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Author Topic: Relationship map issues  (Read 17051 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: February 25, 2002, 12:35:21 PM »

Gentlemen, and Gordon in particular,

This post deals with concerns in two current threads, "Soul reviewed" and "Relating Sorcerer's Soul and Sorcerer & Sword."

Consider issues of baseline kinship and sexuality. Now consider them in the context of a larger society, which itself brings ties of obligation and reputation. Imagine those first ties being, at times, in concert with those second ties, and, at other times, in conflict with those second ties.

Therefore we are not talking about an either-or situation, but an embedded one. I say again, wearily, that my claim that the first set of ties are the "default" ones that most consistently capture people's attention, in no way is a claim that the second set of ties are not there.

Dramatic stories lacking explicit kinship/sex ties are quite possible. To no one's surprise, they occur in settings and situations in which those ties are unavailable except as memories: men isolated in conditions of war, for example.

Complexity is added within each category as well, in terms of "my uncle or my son?" or "which potential romantic partner is for me?" or "do I betray the cops whom I work for or these guys I've become friends with?" In other words, each category has many internal options and conflicts, as well as potential conflicts and confluences with the other category.

As you can see, this is a tremendously high-potential model for the decisions a human being is faced with, with absolutely no "right answer" in terms of standards. Stories, to my way of thinking, are means of working out the complexity for oneself.

I should also point out that this is a simplified model; there are actually two categories in each stated one above (making four total). Furthermore, the social categories are especially prone to internal conflicts and "customizing" to specific circumstances.

Gareth, if this outlook presents a conflict with what you would like people to be like, or to do, there's nothing I can do about that. I'm not inclined to address any model or outlook that you extrapolate from it (as distinct from the original), nor to address any "feelings" you bring to the discussion.

Gordon, one of the problems with your analysis and conundrum, from the start, is that you are attempting to address the issue internally rather than thinking in terms of utility of play. The question is not, "Do I feel this claim is right?" but rather, "Does this technique consistently produce more enjoyable role-playing of a particular kind?" In other words, it's not about you, but about the people around you and their interests.

Mike, your comments about Freudian views are not relevant. My approach to these issues is distinctly non-Freudian, which I'll be happy to explain over private email.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2002, 04:21:54 PM »

(I'd send this as a private msg to Ron, but it seems a few others might be interested, so, here I go . . . )

OK, *something* is just not connecting for me in this communication about the R-Map stuff, and I can't quite figure out what that is, or why it is.

Ron, while I think most of the essence of your post here is clear to me, you lost me in the specifics along the way . . . I'm with you on the two sets of ties, and that they can be in concert or conflict.  I understand that you are NOT saying the second set of ties is UNimportant - no either/or, NOT that the 2nd set isn't there.  But I also understand you to be saying that the 1st set (kinship and sexuality) are almost always a better FOCUS - "the second set of ties are only important when taken in the context of the first", to offer a
paraphrase of . . . heck, let me dig up the quote from another thread (not as a cherry-pick to "disagree" with you on, but beacuse it seems like the very heart of the issue that's got me concerned):
Quote
Therefore, yes, intent, organizational affiliation, and ideology are important for role-playing. I do not suggest that they be ignored or pushed aside or otherwise left out. But they gain their importance insofar as they reinforce or violate the lines of a relationship-map.

Intent, organizational affiliation, and ideology correspond with your larger society "obligation and reputation" in the post starting this thread, right?  These are "2nd ties", kinship and sexuality the "1st ties".  Right?  If so, I'm following you.  My issue/question may be right here, but . . . let me keep going a bit . . .

With "Complexity is added within each category as well", I've lost a bit what you mean by category . . . "1st set" and "2nd set" as 2 categories?  Kinship, Sex, Obligation, and Reputation as 4 categories?  If the latter . . . what happend to Intent, Organizational Affiliation, and Ideology?  I do understand that a complexity of internal and "other category" conflicts and confluences will result, in any case.

Quote
As you can see, this is a tremendously high-potential model for the decisions a human being is faced with, with absolutely no "right answer" in terms of standards. Stories, to my way of thinking, are means of working out the complexity for oneself.
I quote that bit just so that I can agree 100% and say that having a RPG be "like this" is what gets me excited about Narrativism.

Since I'm not EXACTLY clear on what constitutes "categories" ("1st set" and "2nd set" seem like the likely culprits now that I've been working up this response), I'm not sure what the two categories within the two categories might be - sounds interesting (e.g., feel free to amplify/clarify), but we should probably let that lie for the moment.

As far as utility of play . . . as I've said in a few posts, testimonials from those that have tried it encourage me to do the same.  I understand the distinction here, and I can't deny that it's *possible* I've got a theoretical problem that just isn't a practical issue.

But it is precisely in thinking about OTHERS in my group that my concerns arise - if we're playing a spy game, goddammit, they're going to want the game be about SPYING, not who's sleeping with who or who's related to who.  Who's sleeping with who or is realted to who are elements for them to use in pursuing their spy-agenda, as the spy-realted Premise is developed.  Sure, just because I build an R-Map about sex & kinship doesn't mean that the play is about that - but why would I "waste" time with a tool that doesn't help make available my intended Premise, and might in fact *hide* things that WILL make it available, and that are more likely to hook players that have bought into that Premise?

There are (if I'm understanding right) two categories in the model - why does one constitute the lines on an R-Map, and the other not?  If the claim is "because it'll hook the players better", I just don't buy that that will ALWAYS (or even mostly) be true (note: I *do* buy that it will sometimes, even often, be the case).  Just because Sex and Kinship are available in a story does not mean that a story is best served by "using"/focusing on them, or that a map of those Sex and Kinship relationships will best "help".

At least, I haven't seen why that would be so.

Gordon
(hoping this is all taken in the spirit of trying to *understand*, not as debate for its' own sake)
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2002, 05:58:43 PM »

Gordon --

My copy of Sorcerer's Soul only shipped today (if everything is working correctly at www.Sorcerer.com), so I won't comment on Ron?s definition of terms until I at least read the darned thing.

I will, however, briefly comment on potential problems with players -- specifically, let's say, in the Spy Game you mention. (And Ron, if I'm putting the wrong words in your mouth, I apolgize -- but again, I'm very excited about what I've ready so far, and it's all bouncing around my head.)

Let's say we open up an old issue of Dragon and read a story based on whatever the heck their spy game was called.  Will we find ties of family and sex?  At best, maybe, but only in ways that probably don?t impact on the thematic complexity of the story.  (The protagonist leaves the red head lying in bed before going off to save the world.  Whatever.)  Why?  Because this story is going to use set pieces of the genre to no better effect than to set the set pieces up.  There will be no exploration of larger issues.

Now, say, we open up a John LeCarre novel.  Are we going to find ties of family and sex? You betcha we are.  Because LeCarre's books are about the larger issues.  It, too, will be a spy story.  But the spy is activity that engages what it means to be a human being in the world of spying.  Smiley's wife is having an affair with some at the Circus.  It's a secret.  But it's not a secret.  How does that impact him as a man who lives as a man of secrets?  How does it impact him when he could choose to put this man into danger -- or not?

Throughout Sorcerer, and throughout this web sit, Ron's made it clear that he doesn't think "stories" that are a collection of genre set pieces are really Narrativist.  Which is what he's trying to build -- and trying to help us build.  For Ron, and for me, a story that puts people into horribly complicated relationships that complicate feeling and action are exactly the most fun.

Players who want a spy story that's about Spying are going to have a jolly time... But probably not in one of Ron's games.  That's a difference between Simulationist sessions and Narrativist -- in the first you can successfully go through the "motion' of building a "story" because all the surface stuff is there.  Ron is saying: "Go deeper.  There's a heartbeat underneath the trappings.  And here are some ways to make that  heartbeat heard clearly during play."

So.  If you have players who don?t need to know that the woman they?re turning for the CIA has a father who's already terrified of getting on the list of the secret police -- fine.  But for me, when that father flees when he realizes what's going on and puts the whole mission in jeopardy because the daughter won't cooperate, I don't know what the protagonists are going to do, but I know that how they handle the daughter and the father make the mission all that much more sensitive, emotional, and revealing about the characters *as they take action reflected through the Pemise.*

Will these ties work better than two guys who work at the office?  Maybe, maybe not depending on the group, I suppose.  And certain tales can be found that don't depend on these relationships. But I think you'll find that these tales also don't go that deep into matters the really explore a Premise.  (Not always, clearly. Exceptions can be found.)  But Ron seems to have really researched how stories are consctructed (and I have too) and I can tell you, as a writer, if you want to increase the stakes and get the audience more engaged, hook their characters up through blood and sex.  (It may not seem fair, it may not be nice, it may not be the way it should be, but there it is.)

(For the record, I find more and more any discussion of this sort without mention of a specific Premise to be meaningless.  Ron always assumes there's going to be a premise.  We could make the matter generic: Assume Appropriate Premise (AAP); but if find that only by choosing a real premise can useful examples be created, real problems solved.  The question that would need to be asked, working backwards, is: in a world where spies interact with people who don't have sexual and familial relationships impinging on them, what honest, worthwhile premise is possible?  Again, you could do it without these ties -- obviously -- but which choice will be richer, more complex and offering more meat during the course of the story?)
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2002, 09:39:36 PM »

Christopher,

Thanks for the long and well-considered response.  I find much value in your final paragraph (paraphrased, "further discussion may be meaningless without a specific Premise"), but I need to clarify one bit - just as Ron is not claiming affiliation/ideology are unimportant, I'm not claiming we should have "a world where spies interact with people who don't have sexual and familial relationships" - I'm questioning why, in a world that has both familial/sexual AND other relationships, we should make the familial/sexual links the CORE of our map.

In your example of the nervous father and the daughter being turned . . . my instinct would be to build a map around the fact that the daughter is "available" for turning, and that the father is terrified of the secret police.  Then I'd expand, perhaps with "why" information - is the daughter available because she's greedy (perhaps - and I'm making this up, I have no map-tool in mind that would provide this - a link to a "Greed" node on the map)?  Ideologically motivated (link to "Individual Freedom")?  Is the father terrified because of something he once did (link to "Secret Past")?  Simply because the secret police are brutal (link to "Personal Cowardice")?  Did he once see someone beaten to death (link to "Grounded Fear")?  I can see how all this can be tweaked to various Premises of a spy game, and brought to bear to hook players interested in Greed, Ideological Motivations, and the like.  The father/daughter relationship becomes a (possibly quite powerful and important) stressor on these Premise-associated "lines".  Put another way . . . someone wants the daughter to betray the double-agent attempting to recruit her, and thus stresses her "Political Ideologue" trait.  The fact that the "someone" is her *father* ups the ante, perhaps in a very effective way, but what REALLY matters (for purposes of story, Premise, and hooking players who are already interested in that particular kind of story and Premise) is the "Political Ideologue" issue.  Again, that's where my instinct leads me.

Ron seems to me to be saying my instinct is wrong - I should map the familial/sexual, and the rest of it will be stressors on those relationships.  He says this will be a better starting point, hook players more effectively, and provide superior exploration of Premise.  At the moment, I find this an Impossible Thing to Believe.

So . . . not NO family/sex, not just "two guys in the office."  My conundrum springs from "Why family/sex as the Overriding, Primary Focus?"  One main answer seems to be "remember, a map exists to hook the protagonists into a developing story.  Family/sex is a GREAT hook."  OK, got ya.  Really - I understand that.  I'm already thinking about the MANY ways I can use that bit of wisdom - and it is wisdom.  But, is it always (or even mostly) the very best way?  For me and my group, I can see SOME situations where the opposite is true - continually FOCUSING on the familial/sexual will become a dull and predictable gambit.  Of course, IGNORING it would have the same problem . . .

Heh.  I've gone on much longer than I intended too.  I'm diving into the deep end and developing a Sorcerer story centered around terrorism, and certainly the vague, ill-defined "map" (possibly entirely the wrong word) in my mind will use sex and family - in the manner I describe above, as stressors on the more "fundamental" links of chosen allegiance and committed actions.  That'll be where "the rubber hits the road" for me, though I look forward to other posts in this thread as folks feel they have something to add.

Gordon
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contracycle
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2002, 03:36:20 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Gareth, if this outlook presents a conflict with what you would like people to be like, or to do, there's nothing I can do about that. I'm not inclined to address any model or outlook that you extrapolate from it (as distinct from the original), nor to address any "feelings" you bring to the discussion.


What I "like" is wholly irrelevant; the claim, that sex/blood are the primary and overriding drivers in human experience or story is IME Not True.  In fact, as I have pointed out before, I think it is a silly thing to suggest; even a cursory reading of history should show this to be the case.

In fact I find it an odd claim in the light of your interest in the Thirty Years War; what better evidence could be given for the power of abstraction and ideology to motivate human beings?  One might suggest even further that these drivers are so powerful as to sever the normal bonds of sex/blood, and that the frequency with which this occurs should suggest that the sex/blood relationship is like gravity - omnipresent, but easily overcome by other forces.

I don't deny that these bonds are indeed universal, nor that stories can be constructed from them.  But I do think that it is ridiculous to claim that this is the primary venue of story, or that such stories are in some sense superior to those based on other concepts.
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contracycle
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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2002, 03:52:22 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik

problems solved.  The question that would need to be asked, working backwards, is: in a world where spies interact with people who don't have sexual and familial relationships impinging on them, what honest, worthwhile premise is possible?  Again,


This appears a ludicrous question to me; this is precisely the point at which the issue of relationship-based story stops being the expression of an opinion or perception but becomes a normative statement.  Why on earth would there be a difficulty discovering a premise?  None, unless one presupposes that premises are primarily about relationships.
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Valamir
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2002, 06:17:25 AM »

Quote
In fact I find it an odd claim in the light of your interest in the Thirty Years War; what better evidence could be given for the power of abstraction and ideology to motivate human beings? One might suggest even further that these drivers are so powerful as to sever the normal bonds of sex/blood, and that the frequency with which this occurs should suggest that the sex/blood relationship is like gravity - omnipresent, but easily overcome by other forces.



I'm finding it very difficult to ascertain exactly where people are missing the point.  

The point is NOT (once again for the zillionth time) that these abstract motivators are not present.  The point is NOT (once again for the zillionth time) that these motivators can not be strong, prevelent, and overwhelming.  The point is NOT (once again blah blah blah) that these abstract motivators can't be MORE powerful than ones of blood and sex.

The point IS that that if you cast these motivators into a setting you can get a good story.   But if you cast these motivators into a setting OVER A BACKDROP OF BLOOD AND SEX you can get a great story.

Whats more powerful from a story perspective:

A noble in the 30 years war is willing to betray his lord for power, or a noble in the 30 years war is willing to betray his FATHER for power.  

A noble is willing to kill a woman to keep her quiet.
A noble is willing to kill his DAUGHTER to keep her quiet

No one is saying that the former doesn't happen.  No one is saying that the former isn't actually more prevelent in reality than the latter.  What is being asked is which event in a story is going to reach out and grab you at a visceral level.
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greyorm
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2002, 06:35:13 AM »

This response is primarily intended for Gareth:

The reason that sex/blood/death relationships are primary are because they simply are.  Strip everything else away, and that's what you are left with.  Why?  Because we're flesh-meat-animals, plain and simple, and flesh-meat-animals are all about sex, blood and death.

You use the example of the Thirty Years War as a counter-point to this, stating that the Thirty Years War is a prime example of ideological motivations.  However, I'm betting that if you remove all the ideological frosting from the cake, you end up with a lot of very basic, primal motivations cleverly disguised by human intellect as being about something else.

Of course, your example also misses the point, which not that ideological motivators do not exist or do not influence humans, but that they do so on top of a web of sex/blood/death.

In short, no one fights because they believe in something...they fight for something because it ended up mattering to them on a personal, motivating level.  Simple belief, in and of itself, is not enough...there must be a driving urge behind that belief to cause it to become a motivation that is acted upon.

How is this so?  Look at any individuals life and you find a complex web of relationships underlying it.  They may not appear in the history books we all read and the events that are written down, but they're there, and they are the primary and shaping forces in any individual's life...they're also invisible to the general public and the pen of history.

Let us make an example: Thomas, the inventor, stays at his lab all night most days during the week, neglecting his son and wife for his inventions, which he loves and adores.

What's really going on?

Thomas hates his wife; he despises her constant naging and demands for attention and because he has spent so much time away from home, he has no idea how to interact with his son. His drive to invent and create are shaped and formed by this relationship...if he loved spending time with his wife, he wouldn't be at the lab and he wouldn't be as prolific as he is.

Another example: a young man goes off to war, to fight for his country.  Why?  Because he loves his country...actually, he's trying to escape from his parents, get away from home and strike out on his own to prove himself as an adult.
If he had no desire to prove himself as discrete from his parents, he never would have joined the army.

Do the characters ever need to realize any of this?  Nope.

Thus any example that might be referenced fails to support the contention that sex/blood/death are not primary fails to take into account that at the base of everyone's life exist these very primal, instinctual motivators, regardless of the events which are recorded for posterity.

Yes, so-and-so may have led the charge that broke the enemy's lines, but what so-and-so is doing out there in the first place, what their social-sexual relationships are, is where the person is.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2002, 07:11:11 AM »

Gordon,

And thank you for your thoughtful post in return.  Just so you know, I was responding specifically to this sentence in your original post:

"If we're playing a spy game, goddammit, they're going to want the game be about SPYING, not who's sleeping with who or who's related to who."

If I extrapolated this point beyond what you meant, I apologize.  But it seemed quite a strong statement, and at the crux of difference between normal Simulationist Gaming and Narrativist.

Gareth,

1) For the record, just so you don't feel alone and surrounded on this point, I don't think we're flesh-plant-animals.  For the record, I value emotions *and* ideas.  For the record, I reiterate what others have said, The R-Map doesn't denigrate ideas or the soul, it is simply a tool to add more tension to story, to bring out more interest and to highlight the dificulty off being alive as a person with ideas and a soul.  

2) For the record, I think Valamir nailed it.  You may have alredy dismissed his reply, but I'd take one more look after taking in some deep breaths.

3) For the record, please submit the great spy novel/play/short/story/movie with a strong Premise that *doesn't* have stressors on family and sex among the characters.

4) For the record, when you make statements like "cursory reading of history" or, in the other thread on this subject, refer to stories that use relationships of family and sex to heighten all the other aspects of the story as "not as satsifying" as other kinds of stories, I really am stuck, and can only reply:

Sophicles, Euripedes, Ovid, Homer, Beowulf, the Mabinogion, Thomas Mallory, Moliere, Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Milton, William Blake, G.B. Shaw, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, George Elliot, Mary Shelly, Victor Hugo, Proust, Thomas Mann, Hemingway, James Joyce, John Le Carre, Grahm Green, Sam Sheppard, Phillip Pullman, Anne Tyler, Angela Carter, John Crowley,  Johathan Franzen -- off the top of my head.

*No one here is saying the R-Map is the primary aspect of any session.* Nor would I say the works and authors above make family and sex the key to the works -- but by God, family and sex is all over those works, strengthening whatever else is going on in the story.  To miss that is to only be able to argue that by mentioning this, I'm claiming these stories are only about family and sex, which would be strange, since I clearly pointed out in the previous sentence that's exactly what I'm not doing.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2002, 07:30:39 AM »

Hi Gordon,

PART ONE
I evidently tangled you up a bit with the "complexity" issue, so let me clarify that.

[Interesting: I drafted about 70% of a small Sorcerer supplement called "Paragon" exactly about these issues in December. Other things came up since then, but clearly I should have stuck with it.]

Think in terms of concentric circles, like a dartboard. The innermost circle is one's own well-being, one's romantic/sexual contacts and commitments, and one's children. The circle right outside that is one's kin: siblings, cousins, parents, etc. These together are "category 1."

Note that conflicts may occur entirely within either zone, e.g., my uncle vs. brother, or my life vs. my child's. They may also occur between zones, e.g., my marriage vs. what my family thinks of my spouse.

Now draw two more outer circles, which together make "category 2." By and large, you may consider a single tie in this category to be weaker than a single tie in category one, although the cumulative effect of many ties and extraordinary circumstances for a given tie can override this trend.

The next circle out concerns reciprocity - doing stuff in ways that tend to rebound on oneself favorably, along socially-acknowledged modes. Things like political alliances (or identity if you want to call it that), ethnic membership, religious institutions, social action groups, terrorist organizations, whatever. Both oppression and activism vs. oppression fall into this zone.

Finally, the other, outermost circle of category 2 concerns any interactions with those one does not know or does not perceive oneself to know (this is an important concept; we often think we know people we don't, like one's "countrymen" in the abstract, and treat them as if they were in the previous zone). Actions concerning ties of this sort (if they may be called ties at all) include "good Samaritan" actions and, conversely, "Unabomber" actions.  

All of these categories exist. Consider the following:

1) The pound-for-pound strength of these ties, in a default sense, are stronger the more inward you go. Note that if this is not the case for a person, it is indeed the case in terms of others' judgments of that person.

2) Actions may be taken that reinforce ties in more than one zone at once, such that one helps one's kin and the community simultaneously. The sense of "justification" regarding these actions is extraordinarily powerful.

3) (related to above) Note that most "self-sacrificing" activities correspond to combinations of powerful ties at the social-alliance zone in concert with ties in category 1 (the two innermost zones).

4) Deception of others regarding both ties/relationships as well as past actions is exceptionally effective, as it tends to result in non-deceptive reciprocation by others in the social-alliance zone. It is also risky - discovered deception engenders massive resentment, and at that socially-allied level, angry humans are a fearsome opponent.

5) Morality per se (in the strictly descriptive sense, with no reference to the Absolute) originates from the constant juggling and re-combining of effort among these zones of relationship. Since no one particular zone is "the good one," and since conflicts among them arise constantly, humans are very attentive, very confused, and very negotiatory creatures.

6) Stories which address these kinds of conflicts (as opposed to simple ones like "will this girl get that guy" or "oh no, flee the predatory monster") are, by definition, dramatic. That's what drama is.

PART TWO
You legitimately ask "why," which applies to my point #1 above. The answer concerns issues that almost nobody is well-informed enough to address without some serious pedagogical preparation. Suffice to say that I am working from extremely hard-core principles of biology, cognition, literature, and sociology in confluence. (See the reference list below.) I will follow up on this privately if you desire.  

Furthermore, since the precise construction of these issues, and its application to narrative, are my own professional work rather than some textbook, recognize that I cannot be accused of dogmatism (i.e. following "the word" from on high). Discussion of these matters therefore must be strictly in the form of discourse, not what one feels to be true. I place strict limits on whom I enter into this discourse with, as (bluntly) it is not worth my time to do otherwise.

Finally, the "four zones" model above is *not* the entirety of the human being. Imagination, language (a sub-set of cognition), and religiosity - and most importantly, the definition and role of development - should be acknowledged as related topics.

Best,
Ron

P.S. I should point out that you have just received information worth several hundred dollars of consulting fees. Yes, people pay me to work this stuff out for them, regarding specific stories and scripts.

P.P.S. References include The Biology of Moral Systems by Richard Alexander, The Biological Roots of Human Nature by Timothy Goldsmith, The Origin of Virtue by Matt Ridley, The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker, Introduction to Comparative Cognition by Herbert Roitblat, and The Human Animal by Weston La Barre. Combine these readings with Mystifying Movies by Noel Carroll, Men Women and Chainsaws by C. Clover, The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, and Sayles on Sayles. Also see Mythologies by Roland Barthes, and Subculture: the Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdidge.

P.P.P.S. My views and thoughts on this matter are distinctly opposed to those of (a) Laura Mulvey and Christian Metz, whose writings I consider to be unmitigated bullshit; (b) "science studies," ditto; and (c) the Frankfurt school of ideological criticism, which is nonetheless good reading, e.g. Mark Crispin Miller's Seeing Through Movies for a basic/intro view.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2002, 08:10:15 AM »

Ron,

That was a fantastic post.

Paul
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« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2002, 08:35:17 AM »

Quote from: greyorm

not that ideological motivators do not exist or do not influence humans, but that they do so on top of a web of sex/blood/death.


Perhaps it was from Raven that I got the idea that it was based on Freudianism. I do see the layering idea as being somewhat different, but the moving of these motivations to absolute pre-eminence has similarities to Freud's basic ideas that all motivations come back to these three (BTW, taken out of context, the above statement is less Freudian than the post as a whole). Anyhow, perhaps Ron and Raven don't precisely agree on this?

On to Ralph's take. First to quell Chris I will put my Bridge on the River Kwai concept into Premise form. "Is Honor more important than Victory?"  Now, going into the game with that idea, to take Ralph's idea I suppose that the game would be better if I somehow managed to bring the Camp Commandant's wife into the game or one of his offspring. Or his mistress. Or somehow to have the Brittish POWs have their loved ones involved.

I wonder why David Lean didn't think of that when he filmed the movie?

To repeat the question, what do I do in this case?

Quote
Dramatic stories lacking explicit kinship/sex ties are quite possible. To no one's surprise, they occur in settings and situations in which those ties are unavailable except as memories: men isolated in conditions of war, for example.

So, Ron, do you propose that I still make a sex/blood map and refer to those memories for guidance during play? This is going to be of more importance than the ideological relationships between the characters?

Or have I missed something? Are there limited cases where other types of maps might be more efficacious, and your claim is just to the majority of situations?

Mike
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« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2002, 09:20:59 AM »

Hi Mike,

I think a careful reading of my above post (the circles) will help with your conundrum.

Place a group of people into a situation in which the "inner circles" are not immediately relevant. Their concerns will necessarily concern relationships, decisions, and actions concerning the outer ones - usually the "social alliances" circle, e.g. national identity, sides in a military conflict, small-group cooperative concerns (e.g. men of different nations in a POW camp).

Two sources of conflict emerge. The first is (a) "official" social alliances like one's designated army or country of origin, against (b) "unofficial" ones like being victimized in the same, oppressive situation together. This is a powerful issue, especially when #1 becomes more and more abstract. I call attention to the documented instance of WWI soldiers calling an unofficial cease-fire across the trenches on Christmas Day, and joining their foes for a few hours of peace to celebrate the holiday. Conversely, note that #1 may be prevented from becoming too abstract by constant reminding of the inner-circle associations of "official" alliances. (I'm fighting for my country and my family, and I have this picture of my wife tucked in my pocket to remind me.)

The second source of conflict is the immediate demands of the innermost circle (e.g. survival in the moment) against the demands of any social alliances, of whatever sort (i.e. those defined above). This is the whole "traitor," "which side matters," issue.

Both of these issues in concert give rise to your "Honor vs. Victory" Premise. Both of them take strength from somewhat abstract associations with the inner two circles, and they take center-stage in a story when those inner circles cannot be directly acted upon due to circumstances.

Best,
Ron
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« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2002, 10:02:48 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

On to Ralph's take. First to quell Chris I will put my Bridge on the River Kwai concept into Premise form. "Is Honor more important than Victory?"  Now, going into the game with that idea, to take Ralph's idea I suppose that the game would be better if I somehow managed to bring the Camp Commandant's wife into the game or one of his offspring. Or his mistress. Or somehow to have the Brittish POWs have their loved ones involved.

I wonder why David Lean didn't think of that when he filmed the movie?

To repeat the question, what do I do in this case?


Mike,

I think this falls pretty clearly into the case Ron mentioned when the objects of those ties are not immediately present (e.g. war).  I see a couple of possibilities here.

First, I don't think that this situation is one where the relationship map is a good tool to use.  You identified the theme yourself as being victory vs. honor.  The blood/sex ties are off camera, and this theme only plays on it to the extent that our characters are obviously concerned about what these related parties might think about them.

To make the story worth the telling, we need to have our main character(s) change from one moral state to another.  So we first set up situations which establish their current values. Establish some back story first, for both the character and the situation. You can use the kicker to handle at least some of this, although obviously there's also backstory for your situation.  

Put the character in a situation which will establish their current moral state.  The test here should provide the opportunity to demonstrate their current values and what undesirable outcomes those lead to.

Depending on the nature of your story, you may need to spend some time building to a situation which challenges the character's world-view. The consequences of their current moral state must be sufficiently unacceptable that they are determined to change.

Now present the character with a situation where the consequences are even bigger.  They can continue on their current course and their reward will be great, but the negative consequences will be magnified even more.  Maybe the consequences are that they loose the respect of their men, that a friend will die, that unknown innocents will suffer.  It doesn't really matter, the character must merely be pushed to the point where a change is necessary to reconcile their actions to their own self image.

In summary, just because relationship maps are great tools, don't automatically assume that they're the only tool we should use.  My circular saw is a great tool, but I don't use it when I'm re-wiring the basement. Likewise, when I'm telling a story where the important conflict is internal, I probably don't need a tool designed for supporting external conflicts.
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« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2002, 10:03:20 AM »

Just to be clear, here. In my theoretical game you would still map out a relationship map for the purpose of "punching up" the power of the characters' actions?

See, this seems weird. I know it's possibly a fallacious idea, but the way I see it, the best execution for the "Bridge" scenario would be for the GM to portray the characters much as they were portrayed in the film (modified of course by the player interaction). Anyhow, not once anywhere in the film does any character ever once refer to any family. At least not that I can remember, which is the important part (And I've seen the film at least ten times). In fact, I'd hazard that it was sort of important to display the British as not whimpering about so-and-so being a family man. The concept of honor here forbids such activity. Stiff upper lip, you know.

Before anyone jumps on it, the one excetion from the film is William Holden's character, but he would be a PC and not on the map, and his relationship with the nurse is a complete throwaway. Even in Alec Guinesses meanderings about how the bridge might make them remembered for years to come, I don't believe that he ever mentions family or anything.

So, while a relationship map might make the situation more potent for me, the GM, how will it have any effect on the players who will never see any indication of the map. At least not if I'm doing the movie as Lean did. Survival? Are you saying that I can only portray the urge for survival if I as the GM know that the character has some family? The players will not know. In the film the Commandant threatens to gun down all the brittish officers if they do not work, but, despite not knowing if they have relations, you still feel for them. They may assume there are relations, but then if they can do that then why the need for the map in this circumstance?  

Is it a difference in the media (film vs. RPGs)? Or would you claim that Lean's version of the story was not well portrayed (would have been improved by imserting family or lovers somehow)? Or again am I missing another option?

Mike
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