The Forge Archives

Inactive Forums => Scattershot => Topic started by: Le Joueur on August 10, 2001, 01:36:00 PM



Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 10, 2001, 01:36:00 PM
Not sure where to address something FAQ related, but stemming from what I do, so I’ll put this here in Actual Play (and I’ll move it if needs be).

Dynamic Status Quo Style

I would also like to offer an addition to the list of scenario designs offered by the rough draft of the FAQ.

As suggested (vaguely) in my Get Emotional article, railroading is a problem because when it reduces a player’s choices, it tends to sever their emotional connection to their character and to the game.  Linear, Branched, and Set of Encounters all do this to some degree.

Set of Encounters at first seems widely divided from Linear and Branched until you realize that because of its ablative nature, it simply turns into a non-linear, but finite scenario design (the more encounters played, the fewer choices remain, the more railroading must be involved).  Few Sets of Encounters offer the possibility of cyclic visitation (the ability to return to an element in the set for another fruitful encounter).

When lacking in cyclic visitation, even Relationship Maps have the exact same problems as Set of Encounters.  Also, unless utmost care is taken to work player characters and their backgrounds ‘into’ the Relationship Map, it becomes merely an external device (simply an organizational technique) and it has as hard time evoking player emotional response.

Intuitive Continuity at first seems like a solution to this dilemma.  The depth of detail of an element in the narrative is roughly proportional to the degree of interaction it has with the player characters.  Superficially, this has a strong tendency to elicit unconscious emotional investment in these elements.  But as described, when the gamemaster uses them as "the basis for the actual conflicts and concerns" of the game, it quickly devolves into Linear or Branched.  The problem is that, even though the players had a hand in creating the pieces (which creates an unconscious emotional investment), they have little affect on ‘end game’ because it is gamemaster choice.  This style is also almost predisposed to having an abruptly finite length.

I recognized some of my game facilitation techniques in both Relationship Mapping and Intuitive Continuity, but I felt both missed something I did unconsciously.  In those terms, I set up a rough Relationship Map of all the relevant ‘powers that be’ and then dump the player characters onto and into it.  If they have connections, good, if not I use their write-ups as the foundation of what effectively functions as Intuitive Continuity.

It’s the next step I perform that both seem to lack.  I consider myself a philosopher and one of my favorite realms to theorize about is the abstraction of culture.  One of my pet theories I find most difficult to discount has to do with how a culture channels the individuals who flout it.  I call this theory ‘franchised rebellion.’  For gaming, it makes me consider what types of channels player characters can expect to be ‘pushed towards’ within the relevant culture of the game world.

These channels are always well worn and ‘the powers that be’ use them to redirect or alter problem individuals in these channels (and only a few of the involve law enforcement).  Basically players pursue whatever agendas stem from their write-ups and personal playing styles and because of the ‘channeling’ they come into conflict with the status quo.

Since a player is emotionally invested or ‘linked’ to their character and their character is ‘linked’ to the things that that character cares about, I ‘link’ this to the channels afforded by the status quo which in turn ‘links’ the player emotional investment to the idea of the grand conflict.  This ‘chain’ creates emotional investment for the players to every level of the game, allowing them to stress whatever they find the most value in.

When a player cares about nearly everything in the game and they are rewarded in their preferred ‘frame’ (see the Get Emotional! article of mine), they almost always think, "It was a great game."  Since I am all about monitoring, facilitating, and putting everything into the proper ‘frames,’ I have never seen this technique fail.

It does not come down whether or not this is railroading because I choose neither conflict nor its personification.  Whatever ‘connection’ that the players choose to interrupt (the usual point of contention), it is their choice and the reactions are relatively easy to determine due to the status quo and the enfranchisement of rebellion.  My work is all in the details.

One of the side benefits is that in every conflict run this way, opportunistic non-player entities jump in on both sides (either pandering to the ‘villain’ or aiding in their overthrow) not all of which the players would choose as allies.  This is why I call it ‘Dynamic Status Quo,’ it is all about how the non-player entities react within the predetermined structure.  And how ultimately, the players had a hand in keeping things ‘Dynamic.’

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-13 10:20 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 11, 2001, 07:26:00 AM
Fang,

Your post is impenetrable. I could print it out, mark it up with a pen, and then take a while to cross-reference its points with (say) my theories, but I don't have the luxury of time and energy to do that. I have no doubt that you are making a substantive claim, but in the absence of face/voice contact, or awareness of the prompting-point for you, it's impossible to follow your argument.

Could you please break it down into a stated claim, a set of comparisons, and examples? I would especially appreciate it if you could clarify whether your point (1) accords with, (2) refutes, or (3) is independent of other concepts and terms discussed at the Forge.

Best,
Ron


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Ian O'Rourke on August 11, 2001, 02:16:00 PM
Wow, while reading that the green light outside my window changed to red, and a dancing midget in a red shirt spoke backwards to me.

Weird.

Seriously though, it sounds like you've though this all through and it deserves discussion - it's just all the pieces of the puzzle don't seem to be present.

Can we step back a bit first - such as pointing us to the article(s) your referencing may be?


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: james_west on August 11, 2001, 02:29:00 PM
Me - too. Can't parse the post. An example, maybe?

                - James


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Emily Care on August 12, 2001, 05:50:00 PM
Seems like you're describing a style of plot and PC-hooking that you use in GMing called "Dynamic Status Quo" which I paraphrase as:

Characters are generated and run and allowed to pursue their individual agendas.

You find the "channels" in the society they are gaming in that would block or interact negatively (or in a positive manner) with the PC's agendas.

And your discussion of "linking" player to character to character motivation to npc intervention and world conerns, strikes me as this:

You generate plot from the character conflict with world entities, thus the characters are mirrored by the world, and since the players are invested in their character's actions, they feel the resistance of the world against them and so it feels "real" and they have a deep experience of play.

Now, I'd love to know what the source document(s) is/are for the various terms you discuss in the first part of your post (Intuitive Continuity etc) Those are all very tantalizing terms. :smile:

Emily Care


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 13, 2001, 08:34:00 AM
By popular request:

Quote
Can't parse the post. An example, maybe? - James
Quote
Can we step back a bit first - such as pointing us to [where] the article(s) you’re referencing may be? - Ian
Quote
Now, I'd love to know what the source document(s) is/are for the various terms you discuss in the first part of your post (Intuitive Continuity, etc), those are all very tantalizing terms. - Emily
Quote
Could you please break it down into a stated claim, a set of comparisons, and examples? I would especially appreciate it if you could clarify whether your point (1) accords with, (2) refutes, or (3) is independent of other concepts and terms discussed at the Forge. - Ron

The annotated version (with hyperlinks):

Not sure where to address something FAQ related, but stemming from what I do, so I’ll put this here in Actual Play (and I’ll move it if needs be).

Dynamic Status Quo Style

I would also like to offer an addition
((1) Accords with and (3) is independent of as an addition) to the list of Scenario Designs offered by the rough draft of the FAQ (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/faq).

That would be the draft of the GNS 101 FAQ here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/faq).  Specifically referring to the section about two-fifths of the way down called Scenario Design that lists Linear and Branched Adventures, Intuitive Continuity1, Set of Encounters2, and Relationship Maps3.  It goes further to stress indirectly that the most important aspect is their relationship to railroading4.

As suggested (vaguely) in my Get Emotional! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=457&forum=4&2) article [This one you’ll have to read in full-ed.], railroading4 is a problem because when it reduces a player’s choices, it tends to sever their emotional connection to their character and to the game.  Linear, Branched, and Set of Encounters all do this to some degree.

According to the article, when a player has fewer choices (their "opportunities for action4" are reduced) they begin to lose their emotional or intellectual engagement in the game.  At some point, when the ‘disconnect’ becomes high enough, play devolves into simple storytelling (which uses a completely different mechanism for character identification than gaming).

Set of Encounters2 at first seems widely divided from Linear and Branched except because of its ablative nature, it simply turns into a non-linear, but finite scenario design (the more encounters played, the fewer choices remain, the more railroading4 must be involved).  Few Sets of Encounters offer the possibility of cyclic visitation (the ability to return to an element in the set for another fruitful encounter).

When lacking in cyclic visitation, even Relationship Maps3 have the exact same problems as Set of Encounters.  Also, unless utmost care is taken to work player characters and their backgrounds ‘into’ the Relationship Map, it becomes merely an external device (simply an organizational technique) and it has as hard time evoking player emotional response.


From the wording of the description of Relationship Maps3, it sounded to me like player characters where not necessarily a structural part of this ‘map.’  I practice the idea that ‘your character is a part of the world and the world is a part of your character’ in my gamemastering, so this grated slightly.

Set of Comparisons #1 Intuitive Continuity1 at first seems like a solution to this dilemma.  The depth of detail of an element in the narrative is roughly proportional to the degree of interaction it has with the player characters.  Superficially, this has a strong tendency to elicit unconscious emotional investment in these elements.

In Get Emotional! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=457&forum=4&2) I talk about what makes gaming an intense, satisfying experience and about the payoff on the emotional investment.  With these indirectly linked, a larger payoff is likely had from a larger investment.  So I see my task of facilitation, as a gamemaster, is to evoke an emotional connection to the larger aspects of the game, beyond just the players’ characters.

The more the players ‘buy into’ or care about the further elements within the narrative, the bigger the potential payoff.  Showing the courtesy to focus on elements they are interested in can’t help but invoke this however unconsciously.  (Conversely, simply avoiding something because of irrelevance to the gamemaster’s material has all the hallmarks of railroading4 because of how it limits a player’s choice.)

But as described, when the gamemaster uses them as "the basis for the actual conflicts and concerns" of the game, it quickly devolves into Linear or Branched.  The problem is that, even though the players had a hand in creating the pieces (which creates an unconscious emotional investment), they have little affect on ‘end game’ because it is gamemaster choice.  This style is also almost predisposed to having an abruptly finite length.

There are two ways this seems to play out.  First, the gamemaster makes some subjective decisions about "the basis for the actual conflicts and concerns" and then has to railroad4 the players into them.  Or second, the gamemaster simply has things play out as they lay; the problem with this is that it shows a lack of gamemaster input.  The unique position of the gamemaster allows for input that has nothing to do with railroading; this is what is usually referred to as ‘facilitating’ (and you’ll have to find your own reference on that one).

Either way, play does not go as well as it could (or does, in my practice).

I recognized some of my game facilitation techniques in both Relationship Mapping3 and Intuitive Continuity1, but I felt both missed something I did unconsciously.  Set of Comparisons #2 In those terms, I set up a rough Relationship Map of all the relevant ‘powers that be’ and then dump the player characters onto and into it.  If they have connections, good, if not I use their write-ups as the foundation of what effectively functions as Intuitive Continuity.

Stated Claim It’s the next step I perform that both seem to lack.  I consider myself a philosopher and one of my favorite realms to theorize about is the abstraction of culture.  One of my pet theories I find most difficult to discount has to do with how a culture channels the individuals who flout it.  I call this theory ‘franchised rebellion.’  For gaming, it makes me consider what types of channels player characters can expect to be ‘pushed towards’ within the relevant culture of the game world.

These channels are always well worn and ‘the powers that be’ use them to redirect or alter problem individuals in these channels (and only a few of the involve law enforcement).  Basically players pursue whatever agendas stem from their write-ups and personal playing styles and because of the ‘channeling’ they come into conflict with the status quo.


Example I’ll fall back on White Wolf’s Vampire: the Masquerade because I believe it is common enough.  Right out of the box you get all the clans and their attitudes as a template for a Relationship Map3.  What I do is pick a few clans and work out a handful of ‘movers and shakers’ and work up the "rough Relationship Map" based on their larger goals and ‘standoffs’ (these being points of contention that, after long enough, have devolved into ‘Mexican standoffs’).  Depending on the needs for ‘background noise’ that I have been able to glean by what the players think is cool about the published product (ranging from court intrigue and intense stasis to outright midnight warfare), I create a few ‘gambits’ that may be in the process of ‘playing out.’

Next, I look at what the character write-ups indicate the players desire as parts of their personal narratives (that would be the stories from their perspectives).  Things like the merits and flaws of Short Fuse, or Deep Sleeper suggest that the player wants the narrative to put them on the defensive and therefore their character has to have some value to one or more of the components of the "rough Relationship Map3."  Things like Clan Friendship, Reputation, or Mistaken Identity automatically bring the player character into the "rough Relationship Map."  Merits like Mansion, Political Ties, or a skill like Public Speaking likely elevate them to active members of the ‘powers that be.’  From these types of relationships, I determine where the characters ‘fit in.’

After the ‘origin’ scene play (as suggested in the published material), I approach things in an Intuitive Continuity1 fashion, "providing a number of encounters and interactions" using things I can mine from my ‘Map and the ‘origins.’  I treat all things the players take an interest in with the utmost respect and use what occurs there to add character to my ‘Map.  It is more the interaction between the players and I that ‘adds the flesh’ to the ‘Map.

This is where I don’t see any material in the Scenario Designs section of the GNS 101 FAQ (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/faq): at this point the players begin to come into conflict with the various elements of the ‘Map (as would be expected in the Relationship Map3 scheme).  How my practice differs is that instead of pulling the player characters into direct (or simple) conflict with elements in the Relationship Map, I have had the Status Quo continuously ‘nudging’ them into the channels that already exist because of the ‘Map I use.

From White Wolf’s product, take for instance the ‘Caitiff.’  These are vampires who are not included in the status quo of the clans.  Judging by the attitudes listed, all clan members have some pretty low expectations for these ‘excluded’ vampires.  (My non-player characters are frequently underestimating the player characters, that what makes it fun).  Getting ‘lumped in’ with the Caitiff is one way the status quo deals with members of its society that don’t fit in.  Think about the difficulty getting anything done in the face of "oh, you’re one of them."  This is one way the status quo dis-empowers those who flout it.  Any kind of pigeonholing can be used this way, the more difficult the agitator, the less they will be able to make use of the ‘tools of society.’  (Think Unabomber.)

As play progresses, whatever the players value will become increasingly a problem for the ‘powers that be’ (partly because, in my opinion, all player characters are people of special characteristics) requiring varying degrees of negative feedback.  Most of this is easy for me to think in terms of and quite expected for the players (just not their characters), because I lean heavily towards the genre conventions and let my non-player characters grow out of initial stereotypes.  The direction this takes always becomes a matter of exactly how it is played out.  ( All characters, both player and non are such individuals.  You get the idea.)

And since I stay within the genre expectations, everyone can see the big conflict (of crisis-conflict-resolution) coming, but no one has any idea what form it will take, not even me.  (As a matter of fact, I got out of the practice of detailing my ‘Map for the very reason that I never guessed correctly where things were going.)

Since a player is emotionally invested or ‘linked’ to their character and their character is ‘linked’ to the things that that character cares about, I ‘link’ this to the channels afforded by the status quo which in turn ‘links’ the player emotional investment to the idea of the grand conflict.  This ‘chain’ creates emotional investment for the players to every level of the game, allowing them to stress whatever they find the most value in.

This means I use the player emotional investment in their character and its properties to ‘get them involved’ in the emotional value of the status quo and the conflicts therein.  ‘Built’ out of this is their own personal slice of whatever conflicts they ‘buy into,’ some choices of which are not even created at the time I sit down to play (being ‘found’ during the Intuitive Continuity1 beginning phase of my game.)

When a player cares about nearly everything in the game and they are rewarded in their preferred ‘frame’ (see the Get Emotional! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=457&forum=4&2) article of mine), they almost always think, "It was a great game."  Since I am all about monitoring, facilitating, and putting everything into the proper ‘frames,’ I have never seen this technique fail.

(2) Refutes It does not come down whether or not this is railroading4 because I choose neither the conflict nor its personification.  Whatever ‘connection’ that the players choose to interrupt (the usual point of contention), it is their choice and the reactions are relatively easy to determine due to the status quo and the enfranchisement of rebellion.  My work is all in the details.

This refutes the idea that all Scenario Designs (by implication) should have a stance towards railroading4.

One of the side benefits is that in every conflict run this way, opportunistic non-player entities jump in on both sides (either pandering to the ‘villain’ or aiding in their overthrow) not all of which the players would choose as allies.  This is why I call it ‘Dynamic Status Quo,’ it is all about how the non-player entities react within the predetermined structure.  And how ultimately, the players had a hand in keeping things ‘Dynamic.’

This is a caveat about how and why I call it "Dynamic."  Since the characters come into conflict with someone or something, other members of the Status Quo (like the clans and leaders in Vampire: the Masquerade) will ‘take sides’ to get what they can from the ultimate conflict.  (And since my master movers always have designs within designs, my players love to hear after the fact how, in losing, they still win, because of the extrinsic game value frame of reference of this novelty - see the  Get Emotional! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=457&forum=4&2) article.)

Whew!  I hope this clears things up a bit.  Feel free to isolate parts for further clarification, I am more than happy to go into detail, obviously.

Fang Langford

1 Defined in the GNS 101 FAQ as "relies on the GM providing a number of encounters and interactions to the players early in a session or series of sessions, without pre-determining their importance. He then uses the players' interests and responses during play to decide which NPCs and situations are going to be the basis for the actual conflicts and concerns."

2 Defined in the GNS 101 FAQ as "a set of locations with descriptions and encounters set out on a map. The players are free to visit or not visit any encounter as they see fit, and they may visit the encounters in any order they choose. Some encounters can lead to other encounters on the map."

3 Defined in the GNS 101 FAQ as "a way to organize a scenario's back-story. It's a chart which shows relationships...among various NPCs in the game. The GM and players build the adventures from character goals and interactions with the NPCs based on the relationships established in the map."

4 Defined in the GNS 101 FAQ as "the GM assuming or controlling player-characters' decisions and opportunities for action."

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-13 17:51 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 13, 2001, 09:04:00 AM
Quote
Emily Care wrote:
Seems like you're describing a style of plot and PC-hooking that you use in GMing called "Dynamic Status Quo" which I paraphrase as:

Characters are generated and run and allowed to pursue their individual agendas.

You find the "channels" in the society they are gaming in that would block or interact negatively (or in a positive manner) with the PC's agendas.

The "positive manner" is exceptionally important.  The ‘underground press’ has its audience and is therefore somewhat narcissistic, but considering how the society at large views it....

Quote
And your discussion of "linking" player to character to character motivation to npc intervention and world concerns, strikes me as this:

You generate plot from the character conflict with world entities, thus the characters are mirrored by the world, and since the players are invested in their character's actions, they feel the resistance of the world against them and so it feels "real" and they have a deep experience of play.

It sounds like you have it, only I worry that your terminology sounds a little immersive-jargon.  Since I practice this for everybody, it has no stance or ‘fold’ bias.

Thanks for adding your clarification, I can be a little wordy.

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Uncle Dark on August 13, 2001, 10:07:00 PM
Fang,

A little wordy?  Only in much the same way that Stephen King tends to write short novels! :smile:

If I'm reading you correctly, one of your major points is the way in which you use aspects of the character's role in the settting's society (as determined by the player) to hook the character into the game's social structure that facilitates an "outsider" stance for the PCs, which in turn enables them greater freedom to choose how to react to the great conflict.  But because this "outsider" status is determined by the major players in the society, the PCs cannot ignore the major conflict without giving up on aspects of the character which the player chose, and thus presumably has some investment in.

It seems that much of what you have done is to make explicit  a l ot of things that have been held implicitly by many   GMs.  I am specifically referring to ways to hook the PCs into the great conflict.  I have gamed with very few GMs who do not use some aspect of what you have described, but most of them could not have explained what they were doing.

Lon


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 14, 2001, 05:39:00 AM
Quote
Uncle Dark wrote:
If I'm reading you correctly, one of your major points is the way in which you use aspects of the character's role in the setting’s society (as determined by the player) to hook the character into the game's social structure

Metaphorically, player character generation usually includes a certain amount of ‘related background’ generation, tendrils if you will.  Since I always hold that the players are part-owners of the game (no matter what the power-sharing), it is important to have these tendrils ‘take root’ in the setting.  ‘Hooking’ a character into a game makes it too much of a responsibility for the gamemaster, in my opinion.  It is more a matter of meshing what the player brings to the game with what the gamemaster does.  Without this kind of connection, wouldn’t the player be largely uninvolved?

Quote
[about how a character is ‘hooked’ into the game]
that facilitates an "outsider" stance for the PCs,

Actually, I have found that ‘outsider’ or beginner role is almost always the norm for character creation.  The reasons are many, but the biggest one is probably that otherwise the player must be well-versed in the setting and its social and political structures and be able to make a character that is an important part of that.  When writing, I use ‘outsider’ as the default and explain how one can set up an ‘insider’ if a player wishes.

Quote
[about ‘outsider’ status]
which in turn enables them greater freedom to choose how to react to the greater conflict.

Between insiders and outsiders, it becomes a balance between political and social power versus freedom, ultimately a tradeoff.

And I think that it is unusual for a player to consciously choose to react to something.  If play is going the way I believe it should, they simply react (in context, see my Get Emotional! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=457&forum=4&2) article for my explanation of contextual thinking).  I believe that as a gamemaster, in order to facilitate the greatest emotional payoff (see the same article), I need to entice emotional involvement in this greater conflict.

Quote
But because this "outsider" status is determined by the major players in the society, the PCs cannot ignore the major conflict without giving up on aspects of the character which the player chose, and thus presumably has some investment in.

I hold that this status role is not determined by the "major players in the society" (what I call active narrative elements) but by the society itself (something I would categorize as a passive narrative element).  Nearly anyone can pigeonhole a character and to some degree reputation and stereotyping carry this forward.  What the "major players" can do is lock someone out of access to certain insider resources.  While this can push a character towards the outsider role, it does not prevent them from taking an insider role in a different but related (or adjacent) hierarchy.

Sometimes the best narratives revolve around player character denial (it attenuates the tension of the upcoming climax).  I seldom see it coming down to whether the player chooses to ignore the greater conflict.  It seems more whether they ‘buy it’ as a part of the shared narrative or not.

I think the narrative has to put the larger conflicts ‘in the way’ of the characters.  If it doesn’t, then either the characters aren’t as ‘important’ as they should be, or it does not offer enough consistency and emotional evocation to ‘attract’ them.

Quote
It seems that much of what you have done is to make explicit a lot of things that have been held implicitly by many   GMs.  I am specifically referring to ways to hook the PCs into the greater conflict.  I have gamed with very few GMs who do not use some aspect of what you have described, but most of them could not have explained what they were doing.

I take it that these gamemasters are good, right?  Ultimately, my goal is to explain the obvious, but enigmatic process of ‘gamemastering well.’  I hope that these articles have made inroads in that direction, and I thank you for the important clarifications you have prompted.

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-14 09:40 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 14, 2001, 07:05:00 AM
Just wanted to mention that I am NOT a fan of the outsider role at all.  I undrestand that attraction, but the great advantage of playing an insider is that the control systems are MORE active on you than on the outsiders (who have no credibility) and thus easier to invoke in play; they emerge more naturally out of the backdrop.  Further, you can use the daily exposure to such control systems as mechanisms for the exposition of the world, which outsiders may not get.  I've had enough negative experiences with outsiders (bloody caitiffs) that these days starting as an insider would be the default, unless there were some overpowering reason to do so.

I would also point out the number of stories that are premised on the transition from insider to outsider, such as Fahrenheit 451.


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 14, 2001, 01:41:00 PM
You’ll forgive me if I use your post to illustrate a point.

Quote
contracycle wrote:
Just wanted to mention that I am NOT a fan of the outsider role at all.  I understand that attraction,

No problem.  Personally, I prefer to play the insider myself (and court intrigue style at that).  However, I write for people new to gaming.  They won’t have a great knowledge of system, world, or technique, so into the deep end with them.

Also, I am writing a game no one has ever seen.  This means that it is more than likely the person who takes it to their group will be the only copy-owner.  I’m sure you’ve had the experience with handing the only book around while everyone tries to make up their characters, it is difficult to master the intricacies of a published setting thus to make a well-heeled insider (I meant that the outsider was one of the more common newcomer archetypes, not the only one).

Quote
but the great advantage of playing an insider is that the control systems are MORE active on you than on the outsiders

Partly because your serve ‘the system’ as well, but I take your meaning, and agree.

Quote
[on outsiders]
(who have no credibility) and [are] thus easier to invoke in play; they emerge more naturally out of the backdrop.

The lack of credibility is one of the primary ‘controls’ used against most ‘outsider franchises.’

Quote
[for insiders]
Further, you can use the daily exposure to such control systems as mechanisms for the exposition of the world, which outsiders may not get.

Or outsiders can have repetitive conflicts with the status quo for the same effect, six of one, half a dozen of the other.  In presentation, I doubt one has anything but subjective value over the other.

Quote
I've had enough negative experiences with outsiders (bloody caitiffs) that these days starting as an insider would be the default, unless there were some overpowering reason to do so.

Such as no experience or knowledge of the game?  Personally, I found the Malkavians a highly attractive, non-hierarchical, franchise to channel my newcomer-style character into before I could pony up for the hardcovers; they’re definitely another brand of outsider.

The point I am trying to make is that the outsider is one of the easiest entry-level characters for a player with no knowledge of the setting.  Likewise it appeals in my philosophy of letting the players have ‘enough rope.’  Unless the player chooses to ‘jump through all the hoops’ required to assimilate their character into the setting and the status quo, they wind up being an outsider anyway (although generally not what the status quo expects).  Guess which is the path of least resistance?

Quote
I would also point out the number of stories that are premised on the transition from insider to outsider, such as Fahrenheit 451.

This makes a great basis for premise in more self-conscious games (see Get Emotional! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=457&forum=4&2) for details on my description of extrinsically valuable, self-conscious games), and an excellent example.  Thank you.

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Paul Czege on August 14, 2001, 08:15:00 PM
Hey Fang,

I've been thinking a bit about your theory of channels, and its value in the context of Narrativism. It's definitely interesting.

One of my pet theories...has to do with how a culture channels the individuals who flout it. I call this theory ‘franchised rebellion.’ For gaming, it makes me consider what types of channels player characters can expect to be ‘pushed towards’ within the relevant culture of the game world.

These channels are always well worn...players pursue whatever agendas stem from their write-ups and personal playing styles and because of the ‘channeling’ they come into conflict...

Since a player is emotionally invested or ‘linked’ to their character and their character is ‘linked’ to the things that that character cares about, I ‘link’ this to the channels afforded by the status quo which in turn ‘links’ the player emotional investment to the idea of the grand conflict. This ‘chain’ creates emotional investment for the players to every level of the game, allowing them to stress whatever they find the most value in.


I'm familiar with the method of securing player investment in the game via the character. The scenario presents material that would create emotional impact for the character, and the player's immersion causes him to be interested in the things affecting the character.

But what I'm really interested in is the potential for the concept of channels to bypass the two-tier method of hooking the player via the character. I'm interested in the potential of channels to hook the player directly. There's a reason the Ron Edwards' relationship-map scenario method is focused almost exclusively on relationships of blood (relations) and sex. It's because the betrayal, violation, and exploiting of those relationships is universal in being compelling to players, with no immersion required, in ways that the nuances of chivalric honor, for example, probably aren't. The relationship-map method is about hooking the player directly.

And it seems to me that there's some potential with your theory of channels to accomplish the same thing. Your statement that channels are "always well worn" speaks to their universality in relation to the human condition. When I think of something like a person being channeled into in a situation of disempowering subordination in a workplace environment, that seems like something with the potential to hook a player directly. What do you think? How about some examples of channels you've exploited in your games?

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-08-15 00:16 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 15, 2001, 03:41:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-08-14 17:41, Le Joueur wrote:
You’ll forgive me if I use your post to illustrate a point.


No problem.  Personally, I prefer to play the insider myself (and court intrigue style at that).  However, I write for people new to gaming.  They won’t have a great knowledge of system, world, or technique, so into the deep end with them.


Precisely the opposite.  With new players, who may have little comprehension of what is going on, the ability to ask insider-type questions of the GM is IMO the best and quickest way to get them engaged and informed.  If they are outsiders, their requests for information which would be accessible to the character will be consistently rebuffed by the GM - for the logical reason that the character does not have it - leading to a devaluation of that questioning behaviour.  By contrast, making the character an insider gives the player a huge opportunity to exploit - they rapidly learn to distinguishg between what the player knows and what the character knows, learn how to interact with the GM, implicitly develop some of the poayer stances, etc etc.

I would take this further: in line with certain theories of policital organisation, I would take the least experienced player and put them in a position of power over other PC's; make them the lead, the default focus, the person whose consent must be got (if this kind of structure is plausible in your game, which it often isn't).  This means that they DON'T get ignored by the experienced players and are unable to adope a "wallflower" stance in relation to the game; they must become engaged becuase the other players are engaging them directly, and probably In Character.


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 15, 2001, 06:18:00 AM
Quote
Paul Czege wrote:
One of my pet theories...has to do with how a culture channels the individuals who flout it. I call this theory ‘franchised rebellion.’ For gaming, it makes me consider what types of channels player characters can expect to be ‘pushed towards’ within the relevant culture of the game world.

These channels are always well worn...players pursue whatever agendas stem from their write-ups and personal playing styles and because of the ‘channeling’ they come into conflict...

Since a player is emotionally invested or ‘linked’ to their character and their character is ‘linked’ to the things that that character cares about, I ‘link’ this to the channels afforded by the status quo which in turn ‘links’ the player emotional investment to the idea of the grand conflict. This ‘chain’ creates emotional investment for the players to every level of the game, allowing them to stress whatever they find the most value in.


I'm familiar with the method of securing player investment in the game via the character.

Ah, but are you familiar with the emotions (and time) already invested by the player at the time of character generation?  This is what I think is key to the old standard of ‘hooking the character.’

Quote
The scenario presents material that would create emotional impact for the character, and the player's immersion causes him to be interested in the things affecting the character.

I know I sound like a radical, but first-person identification is not the only connection between player and character that exploits this "interest."  As an example, for people who find their characters finely crafted tools that allow them to exploit the game, the act of craftsmanship creates a visceral "interest" in what affects the character.

Quote
But what I'm really interested in is the potential for the concept of channels to bypass the two-tier method of hooking the player via the character.

Just curious, which two-tier method is that?

Quote
I'm interested in the potential of channels to hook the player directly. There's a reason the Ron Edwards' relationship-map scenario method is focused almost exclusively on relationships of blood (relations) and sex. It's because the betrayal, violation, and exploiting of those relationships is universal in being compelling to players, with no immersion required, in ways that the nuances of chivalric honor, for example, probably aren't. The relationship-map method is about hooking the player directly.

I think the reason that "blood and sex" are very good is because both are almost entirely about emotion by themselves.  Players can be ‘hooked’ by this simply by emotional identification.  Taken a step farther, using a player’s emotional investment in their character as the basis, if you make these "relationships" relevant to the character, then by extension, they become more relevant to the player.  (This is what I was talking about in the ‘linking’ quote above.)

The only description of Relationship Maps I have read (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/faq), does not mention anything directly about ‘hooking the player,’ so I cannot say anything in that regard.  Can you explain?

Quote
And it seems to me that there's some potential with your theory of channels to accomplish the same thing. Your statement that channels are "always well worn" speaks to their universality in relation to the human condition.

Excellent!  Thus these ‘franchises’ should also appear familiar (thereby aiding in character identification: "...so that’s what that must be like in our world!").

Quote
When I think of something like a person being channeled into in a situation of disempowering subordination in a workplace environment, which seems like something with the potential to hook a player directly.

And this also makes a great premise for playing in a self-conscious narrative.

Quote
What do you think? How about some examples of channels you've exploited in your games?

Let’s see.  Lately, I have been running a series of games based on Japanese Collectible-Pet shows that have been taking over the Saturday morning cartoons.  To increase player identification with what ostensibly functions as their powers (the collectible pets serve merely as proxies in the genre), I have added a quasi-superhero comic motif of empowerment giving the powers directly to the player characters (as well as the aspects of the creatures the powers derived from to carry on the Anime motif).

Several of the recent campaigns functioned on a setting using a collection of officially recognized dojos and moots.  After competing at a required number of dojos, a trainer is allowed to compete in a televised, national contest.  (This allowed me to pull in both shadows of the original traveling martial artist stories and hints of Olympic style competition as familiar genre conventions.)

That being the basis for these games, I set up different conflicts for each.  My players are rather fond of a game type I call the ‘hidden kings’ style; it involves a self-conscious clique of powerful individuals usually mired in exactly the kinds of problems alluded to above in the "relationships of blood and sex."  (They also control large segments of society in conspiracy or illuminati fashion.)  This is frequently the ‘dynamic background’ everything is projected on, but not always.

In the history of one of the more memorable games, an incredibly powerful but very young character rose quickly through the ‘hidden court,’ eventually successfully pulling off a coup d’etat.  Per his design, his kicker (I think that’s what it would be, I always called them precipitating events) was he had been secretly ‘assassinated’ and thrown into the sea.  Play followed this character as another found him at death’s door on the shore and took him in.

As play progressed, the players discovered that hidden forces had aligned behind him, aiding his meteoric rise, the perversions of ‘his court,’ and his eventual ‘assassination.’  Another of the characters, who had been created as his childhood friend, was manipulated into delivering the coup de main that slew this ‘king.’  (His kicker was, in remorse, he had allowed his memories to be completely erased by a non-player character who was secretly behind much of it.)

All along the concerned parties constantly butted against the cultural separation between trainers and the public, the disdain that separates commoners from capitalistic aristocracy, and the way that the empowered hold themselves apart from those who ‘sully’ themselves training animals.  (Not to mention the way that a corrupt, perverse, and powerful subculture would alienate anyone not gaining membership via ‘proper channels.’)  All of this played out on of my more familiar premises; ‘does all power corrupt?’  (One of the better themes that developed was how the ‘dead’ king felt he had to atone for his perversions by helping those ‘less powerful’ than himself.)

The channels afforded some interesting conflicts.  The ‘dead’ king had a great deal of trouble discovering who had been his assassin.  (Not to mention the priceless scene when the character with amnesia turned out to be the hand that did it.)  Since discovering the conspiracy against him required his virtually tearing the ‘hidden court’ apart (again) because of his ‘exile’ status; this brought him into conflict with the ‘powers that be’ when they could have simply told him what he had wanted to know (about the mind-wiper) in the first place.

I played upon player character protagonism throughout by placing impediments generated from the barriers around the ‘franchises.’  Players were constantly stepping away from their stories to help out others (because of their relationship to the premise).

The ultimate theme I developed was based on what went on before the game started, illustrating how power can be corrupted in the ‘dead’ king’s history.  Because they were outsiders from the ‘hidden court’ they constantly had to do things ‘the hard way.’  Not only did this allow us to explore my setting more fully, but it brought out a lot of emotional involvement in the players because the franchise they were thrust into put them both at odds with the status quo, but also in league with those who suffered from the corruptions stemming from it.

(My players are so easy to ‘nudge’ into the redeeming hero role.)

Does that help, or should I go back further to my old Vampire: the Masquerade campaign?

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-15 13:04 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 15, 2001, 06:37:00 AM
So, precisely which channels were you exploiting?


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 15, 2001, 08:18:00 AM
Quote
contracycle wrote:
Quote
Le Joueur wrote:
No problem.  Personally, I prefer to play the insider myself (and court intrigue style at that).  However, I write for people new to gaming.  They won’t have a great knowledge of system, world, or technique, so into the deep end with them.

Precisely the opposite.  With new players, who may have little comprehension of what is going on, the ability to ask insider-type questions of the GM is IMO the best and quickest way to get them engaged and informed.  If they are outsiders, their requests for information which would be accessible to the character will be consistently rebuffed by the GM - for the logical reason that the character does not have it - leading to a devaluation of that questioning behaviour.

I am not sure what you mean here.  Are you saying (as it literally does) that a gamemaster is not going to give information to the players even if their characters have access because they’re outsiders?  (It looks like a miswording.)

Or do you mean that there is a logical reason that a player of an insider can get an answer to questions like, "whose corporation was split up because of monopolizing," when a player of an outsider cannot?  If so, can you explain this?

The way I see it is that both types of characters’ players can equally ask for campaign information that is ‘common knowledge.’  I cannot think of any logical reasons this should not always be so.  On the other hand, I feel that ‘insider information’ delivered in a question-and-answer form is much less likely to get a player engaged than having to ‘live it.’  (The old axiom, ‘show, don’t tell.’)

I think that the outsider character is more likely to become engaged in and remember things that put their lives or careers in jeopardy, than something that resulted from a question-and-answer session.  (I practice a ‘whenever possible, keep it relevant’ meaning that what the insider is simply told would be used as one of the few major impediments to the outsider.)

Quote
By contrast, making the character an insider gives the player a huge opportunity to exploit - they rapidly learn to distinguish between what the player knows and what the character knows, learn how to interact with the GM, implicitly develop some of the player stances, etc.

Can you explain this?  I cannot make any sense of it.  How would none of this happen to the player of an outsider character?

Quote
I would take this further: in line with certain theories of political organization, I would take the least experienced player and put them in a position of power over other PC's; make them the lead, the default focus, the person whose consent must be got (if this kind of structure is plausible in your game, which it often isn't).

The problem I have always had with this technique is that these kinds of insiders are in power because of their efficacy.  As characters, they get things done because of their position.  In order to bring this to a game where the insider player is new to gaming or new to the setting requires that the gamemaster constantly ‘interfere’ with how they play (preventing the mistakes that a well-heeled insider leader would never make).  The effect would be dumping a first year politician into the role of the chairman of the judiciary committee just in time for the impeachment proceedings.  How are they going to handle the proceedings?  How will they know what (overt and covert) congressional alliances to pander to?  How can they consider, as a veteran, what effects it will have on their popularity amongst their constituents?  But these questions are easy for someone well-versed with the setting.

Under these conditions, I can hardly imagine that it would be that engaging to have a gamemaster constantly over-ruling the insider player’s character’s actions.  On the other hand, playing ‘the maverick’ junior senator would be right up their alley; let them learn things the hard way as with any ‘outsider.’

Quote
This means that they DON'T get ignored by the experienced players and are unable to adopt a "wallflower" stance in relation to the game; they must become engaged because the other players are engaging them directly, and probably In Character.

I echo your intentions, but I use a different technique.  Under the ‘potential wallflower’ condition, I still have them play a newcomer or an outsider, but I ‘give them the ball.’  I make something about them or with them intensely valuable to the insider non-player characters (and it, by necessity, must be irremovable).  Also I believe a ‘potential wallflower’ will be unlikely to ask the questions or exploit the opportunities as you suggest above.

I am beginning to think that you are interpreting ‘outsider’ to mean ‘total outsider,’ in the extreme example.  Yes, the Unabomber was an outsider, but so is a fraternity pledge, a junior senator, a cub reporter, or even a newly elected president (on the world stage that is).  An outsider is anyone whom the status quo withholds some ‘access.’  This exists on many levels at every point in society.  For example, while I am an insider with my coworkers in the cube farm and in my company, I am an outsider as far as the management staff is concerned (and this is further complicated by my access and restrictions with the insider files that I manage).

But I am somewhat talking through my hat.  In Scattershot, we have three stages of complexity for users to choose from.  At the basic level, players may select (and customize to some extent) character archetype templates.  This usually, automatically makes them a part of the status quo.  Mostly what I have been talking about here with the outsiders stuff has to do with stage two, the intermediate stuff where the players are able to make up any kind of character that comes to mind (and frequently not ‘fitting in’ with the status quo because of it).  And also the default I use for a non-archetypical, ‘newcomer’ characters is outsider status (partly because of how the ‘hand-holding’ will affect the other players enjoyment).

Does that make any sense at all?

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-15 12:19 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 15, 2001, 08:57:00 AM
Quote
contracycle wrote:
So, precisely which channels were you exploiting?

Okay.  Specifically:

Quote
Fang Langford wrote:
As play progressed, the players discovered that hidden forces had aligned behind him, aiding his meteoric rise, the perversions of ‘his court,’ and his eventual ‘assassination.’

This played upon the franchise of the ‘upstart.’  Do you remember that Sir Lancelot was an outsider at least at first?

Quote
All along the concerned parties constantly butted against...the disdain that separates commoners from capitalistic aristocracy,

This was the ‘commoner’ franchise, like being turned away at the front door of a mansion only to hear of the atrocities ‘round back.

Quote
(Not to mention the way that a corrupt, perverse, and powerful subculture would alienate anyone not gaining membership via ‘proper channels.’)

Ever try to get into the BDSM community without ‘paying your dues?’  These characters had to pay some heavy dues (more costly and engaging than simple money, that was for sure).

Quote
The channels afforded some interesting conflicts.  The ‘dead’ king had a great deal of trouble discovering who had been his assassin.  (Not to mention the priceless scene when the character with amnesia turned out to be the hand that did it.)  Since discovering the conspiracy against him required his virtually tearing the ‘hidden court’ apart (again) because of his ‘exile’ status; this brought him into conflict with the ‘powers that be’ when they could have simply told him what he had wanted to know (about the mind-wiper) in the first place.

By them using all the time worn ways of excluding someone (without even resorting to law enforcement), this character was forced to side with the pariahs of this ‘hidden’ court in order to achieve his goals.  (That meant fighting for and engaging in their interests.)

Quote
I played upon player character protagonism throughout by placing impediments generated from the barriers around the ‘franchises.’  Players were constantly stepping away from their stories to help out others (because of their relationship to the premise).

This engaged them with the ‘have nots’ in order to get anything.  The more this went on, the more the players felt they were fighting for ‘a higher purpose’ even though their characters were initially motivated by revenge and self-rediscovery (and others).  At the point the campaign was ‘cut down’ (in its prime, but that’s what happens when people move away), all participants were both engaged on nearly every level and quite aching for the climax.  (We still use it as an example for many of our discussions.)

Basically ‘franchised rebellions’ is shorthand for keeping track of how a culture interacts with outsiders, people seeking entrance, and aliens (these being individuals uninterested in the relative status quo; for example, I doubt a visiting dignitary really cares about our little office subculture back in the cube farm).

Since I do not practice a form of ‘hooking’ players (and their characters) to a plot, I must approach it as the affect the players have on the world or how the world makes use them.  The simplest way I have come up with to describe it is the technique of using ‘franchised rebellions.’

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 16, 2001, 01:48:00 AM
Quote

I am not sure what you mean here.  Are you saying (as it literally does) that a gamemaster is not going to give information to the players even if their characters have access because they’re outsiders?  (It looks like a miswording.)


Probably.  What I meant is that an insider can ask insider questions of the GM, while an outsider PC can only ask outsider questions.  I find this tends to reinforce the "outsiderness" for new players; by bringing them into the insider camp and making that assumed/implied knowledge available to their characters, I think they find out more and are encouraged to find out in this manner.

Quote

Or do you mean that there is a logical reason that a player of an insider can get an answer to questions like, "whose corporation was split up because of monopolizing," when a player of an outsider cannot?  If so, can you explain this?


Yes, the GM may well refuse to answer on the basis that the character, being an outsider, has no access to such information.

Quote

The way I see it is that both types of characters’ players can equally ask for campaign information that is ‘common knowledge.’  I cannot think of any logical reasons this should not always be so.  On the other hand, I feel that ‘insider information’ delivered in a question-and-answer form is much less likely to get a player engaged than having to ‘live it.’  (The old axiom, ‘show, don’t tell.’)


Well, I am not so much talking about "common knowledge" so much as "insider knowledge".  I find making this available, and early, speeds up the process of conveying the game world and setting much more quickly than making them walk through it, step by step.  And I don;t mean this as a substitute for the gaming experience at all; I just mean that, in the course of the action, it is better for the new player to have a chraacter who can expect a wide range of informative answers from the GM rather than a "you don't know".


Quote
By contrast, making the character an insider gives the player a huge opportunity to exploit - they rapidly learn to distinguish between what the player knows and what the character knows, learn how to interact with the GM, implicitly develop some of the player stances, etc.


Quote

Can you explain this?  I cannot make any sense of it.  How would none of this happen to the player of an outsider character?


All I mean is that the new players experience is a barrage of "your character would'nt know" when they ask questions about the game world.  That helsp no-one and is IMO a restriction on getting into thre habit of seeing the distinction betrween player and character.

Quote

The problem I have always had with this technique is that these kinds of insiders are in power because of their efficacy.  As characters, they get things done because


I think that the ASSUMPTION that they are there for reasons of efficacy is illusionary, and that in fact they gain this halo by virtue of their position of power, and not vice versa.

Quote

of their position.  In order to bring this to a game where the insider player is new to gaming or new to the setting requires that the gamemaster constantly ‘interfere’ with how they play (preventing the mistakes that a well-heeled insider leader would never make).  The effect would


Perhaps, but that is a task which can also be borne by other players.  But I don;t believe payers new to the game necessarily benefit from the absence of such intervention - trial-and-error is a perfectly legitimate learning technique.

Quote

be dumping a first year politician into the role of the chairman of the judiciary committee just in time for the impeachment proceedings.  How are they going to handle the proceedings?  How will they know what (overt and covert) congressional alliances to pander to?  How can they consider, as a veteran, what effects it will have on their popularity amongst their constituents?  But these questions are easy for someone well-versed with the setting.


Well, in the case of politics, perhaps it would be BETTER for the chariman NOT to be concerned by such matters :wink: and have to take direction for such answers from the floor.  They call that healthy debate.  What it severel;y limits is the autocracy of power, the chairman who rules according to theri prejudices but on the presumption that their prejudices are their wisdom and experience.

Quote

Under these conditions, I can hardly imagine that it would be that engaging to have a gamemaster constantly over-ruling the insider player’s character’s actions.  On the other hand, playing ‘the maverick’ junior senator would be right up their alley; let them learn things the hard way as with any ‘outsider.’


But in this case, the character still does not know wehat the bounbds are they are expected to push against - not so much maverick as bull in a china shop.  This is also a hefty imposition on the players character role - what if they didn;t want a character who became the focus of attention because of their ignorance and unconventional approach - the implicit struggle between conservatism and the maverick is astill invisible to the player, but it might also be concealed from the character - as the character is an outsider.  So the player, as I see it, gets the worst of both worlds; the "system" is treating them as a threat but they may not even know why.

Quote

stage that is).  An outsider is anyone whom the status quo withholds some ‘access.’  This exists on many levels at


Then we are all outsiders.

Quote

every point in society.  For example, while I am an insider with my coworkers in the cube farm and in my company, I am an outsider as far as the management staff is concerned (and this is further complicated by my access and restrictions with the insider files that I manage).


Sure, I implicitly assumed that when you said outsider you meant this as a role, part of their relationship to the setting.

Quote

Does that make any sense at all?


Oh it makes sense, I just think the detriments of outsider characters outweigh the benefits, by and large.  Certainly for new players, I do not think its a good technique at all.  Frex in Vampire, I think the game would have eben better written had it not assumed starting players would be 13th Generation.  Players didn't like that, and didn;t play it like that - they wanted to be insiders, to be movers and shakers.  I suppose what I mean in general terms is that I don't think the outsider role supports or assists exposition of plot, setting or method of play, and as such is counterproductive especially for starting players.



Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 16, 2001, 02:04:00 AM
re Franchises:

I am still not following the precise concept here.  Frex the "paying your dues" seems like a process for turning outsiders into insiders.   The "commoner" franchise kinda makes sense to me, but I'm not sure how you are employing it deliberately... although I have doubts whether in social terms this is a franchise for "dealing with" outsiders so much as creating outsiders.  Do you mean that you use as a tool for looking at settings/societies and saying "OK, the outsider franchises are X, Y, I can engage players through those social constructs".  One of my concerns here is that it sounds a bit like the idea that if you kidnap the characters and make them slaves, this enagages them.  I'm not sure it does.  Could you list franchises by setting or group, for example?


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Valamir on August 16, 2001, 05:27:00 AM
If you had trouble following the jargon in the GNS model, this thread ought to be making your head spin about now.

Is it possible to bring this discussion back in the realm of people who don't speak in terms of franchises and Theories of Potential Wallflowers?


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 16, 2001, 12:50:00 PM
Quote
contracycle wrote:
re: Franchises

I am still not following the precise concept here.  For example, the "paying your dues" seems like a process for turning outsiders into insiders.

Of course it is, doesn’t that put extra stress on ‘outsiderness?’  In this way the generic outsider-style franchise aligns player character narrative movement along the lines of outsider to insider.  That’s the channel at work here.  This way the status quo also gets a little value out of the characters (the dues).  It also offers the players ‘indoctrination’ as a character goal for them to emotionally invest in if they like.

Quote
The "commoner" franchise kinda makes sense to me, but I'm not sure how you are employing it deliberately...

Okay, remember that this is a channel.  It redirects ‘flow’ into expected directions for the status quo.  Say the players are playing ‘commoners,’ and say they want something from the manor.  They go to the manor and the doorman curtly tells them to ‘go around back.’  When they get back there, in order to get what they want they must address the hierarchy of the staff as commoners, but can also get drawn into the staff’s intrigues (the "what’s in it for me" effect).  If the players don’t ‘buy into it’ or become emotionally engaged, you skip it (that’s where the sense of pacing becomes important).

This may seem like nothing more than ‘busy work’ for the players, but what I am talking about are narrative complications that provide exposition with an eye towards both the verisimilitude of the game’s personalities and letting player emotional investment ‘find’ an attachment point.

The converse of this is to look at a character design for types of ‘exposure’ and constantly putting those things at risk (being physical, emotional, or intellectual risk).  I have always had this technique (over the long term) get the same reactions I associate with coming from players who are railroaded (though I don’t really know if it is railroading or not).

Quote
although I have doubts whether, in social terms, this is a franchise for "dealing with" outsiders so much as creating outsiders.

How can it be one without being the other?  Outsider status is purely a social creation in the first place, dividing people into ‘us’ and ‘them.’  Franchised rebellion merely serves as an explicit technique for making use of this social phenomenon in a game.  I derived it mainly from a lack of time being able to pregenerate all the cliques and social clusters for my games.  It allows me to look at a setting for evidence of familiar ‘franchises’ without having to detail them all myself.  Then I can simply use ones I am comfortable with.

Quote
Do you mean that you use [it] as a tool for looking at settings/societies and saying "OK, the outsider franchises are X, Y, I can engage players through those social constructs".

I think you’re beginning to get it now.  Except I only think ‘ahead’ about which I will need to address when I look at the character designs I am going to work with.  Otherwise it serves mostly to simplify the work of making up social groups on the fly.  (Most of my techniques revolve around never having any time to prepare.)

Quote
One of my concerns here is that it sounds a bit like the idea that if you kidnap the characters and make them slaves, this engages them.  I'm not sure it does.

This kind of engagement is too often used and I think a major ingredient in one recipe for railroading.  I include it only as the most crude of interaction techniques for gamemastering, because you are basically redesigning a player’s character with the ‘slave’ aspect and this kind of intrusion can really hurt one’s engagement with their character.

The next better technique I suggest in my writing is what I call, "playing on exposure."  When I get a character from the player, I look it over, noting things that ‘connect’ it to the world, dependants, real estate, alliances, potential reputations (any characteristic or trait in the extreme), and so forth.  These things can be used as ‘plot hooks,’ but instead I involve them in the setting orchestration.  This allows the player to make use of them for their own interests as well as them being fodder for plot hooks.  Exposure becomes a two-way street that plot hooks aren’t.

After that, I use the technique of addressing what they players say they want.  Be it character goal, player goal, or simply how the character ‘goes about their business,’ I look for the complications associated with these based on the genre conventions of what I am running.

Generally, however, I do not have the setting ‘revolve around the players’ (only reacting to them and waiting).  Since I consider the setting and, more specifically, the non-player characters as my contribution to the game, I have them pursuing their agendas and goals with the verve associated with each one.  What this means is that sometimes complications occur involving player character exposure, sometimes player characters are ‘shown’ some of the action, and sometimes the player characters are called upon, depending on what the non-player characters are up to and the expectations of the genre.  While I do try to simplify, I try not to use plot hooks much.

This also means I have a hard time ‘forcing’ engagement on them (like enslaving them) so I must focus my efforts on providing enough ‘interesting things.’  Sooner or later a player or players will engage in something about the setting and away we go.  This entry-level engagement allows me to connect them to the major ‘flows’ of action and conflict.  The main technique I use to address the game once the players begin to conflict with the status quo is franchised rebellion.

Quote
Could you list franchises by setting or group, for example?

That’s kind of complicated.  The franchised rebellion technique is a fashion of handling social structures in a form of shorthand, especially when one is unfamiliar with the relative social norms.

As for examples, how about some of the traditional?  The merry men of Sherwood were outlaws, the stole from the rich and gave to the poor.  The sheriff, the local representative of government, was building support among a number of nobles to support John’s bid for the crown.  These are examples of socially recognized franchises; guilds and vocations are a few of the others.

There are several other franchises more superficially in practice.  Travelers are widely viewed with suspicion.  I believe every tavern had its own gang.  Family is another franchise, and so are business partnerships and ‘regular customers.’  Heck, even neighborhoods had some of the social function of these franchises.

Then there are those created temporarily.  What John and the sheriff were doing would ordinarily be called treason and therefore they become co-conspirators.  Why?  Because of how their society handles traitors.  Openly they would have had all manner of legal difficulties.

Now, if the player characters observe this kind of thing going on, they do not need to ply the lives of outlaws until Marion is captured and then infiltrate an archery contest (that works better as a novel anyway).  Depending on what the player characters come up with, they could set themselves up in the role of despicable nobility in hopes of garnering favor with the sheriff.  This would bring them into conflict with those in favor with Richard who cannot strike openly, but might not be too hesitant to react strongly.  It is unlikely that they could ‘go undercover’ in Nottingham because of how travelers are held unless they adopt disguises based on favored classes (such as wandering friars as the king does later).

In the source material, a young noble runs afoul of a despicable ‘noble’ (the job of sheriff was more than just law enforcement).  Relying on his office, the villain dubs the hero an outlaw.  Fearing force of arms, the youth escapes into the woods banding together with many who have been forced into the franchise of outlaw by harsh treatment by the local land-keeper (the sheriff).  Using the only resources at hand in this new franchise, the outlaws of Sherwood or the Merry Men build themselves into a fighting force capable of infiltrating a castle.  Robin did not have to flee into the woods, he could have chosen to side with the nobles who find favor with Richard; at that time the word of nobility generally carried more weight than that of any law enforcement did.

It is possible that the supposed player found the downtrodden of Sherwood emotionally engaging and opted to take the narrative that way.  The point is this ‘game’ was probably not structured as ‘outlaws versus sheriff’ being that robin was a noble, this was just the way it went.  Franchised rebellion helped the gamemaster materialize the idea of the ‘outlaws of Sherwood Forest’ at the moment Robin fled there.

You can see how the conflicts are ‘channeled’ by this society.  The traitors have to remain secretive or risk armed response, yet they still suffer the apprehension of nobles with favor.  Travelers are viewed with suspicion unless they are welcomed in certain circles.  From this basis you can handle things like traveling players, itinerant knights looking for tournament, or even real, honest-to-goodness outlaws (not the penniless taxpayers).  The idea of franchised rebellion helps organize this kind of thought.  It can also serve to remind that societies (whether secret or otherwise) usually have common ways to react to perceived threats.

Whew! Does that help?

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 16, 2001, 02:11:00 PM
Quote
contracycle wrote:
Quote
Fang Langford wrote:
I am not sure what you mean here.  Are you saying (as it literally does) that a gamemaster is not going to give information to the players even if their characters have access because they’re outsiders?  (It looks like a miswording.)

Probably.  What I meant is that an insider can ask insider questions of the GM, while an outsider PC can only ask outsider questions.  I find this tends to reinforce the "outsiderness" for new players; by bringing them into the insider camp and making that assumed/implied knowledge available to their characters, I think they find out more and are encouraged to find out in this manner.

Honestly, it sounds like you’re talking about a breakdown of the social contract to treat all players fairly.  Usually in most campaigns that involve new players, they are put ‘in the same boat’ as at least a portion of the rest.  This is more an act of good gamesmanship than gamemastering technique.

If the gamemaster is not willing to give the new player the additional attention due a rookie, I hardly think instructing them to force an insider role on them will do anything other than complicate matters (in the bad way).  Having insider/outsider issues used alienate a rookie is not about their status within the game, it is about the dysfunctional social dynamic of the whole group.  Whether the player chooses to be an insider or an outsider (because it should be emphatically the choice of the player not the gamemaster) makes little difference in the face of this dysfunction.

Quote
Quote
Or do you mean that there is a logical reason that a player of an insider can get an answer to questions like, "whose corporation was split up because of monopolizing," when a player of an outsider cannot?  If so, can you explain this?

Yes, the GM may well refuse to answer on the basis that the character, being an outsider, has no access to such information.

If a corporation is indicted for monopolizing an industry, it is certainly public information.  Do you know of any outsiders who haven’t heard of the breakup of Bell Telephone?

Your response suggests that you think there is somehow more information available to an insider.  In a balanced gaming situation, this does not even matter; the gamemaster should be spending time interacting with each player regardless of insider status in accords with the need to keep that player engaged, not based on some prejudiced idea of where more information lay.

Quote
Quote
The way I see it is that both types of characters’ players can equally ask for campaign information that is ‘common knowledge.’  I cannot think of any logical reasons this should not always be so.  On the other hand, I feel that ‘insider information’ delivered in a question-and-answer form is much less likely to get a player engaged than having to ‘live it.’  (The old axiom, ‘show, don’t tell.’)

Well, I am not so much talking about "common knowledge" so much as "insider knowledge".  I find making this available, and early, speeds up the process of conveying the game world and setting much more quickly than making them walk through it, step by step.

Then you are saying that there is inherently more insider information in your games than outsider.  This suggests that your game does not even support the outsider role well, so why bother?

The whole idea of franchised rebellion is not about ‘keeping players out,’ it is about channeling how they interact with the status quo, making the interaction fall into only a few lines without railroading it.

Quote
And I don’t mean this as a substitute for the gaming experience at all; I just mean that, in the course of the action, it is better for the new player to have a character who can expect a wide range of informative answers from the GM rather than a "you don't know".

I honestly can’t imagine why someone playing one of Robin Hood’s men (especially the named ones), benefiting in any way from having insider information about the Sheriff’s plans.  Certainly in a game founded on conspiracy and secrecy, insider information is important, but if you think that there should be only one cabal that has such information, you simplify your games at the loss of a great deal of depth.

Quote
Quote
Quote
By contrast, making the character an insider gives the player a huge opportunity to exploit - they rapidly learn to distinguish between what the player knows and what the character knows, learn how to interact with the GM, implicitly develop some of the player stances, etc.

Can you explain this?  I cannot make any sense of it.  How would none of this happen to the player of an outsider character?

All I mean is that the new players experience is a barrage of "your character wouldn’t know" when they ask questions about the game world.  That helps no one and is IMO a restriction on getting into the habit of seeing the distinction between player and character.

This scheme bespeaks a conflict not between techniques, but of the In-Character/Out-Of-Character knowledge scheme.  The franchised rebellion technique says nothing about what kind of insider information you can share with the player, it isn’t really about the insider information available to the character, its about how to handle the interaction between a character and some group they are not a party to (or are in conflict with); surely you are not suggesting that all new players should have characters who have access to every level of every enclosed group in the entire campaign.

What you seem to be saying is that, if the character is on the outside of anything, the player will quit.  If that is the case, there is no technique anywhere that will prevent that.

Quote
Quote
The problem I have always had with this technique is that these kinds of insiders are in power because of their efficacy.  As characters, they get things done because of their position.

I think that the ASSUMPTION that they are there for reasons of efficacy is illusionary, and that in fact they gain this halo by virtue of their position of power, and not vice versa.

So you believe that no leader is competent at their job?  You believe that no one is ever selected because ability?  I believe in social Darwinism; if you can’t lead, your group loses.

Quote
Quote
In order to bring this to a game where the insider player is new to gaming or new to the setting requires that the gamemaster constantly ‘interfere’ with how they play (preventing the mistakes that a well-heeled insider leader would never make).

Perhaps, but that is a task which can also be borne by other players.  But I don’t believe players new to the game necessarily benefit from the absence of such intervention - trial-and-error is a perfectly legitimate learning technique.

To me, even when I am a new player, I don’t get the idea of what it is like to role-play game if someone keeps doing it for me.  Especially if their’s is sold as ‘the right way.’

Quote
Quote
The effect would be dumping a first year politician into the role of the chairman of the judiciary committee just in time for the impeachment proceedings.  How are they going to handle the proceedings?  How will they know what (overt and covert) congressional alliances to pander to?  How can they consider, as a veteran, what effects it will have on their popularity amongst their constituents?  But these questions are easy for someone well-versed with the setting.

Well, in the case of politics, perhaps it would be BETTER for the chairman NOT to be concerned by such matters :wink: and have to take direction for such answers from the floor.  They call that healthy debate.

I think that would be called incompetence.  Politicians who cannot run their own committees usually find themselves in the private sector after the next election.

This gets at the problem I have with your implication.  When I play, I like a certain verisimilitude and consistency with the game.  If I were playing a ‘floor of the senate’ game, I would find the idea of having senators in play who probably could not have gotten elected because of their incompetence a hard idea to ‘play around.’

Quote
What it severely limits is the autocracy of power, the chairman who rules according to their prejudices but on the presumption that their prejudices are their wisdom and experience.

While I am all for good government, don’t forget we elect our senators to represent our interests in government.  Prejudice in that direction is exactly what we want.  Objectivity would be a disservice to the constituency.

Besides, it shouldn’t be a matter of incompetent players making the ‘system’ within the game more fair.  This confuses the roles of players and characters in the narrative.

Quote
Quote
Under these conditions, I can hardly imagine that it would be that engaging to have a gamemaster constantly over-ruling the insider player’s character’s actions.  On the other hand, playing ‘the maverick’ junior senator would be right up their alley; let them learn things the hard way as with any ‘outsider.’

But in this case, the character still does not know what the bounds are they are expected to push against

They do if the gamemaster is kind enough to clue them into their franchise.  That’s the point with the technique, to make the conception of roles within the society simpler.

Quote
This is also a hefty imposition on the player’s character role - what if they didn’t want a character who became the focus of attention because of their ignorance and unconventional approach

And how precisely does a gamemaster spell this out before play begins?  How about by asking the player if they’re sure they want to have a character that falls into a certain franchise before it ‘accidentally happens.’

Quote
the implicit struggle between conservatism and the maverick is still invisible to the player, but it might also be concealed from the character - as the character is an outsider.  So the player, as I see it,

And that’s where you don’t seem to be getting my idea.  The player, I think, should be afforded some Out-Of-Character knowledge about their role.

Quote
[the player]
gets the worst of both worlds; the "system" is treating them as a threat but they may not even know why.

With the franchised rebellion technique, a gamemaster can easily sum up why and how to anything but the most ardent of immersive players, outside of the character’s knowledge.

Quote
Quote
An outsider is anyone whom the status quo withholds some ‘access.’

Then we are all outsiders.

You are the extremist aren’t you?  Can’t we be both?  I am in outsider from the world of politics (I don’t even know a way from a means in the committee sense).  I am an insider to the world of independent game design.  I have a hard time conceiving of an individual who was either an outsider to everything or an inside either.  It’s all about layers and interactions, and it’s incredibly complicated.  Do you have a problem with coming up with a technique to generalize the components or must everything not make sense?

Quote
Quote
This exists on many levels at every point in society.  For example, while I am an insider with my coworkers in the cube farm and in my company, I am an outsider as far as the management staff is concerned (and this is further complicated by my access and restrictions with the insider files that I manage).

Sure, I implicitly assumed that when you said outsider you meant this as a role, part of their relationship to the setting.

I just think the detriments of outsider characters outweigh the benefits, by and large.  Certainly for new players, I do not think it’s a good technique at all.  For example, in Vampire, I think the game would have even better written had it not assumed starting players would be 13th Generation.  Players didn't like that, and didn’t play it like that

Yours might not have, and I agree it was too restrictive.  But a 13th generation Ventrue was anything but an outsider.

Quote
they wanted to be insiders, to be movers and shakers.  I suppose what I mean, in general terms, is that I don't think the outsider role supports or assists exposition of plot, setting or method of play, and as such is counterproductive especially for starting players.

(I believe one of the intentional design elements was to make players start out as weak character exactly so they would desire more power, can you think of a better emotional engagement right out of the box?)

And you have every right to your opinion.  I, on the other hand, think that new players should be afforded both roles (insider and outside), as they desire.  I think it would be just as restrictive had White Wolf Publishing had made it so that all player characters had to be inconnu or any other single level.

To me, much of what goes into player character creation is indulgence.  The franchised rebellion technique was something I came up with to deal with new players who chose to make characters who did not fit in (unbeknownst to them), because they liked an idea.  Since it is a fair amount of shared work between player and gamemaster to create an insider character and even more when the gamemaster has to describe the whole setting, I see it more likely that new players will wind up with non-insider characters.  Since the games I write are to allow any panoply of character design, it is likely that they will invent something quite novel; to aid dealing with this I propose the use of the technique of franchised rebellions to help deal with ‘finding a place’ for such a character in the game.

And I feel if you find yourself frequently beating someone over the head with the ‘your character could not know’ shtick, you are not doing a good job as a gamemaster facilitating their emotional investment towards that big payoff.

What say we take this increasingly emotional discussion to private messaging?  It sounds like we have lost most of the audience anyway.

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Paul Czege on August 16, 2001, 04:17:00 PM
Hey Fang,

It sounds like we have lost most of the audience anyway.

To the contrary, I think it's an exceptionally interesting idea. What I think though is that it becomes difficult for people to react to in a primarily theoretical context, without seeing its value demonstrated, without presentation of how to prep a scenario based on the method, without guidelines and actual play examples on how a GM would conceptualize and work the insider/outsider relationships to enfranchise outsiders and disenfranchise insiders in ways that engage players in consciously authoring narratives with their characters. In the case of a group of players who've all created outsider characters, it seems that multiple simultaneous actions by forces of enfranchisment is important, so as to allow each player to differentiate their protagonism from the others thematically, rather than stylistically ("Okay, I'll go along with the mission too, but I'm the one who's bitter about it, got that.")

I definitely see how the push/pull of insider/outsider relationships is worth exploring for its potential to hook the player. I just have trouble distilling from the theory the techniques for working with it from the ground up.

Paul


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 17, 2001, 02:16:00 AM
[quite]
Honestly, it sounds like you’re talking about a breakdown of the social contract to treat all players fairly.  
[/quote]

:sad: Theres no need for that.

Quote

If the gamemaster is not willing to give the new player the additional attention due a rookie, I hardly think instructing them to force an insider role on them will do anything other than complicate matters (in the bad way).  

IF that were what I was talking about, but it isn't.

Quote

dysfunctional social dynamic of the whole group.  Whether the player chooses to be an insider or an outsider (because it should be emphatically the choice of the player not the gamemaster) makes little difference in the face of this dysfunction.


Yes, but I am NOT talking about a disfunction.  I am challenging the idea that outsider stance is BETTER for game starts, and for new players.  Please restrict your criticisms to the point I am actually making.

Quote

Your response suggests that you think there is somehow more information available to an insider.  In a balanced gaming situation, this does not even matter; the gamemaster should be spending time interacting with each player regardless of insider status in accords with the need to keep that player engaged, not based on some prejudiced idea of where more information lay.


Obviously, but it will be OUTSIDER interaction.  And the character will still be outside at the end of it, and still be largely ignorant of your setting.

Quote

Then you are saying that there is inherently more insider information in your games than outsider.  This suggests that your game does not even support the outsider role well, so why bother?


Do you give the same answer about the NYPD to a character who is a cop in the force or to a character who is a petty street pickpocket?  Obviously not.  Thus I suggest that if you mandate that new players start with outsider characters, you hamper rather than encourage player self-education.

Quote

The whole idea of franchised rebellion is not about ‘keeping players out,’ it is about channeling how they interact with the status quo, making the interaction fall into only a few lines without railroading it.


Right.  My criticism is that if you apply this to new players, the pressure of channeling is away from the "insider" world which contains knowledge about the game.  I would suggest reversing this so that for new players the tacit pressure is toward the locaus of information in your game.

Quote

I honestly can’t imagine why someone playing one of Robin Hood’s men (especially the named ones), benefiting in any way from having insider information about the Sheriff’s plans.  Certainly in a game founded on conspiracy and


Sure.  But if the relationship to the sherrif of N is important enough to be expressed by these terms, then the outsider is hamnpered, as a player, from asking questions about the dynamic that is affecting them, frex by hunting them through the woods.  This is fine if the main game dynamic is about "merry men in the woods" in which case the sheriff is the outsider, trying to intrude.  By contrast, a character who was introduced as maid marrion is an insider in both camps and has the maximum opportunity to interrogate the world, in character, for useful information.  Thus, I argue, for the introduction of new players and settings, insider roles are much stronger.

Quote

interaction between a character and some group they are not a party to (or are in conflict with); surely you are not suggesting that all new players should have characters who have access to every level of every enclosed group in the entire campaign.


No.  But I am suggesting that going out of your way to make new characters outsiders is counter-productive.  The outsider role benefits from a player who has already been on the inside (possibly from prior, OOC info), and knows what they are missing.  The new player does not know what they are missing, and thus there "outsiderness" has little impact, and hence drama.  There is no contrast to draw.

Quote

What you seem to be saying is that, if the character is on the outside of anything, the player will quit.  If that is the case, there is no technique anywhere that will prevent that.


That is a gross and illogical over-extention of my argument.  I am specifically and exclusively challenging the claim that the outsider position is BETTER for NEW players.

Quote

So you believe that no leader is competent at their job?  You believe that no one is ever selected because ability?  I believe in social Darwinism; if you can’t lead, your group loses.


I believe our society chooses the wrong people to be "leaders", and fails to reward real leaders (finds them threatening).  I certainly have a dim view of management :smile:

Quote

I think that would be called incompetence.  Politicians who cannot run their own committees usually find themselves in the private sector after the next election.


Some people might think that what you described as "knowing how to run a committee" is not in FACT knowing how to run a committee, and is thus INefficient.  Some people might think that Getting Things Done was the point of politics.

Quote

This gets at the problem I have with your implication.  When I play, I like a certain verisimilitude and consistency with the game.  If I were playing a ‘floor of the senate’ game, I would find the idea of having senators in play who probably could not have gotten elected because of their incompetence a hard idea to ‘play around.’


Quite true, but you also reject GM or player assistance for such a player.  I think it does lead to certain probable minor continuity difficulties, but as long as everyone is in it with good motives, that should not be a problem.  But we should not decry the learning curve implicit in having a character more competent by the player, because this offers the player a good reason to request for assistance OOC but in game.  I am suggesting that it would be much harder for a player to be introduced to a "floor of the senate" game if they were an outsider to the senate; then they have no capacity to access info that is IC but not known to the player.

Quote

While I am all for good government, don’t forget we elect our senators to represent our interests in government.  


So the theory goes.

Quote

Prejudice in that direction is exactly what we want.  Objectivity would be a disservice to the constituency.


Really?  I think you missed what I was alluding to, but neverminds it OT.

Quote

Besides, it shouldn’t be a matter of incompetent players making the ‘system’ within the game more fair.  This confuses the roles of players and characters in the narrative.


That is not the point.  I am ONLY adressing starting positions for NEW players.

Quote

And how precisely does a gamemaster spell this out before play begins?  How about by asking the player if they’re sure they want to have a character that falls into a certain franchise before it ‘accidentally happens.’


Good idea.  Is a player new to RPG going to be able to make an informed decision on that basis?

Quote

And that’s where you don’t seem to be getting my idea.  The player, I think, should be afforded some Out-Of-Character knowledge about their role.


I know.  I'm suggesting it might be better to make that information avaialable In Chacacter, in the circumstances where we are trying to introduce someone to "how RPG works".


Quote

Quote
Quote
An outsider is anyone whom the status quo withholds some ‘access.’

Then we are all outsiders.

You are the extremist aren’t you?  Can’t we be both?  I am in outsider from the world of politics (I don’t even know a way from a means in the committee sense).  I am an insider to the world of independent game design.  I have a hard time conceiving of an individual who was either an outsider to everything or an inside either.  It’s all about layers and interactions, and it’s incredibly complicated.  Do you have a problem with coming up with a technique to generalize the components or must everything not make sense?


My point WAS that society is multi-layered and we are all insiders to some things and outsiders to others.  Thus, it appears to me only to be significant to address the insider/outsider issue along the axis of the conflict in the game; i.e. insiderness and outsiderness in the context of the specific conflict the game is addressing.

Quote

Yours might not have, and I agree it was too restrictive.  But a 13th generation Ventrue was anything but an outsider.


Need not have been, but by the tacit set-up of the game, should be.

Quote

(I believe one of the intentional design elements was to make players start out as weak character exactly so they would desire more power, can you think of a better emotional engagement right out of the box?)


I have been: make them INSIDERS from the start.

Quote

And you have every right to your opinion.  I, on the other hand, think that new players should be afforded both roles (insider and outside), as they desire.  I think it would be


I understood you were advocating the outsider status as particularly good for new players; it is this preference I am challenging.

Quote

something I came up with to deal with new players who chose to make characters who did not fit in (unbeknownst to them), because they liked an idea.  Since it is a fair
Quote


OK, I envision a much more involved process between GM and player for new players.

Quote

And I feel if you find yourself frequently beating someone over the head with the ‘your character could not know’ shtick, you are not doing a good job as a gamemaster facilitating their emotional investment towards that big payoff.


Yes, EXACTLY.

Quote

What say we take this increasingly emotional discussion to private messaging?  It sounds like we have lost most of the audience anyway.


If you like, although I suspect, as if often the case with this medium, that we are arguing at slightly cross purposes.


[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-08-17 06:25 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 17, 2001, 04:51:00 AM
Quote
Paul Czege wrote:
Fang Langford wrote:
It sounds like we have lost most of the audience anyway.


To the contrary, I think it's an exceptionally interesting idea.

Thank you.

If I might parse this out to make cross-referencing for a new thread(s) easier....

What I think though is that it becomes difficult for people to react to in a primarily theoretical context,

Theoretical context was used primarily as a brevity aid.  This ‘response to responses’ thing is getting way too long, so I would be happy to address this separately in smaller parts.  As Ron rightly points out, having gone all theoretical means it belongs in another thread.  I will try to develop an example and place it in RPG Theory, but you’ll have to forgive me if it takes up to a week, I am poor at writing examples.

I’ll also break out your post so that if you’d like to take the initiative you can post specific franchised rebellion questions over in ‘Theory.
[list=1]
  • without seeing its value demonstrated,
  • without presentation of how to prep a scenario based on the method,
  • without guidelines and actual play examples on how a GM would conceptualize and work the insider/outsider relationships to enfranchise outsiders and disenfranchise insiders in ways that engage players in consciously authoring narratives with their characters.
  • In the case of a group of players who've all created outsider characters, it seems that multiple simultaneous actions by forces of enfranchisment is important, so as to allow each player to differentiate their protagonism from the others thematically, rather than stylistically ("Okay, I'll go along with the mission too, but I'm the one who's bitter about it, got that.")[/list:o]
    Thanks for listening and have a nice weekend, I gotta do some writing....

    Fang Langford

    [ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-17 08:55 ]


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 17, 2001, 06:44:00 AM
Quote
contracycle wrote:
I am challenging the idea that outsider stance is BETTER for game starts, and for new players.  Please restrict your criticisms to the point I am actually making.

Then our discussion has nothing in common.  I never once said outsider was better (feel free to go check); at most I said it was easier.  (I do not think these are even related.  Frequently, easier things are worse.  The intention of the franchised rebellion technique was to keep an easier solution from becoming too much worse.)

Quote
Obviously, but it will be OUTSIDER interaction.  And the character will still be outside at the end of it, and still be largely ignorant of your setting.

This is only true if it is an inherently insider setting.

Quote
Do you give the same answer about the NYPD to a character who is a cop in the force or to a character who is a petty street pickpocket?  Obviously not.  Thus I suggest that if you mandate that new players start with outsider characters, you hamper rather than encourage player self-education.

Actually I do give the same answer to both; a petty street pickpocket is likely an insider to ‘da Mob,’ whereas the beat cop is merely a tiny blue-collar cog in a big mostly public institution.  Who is the insider?  Is it the Don’s cousin or Serpico?

The focus of the game determines who is the insider.  Is it about ‘the street’ or police corruption?  Will the pickpocket learn more because everyone wants to cozy-up to him to get on the inside with his cousin, or will the cop learn more because of the emotional investment of not knowing who to trust in a world were everyone want to tell him what to think?  Would the game be better if the new player was instead the mafia Don or the corrupt commissioner?  I don’t think so.

If the pickpocket turns informant and enters the witness protection program, he gains the franchise of ‘the marked man’ along with his cop ‘friend’ who went under cover to help him.  If the beat cop turns to his pickpocket ‘friend’ for cover while he ‘fights the system’ he is cast as a ‘good cop gone bad’ and forced into the same franchise as the criminal.  The point here is neither character is starved for information about the game, even when one is the insider and one is the outsider.  Furthermore, the new player can be assigned the ‘disenfranchised’ character position so that they become the focus of the goings-on without making them a VIP.

Is that a better example?

Quote
My criticism is that if you apply this to new players, the pressure of channeling is away from the "insider" world which contains knowledge about the game.  I would suggest reversing this so that for new players the tacit pressure is toward the locus of information in your game.

And how does the above cop/pickpocket example not illustrate doing this without making the new player an insider or a ‘heavy-hitter,’ especially with the franchised rebellion technique?

You seem to miss the point that outsider status makes a focus of getting insider information whereas insider status only offers insider information for potential use with no focus on it at all.  (Except in insider-focused games that should not even have outsiders.  And remember, I never said ‘outsider status = good for new player;’ if anything I had said, in passing, ‘new player + newcomer character = easier’ and ‘newcomer character = usually outsiders.’  Neither has a value judgement.)

Quote
I am specifically and exclusively challenging the claim that the outsider position is BETTER for NEW players.

This is a claim I never made.

Quote
Quote
This gets at the problem I have with your implication.  When I play, I like a certain verisimilitude and consistency with the game.  If I were playing a ‘floor of the senate’ game, I would find the idea of having senators in play who probably could not have gotten elected because of their incompetence a hard idea to ‘play around.’

Quite true, but you also reject GM or player assistance for such a player.

So either the gamemaster has to hold their hand throughout or abandon them completely?  I have said, and will say again, that the amount of attention the gamemaster should spend on a new player should be more than then that for experienced players, but not intrusively so nor at the expense of the other players’ enjoyment.  And let me point out again, this should not be related in any way to the new player’s character’s status, insider, outsider, or whatever.

Quote
Quote
The player, I think, should be afforded some Out-Of-Character knowledge about their role.

I'm suggesting it might be better to make that information available In-Character, in the circumstances where we are trying to introduce someone to "how RPG works".

Except "How a Role-Playing Game Works" is not in the realm of In-Character information.  

Quote
Quote
And you have every right to your opinion.  I, on the other hand, think that new players should be afforded both roles (insider and outside), as they desire.

I understood you were advocating the outsider status as particularly good for new players; it is this preference I am challenging.

Then you have completely misunderstood me.  Nowhere have I said it was a good thing.  If it were, I certainly would not have wanted to create a technique for handling the difficulties of doing so.

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: contracycle on August 17, 2001, 07:26:00 AM
Fang,

As I understood one of your earlier posts, you opined that you constructed your rules explanation text in such a way as to assume or promt an outsider stance for new players, on the basis that this the drive to know on the part of the player is echoed accurately by the characters euivalent ignorance.

All I am saying is that I find for new players, it is better that they have characters that mismatch their own player knowledge, so that they can (and are encouraged to) use the character as a crutch for learning.  The very fact that the character knows more than the player is the useful bit, IMO.

Thats all.  Fin.


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on August 17, 2001, 09:17:00 AM
Quote
contracycle wrote:
As I understood one of your earlier posts, you opined that you constructed your rules explanation text in such a way as to assume or prompt an outsider stance for new players, on the basis that this the drive to know on the part of the player is echoed accurately by the character's equivalent ignorance.

Then I really did not communicate well at all.  When I said my default for new players was as newcomer or outsider, I meant that for my own games.  When I write, I am writing for both this fashion and others.

Quote
All I am saying is that I find for new players, it is better that they have characters that mismatch their own player knowledge, so that they can (and are encouraged to) use the character as a crutch for learning.  The very fact that the character knows more than the player is the useful bit, IMO.

And I was saying I often see this need for constant interruptions in play for the player to be 'brought up to date' as disruptive to game flow and that a proper franchise of rebellion could position the player's character so that all the relevant game information could be demonstrated as opposed to being explained ("show, don’t tell").  I never meant to imply that any way was inherently better.

And I'm outta here...see all of you in RPG Theory when I finish my example.

Fang Langford


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Don Lag on November 04, 2001, 12:24:00 PM
Although rather cryptic, I think Fang's article presents a valuable reflexion on what approaches can be succesfully used to obtain good player/character involvement in the story.

Whenever I've had a succesful experience regarding an involved session, I've found myself to have been applying the ideas presented as "Dynamic Status Quo".

Although I'm still not very comfortable with the terminology, or versed if you will, I do have a few minor observations to add.

First, it seems implied somewhere in the article, but I think it's useful to state out in the clear, that "Scenario Designs" or "Scenario Desinging" used alone would tend to create railroad-ish gaming most of the time. I think the key here is that this happens when using "only" Scenario Design. Whereas Dynamic Status Quo seems to be one of the most popular choices for GM's in creating highly involved stories, Scenario Designing is a key element to efficiently delivering such a story. In this sense, Scenario Designs are a very useful tools for accomplishing a rich story which relies on Dynamic Staus Quo, or some other method, for implementing character involvement. I think that Fang agrees with me, and that this idea is present in his article, however not his main point.

Finally, regarding insider/outsider benefits for starting characters, my best contribution to the discussion would be in the Oscura Playtesting (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=848&forum=14&0) thread.

Also, I'd tend to think that simple variations on these ideas would be applicable to most story premises (I think I'm using "premise" right, let me know if not), not just political intrigue. Perhaps even dungeon crawling?


Title: Dynamic Status Quo
Post by: Le Joueur on November 05, 2001, 02:53:00 PM
Quote
Don Lag wrote:

First, it seems implied somewhere in the article, but I think it's useful to state out in the clear, that "Scenario Designs" or "Scenario Designing" used alone would tend to create railroad-ish gaming most of the time

I think the key here is that this happens when using "only" Scenario Design. Whereas Dynamic Status Quo seems to be one of the most popular choices for GM's in creating highly involved stories, Scenario Designing is a key element to efficiently delivering such a story

In this sense, Scenario Designs are very useful tools for accomplishing a rich story which relies on Dynamic Status Quo, or some other method, for implementing character involvement. I think that Fang agrees with me, and that this idea is present in his article, however not his main point.

Except this use of "scenario design" arose from an old essay by Ron where he uses the term to describe the whole realm of a single game.  They way you seem to be using it describes situations, encounters, or perhaps scenes.  Frankly, using your own rationale, even at the level of ‘scene design,’ such design work will likely lead to the railway station (although in a smaller way).

Dynamic Status Quo is meant to be a technique to organize one’s thoughts on the matter of ‘how do they react’ meaning the ‘powers that be’ to the normative ‘unusual’ activities of the player characters.  Since I believe everyone has a hard time keeping tabs on the thinking processes of several major players and flipping effectively between them at a whim, I crafted Dynamic Status Quo to formalize and hopefully simplify some fairly normal social reactions to ‘troublemakers.’  Once the gamemaster has determined how the applicable social stratum ‘normally’ reacts, they can then use ‘normal’ reactions to abnormal behavior on the parts the stratum interacts with.

Quote
Finally, regarding insider/outsider benefits for starting characters, my best contribution to the discussion would be in the Oscura Playtesting (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=848&forum=14&0) thread.

Also, I'd tend to think that simple variations on these ideas would be applicable to most story premises (I think I'm using "premise" right, let me know if not), not just political intrigue. Perhaps even dungeon crawling?

Oh so long ago, when I first started this thread we at Impswitch were just beginning to grapple with ideas revolving around the curiosities of the beginning of a game.  We felt that unless much care is practiced getting all the players familiar with their characters’ places in the world (something time tends to limit), a lot of misunderstandings occur.  These are natural ‘not on the same page yet’ types of misunderstanding, but these can be fatal problems with people who have never played role-playing games before.

What I should have written, it is painfully obvious at this point, is that we suggest that a certain element of ‘beginning’ position should be incorporated into most characters and games.  Even a seasoned master violin craftsman confronts some ‘beginning’ problems when he first picks up the lumber. (‘What is inside?’  ‘How will it split?’  And et cetera.)  What I mean is that the character needs not be ‘wet behind the ears,’ merely that something in their design should be ‘new.’  Within this ‘newness’ a lot of the aforementioned misunderstandings can be ‘hidden.’

If a character is ‘new in town’ problems can be attributed to not having ‘found their feet yet.’  If the character has newly advanced, one can hardly fault them for not knowing the finer points of the local politics.  It goes on and on.  It is all a matter of helping smooth over the rough parts of how the gaming group comes to work together on the collective imaginary piece, the game.

(Or for you Platonists [was it Plato?], every story needs a beginning.  [And a middle and an end, so it goes on.]  I espouse that beginning should also exist somewhere in the character designs as well.)

Fang Langford