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Author Topic: Ongoing failure to understand  (Read 6736 times)
museleading
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« on: October 09, 2006, 01:00:02 PM »

In this thread http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21694.30;topicseen Ron stated:

Quote
The hobby as a sustainable activity (which requires no-murk) is still in its infancy. I can still see it everywhere - the ongoing failure to understand Giving in Dogs, the confusion about the bonus dice in My Life with Master, the bizarre general failure to grasp the conflict-resolution (and role-playing!) rules in Universalis, the stumbling-blocks about when to expect rewards that arise when playing Perfect or carry or Capes, and more. I hope we got somewhere, such that the answer is "not yet," rather than "bzzzt! try again please," but at this point only time will tell.

I don't understand what is being said here.  The only game listed I've played is Dogs, which might have something to do with it.

What is the failure?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2006, 02:22:17 PM »

Hi there,

I think I can answer best, and it will also help to qualify your thread for discussion in this forum, if you describe any instance during your experience of Dogs in which either player said "I Give."

Has this happened in your games, at all? What characters? What kind of conflict was it, and did it escalate into another? What role did that particular conflict turn out to play in the scenario in general?

If you've never observed or participated in a conflict in which one player Gave, please take a look at those rules in your book. Can you think of a conflict in which you might have used them, if you'd known about them?

Best, Ron
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museleading
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2006, 01:21:10 AM »

Ok,  a conflict in which one player Gave. Once which escalated into another.  I am choosing a cool conflict to use as an example.  Let me know if you want an average one instead/as well.

I played Br Greg. We found out a Sister in town made whiskey, so we went to talk to her.  Br Carson knocked on the door.  The woman threw the door open, yelled at us to leave and opened fire with her shotgun.  She shot at Br Carson, but he Blocked. I used Br Greg's "damn fine shot 3d8" to raise shoot past Br Carson and kill the woman.  I don't remember the dice roll, the GM Gave immediately and the woman died. The conflict was literally one Raise from the GM, one from me.

Later that night Br Carson asked Br Greg why he shot to kill.  Br Greg said something along the lines of 'No one shoots a Dog. Not without meaning it.  So I killed her' (one of his traits was 'heartless bastard'. Br Carson replied with 'A Dog without compassion is no Dog at all'. Then he went to bed.

I declared Br Greg was staying up all night til he found enough passages in the Book of Life to prove Br Carson wrong – which we ran as a conflict.  I don't remember all the Raises and Sees, Br Greg wrestled with his conscience, memories and past deeds (The other players played all of those & their chrs in Br Greg's memory). It meant the internal dialogue was able to be played out - I raised with lines such as "when the choice is between being an unwanted second son and someone in a position of importance, I'll take importance over indifference every time", stuff that Br Greg would never be able to talk about. 

In the end I Gave the conflict when one of the other players Raised with a memory of a comment that I had clinched an earlier conflict with (about Br Carson's alcoholism) "It's not who you where, it’s who you are.  You are a Dog!". 

The line was so perfect for that situation; the fact Br Greg's own line had been served back at him - it was cool. I Gave the conflict.

That conflict was the turning point for Br Greg – he lost 1d in 'heartless bastard' from fallout and gained 1d6 in 'I believe in the King of Life' from experience.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2006, 05:58:15 AM »

Hi there,

Those are excellent examples of Giving. One detail I was interested in was whether the person who Gave did so in the presence of dice which might have led to him winning. But your description leads me to think that even with such dice, the situation/role-playing is the primary factor in the decision in these examples.

Anyway, what this shows me is that you do understand Giving in this game. So that means you aren't part of the trend which I've observed through a number of play-accounts. You can see it when someone in a group complains that working through all the dice is laborious, step after step, when they were ready to end the conflict long before; it's also apparent when someone complains that they "should" have won even though they rolled badly (in which case the person on the other side might have agreed with them if they'd brought it up). Clearly this is a group, not an individual thing, because it only takes one person to remind the others about the rule.

I used it as an example in the parent thread because it illustrates confusion within (causing) "the murk" as I described it there. How do conflicts relate to the rest of spoken material, during play? Who says when something's  a conflict? Within a chain of resolution mechanics, how does one get out of (finish) them? I'm suggesting that people learn the answers to these questions through modeling (what the others at the table do) and through trial and error, often arriving at a highly local and highly uneasy set of conclusions. These conclusions are almost always tacit to the extent of being hidden from self-reflection.

I'm also suggesting that when faced with games which are less "murky," people's entrained understanding of how role-playing works makes it difficult for them to see or understand rules which contradict what they're used to. In most role-playing combat, there's no exit mechanism from within the middle of it. Once you're in, you're in until you lose or perhaps until you carry out a highly specific tactic. Whereas here in Dogs, omigod, there's this whole "Give" thing. What's it for? If they aren't even in the mode of looking for what Giving can do, then they won't get it even when they read it, and it won't even come up as an option during play.

All of the rest of this post is probably review for you, so I'm including it for others who might not be seeing the point about Giving. I'm not sure if I've succeeded in answering your question to me, so let me know.

---

I think Giving is the most original and important mechanic in Dogs. It means either side can choose whether Fallout (in some cases further Fallout) is going to be a serious consideration in this conflict. It means that someone can introduce important information in the middle of a conflict which alters how the other person wants to play a particular character (PC or NPC). It means Raising, Seeing, and Taking the Blow have potentially-significant content of their own rather than being "talking-tax" one pays in order to use dice. Therefore it allows judgment of fictional characters to play a huge role in the decision-making of the game.

Consider: the Dog's decisions are deemed morally right. So there you are, playing the Dog ... are you, the real human being, prepared to take responsibility for the Dog's fictional actions? Because no one can be blamed for it but you. No one can blame the character or his culture or the setting or anything bogus like that - the Dog is right. But you wrote/created/moved the character. What about you? [This paragraph paraphrases a key section in the rules.]

Giving is the primary mechanic that allows a player, any player, including the GM to sit in judgment upon the Dog and thereby to express personal morality to an extent that almost no RPG has ever done before. This judgment is expressed as a radical change in someone's viewpoint or situation (most extremely, instant death), right in the middle of conflict, either the Dog or the person he or she is disputing with. What if I don't like my Dog any more? He or she is a son of a bitch, and I don't even want to go through any kind of repentance or redemption in my mind - the character went too far, and I am responsible. OK, in a later shooting-based conflict in which I am playing the Dog the same old way, bam! I Give. The Dog dies. And a damn good thing ("nothing in his life became him as well as the leaving of it," I'm probably butchering that quote).

Or a positive one works perfectly too. The Dog argues with the steward to quit being such a prideful dick and causing all these problems. They roll! The Dog's dice suck. The GM sits in judgment of the Dog - "he's right. He's just right. The only way the steward would continue is if he's a psychopath, and he's not." And Gives, hence providing his judgment of the Dog's commitment. (This example exactly parallels the use of the Sincerity die in My Life with Master; it is not a fudge or a gimme - it's a judgment.)

So a group which misses out on Giving is playing half-Dogs, kind of an anime-adventure paladin game with guns which often throws up hitchy/confusing moments during play, and in which the point (besides shooting people) is a little obscure.

----

Best, Ron
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memolith
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« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2006, 06:04:05 AM »

(Semi cross-post with Ron. Sorry if I say the same things. I'm off to work, and don't have time to analyze it right now...)

I may be misinterpreting things, but I think one of the things Ron was referring to when he talks about "murk" is the never-back-down mentality. In other games, you keep slugging away until you can't mechanically slug away any more. DitV gives you an out at any point and asks the question "You can keep going, but are you willing to accept the consequences?" The murk mentality doesn't get along with the idea of creatively Giving.

Which is why Vincent says to push for small stakes. It makes Giving more tempting, or at least viable. In the two examples you provide, the Stakes are set at a reasonable level, and you had the intuition to Give at a point where pursuing the Stakes was less important than Giving at an interesting turning point.

I see two reasons for Giving (there may be more):
1) You don't want to Escalate.
2) The conflict has reached an interesting turning point, and you don't want to push any further. You concede the stakes, and cut your losses for a potential follow-up conflict.

I think the first reason for Giving is pretty easy to understand, and often occurs at the table. The second is more elusive, because you have to be in tune with what's happening, and be aware that this is a good point to Give. It's almost as if the focus shifts from the Stakes to the story. Hrm...

Players/GM's often fail to Give, because sometimes the Stakes are too high; sometimes you have murk interference.
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2006, 07:03:09 AM »

Ron,

It seems to me that you're saying something similar to what I wrote in a Polaris AP thread, to wit:

Quote
The Necessity of an Aesthetic Sense

As I mentioned earlier, I have been writing a lot about tactics, particular the tactics of playing the Mistake.  However, it is important to remember that Polaris is not about “winning”.  The goal really is to create a good story through the use of the strategy and tactics.  As a result, all the jockeying for position between Heart and Mistaken needs to be counterbalanced by a shared aesthetic sense of what makes for a good conflict outcome.  (I mention this idea here.)  There were several times over the course of our game that a Heart or Mistaken said, “But I don’t want to object to that. I like it!”  That is good.  It’s important for all players to be willing to say, “I like the outcome of this challenge, even though it means admitting that my opponent got the better of me.”  When a player says something and everyone else nods, being a Jerk needs to go out the window.  The scene is right; don’t mess it up.

Are we talking about the same sort of thing?  Or am I misreading you?
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
memolith
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« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2006, 07:09:33 AM »

Yes. Aesthetic Sensibility. Yoink.
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crowyhead
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« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2006, 09:51:40 AM »

I see two reasons for Giving (there may be more):
1) You don't want to Escalate.
2) The conflict has reached an interesting turning point, and you don't want to push any further. You concede the stakes, and cut your losses for a potential follow-up conflict.

I think the first reason for Giving is pretty easy to understand, and often occurs at the table. The second is more elusive, because you have to be in tune with what's happening, and be aware that this is a good point to Give. It's almost as if the focus shifts from the Stakes to the story. Hrm...

So I'm currently playing my first-ever RPG, which happens to be shadowcourt's TSOY (1st ed.) campaign that he's posted about a bit over on the CRN forum.  Obviously, I've been bitten by the bug pretty badly, given that I'm posting here, and I've ended up getting really interested in how the mechanics of a game inform the way story develops.

I haven't played Dogs, but #2 is making me think of something that's started to come up fairly regularly in our TSOY game, where a player will choose to concede stakes and "lose" a conflict in order to make the story more interesting, or where players will actually give the GM gift dice so that an NPC can win a conflict with a PC.  It's been fairly easy for me to grasp that if I don't really want my character to win an argument, I don't have to take the conflict to dice, and if in the midst of a contest I suddenly decide that it would be a lot more interesting to lose, I can concede stakes.  I think this is more counterintuitive for the veteran players, because the tendency once you start rolling the dice is to feel that you have to play to win the contest.

We ran into a particularly fun instance during Saturday's session.  My character, Lutra (an albino ratkin shaman), Ruddig (a human explorer), and Tip (a Zaru ratkin) were engaged in exploring a sewer deep in the bowels of an abandoned city.  We found some interesting fungus, which promptly sprayed everyone with hallucinogenic spores.  At the GM's prompting, we rolled endurance checks.  Ruddig and I failed, and Tip made his.  I was really close to rolling high enough, and if I'd spent a pool point or received a gift die, I probably could've won.  At this point, we looked around the table, grinned at each other, and I said, "Nah, let's see what happens."  It ended up playing out really, really well.  If I'd made the endurance check, it probably still would've been fun, but in this case "losing" meant that the story got a heck of a lot more interesting for everyone involved really quickly. 

This kind of thinking, GreatWolf's idea of the Aesthetic Sense, makes a lot of sense to me, probably because I haven't played any other RPGs and I don't have to learn new gaming habits.  Of course, all of us in my group are also coming from the shared perspective that making the story twisty and interesting is the most fun thing to do, which has encouraged me to think in terms of making the story interesting rather than just focusing on winning conflicts.

Hopefully this contribution hasn't strayed too far from the original post; I just had some lightbulbs going "Ah-ha!" over my head and wanted to comment. :)

Kirsten
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2006, 02:17:24 PM »

Hi there,

You nailed it, Seth. The one point I'd like to emphasize is that we're not talking about some airy-fairy, "gee I like this story" vague thing, but a decisive and often harsh authorial judgment, with consequence, with weight relative to the Premise at hand (i.e. the local jargon meaning of the term).

Kirsten, it looks like you're right on track with what I'm talking about too. And welcome to the Forge!

Best, Ron
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2006, 04:52:47 PM »

You nailed it, Seth. The one point I'd like to emphasize is that we're not talking about some airy-fairy, "gee I like this story" vague thing, but a decisive and often harsh authorial judgment, with consequence, with weight relative to the Premise at hand (i.e. the local jargon meaning of the term).

Sure.  The specific example in the thread I referenced was actually negotiating towards my own knight's death in Polaris.  The nature of his death was all about Premise.

An additional thought.  In Legends of Alyria. I talk about sitting in judgment over your character, which is pretty much the same thing that you're talking about.  However, if your character is intended to be your alter ego, then you can't do this.  Therefore, a big deal in making this work is a separation from the character as alter ego.

Perhaps this is part of the problem.  Narrativist roleplaying demands that you may author actions by a character with which you personally disagree.  However, much of traditional roleplaying is all about embracing the character as alter ego.  This is quite possibly one of the hardest concepts to communicate about Narrativism.

Of course, all I'm really doing here is restating Author stance, but it seemed to fit the discussion.
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2006, 05:58:56 PM »

Ok,  a conflict in which one player Gave. Once which escalated into another.  I am choosing a cool conflict to use as an example.  Let me know if you want an average one instead/as well.

I played Br Greg. We found out a Sister in town made whiskey, so we went to talk to her.  Br Carson knocked on the door.  The woman threw the door open, yelled at us to leave and opened fire with her shotgun.  She shot at Br Carson, but he Blocked. I used Br Greg's "damn fine shot 3d8" to raise shoot past Br Carson and kill the woman.  I don't remember the dice roll, the GM Gave immediately and the woman died. The conflict was literally one Raise from the GM, one from me.

Later that night Br Carson asked Br Greg why he shot to kill.  Br Greg said something along the lines of 'No one shoots a Dog. Not without meaning it.  So I killed her' (one of his traits was 'heartless bastard'. Br Carson replied with 'A Dog without compassion is no Dog at all'. Then he went to bed.
The line was so perfect for that situation; the fact Br Greg's own line had been served back at him - it was cool. I Gave the conflict.

That conflict was the turning point for Br Greg – he lost 1d in 'heartless bastard' from fallout and gained 1d6 in 'I believe in the King of Life' from experience.


Not to derail the thread, but unless your initial stakes were to kill the sister, giving at that point actually would avoid her death.  i.e. a "Give" automatically successfully blocks the raise by automatically losing the stakes.

So if the stakes were something to the nature of "get the Sister to repent of her wickedness" and the raise was "I shoot her dead" then by giving she is not shot dead but she does repend of her wickedness.

Just as an FYI.
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contracycle
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2006, 11:20:06 PM »

I undrerstood the "murk" concept as a lack of clarity about the actual interchanges between people during play, who had responsibility for what, what play was for, what characters and players do.

How does the absence of murk become, above, end up entailing authorial judgement relative to a premise?
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museleading
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« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2006, 01:23:22 AM »

Not to derail the thread, but unless your initial stakes were to kill the sister, giving at that point actually would avoid her death.  i.e. a "Give" automatically successfully blocks the raise by automatically losing the stakes.

So if the stakes were something to the nature of "get the Sister to repent of her wickedness" and the raise was "I shoot her dead" then by giving she is not shot dead but she does repend of her wickedness.


The stakes in the first one were (As far as I can remember) "who's gonna die?".  I do agree with your point about the Raises can't resolve or muddy the stakes. 

(Kinda heading off on a sidebar here - happy to chat on another thread about stakes)
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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2006, 01:39:29 AM »

How I understand the term give here, it means to be presented with an avenue of exploration which you do have the resources/capacity to resist, but you don't because that avenue is so cool. Or even the reverse, as in Rons example of getting your vile PC killed off - the avenue is just digusting to you and even though you can win, you'd rather give and close that avenue off.

This thread seemed to explain that pretty well. So is there a big problem in the roleplaying community about understanding it or just a lack of instruction?
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Philosopher Gamer
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museleading
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« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2006, 02:24:19 AM »

One detail I was interested in was whether the person who Gave did so in the presence of dice which might have led to him winning. But your description leads me to think that even with such dice, the situation/role-playing is the primary factor in the decision in these examples.
I think we were all getting low on dice, but you're right, that wasn't what was going through my head when Giving.

[quote author=Ron Edwards link=topic=21775.msg222924#msg222924
You can see it when someone in a group complains that working through all the dice is laborious, step after step, when they were ready to end the conflict long before; it's also apparent when someone complains that they "should" have won even though they rolled badly (in which case the person on the other side might have agreed with them if they'd brought it up).
Quote

So, a failure to understand giving is a failure to realise there is a mechanic within the Dog's system to ignore the system?

Coming from a strong systemless/diceless background, my first experience with Dogs wasn't pretty.  Not til I realised how the system was there trying to work with me and bowing out when I didn't want it.  Giving allows me to (in essence) 'ignore' the dice when playing with the premise is better than what the system could/would offer.

[quote author=Ron Edwards link=topic=21775.msg222924#msg222924
I used it as an example in the parent thread because it illustrates confusion within (causing) "the murk" as I described it there. How do conflicts relate to the rest of spoken material, during play? Who says when something's  a conflict? Within a chain of resolution mechanics, how does one get out of (finish) them? I'm suggesting that people learn the answers to these questions through modeling (what the others at the table do) and through trial and error, often arriving at a highly local and highly uneasy set of conclusions. These conclusions are almost always tacit to the extent of being hidden from self-reflection.

I'm also suggesting that when faced with games which are less "murky," people's entrained understanding of how role-playing works makes it difficult for them to see or understand rules which contradict what they're used to. In most role-playing combat, there's no exit mechanism from within the middle of it. Once you're in, you're in until you lose or perhaps until you carry out a highly specific tactic. Whereas here in Dogs, omigod, there's this whole "Give" thing. What's it for? If they aren't even in the mode of looking for what Giving can do, then they won't get it even when they read it, and it won't even come up as an option during play. [/quote]

*Sigh* I think I am close to understanding what you say, then I think I lose it again. 

I think what you are saying is that in murky games, the questions are around what rules (techniques/resolution/rewards) will the game go by

In less murky games, the questions become more under what circumstances can people 'legitimately' break the rules.

Which is where fudging the dice and giving come in?  With Giving being an acceptable way of doing what people have always done to get premise move infront of system.  As in:

GM: Roll perception
Player: Failed by 3
GM thinks – without seeing X, this game is going nowhere
GM: With the advantages you get from *fudging*, you see *plot*

-Or-

GM: Stakes are "Do you see *plot*?"
Player: Raise with 2
GM thinks – without seeing *plot*, this game is going nowhere
GM: I Give.




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