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Author Topic: The class issue  (Read 21642 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2002, 03:02:16 PM »

Hello,

Victor, I think you are missing my point that the term "class" is being exploded - that is, eradicated. The levels I refer to really exist; they are part and parcel of playing a character in a role-playing game. The term "class" has been applied to a variety of means to organize their interdependency, for given games.

Hence "class" in D&D is a Level 2 phenomenon, which has a causal effect on #4; that permissible combination of #4 stuff for a given class then has its impact on #1, during play. (D&D leaves #3 out of it, but a variety of supplemental material as well as house rules shoehorns it in, validating my claim that all four levels must exist.)

So don't look for "class" in the schema I've presented. Don't call them "classes," or "types of classes." Classes, so-called in one or another particular game, are a particular technique; my schema is the principle upon which that technique is trying to achieve functional play.

To clarify for some folks, using examples.

1) Otherkind distinguishes among characters mainly at level #3, using Race. In this case Race directly impacts #2, Character Role in Game, because it dictates the vector of response to losing Connection to Life, which is a variable in Otherkind that affects character behavior. Otherkind specifically forces all characters to be exactly alike in #4, which is unusual, but very appropriate for a game which purports (successfully) to be about decisions rather than capabilities.

2) Sorcerer specifies #2 very sharply, limiting its scope to a ferocious degree. Characters will be sorcerers who cope with Humanity loss via their interaction with demons and their (the sorcerer's) own goals. #3 is permitted to vary, but #4 varies much less than #3 (this is atypical, most skill-based or modern-day games are the opposite).

Always, always, the combination of #2-4 impacts #1 in practice; obviously, #1 as it stands will always influences choices made about #2-4 (ie "what to play").

Best,
Ron
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Don Lag
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« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2002, 03:13:28 PM »

Thank you Victor!!

I'd been trying to explain that idea for about an hour without being able to reach a parragraph I could understand myself.

Could I hire you as my translator?

Hoping I've finally gotten the GNS model right, here's a suggestion:

Game role: the role the character plays according to the game's mechanics or for what type of actions he is most effectively biased
(A wizard is given access to the spell mechanics of the game, a warrior has more effective combat mechanics, etc.). Sticking to this role results in gamist decisions.

Narration role: the relation the character has with the story (or it's Premise? not sure). In a game about the mora implications of wielding political power, is the character treacherous, loyal, merciful, cruel? Note that "loyal" would be an N-role only as long as it specifically referred to the role the character plays regarding the Premise. If the Premise was D&D-ish (will we be able to effectively kill everything that moves?) then loyal becomes more of an adjective of the character than an actual N-role. Sticking to this role results in narrative decisions.

Simulation role: the role the character has relating to the game's setting (the town mayor, a memeber of the thieves guild, etc.). Sticking to this role results in simulationist decisions.

Social role: the role the player has amongst his fellow players. I'm sure not everyone agrees this aspect of gaming should be considered formally, but at this moment I think it should. I believe game decisions can be made motivated by the way it would affect the players' social relations. Of course this also suggests tht, being there social decisions, GNS should be GNSC, letting C stand for soCial and C-role = social role.

Anyway, it's pretty clear that Ron's #1 corresponds directly to the C-role. G-role is pretty much #2 with some of the examples for #3 and relying on elements listed by #4. N-role doesn't seem to explicitely addressed in any of Ron's examples. S-role is very much the starting sentence for #3.

At this point I reflect on whether these definitions simply re-organize Ron's ideas or are in fact an orthogonal definition (point at different objectives). Also, are they a useful concept at all, or just a trivial spin-off from GNS?

I think it's clear that a class would be a design effort to condensate a role or comination of roles (as discussed here) into a mechanically manageable game term.

Also I'd guess that most RPG interacion among players pivots around the (usually tacit) agreement that we'll all stick to our expected roles:

Socially, everyone expects funny guy makes funny comments (that's how he gets the funny-guy role in the first place, from that expectation).

"Gamingly", everyone expects the warrior to concentrate on combatworthy enterprises. Nobody expects the wizard to spend time, expierence points, or any other game currencies in pursuing greater
effectiveness in combat.

Narratively, everyone expects a certain consistency with the character/player's angle on the Premise. Nobody expects the near-criminal berserker character/player to suddenly become a religiously driven evangelist.

"Simulationally", everyone expects the travelling bard to sing in taverns, seek attention and have knowledge of all kinds of lore. Nobody expects the barbarian to set up an industrial sword-making production line.


Of course, there are exceptions. But I'd believe that such exceptions usually fall into conflicts among roles. It would probably be acccepted that a wizard take into combat training (thus parting from his G-role) as long as it justifies sticking to some other role: perhaps his loved one had been brutally killed and he's preparing to personally seek vengeance or whatever (sticking to his N-role probably).

I can't see why any role should be permanent in time, so it's assumed that they're allowed to change by the players. The mechanism by which roles are morphed and how these changes interact among the roles might be pretty interesting. The way in which I change my N-role from being mean and cruel to being soft and caring (in a game about feelings I guess) might be explained (in-game) as a response to a traumatic event. This of course is part Simulationist and can be considered somehow as sticking to S-role. I fact, just how much of a change in the N-role would be "tolerated" by the other players would probably be related to how well it sticks to the S-role.

To depart from a role (as defined here) with no "justification" (such as sticking to another role would be) could be what most players recognize as bad roleplaying (and actualy it sounds kind of obvious).

D&D examples don't seem to be the most enlightening ones, but it's the most I've played and I can't refer to any others without getting some facts wrong and probably confusing everyone. If anyone agrees maybe the idea can be better illustrated by a more wide variety of examples.

I have a few more ideas and comments running around, but I feel like I'm going too fast already. Besides, this post is long enough as is :)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2002, 08:13:36 PM »

Hello,

Hey guys, I appreciate the interest in the thread, but I must say: the connection to GNS is a no-brainer. Of course the decisions about any of the levels, and how they relate, are GNS-relevant. Sebastian, I'm afraid that your attempt to correspond the levels to GNS categories is premature. We have lots and lots of comparative work to do among games, both regarding text and actual play, before such things can get worked out.

Similarly, of course, any decisions about anything during play are socially relevant. I am already on record, both in my article and multiple times in various threads, in defining role-playing as a subset of sociality (ie no "role-playing over here" vs. "social stuff over there").

Please see the current threads on GNS definitions and decisions, in the GNS forums, for my recent posts about this. If you want to discuss this further, please take it up on those threads and not here.

Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.

Best,
Ron
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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2002, 03:35:00 AM »

** Warning: I'll use 'class' in this post to designate the level 2 phenomenon called by that name in D&D. I don't know a better term for this, so I wish to use it, even if 'class' has some other meanings at well. **

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Hey guys, I appreciate the interest in the thread, but I must say: the connection to GNS is a no-brainer.


I don't think so; actually, I think some interesting ideas might be gained from pursuing the insight that 'class', interpreted in a narrower sense than you do, can be applied to the full scope op GNS-perspectives. As far as I know, but correct me if I'm wrong, there are no RPGs that make you choose a 'Narrativist'-class. Sure, the connection to GNS is obvious, but that's not the point. However, I'll create a new thread in the GNS-forum about it; this doesn't appear to be the discussion you were hoping for, so I won't fill your thread with it.

Quote
I am already on record, both in my article and multiple times in various threads, in defining role-playing as a subset of sociality (ie no "role-playing over here" vs. "social stuff over there").


Where does that leave computer roleplaying? Ah, this is probably offtopic too, just ignore it if the answer is longer than one sentence.

Quote
Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.


I don't think #1 has much to do with game design. It's just there, and it influences the choices a player will make regarding #2-#4; I don't think a game can relate it closer to #2-#4 than that.

It would be especially interesting to find games where #2, #3 and #4 are set equal. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, for instance, #2 and #3 are equal. A character's role in the game is set by his 'career' (more or less the equivalent of D&D's classes at level #2), which at the same time sets his role in society. This is a very close relationship, and level #2 and #3 are almost inseperable here.

D&D2E, on the other hand, has a more incoherent approach to the relationship between #2 and #3. It's 'classes' exist at level #2, but some of them cross over into #3. For instance, a 'fighter' could be anything in the world (almost no crossover to #3), whereas a 'bard' has a very narrowly defined role in society (huge crossover to #3). It should, however, be noticed that the bard's role at level 2 is not the same as his role at level 3. At level 2, his role is to strengthen his party member with his inspiring song, to be a surrogate thief when needed, to do some diplomacy when needed, etcetera. His role at level 3 is to entertain people. These two different roles have been compressed into one package. This is not necessarily bad, but it's a little strange that some 'classes' do, and other's don't have this feature.

Obviously, there are many other games where #2 and #3 have no connection. So, all levels of connection are possible.

On to level 4: what's it's connection with #2 and #3? There are probably some minimalistic RPGs where #4 and #2 are equal. A not-quite RPG like the board-game Hero Quest has a complete equality between #2 and #4: your character's 'class' (barbarian, dwarf, elf or wizard) completely defines all his game statistics. (In this game #3 plays no role at all beyond the assumption that you are some kind of hero saving the kingdom from evil.) Far more common is to have some interaction between #2 and #4, but not equality. Thus, in D&D, #2 lays down some restriction for #4 (or the other way around, depending on how you look at it). It's almost necessary for a game to have some connection between #4 and #2. The character's 'statistics' will reflect what he's good at, and thus will reflect what his role in the group is or should be. Only a few games that have no effectiveness values will be able to severe any connection between #2 and #4.

The connection between #3 and #4 is somewhat less clear. The character's role in the gameworld can be connected to #4 by itself, or through #2. If #3 and #2 are more or less equal, #3 will share (part of) the connection #2 has with #4. Thus, in AD&D, anyone whose job it is to entertain people by making music and singin songs will have [insert necessary statistics to be a bard in AD&D]. I can't, however, think of many RPG systems where #3 and #4 have a direct connection. (But my knowledge of RPGs is very incomplete.)

So, I guess the question becomes: what kind of connections are used / are useful in different types of game design? I guess a Gamist game, for example, would like a very strong connection between #2 and #4, with #3 being less important. (For example: D&D3E. They did this perfectly. There is a very clear connection between #2 and #4, and #3 is left almost entirely to the player - although there should be some connection to #2.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2002, 06:11:30 AM »

Hi Victor,

Four things ...

1) Regarding GNS, my use of "no-brainer" refers to whether it is involved with the four levels, not how. Regarding how, important insights are definitely to be gained by discussing how these four levels relate to it - but as I said to Sebastian, I also think that it's premature to do so.

2) Most computer role-playing is irrelevant to most, although not all, discussion at the Forge. The activity we talk about here and that activity share a label, but very little content or procedure, except in certain cases.

(I am not referring to Pbem or on-line play, I'm talking about what people usually call computer role-playing games. If anyone wants to debate this, they're not going to get very far by pointing out the nuance in one game that corresponds to "our" sort of role-playing. I have already acknowledged that some areas of correspondence exist.)

Any and all discussion of this issue should be taken to a different thread.

3) My level #1 is probably going to be hard for some people to grasp, and I think that the "but that's social!" fallacy is what's responsible. Levels #2-4 do operate as a unit, but they are always, always informed (in the classic sense of word) by #1. The obvious example is flipping through the book and seeing what one "can" play. That's #1 "looking" at the #2-4 combination that emerges.

I do not consider this example trivial. What happens when someone fails to get a strong idea of #2-4 upon flipping through the book or asking one or two questions? Their interest drops instantly. Even in a game like GURPS, in which #2 is arguably absent from the text, both the illustrations and the examples are going to clarify to the reader that #2 may be easily constructed. If they don't, poof - interest in playing evaporates.

But that's just the easy example. #2-4 feed back into #1 in multiple ways during play. Here is indeed where GNS must be involved, and to discuss this, we'll have to take a mature understanding of GNS (and thus not say "A Gamist would ...") as well as a better grasp of the basics of my level-scheme, which is what this thread is for.

And then, also, during play, #1 is always acting upon and even altering #2-4. This is where people get defensive - for some reason, "social stuff" as a functional and powerful component of play (in this case, regarding character-role-and-function) is often considered some kind of horrid sin. So what if my Fighter-Guy went to some pains to defend the Elfy Babe from the goblins, just because I personally wanted to get into the player's pants? Granted, this particular instance is not edifying, and I imagine that various other goals of play (e.g. GNS) are potentially compromised, but this sort of thing is real and active in every one of you-all's games out there. It is the source of much fine and excellent role-playing as well as dysfunctional forms.

So level #1 is a necessary and functional part of the scheme, even if "one of these four is not like the others."

4) I like your breakdown of the different games. One thing that I hope people are picking up upon is that if a game text or descriptions does not include a specific designator at one or the other levels, then people construct them through play. For instance, in many D&D games, people take to treating the class designation as an in-game designation (#3). E.g., the NPC says, "Well, there's a powerful magic-user living down the street."

Now that I think about it, the D&D text does provide one small (and widely-ignored) example of this very thing: the names of the levels for the different classes, e.g. Prestidigitator, Conjuror, etc.
 
Another nugget to consider is that #2 is usually constructed as a composite. For instance, the qualities designated by D&D as "class" are only a portion of what constitutes #2 in D&D - it's also constituted by "race" (D&D's most-important and consistent concession to #3) and "level" (definitely a #4 thing). Dont' get me wrong - D&D's "class" designation is definitely a #2, and it's one of the few and most distinctive acknowledgments in game texts that #2 exists at all. That particular designation is not all of the level #2 content in the game, that's all.

Best,
Ron
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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2002, 01:37:28 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Victor,


By the way, I never put 'Hi' and 'Greetings' or whatever in my posts. I hope this doesn't strike anyone as rude. The forum which I mostly hang out on has a long-standing policy against such greetings in posts, so I'm not used to it. Please assume I always greet everyone implicitely.

Quote
So level #1 is a necessary and functional part of the scheme, even if "one of these four is not like the others."


Yes, but it's also important to note that it's not like the others. The main problem with #1 is, of course, that the game designer has no influence on it (unless he creates a game exclusively for his friends). There are a few things he can do with it, such as making a wide selection of available #2-#4 choices so he can reach a wider public in the #1 sense.

Quote
4) I like your breakdown of the different games. One thing that I hope people are picking up upon is that if a game text or descriptions does not include a specific designator at one or the other levels, then people construct them through play.


With #2 and #3: undoubtedly. However, what about #4? All your examples seemed to be system-specific. I'm not sure how player whould come up with things like 'has 14 Strength'.

Quote
For instance, in many D&D games, people take to treating the class designation as an in-game designation (#3). E.g., the NPC says, "Well, there's a powerful magic-user living down the street."


Yep, though not with all classes. More with bard and druid than with fighter (probably the most generic of them all - if you don't know someone's class, make him a fighter).

Quote
Another nugget to consider is that #2 is usually constructed as a composite. For instance, the qualities designated by D&D as "class" are only a portion of what constitutes #2 in D&D - it's also constituted by "race" (D&D's most-important and consistent concession to #3) and "level" (definitely a #4 thing). Dont' get me wrong - D&D's "class" designation is definitely a #2, and it's one of the few and most distinctive acknowledgments in game texts that #2 exists at all. That particular designation is not all of the level #2 content in the game, that's all.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think D&Ds (2E) most important and consistent concession to #3 is the standard non-weapon proficiency method, where you roll a die and find out that you are a 'baker' or a
'brewer' or something like that.
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Don Lag
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« Reply #21 on: July 27, 2002, 05:43:30 PM »

Ok then, let's keep the relation to GNS for later and concentrate on your proposed 4 levels of role categorization.

In which ways are you thinking #1 interacts with #2-#4 ? I can imagine this: say your character is a jester (#2-#4) then I guess you tend to be more talkative, not only IC but OOC too. My best example is a game partner we had who wasn't very bright (#1) and tended to create not-very-bright characters (along classes defined according to #2-#4). The reverse is certainly possible: if you take a #2 role of being the scheming-skunk, you tend to adopt the expected nuances of behaviour OOC also.

I'm not sure this is what you intend when stating that #1 interacts with #2-#4 and viceversa. I think it says more stuff about psychology than gaming. Could you please clarify that point (the way in whihc #1 interacts with the other levels)?


I'm thinking that your levels might have something to do with player/character consciousness??
#4 is percieved by player but not by the character; for example the concept of hit-points, levels, attribute scores, etc aren't available to actual characters ("Hi I'm Joe the Blacksmith, I'm neutral-good, level 1 and have 14 Strength"!!). However, characters do present some sort of recognition of these elements, but in othre terms (using other concepts): "I feel great", "I'm rather strong", "I'm good at X"...
#3 calls upon concepts like "baker", "mayor", "shoemaker" that are available to the characters and pretty much identical to the one the players handle.

#3 and #4 apply only to the characters. By having a blacksmith character you aren't expected, as a player, to actually do any smithing!

#2 is hybrid in a sense, it refers to concepts that are available to the characters but that would apply simultaneously to characters and players: a player taking on the "leader" role is supposed to be one among the players and, at the same time, his character is supposed to be a leader to the other characters (this is of course what I think you originally observed in the starting post).

#1 would refer to roles that could be exclusively recognized by the players; they can of course permeate to all the other levels. I'm still a little suspicious of #1 as a peer of #2-#4, ut I think it's important to see if you agree with any of the above perceptions.

The thing is, I agree with your levels to the extent that I recognize them as "things" that I can too percieve in gaming. But I'm not sure what the criteria for the categorization is, and it seems a bit in your first post that the division was like separating fruit into two groups: green fruit and yummy fruit. I'm sure you have some criteria for diding the levels as you did, it's just not evident to me yet.

Greets.
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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2002, 01:44:59 AM »

Quote from: Don Lag
#4 is percieved by player but not by the character; for example the concept of hit-points, levels, attribute scores, etc aren't available to actual characters ("Hi I'm Joe the Blacksmith, I'm neutral-good, level 1 and have 14 Strength"!!). However, characters do present some sort of recognition of these elements, but in othre terms (using other concepts): "I feel great", "I'm rather strong", "I'm good at X"...


But some games state attribute score and such in terms accessible to the character; The Window, for instance, makes you write down 'my character is rather strong', or 'my character is very intelligent'. (Admittedly, there's the name of a die after it, which the character wouldn't understand. I'm sure there are better examples of games where there are no terms the characters can't understand.) Does this make those attributes #2 instead of #4? If so, the boundary between them is extremely vague, for the difference between 'my character has 18 strength' and 'my character is very, very strong' is largely cosmetic. And what's more, although we don't say that people are 'lawful good', characters in an AD&D-world might say so. (They've got all kinds of things that work only against good or evil people, etcetera. It would be a very natural division for them to make.)

Therefore, I'm not quite sure character consciouness / player consciousness is a very good way of classifying things. There are too many subtleties there. (O gods, it all breaks down when your start roleplaying characters who are avid roleplayers. :P ) And actually, I'm not quite sure that it is what Ron meant in the first place. To me, it seems more about 'roles': the role in the out-of-game social group, the role in the party, the role in society and the role in the game system.
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Don Lag
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« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2002, 12:28:41 PM »

I'm still referring to roles actually. But it seems to me that the division among roles relates to who's concepts are being used in defining such roles.

The role of having Strength 18 isn't usually available to the character, not in those terms anyway, or at least it isn't intended to be explicitely known to the character accoding to the manual. If the characters acknowledge the difference betwee strength scores such as: I'm stronger (18) than Bob (17) and Andy (16, but Bob's stronger than Andy.... then what it looks like is that you're shifting the Strength attribute from #4 to #2; being "a strong/er/est guy" is #2.

Of course you usually wouldn't make a strength 18 character (#4) unless you're also sticking to a "strong guy" role at #2. But that's just the interacion among role levels that's acknowledged in Ron's original post.

Quote

The Window, for instance, makes you write down 'my character is rather strong', or 'my character is very intelligent'.


Maybe I haven't been consistent enough. When I mean "aware" of a role I mean that the role is expressed using the exact concepts of by which it is perceived. A character does not usually percieve the existence of attribute scores (and in The Window I still see them as attribute scores, although with a more elaborate name; at least by the examples you've given) even though he IS aware that he is less or more effective than average in certain areas.

Quote

...although we don't say that people are 'lawful good', characters in an AD&D-world might say so...


What I've usually seen is that character's aren't aware of explicit alignments in-game. I believe the AD&D books ad Palladium also, seem to support this idea by stating that character's should't speak in terms of alignment. Of course players do.

This all goes to saying that given a single game, different groups of players may assign certain roles to different levels, and what it seems to me is that these levels rely on who's concepts (the players' and/or the characters') are being used in their description. Of course the usefulness of the level scheme might rely on some other criteria I haven't bee able to percieve, I'd like for Ron or somone else to point out for me in that case.
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lehrbuch
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« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2002, 03:40:46 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.


Hi,

Here's my attempt to show how your levels of classes occur in Vampire, or at least my experience of Vampire.  I should note, that I've only really played vampire as a political intrigue game.

Vampire Classes:

Level One: Player's Social Role.  The game explicitly divides players into the "Storyteller" and the "Players".  In the game text (particularly in the Black Dog supplements) there are comments made (mostly to the storyteller) about "what the player's feel comfortable with", both in game content and interaction between players.  Although, in my experience, this has never been a particular issue in tabletop Vampire (LARP, however is a whole other story). (Aside:  Player's Social Role, or at least misunderstandings about them, seem to be a Big Issue in LARPs- one reason is possibly because of the relatively large number of (part time) players.)

Level Two: Character's Functional Role.  If the game is played canonically then the player characters are either members of a Coterie or Sabbat Pack.  In a Sabbat Pack there are clear functional roles: Priest, Leader etc.  These are also Level Three (as the characters know about them).  Character roles are less clear in a Coterie.  Vampires are also divided by clan where bruisers, sneakers etc are more likely to come from particular clans.  Again, this is partly Level Three as the characters know about it.  In actual play, characters tend to specialise in an area, however in my experience player characters are as likely to be acting against each other as with- so they do not make the most efficient use of this specialisation.

Level Three: In-Game Roles.  There are in-game titles (Prince, Primogen, Bishop etc).  Titles are very important in the game and although player-characters tend to not initially have them they are something to strive for.    There are clans (discussed above).  The game text and actual play makes a lot of use out of each clans stereotypical perception of the other clans.  Clan is not however a totally in-game definition, as it marginally effects how a character's experience points may be spent.  Some clans (notably Ventrue) also have titles etc within the clan that define what a character does.  Characters may also be granted domain over particular resources or geographic areas of a city.  Protecting and administering one's own domain, and striving to not get caught interfering in another's domain is an important in game role.  Finally, a character is usually tied to other characters (PC and NPC) through favours owed and owned.  Gathering or paying these off is a significant definer of a character's role.

Level Four:  Rules bits.  In character generation a player assigns priorities to various areas of the character's development- for example, which gets the most points: Physical, Mental or Social attributes.  This has a bearing on how effective your character will be in various roles.  Character backgrounds- things like Herds, Resources, Fame, strongly influence what a character will do, for example a character without many Resources may spend a lot of time in-game trying to accumulate wealth.  Vampire also has a system of Nature and Demeanor, which are general statements about how your character is and appears, psychologically.  This can be an important driver of in-game activity as a character recovers will-power points by acting in accordance with their Nature.  Will-power points are usually expended to resist "mind-control" type effects.

Hmmm....that was long.  While I was writing this one thing that occurred to me, is that another distinction that can be made about classes in games is whether they are "descriptive" or "prescriptive".  This is parallel to Ron's levels.  For example if a Vampire Character was said to be a "toreador gun-bunny", then the "toreador" bit (a clan) is prescriptive.  It defines how she will be (initially) perceived by other characters and (partly) how she may expend experience points.  "Gun-bunny" is descriptive, it tells us that that the character probably has a lot of DEX, Firearms skill and celerity...and some guns.  It's kind of chicken and egg thing:  A "prescriptive class" *defines* how the character is, while a "descriptive class" *describes* how the character is.
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* lehrbuch
damion
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« Reply #25 on: July 28, 2002, 04:30:37 PM »

First off: I'm with Victor in the greetings. If anyone is offended by not having them, let me know, and I'll try to remember to put them in. (Anyway I could get a sig at the beginning?: )

Also, Victor, thanks for succinctly expressing my some of my confusion on #1. I think there are really two issues in #1.
1)What do people want during A Game? This seems to be Ron's Elf-babe example, and this seems to be the 'but it's social' issue.
I have to agree with Victor in that I'm not sure what you can do about it. The net effect would seem to be to add a Author element
to play.  
2)As mentioned in the original example, social roles. I think this element is addressed by people gravitating toward expressions of 2-4 that fit their #1 roles.  
Games seem to address this issue by limiting the choices for #2-4. The idea being that a person who can't find something that fits them won't play, thus avoiding problems.

I think the partly confusion between #2-4 arises because the game mechanics require quantification of the Competence of a charachter to a certian resolution. This resolution is usually greater than that available in RL. In RL we have a few broad catagories (Certifications, Education Levels(Ph.D, MD, ect), Testing, ect). Withing these catagories it's usually very sujective. Thus we have things like job applications where they talk to you and look at your experiance as way of differentiating the Competence of people.
In gaming there seem to be 3 solutions.
1)Very Low Resolution:Basicly characthers are described by a descriptor  the reflects special abilities. For everything else there some default mechanism. This basicly says that the level of competence isn't that important to the game. Occam's Razor.
Lot's of Narrativist RPG's use this method.
2)Low Resolution:In this you have a small range of Competence, approxametly similar to RL. The problem is that differentiating between people at the same level is difficult. Example:FUDGE?

3)High Res:Charachter competence is 'known' in Game mechanics to a much higer degree than real life. This is a sort of simulationist approach, which tries to model the 'real' spectrum of competence. It causes a problem in game because there is no way to express the info in game, despite the fact that it is relevent. It also causes the problem of breakpoints, or why GURP's characthers have 14s.

Hmm, hope that wasn't to far off topic.
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James
lehrbuch
Member

Posts: 24


« Reply #26 on: July 28, 2002, 05:40:49 PM »

Quote from: Victor Gijsbers
But some games state attribute score and such in terms accessible to the character; The Window, for instance, makes you write down 'my character is rather strong', or 'my character is very intelligent'....


First, I'm not sure that what happens in real life is relevant, but people do say things like "my IQ is xxx" or "my grade-point average is xxx" or "I can bench press xxx kg".  Real life people *can* express how strong/intelligent/etc they are in numerical terms.  Of course, there are authenticity, accuracy, definition, and precision problems with these measures.

Quote from: damion
In RL we have a few broad catagories (Certifications, Education Levels(Ph.D, MD, ect), Testing, ect). Withing these catagories it's usually very sujective. Thus we have things like job applications where they talk to you and look at your experiance as way of differentiating the Competence of people.


"Classes" are not only used to differentiate competence, either in a game or real life.  They also define role and perception (both of the character and those that the character has of others).  

This is true of real life as well.  We don't usually look at formal qualifications or test results when we make judgements about people.  We look at: what they look like, what they are saying, what they are doing, what they have done and who they are with.  That is, we make a judgement about which class or caste they are in (although maybe we wouldn't use those words) and apply a stereotype we think is appropriate.
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* lehrbuch
Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« Reply #27 on: July 28, 2002, 09:50:33 PM »

Hey Ron,

Since I assume you'd like to 'get back on track' with...

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Folks, I'd very much like to get into the meat of the four levels and how they are causally connected for different game designs, much as I laid out for Sorcerer, Otherkind, and Trollbabe.


Let's try Scattershot.[list=1][*]As you point out, until recently this level was completely missed in published texts (at least as a separate idea).  As you also mention, Scattershot does go into issue with this not only with Emergent Techniques: Who's in Charge?, but also with those for Solomon's Auction (because it is strictly a player-versus-player issue) and Sine Qua Non (because it calls for player-to-player negotiation).

What I think you might be missing with your list ("leader, organizer, attention-getter, funny guy, flirt, follower, strategist, hanger-out, or any combination thereof") is pretty much the whole 'ist' issue.  Some people very much identify with the 'isms' of the GNS; "I'm a Gamist," "I'm a Simulationist," and "I'm a Narrativist."  (I expect people will feel similarly with similar components in the Scattershot Gaming Model and Ambitious Approach.)  I think you've got to admit that that appears here at this level primarily in the 'ism' self-identification way.

Another thing that seems to be lost at this level (probably because it's so ingrained) is the whole 'gamemaster, player, host, organizer' logistics thingie.  A few of the upcoming 'Emergent Techniques' will deal with these issues, especially how they relate to 'refereed, totally Gamemasterful (but consequently gamemasterless-seeming) live-action role-playing' gaming, otherwise I don't have anything for that yet.

[*]The GNS/Approaches thing comes up again here, but I think more implicitly than explicitly.  Scattershot works on this level primarily with Emergent Techniques: Sine Qua Non and many of the 'niche protection' sub-topics throughout.  Of course the whole idea of keeping the players from deprotagonizing each other partly carries back up to the previous level too.

One thing we also address at this level has to do with character design, but not the specifics of it.  For example, one player having a character that has 'secret information' unavailable to the other players (as seen in Emergent Techniques: Mystiques and Intrigue).  This kind of 'player level' 'party connectedness' design seems quite absent until more recently.

[*]Scattershot is almost silent on this level.  Largely due to the confusion generated in older game designs when it comes to the term 'class.'  While we will provide Exemplars - characters set up to be run 'right out of the box' like the archetypes (what were they called?) in Shadowrun - the difference will be, when you get right down to it, they'll be there mostly for 'obvious examples.'  This is hopefully a subtle ploy to demonstrate Scattershot's Genre Expectations and how they color such choices at this level.  Our basic philosophy is to make these "professions" 'obvious' without establishing them as unavoidable templates, it's a flexibility issue.

[*]As you cited in Fundamental Particles of Character Class, I talked about this from a 'abilities standpoint.'  One thing that seems to being lost in the subsequent discussion is what I consider abilities (and you'll notice Advantages and Disadvantages as well) are 'rights' to control the narrative (what you call "metagame tags and categories and actual contracts-of-play").

What I am a bit unclear on is how you seem to tie it back to the Genre Expectations by saying that a character "is Neutral Good, then that tag initiates a form of 'task' or 'role.'"  Is that what you are suggesting?  The way that certain aspects of character 'request' certain treatment from the game based on how it plays in the game's genre?[/list:o]If that last part is the case then all of the above (although #1 only implicitly until recently) is strictly about the application of 'what a player wants' out of the game.  Both in how what they create and interrelate to other in-game aspects, expresses it (in some subtlety) and how their specific 'actions' state it in an 'actions speak louder than words' fashion.  That being the case, then one of the unwritten design specifications of Scattershot has been to 'out' this practice both in principle and in action.

The thing that makes 'causally connecting' Scattershot to this list difficult is that so few things are as concrete as race or class or 'pitch of mechanics' in Scattershot because it is designed to be a 'generalist' game.  In a modern setting, 'race' (as expressed in the bulk of fantasy games) doesn't exist; everyone is human.  In different historic eras, 'class' has meant a lot of different things.  Being ultimately customizable, Scattershot has had to deal with these "connection" from more of a meta-game or Genre Expectations level.

I hope this analysis can get us 'back to the meat' of this discussion, because I am very interested in some fresh perspectives on #4 (when it applies to 'rights') and #1, neither of which sadly have not gotten much attention.

Fang Langford

p. s. Since you mention Sorcerer, this close to Gen Con, have you done much lately on the you-know-what supplement?  There's always been plans for a similar one for Scattershot, and this is another 'fresh perspective' I am looking forward to.
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Andrew Martin
Member

Posts: 785


« Reply #28 on: July 29, 2002, 12:09:08 AM »

Quote from: Victor Gijsbers
I'm sure there are better examples of games where there are no terms the characters can't understand.


In my Star Odyssey game with Ratio mechanics, I designed the system so that it doesn't matter whether the character or the player states the values of the character's skills or attributes. That way the players never go out of character. I'm still working on a damage, protection, wound, healing system where it doesn't matter if the player or character speaks the values.
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Andrew Martin
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #29 on: July 29, 2002, 07:07:08 AM »

As to the #1 topic, I think there is much to say. First, I think that there has been more written into games that address this than people realize. You just tend not to remember it. For example, some game I read not too long ago, suggests that the GM never be the host for sessions (frees him up as the most involved participant). This is an explicit example of #1. Some games have advie for what to do with obnoxious players (informs the GMs role, usually). I'm sure we could come up with lots more examples.

Further, because it is seen as somthing that is outside the scope of rules presentation it has been ignored. But is that a good thing? Perhaps in identifying this level, we can find new ways to address it, and to make it a grabby part of RPGs. Actually, thinking about it, I'm certain that this can and should be done.

Thirdly, as a one sentece response to Victor's CRPG question, I'd say that CRPGs are commented on all the time in terms of the simple fact that #1 is somewhat absent; a significant observation of itself. People often criticise CRPGs for exacly that reason, for instance.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Another nugget to consider is that #2 is usually constructed as a composite. For instance, the qualities designated by D&D as "class" are only a portion of what constitutes #2 in D&D - it's also constituted by "race" (D&D's most-important and consistent concession to #3) and "level" (definitely a #4 thing). Dont' get me wrong - D&D's "class" designation is definitely a #2, and it's one of the few and most distinctive acknowledgments in game texts that #2 exists at all. That particular designation is not all of the level #2 content in the game, that's all.


As a way of continuing to show the value of discussions on such topics, Iwould comment on how these things vary from playgroup culture to playgroup culture. For example, in much Japanese AD&D play (as I understand it; one can read the transcripts, tho), a lot of #4 Role stuff is known by the characters. That is, in play you will have dialog in which the characters will mention things like their level, and their strength attribute. As in, "I don't think we should take on this Magic-User, Shijei, he's eighteenth level, and know the magic missile spell!" All in character. In this case the NPCs level was "common knowledge" amongst the people of the land.

Sounds strange to most of us, but there is nothing in the D&D books that says not to do this. Apparently it was a literal reading in translation and devotion to the letter of the text that produced just this style of play in Japan. Again, if I understand the phenomenon correctly.

An interesting example of the use of this terminology.

I think that the "#" teminology is sorta difficult. I like Don's terminology, and I think it's just a restatement of Ron's stuff, essentially. That is, I'd adopt Social Role, Narrative Role, Sim Role, and Game role as levels #1 through #4 respectively as they are more descriptive, intuitive, and easily remembered. The only potential problem is that people might associate them with GNS on a one for one basis.

Social Role, Story Role, In-Game Role, and Mechanical Role? Perhaps?

Mike
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