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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Cassidy on November 03, 2002, 05:29:42 AM



Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 03, 2002, 05:29:42 AM
Taken from chapter 3 of GNS Theory

Quote
In Actor stance, a person determines a character’s decisions and actions using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have.

In Author stance, a person determines a character’s decisions and actions based on the real person’s priorities, then retroactively “motivates” the character to perform them. (Without that second, retroactive step, this is fairly called Pawn stance.)


I'm trying to get my head around the definitions here and any insight and feedback into the differences between Actor/Author would be much appreciated.

An Actor determines their characters actions "...using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have."

OK - I can buy that. I take that definition to mean that the players actions and decisions they make for their character are based solely on what their character "knows" or "perceives" within the game. To me thats one aspect of what I understand "playing in character" to be.

An Author determines their characters actions "...based on the real person’s priorities."

OK - I can buy that too. The actions and decisions that a player makes for their character are driven by their priorities. I would also infer that their priorities are (or should be) indistinguishable from their premise for playing the game in the first place.

In play some of my players "real persons priorities" focus mainly on their character within the game. Their priority is the exploration of their character and so in play their normally adopted stance would appear to fit the definition for Author stance.

At the same time though the decisions or actions their characters perform are almost always based solely on their characters knowledge and perceptions within the game. That being the case they would also appear to be adopting an Actor stance.

Given the definitions for Actor/Author stance it seems appear possible that at a given point during play a player could be considered to be adopting both stances simultaneously.

I'm willing to accept that I'm completely misreading these definitions (in fact I'm reasonably sure that I am).

If so then maybe someone could cite some simple examples or elaborate on the definitions so that I can get them straight in my own head.


Title: Re: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Alan on November 03, 2002, 07:16:39 AM
Quote from: Cassidy
At the same time though the decisions or actions their characters perform are almost always based solely on their characters knowledge and perceptions within the game. That being the case they would also appear to be adopting an Actor stance.

Given the definitions for Actor/Author stance it seems appear possible that at a given point during play a player could be considered to be adopting both stances simultaneously.


As I understand it, a stance is an approach to making a decision about what to declare in game.  It's defined by the scope of creative consequences the player considers.  A player can shift from one stance to another, making declarations from a different stance every time.

I think a player can run through the different stances in his mind before making a decision, but I don't think a given decision can be said to be from two stances at once.

Actor stance asks "What would my character do?"

Author stance asks "What do I want my character to do?"

Director stance asks "What do I want to happen?"

Author stance takes account of Actor stance concerns, but not just those concerns.  An Actor stance decision might be "Argula is murderously angry with Davos, so he leaves the party."  An Author stance decision would be "Argula is murderously angry, but I want him to stay with the group; so I'll come up with a reason for him to prefer staying over leaving."


- Alan


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 03, 2002, 07:28:36 AM
Alan, thats precisely the reply that I'm looking for, many thanks.

I know where I stand with stances now, so to speak. :)


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Valamir on November 04, 2002, 06:55:20 AM
Excellent answer Alan.  That's one of the better 1 line definitions of stance I've run across.

A common example of the difference between the two stances is as follows:

Situation:  the character is a cop on a case related to a gang.  The GM knows that the gang will be engageing in some sort of illicit activity in a nearby park that night.  Through the course of previous play, the player, but not the character, also learn about this event (perhaps from overhearing the GM discussion with other players).

Actor Stance:  The character has no reason to know anything about the park or the meeting, or occassion to be there.  The player, basing his decision only upon what the character would do, has the character go home and go to bed (or to a bar, or whatever).

Author Stance:  The character doesn't know about the park or the meeting, but the player does.  The player wants the character to go to the park and "stumble into" the situation with the gang, thereby moving forward with the case.  The player then retro engineers a justification along the lines of "my character would normally be at home in bed after pulling a double shift, but he just can't sleep for thinking about this case so he decides to go for a walk to clear his head.  While walking off his insomnia he winds up strolling through the nearby park..."

Obviously for some forms of play Author stance such as this is strictly forbidden.  For other styles it is both welcomed and encouraged.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 04, 2002, 07:09:10 AM
Hi there,

One of the most difficult aspects of Author Stance is something I'm beginning to think of as "submissive" behavior by players regarding what they perceive as the GM's plans.

A little while ago, I had occasion to play Sorcerer with three folks who'd never played with one another or me before. Everyone was excited about it, and we'd discussed some of the privileges or weirdnesses of playing the game that aren't immediately apparent from its text.

I felt no need to "bring the characters together," as there was plenty of shared meat among their back-stories and the scenario. One player, however, apparently felt the need to engineer this event - he suggested, early and often, that the player-characters run into one another.

Now, my usual approach in play is "never argue with the word of God," which is to say, if a player obviously wants something to happen very badly, I accomodate it (that is to say, in terms of who goes where when and stuff like that, not resolution rolls). But in this case, the in-game justification was extremely contrived, and my reading of the situation was that the player was not acting out of "this will be cool or good" or similar, but because he was trying to help me get "my" story under way.

It's clear what generates this behavior: hours (and years) of experience in games when the GM is running a "Panama-canal" style scenario in which the player-characters all need to be together and to know X for "the story" to occur, but the GM starts them all widely separated. In such a scenario, the players are frustrated because they keep wandering and trying stuff, but nothing happens, and the GM is frustrated because "his story" never gets going.

My point: Author Stance operates within limits of in-story plausibility. However, that sentence needs exposition: in-story plausibility operates within the need to discover, express, intensify, and resolve Narrativist Premise. [Note: this whole post and this paragraph in particular assumes Narrativist play priorities.]

By the way, in the game in question, I think it's interesting and very significant that the player in question was assured by the other players, not by me, that it was OK not to "join up" through dubious coincidences, at least not until we all had a better idea of the driving passions of one another's characters. In other words, I think people in general have a very good intuitive feel for when coincidence, in stories, is at the service of the Premise as opposed to being "corralling" or contrived.

Enlisting that shared feel or standard into the game - up to and including player-input to the GM - is a very powerful shared skill.

Best,
Ron


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 04, 2002, 07:56:20 AM
This is why the term Pawn stance can be so helpful in understanding Author stance. Pawn stance is that stance where the player not only prioritizes his own desires, but fails to make any account for them in the context of play. To follow up on Ralph's example:

Quote
Author Stance: The character doesn't know about the park or the meeting, but the player does. The player wants the character to go to the park and "stumble into" the situation with the gang, thereby moving forward with the case. The player then retro engineers a justification along the lines of "my character would normally be at home in bed after pulling a double shift, but he just can't sleep for thinking about this case so he decides to go for a walk to clear his head. While walking off his insomnia he winds up strolling through the nearby park..."


Pawn stance would just be: The character doesn't know about the park or the meeting, but the player does. The player wants the character to go to the park and "stumble into" the situation with the gang, thereby moving forward with the case.

Note the lack of retroactive assignation of reason. This makes the character very similar to a pawn in a boardgame, where no attempt is ever made to justify the player's choices. Hence the title. What Ron wanted in his game (which I believe I participated in) was more Author stance, but the player was employing more Pawn stance. Again, as Ron points out, likely as a result of prior training.

Mike


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: joe_llama on November 04, 2002, 10:09:50 AM
I always imagined Stances as different types of computer gaming perspectives:

Actor Stance is '1st-person perspective' where all you see comes from the eyes of your character.

Author Stance is '3rd-person perspective' where you also care about how you look/behave in regard to your environment.

Director Stance is 'Top-down view' where your perceptions are primarily 'strategic' (not in the wargming way but in comparison to the other perspectives).

That's how I see it. Please correct me if I'm wrong, folks.

With respect,

Joe Llama


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 04, 2002, 12:36:54 PM
Just to see if I've got this right, how's this for an example?

Quote
Tyrus is helping defend a group of villagers from a band of Brigands who are in the process of sacking their village. Their obvious intent is to kill the men and take the women and children with intent of selling them into a life of slavery.

In a bloody exchange the villagers feeble attempts to defend themselves result in a rout. In the confusion Tyrus (one of our main protagonists) finds himself fleeing the village with three young children in tow.

Before Tyrus can make good his escape though he finds his path blocked by three of the Brigands.

Swords drawn they advance.

What are you going to do Tyrus?



Actor stance:
"Tyrus, will defend the children, even at risk to his own life, if the Brigands want the children then they'll have to do it over his dead body."

The player knows that Tyrus would not jeapordise the safety of the children in any way.

Author stance (may also in this instance be perceived by the GM as actor stance though):
"Tyrus will attack the leader figuring that if he can take him out the rest of the Brigands will back off."

The player wants to get some XPs for killing the Brigands even though he suspects that doing so is likely to leave the children vulnerable. It doesn't matter though because the player believes that he's probably going to get more XPs for killing the Brigands than saving the children.

Pawn stance:
"Tyrus will attack the Brigands. By the way how many XPs do I need to get to next level?."

Yep! He's attacking because he's after the XPs. The player is making Tyrus act based on the players own priorities for game advancement of his character and not for any particular motivation that Tyrus's as a character may have.

Director stance:
"Tyrus will defend the children as best he can. He manages to dispatch one of the Brigands with ease but the leader grabs one of the children and puts his sword to her throat."

The player believes that having one of the Brigands directly threaten the life of of the children would make for a more dramatic scene and present Tyrus (and the other characters) with a morale dilemma.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Valamir on November 04, 2002, 01:12:09 PM
yes, but.

The examples you provide all focus on the player choosing not to act in actor stance because of the possibility of being rewarded with XPs.

That may well be a very gamist reason for choosing the other stances, but is certainly not the only reason.  As long as you keep in mind that the perceived benefit for acting out of character doesn't necessarily have anything to do with XPs or the like (it may just be because the story would be much "cooler" that way) I think you've got it.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 04, 2002, 02:43:47 PM
You're right of course Valamir. I only used the example that I did (with XPs, obviously gamist) because I figured that it's one we've all come across at one time or another.

Actor stance: "Tyrus will attack the leader figuring that if he can take him out the rest of the Brigands will back off."

The decision of the player to have Tyrus act is this way could have been because...

...the player just wants to see some action and is a little bored.

... the player wants to wind up this scene quickly since he's got to pick his girlfriend up.

...the player really wants to see if Tyrus can take these guys out.

...the player is tired of the other players saying Tyrus is a boring old fart who's really a waste of time in combat situations.

...the player is trying to second guess the GM and expects that Tyrus may get beat up a little and captured. A turn of events that the player thinks might make for an interesting twist in the story.

...or really any other reason which is specifically motivated by the players own personal priorities, independant of their characters priorities within the game.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2002, 09:34:57 AM
Right.

What's worse, however, is that a specific act may not be distinguishable as Actor, Author, or Pawn. Not knowing how the player was addressig the character, Tyrus could attack the brigands for any of the reasons you had, and (as you noted) nobody, not even the player maing the decision at times, will be the wiser as to what stance was used.

Director stance, OTOH, is pretty detectable, as it involves changing the action through something other than the character, usually.

Mike


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 05, 2002, 09:41:42 AM
Hi there,

To expand on Mike's point a little, Stances other than Director are usually discernable over the course of a few actions (rather than a single one), especially in combination with the real person commenting on and participating in actions by other players' characters.

Best,
Ron


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 05, 2002, 01:29:06 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
To expand on Mike's point a little, Stances other than Director are usually discernable over the course of a few actions (rather than a single one), especially in combination with the real person commenting on and participating in actions by other players' characters.


Agreed.

Tell me, when in Author stance what is the best approach to take if a players stated action for their character is, and I don't know the best phrase for this other than to say, "out of character".

Taking the example of Tyrus and the Brigands again and assume that the player has previously written Tyrus up in such a way as to suggest that he is a heroic and gallant figure in the best sense of the word.

Tyrus flees
Why? Because the player doesn't want Tyrus to get killed.

GM: "You're leaving the children behind?"
Player: They're young, they'll get over it.
GM: Errrr.

If the player is playing from a gamist standpoint then they may rationalise Tyrus's action as a 'tactical withdrawl'. It's a game, the player can't win or even compete if his main character is dead, ergo in the players mind retreat is a viable option.

What if though the game is structured to encourage a predominantly simulationist style of play?

Tyrus's action would suggest that the player really isn't too interested in playing that way and their action in this case would diminish the underlying premise of the game that the GM is trying to maintain, (i.e. a simulationist premise).

Would you as a GM "step in" and question the players action?


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Andrew Martin on November 05, 2002, 01:43:55 PM
Quote from: Cassidy
Taking the example of Tyrus and the Brigands again and assume that the player has previously written Tyrus up in such a way as to suggest that he is a heroic and gallant figure in the best sense of the word.

Tyrus flees
Why? Because the player doesn't want Tyrus to get killed.

GM: "You're leaving the children behind?"
Player: They're young, they'll get over it.
GM: Errrr.

If the player is playing from a gamist standpoint then they may rationalise Tyrus's action as a 'tactical withdrawl'. It's a game, the player can't win or even compete if his main character is dead, ergo in the players mind retreat is a viable option.

What if though the game is structured to encourage a predominantly simulationist style of play?

Tyrus's action would suggest that the player really isn't too interested in playing that way and their action in this case would diminish the underlying premise of the game that the GM is trying to maintain, (i.e. a simulationist premise).

Would you as a GM "step in" and question the players action?


I'd suggest that the rules system doesn't support the character being heroic and gallant. After all, if the rules system supported the character description, then it would be illogical for the player to have Tyrus retreat.

In most RPGs my group have played, seemingly illogical, cowardly and stupid decisions can usually be tracked down to the game system rewarding the illogical, cowardly and stupid action.

The best remedy is not to punish the player (as they're only obeying the effective rules of the game), but instead to alter or replace the game rules so as to reward desired character action. Once that's done, heroic characters will behave heroically, because heroism is rewarded by the game.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Valamir on November 05, 2002, 01:55:40 PM
Excellent excellent point Andrew.  I was musing over how to respond to that question but I think you hit the biggest thing.   If a character is meant to be heroic (where heroic is defined is reckless with personal safty in the name of a good cause) than the game system needs to have mechanisms in place that reward the character and/or player for behaving this way...or at the very least remove obstacles with discourage it.

This is because the value system represented by a paper character's beliefs cannot be 1:1 mapped to the player.  

Consider:  The CHARACTER knows he is taking great risk with his personal saftey for the lives of the children...and the CHARACTER feels that saving the children are WORTH THE RISK.  

However, the PLAYER clearly does not.  There is a disconnect between the two value systems.  One could argue that this is "bad roleplaying" on the part of the player, but what's the point of forcing the player to play in a manner he doesn't enjoy.  The key is to make the player make the same KIND of decisions that the character would...even if its not for the same reason.

If acting heroically would gain the player Drama Dice (as in 7th Sea) for instance the PLAYER might then decide...no the children aren't worth the risk...but the Drama Die IS.  By this method you preserve the thought process...both character and player are united in the belief that staying and fighting is worth more than running away, even though the motivation is different.

There are many possible substitutes for Drama Dice as a reward mechanism of course.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 06, 2002, 04:45:45 AM
Quote from: Valamir
Consider:  The CHARACTER knows he is taking great risk with his personal saftey for the lives of the children...and the CHARACTER feels that saving the children are WORTH THE RISK.  

However, the PLAYER clearly does not.  There is a disconnect between the two value systems.  One could argue that this is "bad roleplaying" on the part of the player, but what's the point of forcing the player to play in a manner he doesn't enjoy.  The key is to make the player make the same KIND of decisions that the character would...even if its not for the same reason.


If the underlying premise for the game doesn't coincide with a player's own premise for playing then is the approach of using 'rewards' to motivate the player really accomplishing anything?

For example, a fairly common premise of most role-playing games is 'Exploration of character within the setting'. Typically a player acts out out the role of their character in a chosen setting. The GM structures the game so that situations and events arise which provide opportunities for many types of character exploration to occur.

Assuming that a player is interested in 'exploring their character' and that the situations and events that occur in the game are engaging and enjoyable then actually playing the game by acting out their characters role within the game is reward in itself.

If a player is not interested in 'exploring their character' then without some alternative method of reward the player is unlikely to enjoy the game. There will be little to hold their interest and their level of particpation is going to be minimal or even disruptive.

You could as suggested use a 'reward' mechanism to encourage the player to direct their characters actions in a desired way such that they would appear to be acting in character.

"Hmmm...I want to run away and save Tyrus but if I stay then the GM may give me some extra dice for my roll in which case I can probably beat the Brigands."

Sure, their characters actions would appear to be played 'in character'  but in reality the motivation behind the players decision to have their character act that way has nothing to do with a desire to 'explore their character' which is the premise of the game.

Virtually all of their characters actions will be taken from an Authorial stance. The fact that the actions that the player assigns to their character coincide with their characters perceived role and personality within the game would rely heavily on whatever reward system is employed.

This is all well and good but is there really any point in the player particpating in the game when they just aren't interested in the games premise?


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Valamir on November 06, 2002, 06:04:45 AM
Well first there are alot more reasons to play a game than exploration of character.  If exploration of character is the primary goal and and your players are all deep immersionists and acting heroic is the way the character would act...then you don't have an issue at all.

The premise of the initial question was that you had a player who was "acting out of character" and whether or not the GM should force him to act in character.  The alternative being presented is to reward rather than punish.  

Quote
Sure, their characters actions would appear to be played 'in character' but in reality the motivation behind the players decision to have their character act that way has nothing to do with a desire to 'explore their character' which is the premise of the game.


Couple of points.  
1) How would the GM step in to question the player on his choice be a superior solution...which is the solution you first presented.  It would break the flow of the game.  It would put the GM in a position of direct confrontation with the player (who most likely won't enjoy being policed) and their motivation for acting in character will still have nothing to do with a desire to explore their character...rather it will be coerced by threat or implied threat or simply threat of disapproval.

2) Who cares what his motivation is as long as the player is enjoying the experience and his enjoyment isn't disrupting anyone else.  If the other players are all very into playing their character, which is likely to cause them them more anxiety: a) having a player clearly not acting in character, b) having to stop play to reprimand such a player, or c) having that other player voluntarily act in character.

I suggest the answer is c) and whether that player is doing so out of motivation to explore the character or motivation to get the reward makes no difference to the enjoyment of the other players and may be totally invisible to them.


Title: Who Plays This Way?
Post by: Le Joueur on November 06, 2002, 07:07:43 AM
Quote from: Cassidy
Quote from: Valamir
Consider: The CHARACTER knows he is taking great risk with his personal safety for the lives of the children...and the CHARACTER feels that saving the children are WORTH THE RISK.  

However, the PLAYER clearly does not.  There is a disconnect between the two value systems.  One could argue that this is "bad role-playing" on the part of the player, but what's the point of forcing the player to play in a manner he doesn't enjoy.  The key is to make the player make the same KIND of decisions that the character would...even if its not for the same reason.

[Emphasis mine.]

If the underlying premise for the game doesn't coincide with a player's own premise for playing then is the approach of using 'rewards' to motivate the player really accomplishing anything?

...Assuming that a player is interested in 'exploring their character' and that the situations and events that occur in the game are engaging and enjoyable then actually playing the game by acting out their character's role within the game is reward in itself.

If a player is not interested in 'exploring their character' then without some alternative method of reward the player is unlikely to enjoy the game. There will be little to hold their interest and their level of participation is going to be minimal or even disruptive.

...This is all well and good but is there really any point in the player participating in the game when they just aren't interested in the game's premise?

Whoa!  Aren't we making a few unfair assumptions here?

First of all, unless a game either has poor focus or sells itself as something its not, can't we assume that the player will want to [fill in your playstyle of choice] with it?  Really, are we talking about designing a game that will 'force' people to play it the way the designer wants?  I don't think that's at all productive or even what's going on here.

I think Valamir is mostly talking about a time when a player is 'out of sync' with the game (you know, lost interest, got distracted, or whatever).  Then the game, in its function to reinforce it's focus, will act to 'nudge' the player's choices with the character's actions back towards the focus that was the reason that the player chose the game in the first place.

Simply put, "if a player is not interested in 'exploring their character'" then they have chosen the wrong game if it is focused on 'character exploration.'  I think we can safely assume that is not a likely case and skip arguing over whether a game designer (using rewards systems or whathaveyou) can force them to play a certain way.

Cassidy, I suspect that you don't really think that Valamir was talking about a "player participating in the game when they just aren't interested in the game's premise."  That would be bad 'choice of game' and there's nothing that can be done about that (at least not in the rewards systems).  I believe what he's talking about is when a game has rewards that suit its explicit focus.  Or he's saying that a game that says it's about 'character exploration' and yet rewards 'character survival' at the expense of 'character exploration' is a badly designed game.

Basically, there'd be three ways to design a game then:[list=1]
  • With a rewards system that has no connection to the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play can and often does go against the game's focus).
  • With a rewards system that does not interfere with the game's focus (meaning that, while it doesn't facilitate the focus, rewarded play does not impede it either).
  • With a rewards system that encourages play that matches the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play feeds back positively into the game's focus).[/list:o]Elegant design suggests that a game will fall only into one of these categories.  While there are many extant games that do not, for the sake of a directed discussion, I believe those examples are of no use.

    And there would also be three ways to play:[list=a]
  • The player actively doesn't pursue play of the game's focus, preferring some other approach.
  • The player isn't actively engaging in any specific type of play (for any reason).
  • The player is actively 'going after' play in line with the focus of the game.[/list:o]Unlike directed design, I believe that all of these 'ways to play' happen to every player throughout the play of any game.  While it's important to be cognizant of all of them, I don't think there's much point in over-stressing the first one (or two) because if anyone consistently plays that way, it means they've simply chosen a game not suited to them.  (You can't design a game for everyone, can you?)

    When you line these up you get nine different permutations.  We seem to be slipping into an argument about a '3a' situation.  I believe any 'a' situation can be eliminated because, as a game designer, there's no point in making a game for people who don't want to play it.  While it is possible that a game might 'force' proper behaviour when a player 'happens' to be playing in the 'a' way, I don't think that approach to design is productive (and is quite probably antagonistic toward one's customers).  If we drop 'way a,' I believe we can also drop 'way c' because that player 'does not need' a rewards system to encourage what they are doing. Situation '1c' also suggests that there are certain benefits in staying away from 'design way 1' because it will confound people who actively want to play the game as focused.

    That basically leaves two combinations (we eliminated conflicting design, contrary players, and players who need no 'help').  This is where I think this particular sub-topic seems to be going.  Do you prefer situation '2b,' where the system offers no direction to a player who's indecisive, or situation '3b,' where the system suggests its focus to the indecisive player?  I think Valamir is suggesting the latter.  (Personally, I believe the former almost falls into unfocused design, which is not something I am discussing here.)

    As for games that are consistently unfocused, I believe on the rare occasion, situation '1a' can yield rewards that 'give the player what he wants,' but this frequently leads them into conflict with the rest of the group.  (Otherwise it becomes a situation where the players, collectively, reinterpret the game such that it does suit their preferred focus, but you can't design for that on purpose, can you?)

    So in the interest of avoiding unnecessary conflict, can we drop the assumption that a player will be playing a game that does not suit their play preference and leave out the idea that a game can 'force' them to play otherwise?

    Fang Langford


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 06, 2002, 08:23:26 AM
Quote from: Valamir
Couple of points.  
1) How would the GM step in to question the player on his choice be a superior solution...which is the solution you first presented.  It would break the flow of the game.  It would put the GM in a position of direct confrontation with the player (who most likely won't enjoy being policed) and their motivation for acting in character will still have nothing to do with a desire to explore their character...rather it will be coerced by threat or implied threat or simply threat of disapproval.


How indeed, which is why I asked the question.

Quote from: Valamir
2) Who cares what his motivation is as long as the player is enjoying the experience and his enjoyment isn't disrupting anyone else.  If the other players are all very into playing their character, which is likely to cause them them more anxiety: a) having a player clearly not acting in character, b) having to stop play to reprimand such a player, or c) having that other player voluntarily act in character.


I don't follow why you think (c) would cause the other players more anxiety. If the player is choosing to voluntarily act in character, and thats the desired mode of play, then why would it make the other players anxious.


Title: Re: Who Plays This Way?
Post by: Cassidy on November 06, 2002, 08:53:36 AM
Quote from: Le Joueur
Whoa!  Aren't we making a few unfair assumptions here?

First of all, unless a game either has poor focus or sells itself as something its not, can't we assume that the player will want to [fill in your playstyle of choice] with it?  Really, are we talking about designing a game that will 'force' people to play it the way the designer wants?  I don't think that's at all productive or even what's going on here.


I'm not talking about game design from a commercial viewpoint designed to appeal to an unknown public.

I'm talking more specifically about a GM running a game for a group of players.

Sorry if that didn't come across.

Quote from: Le Joueur
I think Valamir is mostly talking about a time when a player is 'out of sync' with the game (you know, lost interest, got distracted, or whatever).  Then the game, in its function to reinforce it's focus, will act to 'nudge' the player's choices with the character's actions back towards the focus that was the reason that the player chose the game in the first place.

Simply put, "if a player is not interested in 'exploring their character'" then they have chosen the wrong game if it is focused on 'character exploration.'  I think we can safely assume that is not a likely case and skip arguing over whether a game designer (using rewards systems or whathaveyou) can force them to play a certain way.

Cassidy, I suspect that you don't really think that Valamir was talking about a "player participating in the game when they just aren't interested in the game's premise."  That would be bad 'choice of game' and there's nothing that can be done about that (at least not in the rewards systems).  I believe what he's talking about is when a game has rewards that suit its explicit focus.  Or he's saying that a game that says it's about 'character exploration' and yet rewards 'character survival' at the expense of 'character exploration' is a badly designed game.


I was trying to highlight the issue of players who may be playing the game with a premise at odds with that of the players and the GM, and querying the worth of a reward system for that type of player.

Valamir makes some good points on character reward.

Quote from: Le Joueur
So in the interest of avoiding unnecessary conflict, can we drop the assumption that a player will be playing a game that does not suit their play preference and leave out the idea that a game can 'force' them to play otherwise?


If you like.

Oh, and I go with 3b as a model for a reward system.


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Valamir on November 06, 2002, 09:12:55 AM
Quote from: Cassidy

How indeed, which is why I asked the question.


Well, IMO, it wouldn't be the reward system would be superior.

Quote

I don't follow why you think (c) would cause the other players more anxiety. If the player is choosing to voluntarily act in character, and thats the desired mode of play, then why would it make the other players anxious.


I don't follow it either...probably because that should have read "LESS anxiety"...bet it would have made a whole lot more sense... :-)


Title: Has to be About Design
Post by: Le Joueur on November 06, 2002, 09:35:52 AM
Quote from: Cassidy
Quote from: Le Joueur
Whoa!  Aren't we making a few unfair assumptions here?

First of all, unless a game either has poor focus or sells itself as something its not, can't we assume that the player will want to [fill in your playstyle of choice] with it?  Really, are we talking about designing a game that will 'force' people to play it the way the designer wants?  I don't think that's at all productive or even what's going on here.

I'm not talking about game design from a commercial viewpoint designed to appeal to an unknown public.

I'm talking more specifically about a GM running a game for a group of players.

Sorry if that didn't come across.

That's okay, I thought we were talking about 'set' rewards systems.  Although I'm not sure how you can talk about changing a specific game's reward system without talking about design.  (Or how we can discuss a specific gamemaster running a game on a public forum without an example; doesn't the lack of example pretty much force us to talk about "appeal to an unknown public?")

Quote from: Cassidy
I was trying to highlight the issue of players who may be playing the game with a premise at odds with that of the players and the GM, and querying the worth of a reward system for that type of player.

Valamir makes some good points on character reward.

Are you saying that you are highlighting a dysfunctional situation?  Should a game try to handle dysfunction?  I don't think so.  If players are playing in a game whose premise is at odds with their preference, it is dysfunctional.  Is there any point in hiding the fact that there is a problem by trying to force anything, rewards system or not?

Changing a rewards system will not change the dysfunction, better to move to a functional game rather than attempt a 'patch.'  Either way, would it not be the exposition of Premise, early on, that could prevent having to make all these adjustments.  (Does that get this back on topic?)

I'm just wondering about the benefit of talking about a dysfunctional set-up and then trying to 'fix' it by adjusting part of the game.  Can you explain your goal here?

Fang Langford


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 06, 2002, 09:46:19 AM
Quote from: Valamir, (redited)
Who cares what his motivation is as long as the player is enjoying the experience and his enjoyment isn't disrupting anyone else.  If the other players are all very into playing their character, which is likely to cause them them less anxiety: a) having a player clearly not acting in character, b) having to stop play to reprimand such a player, or c) having that other player voluntarily act in character.


:) in that case I'd go for (c) also.

Generally I think that whatever reward system is used it should aid the players further their goals (both character driven and player driven) and build upon their premise for playing in the first place.

i.e. In a head on dungeon bash where the PCs wander around killing monsters in a dungeon then XPs, level advancement, finding treasure to buy better weapons, armour, etc, are the order of the day.

i.e. In a story-telling game then good story-telling may get rewarded by 'story points' which the player can use to further influence the development of the story.

i.e. In a character driven sim game then in-game development of the character and furthering the ability of the players to interact with and influence the setting/story through their characters seems like the best reward. Using Tyrus and his fellow protagonists as a simple example, lets they manage to save the village. Their heroism brings them to the attention of the local Baron who they then gain as an ally The Brigands they fought manage to escape and the characters thus gain the enmity of their leader who will no doubt seek to balance the scales at some point in the future.


Title: Re: Has to be About Design
Post by: Cassidy on November 06, 2002, 11:06:48 AM
Quote from: Le Joueur
That's okay, I thought we were talking about 'set' rewards systems.  Although I'm not sure how you can talk about changing a specific game's reward system without talking about design.  (Or how we can discuss a specific gamemaster running a game on a public forum without an example; doesn't the lack of example pretty much force us to talk about "appeal to an unknown public?")


Well this discussion started off about Actor/Author stance and sort of made it's way to a discussion of reward systems. Since the discussion was rather generalised the example I presented wasn't too detailed.

Quote from: Le Joueur
Are you saying that you are highlighting a dysfunctional situation?


Although I never referred to the example I presented as being a dysfunctional system I do consider it to be one example of the type of dysfunction that can occur in a game.

Quote from: Le Joueur
Should a game try to handle dysfunction?  I don't think so.


I disagree, I think a game (and I take that to mean game system) should try to handle pre-emptively handle dysfunction that arises as a consequence of incoherent game design. In the case of a typical RP game system the key elements of character/setting/premise/etc should gel together could be considered a functional system.

You can't legislate for the players and GMs though. Depending on how they play the game any functional game system can become a dysfunctional one.

The example I presented in this thread is unsuprisingly derived from an experience of my own. The game system I used to run the game seemed to be sound and functional, or at least it was until I started to run it.

If I had been more forceful in explaining beforehand what type of game I was going to run then the player in question would hopefully have come to the conclusion that it wasn't going to be suited to them.

The player contributed to the dysfunction independent of the game system as did I for allowing him to participate in the first place

Quote from: Le Joueur
Is there any point in hiding the fact that there is a problem by trying to force anything, rewards system or not?


In the case of the example I presented I don't think there is any point in hiding the fact that there is a problem. It's an opinion I expressed in a previous post. It's more trouble than it's worth.

Quote from: Le Joueur
Changing a rewards system will not change the dysfunction, better to move to a functional game rather than attempt a 'patch.'  Either way, would it not be the exposition of Premise, early on, that could prevent having to make all these adjustments.

I share that opinion also.

Quote from: Le Joueur
I'm just wondering about the benefit of talking about a dysfunctional set-up and then trying to 'fix' it by adjusting part of the game.  Can you explain your goal here?


I presented the example of a dysfunctional system but someone else raised the point about using a reward system to keep players on track so to speak.

When reward systems were suggested as a means of maintaining a coherent game I raised the point that using a reward systems to fix the example I presented wouldn't in my opinion fix anything.

Quote from: Cassidy
If the underlying premise for the game doesn't coincide with a player's own premise for playing then is the approach of using 'rewards' to motivate the player really accomplishing anything?

For example, a fairly common premise of most role-playing games is 'Exploration of character within the setting'. Typically a player acts out out the role of their character in a chosen setting. The GM structures the game so that situations and events arise which provide opportunities for many types of character exploration to occur.

Assuming that a player is interested in 'exploring their character' and that the situations and events that occur in the game are engaging and enjoyable then actually playing the game by acting out their characters role within the game is reward in itself.

If a player is not interested in 'exploring their character' then without some alternative method of reward the player is unlikely to enjoy the game. There will be little to hold their interest and their level of particpation is going to be minimal or even disruptive.

You could as suggested use a 'reward' mechanism to encourage the player to direct their characters actions in a desired way such that they would appear to be acting in character.

"Hmmm...I want to run away and save Tyrus but if I stay then the GM may give me some extra dice for my roll in which case I can probably beat the Brigands."

Sure, their characters actions would appear to be played 'in character' but in reality the motivation behind the players decision to have their character act that way has nothing to do with a desire to 'explore their character' which is the premise of the game.

Virtually all of their characters actions will be taken from an Authorial stance. The fact that the actions that the player assigns to their character coincide with their characters perceived role and personality within the game would rely heavily on whatever reward system is employed.

This is all well and good but is there really any point in the player particpating in the game when they just aren't interested in the games premise?


Hope that clears things up.


Title: A Prediction of Failure
Post by: Le Joueur on November 06, 2002, 11:43:26 AM
Quote from: Cassidy
Quote from: Le Joueur
Should a game try to handle dysfunction?  I don't think so.

I disagree, I think a game (and I take that to mean game system) should try to handle pre-emptively handle dysfunction that arises as a consequence of incoherent game design.

You can't legislate for the players and GMs though. Depending on how they play the game any functional game system can become a dysfunctional one.

I don't know.  How do you predict what will go wrong?  It was that kind of second-guessing that kept me from actually doing game design for years.  I think the better approach is to just design it according to an 'ideal of play' and then after testing see what needs to be improved or better explained.

Going into it with a "Here's what to do when this goes wrong" only creates a negative or self-defeating product.  Likewise trying to prevent people from 'doing it wrong' is not something you can do in a game text, why try?  Just design and explain how to 'do it right' and write off the rest, I say.

Fang Langford


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 06, 2002, 12:22:39 PM
Hello,

I suggest that this thread is suffering from a lack of actual, concrete role-playing to talk about. "The" player or "the" reward system are too abstract for arguments to carry any weight, at least to me as a reader.

I suggest that someone propose a given game title, a given situation of play, and a given reward system in order to discuss what th'hell might be going on.

Best,
Ron


Title: Actor and Author Stance
Post by: Cassidy on November 06, 2002, 02:20:49 PM
I didn't originally intend this thread to be about player rewards although thats the turn it took.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4075

Discusses player rewards in each of the GNS modes.


Title: Re: Who Plays This Way?
Post by: M. J. Young on November 06, 2002, 05:41:12 PM
I was just going to call attention to this other thread, and Cassidy beat me to it:

Quote from: Cassidy
I didn't originally intend this thread to be about player rewards although thats the turn it took.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4075

Discusses player rewards in each of the GNS modes.


I was going to point to that in response to this:

Quote from: Fang Langford a.k.a. Le Joueur
Basically, there'd be three ways to design a game then:[list=1]
  • With a rewards system that has no connection to the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play can and often does go against the game's focus).
  • With a rewards system that does not interfere with the game's focus (meaning that, while it doesn't facilitate the focus, rewarded play does not impede it either).
  • With a rewards system that encourages play that matches the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play feeds back positively into the game's focus).[/list:o]Elegant design suggests that a game will fall only into one of these categories.
I think Fang has missed

4. With no rewards system to either encourage or interfere with play of any sort.

I cite the other thread because there I suggest that it is quite possible to design a game in which the rewards are derived totally from the outcome of play itself, and not incorporated via system or mechanics.  I give some examples of how that happens in my own games, where I think it happens constantly for those players who are interested in those rewards.

I then provide some examples of what I think might be purely gamist, narrativist, or simulationist reward systems, in that they give rewards for the desired conduct which themselves facilitate the desired conduct in the future. I think that perhaps this aspect of reward is sometimes overlooked. To take the gamist model as the easiest to describe, the idea of experience points earned for killing monsters which increase the abilities of the character reinforce gamism twice. The fact that I earned the points for killing the monsters is a reward for gamist conduct; the fact that the points increase my ability to engage in killing monsters in the future is an encouragement of gamist conduct. Often when I read comments about reward systems, they seem to focus on the first aspect, giving rewards for the desired conduct, and overlook the second, facilitating future conduct of that sort. A good example of this dichotomy is the D&D3E idea (I think it was found in 2E to a lesser degree, and there were hints of it in relation to some classes in OAD&D) of giving experience points as a reward for story resolution. The notion here is that the referee can use the experience point system to encourage more narrativist play by giving experience points in response to narrativist acts, decisions, and outcomes. What is overlooked in this is that the points are still designed to buy up the character's powers, thus facilitating better gamist play. What a game system needs for "a rewards system that encourages play that matches the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play feeds back positively into the game's focus)" is not merely that the reward is given in recognition of desired play but also that the nature of the reward facilitate such play in the future.

The examples of such paired recognition/facilitation reward systems in the linked thread are, I hope, instructive, although I would like to see the thoughts of others (perhaps on that thread) as to other ways to create a reward system in which recognition and facilitation are both focused on the same type of play.

--M. J. Young


Title: Who Wins?
Post by: Le Joueur on November 06, 2002, 09:36:44 PM
Quote from: M. J. Young
I was going to point to that in response to this:

Quote from: Fang Langford a.k.a. Le Joueur
Basically, there'd be three ways to design a game then:[list=1]
  • With a rewards system that has no connection to the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play can and often does go against the game's focus).
  • With a rewards system that does not interfere with the game's focus (meaning that, while it doesn't facilitate the focus, rewarded play does not impede it either).
  • With a rewards system that encourages play that matches the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play feeds back positively into the game's focus).[/list:o]Elegant design suggests that a game will fall only into one of these categories.
I think Fang has missed

4. With no rewards system to either encourage or interfere with play of any sort.

Actually, no.  I felt this might be small enough to include in #1 (hence "no connection").  That I focused on 'contrary to focus' rewards was merely for simplicity's sake.

I realize on first read it looks like you're offering 'irrelevant rewards' model.  I have to argue that a "no rewards system" does not exist.  In-game rewards are still rewards even though not 'meta-game.'  Worse still, what about fun?  I don't believe people consistently play an unrewarding game.

Quote from: M. J. Young
I cite the other thread because there I suggest that it is quite possible to design a game in which the rewards are derived totally from the outcome of play itself, and not incorporated via system or mechanics.  I give some examples of how that happens in my own games, where I think it happens constantly for those players who are interested in those rewards.

I then provide some examples of what I think...in that they give rewards for the desired conduct which themselves facilitate the desired conduct in the future. I think that perhaps this aspect of reward is sometimes overlooked. To take the gamist model as the easiest to describe, the idea of experience points earned for killing monsters which increase the abilities of the character reinforce gamism twice. The fact that I earned the points for killing the monsters is a reward for gamist conduct; the fact that the points increase my ability to engage in killing monsters in the future is an encouragement of gamist conduct.

Often when I read comments about reward systems, they seem to focus on the first aspect, giving rewards for the desired conduct, and overlook the second, facilitating future conduct of that sort.

Yeah, positive reinforcement schemes can get that way can't they?  We chose the 'carrot and stick' approach; with very little efficacy advancement, you play how you like, if you want the 'make the game do what you want' reward, you have to play in a fashion that very closely matches the game's focus.  You don't get that terrible spiral because narrowly following the game's focus isn't that interesting; bringing the game back to that every once in awhile keeps it satisfactorily 'on track.'

Quote from: M. J. Young
What a game system needs for "a rewards system that encourages play that matches the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play feeds back positively into the game's focus)" is not merely that the reward is given in recognition of desired play but also that the nature of the reward facilitate such play in the future.

Especially without the 'Gamist death spiral' you describe.

Good points overall.

Fang Langford


Title: Re: Who Plays This Way?
Post by: Cassidy on November 07, 2002, 03:52:01 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
What a game system needs for "a rewards system that encourages play that matches the focus of the game (meaning that rewarded play feeds back positively into the game's focus)" is not merely that the reward is given in recognition of desired play but also that the nature of the reward facilitate such play in the future.


Absolutely, I couldn't agree more.