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Author Topic: Rolling Interactions  (Read 7370 times)
ffilz
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« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2006, 09:04:04 AM »

The origins of roll for combat, talk for social is traceable to the lack of anything other than combat stats in original D&D. But actually, I think it goes back further than that, into wargaming. Avalon Hill's Diplomacy comes to mind as a great example (where in fact the whole game actually is in the non-mechanical negotiation between players). But I think the campaign miniatures gaming that D&D grew out of was the more direct source (but that was almost certainly influenced by Diplomacy). And ultimately it centers on the early struggle to come to grips with what this role playing thing was all about.

I wonder if Dogs in the Vinyard would have been possible 25 years ago?

Of course it's also worth noting that those who are good at social conniving will also drive play towards talk for social. And their very skill at social conniving helps them accomplish this. Imagine if gaming was dominated by muscular bullies... We would be rolling for social skills and wrestling to resolve sword fights... Or worse, actually using swords....

Frank
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Frank Filz
David "Czar Fnord" Artman
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« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2006, 09:07:49 AM »

I know that if Social skills were simply fiated in a game I played, I'd never put a single point into them. I'd completely pump up the combat stuff, since I'd know those points would be worth it.

It seems to me that using your methods for social interaction, it would be very difficult for a player who is shy or has a tendency to get tongue-tied to play a smooth-talking con-artist type character.

This might be a thread-jack--let me know if so. OR it might be quite insightful. Been a long day, and I can't tell for sure! ;-)

In GLASS (see sig) I am trying to build a contact-based (i.e. boffer and kid guns) live-action game that is fairly genre-independant and scalable. It has its share of PVE play, but it's mainly a PVP-driven system.

After a LONG, HARD think... I eliminated all social skills except "fear"--and all fear accomplishes is forcing another player to leave the actor's presence... and only if the fear "damages" the victim's psyche sufficiently.

There is no "charm," no "con," no "diplomacy." Basically, I have this game system in which someone who wants to use a sword has to hit the target, same with projectiles; and if they want to run, they have to RUN. I could not justify simulating "My character is a better talker than I am" when it was patently absurd to let someone do damage with a sword without ever using it well or hitting someone.

I think there is a sort of double standard when it comes to social interactions.

I agree--it's an inconsistent standard for fantastic pretend.

And it goes both ways: what is a "tactics" roll iin a game that uses miniatures? Some way to be a better general on paper than in real life, right? But when the game is ABOUT moving units in conflict, then doesn't that just undercut the best elements of play, and reduce them to a roll?

hnmmmm... Maybe that's what's going on: folks want a talkative justification for use of social skils BECAUSE it's a social game. Perhaps those GMs feel that a player is trying to circumvent the very point of play (in the GM's eye; in this case, acting and presenting strategy) with a mere roll? hehe "Player Fiat" a new term!

Anyway, my take on social skills is, after decades: only use them in the most low-acting games (usually SIM and GAM). Otherwise, forbid them completely.

2 more...
David
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Dav
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« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2006, 12:38:34 PM »

There were a lot of people saying many things that sounded closely related, so I will sum by using this quote as my baseline (aside from the mmorpg comment, to which my answer is simply "no," typing stuff (poorly), is not roleplaying):

"It seems to me that using your methods for social interaction, it would be very difficult for a player who is shy or has a tendency to get tongue-tied to play a smooth-talking con-artist type character. "

This is true.  However, in the same manner that I don't expect to play a good basketball game against well-oiled large men who get payed to do it, I don't much suffer the shy in my games.  I am not some sort of egalitarian that-okay-do-your-best style of player or GM.  If you suck, and you bog the shite down, I will boot you... it is simple.  It also makes things rather enjoyable for those who do play.  I am, quite simply, an elitist of roleplaying... I'm not patient with beginners, and I have little tolerance for the water-heads that feel that taking the time to read the exact effing wording of a book is a good idea.  If a game has a "this is roleplaying" section to it, I generally put it down and leave it alone. 

As for using synecdoche: ...and?  Look, if you want to have a substantive argument about something with as much option and material as role-playing, generalizations occur... welcome to life.  My generalizations refer specifically to games that deal with social interaction rolls as a quick-fix, uninvolved chance roll.  I don't like 'em, and they corrupt the main function of a roleplaying group, which would be to interact. 

Look, in the end, it comes down to a simple idea of what, in general, one plays games for: killing things and generally being a sociopath, or interacting and looking for depth in a storyline.  If you are one of those players that hates the talky bits because it interrupts your dismembering of those you see as "enemy", then, by all means, buy a computer game... or play D&D, either works equally as well.  However, if the killing bits interrupt your ability to define and direct the story and narrative as it stands (except in rare you-pushed-me-to-it circumstances), then computer games and D&D probably isn't your bag.  Of course, for those demented and argumentative "what about us in the middle" people, pick a hole and fuck it... you get on my nerves or something... anyone who tries that middle-ground tactic owes me a damned drink.

Dav
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Alan
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« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2006, 01:49:14 PM »

I'll change the subject from the value of rolling for social conflicts to how it might be done.

Shadowrun. The players, myself included, need to get into a corporate function . We have invitations and approach the guards on the door. .....I approach the securtiy on the door, "My name is blah blah, here is my invertation these are my security and I need them to come in armed"(or something like that).

If your GM is on board with the idea, here is where the roll should be initiated -- before any in-game explanations are provided.  The situation has been established, the player has iniatiated the conflict.  How the conflict plays out should depend on the results of the roll.

So the player has iniated the roll.  The player and the GM work out what skills or abilities or whatever will be rolled.  I'm not familiar with Shadowrun, but in TROS, I'd have both characters roll traits against skill target numbers.

At this point, a counter argument like "we've already got great security" might be worth one or two extra dice for the guards.  The player might counter with some description for bonus dice ("I'm wearing the full fascist regalia of the Antares Ambassidor.")  After a little negotiation like that, they roll.  The player with the most successes wins. 

Now, the group (however the buck is stopped in your group) creates the explanation of why the guards do or don't allow the characters to bring weapons into the party.

There are options, too.  In TROS, just after the conflict is identified, the GM might require more than one success -- in fact, it might be worth making the total number of successes required a cumulative target -- the player can make a series of rolls -- interspersed with dialog to justify changing bonuses or using a different skill in each exchange.  Cumulative successes also need a failure condition, such as 4 total successes in three rolls.

I can see this working for D&D opposed rolls as well.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2006, 02:10:48 PM »

More.
Actual.
Play.

... in this actual-play thread.

That's the moderator talkin'.

Best, Ron
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Will Grzanich
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« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2006, 02:44:35 PM »

My generalizations refer specifically to games that deal with social interaction rolls as a quick-fix, uninvolved chance roll.  I don't like 'em, and they corrupt the main function of a roleplaying group, which would be to interact.

Because the only way to interact in an RPG is to talk in funny voices?

However, if the killing bits interrupt your ability to define and direct the story and narrative as it stands (except in rare you-pushed-me-to-it circumstances), then computer games and D&D probably isn't your bag.

Because the only way to "define and direct the story and narrative as it stands" is to talk in funny voices?

In an attempt to placate Ron, some Actual Play:

D&D 3.5 game, a few months ago.  I played a half-elf bard with a silver tongue -- high Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, and Charisma...about what you'd expect.  Our crew is heading to the BBG's tower to deal with him once and for all.  It's guarded by a pair of dumb, ugly looking ogres.

I step up and say that I'd like to Bluff my way past the ogres.  I come up with a lie about how we're traveling performers, a stage act, and we've got an appointment with the BBG, he's expecting us, and you wouldn't want to make him mad by denying us entry, would you? 

DM:  "So, what are your actual words?"

I didn't really feel like going all dialoguey at this point...besides, I had already described the story I was going to give.  The DM hits me with the old "it's a ROLEPLAYING game, DUH!" line...grumble, grumble.  So I told him that my actual words were pretty much what I just said, except in a different tense. 

That seemed to satisfy him, except now he frowned at the lack of plausibility of the bluff, basically turning it into a game of "convince the DM" rather than "convince the dumb ogres."  That hacked me off.  Fortunately, a fellow player decided to just outright insult the ogres instead, and combat ensued, saving me from further irritation.

The DM and I talked it out afterwards and sorted things out.  It's all good -- but the attitude that social conflicts should just be handled through verbally stroking the GM continues to raise my hackles.  I mean, it's okay if that's the way the game is meant to be played, but D&D's rules are conspicuously silent on the matter, which indicates to me that that ain't the way it's meant to be played.

Nice troll, though, Dav.

-Will
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: May 12, 2006, 02:53:22 PM »

Ohhh-kay. More moderation.

Dav made some serious points that you guys would do well to listen to, rather than denigrate. Over-generalized? Maybe a bit. Opinionated? Sure.

But I'm not liking the childish gibes I'm reading in response. In addition to actual-play talk, I'm also saying, post with genuine respect and interest in what others are saying. This is not a site for clearing the area around your intellectual turf.

Will, I am wondering what you and the DM are planning to do next time such a situation comes up. Did he say? I hope he did listen to you, because a number of folks I've played with dug in their heels very hard on this point. They really, really didn't want players to be able to influence NPCs ... at all ... unless it fit with their plans or amused them in some kind of useful way.

Best, Ron
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Tommi Brander
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« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2006, 08:54:17 PM »

Look, in the end, it comes down to a simple idea of what, in general, one plays games for: killing things and generally being a sociopath, or interacting and looking for depth in a storyline.  If you are one of those players that hates the talky bits because it interrupts your dismembering of those you see as "enemy", then, by all means, buy a computer game... or play D&D, either works equally as well.  However, if the killing bits interrupt your ability to define and direct the story and narrative as it stands (except in rare you-pushed-me-to-it circumstances), then computer games and D&D probably isn't your bag.  Of course, for those demented and argumentative "what about us in the middle" people, pick a hole and fuck it... you get on my nerves or something... anyone who tries that middle-ground tactic owes me a damned drink.
So, everyone is either a ROLEplayer or a ROLLplayer? There is no middle ground? You are either with us, or against us?
Not gonna buy that as a set of assumptions.
So, can you give the reasoning behind them?


I prefer to use the dice when the outcome is in doubt. This happens when the players are trying something I think is unlikely to work, generally. I almost never say no to them. More like, "Have you considered A, B and C? They make that a bit more difficult to pull off."
Basically, when there is a conflict and the outcome is in doubt, roll the dice. Generally this happens when roleplaying, intertwined with it (is that role- or rollplay?). I also let players to simply describe the way they are getting at something and then roll. Up to them. Reward system will start favouring the former over the latter, once I get it working properly.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2006, 09:09:39 PM »

Oh yeah, I forgot. Dav, lighten the fuck up.

Best, Ron
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jlarke
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« Reply #24 on: May 12, 2006, 09:20:59 PM »

Actual play, although it's Amber DRPG and so there was no rolling.

I have a friend who loves gaming and has many of the skills we normally associate with "ROLE-not-ROLL playing" down pat. However, in real life she's somewhat meek. I have long since made it clear that her meekness is not entirely my problem in player-to-player interaction. She accepts responsibility for jumping into the action when she wants to. You might call it pushing and not waiting for me to pull, if you like that slang. However, her meekness translated somewhat into the game world as well. She is not intimidating, she's never been intimidating, and doesn't know the first thing about intimidating people. Her attempts to do so generally end up being somewhat comic, because they're either weak or over the top.

In this Amber campaign, she was playing an extremely cunning and savvy assassin type. The character concept and the points she put into Psyche, Strength and Warfare said she ought to be able to intimidate someone, so I'd generally let her give me a general statement and assume that what the character did in the SIS was an effective execution of the player's intent. ("It sounds better in Thari!" was a running joke in our group anyway.) So the player would say, "I show him my knife- the really flashy one- and tell him that I'll do horrible things to him if he tries to back out of the deal." I'd respond with, "When he sees the total lack of emotion in your eyes as you start discussing the ways a good sorcerer can hurt a man, he just falls apart on you. There's no way this guy would dare mess with you now." Everyone was generally happy with this - I say generally because at a higher level nobody was really happy with the Amber DRPG rules.

The harder problem, which sometimes comes up in the Shadowrun game I play in now, is when players with social skills ignore their characters total lack of same. Our GM is usually pretty good about it, though, because he does insist on having people roll. If the character lacks the skill or botches the roll, he'll say something like, "Yeah, that was a good line of BS, but unfortunately, coming out of your character's mouth, it's sounds like a really good line of BS. Nobody's buying it." Since the GMs commitment to making people roll for things is well-known, people generally accept it with good grace.
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My real name is Jason Larke.
Web_Weaver
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« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2006, 05:12:01 AM »

This issue is so fully tied up with the social contract of your group that it almost goes without saying.

As this is an actual play thread my most recent experience follows:

Call of Cthulu / Delta Green - filler game between HeroQuest campaigns
(names changed to protect the innocent & guilty)

Relevent player Mick: Loves playing the roguish, thief like, fast-talking guys. As this was a pre-gen, high character death, rolling campaign, designed to have fun during breaks from HQ I gave him an ex-pat English private eye.

Setup: Players work for a secretive group within the Vatican, look and feel is modern conspiracy with cyberpunk elements of mistrust and manipulation.

Scene: Private Eye tries to fast-talk himself past the officious woman at a recently installed military high security section in the Cairo museum. Micks words: "I use my Fast-talk and claim to be a researcher with a valid reason to enter".

Now, I am a low prep GM who is happy to let the story go where the players take things, but I thought it was a stretch even if the character was good at the skill. But the player was obviously upset with this,  citing the fact that that's how fast-talk works in this game.  My decision was no, she has a closed list of people and he just couldn't force his name onto that list by fast-talk alone

The real problem here is Mick had a totally valid point, and I felt his suggestion was a cop out. I had placed the barriers there to make it a challenge, not to have it waved aside by charisma alone.

In the end the computer expert hacked his name onto the list which worked for me.

But, fact is, we all had made the mistake of not defining our mode of play. HeroQuest to CoC is a serious gear change, we should have had a few words before we began, to define our playing style for the game. I would have pushed for realistic social interaction (don't care if its acted or not) Mick may have pushed for a roll and see approach. Either way we wouldn't have had the situation arise, and in our group, either way would have been fun.

Lesson learned: even in a quick adventure with pre-generated characters and a low attachment to them based on the high death rate you should still have a quick chat about the style of play and the rule set.

Jamie
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Storn
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« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2006, 05:34:31 AM »

Quote
Lesson learned: even in a quick adventure with pre-generated characters and a low attachment to them based on the high death rate you should still have a quick chat about the style of play and the rule set.

How?

This is not meant to be flippant.  But your excellent example seems like a long talk, not a quick chat.  This stuff ain't easy.  Unless you have that system that really tackles social die-rolling/role playing head on...(Burning Wheel comes to mind..the either say "yes" or "roll the dice".  Even then, it ain't easy.  How many dice?  Does the NPC get bonus dice or a bonus for having the "closed list."  Will the player be gracious about NPC getting bonuses due to the situation?

Unless, the quick chat comes down to "roleplay it out, convince the GM" or "roll it and see".  But if it is a combo of both, like BW's rules, then that ain't a quick chat...then you have to get down to the expectations of the genres and how that meets the expectations of the players and your expectations as the GM.

Quote
The harder problem, which sometimes comes up in the Shadowrun game I play in now, is when players with social skills ignore their characters total lack of same. Our GM is usually pretty good about it, though, because he does insist on having people roll. If the character lacks the skill or botches the roll, he'll say something like, "Yeah, that was a good line of BS, but unfortunately, coming out of your character's mouth, it's sounds like a really good line of BS. Nobody's buying it." Since the GMs commitment to making people roll for things is well-known, people generally accept it with good grace.

Consistancy seems to be key, IMO... very tough to get consistancy in a one shot like W Weaver's Delta Green example. 

I've been in the process of moving from almost no die rolling for social stuff (although I take social skills down on the character sheets very seriously)... to more die rolling.  As I have been playing with a GM who runs the highly socialized Legend of the 5 Rings setting.  At first, the social interaction die rolling set me off as a player... just seemed to be unnecessary.  But the more I've played, the more I've enjoyed, especially when I've been suggesting Stakes to make it more interesting to me.  He's taken the lead and when appropriate suggested Stakes of his own.

Now I have him as a player in a Weapons of hte Gods game (mythic china to his mythic japan)... and I don't ask for AS many die rolls... but I do ask for them... or sometimes he asks for them.  It seems pretty easy and organic and fun.  So I'm happy.  But I have changed my tune on this.... just a GM's evolution in action, I guess.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #27 on: May 14, 2006, 12:58:25 AM »

This topic reminds me of some of my earliest roleplaying, as a teenager in the late 80s/early 90s. My group started out with Marvel Super Heroes and branched out into Middle Earth Roleplaying from ICE. We were still emeging from the primordial slime of pawn-stance brawling punctuated by occasional bouts of playacting, mainly comedy bits of varying quality. Initially our GM was my best friend Lee, and after a time I started GMing as well, and we would trade off the role, each having a Player Character for a given campaign and simply running them as NPCs when it was our turn.

I think I was among the first in our group to start wanting something more "serious" and rewarding out of play, and I began designing characters more as characters in a story, as opposed to glorified video game avatars. My early attempts were crude, basically consisting of sacrificing combat power in favor of brains, charisma and social skills. At one point I had a rogue ("Scout" in MERP parlance), Alex Vanderskye,  who I envisioned as a dashing, quick-witted, silver-tongued devil. Our chargen method was rolling stats randomly, then assigning at player discretion, so I had de-prioritized strength and consitution (or whatever it's called in MERP), and poured everything into agility, intelligence, charisma and appearance. But in play,whenever I tried to bring Alex's attributes out, whether for color, or for actual effectiveness, I was brushed off, even laughed off. Like, "haha, Joel, you know you can't play smooth," or "Alex is using big words again, yawn, when's the next fight?" Not in so many words, necessarily, but that general attitude. Everyone respected and took cues from Lee's big lug of a barbarian, simply through Lee's sheer force of personality.

I had a shock when I managed a look at Lee's character sheet--"Shanar the Barbarian" had an Intelligence of 30 or so, and abysmal charisma and appearance to boot. I told Lee how unfair it felt that Shanar got to "pretend" to be the intelligent, commanding leader guy without the stats to back it up, and Lee was just, like, *shrug*. I don't remember the conversation exactly, but I believe it was heavily weighted withthe assumption that of COURSE if you don't "roleplay it" witty or suave or intelligent or whatever enough, then your character won't be that way.

I had two issues with this, not necessarily with Lee but with the whole group. The first was that my play was being shot down by the group, which was very much a social rejection issue. . .I put myself out there, and get eye-rolls and in essence a big hearty "get off the stage!" Even if it was in more ofa teasing way than outright vicious, it was still painful, especially when I watched Lee gain group approval constantly, and I felt, in light of his character's actual stats, in a cheating way. The second was a more concrete issue of fairness, in relation to the game currency. SImply put, I had chosen to spend my currency differently than the other players, on presumably legitimate areas of focus, and was being marginalized in those areas via popularity contest. And of course, since I had sacrificed the other areas, I was automatically marginalized there, too (though it didn't matter that i consistentlyrolled for shit against all odds, a trend that continues to this day).

We never really worked this out. Most if not all of the Geek Fallacies were at work in keeping the group together in spite of these and other frustrations, and we really didn't have a developed faculty for addressing these issues--I certainly couldn't have articulated the above paragraph; what issues I DID try to address were expressed very crudely and ineffectually, suffering from everyone carrying around their own little idea of what roleplaying is inside their head, and asuming we all knew whateach other was talking about. Plus we all shared a lot of lousy assumptions in common. We grew in sophistication regarding techniques, over the years, but our play remained rather limited. The game degenerated to a large degree due to (among other things) Lee's increasing reliance on humor in his GMing (and a brutally deprotagonizing humor at that), to the point that the game sessions were just an ongoing Monty Python routine, with some fights and skill rolls. We had some fun, because Lee WAS pretty funny and charasmatic, but it was unsatisfying on the whole. We eventually eventually broke up when people moved and it was too much of a pain to get together regularly.

I guess my point is that without clear systemic constraints (not that those NEED to be dicerolling constraints, mind) on all aspects of the game, play will be very prone to bullying of whatever stripe. The mix between mechanical versus "acted out" (can we please stop calling it "roleplaying"? It confuses the issue.) can be variable; for instance requiring a plausible plan before allowing a bluff check or whatever, is a reasonable option. But the constraints must be explicit. These constraints can exist purely at the social contract level, though they should still be very clear. As you can see by the above account, SC is often nebulous, non-explicit, and poorly understood. Dav, I would have no problem with something like your "no wet-nursing" policy, if I was briefed on it going in. but if that "you suck, I boot you" jive was sprung on me during play, I'd have a definite problem with it. And I get the feeling you wouldn't much care. . .but you can hardly call it functional behavior between adults. Come to think of it, I think the cry of "synechdoche" was tossed around too frivolously before, but I may have found the true Synechdoche in your thinking: You seem to assume that your way of roleplaying is what all roleplaying is. Youj ust can't assume that; sure, fine, insist on plahying your way, but let everyone know up front what that way is, so no one gets sucker-punched two sessions in.

So in the end this all becomes Social Contract, Social Contract, Social Contract. . .but with a nod to the importance of design, because if more of the games referenced had explicit support for these things, we wouldn't be left to hash it out on our own.

Peace,
-Joel

PS In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that in the MERP game above, I did the very same thing to one of my brothers regarding HIS intelligent, flower-tongued character. It was only years later that I realized the hypocrisy. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.
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Storn
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« Reply #28 on: May 14, 2006, 05:44:56 AM »

Joel, well said.  Well explained actual play.

The only  thing I have to add is this strikes me as very, very true:

Quote
So in the end this all becomes Social Contract, Social Contract, Social Contract. . .but with a nod to the importance of design, because if more of the games referenced had explicit support for these things, we wouldn't be left to hash it out on our own.


just to back you up, EVEN if you disagree with the design teams reasoning, you at least know where they stood.  And then can fiddle with the system to be more compatible with your group from a point of departure, not a point of confusion. 
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #29 on: May 14, 2006, 09:21:28 AM »

Yeah, good point. Thinking of it thatway helps to avoid erroneously thinking of this as a "play the rules as written" issue.
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