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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Brain damage  (Read 123644 times)
xenopulse
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Heretic Forgite


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« Reply #90 on: February 14, 2006, 05:00:26 PM »

Thanks for sharing, Gregor. That's really a useful example.

Now, Ron has commented on Chris' blog that Chris was talking about the same stuff, in his own words. And here, thanks to an example, we can see the connection. The following is Chris' Fun Now Manifesto:

1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It's a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don't endure them

Now look at Gregor's example and count the number of things that went wrong. It seems to me that numbers 4 and 6 were particularly violated, but several of the others seem to have been issues as well.

How much of that is due to the Storyteller system of Vampire? I'd say quite a bit. A system that encourages the GM to railroad players in the name of "story" already promotes violation of points 4 and 6.
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JonasB
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« Reply #91 on: February 14, 2006, 11:31:43 PM »

A system that encourages the GM to railroad players in the name of "story"... 

Does it? Please give me some quotes as I do not own any of the Masquerade books. Even better some quotes from the new Requiem books as I get the impression that WW games is till seen as being damaging.
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url=http://unrealitiesofmine.blogspot.com/]Unrealities of Mine[/urlUnrealities of Mine
John Kim
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« Reply #92 on: February 15, 2006, 12:36:59 AM »

Here is a page that dates from 1999 about a Vampire game run by my good friend Barry, though the game strained our relationship somewhat -- indeed that improved measurably when we stopped gaming together as much. I found these e-mails again years later and put them online as a reminder of where we had gone. A reminder not to go back.

Interesting reading.  The part that struck me most was that there was "not one humble NPC in the entire game".  And in general, NPCs being often all-powerful and all-knowing, as well as united.  That seems to me to be an very common trait with dysfunctional games that I've seen. 

How do you match the specific markers that were described, though?  Did you find yourselves unable to appreciate or analyze story?  From the emails, it seems that that you were willing to discuss actual play.  Or were these the rare exception?  Did you make consistent impulsive and submissive purchasing habits at specific stores? 

General traits like "Vampire sucks" aren't very useful -- I'd like to know the details. 
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- John
joshua neff
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« Reply #93 on: February 15, 2006, 04:33:06 AM »

A system that encourages the GM to railroad players in the name of "story"... 

Does it? Please give me some quotes as I do not own any of the Masquerade books. Even better some quotes from the new Requiem books as I get the impression that WW games is till seen as being damaging.

Well, I sold all of my White Wolf books, so I can't provide you with some direct quotes. Nor, really, do I think anyone needs to. I read the books, played the games, and you can either trust us that the games do, in fact, textually direct the GM to "create a story" (including coming up with theme, mood, a title) for the players to be directed through or you can not believe us. Since this isn't "The JonasB Show," no one is under any obligation to prove squat to you, though, so demanding quotes from the text is absurd. Go find some copies of the game yourself and read them.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
JonasB
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« Reply #94 on: February 15, 2006, 05:27:37 AM »

Calm down, I didn't demand anything, just asking in what I percieved to be a polite way. English is not my native language so it may very well have sounded different than I intended. But I still find it weird that you expect me myself to find textual support for someone elses claim. Thats not how it uses to be...

I guess this is just not the forum for me then...
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url=http://unrealitiesofmine.blogspot.com/]Unrealities of Mine[/urlUnrealities of Mine
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #95 on: February 15, 2006, 06:29:53 AM »

I don't accept your claim to the intellectual high ground, Jonas. You entered the discussion with a wave of condemnation - of the "worst crap you've ever read," in fact.

You also seem to be under the impression that convincing you otherwise is a priority of mine, or anyone else's. It's not.

Best,
Ron
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JonasB
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« Reply #96 on: February 15, 2006, 07:16:58 AM »

I do admit that I was entering with condemnation, and not polite in any way at all.  That may even be considerad very bad of me but it was a reaction to the condemnation of certain types of play in your initial post.

That fact do not mean that I "demanded" anything.

But let it stop here. That is fine for me.
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url=http://unrealitiesofmine.blogspot.com/]Unrealities of Mine[/urlUnrealities of Mine
Supplanter
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« Reply #97 on: February 15, 2006, 07:19:14 AM »

After my initial disappointment, I eventually realized that Ron was right to close the theory threads and insist that all discussion be grounded in Actual Play. This thread is, IMHO, only confirming the wisdom of that decision. Aside from the nascent exchange between John Kim and Gregor Hutton about Gregor's old game, this whole thread is taking place in a realm of airy, unproductive generalities.

Best,


Jim
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Unqualified Offerings - Looking Sideways at Your World
20' x 20' Room - Because Roleplaying Games Are Interesting
Peter Nordstrand
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« Reply #98 on: February 15, 2006, 08:13:00 AM »

Jim is right.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #99 on: February 15, 2006, 09:05:05 AM »

Referring to a large amount of this thread, yes, I agree with you, Jim and Peter. It's very clear that a number of people think that I value "take on all comers" undergraduate debate, and posted initially essentially for attention and to dance in a mosh-pit of conflicting arguments and posturing. Their posts have certainly provoked my contempt, but that's all.

However, a variety of good questions have been raised, or requests for clarifications. I got to most of them, but not all. I'll keep posting to this thread to complete that process.

Patience, though, people. I move slowly.

Best,
Ron
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Supplanter
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« Reply #100 on: February 15, 2006, 11:49:39 AM »

Well, I wasn't just talking about your critics . . . :)

Regardless, you said at the beginning to take any debate/criticisms to another forum, so I've tried to restrict my participation in the thread largely to making sure I understood what you were saying. I'll probably post my demurrals on 20x20 at some point. This is your space and you were just meeting a specific request in an earlier thread to explain yourself, and you did.

Best,


Jim
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Unqualified Offerings - Looking Sideways at Your World
20' x 20' Room - Because Roleplaying Games Are Interesting
Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #101 on: February 15, 2006, 01:29:20 PM »

I'd like to know the details.

Sure, John. I think this is on topic. So... (and this could be long)

...in general, NPCs being often all-powerful and all-knowing, as well as united...
This became more and more common in the games we played in. I think it was a way of the ST keeping a control of their story, really. And the NPCs literally were the ST -- they were his characters, in his world, the extension of the person behind them, him. His chronicle.

A whole power/ego struggle was going on in the group. Grasping players, iron-fisted GMs, playing favourites, politicking behind the scenes, butting egos, conflicting desires, the works. It started off innocently enough, you're charitable in the beginning after all, because it's new territory -- a new way of doing things. But after years and years of un-enjoyment and wasting ~30% of your evenings in a week playing this stuff, you just throw your hands up in the air. Well, I did. It helped that I left town. It forced my hand.

How do you match the specific markers that were described, though?  Did you find yourselves unable to appreciate or analyze story?  From the emails, it seems that that you were willing to discuss actual play.  Or were these the rare exception?  Did you make consistent impulsive and submissive purchasing habits at specific stores?

I found myself increasingly challenged at seeing a story, never mind fruitfully participate in one with the Vampire groups. I had one out though. I gamed with a different group and we moseyed along playing Cthulhu, Conspiracy X and a few other things. Those games weren't great, but at least they weren't riddled with excessive dysfunction. That game me some perspective on the Vampire games (only after many years though). But more than anything, I would have still played Vampire in a heartbeat because it should have been better. It had potential, after all we were the best roleplayers, right? Great stuff should be easy...

And as for analysis. Sure, we bitched. Classic break-up/make-up, but not doing anything about the root causes. Those e-mails were an exception. Something in print, to two guys who no longer gamed with the group, but knew everyone involved. Andy had started to realise he wanted what these games couldn't give him (after like 8 or 9 years), and was moving into writing. (Something he's had to work at very hard since.) Martin had always kept enough distance from the very core of the group, physically and (I think I'm being honest here) emotionally, too. He never got to deep into all the stuff going on. Knew when to get out.

The "Ron" game we refer to was actually a World of Darkness Dark Ages game, but in name only. Ron, who ran the game, hooked us by saying we could all play Vampires or Mages or whatever. But he never read the rulebooks or even cared for them. He was doing his PhD in Literature and had a good handle on stories. Ron let us tell him what our powers/spells/whatever could do if there was some debate over it, and he ran with it. So we did the system, and he made us take part in a story. It was like fresh air.

OK, here are the markers Ron put up and then I'll push the buttons on Chris' list, too.

Consumerism and subcultural identification... all of those markers (in spades) ... e.g. owning walls and walls of books... "fun eventually" at the expense of fun now
We all had an unhealthy number of books. I bought pretty much every 1st and 2nd edn WOD book up until I moved to Edinburgh (1999).  A pal just used to pile them up on the counter for me, since he was increasingly aware of what new was out. We once bought two copies each of the slipcase version of a WOD book, in case the other couldn't get one from the shops before they ran out. Stoopid. I have a copy of "Three Pillars" still perfectly shrink-wrapped. I stopped buying habitually when I moved to Edinburgh..

Cronyism and isolation ...
We were all friends going in and some of us are still friends now, but at a distance. It definitely forced wedges and stresses at points though. We even played through one guy's tragic disintegrating relationship with a girl who didn't support his participation in the group (at their house) -- a real train wreck. We became used to seeing new posters going up on the walls every few weeks  to cover the marks she used to make. Throwing cups at him after we left. Fucked up for sure. An increase of dishonesty among former friends? Sure. In spades.

"Story-oriented" without story ...
The protagonists were NPCs who acted "off screen". We saw the ripples in the pond or discovered their trail like dusting a relic as Andy said.

Co-dependency and reinforcement of emotional dynamics which aren't rewarding
We ripped up character sheets, argued, politicked, had power-struggles, socially poisonous dynamics, the works.

Disconnection between what is done and what is produced...
We used to tape actual play but I don't think anyone reflected on it. It was maybe listened back to for taking notes on what NPCs had said, or for reminding the GM for what things he'd told us. Certainly no critical analysis for improvement. I totally see the "play is its own reward" thing. I doubted that play was awesome (God! I had played and run better games 10 years before at school) but we all sat on our hands when it came to being open, honest and critical about changing it. Here the phrase "...focusing on rare and fleeting instances of shared imagination as evidence" rings true. Fuck. What a waste. Sure, there were highs, but we could have been that most of the time, y'know?

General traits like "Vampire sucks" aren't very useful --
The sad and true part is we all liked the game so very, very much and the colour. The fucking colour.
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #102 on: February 15, 2006, 01:39:54 PM »

And Chris' list..

1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It's a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don't endure them

I think 1 and 2 weren't a problem for us. We matched pretty well there.

3 was a strange one. The rules worked and most of us didn't mind them too much. Back in the eraly days they were contentious because new game lines kept shifting the goalposts. Once that setlled down they were OK for resolving tasks, but not conflicts or stories.

4 was a problem. 5 wasn't a problem but became one, how do you approach a dialogue when every starts throwing up barriers and arguing. I've sent learnt to give directed feedback at source, with examples, (through training for work) and it really has opened up doors to better dialogue, for me anyway. 6 was one of the first to go and stayed gone.

7 is one we could have used. Y'know, let's stop this and play something else. This just isn't working. (I'd say that is true of marriage too, though. If it's not working then, well, y'know. Let's call the whole thing off.)

9 and 10 were problems. Not enough fun stuff, unless you were currying favour with the ST. And we never did anything about fixing it. Ever. We never fixed it. I walked away, and pretty much so did everyone else.
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Bill Cook
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Posts: 501


« Reply #103 on: February 15, 2006, 03:27:07 PM »

Quote from: Gregor Hutton
.. We even played through one guy's tragic disintegrating relationship with a girl who didn't support his participation in the group (at their house) -- a real train wreck. We became used to seeing new posters going up on the walls every few weeks  to cover the marks she used to make. Throwing cups at him after we left. Fucked up for sure. An increase of dishonesty among former friends? Sure. In spades

That reminds me of a (former?) member of my active group. He went through a number of girlfriends over the course of his involvement with us. The first one, who was a doll, got snatched up in an affair with another member. Another made every effort to be included but quickly became the dysfunctional center before disappearing without explanation. I used to watch him negotiate with them to stay a few more hours. I watched their face draw with wear as they calculated and recalculated the cost of loving him. And I wanted to scream, "Jesus! She's just being nice! She doesn't want to be here and is in love with a fantasy version of you that has outgrown this kind of childish interest."

Hell waits for the misrepresented lover.

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jagardner
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« Reply #104 on: February 15, 2006, 04:44:46 PM »

The most debilitating feature of the "old" World of Darkness was the famed metaplot. The world was controlled by super-powerful entities with strongly-enforced authoritarian social structures.  Any GM who stuck to the established background would end up restricting the players to almost no freedom of action.

Every supplement (or at least every one I looked at) centered around the super-powerful NPCs and their machinations.  Cool world-changing events were taking place in the support materials but those events were way out of the players' league.  GMs, aspiring to partake of that world-changing coolness, would force their players to jump through prescribed hoops, railroading them into re-enacting the cool events discussed in the supplements.  The supplement books of course had the usual disclaimers about giving players complete freedom...but then they went back to the metaplot of vastly powerful NPCs with large retinues of nasty underlings driving toward an "Oh wow!" conclusion that many GMs wanted to make happen by any means possible.

I wondered if the recent reboot would make things any better.  I actually had good experiences with a Mage campaign (in which we ignored the metaplot and all the authoritarian power structure stuff) so as the date approached for the new Mage's release, I regularly checked the White Wolf web site for information.  Shortly before the book was due to arrive in stores, the web site published a starter adventure to get players interested in buying the book...and the very first event in that very first adventure was that PCs had to roll to avoid being possessed by evil spirits.  If you failed the roll, your very first experience of the game was, "Sorry, you have to just sit there while the GM takes over your character."

Sheesh!  (To be fair, you got unpossessed within a few combat rounds, basically by deus ex machina; but still...)

And while I'm posting here, a few more comments.  I believe humans are story-telling creatures in a way that is different from other arts.  If I understand modern brain research, our memories aren't stored like videotape, with long continuous sequences of data.  Our brains work more like photo albums, storing only a few key images and perceptions.  When we remember something, a story-constructing facility in our minds constructs a narrative that links those memory fragments together into something we find coherent.  This is one reason why we misremember events and why it's possible to create false memories: every time we remember, we have to reconstruct the story and reconstructions drift over time, accidentally or deliberately.  (False memories are created by getting the person to relive the events and reinterpret things along the way.)

Another thing about how brains work: patterns of thought and behavior are physically supported by strengthening and optimizing the neural paths we use most.  It is very easy to think the same-old same-old.  When new input arrives, the path of least resistance is to channel it through the existing paths and patterns: to stick to our ruts.  This is an inevitable (and often useful) feature of the way our brains are constructed.

The good news is that we can have many sets of ruts.  Most people do.  When we're at work, we follow one set of stock behaviors.  When we're with our parents, we follow a different one.  When we're with our children, we follow yet another set.  We're actually pretty good at switching from pattern to pattern, and creating new ones as needed...but only once we accept that a new pattern is necessary.

There are two tricky parts to acquiring new patterns.  First is recognizing that you need a new pattern: that old ones don't work and it's time to start building new pathways.  If you've got a lot invested in the old patterns, backing off is difficult.  (I once heard a neuro guy hypothesize that short-term depression is an adaptive brain state, designed to weaken old patterns in preparation for new ones.  That's certainly not conventional wisdom, but I thought it was an interesting theory.)

But the hardest trick is creating a new pattern if you have no examples to follow.  It's one thing to learn from someone else, but thinking something new on your own requires a type of leap that's exceedingly rare.

Forgive me for being pedantic.  I assume a lot of readers already know this stuff, but no one had mentioned it so I thought I'd toss it in.  Whether or not "brain damage" is too loaded a term for this discussion, brains are shaped and patterned by experience, and those patterns have lasting effects.  (But there's also a chance of establishing new patterns if you recognize the need.)
   ---Jim Gardner
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