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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2001, 06:34:00 AM

Title: Audience
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2001, 06:34:00 AM
We can continue this discussion here. I propose the following as a definition for Audience behavior. This definition tries to acknowledge Ron's version of the stance definition.

Audience Behavior, is the "non-stance" if you will. If a stance is the angle from which a player makes the decisions for their character, then Audience Behavior is to not have a stance. That is refusing to make decisions at all for the character.

Now, lest Ron accuse me of creating something that has no objective reality, I have players (who I don't like playing with) who are this way. Agaain, this is a behavior, and they will not do this all the time. But the following is a RL example of Audience Behavior.

Me: Hey Frank (name changed to protect the innocent), is your character going along?

Frank: Well, I suppose so.

Me: What do you mean? Why is your character going?

Frank: Well, maybe he won't then.

Me: Well, make a choice.

Frank: Whatever you think is best.

Note that Frank still hung around and seemed at least somewhat interested in what transpired. Frank rolled dice when asked to. But all Frank seemed really interested in was being entertained.

This is Audience Behavior. A player actually refusing to participate in making decisions for their character, or in other words refusing to adopt any stance.

The usual GM reaction (mine at least) is to just make the decisions for the player, so that the game can continue. Note that a GM can force players into an effective Audience mode by not allowing them to make decisions. I've seen this too.

Me: My character tries to look intimidating.

GM: Your character skips along in a silly fashion.

Me: Huh?

GM: It's just funnier that way.

So, I refuse to make any more decisions for my character that evening, and never play that game again. But that's not to say that there might be people who might theoretically like that sort of thing, and will participate as much as allowed to.


[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-10-17 10:42 ]

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 17, 2001, 06:56:00 AM

I agree with Mike that we are discussing something that exists. I am arguing that it is not a Stance, and that anyone who may have thought that "Stance" means "something done during role-playing" is using too broad a definition.

I also want to correct Mike's usage slightly, and I also take the blame for it. Stance is REALLY about more than JUST a character's actions. A quick look at Director Stance will confirm that it also includes the possibility of affecting the world relative to the character, most especially things that the character is unaware of.

Therefore a person (a real one) engaged in role-playing who kibitzes during a scene involving someone else's character, suggesting (a) an action for the character to do or (b) a circumstance in which the character is embroiled, is respectively in co-Author or Director Stance.

I want to make sure that role-playing that DOES influence "the world" is recognized as the Stance it is. I also want to make sure that just because someone's "official" character is not in a scene does not mean that player cannot be taking a Stance.

Therefore, when we talk about this Audience thing, I would like to see proposed definitions that do not overlap with these established, recognized, already-existing definitions.


Title: Audience
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2001, 07:13:00 AM
Hmmm...I see why you have restated the definition in order to get Director in. And rightly so. So Stance is the manner in which you are creative in the game relative to your character? Director stance saying that you are not considering the character at all because you are working with something outside the character. OK, I can buy that. It's use, of course, comes in trying to decide what sort of mechanics facilitate a Stance in order that it be enjoyably used (what we refer to as Directorial Power, or Authorial Power, etc). But still, Audience in this case is still interesting. One might investigate how to better make for Audience enjoyment mechanically. Audience Power is, as I've defined it absurd. But you might have mechanics that lead to Audience enjoyment.

I'm starting to agree with Ralph, here. I'd still call Audience a Non-Stance, but it's still worth discussing in the same context quite often. Essentially if I say that a player in a certain circumstance is in Audience Stance, I'd just be saying that the player refuses to take one of the other stances. Would that be acceptable?


Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 17, 2001, 07:59:00 AM
Whoa Mike, I think your fingers are getting ahead of you just a little.

"So Stance is the manner in which you are creative in the game relative to your character? Director stance saying that you are not considering the character at all because you are working with something outside the character."

The above two sentences are contradictory. I agree with the first but not the second - you DO consider the character in Director Stance, but you are able to influence his environment and circumstances rather than just his decisions and motor movements. The scale of that influence can be pretty broad. (Just for Universalis people, "world components" are characters for purposes of this discussion.)

"But still, Audience in this case is still interesting. One might investigate how to better make for Audience enjoyment mechanically."

Sure, but it's not a Stance.

"I'm starting to agree with Ralph, here. I'd still call Audience a Non-Stance, but it's still worth discussing in the same context quite often."

With respect, you are not agreeing with Ralph at all. You are agreeing with me. This "thing" is not a Stance, but it is worth discussing. That's been my position all along. Ralph's position, last stated, is to acknowledge that (a) it is NOT a Stance, and then to ask (b) why can't the definition of Stance be expanded to include it.

My call, at this point, is for someone PLEASE to tell me what we are talking about. What is the "it" that people are referring to, when they say "Audience Stance?" And please, no itses that are actually extreme forms of Author or Director are valid for this purpose.


Title: Audience
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on October 17, 2001, 08:05:00 AM
The only form of "Audience Stance" I can think of is during an InSpectres Confessional, where the rules state that Player A takes center stage and talks to the other players as if they were a TV audience.

Other than that, "Audience Stance" is bogus. It's not's asking where the Cheetos and the Mountain Dew are located in your friend's house. Being an audience is a form of passive entertainment. Stance is all about action.

Title: Audience
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2001, 08:52:00 AM
OK, can we all agree on something like the following?

Players have behaviors in RPGs. Some of those behaviors are Stances, such that Stances involve making decisions (and are differentiated with regards to the players relationship to his character in relation to the decision made; Ron's definition, anyway). Within the subset of other behaviors is Audience behavior, being defined as simply observing the game and not assuming a Stance.

My agreement with Ralph is that the Stance definition seems to be getting less and less useful, and that the discussion should potentially move to the discussion of all behaviors such as I have things organized above.

For example, I could say to Jared:

Yeah, we seem to agree that audience behavior sucks when uncontroled. But it seems to be very appropriate when enforced in certian circumstances as in the case of Confessionals (which you so eloquently point out). I wonder if we can find other ways to extend the usefulness of this behavior? Sometimes less is more. Or at least to influence the behavior and move people into actual stances when required.


[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-10-17 13:00 ]

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 17, 2001, 09:02:00 AM
Hey Mike,

I'm with you so far. I differ insofar that I think discussion of Stance AS Stance IS useful, for its purposes. But I do agree that there are many behaviors during a role-playing session that are important that are not Stance. At the very least, moderating one's use of Python jokes would be one of them, or knowing when a joke supports the group effort rather than disrupts it.

As I've said many times, there's a lot more to GNS than Stance. I think the all-inclusive set of role-playing activities that we are talking about doesn't need a name or category - it's just "what people do," of which Stance is obviously one big King-Hell candidate.

If we want to talk about what ELSE people are doing, that's cool too, and I'm more than happy to talk about it. For the record, and to no one's surprise, I think that these other behaviors play into GNS and into social-reinforcement or disruption of the group activity, in rather apparent and unsurprising ways.


Title: Audience
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2001, 09:13:00 AM

As a note regarding the OOC joking that goes on, we used to have a social mechanic called the pun fund. Those making puns had to donate a quarter to the fund which was then used to purchase pizza. Interestingly this backfired, because the presence of the fund (and potentially the pizza reward) actually worked to produce more awareness of the idea of making puns, and therefore more puns.

I mention this as an example of a failed mechanic for moderating an odious behavior.  :smile:

Anybody got one that works? Besides giving the player the old heave-ho?


Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 17, 2001, 09:27:00 AM

It all comes down to disruptive vs. reinforcing, doesn't it? I've found that many game sessions can have an enormous amount of OOC joking, ribbing, kibitzing, and off-topic references - and still be awesome, powerful, and engaging role-playing experiences. All the "extra" stuff is the group's way of reinforcing and expressing excitement about what IS going on. I, for one, find the dour and must-focus, must-think-of-world-only approach to role-playing to be often pretty depressing.

I believe I've expressed previously that truly disruptive behavior is intolerable and, as it is usually performed by someone who knows EXACTLY what he is doing, can be dealt with brutally and personally. But reinforcing behavior of any kind, as long as it is socially recognized as such by the people involved, is great with me. Sometimes that Python joke really does nail the in-play situation to a T, and wraps our attention further into it when we're done snickering.


Title: Audience
Post by: jburneko on October 17, 2001, 09:28:00 AM
I think I'd like to take a stab at describing what we mean when we refer to this thing we're sort of calling 'Audience Stance.'

Jarred was right about the pass me the Cheetos and the Moutain Dew but I don't think he was 100% right about it being completely passive.  I'm a very active Audience.  When I read a book or what a TV show I'm constantly making 'decisions.'  Those decisions are mostly value judgements of some kind.  I've 'decided' that this scene was well written or that character X made the right choice or that action K annoyed me.

In a roleplaying context I think Audience Stance consists of all these decisions that the Player doesn't actually act on.  In a gamist context there might be a combat going on in which this Player is not involved but yet he watches it intensely.  Inside, he thinks, 'Now at this point I would have cast Hold Person.' or 'Damn!  Why didn't Frank use his healing potion on that last action.' but ultimately he doesn't act or say anything.  At least not anything that effects the world.  After the fight is over he may offer his insights but by this point it's too late to have any impact on the game.

So to me Audience Stance is an internal decision making process consisting largely of value judgements which never manifest any impact on the game world only retroactive speculation and commentary.

How's that?


Title: Audience
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on October 17, 2001, 09:40:00 AM
I'm a very active Audience. When I read a book or what a TV show I'm constantly making 'decisions.' Those decisions are mostly value judgements of some kind. I've 'decided' that this scene was well written or that character X made the right choice or that action K annoyed me.

I could care less about what people think. I could have the best idea in the world but if I don't act on it, I might as well be doing nothing, right? So while I agree that you do react when you're in Audience mode, you don't act -- and acting is what Stance is all about: what is the level of involvement between the player and the game. Just like you don't call a 5-speed blender a 6-speed because it has an "off" setting, you don't call audience a stance. Just like the blender, it's just the "off" setting.

Title: Audience
Post by: Laurel on October 17, 2001, 11:38:00 AM
To take what I said above in Roles & Stances, and fit it into this on-going conversation *s*, I think its valuable to add a specific term for non-stance player involvement in games, such as role.  This will provide the opportunity to explore what kinds of roles people participate in during an RPG game beyond the obvious (GM, player) and what behaviors within each role seem to help or hinder gameplay, and why.


Title: Audience
Post by: Valamir on October 17, 2001, 07:20:00 PM
See, this is exactly what I was talking about.  How much bandwidth is being used to decide whether Audience is or isn't a Stance.  I see alot of time debating it and not yet a good reason as to why such distinction is necessary.  Its like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Great for generating discussion, but to what end?

What is Stance?  To me its any attitude or affectation a player takes towards the game he is playing while he is playing it.  Thats where I see utility in the definition (more on this below).

I hear people saying "Stance is about ACTION, Audience doesn't have action therefor it isn't a Stance".  Come again?  WHY is Stance about Action.  What is being gained by limiting this category only to ACTIVE player attitudes and affectations.  Conversely what is lost by includeing ALL such attitudes and affectations.

In my mind there are myriad ways for a player to interact with the game.  Each of these is a stance.  Actor is a means of interacting with the game through what the character is capable of without metagame influence.  Author is a means of interacting with the game through what the character is capable of with metagame influence.  Director is a means of interacting with a game without being limited to character capabilities.  Audience is also a means of interacting with a game.  It just happens to be one where the player is recieving and not transmitting.  Sure the "interaction" is "one way" and that makes it different then the others.  Different enough to not be includeable in the category of Stance?  So far I've yet to see a reason why.

As a Stance is Audience Stance useful or is it "bogus"?  Well, I'd say its probably the easiest stance to get into (then probably Author, Actor, and Director in that order).  Being the easiest stance it is perhaps to be expected that it is the Stance that people will retreat to when they're bored or just not interested, because it requires the least amount of effort or involvement.  Thus, perhaps, it has come to be looked down upon as bad.  It isn't "really roleplaying" because often the people who choose to use it are trying to escape from having to roleplay too hard.

However, can it have legitimate uses?  To be sure.  Contracycle had one that spurred my interest in the thread, that of the GM delivering the backstory.  Jared explained how he actually formalized the use of Audience stance in InSpectres.  Sometimes its simply the stance you use when you're willing to keep your mouth shut and let someone else have the lime light and call the shots for awhile.  And yeah, sometimes its the stance you wind up in because the sessions just gone on way too long and its all you can do to just stay awake, let alone participate.

I don't think times when the GM is leading your character around like a puppet is Audience Stance (save perhaps when that is part of the initial backstory [i.e. "you are all prisoners in a dungeon" Frederick has just been beaten for attempting to escape"] interesting topic to discuss).  

To me Audience stance is when the player is recieving information about what is occuring in the game without transmitting anything back into the game.

I'm sure if we thought about it we could find examples of "abuse" of all of the other Stances.  Heck the reason why Director Stance pretty much requires a Social Contract is because its easy to abuse.  So sure there are those who use Audience as a cop out or a form of disruption.  Because its such an easy Stance to use its likely also easier to misuse.  But that fact alone does not "invalidate it" as a stance.

So what if its not the same as the other Stances, what is gained by shunting it off into a list of "other behaviors that exist but aren't stances"...what's the point of even having such a list.  Thats my whole question WHY have two seperate lists when one will suffice.  Thats just adding complexity without adding value (again, no value that *I* see.  I'm waiting for someone to show me where the value of two seperate lists vs one lies).

When the rubber hits the road players are playing the game.  Not talking about it, not designing it, not critiqueing it...playing it (and I know Ron agrees with this which is why he's been pushing so hard to get activity in the Actual Play forum).

When we play there are certain attitudes we take on how we as players are relating to our characters, the game mechanics, the game world, and the metagame environment.  As far as I'm concerned ALL of those attitudes are Stances.  And if this violates some age old definition of Stance as developed in some 50 post thread back in 1999 in some other what.  Until someone can tell me why the more limited, less inclusive, more narrow definition of Stance increases its utility as an analytical tool, I'm more than willing to throw that definition out and come up with a more useful one.

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 18, 2001, 07:58:00 AM
Hi Ralph,

Laurel has presented a point of view which makes sense to me, in the first post on the Roles & Stances thread.

It may be that Laurel's assessment and yours will simply have to stand as differing outlooks. I can see what you are saying, but your point is based - as far as I can tell - on a call for a full redefinition of Stance. I know you've called for a justification of the view I've presented, and that is valid - but again, Laurel's statement, for me, provides that justification.

If we can't get past endlessly stating (1) "I want to talk about ANY behavior during play and call it Stance," and (2) "Stance is a set of in-game-influencing behaviors, nested within the general set of behaviors," then we can't get past it. We'll have to live with different views.


Title: Audience
Post by: Valamir on October 18, 2001, 09:57:00 AM
I saw that post.  I have a problem with it.  Namesly

To use Ron's work, a stance is narrowly defined as how as "how a person arrives at decisions for an imaginary character’s imaginary actions."

When did Directoral Stance become limited to decisions for a character's actions.  As I remember it, Directoral Stance includes decisions that have nothing to do with characters at all.  If so then one can't differentiate stance as being character-centric.  Unless suddenly "there's a storm in London which delays the Prime Minister's departure for the summit" is suddenly no longer directoral power.

Now I don't want to seem like I'm making a crusade out of this Audience Stance thing.  For me Audience Stance isn't the issue, its just an example.

What the issue for me is making an assertion about what something is, and then disallowing other things because it violates the asserted definition.  

If the asserted definition is a definition with some real utility and meaning behind it great...lets not be satisfied with asserting that the definition is true lets put the reasoning on the table and prove that it is.

If, however, the definition is asserted for reasons not so easily proved, then defending the definition by referring to the definition is circular reasoning at best.

Now Lumpley's idea on the Does Director Stance Exist thread, is one worth delving into.  If it actually works there could be some definite utility to the idea that WOULD be diminished by trying to add other things that don't fit the matrix.

Title: Audience
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 18, 2001, 10:28:00 AM
At the risk of repeating myself, but to keep the discussion in one thread, here's something that came to me on a potential true "audience stance"  You be the judge.

It's something I came up figuring out how my game would work, but let's use SOAP so I'm not plugging my own crumby game all the time.

This seems to be a feature found mostly in so-called GM-less or GM-full games, but that remains to be seen.  

Say a player is describing a scene in SOAP, exploring their ancestral masion house that soap opera character always seem to have.  The player sets the scene using description.  But as the player describes, the other players ask questions about the scene, the setting, the material in the floor, the furniture, any odors or sounds and so on.

I daresay I'd call this a stance since the players are not completely passively absorbing what the other player is saying/describing.  They are interacting with it by having the first player fill in the gaps in the description to give them a fuller picture.  In so doing, they help create the scene.  The first player probably never considered what the floor was made of or what the room smelled like, but because the others asked, that player creates it.

If there is such a thing as Audience Stance, it probably works more along these lines that simply listening to the player speak and sure as hell isn't "Where're the Cheetoes?"

What say you?

[side note:  Ron's article is leading to game design.  A friend of mine is putting together a drinking game for every time Ron uses the word "disfunctional." :wink:]

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 18, 2001, 10:39:00 AM

I'd call it co-Director Stance. Nothing about Author or Director Stance suggests that they can't be shared.


Title: Audience
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 18, 2001, 12:31:00 PM
Shared, yet, but is it really shared?  If a player asks what a character is wearing or what the location looks like or smells like or anything else just to clear up the picture in their own head, is that really Director Stance?

The definitions of the stances as per the article are defined in relation to the character.  But then the definitions are about Players, the GM & stance isn't explored yet.

I suppose we should take a step back and ask what we're talking about here.  

First of all, we started with the name, which makes sense.  If there are actors, authors and directors they may be an audience.  But we had this name yet nothing to go with it.  So we're looking for something to go with the term.  Problem #1

Some things, like the "where're the Cheetoes" mode aren't worth coining a stance for since it's not anything useful that goes on at a gaming table.

My suggestion may is probably a better suggestion since the players in question are exploring the environment pretty much from an actor or author stance, from the perspective of a character without any control over the environment as in director stance,  but without a character persent to be seeing things from.  I think this could use an explanation about what's going on here.  I suppose it could be seen as director stance, but it isn't director stance proper since no direct control over the environment is present and there is no character in the scene for the players in question.

I suppose a GM could play in this stance as well, but in traditional play the GM has direct control over the environment, the distiguishing feature of director stance.

As an interesting side note, the Pokemon Jr. RPG fro WotC uses this strange subset of director stance or audience stance, whichever we decide it is.  The GM is the parent while the children are the players.  But in play, the GM doesn't describe the scene, setting or characters present.  The GM asks the players to describe the scene.  This makes sense since the kids (players) probably know about Pokemon that the parent (GM) and having them describe the scene saves time.

Title: Audience
Post by: Laurel on October 18, 2001, 01:38:00 PM
Meta-game questions and comments are going to color the decisions and actions of other -players- including the GM, not characters directly.  I don't think of influencing other players through meta-game behavior as a stance, but people who used a broader definition of stance (to cover both in-game and meta-game) probably would.

So for me, while audience participation could influence what my choices while I'm in an author/pawn stance, its not a stance because those people aren't role-playing right then and there.  They aren't directly involved.

Although... I suppose that in a way that is a stance, but its a "meta-game only" stance.  Because what they'd be doing is (deliberately or otherwise) influencing the story by influencing the other players or the GM in the meta-game.  They have no direct influence over either the character (actor/author) or the setting (director) but what they say can still effect the game if it effects those who are role-playing.  Once a person gets directly involved in the game ("The room has yellow wallpaper"; "My character opens the door") they assume either an actor, author, or director  stance.

No, I'm going to stick with audience participation not being a stance unless stance can include indirect/non-RP involvement in the story.  It seems to me that's where the big division in defining a stance sames to lay.  Some people want stance to be only about how one role-plays; others want it to include meta-game participation.

Title: Audience
Post by: contracycle on October 19, 2001, 05:44:00 AM
Hmm.  I've always thought of stances as a description of human behaviour.  I suppose this is my familiarity with stance as a physical thing, something you "adopt" or "go into" into a tangible and material way (I'm thinking martial arts here).  Anyway, those are the echoes I get from the term.  This is why I like audience stance; it describes the player behaviour accurately, seems to me.  And in fact I think I adopt audience stance as the GM, from time to time: if the characters are having an in-character natter and all I have to do is hang about until they start doing stuff, I, even as GM, am in audience "stance".  As you can see, I have not hitherto thought of stance as having any realtionship to character.

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 19, 2001, 07:03:00 AM
Gareth and everyone,

One of the issues we run into a lot is that we cannot use definitions based on "what I first thought when I heard it," or "what it reminds me of," or "how it makes me feel." Definitions are constructed openly, not based on associations, and certainly not on multiple, individual associations. I am not claiming to be the dictionary for role-playing theory, and so definitions can come under debate - but we have to use standards that are stronger than that.

And then, we hit the other issue: words have pre-formed meanings and connotations. Those connotations force clarifications and continuing ambiguities in use. From "Actor" to "Gamist" to "story" to whatever, people see the word and a ton of apparently obvious or important meanings are invoked.

In combination, these issues can create real brick walls. ("Of COURSE that's what 'relationship map' means ... what, it doesn't? What?? No! That's not what I thought, it can't be right.") I'd rather they didn't, but they occasionally do. My training and inclinations lead me to favor the first over the second, if necessary.

In my classes, for example, "selection" confuses people, as they cannot imagine using the word without including a deliberate, planned selector who is picking and choosing. Well, that's too bad. We go back to the specialized definition, for purposes of the topic, and start over. The connotation inferred by the student simply has to be discarded.

Academic? Yes. The only path to rigorous understanding? Yes.

(Whoops - have to edit this in. Again, we are not in a student-teacher environment here, so it is the DEBATE over definitions, not the dictation of them, that is the task at hand.)


[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-19 12:15 ]

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 19, 2001, 08:19:00 AM

I agree with you about the Director Stance not being about a character's decisions & actions. My thought is that it is still ABOUT a character, namely the environment relative to that character's decisions and actions.

Is that wriggling out of an argument, rather than addressing it? Maybe ... but that view toward Director Stance isn't something I just made up, but what I've thought all along.

Now, all of this still awaits a solid inclusion of your work on Universalis, which is innovative in many ways, not the least in terms of what the hell a Stance would be. I think I have an answer, but since this is not yet really a public topic, I'll wait on that.

Vive la debate!


Title: Audience
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 19, 2001, 07:20:00 PM
Well, if I'm understanding this whole stance thing is it's describing a mode of behavior as well as a set of opitions presented to the people sitting at the table.

This Audience Stance discussion is about whether a phenomenom, or possible phenomenom is worth naming with a stance or not.

I dunno.  after all of this I'm willing to say no until it occurs enough to make it worthwhile.

Title: Audience
Post by: Ampersand on October 20, 2001, 12:32:00 PM
Valamir wrote: And if this violates some age old definition of Stance as developed in some 50 post thread back in 1999 in some other what.

This is a minor quibble, but actually, the original definition of "Narrative Stances" included audience as one of the stances.  The idea that audience isn't a stance is a later development.

Personally, I think it's important to acknowlege that audience is a stance - the degragation of the audience stance as "pass the cheetos" encourages bad role-playing.  It encourages players to, if their character(s) are not part of the current scene, to disengage and go get the Cheetos - or to feel that they're not engaged in roleplaying unless they've got the spotlight.  

Which is unfortunate, because both good authoring and good acting (I have quibbles with the way the "acting stance" has been redefined over the years, but that's another discussion)  are entirely dependant on good audiencing - which makes the audience stance, contrary to Ron, part of "in-game-influencing behaviors."

Authoring, of course, is dependant on audiencing.  If I think "well, Smendrick could climb those vines up the wall, or he could sit down and write another chapter of Buff Men in Bodices, and both decisions would be in character," my ability to decide which course Smendrick takes is dependant on my having been an active audience member - listening to the scenes I'm not in, recognizing plot developments and story themes, knowing what's enjoyable and what's not to my fellow audience players, asking questons to get information I need, and finally using all that audience information in making an authorial decision to move in one direction or the other.

Actor is also dependant on audience; I can't make Smendrick react to the world around him unless I'm aware of what's in that world, and maximum awareness depends on being a good audience.  If a scene I'm not in includes a minor background detail of boiling cabbages - a minor detail to the characters in that scene, but a major detail to a boiled-cabbage-lover like Smendrick - then when Smendrick later walks into the kitchen, my ability to act-in-character relies on my having been a good enough audience earlier in the game to know about the boiled cabbage.

(An extreme example from a real game: a dialog between two other characters I listened to, one of whom said "Yeah, I saw Murray [my character] drilling the grogs in the yard really hard this morning."  Well, I hadn't known that Murray had been conducting hard drills that morning, but it was useful information to have, both as an actor and as an author.)

Audiences also actively participate in the game by providing feedback.  We do this actively in the way other folks on this thread have suggested - "hey, excuse me, but is anything being cooked in the kitchen right now?"  The suggestion that this is just co-authoring or co-acting is a useful debating strategy, because it let's the audience-is-not-a-stance folks rescue their position; but it's degrading to the stances system, because it obscures how role-playing actually happens by mixing together two very different experiences.  

If I ask "what's on the stove" while playing a character, I'm asking this because it's something my character would naturally be interested in, or something that I think might affect my performance of the character or the direction the scene I'm in is moving.  I'm asking things, in other words, to improve my ability to be able to play the game in my current stances of actor and author.

If I ask "what's on the stove" while in the audience, I'm asking this because knowing the answer might imptove my experience as an audience member.  Perhaps by asking the question, I'm better able to visualize and enjoy the scene; or perhaps I'm trying to influence the scene to move in a direction I'd find more entertaining to watch.  In either case, the experience and motives of asking "what's on the stove" are very different from asking that same question from the author-stance, in a scene I'm acting and authoring in.

Conflating these two different things is, as I said, useful for logically upholding the "there is no audience stance" position; but it's damaging to any attempt to describe how role-playing actually happens.

Another way the audience provides feedback is through reactions.  If a player and a GM are doing a funny scene, and no one in the room seems even slightly amused, that's an audience participation which will affect the flow of the game (most likely, the people participating in the scene will bring it to a close in a hurry, or move it in another direction).  More positively, if a player is taking big chances as an actor - going places she might not normally dare with her performance - if she notices that the other players are in "rapt audience mode," that might give her the encouragement and courage she needs to continue taking chances.  That, also, is an "in-game-influencing behavior."

Anyway, viva la debate. :razz:


Title: Audience
Post by: Blake Hutchins on October 20, 2001, 12:59:00 PM
Interesting thread.  I started by somewhat blithely thinking, "Audience Stance? WTF?" but have since given it some thought based on my observations of gameplay and the discussion here.

If there is such a thing as Audience Stance, I'd be inclined to distinguish it from an offstage application of Director Stance.  Alternatively, we might refer to Active Audience Stance (exercises some Directorial power from the wings) and Passive Audience Stance (observes without influencing the scene).  I like the latter division a little better, since I associate Director Stance with character-centered metagame behavior.

The reason I came to this conclusion is as follows:  In my games, I encourage players whose characters are not currently involved in a scene to fill in details and create new elements of the scene, including insertion and playing of NPCs, addition of props, or expanded description of the setting.  This kind of participation strikes me as an exercise of Directorial power on the part of the off-stage players, or Active Audience Stance if you prefer.  It certainly can be as low-key as questioning the on-stage player in order to draw out details, but most often, the off-stage players just run with it.

On the other hand, I've witnessed scenes where the roleplaying and dramatic conflict is so damn good that everyone not involved falls into a non-intrusive audience mode.  I'd definitely call this Audience Stance.  Moreover, I've had times in a game where I or another player keep quiet and watch what's going on with another player and GM, in part because we want to follow what's going on, whether our characters know about it or not.

So I guess I'm convinced there are good reasons to support the existence of Audience Stance.  I'd be interested in further discussion, as well as an examination of whether any games make overt use of such a stance in their metagame rules.



[ This Message was edited by: Blake Hutchins on 2001-10-20 17:01 ]

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 20, 2001, 01:25:00 PM

Someone correct me if I'm mistaken about this.

It looks as if everyone is pretty much agreed that there ARE behaviors that are not, themselves, role-playing that are affecting the role-playing in the room positively. Blake and "&" (hello, welcome!) have described them well.

So the phenomenon itself is not the issue. What is?

It may be me, in being reluctant to call such things "Stance." I hasten to add that when they do directly impact play, they seem to me to shift instantly into plain old vanilla Director or Author Stance. Jack and Laurel, I think, are also looking at it this way.

After all the flyin'-around posts over several threads, I guess I need an orientor. Is the reluctance in the above paragraph the issue at stake? Or is it the existence of the phenomena? Or something else?


Title: Audience
Post by: Laurel on October 20, 2001, 02:33:00 PM
I'm with Ron's last post.  There seems to be consensus that audience participation can effect the game positively.  The disagreement seems to on definition of stance.  Three opinions being expressed seem to boil down to

1. stance= all forms of participation in a game.

2. stance= way a player determines their own character's action.

3. stance= how events in the game happen.

Without a definition for stance itself that everyone agrees upon, I think we're stuck in contention.

((correct me if I'm off base here))

Title: Audience
Post by: Blake Hutchins on October 20, 2001, 02:55:00 PM
Nope, that sums it up nicely, Laurel.  A closer look at the definition of "stance" itself is what will clear the logjam.



Title: Audience
Post by: Ampersand on October 20, 2001, 07:11:00 PM
Thanks for the welcome, Ron. :smile:

Ron wrote: It may be me, in being reluctant to call such things "Stance." I hasten to add that when they do directly impact play, they seem to me to shift instantly into plain old vanilla Director or Author Stance.[...]  Is the reluctance in the above paragraph the issue at stake?

Yes, that's the issue, but it may not be the sole issue.  Clearly, the definition of "stance" is at issue, and that's the main issue here.

But I'm a very disagreeable person :razz: , and I can therefore find other issues.  I'd also disagree with you (for the reasons mentioned in my long post earlier today) that "audience" is interchangable with director and/or author.

Laurel wrote: 1. stance= all forms of participation in a game.

Hmmn.  This is closest to my own view, I guess, but I'm not sure about it.  It seems to close to your concept of "role" - in  which case we'd have to add the bringing-snacks-for-the-group Stance, the arranging-babysitting-Stance, the locking-the-dog-in-the-back-room-so-her-whining-doesn't-bug-us Stance, and so forth.  All of which can be very valuable things, of course, but they're not essential parts of roleplaying - they're merely things we might do in support of roleplaying.

For me, I'd rather define it as Stance = The perspectives players (including the GM) shift through while viewing a game in progress.


Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 20, 2001, 07:35:00 PM
Hey Ampers,

I need to clarify a bit:
"I'd also disagree with you ... that "audience" is interchangable with director and/or author."

Hmmmm. I did not intend to imply or state that, so maybe we don't disagree. Let me try to say what I do mean correctly this time.

Audience-ing (whatever) is itself and only itself, until a moment when a person literally influences a character's action or the events/environment pertaining to a character. (I use "character" pretty loosely here, by the way; shall we say, active agent in the game-world.) At that moment, the audience-ing has stopped. It is not interchangeable with Director and/or Author, but rather has STOPPED and the more focused/Exploratory (literally role-playing) act has BEGUN.

What would the audience-ing include, then? To my current thinking, it would be any sort of attention given to the role-playing individuals by non-role-playing individuals. That means ANY sort - hanging out and simply listening, adding commentary (NOT color and input; that's Director stance), maybe bringing some drinks or otherwise encouraging a nice social scene, or anything like that. It could even be tossing a couple of jokes around - in some groups, including those I play with, jokes or other interactions are often a "layer" that accompanies the rather intense role-playing, serving as kind of social glue for the real people and actually enhancing the play experience.

The border between this and Author or Director stances is definitely fuzzy. One second, I may be saying, "Cool!" in reaction to and support of a friend's role-playing. The next, I might be saying, "Whoa - and that means the branch just curls out behind him, you know, we [meaning the audience] see it before he does!" with an accompanying branch-curling gesture. "Yeah," confirms the GM or someone else, "Like that." My current outlook suggests that my second statement, the branch-y one, becomes Director stance - all of a sudden, for that sentence, I'm out of Audience-ing and into role-playing again.

That's what I was muddingly attempting to say, at any rate.


P.S. I hope you don't mind my playing with your codename. I'm not making fun of you - it's just kind of a mental hobby or humor thing. Tell me to stop if you want me to.

Title: Audience
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 21, 2001, 07:30:00 PM

On 2001-10-20 23:11, Ampersand wrote:
Hmmn.  This is closest to my own view, I guess, but I'm not sure about it.  It seems to close to your concept of "role" - in  which case we'd have to add the bringing-snacks-for-the-group Stance, the arranging-babysitting-Stance, the locking-the-dog-in-the-back-room-so-her-whining-doesn't-bug-us Stance, and so forth.  All of which can be very valuable things, of course, but they're not essential parts of roleplaying - they're merely things we might do in support of roleplaying.

I don't think this particular arguement holds water.  Stance is about what happens at the game table while the game is in session.  These things are ongoing.  Once you've locked up the dog, you don't pay her any mind until the game is done  (you did remember to give her food and water, right?)

While I think I may se your point, these particular examples don't hold too much water IMO.

I said that about the water already, didn't I?

Title: Audience
Post by: contracycle on October 22, 2001, 06:54:00 AM
I don't think that just any RPG "support behaviour" constitutes Audience.  I don't think its just that attention is paid to the currently active players either; I think the key is that those "audiencers" are still participating in the RPG passively, are still probably (IMO anyway) maintaining SOD.  They are not just paying attention ot the game, the game is still the focus of their attention.  Maybe they could be thiinking about "what this tells me about about Bob", or are simply dumbstruck, as mentioned previously, by the stuff that is actually going on in which their characters are not present.  I have certainly seen/felt this from both GM and player sides.

And I also feel that this is quite different from merely milling about, cooking dinner, etc.  As a GM, if a player is "passive-but-involved" I certainly think of them as "the audience", in that they are taking information from the game.  If they are flinging cheetos at one another, they are not.  There are things that, as a GM, I might say or not say depending on who is likely to hear them; I feel that audience is an actual player stance, as the player still has that pyschological commitment to being in the game.

Ohm and nice cartoons, Ampersand.  In fact I was viewing a few on ZNet just a couple of weeks ago.

[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-22 10:57 ]

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 22, 2001, 07:02:00 AM

I'm afraid I don't see any difference between your statements about Audience stuff and mine, in terms of its substance. The difference seems to be that you want to call it a Stance, and I don't.

I'm beginning to think that this preference is awfully arbitrary - can ANYONE tell me WHY they "just like" calling these behaviors (which all of us agree exist) a Stance? In a non-circular form, please? Saying "because they are attentive to what's going on" is not a justification. We know they are attentive and supportive. But they are not directly determining any in-game events, which to me indicates that they are not in a literal condition of Exploration, which to me indicates they are not role-playing, but FACILITATING the role-playing on a social level. Thus they are not in a Stance.

That's my argument, which is consistent with the terms Exploration and role-playing as they appear in my essay. I have yet to hear anyone's argument beyond "well, I think it's a Stance" that is integrated with the Exploration issue or other terms in my essay.


Title: Audience
Post by: contracycle on October 23, 2001, 02:32:00 AM
Well, having just re-read your section on Exploration, I see nothing there which mandates an active behaviour.  It questions whether the participant is interested, concerned, and committed.  My argument is that many players are in just such a state when they happen to be "off camera"; their exploration is not suspended merely because they are not the immediately active agent.

Title: Audience
Post by: contracycle on October 23, 2001, 02:34:00 AM
And indeed, in the thread on directorial power, you say:


This is a very important point, because it permits taking a Stance EVEN WHEN ONE'S CHARACTER IS NOT PRESENT - you may take a Stance toward a character who IS present, hopping into co-pilot seat with the other player.

Now your emphasis here is on an active character again, but if you can be Driector towards an active character I don;t understand why you cannot be Audience to an active character, even if it is not your own.

Title: Audience
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2001, 06:04:00 AM
Hi Gareth,

Good call! Excellent point - the very same that bugged me for a while after posting my last message. Whether my solution is sense or sophistry, I'm not sure.

Here's how it goes.

Of course you can be Audience to an active character who is not yours - in fact, I'd say it's almost necessary to the whole concept.

What differs, to me, is that the Exploration which includes Stances is the CONTRIBUTION to what's going on in direct, imaginatively-additive way, in the group context. Please note that in my essay, I move very quickly from solitary Exploration to the group, communicative context. To me, Stances exist only within that context.

The Audience member, although his or her actions may be facilitative toward the role-playing going on, is not - by definition - directly adding to the imaginative situation. As soon as he or she does so, as I keep saying, the person enters a Stance.

One final point - in the essay, I say that I am "not convinced" that Audience Stance exists. I did not say, "No bleedin' Audience Stance! Ever!" or any such conclusive thing. So basically, you are seeing me in state of consideration, and so far, your last point is the ONLY thing that anyone has said that keeps me from coming to a negative conclusion.

Let me know what you think.