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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Tony's Standard Rant #2: Disagreement != Dysfunction  (Read 11199 times)
Bill Cook
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Posts: 501


« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2005, 12:08:38 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
So, to energize and engage your fellow players you sometimes need to make them not have fun. Take something they really like, and squash it. Oppose a goal they were really hoping for, and prevent them from achieving it.


Meaningful adversity in the context of investing material is vital. One pitfall is to pile on adversity blindly without having established what play is about. This can even be a subconscious expression of frustration with the inability to make that determination.

Also, there's the issue of style. There are certain flavors of adversity that offend sensibilities. Pick any game. There is generally a handful of nuances that are, technically, adverse. But it would just be in bad taste to play them.

There is a base layer to rise above. Above that, you pommel full on, or you're a ninny.

Quote from: TonyLB
If you have a system that lets you decide "I win, you lose, I get my way and you don't" without rancor then that is better than consensus.


It's valuable to have a clear reference point. (1) Argument that doesn't lead to agreement and (2) unwarranted re-opening of settled issues are both divisive. Rancor need not be so feared that argument is avoided. In any case, all you have from one moment to the next is a meeting of minds. Right or wrong, what you agree to is the game you're actually playing.

Quote from: Jasper
If my fun in RPing is ruined just because I don't get what I want, then it's me who has the problem ..


I have a quibble with 'getting what you want.' There needs to be agreement about what's at risk. And consent to establishing conditions. To me, it's okay that 'you might not make it' or 'things might not go according to plan,' but where 'not getting what you want' becomes code for 'no one likes a whiner' in the context of veering outside the channel of investing material, then game-stopping dissent is very appropriate.
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Jasper
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« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2005, 07:14:34 AM »

Bill, that's pretty much what I meant. My point was merely that a player needn't have every desire about how things go satisfied in order to have fun; that the two are not synonymous. Which is of course obvious.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
TonyLB
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« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2005, 08:47:32 AM »

Bill, what's "investing material"?  I tried the Glossary, and tried searching past threads... though you've used the term before, I can't find any place where it's actually defined.
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Bill Cook
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« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2005, 01:50:12 PM »

I guess investing material is what a player calls fun. When you're talking about simulated realities, it's easy to put the whole kitchen in the pot. Picking a genre or world concept can provide vision for play. Control settings, area of  focus and particular technicalties can further refine the type of world and middleground of play material. Statements of character concept are great aids in explicating themes and treatment that players care about. And the final proof is in the play. The GM fills requests, they give tells, and you know you've got 'em.

One of my players is really good about making clear what he wants to do in play. I give him what he asks for and he gives every indication of really enjoying it. When he fails in his attempts, as long as I dropped him in the right arena, though he may express frustration, it's clear that he is still satisfied to have taken an appropriate opportunity. However, this same player has very little tolerance for being caromed into tangential lines. Oh my god, the bitching and moaning.

Another player of mine is an utter mystery. He evaporates in the limelight. Getting authorial type input out of him is like digging for a lung fish. (His greatest strength is as a multiplier of related narrative threads.) I typically have to make multiple suggestions and quietly wait through long pauses before he gives answer. So he's hard to prime, and all his character handling is close to the vest, but he's a lot more agile and unassuming about where he gets dropped.

And those are just two examples! Players are so individual. I agree with you that spoiler and turtle types are pretty dysfunctional. My essential point is that negative feedback about the direction of play is a vital conduit. Such exchanges can do as much to promote group health as to destroy it.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2005, 07:21:32 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Callan:  Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what I meant.  I can earn the credibility to blow up your half-finished castle by beating you out at a fair contest.  And I will, if you don't stop me.  I appreciate the technique of giving people lots of rope, but I don't think it's what I'm talking about here.

Okay. Normally about now I try to give several arguements from different angles, but from what you say, I think (from previous experience) that's not what you want me to get into here.

On the chess example, though, I can think of where it almost becomes true griefing depending on interpersonal dynamics. I'm reminded of a recent RPG.net post, where the poster was sick to death of magic blue decks. Apparently all they do is deny the other player their cards. Now, that could make the other player unhappy in a way that they have to expand their repotoire (sp?) to be happy again. Or it could just shit them to tears over and over. I think there definately is a point where someones prefered provocation style just doesn't mesh with another persons. It's still not griefing at that point either, I think. I think it's greifing when the player initiating it, knows the other person just doesn't match up with that provocation style, and is initiating it for that very reason.

For anyone else: Fair contest == giving rope, IMO. Tony's castle example has plenty of rope "C'mon, you've got a chance at this...give beating this a go!". The listeners own pride or sense of self ability, provokes them to take up the rope. I mean, the idea of something being 'fair' is one of the most beguiling words in the world. It doesn't force someone to take on the challenge, it instead draws them like a moth to the flame. If the castle explodes/the get burnt, its something they did to themselves. It's very hard for an honest person not to give that credibility, no matter how debilitating (especially since its 'just a game' so being whipped in it atleast doesn't hurt your real world interests).

Edit: Actually, Just thinking about it: I don't think your 'earning' crediblity, as is usually stressed in the lumpley principle. This isn't about the castle owner giving you, the exploder, credibility for anything you did. This is actually about manouvering the castle owner to not treat this as your action, but adopt this as his own action. Once its him doing this to himself, he can't help but give his own actions crediblity. This uses the same behavioural principle various posters have seen, where a player will gleefully hose their own PC in ways no other player could do to them. Now, if you get a player to adopt the castle bomb as their own action, they will happily hose themselves. But they are granting cred to their own SIS actions, not yours. Thoughts?
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
contracycle
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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2005, 02:18:35 AM »

Well  reading this, it seems to me that the initial argument was to say that sometimes behaviour may be identified as grieferdom when in fact they are just incompatible modes of competition, like the blue deck example.

Another example might be the serve ace in tennis.  One player may prefer this style of play, and be weak in the rallies, while another tries to break the serve and then dominates the rallies.  Whichever player manages to dominate the game with their style is necessarily going to crampe the style of another.

And this may be so profound that it feels deprotagonising.  Kinda like the sniper character who never gets the opportunity to snipe becuase the other players tend not to go for that kind of ranged engagement.  But in these cases, accusing one another of just trying to spoil the game may be substantially less useful than discussing our modes of preferred play.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2005, 05:02:01 AM »

Contra:  I don't think your two examples are about the same thing.  Which may, in fact, be what you're trying to convey ("compatible vs. incompatible modes of competition").

In the tennis game, aces and rallying are deliberate.  Each player knows that they're opposing what the other player wants.  And that's good, because the contest is fair and both sides have a chance at what they want.    You wouldn't discuss preferred modes of play in that example, would you?  Or, if you did, you wouldn't expect any resolution:  "Dude, I hate it when I make a really nice serve, and you smack it right back in my face."  "Yeah, I know.  I rock!"

In the sniper example, however, you seem to be talking about a wholly different situation.  The opposition isn't deliberate (I suspect) and the contest isn't fair (if the sniper can't effectively fight in-game to change the preferred mode of engagement).  In that case, yes, it makes sense to discuss preferred modes of play.  But that's because it's an entirely different issue, right?

Say, on the other hand, you return my ace in tennis, and I say "We need to talk.  I prefer it when my aces go unreturned.  Let's discuss what we can do in this game in order to both get what we want."  That's not productive, is it?  I mean, of course I prefer that my aces dominate you.  It goes without saying.  It also goes without saying that you won't consent to that.  It's rude (if not crazy) of me to imply that you should.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #22 on: May 30, 2005, 05:51:51 PM »

There seems to be a bit of a difficulty in terminology here, between cramping someones style, and pushing someone outside their comfort zone.

It's difficult, because they are both the same thing, but were trying to seperate them.

I can only think of a dating analogy, where two people go out on a date, but find too much friction between each others preferered lifestyles. But in another couple, the friction is actually attractive, each bringing out of the other something they couldn't have brought out of themselves.

I think the prob here is the old geek falacy of having to play with everyone. That everyone should be able to play with everyone, in beutiful harmony. Which doesn't allow for people just not being compatable, like the dating analogy does.

And on a side point, I'd like to extend that dating anlogy, to the couple who are just so similar there is no spark between them. So they go their separate ways. I compare this to the harmoginised play group, who have worked so hard to iron out differences, they just don't seem to find the time to play anymore. And why would you, when your so harmoginised you know how the session will go without actually going?
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #23 on: May 31, 2005, 08:40:15 AM »

About the reference to a "blue deck" in Magic - what that kind of deck does is to attempt to cancel everything the opponent does.  Not to undo it or to work around it but to cancel it before it happens at all.  "I summon a monster."  "Counterspell.  It doesn't happen."  And both cards get thrown in the discard.

What Tony's describing isn't that kind of thing.  "There's a bomb in your castle, but you might be able to defuse it" is inspiring action, not negating it, whereas the classic griefer behaviour is all about preventing people taking action.  Likewise, in the tennis example, saying "I'll try to return all of your aces" doesn't stop you serving aces.  

It's the line between making action interesting and preventing it - the same line that Story Now gets stuck on in some game sessions..
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Madeline
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Posts: 11


« Reply #24 on: May 31, 2005, 09:16:00 AM »

Having been in a game where I was constantly running into stuff like "We need to talk. I prefer it when my glorious NPCs go unchallenged," I'm loathe to encourage ideas like "you're not to look out for the fun of your fellow gamers."  Sydney had a good explanation of how screwing with other players can increase their fun by increasing intensity, but I'm curious how you'll know when you're going over the line.

For instance, you talk about fair contests.  Would you apply any limits to the usage of "threaten the player's fun" when it's coming from a player who has far more power over the gameworld, like (in many games) the GM?  How do you avoid things like, "Ok, I summon up some goblin-spiders to find the bomb in my castle."  "They're not good enough at searching.  BOOM!"
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Bill Cook
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« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2005, 09:53:45 AM »

I call that the Right of Attempt. I see the line being drawn in the setup for a scene. As long as the SC allows putting the castle at risk, assuming the player even cares about it, starting out with a bomb ticking away sounds good. Starting out with a bomb blowing up is just injurious.

Another critical caveat: whatever the players do, it must be possible for them to progress or succeed.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2005, 12:05:43 PM »

Madeline:  Good question.  It must be possible for the GM to try their hardest and still lose.  If you don't have that then the moment the GM sincerely throws everything against a player, that player is doomed.

So, yeah, let that settle in for a moment:  You're the GM, and you lose.  Not that you let the players win, but that you did everything you were permitted to do and they won anyway.

There are games that do this:  PrimeTime Adventures and Dogs in the Vineyard do it with a GM by limiting his resources.  Capes and Universalis do it by putting all players on a level footing.

Alternatively, many GMs wilfully drift the rules of other systems by playing within self-imposed restraints... like "I'll run a specific published module, and I won't change the number of enemies half-way through the session."  You're no longer playing (say) D&D at that point, but you may be playing a close cousin that gives you what you need in order to sincerely attack the players without overpowering them.

So there's my answer.  Would I apply limits to what the GM can do?  Well, I'd make sure I was playing in a game system where the players had a fair chance of trouncing the GM's full power.  If that means I need to apply limits as part of drifting a pre-packaged rule system to something else, then yeah I'll apply limits.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #27 on: May 31, 2005, 12:14:41 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
You're no longer playing (say) D&D at that point....


Actually, isn't the idea of the "referee" (which evolves to DM which evolves to GM) running a scenario (=> "module" => "adventure"), with strictly defined resources and limited response options for "the enemy" (=> "monsters" => "NPCs") one of the foundational ideas of the hobby, dating right back to those infamous "wargaming roots"? And wargames are all about giving the other guy as much grief as you can within the rules.

I don't know the hobby history well enough to do more than speculate here (comments from those who know it are more than welcome, although maybe history should be its own thread). But it seems as if the whole idea of "the gamemaster is not an adversary but the impartial god of the gameworld, the players aren't competing but rather cooperating, and there's no winning or losing" are all second-generation ideas grafted onto the original wargame-influenced RPGs -- grafted rather awkwardly, at that, with all sorts of unpleasant consequences that, what, twenty years later Tony still has to debunk them.
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Adam Cerling
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WhiteRat


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« Reply #28 on: May 31, 2005, 01:26:26 PM »

Tony,

Is there any aspect of another's fun that is inviolate? Anything you will not threaten? There are times I can think of when something valuable to me was threatened and I had fun defending it, but there are also times I can think of when something I valued was threatened and I had no fun (not even in the big picture) because losing would destroy something fundamental to my enjoyment.

An example of this second situation: in a Werewolf LARP once, my PC made a mistake while trying to solve a puzzle involving ancient relics, and the power he unleashed stripped away his werewolf nature. He became an ordinary wolf, whose werewolf intellect was gradually returning to that of an ordinary wolf, and before his intellect was gone he needed to figure out how to undo the damage he'd done.

I did not find this fun, because failing in the task would not only destroy something I valued, but also would result in a PC I wasn't interested in playing any longer. I wanted to play a werewolf, not a wolf. Furthermore, solving the problem didn't address any premise that interested me. It was just an obstacle I had to clear before I could get to stuff I actually cared about.

I did get my PC's werewolf nature back in the end, but victory did not somehow transmute the episode into fun. Mostly I just wish I hadn't had to deal with it.

Your rant, Tony, brings to mind friends who uphold the risk of character death as necessary for fun. My sympathies for that position is similarly limited. I don't much enjoy Step On Up.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
TonyLB
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« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2005, 02:25:05 PM »

Quote from: WhiteRat
Is there any aspect of another's fun that is inviolate? Anything you will not threaten?

I don't know... what is this mythical "Thing so terrible I could never have fun again if it happened" of which you speak?  Maybe if I believed in the existence of that then I might shy away from threatening it.  Short of that?  No.  Everything's fair game.

FYI, I've done the "turned into a mindless bunny" thing, in LARP no less.  You missed out on a terrific, fun, memorable opportunity there.
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