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Author Topic: The class issue  (Read 21686 times)
Paul Czege
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« Reply #30 on: July 29, 2002, 07:20:24 AM »

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

Yeah, I thought Don's names were motion in the right direction as well.

How about, Social Role, Story Role, Setting Role, and Mechanical Role?

Paul
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damion
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« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2002, 09:20:14 AM »

To expand on what Mike said(Reading it was a mild epiphany).
Social Role(#1) is usually addressed in the 'advice to the Gamemaster' or 'how to run XYZ' section. Things like 'Robin's Laws' would also fall partly in here, I think. There is also a large body of advice on this topic online. Even DnD3 I think has a 'player type' breakdown in the GMG, it gives advice on how to deal with different player types.  I think an issue is the fact that the players roles are rarely explicitly addressed. (I've seen some stuff online, but that's it).

Fang: Shadowrun archetypes are actually a mixture of archetypes in the sense I think your thinking of and disquised DnD-style classes.
That brought up another issue-Can Roles be changed? How Easily? Is this another thread?
 
To address the issue at hand:

Game Role Deconstruction: Ars Magica

Social Roles:Player & GM(Storyguide I think :) ). Incidentally, it reccomends rotating these roles for 'troupe style'.

Story Role:      All charachters are assumed to share a Covenant (basicly an excuse for Magi to be together) and thus have a shared Story Role.
    All players have 3 types of charachters, Magi, Champions, and Grogs. Usually 1 of the first two, and many of the last type. Magi are obvious, Champions have the same 'starting resourses to create a charachter' as magi, but no magic. Grogs are basicly RedShirts. This actually reresents a combination of all 4 Roles, as 'lower' characthers are supposed to stay in the background a bit, letting 'higher' ones lead. Of course who plays the 'background' characthers rotates. You could call this trickle-down protagonism.    

       
In-Game Role:See Story Role  

Mechanical Role:Besides the Story role stuff, Magi are destinguised by their Magic,Skills and Stats. Other characthers are distinguised by skills and stats. There is a bit of overlap with In-Game Roles as grogs are primaraly distinguised by skills (blacksmith, thug, ect). Also Magi have a House(political group) and Parens(Who trained you?), which operate sorta like advantages and disadvantages in other systems(ad's and disad's, such as enemies, ect) are also present. Some are purely mechanical and others overlap with Story Roles(enemies, destinies, House politics that sort of thing).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #32 on: July 30, 2002, 11:44:57 AM »

TOPIC #1: CLEARING OUT THE DEBRIS

This is the first of three sequential posts regarding the thread so far. I am writing this to identify some issues that have impeded the discussion, so we can move on.

Let's deal first with the relationship of #1 to the others. If it seems odd to anyone that the social interactions of the real-live people is being discussed as part-and-parcel of character roles at any of my other categories, then please recognize that you're not "ready" for this thread. Sebastian, phrases like "seems more like psychology than gaming" are missing some very serious, foundational concepts that are taken as given by most discussions at the Forge. Above, there are many threads about this exact topic for you to follow up on, and I recommend a general review of posts in RPG Theory about role-playing as a function of real people's behavior.

Sebastian, Victor, and Andrew, player/character consciousness of the four categories is a blind alley (credit to Victor for questioning its relevance). Also, Dan is correct in questioning whether "in real life" is relevant, which was a secondary blind-alley topic off of this one.

I appreciate everyone's input so far, and I now recognize that this topic was far more surprising to many people than I thought it would be. I definitely don't want to discourage anyone's interest, but these topics should either be dealt with separately or passed by.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #33 on: July 30, 2002, 11:45:39 AM »

TOPIC 2: NAMING THE CATEGORIES

This is the second of three sequential posts regarding the thread so far. Its purpose is straightforward - let's name these puppies.

After some brow-wrinkling, here are the categories' names that make the most sense to me.

#1: Human Beings' Social Roles
#2: Characters' Values in Action
#3: Characters' In-game Labels
#4: Characters' Capabilities

I decided not to use "story" in any naming capacity, as this word is guaranteed to cause multiple miseries. I also want to emphasize that "Values" are expressed explicitly through characters' fictional actions - they are about the results of decisions, which is why this category has a direct connection to GNS. And "Capabilities" are obviously composed of all three components of a role-playing character outlined in my essay: Resources, Effectiveness, and Metagame.

I recognize that none of these terms are mellifluous or easy to use. This is on purpose. For instance, if #1 were called "Social Roles," people would continually apply #3 to it.

I'm open to further suggestions, but I'll stick by the principles I've mentioned (not using "story," being clear about human vs. character, etc) most tenaciously.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: July 30, 2002, 11:46:16 AM »

TOPIC #3: DISCUSSION OF THE CATEGORIES

This is the third of three sequential posts regarding the thread so far.

#1 - Dan, this category does not necessarily include guidelines or terms in the rules and text - see my example of the lonely plight of Bob, above. However, Fang and Mike are 100% right that such material is not entirely absent from gaming texts. I remember a quiz of "player types" from Dragon Magazine from 20 years ago; does anyone remember this? It was a multiple-choice test, and (d) in each case represented the uber-power-killer player. A supplement from Hero Games called Strike Force provided a player-categories list that was so influential that it has shown up in diluted form across dozens of games since then. Robin's Laws is another recent example of this sort of analysis.

Such designations are important in this category because they represent who is bullying, seducing, cooperating with, competing with, and creating art with whom. (Add any interactions that you see fit; humans are a social bunch.) However, they are also relevant in #2, or to put it differently, historically, such designations fail to distinguish between #1 and #2.

Damion is exactly correct in his assessment that "what people want" is the real culprit in #1, but as it turns out, this point is exactly where my thread began, with Fang's essays about Particles of Character Class and Sine Qua Non. I really liked Damion's post on July 29, as it's kind of a "bing!" realization post and raised a lot of good issues.

Fang, I'm right with you regarding (a) the GNS issue and its relationship to this category,which I'd like to delay discussing for a while; and (b) the logistics of play, which believe me, I'm not missing at all. Just waiting. So to summarize, we have agenda-driven social stuff like "bully," or "leader" (among the people); socially-mediated game preferences/decisions as in GNS; and partly logistic-driven social stuff like "who's cooking."

Mike, thanks for your input, which was solid gold, as usual. I liked the example from Japanese play a lot.

#2 - Such player-types as described by Robin and others apply to this category as well, but in a different way. Here, such designations are meaningful insofar as the players affect one another emotionally through their characters' actions.

Dan, we're dealing with much less formal designators of "role" than Coterie vs. Sabbat, which are at the #3 level. I'm talking about things like "the betrayer," "the idealist," and "the brick." Movie and theater terms like Diva, Ingenue, and Villain all operate at this level.

Fang nailed this category as being related to his Sine Qua Non and to the issues often referred to as "niche protection" (which as a term I find problematic, but I'm referring to the concept as Fang and others have described it).

Damion, you almost got it with the Ars Magica example, but the Covenant is primarily a #3 category, as are Magi, Champions, and Grogs (all of which, admittedly, overlap into this category). However, let's take the Grogs alone, and think more in terms of Brute, Moral Compass, Romantic Lead, Victim/Outsider among them. That's more what I'm aiming at in this category, and that's why you had a hard time differentiating between #2 and #3.

#3 - Victor, you're right about the non-weapon proficiency in D&D2E, which I've never played and don't know very well. (D&D before that, though, I'm your man.)

Fang nailed this category as being related to his Genre Expectations. No argument there. I also agree that Scattershot is a game that drives from a #2 engine, and thus #3 and #4 emerge through pre-play and play, whereas GURPS is a game that drives from a #3 engine, with #4 emerging pre-play (via spending character points) and #2 emerging during play, covertly. I cannot express the serious differences between these two games more cogently than in exactly the terms of this thread.

#4 - Damion put it really well in differentiating among games which are very detailed regarding this category (ie the typical skill-list-heavy game) and those which are much more generalized (ie Sorcerer's Cover score). This issue of course has many procedural ramifications, which then feed directly to GNS in non-linear ways.

Fang nailed this category as being the most concrete way that people establish their "rights" to specific character actions (and hence #2 and #1 consequences). I've discussed it before myself, a long time ago, in exactly those terms - that having a "skill of 65%" literally means the "right to roll a d100" and the "right to be successful, potentially" regarding a given in-game action. (That's what ties this material back to #3, as well - #3 provides the language to discuss these matters in Explorative terms, rather than metagame ones.)

Fang wrote, "... all of the above ... is strictly about the application of 'what a player wants' out of the game." My response: exactly.

Everyone, thanks very much for participating in this thread. It's been thought-provoking and I think there's a lot more to discuss. Now might be a good time focusing very tightly on one or another issue that's been raised, and taking it to a new thread in this forum.

Best,
Ron
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Don Lag
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« Reply #35 on: July 30, 2002, 06:50:02 PM »

I feel that a question of mine hasn't been answered, and I feel it's an important one.

Ron,

What is the value of #1-#4 in RPG Theory?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I sense that pretty much everyone here agrees that the point of building a coherent RPG Theory is pretty much the same for building any theory: to organize a tool for better understanding and manipulation of the phenomenon. That is, to better understand roleplaying and, along with that, to better design roleplaying instruments such as the actual games.

I can appreciate GNS' usefulness in these terms, but I cannot with roles #1-#4.  I feel that GNS is a great step towards responding a significant question: "how does roleplaying occur?". It establishes a triad of fundamental game-instance particles that appear to be pretty accurate and allow a much better description of the gaming process. I do not see how the #1-#4 roles play a similar function. Currently, the 4 roles seem to me more of an : "I see 4 things happening here, and they all seem like roles", than an succesful attempt at trying to surface a underlying structure. It's not that I don't "get" the roles, I just don't get why you'd think that such a categorization is useful to any degree.

This is why I'm much more inclined to thinking of roles as the "thing" which actually motivates one towards a G, N or S (or C) decision, whereas the actual GNS model says nothing about what produces any of these decisions. Just that they happen. I find that even if is pretty much a trivial expansion, it does state something that I hadn't found stated elsewhere and tends towards a more complete explanation of the GNS phenomena. According to your last post, Ron, you would seem to suggest that a GNS-role approach would be applying as a sub-categorization to role #2. Am I correct in this supposition?

I'm sure you have a really good idea for thinking that #1-#4 are excellent concepts for RPG Theory, I'd love it that you could let me in on it.

PS: I'm trying to read as many GNS threads as I can, but it's quite some work and the timing stinks since I just started my semester. Thank you for pointing out topics that have already been discussed, I hope it helps my thread browsing :)


Greets.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #36 on: July 30, 2002, 08:02:40 PM »

Don Lag,

I don't know what Ron's ideas are on this subject, but I know what mine are:

Knowing what sort of roles you want to focus on in your game can help you focus your game greatly. I started immediately thinking about Donjon when reading this today (I laid out 15 pages of it today, so that might have something to do with it.)

Donjon focuses on #1 and #2 more than anything else, with a little bit in #3. I believe your role in the social group as a player often determines what sort of character you're going to play. By allowing people to create the character they want (by creating a "class"), you allow them to play the character that fits their social style.

I ignore #4, in that all characters are just as effective, as your abilities are really interchangable.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Don Lag
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« Reply #37 on: July 30, 2002, 08:12:50 PM »

O fcourse Clinton, I agree that recognizing specific elements in play can help focus on them.

But what makes #1-#4 a "good" categorization? Again, what are the criteria validating them as useful concepts? I can "feel" that they are recognizable categories and that they effectively group certain types of roles, but I can't figure out exactly why they're a useful category. Do they explain/model anything? If so, then what?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #38 on: July 30, 2002, 08:45:40 PM »

Hi Sebastian,

That's a good, valid question. Here's my thinking on it.

Right now, my goal is "value added." I think that the current state of discourse on the issue of Character Class, both here at the Forge and out there in RPG discussions in general, is in disarray. People talk past one another, they apply the label of "class system" to games that are very different or exclude games that seem to have one, and so on.

However, it's a real issue, both in terms of game design and actual play. "What is my role here?" is a big deal. "What does this game 'let me be'?" is a central question, along with its partner, "What do you do in this game?"

At conventions, and on the backs of game texts, again and again, people eagerly tell me: "You can pick from eight character classes and nine races!" What they are telling me - and the question that many are bringing to them - is not about #3 or #4 stuff, even though it's couched in those terms. The real dialogue should be about all four categories, and how they interrelate causally. I have found that when I tell people about Sorcerer or my other games, that's when they respond in a way that lets me know I'm answering the questions they have not been able to articulate.

So by "value added," I mean that the framework and vocabulary we've discussed in this thread are better - for actual play and for design - than the disarray and confusion that I see regarding this topic, everywhere. Am I all done and right, forever? I doubt it. I think it's a better framework, and that's what I'm trying to build.

The evidence for its maximal utility, relative to well-articulated alternatives (which we don't really have right now) will come or will not come in time.

Best,
Ron
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Don Lag
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« Reply #39 on: July 30, 2002, 08:57:42 PM »

Thanks Ron.  Looking back I can see that this objective was stated less verbosely in you first posts. I think I needed the extra verboseness :)

It's evident that the #1-#4 scheme aims a different problem than my elaborations on GNS-roles do. I was excited about trying to nail down some basic structure of decision-making dynamics (and I hope we'll be able to eventually, along the GNS-roe line or otherwise). On the other hand it seems that the #1-#4 scheme relates to a refining of terms regarding player-player (#1) and character-character (#2-#4) interaction (player-character interaction seem to be smuggled in across the four).

I really hope I'm reading you right this time around and thanks for your patience :)

If I'm still a bit wrong maybe a PM will suffice or we can continue here.
Now that I'm much clearer on this point I'll start a GNS-role thread as soon as I can get my ideas on the subject in order.

Saludos!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #40 on: July 30, 2002, 09:02:43 PM »

Espero sus contribuciones con much gusto, amigo mio. Que vaya bien en todos.

Ronaldo Yzaguirre Edwards
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #41 on: July 31, 2002, 07:09:01 AM »

Hi Ron

It seems to me that what you're trying to do is breakdown roles along two axes - player/character and social/game.  To whit:

Player's Social Function - this sits without further explanation on #1.

Player's Game Function - this would include all of the ways in which the player can affect the game world without recourse to the character.  This isn't limited to a player's ability to fast talk the GM.  It also resides in the player's ability to make meaningful choices for the character.  You choose for your character to open a door - the door opens - you find out what's behind the door.  The player's ability to choose what type of character they want to play, and what type of adventure they get involved in also features strongly here.  This ties to number #2.

Character's Social Function - this would encompass the character's role in the game world in the sense of being a priest, or having legal authority or being a wanted criminal.  The character's role within the group - as the party theif, for example - would be a subset of this function. This ties to #3.

Character's Game Function - this would include all of those features of a character that allow the character to interact with the game world through the mechanics of the game.  Statistics, attributes, powers, abilities and so on.  This ties to #4.

Is this a useful response to what you're trying to say?
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Ian Charvill
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #42 on: July 31, 2002, 07:41:10 AM »

Ian,

I'm not sure that this is what Ron has in mind specifically. However, I like the model as you propose it. Easy to remember, and functionally addresses all the possible roles. I'm a fan of matrices as well.

BTW, Ian, welcome aboard.

Mike
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« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2002, 12:46:13 PM »

Well, I came up with these terms for the four layers, as I read ‘em.  I’m not keen on seeing them as a matrix at this point as I feel they are not arranged on easy axes.  So I’ve come up with these to toss into the pot:

Human Social
Character Relative
World Realisation
Activity Vector

I would label the categories as above, on my readings of the initial description and subsequent discussion.  

Human social: the human level of interaction among the participants, including support and leadership behaviours as outlined by fang.

Character Relative: The relationship between the characters in terms of how they interact with other and the resonance that has for player-player interaction.  This can occur in terms of duty slots (thief, fighter) or stereotypes (sneaky ventrue, brash brujah) or job description (fixer, assassin).  These are the roles they take on relative to the group of characters.

World Realisation
This is the level at which the characters are defined in terms of the game: the abilities are broken up and defined in game terms.  The place in society of the role is defined, as well as the impact it has on society and its material context.

Activity Vector
Packaging of abilities and the like, merits and flaws, the specifics of the commitment the player makes to fulfilling certain tasks and informed b certain motives.


Analysis of AD&D
Human Social: There was discussion of a caller and hence efforts to mandate leadership among the group of players.  The players are implicitly encouraged to adopt functional roles in proportion to a stock distribution of classes for efficiency purposes.

Character Relative: The only motivation for character relationships addressed is that of efficiency and filling each of the broad effectiveness slots, combat, combat magic, healing, sneaking.  Although social interactions are implicit in its class structure, no mechanism is provided for addressing them nor are they addressed.  Personal interactions are addressed only in terms of alignment.

World Realisation: This is expressed almost exclusively in terms of the objective impact a character may have on the world through positive action; they make little mention of the world pushing back, bar weapon restrictions on some of the classes, and selecting a church according to alignment.  No specific context is designed in and hence much remains nebulous, frex the ambiguous status of alignment languages and assembly of weapons.

Activity Vector
Controlled by classes, spells, and proficiencies and magic items.  These were not consistent across classes even by type: thieves had on set of special abilities resolved a certain way, clerics had another.  As a result it was actually very explicit, both in terms of what actions a character was expected to carry out and how they were to do them.  The only exception was magic items, which allowed the GM a measure of influence over how the characters were empowered to act.


Vampire
Human Social: the game advocates that the dynamic of play should be conscious of moral consequence and reflective of the personal experience.  There is no pressure supporting a standard distribution of roles, and hence the group is may have a diverse array or concentration on functional/social groups from whatever human motive.

Character Relative: First of all, all characters are co-conspirators and therefore share a common interest.  Characters are empowered to act on each other through factions of the conspiracy and their historical/stereotyped interactions.  In this sense, a gangrels stock suspicion of a tremeres stock sneakiness is strongly supported.  Characters also often have a lot of power to effect other characters emotionally through mechanical action.

World Realisation: each group is rendered from its own perspective with commentary on stock opinions of other groups, with objective abilities to influence the external world.  There is a form-follows-function literalism in the expression of the characters power over the context and their niche within that context.  Back-story elements are primarily limits to action, or more accurately the abrogation of implicit limits, although the descent/mentor structure enables a lot of embedding in the world.

Activity Vector: Activity is strongly typical, in that characters are most empowered to act along the lines mandated by their contextual group membership, which are highly functional.  These can be moderated or amplified through parallel selection of complimentary abilities (skills etc).  However, strongly expressed resource shortages impel certain sorts of activities.

Cyberpunk 2020
Human Social: the players are expected to adopt an efficiency/problem-solving stance in relation to objective challenges.  An optimum minimum set focussed on division of labour is expected to motivate character selection, although this is not strongly required.  

Character Relative: Division of labour of the implicit group, the band of antiheroic freelancers, may prompt inter-character relationships and dependencies.  Characters are not obliged to be on truthful terms, but are expected to be on amicable terms, with each other.  Back-story is supported and may lead to a wide array of (uncoordinated) interactions and motivations.

World Realisation: Character groups are quite strongly defined through a special ability, but are not heavily prejudiced thereafter in terms of activity selection.  Back-story is strongly exploited to present particular pressures in the past and/or the likely future.  Personalisation through crunchy bits allows a lot of fine-tuning of the characters identity because of default resource shortages and the need to explain how the implicit limits were overcome.

Activity Vector: The character special ability as special ability (rather than default ability) lends a lot of versatility to the vector of activity the character adopts through other mechanical devices, the crunchy bits (cyberware, skills, weapons).  Most of these are available regardless of character identity, although many are focussed on avenues coincident with character functional roles.  The implicit functional motivation tends to produce specialisation around the character ability as a variation on a theme.  Only one notable exception exists, the decker, who operates quite literally in a parallel universe with its own rules.

Blue Planet
Human Social: Nothing mandated in terms of character interdependencies.  There is weak support for a “law on the wild frontier” structure that might encourage the proficiency niche approach amongst players, but this is not strongly reinforced.  The potential exists for a need for a specialist aquatic character of one of several varieties, but this is neither strong nor taxing.

Character Relative: Back-story hooks are provided but no mechanism or encouragement is advanced to interlink the characters beyond task-driven cooperation.  Background in terms of origin (incorporate, native, colonist) is important to character identity and perhaps implicitly inter-character relationships but this is not strongly reinforced.

World Realisation: This occurs through strong world-based background selection that governs abilities, although selection is freeform if limited. The individual experience of the world is reinforced and characters are not strongly grouped, bar the specialist aquatics. These are not especially difficult to explain/obtain, however, although resource limits do exist.

Activity Vector
This will have been heavily focussed by background selection and will focus on various functional areas, and there is encouragement for all characters to diversify into aquatics and combat.  Characters are not governed by post-creation prejudices, and may diversify where they see fit.
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« Reply #44 on: July 31, 2002, 04:04:40 PM »

Wow!

Hello Ian, and welcome to the Forge. I liked the matrix you propose, but I think that it may be operative at a bigger scale than my #1-4 approach to "role." In other words, I think that what I've proposed may be part of what you're talking about, but lots of other things are too - Stance, especially, comes to mind.

I'm pretty convinced by Gareth's post. That makes a lot of sense to me. "Character Relative" is clunky as hell, but it's a bit better than my term.

I'm willing to call a Terms Fest Discussion - we have a bunch to pick from now. Maybe a new thread for that purpose alone is a good idea.

Best,
Ron
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