*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
December 22, 2014, 07:00:16 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 58 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: Narrativist Game Design and V:tM - Questions.  (Read 5069 times)
Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« on: January 14, 2007, 09:38:03 PM »

I've been thinking about this post for a while, after re-reading Ron's essay on "Story Now" Narrativist play.  I'm still working through my own thinking on it, because some of the thinks he said didn't really gel with me, and I'm trying to work out what I think.  So, in reading this, remember that I'm only half-done thinking about this, but I though I might get further with some discussion.  Also, there is some actual play coming after the theory introduction.

So, I'm completely on-board with the idea of "story now".  Other games might support the creation of a "story" in the sense of a series of events that tie together into a "story", but they usually do that "after the fact" - the story is only appparent once the game is done, and it's a bit hit and miss at achieving this.  A narrativist supporting game allows you to to create that story during play, hence "story now".  Events in the game fiction will directly and immediately effect "what the story is about". That's my understanding, in any case.

The bit that sticks for me is the idea of "adressing premise", specifically the idea that a game should have a "question of importance to humanity" as an overt and stated premise, which is adressed by the game.  Perhaps this is just a personal preference for me, but it seems to me that this would directly inhibit my engagement with the "story" of the game.  My suspicion is that there is a tension between the literary theory Ron draws on in the essay, which discusses premise in dramatic texts, and the nature of role-playing games.  Players of roleplaying games are both authors and audience, which is not true of most other creative forms.  I think this has a pretty dramatic effect on things like an overt premise.

To approach this from a different angle: Can you imagine watching "Othello" where there was a little LED display by the stage that showed you Othello's "trust/suspicion index" shifting as the play progressed? What if when reading "Dracula", every character's name was followed by a few digits that told you their current "seduced by homerotic foreigner" status, and their conflicting "victorian morals" stat, as they fell under the spell of the count? I guess what I'm saying is that stats that overtly define the status of a character with regards to important thematic elements in the game can be a really effective way of ensuring that that theme has absolutely no emotional impact on the players, and can also obscure other, less significant themes.  Part of what makes a theme compelling is interpreting the event of the fiction in terms of the theme - wondering what this action of Iago's will have on Othello, deciding that Othello did this or that out of jealousy, rather than reason.  Having this overtly stated kills the emotional impact.

For an example from Actual Play, I'm gonna pick on a safe target, V:tM, a game which for many reasons, it has been said does not support a narrativist agenda.  I'll go ahead and assert that the "Humanity" system is one reason for this.

I played a lot of V:tM, mostly chasing the crazy thrill we got from the game the first time we took it out of the gate.  Our first game was a mad romp of nihilistic superheroes, which freed us from two years of dying at the hands of goblins in Rolemaster.  Vampire was amazingly freeing, being masters of the night.  The first time we played, the characters stole a car and crashed it on the freeway, and walked away from the crash unscathed.  We terrorized, we partied, we slew and saved, terrorized and rescued.  Then we actually learnt the rules, and realized that the whole game was designed to punish that kind of behaviour.  The Humanity system was almost Kafkaesque in its contradiction.  In order to escape consequences for evildoing, it was neccessary for your character to feel bad about it.  The most moral characters could get away with the worst evil.  What is more, you always had complete knowledge of how far your character had sunk, and what was required for redemption.  Salvation was only a half dozen experience points away. 

I remember a particular incident, when my character had to kill a bunch of people in order to achieve a goal. It was premeditated murder, and would incurr humanity loss unless I rolled against a morality stat.  Making that roll was just another part of compl,eting the mission.  I remember being kind of confused then, about the fact that I had "succeeded" becasue my character felt bad about the action.  But clearly, by his actions, he didn't.  In my mind, the character lost humanity.  In the game, he didn't.

Compare this with a recent, drifted, game of Vampire, where we completely disregarded the humanity system. I was running a game for my younger cousins.  They, typical for kids exploring a new game, took liberties with the lives of human NPCs.  One character climbed in a dorm room widow, but awoke the sleeping inhabitant.  So he snapped the human's neck.  He heard sounds coming from the doorway, and the roommate waking up, so he stowed the body under the bed, and got into it himself, moving a little under the covers to give the impression of restless sleep.  When the roomate checked on the murdered college student, all appeared fine.

This was a pretty shocking event for all of us.  The other kids were all sort of staring at the guy, and he began to look a bit uneasy.  I continued as if nothing had happened, and I could see it dawning on them "we're Vampires.  We can do that, and get away with it.  Nothing will stop us, unless we choose to stop ourselves." This was a more poignant moment of "personal horror" than I've experienced in any other game of Vampire.

Now, partly this is becasue Vampire's Humanity system was badly designed to begin with, so it didn't do what it set out to do.  But I wonder how much it can be said that any system that tells you the thematic impact of an event, rather than letting you interpret that significance yourself, is robbing those events of impact?  This isn't a slam on any particular design )except maybe Vampire), nor on any creative agenda.  I'm just interested in the difference between Narr supporting games that don't have a "Humanity" system (like DitV) and those that do (like Sorceror? I think? I haven't read it).

What do you think? Is it the case that games that interpret the thematic significance of game fiction events for you rob those events of emotional impact? Is this a personal taste thing? Am I off the mark in my understanding of Narratavism?





Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2007, 05:34:18 AM »

Hi Simon,

You've fallen into one of the pitfalls: thinking that (according to the essay) the Premise must be overt and stated. That's actually not in the essay, in reference to play itself. The essay only says that in Narrativist play the Premise is present (by definition), but whether it's understood, spoken, or expressed in any way except for the creative decisions of play, is left completely out. My position on that issue is that stating it outright is generally a poor creative tactic, for exactly the reasons you describe.

As a larger issue, this may have to do with all the essays, in that they describe what is happening during play, but not what it feels like during play. It's a bit as if I were describing autonomic nervous or hormonal processes in the body ... you cannot feel your pancreas squirting insulin into your blood. A person who gets mixed up about that might respond to an essay about diabetes with great confusion - "But that doesn't happen! I have/don't-have diabetes, and I know all about it!"

I agree with you that Egri's advice to state the Premise up-front, as part of the writing process, is not applicable to role-playing. I also don't think it's applicable to any number of playwrights or screenwriters or novelists. As far as I can tell, he offers it (stating it overtly) as advice to writers who are stuck or confused, not as a standard technique for anyone, or as a requirement for writing anything good. I do agree with him that Premise needs to be "in there" as a central feature of all elements of the plot or else the story isn't good. All that merely repeats what we already knew - that good stories have to engage people about more generalized stuff they care about, over and above the trappings of a given setting or the spectacle of particular actions.

Does that help at all?

When it comes to play, I agree with you fully that a system which informs you of the in-play action's thematic significance is ass. For all the reasons you state, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a version of Story Before. This is why I've never liked the Humanity system in Cyberpunk, of which Vampire's is an imitation, and why the Humanity value in Sorcerer is (a)explicitly a personal judgment of someone at the table (actually everyone if you really watch a game), and  (b) does not limit character actions.

The best Premise-heavy role-playing mechanics concern choices and consequences, not judgments. However, they also set up opportunities for judgment by the real people, via the actions of characters or other in-game announcements like scene-framing. Such an opportunity is illustrated by how a person plays a Sorcerer character when they are at Humanity 1 ... because they have full freedom to do stuff which results in Humanity gains, at the same percent chance of succeeding as at any other value.

Any questions about that?

Best, Ron
Logged
Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2007, 07:04:52 PM »

Hi Ron,

Thanks! That's made things very clear.  I guess I missed that in reading your essay.  I really like your use of the term "Story Before", becasue it really hits on the head what has bugged me about V:tM and so many similar games for ages, that the game tells you exactly how you should feel about particular actions, regardless of context.

I think where I'm still a bit unclear is in how this comes out in actual game design. What's the difference between "Bad" humanity in V:tM, and "good" humanity in Sorceror? I see you've explained that a little in your previous post, but I'm not really getting it yet, perhaps becasue I'm not very familiar with Sorceror.  I understand that in Sorceror you define for yourself what Humanity means, rather than having it dictated to you.  What stops this from being a more open ended varaition on "Story Before"? What game mechanics I don't know about prevent this from being the case?

Quote
The best Premise-heavy role-playing mechanics concern choices and consequences, not judgments. However, they also set up opportunities for judgment by the real people, via the actions of characters or other in-game announcements like scene-framing.


This really nailed it for me.  I really love how DitV forces really thematic choices, about escalating violence and its consequences, as well as being forced by the setting to make difficult judgement calls, without the game ever telling you how to judge those choices, and in fact explicitly telling you that there is no "rule" that the dogs must follow.  What other games do similar things, and how? What are some other bad examples? (This question is for everyone).

Thanks for a really helpful reply,

Simon
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2007, 08:32:23 PM »

Thanks to you, Simon!

Quote
What's the difference between "Bad" humanity in V:tM, and "good" humanity in Sorceror? I see you've explained that a little in your previous post, but I'm not really getting it yet, perhaps becasue I'm not very familiar with Sorceror.  I understand that in Sorceror you define for yourself what Humanity means, rather than having it dictated to you.  What stops this from being a more open ended varaition on "Story Before"? What game mechanics I don't know about prevent this from being the case?

Let me repeat a bit about it, and also provide a little more detail.

1. The Humanity score in Sorcerer does not define a range of action in any way at all. In Cyberpunk or Vampire (based as they are on Sanity in Call of Cthulhu), there is a little description with each score or small ranges within it. If you have Humanity 1 in Cyberpunk, your character is semi-psychotic and is supposed to be played in a more unreasonable way than a character with Humanity of, say, 7.

That is not the case in Sorcerer. The full range of action is always available to all Sorcerer characters, regardless of Humanity score as long as it's above 0.

2. The chance for the score to go up or for it to go down, as a consequence of the ethics of player-character actions, is always 50%. Having a lower score does not make Humanity easier to lose or harder to raise, as long as we're talking about ethics. (Note: I harp on the ethical thing because the chance deviates greatly from 50% when demonic rituals are involved, and that deviation is highly individualized to each situation.)

3. Humanity is defined through the group's shared interest in a particular issue, often led by the person who initiated the game. The GM acts as a kind of steward of Humanity rolls, in the sense that poor judgment on his or her part is swiftly corrected by the group or (worst-case) makes the game unplayable. The game's heart lies in the ability of the group to care about that issue in a consensual way and to agree (overlap, perhaps) in its application to rolls for gain or loss.

4. The consequence of 0 Humanity is to lose the character. Some variants permit the character to return, but in all cases, it places judgment of the character, including consequences, with someone besides the player. This is sometimes highly desired by the player, and sometimes hotly striven against.

Therefore Humanity in Sorcerer does not act as a psychological gauge of the character's internal state in any way at all. It is instead a thoroughly author-level judgment mechanism, playing almost the same role as a musical score during play, if you could imagine a musical score that was never merely incidental or trivial (i.e. only for shock).

I'm not sure whether that helps. Humanity also has some in-game effects and can be rolled to accomplish certain things, and it also plays a small but interesting role in the changes in a character from story to story. It also helps to understand how it relates on a more functional level (i.e. the results of rules, not the rules) to other rules features like the Kicker or the sorcerous rituals. So again, I don't really know whether I've brought clarity or fog to the thread.

Best, Ron
Logged
Troy_Costisick
Member

Posts: 802


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2007, 03:24:47 PM »

Heya Ron,

I hope you don't mind if I jump in on this.  So if I understand correctly, a game that supports Narrativist play might propose a question.  Say, "Are you willing to die for something you care about?"  In order to truly support Narrativist play, the game should not do any of the following:

A) Answer the question for the players
B) Allow, through its mechanics, for only one possible answer
C) Tell the players what each decision they make means in moral/ethical terms

Am I right?

Peace,

-Troy
Logged

Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2007, 03:41:23 PM »

Quote
Therefore Humanity in Sorcerer does not act as a psychological gauge of the character's internal state in any way at all. It is instead a thoroughly author-level judgment mechanism, playing almost the same role as a musical score during play, if you could imagine a musical score that was never merely incidental or trivial (i.e. only for shock).

This is key for me.  So the game doesn't tell you the meaning of each decision of your character, but rather it gives you a mechanic for interpreting in game terms the moral issues the players have already decided on adressing.  The game doesn't tell you what to think, it gives you a mechanic for saying what you think in the game.  Does that sound right?

What about "connection to life" in "Otherkind"? Is this a similar sort of mechanic, or is it doing something else.  It seems to me that it's mechanically tied to punishing certain kinds of behaviour, so it should feel like a "bad" moral judgement.  But then, it's really there to force the player to make tough choices about the character, and the game doesn't make any judgements about those choices.  It's a valid thematic decision to sacrifice connection to life, and the mechanical punishment for that just makes it a more valid sacrifice.  Why doesn't Vampire feel the same way?

Troy's questions pretty clearly outline some of these issues, and I'd be interested in responses to this as well.  As a way of opening this up to more people, I'd like to propose my own question:

If a game is to properly address an issue like "Loss of Humanity" or the like, does it make more sense to reward, rather than punish loss of humanity in the game.  For example, V:tM strongly punishes loss of humanity.  Would it make more sense for it to reward it?
Logged
Danny_K
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2007, 04:03:06 PM »

Compare this with a recent, drifted, game of Vampire, where we completely disregarded the humanity system. I was running a game for my younger cousins.  They, typical for kids exploring a new game, took liberties with the lives of human NPCs.  One character climbed in a dorm room widow, but awoke the sleeping inhabitant.  So he snapped the human's neck.  He heard sounds coming from the doorway, and the roommate waking up, so he stowed the body under the bed, and got into it himself, moving a little under the covers to give the impression of restless sleep.  When the roomate checked on the murdered college student, all appeared fine.

This was a pretty shocking event for all of us.  The other kids were all sort of staring at the guy, and he began to look a bit uneasy.  I continued as if nothing had happened, and I could see it dawning on them "we're Vampires.  We can do that, and get away with it.  Nothing will stop us, unless we choose to stop ourselves." This was a more poignant moment of "personal horror" than I've experienced in any other game of Vampire.

Vampire is funny that way.  The flavor text, the setting, even the culture of play that I've experienced in various groups around the US, all seem to push in a Narr direction, but the rules don't support that at all.  There was a recent thread on RPG.Net where a White Wolf designer was defending the decision to keep those same Humanity rules in the second edition of the World of Darkness games.  If I remember correctly, he more or less said he didn't use them in his home games, but he thought they were important because they supported the GM. 

Which is what I think the Vampire Humanity mechanic is really all about -- it's a club for the GM to keep the players in line.  It's notable that when the writers developed the Sabbat, which in theory at least was all about roleplaying bloodsucking monsters, they backed it up mechanically with variations of the Humanity mechanic that basically disabled it.
Logged

I believe in peace and science.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2007, 05:10:36 AM »

Hi there,

My apologies for the brevity. I'll try to avoid line-by-line, but in one case at least, I think it'll be OK. Simon, you wrote:

Quote
The game doesn't tell you what to think, it gives you a mechanic for saying what you think in the game. Does that sound right?

Not only sounds right, it is right, and furthermore, borne out by many experiences of play by many different people. There are several important secondary points to make here as well, about the twists and turns people have had to make if they want to do this but are using (most) earlier RPGs, but they'd turn into an essay.

I think you totally identify the same process in Otherkind. You'll see it in Dust Devils as well. Trollbabe and Dogs in the Vineyard, which were written in the context of Dust Devils and Otherkind (with Sorcerer underlying both), pull the interesting trick of taking away an explicit numerical tracker, throwing more of the process into the lap of the particpants' desire to play this way.

As for why playing Vampire typically (I do not say universally) fails in this regard, I'd rather let you and others chew on that more in this thread, because you have more play-experience with it than me. Danny's already seized that bull, and I will read further with interest.

Troy, you're spot-on correct. People should pay more attention to Vincent's writing about the "center of the whirlwind," in his blog entry The fruitful void, based on a post of mine introducing the fruitful-void term.

Simon, here are my thoughts about your final question:

Quote
If a game is to properly address an issue like "Loss of Humanity" or the like, does it make more sense to reward, rather than punish loss of humanity in the game. For example, V:tM strongly punishes loss of humanity. Would it make more sense for it to reward it?

I think answering that question requires a very solid look at reward systems, and to recognize that reward mechanics mean nothing unless the reward content is socially and creatively functional. Let's talk about sports a little simplistically, in the sense of winning entire games and not so much about point-spread or MVP or stuff like that. At that level, if you don't care about winning the basketball game (in any way), then scoring points during the course of the game is not fun, tense, or exciting. It may be interesting and occasionally afford experiential moments of fun, say in carrying off a particular play well, but  - and this is the important part - if the rest of the group is oriented toward winning, then sooner or later they and you will be happier parting ways.

One rather negative element in a lot of games written in 2004 or so, with a certain presence to this day, is to think of reward systems like bread-crumbs. "If I want players to do X, then I will give them bonus dice when they do it!" That ... has its merits, or might, as a techniques mechanic within a reward system. For example, although the Spiritual Attributes in The Riddle of Steel are hugely mechanically significant (the quantity of bonus dice may be obscenely high), people who do not want to address (primarily) killing and (secondarily) dying while playing that game tend to avoid the mechanic, or to become confused about it in characteristic ways. Whereas a person who does get involved in the high-consequence, extreme thematic content of play tends to seize upon the mechanic as a fun way to do it, much like a sports player seizes upon "scoring points" as a mechanic in this particular game, for winning.

But that approach in isolation is ass. It's merely bookkeeping and running in a hamster wheel ... "why get better at rolls? because you get more points? why get points? you get better at rolls!" Or a similar one ... "if you bring in your character's love-interest, you get a point!" for a game in which there's no reason to play except to interact with and have conflict with love-interests.

I hope all of that is interesting and helpful.

Best, Ron
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2007, 12:18:30 PM »

Hi Ron,

This is the first time I've seen the humanity mechanic described. I have a concept of what it does, and wanted to check. I doubt its everything the mechanic does, but atleast in part.

Take a lion who eats a man. There's no real moral issues - lions do these things. Therefore there isn't much point continuing the examination. Does humanity forfil a similar role - once a character gets to a certain point, they are like the lion - empty of moral issues? Therefore its time to wrap up the examination of them? So the groups judgement of humanity is when to close the case on a character?

Also
Quote
But that approach in isolation is ass. It's merely bookkeeping and running in a hamster wheel ... "why get better at rolls? because you get more points? why get points? you get better at rolls!" Or a similar one ... "if you bring in your character's love-interest, you get a point!" for a game in which there's no reason to play except to interact with and have conflict with love-interests.
With the latter one your pointing out looking at "if you bring in your character's love-interest, you get a point!" by itself is pointless? But your not saying that "if you bring in your character's love-interest, you get a point!" doesn't work in a game about love conflicts. Sorry for the long sentence there - no arguement here, if I understand you right. Just wanted a sentence clarification, since I want be sure of what you mean about breadcrumbs here.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2007, 01:08:53 PM »

Hi Callan,

Your lion analogy has some valid points and some invalid ones. First, the actual meaning of Humanity 0 is a feature of Sorcerer prep. A given meaning usually arises because it's suggested by the person who has proposed the game in the first place, and fixed in place because others agree to it. In practice, I have never seen it played such that the 0 Humanity character is now in a lion-like state, to use your analogy. I suspect I have never seen it for a reason - because that would remove the "lion" character from judgment, and the whole process of hitting Humanity 0 (in fact, of being played in the first place at all!) is that the character is being judged, not escaping it.

The problem with answering, as well, is that we are now talking about effects, not processes. If anyone is getting the idea that, when a character hits 0 Humanity, we all sit down and have some kind of consensual tribunal about what it means, then the discussion is failing. That is not what happens.

About the love-conflict example, I think you may be missing the point. I am saying that if the game is about love-conflicts, and if you do have such a "bring in the interest, get a point" mechanism, that there may be a serious flaw. I realize that sounds counter-intuitive. But consider: if you have a game in which fighting with monsters, using medieval weapons, is the point, and you put in a rule that "every time you say you draw your weapon, get a point!" ... you're fuckin' up your game design.

This is going to be a problem for those who've learned, superficially, that Forge-ish games are based on operant conditioning. They're not. You can't get someone to accept treats for performing aspects of X, when they don't bloody fucking want to do X. However, if they do, then treats that help generate X are a lot of fun.

Consider: the largest reward cycle in Dogs concerns whether you, the player, judge your Dog as being worthy to carry on as such. The minute you judge that he or she is not, then you have available the easiest death for your character in all of role-playing design, any time, anywhere - just Give during one of the common conflicts in which an NPC is trying to kill your Dog. "I Give." The character dies. There is no rules-mechanism, no in-game option, that can save him or her at that time.

All the Fallout mechanics, all the Escalation mechanics, all the helping mechanics, and every other aspect of Dogs as a game culminates in the moments in which that option (or similar ones, like "she tries to convince you to give up being a Dog and staying here as her husband") is available. The events between those moments are all steps of that cycle leading to them at the apex each time. The cycle very likely encompasses more than one town, perhaps several.

If you don't want to do that, then none of the smaller-scale reward mechanisms means a fucking thing. Not one. People who aren't in tune with that larger reward cycle are exactly the people who wonder, in their heart of hearts even if they don't dare come out and say it, why Taking the Blow and Fallout just feed into more character attributes. It seems like a hamster wheel to them, and if they don't buy into that larger cycle, then they're right - it is.

Dogs has no Humanity score because its ultimate Narrativist question is whether a young religious zealot, empowered with deadly force, can be a human being. That's what you play to discover, at least for that particular set of circumstances as expressed by character creation, character history, and repeated town creation. So having a score that expresses it would completely destroy its central and emergent status.

Sorcerer is different. There is a Humanity score, which by now you should realize is a dead giveaway that "is my character really human" cannot be the basis for the largest-scale reward cycle. That largest-scale reward cycle is expressed in the first chapter, in the paragraphs about arrogance and also the empty bullshit context of magic; it is also expressed in the last chapter, in the paragraphs about the four possible outcomes. It is expressed in play by the crucial decision following the resolution of a Kicker - do I play this character again? Which is to say, is his or her story finished? (Before you wrinkle your nose and wonder why that's such a big deal, please contrast the presence of this decision in Sorcerer to its utter, total, complete, and unacknowledged absence in every role-playing game that preceded it, and most that follow it.)

How the score Humanity fits into that cycle is the subject of an entire supplement, which I maintain cannot be fully processed unless you play the game, then play again after reading that supplement and applying its points.

Best, Ron
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2007, 09:27:44 PM »

Hi Ron,

I did see the humanity score as a discussion and hitting zero as a conclusion. The lion example was a shot at illustrating how the discussion process would be clear, since it would be short lived. It was kind of awkward using the lion thing, its just that I could imagine humanity being used in a rather large number of ways (like the guage of how the character should act) and I wanted something that would cut more to the chase (to see how far off I was).

Quote
About the love-conflict example, I think you may be missing the point. I am saying that if the game is about love-conflicts, and if you do have such a "bring in the interest, get a point" mechanism, that there may be a serious flaw. I realize that sounds counter-intuitive. But consider: if you have a game in which fighting with monsters, using medieval weapons, is the point, and you put in a rule that "every time you say you draw your weapon, get a point!" ... you're fuckin' up your game design.
I don't understand what you mean? Unless your suggesting that when you draw a weapon, rather than being a means to an end (the eventual intended end, slay a monster/be slayed), it becomes the end itself - to just draw a weapon (which be such a meh/yech/poser ending). If it is, I hadn't thought of that - I'm keeping that in mind now.

Quote
This is going to be a problem for those who've learned, superficially, that Forge-ish games are based on operant conditioning. They're not. You can't get someone to accept treats for performing aspects of X, when they don't bloody fucking want to do X. However, if they do, then treats that help generate X are a lot of fun.
I think I understand this these days. People will do the thing they came to the gaming table for. Because it's why they came to the table in the first place.

Concerning the largest reward cycle in dogs, I'd suggest it's the largest reward cycle only because the rules can be seen to trigger an ending (well, an ending to a significant part of play; a character). If there's no ending attached, it just sits around with the other reward mechanisms. This is something I've been grappling with back in '05 and beyond (without really knowing it), with posts like Complete games with unguided resource assignment, as the unassigned resources (where the orcs go) isn't listed in the rules, but that's the key to seeing what is the largest reward cycle/seeing what leads to an ending. Including the gameworld without breaking that cycle is a real SOB, as I've found it (you'll note that when a dog is to die, its all player choice, devoid of the gameworld influence, even if the dogs swimming in lava'). That's how I've looked at the largest reward cycle, as I've understood the term. But shit, I wrote this because it felt linked up, but it diverged somewhere....but not enough that I want to delete it. Gah, I suck.


Quote
(Before you wrinkle your nose and wonder why that's such a big deal, please contrast the presence of this decision in Sorcerer to its utter, total, complete, and unacknowledged absence in every role-playing game that preceded it, and most that follow it.)
I did wrinkle my nose and yes, didn't recognise the achievement of taking that ground (or is it retaking long lost ground?).

Quote
How the score Humanity fits into that cycle is the subject of an entire supplement, which I maintain cannot be fully processed unless you play the game, then play again after reading that supplement and applying its points.
I'm rather skeptical of 'you have to play it enough to understand it' as I think it can be said no matter how much I've played any particular game.However, rather than trying to understand I can see the roots of enjoyable play described here - the rest of its understanding can wait (assuming I could understand it) if I have enjoyable roots in front of me. Smiley
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2007, 05:16:56 AM »

Simon, how are you doing with this? I'd like to bring the thread back into focus on your initial points. Given my answers about Humanity in Sorcerer, what comes to mind about the Vampire play that you talked about?

Best, Ron
Logged
Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2007, 03:46:18 PM »

Cheers Ron, that's a good question to bring it back to my original post.  I think I'm pretty happy with the discussion of Humanity in Sorceror.  Your discussion of how it forms part of a larger reward really made that issue clear for me.  I found Vincent's exposition of "the fruitful void" really helpful as well.  It's a very powerful tool, and I'm really excited about looking at roleplaying games with this idea in mind.

I think Danny really hit the nail on the head about Vampire.  The way the rules are written make it sound like the designers wated to make it impossible to play their game "wrong", so they provide lots of tools for the GM to "herd" the players in that direction.  In play it feels that way as well.  The Humanity rules are a club you get whacked with if you step out of line. At every point, they are prescriptive about what your actions mean, and how your character feels about it.  If your character commits an act of murder, regardless of the circumstances, you must roll the dice.  If you roll well, your character feels bad about it, and your humanity remains intact.  If you roll poorly, you are unrepentant, and lose humanity.  In play it all feels really backwards.  Losing humanity has a more profound imapact on the character, when the dice tell you that the character doesn't feel remorse at all.  If you "get away with" the murder, because your character felt bad about it, it feels like a free pass to do it again.  I think you're right Ron, when you say that no reward mechanism in the world is gonna make people have thematic play if they don't want to, but the Vampire mechanic, in my opinion, seems to make it actually difficult to have complex interpretations of the teme of the game.  The game tells you what your actions mean, rather than you telling the other players. 

I think it's really interesting that you talk about the "final reward" of Sorcerer being the discovery of the end of that characters story.  Vampire very much treats the end of a character as the ultimate punishment.  Running out of Humanity means losing your character, otherwise you are assumed to play that character until they die or you get bored.  Some of the most powerful (and oddly, the most exciting) fantasy gaming I've done has been with a group where we've assumed that the point of play is to find out where the story ends for each character.  Will they die an unknown mercenary in some damp dungeon? Will they go out in a blaze of glory for some righteous cause? Or will they manage to find a place to settle down? I think the entirety of the play experience was made richer by the feeling that it would all one day form a part of that character's story, however it ended up.

I think, substantively, the points I raised in my original post are resolved for me, but I'm still interested in this discussion.  I'd really like to see how this idea has been tackled, successfully or otherwise, in some other games.  Can you think of some good examples of "get a point for drawing your sword" type games? (Without slamming anyone's game.) What about some othe really good ideas? I think now I'm really interested in how different mechanics have been used to get this effect.
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2007, 07:07:00 PM »

Hi Simon,

I'm glad the thread's worked for you.

On reflection, and thinking back over all these years of moderation, I'm going to ask that we conclude this thread. I think your closing questions are best handled in new Actual Play threads which raise issues of reward systems, essentially just like this one did with its specific reference to experiences with Vampire. I hope other people will take some initiative to do that.

I'll put some thought into starting threads of that kind, but actually, almost all of my Actual Play threads have focused on it very strongly for quite a while now. You can see it in my discussions with Levi about his Frostfolk game, with Andreas about his Rifts game, and about my own play of The Shadow of Yesterday, just from the last few months. I suggest taking some of your impressions from this thread back to those, re-reading them, and seeing what you think.

Best, Ron
Logged
Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2007, 09:38:27 PM »

Thanks Ron,

That's my feeling as well.  I'm really excited by the new ideas that this thread has given me, and I'll take your advice about reviewing previous threads in this context.

Cheers,

Simon
Logged
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!