009, 11:10:36 AM
P.S.:

Some groups do this effortlessly, those would be having fun with your 100 random rules in an instant.

Maybe I should rather say, they would be having fun despite your 100 random rules.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 14, 2009, 03:40:31 PM
It seems you're stepping away from your own AP an into murky play (and murky design) in general. Just pointing that out, it's ok if that's the direction you want.

Right now I'm still focusing on your case specifically though. Looking at Ron's links, it appears the brothers vs you stuff has been going on for years, without ever being resolved. You didn't respond to my poking, so I either completely missed or you're dodging. I can't tell. Is this setup your main source for roleplaying? If so I'm starting to understand where your general "this cannot ever work" disposition is coming from. I might be totally wrong about that, but it's what I read between the lines of lots of your posts.
Oops! I didn't read your post properly (I think I was reading just before I had to go out and didn't reread). Sorry!
Quote
The main vibe seems to be that your contribution doesn't matter, that it's all between Matt and Daniel. And they just happen to be brothers. They're attuned to each other, while you're the misfit left in the water outside the boat.
I don't think 'attuned' is right. It's more like, perhaps, a (cold) war of brotherly henpecking and that distracts them from third parties, for the most part. I'm not sure Matts contributions matter all that much either - he contributed alot of plans, and none of them were needed - he just snuck in, in the end.

I have to say, I played monopoly with my partner and son a few times recently - it's basically a big game of snakes and ladders. I'm not against just playing what is a big game of snakes and ladders with Dan and Matt (just faster!) - if I want to do anything deeper, I'll ask them or find others who might want to try if they decline. Sometimes I think the need to keep focusing on the fiction is to avoid the idea it always turns out to be a big game of snakes and ladders. Though to be honest, I'd like it if monopoly had say an hour or two shaved off of it (I think our games went for about five hours! We played on the floor and everyones knees hurt!).


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 14, 2009, 05:16:08 PM
Hi Callan,

Quote
If I were to just write a hundred rules, with no intent on my behalf for them fitting together in any way at all, I'm sure on exposure to them (perhaps with some nifty fluff text and art) some group somewhere out there would "Know how to do it" with my hundred rules. When there is no fucking way to do it - I specifically just randomly threw rules together! I'm pretty damn sure that would happen - people would see a 'procedure' and 'the right way to do it' when there was none at all.

I agree, though a more purposefully designed set of rules would certainly give that group an easier time. I believe that coherent play is something that only the group itself can achieve or arrive at. We can give them rules that make sense, and cleverly written instructions, but they’ve got to get there themselves. Some groups do this effortlessly, those would be having fun with your 100 random rules in an instant. Other groups… don’t. So when you say:

Quote
The bad bit is the absence of recognition that it's a halucination - there's instead this certainty that "That's how it's done!", when it isn't how it's done, it's something they've invented

The thing that bothers me is the „how it’s done“. What is „it“? The way it should be done? According to whom? Every group must find, invent so to say, their own way. You are certainly right that there are many groups that haven’t, but think/claim they had.

But what kind of „design“ are you imagining that would „contain and constrain“ the hallucination? I would rather tend to think that no design, but the group's capacities of human awareness and communication would be the remedy.

-   Frank
This gobsmacks me, and yet I've come to see more and more roleplayers repeat things like this.

They'd 'get there' with my 100 random rules? Or despite them? There is no 'there' to get to, with or in spite of my 100 random rules! Seeing a 'there' is like seeing an image of jesus in some mundane object - it's not there. This seems 100% the hallucination I refered to, but being treated not as a hallucination but something actually being 'there'?

And how it should be done, according to whom? According to me, the author. Obviously it's incredibly easy to ignore the author. No, every group doesn't have to invent their own way. Or to reverse the position, who says every group has to invent their own way? Why is it that "that's how it's done"? According to whom? Who is saying every group must find their own way?

Atleast when I say how it's done for my game as author, someone might decide to listen to me cause they think I'm okay or know what I'm doing or whatever reason fits them.

When you say every group has to find their own way, who are you listening to, Frank?

As I say, I keep hearing things like this. I'm getting kind of desperate as to the why's of what is said.

Quote
But what kind of „design“ are you imagining that would „contain and constrain“ the hallucination? I would rather tend to think that no design, but the group's capacities of human awareness and communication would be the remedy.
When they can't percieve what is a hallucination, they have no capacity to control it. Which is exactly the case when one dreams at night and is unaware of dreaming. These dream moments pop up during roleplay and the person having them has no real idea they are siezed by a hallucination.

In a rifts game the GM had said aimed shots take two attacks, but you just lower your total attacks by two and have your attack now - you don't wait an attack/turn, then shoot the next turn. Then it came to reloading - "Oh no, you can't just instantly reload and shoot - that doesn't make sense!" and you have to spend an attack just reloading. There was no perception of what was halucination and what wasn't - aiming and shooting could be done on the same attack despite costing two, but reloading and shooting - that was insane, apparently! Seized by the conviction that that's how it is, was the GM.

I've probably failed at giving proper tone. Sorry about that, Frank. But I don't know how else to address this without having failed to address this?


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 15, 2009, 01:38:06 AM
Quote
When you say every group has to find their own way, who are you listening to, Frank?

Actually, I stopped listening to the people 'round here who would tell me otherwise (for the record: Ron Edwards is not one of them). It's been "there and back again" for me, so this is a very well reflected position of mine, nothing anybody told me that I'm repeating. Also for the record, "there" is coherent play.

However, I see that my fundamental opposition is not helpful at this point. I will see if I can come up with something more productive, or else let others take over for now.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 15, 2009, 04:31:30 AM
Yes, it's your position, but you've presented it as raw fact, Frank "Every group must find, invent so to say, their own way". I'm not jumping on that to say it's wrong, I'm saying there's something we, together, must grab hold of! Something unseen is entwined in those words and it slips away all to easily otherwise, and yet seems to be behind so many things. Vital, yet invisible.

And again, there is no 'there' in my 100 rules. It's like as the old experiment where a class is handed out their individual horoscopes. They are then asked to rate how well their personal horoscope describes them. Then, after they've given their ratings, they are told to show each other their horoscopes - which of course, are all exactly the same. There was no personal horoscope there, and there is no 'there' in my 100 random rules. Any coherant play has nothing to do with the rules. I specifically invented the 100 random rules so as to be like the horoscope experiment from above - to demonstrate a human behaviour. Oh, I totally grant if it was coherant the group played a game - one they invented themselves, but they'd totally attribute it to the 100 rules. Which is the human behaviour I set out to demonstrate.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Patrice on July 15, 2009, 04:56:16 AM
It seems to me that the whole lot of later posts upon this thread are beating about the bush around the notion of System. When a game provides 100 random rules or a tight set of mechanical notions, it doesn't provide a System as such. I've also noticed such a tendancy to run into what you call "rules" (which I would call the Resolution engine) without any further question about the System itself. Rules by themselves, limited to the mechanics of the Resolution engine, don't provide any backbone for what a RPG is and don't allow any sort of play interaction to happen.

No wonder, given this, that they don't help nor sustain any coherent way to reach a common goal and play experience. So, to answer Frank, I'd say that, ok, granted "every group has to find its own way" given full understanding and agreement about the System of play. If you overlook the System and jump into Resolution mechanics, thinking that "it's the game", what you get is anything but a RPG, or rather a pretty dysfunctional one. Does that help with the "murk" issue ? There is a strong tendancy to take "what is this game about" for granted ("c'mon it's a RPG, we know what it's about") and to jump straight into mechanics, thinking that this is what is supposed to matter when we say System Matters. It isn't.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 15, 2009, 09:46:15 AM
I don't think 'attuned' is right. It's more like, perhaps, a (cold) war of brotherly henpecking and that distracts them from third parties, for the most part. I'm not sure Matts contributions matter all that much either - he contributed alot of plans, and none of them were needed - he just snuck in, in the end.

That's basically what I meant. It's not like they made a deal, it's a procedure that evolved between them without anyone being aware of it. Let me elaborate.

You have the classical older brother who starts GMing for the younger brother. Probably lots of times just the two of them.
The older brother manifests as a solid traditional railroading GM.
The younger brother is firmly stuck in the passenger's seat from day one, due to procedures and seniority. But he wants to contribute and be creative too. What are his options? Traditionally, two jump out:
1) Contribute meaningless color (what drink do you order at the bar?).
2) Pause the train and go wild imagining stuff that could happen by planning for it, regardless where the train actually goes.
Both options are harmless to the GM, as all they do is delay and not derail. It's good for the player, because he gets to say his stuff and the GM lends a willing ear.
Both brother are happy with what they got, being ignorant of other options besides the railroad track.

Enter Callan.
Callan wants to contribute, so the older brother gives him options 1 and 2. Younger brother jumps at the chance, but Callan wants to skip them and continue the train. So does Callan want to contribute, or not? Callan makes no sense to the brothers.

I have to say, I played monopoly with my partner and son a few times recently - it's basically a big game of snakes and ladders. I'm not against just playing what is a big game of snakes and ladders with Dan and Matt (just faster!) - if I want to do anything deeper, I'll ask them or find others who might want to try if they decline. Sometimes I think the need to keep focusing on the fiction is to avoid the idea it always turns out to be a big game of snakes and ladders. Though to be honest, I'd like it if monopoly had say an hour or two shaved off of it (I think our games went for about five hours! We played on the floor and everyones knees hurt!).

I can make sense of that, if snakes and ladders is an analogy of the RPG railroad. But then, you say you're ok with it, but in this thread you're complaining you can't get off the track. To me, you leave the impression that you're sick of it.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 15, 2009, 02:15:52 PM
Hi Jasper,

Quote
You have the classical older brother who starts GMing for the younger brother. Probably lots of times just the two of them.
The older brother manifests as a solid traditional railroading GM.
The younger brother is firmly stuck in the passenger's seat from day one, due to procedures and seniority. But he wants to contribute and be creative too. What are his options? Traditionally, two jump out:
1) Contribute meaningless color (what drink do you order at the bar?).
2) Pause the train and go wild imagining stuff that could happen by planning for it, regardless where the train actually goes.
Both options are harmless to the GM, as all they do is delay and not derail. It's good for the player, because he gets to say his stuff and the GM lends a willing ear.
Both brother are happy with what they got, being ignorant of other options besides the railroad track.

Enter Callan.
Callan wants to contribute, so the older brother gives him options 1 and 2. Younger brother jumps at the chance, but Callan wants to skip them and continue the train. So does Callan want to contribute, or not? Callan makes no sense to the brothers.
Hmmm, that makes alot of sense. 'Contributing' IS, to them, planning alot or describing how you walk into a bar. If I want to contribute, then to them I look like I want to do that. Though I don't think they have ever RP'ed just with each other - GM/one player is very rare in our/their history.

So your sort of saying they set something up between them already, and after it's set up, I arrive. How it's set up is an arrangement between them, really?

Quote
I can make sense of that, if snakes and ladders is an analogy of the RPG railroad. But then, you say you're ok with it, but in this thread you're complaining you can't get off the track. To me, you leave the impression that you're sick of it.
Have I? Feel free to quote me - but I'm pretty sure I'm not deluding myself here? The title even has molases in it - it's not that were on tracks, it's that were on tracks and it's soooo sloooooow! Not that I'm in love with railroading, I'll grant, but if the group game goes that way (and if it is an arrangement I'm not party to, as above) then I'm okay with it, but just faster. Monopoly faster too, by a couple of hours!

Heh, I've run some bits of the D&D basic games (I've bought the last three - kind of find them facinating) for my partner and son. My partner is pretty firm on it either only lasting 30 minutes, or she'll decline the offer. Now that's damn fast! And kind of ironic as she initiated to play these five hour monopoly sessions. I've asked her about it and it seems the repeating structure of monopoly is easier to get into for an extended time. But that's another (interesting) topic! Thanks!


Hi Patrice,

I don't know. I see plenty of people driving at traffic lights correctly, or paying for groceries and taking the goods. It's entirely possible to have a system without discussing it (let alone inventing it), having learnt the skills behind it all prior. This all seems an impossible thing to many roleplayers - it almost seems that along with making an intricate game world or whatever, crafting a system between participants is part of what roleplay IS to them (and perhaps blurring game world and system between real people is the heights for them). I see no reason why system must be invented by a group, except that some people like that. Which, while no reason for it is apparent, means it isn't any sort of physical requirement of roleplay that groups 'have' to invent their own way and/or their own system.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Patrice on July 15, 2009, 11:07:59 PM
Hi Patrice,

I don't know. I see plenty of people driving at traffic lights correctly, or paying for groceries and taking the goods. It's entirely possible to have a system without discussing it (let alone inventing it), having learnt the skills behind it all prior. This all seems an impossible thing to many roleplayers - it almost seems that along with making an intricate game world or whatever, crafting a system between participants is part of what roleplay IS to them (and perhaps blurring game world and system between real people is the heights for them). I see no reason why system must be invented by a group, except that some people like that. Which, while no reason for it is apparent, means it isn't any sort of physical requirement of roleplay that groups 'have' to invent their own way and/or their own system.

But it's what they do anyway. The party that "likes" crafting a System is simply aware of the fact, whether the other is not. The "skills behind it" aren't anything chewable in themselves if you don't come to an agreement about the way you put them in motion. "Invent" is maybe a too strong word here, let's not get caught in it, I am willing to phrase it again if you wish, something like "have to figure their own way". What happens when you're not aware of this "figuring" thing, is that you assume an agreement that has never been discussed and just go play. When it works, that means that you're all lucky or empathic enough to hace had a simil


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Patrice on July 15, 2009, 11:09:31 PM
*sigh*

(sorry, lousy keyboard here)

...similar grasp of "the skills behind it". At least until an issue sprouts.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 16, 2009, 02:36:22 AM
Hi Callan,

Quote
Yes, it's your position, but you've presented it as raw fact, Frank "Every group must find, invent so to say, their own way". I'm not jumping on that to say it's wrong, I'm saying there's something we, together, must grab hold of! Something unseen is entwined in those words and it slips away all to easily otherwise, and yet seems to be behind so many things. Vital, yet invisible.

Alright then, if you want to pursue that line of thought further, I’m all for it. Just tell me if I’m derailing. I’ll have to digress a bit.

The most important point Ron made in “System does matter” is that there are different modes of play, and different sets of rules (referred to as “system” in that article) may facilitate, or fail to facilitate, a certain mode. That is true and well, but it does not mean that the rules and procedures as laid out in the game text must, or in fact should, provide an exact instruction of how to do everything and anything in the game. If you look especially at Spione, you will see that it deliberately leaves a lot of space for an individual group to define, invent so to say, the way in which they want to use the tools provided by the design. Not in terms of Drifting the game, but rather in terms of the little bits and pieces on all layers of the Big Model, and how they best suit the group’s needs. (Ron, please correct me if I’m wrong.) The design still facilitates Narrativist play, but how various groups play the game coherently may be quite different, on all layers of the Model, and one groups functional approach might well be dysfunctional to another group. 

Looking at my personal experience with role-playing, I have come to the conclusion that the idea of a designer telling a group exactly how to play is a red herring, and whenever a group tries to second-guess the designer, trying to play the game “as intended” (as opposed to “their own way”), they are bound for a very artificial play experience with little emotional investment. That’s how I ended up not having fun with My Life with Master. Whereas when I played Polaris and the group followed its intuition, I proclaimed we had transcended the rules (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25864.0) only to learn that with one very overt exception, we had been playing the rules as written, and yet it had been decidedly different than previous play experiences with the same game. Ben confirmed that this was intentional on his part.

It’s a bit like those guidebooks for sex: They cannot promote the one way to do it, they can only help you along in finding out what works for you, at the time, with the partner(s) you have. And next time you’ll have to figure out a new way to do it that fits the time and the partner(s) you have then. Plus, there are a lot of different functional ways to do it, pick yours for today. It’s only problematic if you pick kinky and your partner picked nice and slow. Also, some of those guidebooks have been invaluable to some couples, while other couples may have found the same guidebook entirely useless. All of this transfers very well to role-playing, and role-playing guidebooks.

This is far from saying system doesn’t matter after all, or has to be invented from scratch by the group. But system can only facilitate coherent play. Never can system in and of itself provide a model for coherent play, or tell the players what to do. What’s more, if players play only for, let’s say, the “Reward” provided by the Reward System, well, then they’re playing a game of numbers and the actual fictional content, what happens to the characters, becomes mostly exchangeable. At least in my experience.

Now, that was the digression, for the lengthiness of which I apologize. It has nothing to do with your Warhammer game, except it’s why I see your proposed solution of “design” as problematic.

A “there” or “it” that is coherent play—tight, vivid, emotionally invested play—needs a vision. A vision shared among the participants, probably dynamic, changing and adapting as the group moves along. This vision is the “invisible” thing you are talking about, the subject of your “hallucination”. Maybe you are throwing two different things together with your term of “hallucination” (correct me if I’m wrong).

First case: The players do not, in fact, play coherently, or have a clear vision of coherent play they strive for. However, they are in denial of the fact that their play is incoherent. Maybe it’s not dramatically incoherent, like in your example, just a little erratic and abashed. Not terribly annoying, just not yet really “it”. But the participants claim it’s “it”. They have some contradictory notion of “it”, learned from other role-players or gathered from books, and aspire to that, but they cannot put together in their heads a clear picture of what “it” looks like, exactly, and how their actions in play facilitate “it”. Here, you’ve got your hallucination alright.

Second case: The game played (rules and prose) does not provide a very clear idea of “it”, but the players have their “vision” nonetheless, because they made “it” up themselves. Note that there are different opinions of what a coherent design looks like, see my digression above. If you ask me, even a coherent design would, by necessity,  require the group to figure some things out by themselves. I think you are bothered by the fact that in this case, the “vision” cannot be placed to a source, cannot be easily nailed down. But that doesn’t make it a hallucination.

It’s not about the designer’s, but about the group’s shared vision, arrived at through personal human interaction. In my opinion (maybe a matter of preference), the best thing a game designer can provide to this end is advice in clear, well written prose. I don’t like the “board game” approach. I’m a role-playing geek, not a board-game geek, for a reason. If you’d rather prefer a board-game with a bit of Exploration thrown on top, that’s fine, but I suggest that in that case, you will effectively be playing a game of numbers with very little to no real investment into the SIS. Is that what you want? Or is it what you settle for?

You’re now saying “just faster” would be fine, and sure, it would be an improvement. But originally you had other valid criticism as well. That other criticism was rooted in a very clear, concise judgement of the individual contributions, how they did not serve a purpose (a perceivable point of play, i.e. Creative Agenda), or how they did not make a whole lot of sense in the context of the SIS. You (Callan) have a vision of coherent play, only it’s not shared, or even understood, by the others. And they, in turn, don’t seem to have such a vision, just an hallucination, as termed by you correctly (my first case above). Snakes and Ladders can be a substitute, but not a vision of its own.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 16, 2009, 04:45:14 AM
And that brings those two threads back together, thanks Frank!

Indeed, you're the beast from the jungle, Callan. The brothers are unaware of life outside their biosphere, they are unaware that there's anything outside the suburbs they've lived in all their life. They've agreed to live in those suburbs by never traveling out of them.

And it's not only the railroad that's the problem, but the way the entire game is played. Here's a quote: "it's soooo sloooooow!". This is saying that the fun:unfun ratio is fucked up. You can find some redeeming qualities, but they're too few, too little, to really give you a good time. Consider playing work, consider fun your salary, do the math, and find out you're performing slave labor. Toiling time and again without significant payoff. Sure, you live, but are you satisfied with that?

Oh, it's not that bad! What? Not so bad that you'd tear your hair out and run from the room screaming? Only so bad that half the time you're eating yourself up from the inside, all quiet? Well perhaps, but it's bad nonetheless. Otherwise you wouldn't have started this topic the way you did.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: JoyWriter on July 16, 2009, 07:09:50 AM
It’s a bit like those guidebooks for sex: They cannot promote the one way to do it, they can only help you along in finding out what works for you, at the time, with the partner(s) you have. And next time you’ll have to figure out a new way to do it that fits the time and the partner(s) you have then. Plus, there are a lot of different functional ways to do it, pick yours for today. It’s only problematic if you pick kinky and your partner picked nice and slow. Also, some of those guidebooks have been invaluable to some couples, while other couples may have found the same guidebook entirely useless. All of this transfers very well to role-playing, and role-playing guidebooks.

This is so true it's funny! The rules text in a book acts like an inheritance thing between your end and their's:
On one side there is your experience of play and the systems you use to get there (by analogy your good sex).
On the other there are all the other experiences you want people to have (their own good sex).

Because this is a personal thing, you have to make your own experience a prototype, and (in a programming analogy) use the rules text as a form of inheritance, allowing people to create similar but different experiences. Your experience is acting as a similar but different centre, to a whole tree of different experiences.

In dealing with that difference, you either have to leave parts unknown, or make them options for people to pick, otherwise it is not acting as a flexible enough bridge to reproduce an experience that is as personal to them as it is to you, unless they are already ridiculously similar to you.


Now in commenting on that I don't want to obscure the question/points you made, about hallucination and gameplay vision, so I'll just leave this line here as a reminder to look back.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 17, 2009, 04:25:18 PM
Thank you for that, Frank.

The thing I get from it is that a group finding or inventing their own way, is just working with numbers anyway. If, in the heat of play, they decide the fire mage can't use his spells while it's raining - it's still just numbers. IF raining = 1 THEN firespell_control = 0.

There may be this afterglow of having taken the imaginary ideas and made system, but once it's system, it's cold, hard numbers. Either that, or as I see it, no system/agreement was actually made and people are just humouring the idea it was for moment to moment gain (the gain may even be 'Everyone doesn't leave the table'). I seem to be getting into that on Vincents blog - I have certain standards about what is and isn't an agreement. Now that's just me, obviously, but it means where some people (like Vincent) call it agreement/lumpley principle, I see people just humouring the idea they have agreed and there is no agreement/lumpley principle. I'm pretty sure I've had this conversation with Guy Shalev, in terms of standards and what is a game and what are people simply sitting around a table.

So it either boils down to numbers, or it's nothing I'd call an agreement (does that prove anything in a global sense? I don't know. But in such a case I don't see agreement rather like the little boy who didn't see clothes on the emporer).

In responce to that situation, taking it as existing, I give this (simplistic) case for exact instructions: If the fire mage player has the mechanical option of not using his fire powers AND he sees some sort of truth (a vision, mayhap?) in someone elses narration of rain blocking out fire spells, he can support that truth by just taking the option in the rules of not using his powers. NO NEW RULES ARE MADE UP! No new system is made up! This is supporting the vision with what you already have and it doesn't turn into hard numbers as system creation does. It rests on peoples choices - a thing which truely captures the wierd, magical unknown of imagined worlds, since peoples choices are neither number, nor are they raw meaningless chaos. Peoples choices are some magical inbetween, if I may get sappy for a moment. Peoples choices are the stuff dreams are made of. Endless system creation is not - once it's cooled on the baking tray, it's just a bunch of numbers.

With my hundred random rules example, I see a group who 'gets it' as wasting their own time with a half arsed product (zero arsed, actually - I designed it to be a complete write off). That's system mattering, to me. Them, sitting around and working out system according to some vision isn't anything more than writing out more and more cold numbers. And yet it's the only thing traditional games, the ones everyone were exposed to in their youth, supplied. So it's become synonymous with the idea of roleplay, when it's just a half echo of a greater idea. That or maybe I have some other idea entirely that isn't representative of what those traditional games tried to get at, at all.

I'll just repeat, in case a "That's what I was talking about!" comes up when it wasn't - that person with the fire mage - he gets a real choice. There's no little, unspoken, tension at the table where if he uses the spells after narration of rain, he'll get tense, perhaps nasty looks from other players, or whatever. That's just more, cold, hard playing with numbers, but because it's unspoken they are pretending it's not numbers play. I think from teenage years we all have a cringe that if you really let someone have a choice, they'll fuck it all up. Here in my example, it's a real choice - which means it isn't system making/were not working out how to get 'there' in terms of system anymore - we already are there and he's making a choice that's inside of a pre-existing system.

I can think of about half a dozen ways that could, by some chance, be useless as a responce. Another stumble in a dark room for me, waiting to crack my shins on something (which seems to be the only way to find things!).


Hi Jasper,

Yeah, but you have to remember, this is Daniel's baby, not mine. He initiated this game. Now I'm not saying that just to protect him, but myself as well. My own internal code is that if I can push around his game, well then why can't he push around any game I initiate? As much as this isn't my cup of tea, I'm not interested in being forced to compromise anything I make because I made him compromise what he made. So I don't - thought to a degree I think by asking for faster, I would be being somewhat pushy.

My first post is framed not in terms of how to fix his game, but I'm trying to grok what he gets out of it, then see if I can surgically remove that from the molasses and put it into a game I make up. Because I would like to add something that he likes, into such a thing.

But I'll totally grant in the smaller picture, while was there, I'm like "This really seems to be dragging out!". But that's already happened and the solution to that is pretty clear - don't play if I don't like it. So I'm looking at the bigger picture.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 18, 2009, 02:15:53 AM
All right, I didn't pick up on your focus on Dan, I looked at you.

Interesting, so you sit in on his game and he should do the same with yours? And you want to accommodate him, even though he doesn't really accommodate you. Or is this hypothetical?

What does he get out of it his game? Well, it's his game, his suburbs, his routine. But does he really enjoy it, or does he just go through the motions? Does he look to broaden his scope, even just little things in his own game, or is he conservative like hell?

And so far it's been Dan the GM, but how is Dan the player? In your game, is he gonna GM or is he gonna play? Would he actually like to play in his own game?



Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 18, 2009, 03:45:16 AM
All right, I didn't pick up on your focus on Dan, I looked at you.

Interesting, so you sit in on his game and he should do the same with yours?
There's no 'should'? Well, I suppose after playing in his game I'd like him to seriously consider any invitation I offer, but I don't expect that he should, in turn, play in mine. I play in his games so as to try and support what he's getting at and yeah, because of shared history as well. If I didn't want to support him, I wouldn't. Mind you, I'm not sure he's considered the idea of a supportive approach himself. Not that, normally, a game should need it (in terms of procedure), IMO.

Quote
And you want to accommodate him, even though he doesn't really accommodate you. Or is this hypothetical?
Hard question? Isn't all roleplay design/session design accomidating someone - even if it's just the vague generic notion of someone else? Here it's just more specific? Whether that other person would accomidate you is kind of moot? Either you accomidate them to some degree, or atleast some generic person, or don't bother trying to make an RPG?

Quote
What does he get out of it his game? Well, it's his game, his suburbs, his routine. But does he really enjoy it, or does he just go through the motions? Does he look to broaden his scope, even just little things in his own game, or is he conservative like hell?

And so far it's been Dan the GM, but how is Dan the player? In your game, is he gonna GM or is he gonna play? Would he actually like to play in his own game?
Well, that'd be a really interesting question - what would he have done in the game, had he been playing? And if I ran a game he'd be playing, but I hadn't considered prepping/making something, then he runs it - never thought of that. I'll chew on that.

In terms of broadening his scope - you know, I've thought about your question and I have no damn idea what he might have thought about it all in advance of doing it - I'm scratching my head? Most of this game and it's prior session were made up as he went along, he said to us at the end. I think, like any of us might feel like a beer, he sometimes feels like roleplaying - he just goes and gets one from the fridge, so to speak.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 19, 2009, 07:20:12 AM
Callan, that's good strong talk. Personally, I think the re-definition of "System" via the Lumpley Principle has caused some pitfalls here. I have a lot of sympathy for your point about what is or isn't an agreement.

However, your remark about the "game of numbers" makes me sort of uneasy. What I'm talking about is emotional investment into fictional content as a driving force of play, as opposed to mechical rewards. I'm not quite sure what you are talking about.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 19, 2009, 02:16:58 PM
Hi Frank,

With my hundred random rules A: I think a group would be making system as they go, and if they wanted rain to mess with fire magic, the general tendency is that they would say you can't use fire magic if rain has been narrated.

They typically wouldn't think to B: give the player the choice to use his fire magic or not, then rely on his sympathetic reaction to the narrated fiction that rain messes with fire magic, and not use his spells when rain is narrated.

With case A, it's just making up numbers play. It may feel like B, because in the heat of play they made this stuff up, and at the time the fire mage was sympathetic with the fiction of the proposed rule and went with it. But while that sympathy was there, what they made up would be a board game/a numbers game. It's just a board game rule - can't use fire spells when there's rain. That's like a rule that says bishops can only move on diagnals - completely boardgame.

When you leave it up to people to find their own way, they generally start making boardgame rules that support their idea of how the fiction goes. It's counter intuitive to them to provide a second option to go against the fiction as they see it.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 20, 2009, 12:06:07 AM
Okay, so you’re talking about resolution here. You are of course right that numbers are usually involved at that stage or even if they aren’t it’s still essentially the same. That is however not what I meant by “a game of numbers”. As long as the decisions by the participants are aimed at fictional outcomes, as opposed to Currency flow, the numbers are not what the game is about. And even if some mechanical reward is involved, it’s still not necessarily my “game of numbers”.

But what I’ve seen happen in games where the players try to do “what the designer wants them to do” is this: First they figure out the rules part, the part with the numbers (or tokens or whatever). And then, almost as an afterthought, they establish what that means in the SIS. That’s the artificial, emotionally detached sort of play I call “game of numbers”. It lacks the joyful “let’s pretend” quality of a childhood game.
   
That’s why I have come to the conclusion that “the designer knows best” doesn’t work and “the group knows best” is really without alternative. The best thing a designer can do is to inspire, and to help players make an informed decision.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: contracycle on July 20, 2009, 06:37:25 PM
I think it s probably true that the group forms its own system, and that you can't really compel thewm to do otherwise short of standing in the room with a whip and threatening to lash them, but: even if the endpoint is not attainable, this conviction is preventing is from trying certain things at all

Lets face it, most non-Narr RPG texts are indeed nothing more than a set of combat rules.  There is no "how to play" there is no real "game" there at all.  In saying that the this function devolves to the group, we merely decline to engage with the question.

I suspect some of this is relevant to the "old skool" stuff of late, because you know, going in to a duingeon to kill things and take their stuff is in fact really focussed and knows what its about.  Deep, meaningful, insightful?  No, but at least everyone knows what they are there for.  But ever since this style of gaming came out of the dungeon, there has been the drive to do something more epic, more story-like, more than merely grinding your way through monsters: to have dramatic villains, greater purposes, Quests with a capital Q.  There's no rules for any of that stuff, there is no procedure for play, except what the players themselves assemble from the components they actually have: the dungeon crawl-descended mechanics.

Sometimes it is just marching from dungeon to dungeon in the abstract, but a lot of the time its much more fluid, and the systems don't really survive.  Take a rule that grants you use of a power X times per day, of which there are many.  Who controls the rate of time?  Either the GM outright, or the players by "consensus".  A power that you could use a certain number of times per day made sense and makes sense in the dungeon context, where one day will contain many encounters; but if you are freewheeling over the landscape, travelling from place to place, having encounters dispersed in time and space, it means much less - it really means something like x uses per encounter.  The meaning of the rule has been totally changed by the migration out of the strictly defined dungeon, and it has become a function of GM fiat more than rules.

There is indeed a gaping chasm here which, it seems to me, we are studiously ignoring.  Railroading and participationism are in fact viable solutions to this problem; at least they do lend play some purpose and direction.  And part of the quid pro quo, then, is to allow players to faff and fiddle, take their time in their planning, so they are at least not totally the GM's hapless creatures being driven before him like cattle, the whole game descending into one huge power trip.  It may not change a whole lot but it least it softens the impact, makes it more palatable.  I do not think it is surprising, therefore, that so many people arrive at the conclusion that that is how it should be done.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 20, 2009, 10:42:37 PM
Hi Frank,

Well, the first thing that strikes me is that if they keep trying to do what the designer wants them to do, then they aren't envisioning (within what mechanical options are presented) their own idea to follow? Why aren't they learning the mechanics, then envisioning some idea that they emotionally attached to but is also something that is facilitated or dealt with with the ruleset? A cynical part of me thinks it's a sign of a group who, unless they have absolutely free reign, will not invest in the imagined space? Which takes me to 'lets pretend' - a written game aught to lack the joyfulness of let's pretend! Because it's a different game than let's pretend. We all own a copy of let's pretend, basically. A new game really should lack the same taste as let's pretend, as it aught to be providing some new and different taste. New games aught to fail at having the overall same joy as let's pretend (a new game could include, as part of it, some of the joy that was let's pretend, but if that's all the game provides, it's not exactly a new game).

Anyway, in terms of a group who keeps trying to do what the designer wants them to do, I think it'd be good to continue with an actual play account in it's own thread so it gets proper attention (or; you gave a link before - should I read through that in relation to this?). I think that'd really help answer why they don't start envisioning something they are attached to.



Hi Jasper,

I've been chewing over your comments on accomidating. I don't think because I accomidate, someone else aught to. But your points did make me think that if the other guy doesn't realise your accomidating them - what's the point of accomidating them? Particularly if they don't even see the stuff as being anything they do in their games. It's just adding stuff to my designs/altering my designs in ways that no one actually appreciates the accomidation/compromise (even if it by and large matches what they do/run in their games).


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 22, 2009, 07:47:54 AM
Hi Callan!

Indeed, what's the point of accomodating? If it's all one-way then surely it won't last.

Pulling this into design, what would you really be designing for? A game you think Dan wants to play? Through compromising, you might well be diluting whatever makes the game cool for yourself. Basically, you're designing by committee, but it's worse because you're using a second-guessed-Dan as your partner. You might end up with a stale compromise that doesn't actually accomodate Dan at all.
If you really want to find a common ground with Dan and tweak or create a game for that, at least make him a full collaborator. If he doesn't like that idea, it's a doomed venture either way.

Personally, I can't imagine me succesfully creating a game if it wasn't aimed squarely at myself.


Now a little tangent about the joyfulness of let's pretend. What joyfulness? This is probably highly subjective. I abhor pure "let's pretend" because in my experience it's system is social bullying. By chance it might work out, but given enough time "The Disagreement" will be encountered and the game will be destroyed for at least for one person.



Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 22, 2009, 08:09:38 AM
Anyway, in terms of a group who keeps trying to do what the designer wants them to do, I think it'd be good to continue with an actual play account in it's own thread so it gets proper attention (or; you gave a link before - should I read through that in relation to this?). I think that'd really help answer why they don't start envisioning something they are attached to.

Well, I'm happy with closing the case here. The thread I linked above is not about this particular phenomenon. Maybe I'll feel in the mood to defend my case with a new thread another day, but right now I really don't.

- Frank


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 22, 2009, 02:50:04 PM
Fair enough, it's there for potential latter discussion. Though I don't know about the word 'defend' - defend connotates trying to preserve something regardless, rather than scrutinising whether you want to preserve it.


Hi Jasper,

Quote
You might end up with a stale compromise that doesn't actually accomodate Dan at all.
I'll nod to that, but I'm thinking its worse than that (with your statement, one could try again and again until one does accomidate - which I think I have tried). If the other person doesn't recognise that you've made a compromise, have you made one at all? It's a bit like the old tree falls in a forest but no one is there to hear it; does it make a sound? If you make a compromise and no one recognises it, have you made a compromise? And yet the design is definately compromised.

I suggested a game of rifts some time in future, but only doing a fraction of the char gen at the start so we can get into play. Nah nah, they wanted to fully make out characters - spend a session just making characters, even. I think likewise, I'm going to make the following session a 'make up how we play' session rather than actually play. They'll probably say 'Oh, however you want' - but I didn't want to make up full characters, but nah, we had to. What else do I want to do, but can't? Let's get into that, rather than me being told I can do anything, but then finding otherwise via body language. Finding out like that makes it like creeping across a minefield. I just want to know the procedure - I don't want us all to kind of 'find' a procedure mid play - it's not fun anymore, it just gets in the way of actually going to places (places that were glimpsed in previous procedure generation).

Quote
Personally, I can't imagine me succesfully creating a game if it wasn't aimed squarely at myself.
Yeah, but doesn't that strike you as self conflicting? I'll expand it...
Quote
Personally, I can't imagine me succesfully creating an activity aimed at including other people and not just me, if it wasn't aimed squarely at myself.
How do you meld these ideas together?


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 23, 2009, 03:43:41 AM
Whether the tree makes a sound depends on how you define "making a sound". When this example surfaces it warns us that we are getting lost in semantics.
So! What's a compromise, to me? You have two extremes and you settle on something in between. Both sides make concessions. I don't care whether that's done consciously or not, as long as people believe they're being reasonable themselves. I consider the possible range of outcomes inclusive, that is, the extremes are valid results themselves. That means I include a 0-100 concession ratio as a valid compromise, semantically.

Now practially, any concession that's greatly lopsided means trouble, whether it's 30-70, 20-80, or 0-100. We agree on that.
The trouble is improving that ratio. First, if it's not conscious then you'll have to make it so for all parties involved, otherwise you can't talk about it. Second, it's a hard sell, because the dominant side suddenly has to yield some of what it previously considered a perfectly fair share.


But you need not be accomodating. It can be really refreshing and enlightening to say "My way or not at all!" and jump out of a local optimum. The thing is, you must be willing to face the consequences. You must be willing to accept a "No". If people go along with you, they do so willingly and how it works out will teach you lots of things. Getting a "No" in response to a specific offer will teach you lots of things too.
The trouble is that once you've started compromising on a deal, there's no way back. If you want to offer a fixed deal it must be a completely new one.

So you could pitch something like, I dunno, "D&D with premade throwaway characters, no character-building session, I'm gonna do my best to kill ya". Then if they say no to that, well, then that's just not their thing.


Quote
Personally, I can't imagine me succesfully creating an activity aimed at including other people and not just me, if it wasn't aimed squarely at myself.

It only looks conflicting to me if you don't put bounds on "other people", which is madness. It reeks of the Geek Social Fallacies #1 (Ostracizers Are Evil) and #5 (Friends Do Everything Together).

The thing is, I cannot possibly become passionate in a productive way about something I don't like. If I'm not passionate, whatever I create is mediocre at best, and thus a waste of my time. So if I want to create a great game, it has to be something I'm passionate about, something I'd love to play myself. This automatically puts bounds on my target audience. People that are not compatible with me probably won't like the game much. I wouldn't want to play the game with them. I would advise them to go play another game, with other people.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 23, 2009, 05:00:45 PM
The tree falling example only goes wrong if you ask for an answer in a general sense. If you just ask Jim Bob what he thinks and he says it's silent, then in his particular peception it's silent. It's that easy. That's what I'm refering to here - in Daniels and Matts perception, am I not appearing to compromise at all? Thus it's a waste of time felling the tree, so to speak?

Quote
It only looks conflicting to me if you don't put bounds on "other people", which is madness. It reeks of the Geek Social Fallacies #1 (Ostracizers Are Evil) and #5 (Friends Do Everything Together).
What do you mean 'bounds'? It's aimed at you - those other people would have to be you, in order for it to be aimed at them. While you get one reek, I get a reek of narcissism? I'm not saying that in a 'you bad' way - it may very well somehow fit. But is this how most RPG designers, design? I'm asking because that would mean I've been very much mistaken what fundimental principles of design people were operating from here on the forge and in general (and I'm not saying 'very much mistaken' in the BS internet way to imply my way is right - I really mean I may have been very much mistaken for a long time)?

I mean, I think I have bounds as in; this is aimed at Daniel and/or Matt and/or Chris - not some hobo down the street. Not some nag on RPG.net. I have some bounds - but it cannot be aimed at me, soley, without adding the bound that they have to be me, for this game to aimed at them.

I have recently idled the idea that designing may, to make anything at all, involve leadership and leading others somewhere (leaving the idea of 'somewhere' vague for the moment). Just saying that to try and figure a way of what your saying, working somehow that I can grasp (not just trying to tear down ideas - looking to tear down what needs to be torn down, but also looking for what might have been strong amongst everything else)

Another, very blue sky theory of mine is that when you say it's aimed at you, what's happened is that you've essentially absorbed your groups ways so much it IS you to play something that fits them. That's a very blue sky theory and is probably best ignored. Again just saying it so as to try and grasp.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 24, 2009, 03:35:18 AM
There's only one way to know how you appear to Dan and Matt: ask them honestly.

Defining bounds is not narcissism, it's knowing what you're good at, and focusing on that. It's striving for quality. If I decline to work for a client, it's not because I think I'm too good for it, it's because I think it's not a good fit. The client would be better served by someone else, and I would be more useful to someone else as well.

Suppose I'm asked to create a game specifically for Dan and Matt. The first thing I'll do is try to figure out what kind of people they are, what they like. I'll determine if there is enough of a match between us so that I can declare them compatible with me. Of course, they also have to be compatible with themselves. In short, I'll determine whether they're within my bounds. If I'm confident it's a positive match, them we're on. If not, then I have two options:
A) Try it anyway, and perhaps, through much unfun toiling, end up with something mediocre that they could play, but it won't really shine. In other words, it'll be not fun for me to create and it probably won't add significant value for Dan and Matt.
B) Gracefully decline and do something more fun and more productive, while generating more value.

Why would I ever pick option A? Even if offered an exorbitant amount of money I rather do something else. Doing it for free is absolutely out of the question.
(By the way, I've seen a lot of miserable and unproductive people, and it's mostly because they're unaware of option B, and in the worst case fervently deny it as a valid option.)


You could consider RPG design to be like leadership, as you're leading the people at the table through some kind of game experience. But you only lead by consensus. If your leadership is not approved, you will be deposed, either by corruption of your command (drift) or by replacing you with another leader (play another game).
It's sheer hubris to think you could lead everyone. It could be like the cultural clash when you'd let a German monarch lead an African tribe. That's a fine example of picking the wrong man for the job. Now if you're aware that you're a German monarch, and you also know that there are African tribes, then you can take precaution so this mismatch won't occur. If you could clearly articulate what kind of leader you are, then the tribe won't pick you by mistake.


Quote
Another, very blue sky theory of mine is that when you say it's aimed at you, what's happened is that you've essentially absorbed your groups ways so much it IS you to play something that fits them. That's a very blue sky theory and is probably best ignored. Again just saying it so as to try and grasp.

Do you mean the situation where someone basically assumes a group's common indentity as his own? I think that could happen if your gaming experience is very isolated, when you only every play with one fixed group all your life. If the group's play is functional, I guess that would be great, because everyone in the group is totally on the same page. Not much fun if it's a nonfunctional mess though, then your own identity is a mess as well. In either case, when you do step out into the wide world, it's gonna mean trouble.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 24, 2009, 05:47:28 PM
Thanks, Jasper!

Quote
Defining bounds is not narcissism, it's knowing what you're good at, and focusing on that. It's striving for quality. If I decline to work for a client, it's not because I think I'm too good for it, it's because I think it's not a good fit. The client would be better served by someone else, and I would be more useful to someone else as well.
Yes, but how did you get good at something that happens to suit (some, not all) other people? It's a bit chicken and egg (argh, your gunna hate me now, after I already brought in the tree thing before!). How did you ever learn to do something that suits someone else, if you've always declined people you didn't currently fit (presuming when you started you could only do something that fits you)? How else could you learn but in taking on someone that doesn't suit you, atleast to some degree?

One answer might be pure darwinistic luck - by chance what is made matches others needs and perhaps by chance further developments, match up. Is this all we have at this stage of roleplay design knowledge? If you don't happen to fit, that's it - darwinistically it didn't work out?

Quote
Suppose I'm asked to create a game specifically for Dan and Matt. The first thing I'll do is try to figure out what kind of people they are, what they like. I'll determine if there is enough of a match between us so that I can declare them compatible with me. Of course, they also have to be compatible with themselves. In short, I'll determine whether they're within my bounds. If I'm confident it's a positive match, them we're on
A little bit off of the topic you raised here, but in terms of multi player computer games I think we match quite alot. And to me - well in one of our early RPG games someone had powers over plants, and he made a tree bend over so we could get over a wall. Awesome cool (well, not as wild these days, but still cool). And I think you could easily have the equivalent of the video game game play (in board game format), but some rule defined capacitity to drop in an object that effectively acts as a tree bent over so we can get over the wall, that totally encapsulates that same imaginative manouver.

So I totally think we match. Eg, that cool tree bending over the wall thing is totally replicable in hard rules, almost full on board game format. I can code that. And basically that's been my mission, to try and encapsulate this stuff. But every time it gets more tangible and closer to hard, board game like rules, it eludes me. It's like the imaginative ideas keep expanding and murkifying to avoid that most demonic of qualities - being a bit like a boardgame. I think it's almost self destructive, as shown in the 'rare hit the payoff' shown in this AP. It's as if being "not a boardgame!!!1!" is more important than hitting a payoff, consistantly or even inconsistantly.

I think imagination imagines its self as being a bit above material things. I think it needs a kick in the arse. Were not here for imagination! Imagination is here for us! Or if other people want to be here for imagination, jeez, okay. But that's probably what makes me sometimes think of overall roleplay culture as looking like a religion, but without the god bits "I can't believe it's not butter/religion!".

Okay, I rambled quite alot there. But I think that's what I'm facing off with, even though I think we match. Clarrified more so for writing it out just now.

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You could consider RPG design to be like leadership, as you're leading the people at the table through some kind of game experience. But you only lead by consensus.
I might be reading you wrong, but looking for a consensus seems to go against your idea of doing something aimed squarely at yourself? Particularly the idea being that the tribe/group that picks its leader. I'm pretty sure the first game I GM'ed I did so looking for consensus that I could lead as GM. Going on, I tried to compromise to get that consensus. I thought this was the done way of doing things.

For me, if I'm going to do something aimed at myself/lead myself, I don't mean to be impolite, but I'm not interested in being told I need consensus. That's not me. It's not part of me.

That's the thing - are you really doing something aimed squarely at yourself, if ideas which are not part of yourself, like needing consensus, slip in? That's what I was getting at with the blue sky theory - have certain ideas that were not part of yourself slipped into your pattern of behaviour and now you treat doing them as doing something aimed squarely at yourself?

Or to ramble on further - it's not an innate part of me to get consensus on things (while enjoying a beer is an innate part of me). If I do it, I do it as part of dealing with the world and pursuing my goals. Are you talking in terms of getting cosensus being an innate part of you, like enjoying beer is part of you (taking it you like beer, that is). In the same way, do you enjoy getting consensus? Or too tangental a question?


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 25, 2009, 03:50:04 AM
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Yes, but how did you get good at something that happens to suit (some, not all) other people?

I grew up. I gained experience. Nature & nurture stuff. The Me that's talking to you today is not the same as the Me from a decade ago. At first, you walk around basically at random, later you find direction and purpose, then you limit your scope, and at some point you discover quality.
It's like corporate life. When you first start out, all green, you take on everything thrown at you, desperate to prove yourself. You can't say "No". As you gain experience, you'll stop taking just any crappy job. You know what you're worth and what you want. You've learned to say "No" and discovered that everyone benefits from it.

Now that was the personal level. Take this to the level of RPG design, or any similar field for that matter, and it's the market economy you're dealing with. Then it's simple: make stuff people buy, or die. The trick is to find something compatible with yourself as well as with a sufficient part of the market.

Keep in mind that this is not fixed. What I love now I could dislike after ten years, same goes for the market. Call it progress if you like. All that concerns me when playing now is what I want to play now.


The reality of leadership is that you always need consensus. Without it there's no basis for collaboration. It's always "My way, or ...", whether that's "no way at all", "we're screwed", "I'll kill you", "I won't lead, let someone else", or whatever else. Even a totalitarian dictator rules by consent, because his subjects have agreed they'll suffer his reign instead of throwing away their lives in a bloody revolt. Sure, it's not a formal agreement, but it exists. The subjects will keep re-evaluating the deal and might at some point decide the revolt is the best option after all, if the dictatorship becomes insufferable.

So I guess you do want consensus, but you do not want to compromise or dilute your command once you have it. Basically, you're not a democracy.

In case of playing a game, not getting consensus is equivalent to getting a "No" for your proposal. You cannot force your game upon others in a meaningful way. And in order to prevent a mistaken "Yes" that will degenerate into a "No" during play, you have to make your proposal clear enough and be true to it yourself.

Oh and this does not mean there isn't any wiggle room for the players. It just means that there are solid boundaries. For example: "Standard D&D combat railroad. You could make any character you like, but it better be combat ready, because there won't be any political intrigue and I won't pull punches. And we're not gunning for moral dilemmas, it's black & white and you're white. Any questions?"


The boardgame and chasing after imagination is an interesting tangent, but I won't follow it here, except to note that agenda clashes probably muddle the waters a lot there.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 25, 2009, 04:29:49 PM
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The trick is to find something compatible with yourself as well as with a sufficient part of the market.
Gah. This is not for me - this is just darwinistic chance! It's, upon the chance of being presented with a square hole, looking to see if by chance you have a square peg/seeing if square pegs are something compatable with you. Just resting on chance. I thought game design was about working outside of what mere chance has deigned to grant us?

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The reality of leadership is that you always need consensus
This does not jive with the idea of something aimed squarely at myself. Just because I may need something to achieve a goal, doesn't mean I want it. If you tell me I need something to reach a goal, that doesn't mean I suddenly want & desire that thing. If I don't desire/want consensus, then I don't. I can reach for it, but it's doing something I don't want or desire. It's just a means to an end. If I'm doing something I don't want (even to a small degree), I'm not doing something aimed squarely/entirely at myself.

Is your 'aimed squarely at yourself' design philosophy centered around you wanting consensus? I appreciate you describing it to me, but it does not fit me at all. Maybe my friends do actually like/want/desire consensus to some degree, so while I compromise in seeking consensus, they don't actually compromise at all in seeking consensus. Maybe they can do something aimed squarely at themselves in that way, while I cannot do the same thing as them. Or, flipside, they can't do the same thing as me. Ie, how does one leave ones comfort zone to any degree, if ones doing something aimed squarely at oneself? If you like getting consensus and get it to only the degree you like it, you can't leave your comfort zone. Your still well within that zone.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Patrice on July 26, 2009, 12:39:09 AM
Now that was the personal level. Take this to the level of RPG design, or any similar field for that matter, and it's the market economy you're dealing with. Then it's simple: make stuff people buy, or die. The trick is to find something compatible with yourself as well as with a sufficient part of the market.

Trying to find something "compatible" with both myself and the market, seeking a balance that would allow me to express my ideas and my craft a bit and yet survive in the economy is the very focus that pinned down my creation for years. Like all producers and marketing people, we fell in the blind habit of ignoring whatever power we have to shape the market, and contend ourselves with following whatever we guess of it, taking our creations in a downward spiral as the market gets dumb and dumber. If the choice was as you described it, I would say that genuine creation begins when you decide to die instead of trying to make people buy your stuff. Deep down, RPG design is Art. There sure is a market for Art, but I say, artists devoting their creation to the sales, or nodding to them all the way are bound to repetition, copy, bias and weakness. As indie designers, we sure have to ask ourselves the marketing questions and to find ways to have people buy our stuff, not because we need money but because selling allows us to share our art. Yet, I maintain that these questions are better asked afterwards. I believe in passion and in the power of creativity and I'm pretty sure that if even us, indie designers, are bound to the market from the start, all hope for our art genre is gone. Moreover, I don't believe in such a thing as "the market". There are people, there's me and there's you, with all our intricate differences. And I have designed something that might touch you. My only issue is "how can I reach you?", "how can I find a way to channel this to you?". With those questions, I get into new venues, new methods and innovative processes I can't even think of when I'm blurred with the "market" figment. We don't create games to "sell" them. We create games because that's the games we always have wanted to play and can't find anywhere in the "market", because they've been longing in us for ages, because there's something we have to say and put forward. Think of them as of poetry books.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 26, 2009, 09:13:54 AM
I like lasanga, steak, and fish. You like potatoes and lagagna. Ok, let's eat lasagna for the rest of our lives. The end!

Yea right.

Let's try some fish if you've never eaten it before. Oh and I've seen something both of us never even knew existed, let's check that out sometime as well. I'd like to try some dishes I made up too.

Patrice, you're assuming that when I speak of the market, I do so with the fatalistic and risk-averse mindset of a large company. I definitely do not. I do not dumb myself down. I do not limit myself to what's already out there. The market is not a one-way street, or at least it isn't for those who innovate.

You could also replace "the market" with any kind of audience you like, "friends", "family", "RPG buddies", whatever. The wealth you can gain from it could be anything, like money, esteem, pride, friendship, fun, whatever. Though the scale and specifics change, the general principle stays the same: you want to do stuff you like and get a reward for it too.

So make that thing you really like, and let the market judge it. If it's not liked, if the market isn't compatible, then go make something else you really like, and let the market judge that too.
(Oh and yes, if you want to be succesful in the market, then there's a lot of research, marketing, risk management, and other stuff involved, but that's really out of the scope of this discussion.)


Callan, so what if it's darwinistic chance? Whether you like any people - or anyting at all - is darwinistic chance by that same line of thought. Does that invalidate your whole existence? If you have any friends, it's because you're compatible with them, darwinistic chance or not. If you're stuck, all you gotta do is stop trying to ram your round peg into a square hole and check out all those round holes waiting for you, just out of sight. Or use any of your other pegs.

If you want to be a true egocentric, then there's a perfectly viable option: become a recluse. But I guess yo don't want that, because you keep trying otherwise.
Something 'aimed squarely at myself' is something I really like doing. If that's a solo activity, then that's the end of it. If it's a group thing, then those other people need to be compatible with me, they need to like the same thing. Then something 'aimed squarely at myself' automatically becomes something 'aimed squarely at all of us' and things are as best as they can be. Now in reality the match is never 100%, but as long as it's a good enough match you're golden.

The trick is to have more than one of those somethings, so that when people come together, you can pick the best option. Accomodation is choosing a something, perhaps not the very best something you currently have, but it should still be a great something. If it's not something great then it's a rotten deal and you shouldn't take it. (Oh yea, and it could also be trying something new. Does that even need mentioning?)
Next, getting consensus is clearly articulating that something, and getting everyone else to commit to it. Shooting for consensus and getting "No" a few times is a good way to find the right something.

If the match is not good enough, then what? Well, you could just pretend and let the others keep their fun. They're none the wiser, thinking the match is fine. That's what you're doing. Oh, but you've complained already? But have you shut up and keep suffering through it? I guess you should communicate better, because they obviously didn't get it. The psychological barrier might be immense, but you could void the entire deal on the grounds that it was a mistake to accept it in the first place, probably because it wasn't articulated well enough.





Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Callan S. on July 28, 2009, 03:30:54 PM
Thanks for your efforts, Jasper!

I think we just don't match in certain life choices. If I have a choice about not relying on darwinism, I choose it. It's just what I choose. And in terms of being an egocentric, if there are restrictions, I want to know them so I can express my ego inside those restrictions exactly as my ego wants to. The rest of roleplay culture never seems to advocate any cleared space(s) in which you can be yourself, it always seems to promote being prepared to tone back or withdraw anything in terms of contribution (except where RP culture promotes you being the alpha wolf of the pack), which is essentially going with the flow or following the group mindset. We get some abberations to that now, like in capes you can work the system to do things your way, or in universalis you can build up some coins to do things your way. But by and large RP cultures message is one of conformity.

And in terms of doing something great, if you expose something to a group as if it's great and they think it isn't, your own sense that it's great erodes. You'll even get that here or on other forums "Oh, see, what you were doing didn't match the group..." But it was great!!? Again, I don't match this sort of set up - if I thought painting seascapes is great, I want to work on the techniques of my brush stroke and composition or whatever. It doesn't match me to just do what's great and potentially have that love erode away (any more than it already has eroded). I'm quite prepared to be wrong on my brushstroke, on my composition, etc. But not on what I think is great.

I just don't seem to match up to that model. Thanks it's write up, Jasper.


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 29, 2009, 03:26:13 AM
I must confess that I don't understand the issue about darwinism. Darwinism is a way to explain how organisms evolved to be as they are now. It has nothing to do with how we deal with that "now" in the present. When I deal with the "now", I don't care how it came to be in the grand scheme of things. So how do you become successful with darwinism? How do you fix the stove with darwinism? What the hell does relying on darwinism mean? So I think this is either a miscommunication, a red herring, or some philosophical roadblock that I just don't see.


Considering restrictions, I think for that it's useful to consider roleplaying to be primarily an improvisational activity. It allows us to be creative and original and express ourselves in the moment, relatively unrestricted when compared to normal life. Nailing down everything and all options with rules will kill this dead. Trying to explicitly program for every possible action in order to allow creativity is futile, because it disallows us to be truly unique: we can only recycle and recombine within the bounds of the program. It's a fruitful void thing.

So to be improvisational you need a roomy stage to move about. But when it's a group activity you must also avoid stepping too much on other people's toes. Because if you keep disregarding others and step on their toes repeatedly, it'll degenerate into a fight, or you'll end up alone as everyone else decides to leave the stage. Stepping on toes is a fact of life, the issue is how to deal with it.

RPG texts can provide four procedures, the "Four Steps to Keep your Toes Safe", if you like:
1) A warning that stepping on toes can happen.
2) How to detect it when it happens (whether you're doing the stepping, being stepped on, or neither).
3) How to decrease the likelihood of it happening.
4) What to do if it does happen.

Now if you have a well-attuned group of people, they can do any kind of wild improvisational dancing and not step on each other's toes at all. They don't need any procedures or restrictions. It might be that a lot of games just assume this is the case and pretend that toe-stepping isn't an issue at all. It are games that assume you just know how to play, that might even assume there's just one way too play. There are also games that include some of the procedures, up to and including number 2 or 3, but leave you out in the water when toes do get stepped on anyway. And there are games that go all the way, and I guess those are the games you want.

It might actually be a fun execise to classify some games according to which procedures they inlude in their text. I postulate that Capes has them all, but I need to read the text again to be sure.


If you think that painting seascapes is great, then sure. If that's your thing then do it, no one can invalidate that. If a group says that painting seascapes sucks, it just means they don't like doing it. It's totally subjective and shouldn't devalue your appreciation of it. You just can't share that partical joy with them in a productive way. So find people who share your love and don't waste time with these bozos. I've been through hell and back to do the things I wanted, to live life like I saw fit, when no one around me appreciated any of it. It made me miserable but never eroded my resolve or sense of value. And I was proved right when I did finally find people compatible with me (never truly 100%, but good enough that it works).

Hey, this thread looks kinda finished to me. It was fun, Callan!


Title: Re: Warhammer; Chaos! Order! Molasses!
Post by: JoyWriter on July 30, 2009, 05:11:27 PM
Callan, have you had your fill of this subject for the moment? Because if not I have some summarising observations, this list is not exclusive, but it's all stuff I've experienced:

1 You can learn to like something, by getting why someone else likes it and agreeing with it now you understand it. "Ok so you were trying to do ___, I can see why you might want to, lets do that!"

2 You can not like stuff much but do it for the sake of friends, as a favour to them, not in the economic or mafia sense, where they are in your debt, but just because you want to see them enjoy themselves. A lot of people GM for this reason, especially people GMing for kids.

3 Or you can do it as a mafia style favour! "I played so damn well in your game you better play well in mine" This rarely works, unless you are in the mafia.

4 You can like what someone does in a different way from how they like it, so when participating in it you prefer that part when it comes up.

5 Or you can just like something because it's exactly the thing you like, and the two (or more) of you are on exactly the same page. Awesome.

Some people just go for the last one, and decide that they want to pick people who think closely to themselves, at least on that subject. Some people go for the first, and play really different games in the hope they will expand their understanding of fun. Some people flicker between 2 and 3, not sure which they actually are going for.

I wouldn't try any accounting of accommodation. This just encourages being judgemental, and tolerance bidding: "I forgave you this many things" "Oh yeah, well I keep quiet about this many things". That's a rubbish game, I'd rather play an rpg! :P

The point is whether your satisfaction at their satisfaction is enough, again, unless you are in the mafia.

Actually that's not strictly true: If you play with the right people you can make a different version of that, where everyone tries to benefit the others play style. It's still not strictly accounted favours, but it is everyone working to "making another person awesome" and an expectation that that is the baseline. Still requires the right people, and an understanding of what everyone wants out of the game.

Now that last part requires the sort of harshness that Jasper was talking about; if you say "it's ok with me" then some people will be all like "awesome, we're running on 5" or someone else will be like "great I can run on 2 making this just what Callan wanted". But what if it's not ok for you, if it's bad for you but good for them, and your doing it just for them. Well then you can both be trying to run on the basis of 2, and missing, because your just not giving each other what the other wants! If you can be blunt and say "I want to do _this_ really, but I'm ok doing this because I enjoy you having fun", then that's a bit of pressure for them if they are built that way, or it's a great opportunity for better gaming. You may even find that they were doing it for you too, and are not that interested in it for themselves!

Now that is design talk, that's optimising the experience. That's the kind of stuff I was suggesting earlier in this thread. Building a conversation around the game about how to make it more fun for everyone, testing out the suggestions and finding out if someone else likes it better than the old stuff. So if you are interested in that kind of optimisation, do any of the above list categorise your attitude to the "rewardingness" of play?

(That stuff about the tree bending sounds like fuel for another thread, about "capturing the moment", "fruitful voids" and boardgame style rigour)