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Author Topic: Player Control  (Read 2561 times)
Epoch
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« on: June 29, 2001, 11:03:00 AM »

This is an idea I threw out at one point on the GO, and didn't get any feedback on, so I figured I'd try it here.

I got the idea from some of Ron's stuff about character currencies and effectiveness, metagame, and all that.

"Player" in this case refers to anyone involved in the game, not just the traditional player/GM split, as it's primarily a way of distinguishing how much a game goes for traditional player/GM power distribution.

The taxonomy is this:  Various people (or non-person entities, see below) can exert control over the game world in various ways.  Here are the ways that they can (significantly) affect the game world:

Character Control

The player controls, fully or partially, the actions and decisions of one or more characters.  The more extensive the player's control over the character's actions, or the more characters he can control, the greater his Character Control.

World Control

The player controls, fully or partially, the setting of the game.  Again, the more extensive, yaddah-yaddah.

Event Control

This one's tricky.  The player controls, again, fully or partially, events that occur in the game world that do not spring from the setting or the personal abilities of any of the characters.  The standard GM-fudging that goes on (that is:  "whups, I don't want you to kill Mr. Evil just yet, so you miss") is an example of Event Control.

Intangibles Control

The player controls intangibles like mood, theme, or premise.

(Look, ma!  It's a four-fold model!  Who knew?)

Okay, so how does one use this taxonomy?  I think it's a very useful way of drawing points of similarities between different games.  For example, GURPS and D&D -- largely similar games, right?  Both very traditional RPG's.

But, GURPS, with its advantage/disadvantage rules, cedes a certain amount of event and character control to the players that D&D doesn't.  I can design allies, enemeies, or dependents as a player, AND determine the frequency with which they will occur.  That points to some interesting differences between the games.

Obviously, games which support Ron's Director stance explicitely will cede more player control to the players and less to the GM.  But it's an interesting question of what kind of player control they cede.  I think the traditional control has been character (and NPC-characters, at that) and event control.  What about world control and intangibles control?

(I know of no games that have any kind of formal rules for intangibles control).

Also, perhaps the most interesting aspect of all this is when you start realizing that the game system is, for all intents and purposes, a player with a great deal of player control.  For example, Dying Earth cedes a lot of the character control that would traditionally be allowed to players to the system.  The system can force "your" character to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli.

So, anyhow.  Useful?  Thought provoking?  Inane?
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jburneko
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2001, 11:58:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-06-29 15:03, Epoch wrote:
The taxonomy is this:  Various people (or non-person entities, see below) can exert control over the game world in various ways.  Here are the ways that they can (significantly) affect the game world:


Your division is interesting and seems to be related to the concept of 'Stances' although I think you're going one level deeper in granularity.  Believe it or not I've actually seen mechanics for all 4 of your ideas.  I'll include them as examples below.

Quote

Character Control

The player controls, fully or partially, the actions and decisions of one or more characters.  The more extensive the player's control over the character's actions, or the more characters he can control, the greater his Character Control.


This is obviously the most common control experienced in RPGs.  It is most closely related to Actor Stance and is active both before and during play in most cases.  In terms of examples anyone who has ever bashed a goblin with his long sword has experienced characer control.

Quote

World Control

The player controls, fully or partially, the setting of the game.  Again, the more extensive, yaddah-yaddah.


This is more common in narrative games and is most related to Director Stance.  However, if it is present in more traditional games it usually exists BEFORE the game starts.  Such as your GURPS example where you can take an advantage that allows you to create a contact or information source.  I think such power is often neglected by players because they feel that they may spend points on gaining a contact but then it becomes up to the GM when and where to use that contact and thus the player loses control over the advantage once play begins.  I feel that this can be circumvented by 1) Actually creating the contact and all the details at the time of purchasing the advatange and 2) Alowing the player to 'use' the contact at his discression.  That is if there is some problem at hand the GM should be aware that at any moment the player may decide to call on his contact and keep that in the back of his mind during the design of his scenario.

Quote

Event Control

This one's tricky.  The player controls, again, fully or partially, events that occur in the game world that do not spring from the setting or the personal abilities of any of the characters.  The standard GM-fudging that goes on (that is:  "whups, I don't want you to kill Mr. Evil just yet, so you miss") is an example of Event Control.


Mechanics for this exist in more recent 'heroic' oriented games.  It is most related to Author Stance.  Examples of this type of mechanic would be Drama Dice in 7th Sea and Fate Chips in Deadlands.  Devices that allow you to 'fudge' dice rolls within the bounds of the rules.  Note: That fudging dice rolls is not the only thing that comes under this cattagory.  Fate Chips can be used to negate damage in Deadlands and Drama Dice can be spent to 'activate' villains flaws and hero's virtues.  All of these are mechanics not directly related to dice rolls and yet manipulate the outcomes of events.

Quote

Intangibles Control

The player controls intangibles like mood, theme, or premise.


This is of course the rarest of all types of controls.  It is usually assumed to be the domain of the GM and their aren't any specific mechanics for it.  It's just the GMs descresion as to what his game is about.  I have however seen ONE mechanic that fits this description.  It is used once BEFORE play begins.  It's from 7th Sea.  There are 5 major themes 7th Sea is designed to cover: Action, Romance, Intregue, Espionage, and Military.  There is a mechanic where you give the players 100 points to distribute between these five themes.  The GM then takes these score and using a combination of intuition and mathematical calculation determines which one or two of these fit the player's interests.

I have never seen an actual IN GAME mechanic for this and frankly I can't imagine why you would want one.  I mean if you start of with heroic action and have it devolve into dark fantasy with a quick foray into comedic romance and then a sharp plummet into lovecraftian horror you couldn't end up with anything less than a theater of the absurde style comedy.  But I'd none the less like to see someone try this.  It would be FUN if nothing else.

Anyway, I don't know if that was either helpful or insightful but it's my thoughts.

Jesse
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Epoch
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2001, 12:19:00 PM »

Jesse,

Total agreement -- and you might be interested to know that you just ratcheted up my interest in 7th Sea by about 150%.

Of course, you're looking at it from the players' side of things.  In the traditional case, the GM has lots of character control (over NPC's), and lots of world control, and often a lot of event control (hard core simulationism in the Threefold sense could be defined as the system having 100% of all event control, leaving none for either the GM or the players).

In terms of intangibles control, I've generally seen it de facto split amongst the players and the GM, with the system trying to get in on it and usually failing miserably (witness: how often are WoD games played with the "default" intangibles?).  That is, haven't we all seen players take a game and make it comedic where it was supposed to be serious, or hack-n-slash where it's supposed to be full of intriuge?
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Supplanter
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2001, 12:34:00 PM »

Quote
Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

Intangibles Control

The player controls intangibles like mood, theme, or premise.
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 


This is of course the rarest of all types of controls. It is usually assumed to be the domain of the GM and their aren't any specific mechanics for it. It's just the GMs descresion as to what his game is about. I have however seen ONE mechanic that fits this description


I agree. No mechanic, really. But one sees players have a huge, putatively negative, control over this all the time. Intangibles Control is precisely what's going on during what would otherwise be an intense interaction between PC and PC or PC and NPC when an observing player tosses in an off-color quip or the 100th Python reference of the night.

Now there is a mechanical idea: mood points. They would be negative plot points - Intone "I am your father, Luke!" Incur a mood point. Cackle "We want - a shrubbery!" Incur a mood point.

Mood points would then be used to fuck over the offender in some way that may vary from system to system or even campaign to campaign.

Best,


Jim
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2001, 04:07:00 PM »

Well, in Orkworld, you could use Trouble to do that.  Actually, you're encouraged to do so.....

Uh oh.  Is this turning into a "We love John Wick" thread?  :smile:

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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2001, 04:23:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-29 16:34, Supplanter wrote:
Now there is a mechanical idea: mood points. They would be negative plot points - Intone "I am your father, Luke!" Incur a mood point. Cackle "We want - a shrubbery!" Incur a mood point.

Mood points would then be used to fuck over the offender in some way that may vary from system to system or even campaign to campaign.


Just to continue the I love 7th Sea thing and the John Wick is a genious when it comes to these types of mechanics theme we have going I shall now mention 7th Sea's Optional Karma Die Mechanics.

What the 7th Sea GM's Guide recommends doing if you have mood ruining Players is to place a bowl of white dice in the middle of the table.  You tell the player's that this bowl contains Karma Dice.  Whenever a character is about to get killed by a villain or henchman, any play may pull a die out of the karma bowl to save that character's life.

Now here's the key.  Whenever a player does something to break the mood.  Like make Python reference the GM is supposed to throw a BLACK die into the bowl.  The Guide suggests that the GM shouldn't tell the players what that's for.  Then whenever a player (preferably the player who made the comment but not necessarily.  There's nothing better to have players help you keep another player in line if you screw over someone ELSE for their goof off.) does some really heroic act that thwarts or kills the villain, you pull out one of the black dice and say, 'Um, no, you fail.'

John Wick is evil and doesn't take sh*t from his players.  Don't get me started on COWARD dice.

Jesse
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2001, 07:28:00 AM »

What the 7th Sea GM's Guide recommends doing if you have mood ruining Players is to place a bowl of white dice in the middle of the table.  You tell the player's that this bowl contains Karma Dice.  Whenever a character is about to get killed by a villain or henchman, any play may pull a die out of the karma bowl to save that character's life.

Now here's the key.  Whenever a player does something to break the mood.  Like make Python reference the GM is supposed to throw a BLACK die into the bowl.  The Guide suggests that the GM shouldn't tell the players what that's for.  Then whenever a player (preferably the player who made the comment but not necessarily.  There's nothing better to have players help you keep another player in line if you screw over someone ELSE for their goof off.) does some really heroic act that thwarts or kills the villain, you pull out one of the black dice and say, 'Um, no, you fail.'

This reminds me of Dying Earth.  The GM keeps a running tab of each character's karma.  The total can either be negative or positive.  When a character is in the positive range good things can happen to him, but while in the negative the game suggests random acts of cruelty fall down upon him.  The total is altered by the character's actions.  So for instance, if a character kills a helpless bystander his total goes down - and vice versa.

John Wick is evil and doesn't take sh*t from his players.  Don't get me started on COWARD dice.

That's just funny.

_________________
- Tim C K

[ This Message was edited by: fleetingGlow on 2001-07-12 11:29 ]
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Mytholder
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2001, 07:58:00 AM »

Hmm. This "mood point" idea interests me. You could reverse it...give players bonuses when they do something that noticably contributes to the mood....like the old experience rewards for good roleplaying, but more generalised. In a horror game, for example, you'd get points for being scared, suggesting something horrible to happen, keeping other players on track etc.

Eh. Basically, you take the cluestick away from the GM and let the players beat each other up. Rather than have the GM try to keep a lid on the Python quotes, you let the players do it.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2001, 02:16:00 AM »

Hello,

I apologize for not getting to this thread earlier. "Control" is a funny word, isn't it? Maybe "input" might be closer.

I'm interested in the idea that what we're looking at is not so much a "player interference" issue - which is how it might be perceived from an old-school standpoint - but rather a "GM relaxes" or "everyone relaxes" issue.

Traditionally, the player may only PROPOSE, whereas the GM's statements DISPOSE. That is, I can say, "I hit," but I'm only really saying "I try to hit." Whereas the GM says, "You hit," or "He hits you," and that's how it is. The distinction applies to description and circumstance as well as event resolution. I can say, "Is there a garbage can nearby?" but the GM says, "There's a garbage can nearby."

In many sessions of play I've been in or seen, this distinction is very fixed, such that the GM's every word is disposal and the player's every word is proposal. That creates a lot of dysfunctions.

Some such dysfunctions include the player seizing on any misstatement of the GM that confers advantage and insisting, "You said it, you said it." Or when the GM refuses any replay or redirection of a scene as it begins - "No, I said you were there, so you're there." I think a lot of us recognize how uncomfortable and socially confrontational such a game session can become.

I suggest that the propose-dispose process belongs BOTH with the player AND with the GM, although not exactly the same for each. In my current play, it's no big disgrace for me, as GM, to say, "Oh, OK - well in that case, that doesn't happen after all." If we were in "GM proposes" mode, then my pronouncements are a shared-Director kind of thing, and their promotion to Disposals are acknowledged as such as well.

And players have more disposal-rights than they've had before, especially given the creative power that a Fortune-in-the-middle system affords. (That means that dice rolls provide propositions, not necesssarily final outcomes in terms of action, detail, and severity.) I'm still where the buck stops, but I'm no longer the source and font of all input about setting it up.

I have long wanted to address the issue of "My guy wants to hit" vs. "My guy starts to try to hit" vs. "My guy tries to hit" vs. "My guy hits." If we bump this issue up to all the scope of Director stance, and think about how the GM and player BOTH propose and BOTH dispose, then ... well, that's what the thread was about.

Great topic.

Best,
Ron
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Epoch
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« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2001, 09:27:00 AM »

While it's semantic, I think that "control" is a better term than "input," in a lot of cases, at least, because players (including the GM) generally need to feel that they have serious control over at least one thing in the game.

What I like about this model was that, in writing it, I immediately saw a lot of places for atypical player/GM relationships in games to go.

For example, I'm currently thinking about the concept of a roleplaying game in which nobody had any particular character that they were in full control over.  Which immediately makes me think of Wraith, but I'm thinking another level beyond that -- all PC-dom is transient.  There's a story that doesn't have a consistant set of protagonists, for example -- the players go where the story goes, and if that means an utterly disjoint set of characters, so be it.

I'm also wondering about the possibilities of explicit intangibles control of a sort that's not of the "punishing players for screwing up" sort that was identified upthread.
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