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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 168 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Mucking with Social Contract - an *Inter-Player* Social System??  (Read 1473 times)
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« on: March 25, 2010, 11:26:44 PM »

I hope I'm not getting too obnoxious on this Forum what with this and my earlier post (which I have since utterly abandoned). I just really, really want to get something workable before the game starts. Rambling "out loud" to a crowd like this seems to help me think.

The default way myself and my friends have been playing is to make some lame attempt at actor stance for the first session when our characters meet each other, and then to never act in character again except against NPCs. Even then it's mostly us-acting-like-us. The social systems I've been coming up with so far have started to end up looking more and more like ugly Combat, which is totally against what I'm trying to achieve here. My ultimate goal is to build an honest-to-goodness social system, and all that that implies. I want the system to feed the people who enjoy interacting with real human beings on a social level, and in addition to that, to change how each player participates in that interaction from the way they normally would.

It occurred to me, then, that we're not really exploring the social domain inside the game if nothing changes in the social domain outside the game. This would be a complete inversion of your typical social system because its rules would work all the way up at the "Social Contract" level of the Big Model. I've never played games like Polaris .. this is scary but exciting stuff for me!!

So, as much as I would have called the idea silly a few months ago, I seem to be drawn inexorably to a kind of sit-down-LARP game. Actor stance most of the time! The players would be social and interact through their characters to enjoy their characters' personas and to feel what it would be like to be someone else, not just to the world, but to each other. However, this idea generates a whole new set of problems. The ones that immediately spring to my mind are -
  • existing social landscape: Players already have a structured hierarchy; can I mess with that? Is it dangerous to do so?
  • existing social limitations: I can't make a shy person into an extroverted one
  • moderation of the stage: can rules moderate actors?
  • complete destruction of social balance: the guy with the +10 Charisma shouldn't be the one making all the decisions, all the time
  • player investment: if a player doesn't want to be someone else, you can't make him

That last one isn't so much a problem as it is a landmine. I wouldn't want to make other people play the way I enjoy if they don't enjoy it. However, if someone *could* enjoy the system but is nervous, it may be difficult to get his participation (like having to drag the child onto the rollercoaster because he'll very likely enjoy it once he gets over his initial fear).

Despite the problems, I've really started to love the direction this is heading in. The idea is literally fresh enough that I haven't come up with anything substantial yet, but I'll be thinking about it a lot. Something that creeps into my mind (despite my better judgment) is the Stanford Prison Experiment .. the old Inmate/Jailer syndrome. Check out the details on Wiki here, but basically, people gained significant power over each other through nothing but simple role assignment, even if those roles were fictional. Perfect setting, here!
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2010, 04:24:54 PM »

Hi Daniel,

Perhaps a bit off topic, but it fills out the background of the thread...
Quote
My ultimate goal is to build an honest-to-goodness social system, and all that that implies.
When did you get the impression this would be fun? Did someone tell you it would be? Did it just seem that way? Have you ever actually played like this before?

I'm seeing a kind of "It's just gunna be fantastic!" enthusiasm, and it might be worth questioning what that enthusiasm is based on, if anything.
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Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2010, 09:22:01 PM »

I've played like this in a few "Murder Mystery" type game nights and always had a great time. That said, I'm not convinced it'll be fantastic, I'm only hoping it will.

However, problems I can see are that those sorts of game nights are a lot more structured, with a goal, and the players' roles are handed to them as opposed to having them create the roles themselves. Plus they end; I'm hoping this campaign will go on for a while. One trick I'm using to try and dodge the troubles is that I've given them a list of random words that they need to include, or at least reference, in their character "blurbs" (which are NOT character histories). The list of random words is:
    * prize
    * knowing
    * cross
    * tearing
    * Shroudblade
    * indirectly
    * culprit

I'm planning to post an "Actual Play" in a week after the first game session. Whatever they construct from these words, I intend to tie some of it together in an illusionist way for each PC, to make sure they start off from the same point. They'll be constructing their character histories as the game progresses by spending XP (which they'll be earning just as fast and faster, to ensure a healthy profit). I haven't set it up yet but I'd like to build a method for them to build their character histories in a way that "reveals" more about the connections between their characters as the game progresses, in a way similar to a murder mystery, except that it is not prewritten.

I've been researching up on LARPs, specifically "theatre-style" LARPs, for inspiration but there isn't a heckuva lot out there on the internet.

All of this social stuff will be concurrent with the "regular" gaming, or in other words, while they explore the cities and dungeons.
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
David Berg
Member

Posts: 612


« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2010, 09:27:43 PM »

Daniel,

My thoughts:

1) Pitch the fictional situation, characters, and setting in vague terms at first, just to ground what you'll say next.

2) Be clear on the goal of the session.  Is it "try to win", "craft a cool story", "have an intense experience" or what?  Discuss this as long as it takes to share your idea. 

3) Convince them it'll be fun and they should try it.

4) Get fully into the fictional situation, characters, and setting in detail, preparing to play.

5) Play.

All this is probably not as good as simply having a ruleset that effectively creates the behavior you're looking for, but I don't know of one to recommend.

As for situation, I recommend starting with a simple, concrete, finite situation.  If you do a Murder Mystery with roles and a goal, that may be the ideal vehicle to show folks the style of play you want.  Then, having gotten buy-in, you can proceed to start a campaign next session.  (Exploring dungeons is just the kind of confounding factor that I'd want to eliminate while trying to change play style.  Familiarity might be an enemy.)

Ps,
-Dave
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
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