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immersive authorship...(not sure either)

Started by Jack Spencer Jr, July 10, 2001, 02:27:00 PM

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Jack Spencer Jr

OK, those who been following the forum may have seen me say something to the effect of how I prefer to play immersively.  Well, not quite immersive but the point IMO is to be my character.

I am not interested in being my character's author
I am not interested in being my character's director
I am not interested in being my character's puppet master.

I am my character.

I've since gotten a different perspective on this, check it out.

I also write (yeah, I know, surprize surprise) and I had written fairly recently a short story w/ a first person POV.  The story isn't important but what is important is that I really, really got inside the head of my character.

I was writing a story.  I was author, director and puppet master.  And I was my character giving birth to the freak baby.

This changes things.  For me, anyway, and maybe for someone here or someone they know.

This means I can put my character into unpleasant situations and then have to deal with it as my character.

A door is opened.  The draft comes in.

John Wick

Your job as a player is to tell me (the GM) what you want to do with the game.

My job as the GM is to give you (more or less) what you want and change the game (if neccessary) to meet your needs.

It's the job of the players (GM included) to change a game to suit their needs. That's what I believe, and that's how I've designed all my games.

Individual gaming styles vary. Tastes vary. That's why no game (not even ones I design) can meet every gamer's needs. All I can do is provide a game that addresses how to meet the needs of as many gamers as possible. That's impossible, but I can do my best. :wink:

Take care,

[ This Message was edited by: John Wick on 2001-07-10 21:54 ]
Carpe Deum,

Jared A. Sorensen

All I can do is provide a game that addresses how to meet the needs of as many gamers as possible.

But why would you want to do that (commercial reasons aside)?

If people are interested in my games, they're interested in what I'm doing.  They become an audience for my game.  Although that's not the only way to do it, it certainly works for me...and I don't need to worry about pleasing as many people as possible.

jared a. sorensen /



Two schools of thought at work.

One is to penetrate markets and make $$$, one is to make a game and let people enjoy it if they want to.

Both are valid thoughts, one admittedly more goodwill oriented (in a corporate sense, not the Greenpeace sense).


Ron Edwards


Could people make an effort not to hijack threads?

That was too nice. QUIT! KNOCK IT OFF! That's better.

If I'm not mistaken, Jack WAS attempting to discuss an insight about role-playing gained from writing a story. Since this insight corresponds to the only reason I'd ever been interested in role-playing at all, it's hard for me to understand its role as a LATER step for someone else.

This sort of conceptual divide boggles me. It's not a matter of disapproval, contempt, or snobbery - it's simply puzzlement. It's VERY hard for me to understand what a person does with a fictional character, EXCEPT to act as an author or creator toward it. I can only conceive of Actor stance as a means to this end, for instance, as far as my own behavior is concerned.

[Please do not commit the usual Internet error of mistaking my above comments as any sort of value judgment.]

Other comments on Jack's point? I'm interested in when and how people come to think of themselves as authors and creators of their own character.
- as a starting point? (me)
- as a later development?
- as a minor "note" in some larger goal of role-playing?
- never?


joshua neff

I'm with Ron here (which is why Jack's comment on a different thread about having difficulty seeing RPGs as anything other than "I immerse myself in a character" so confused me). As far back as I can recall, RPGs have been about characters & cool settings, but neither of those seemed worthwhile without a good story, & i was always frustrated at how any attempts at creating a good story were hindered by the rules of the game.

But I think because of that, because of the way RPGs were set up mechanics-wise, I never consciously thought of myself as the author & director of my characters. I always wanted to, because it made it easier to do cool stuff (both good & bad) to the characters, but it's only recently that this kind of thinking has come to me. To me, it was a revelation--"Oh yeah, that's what's been missing from my gaming!"

Actually, now that I think about it, I often did see myself as the author of characters, & saw very little difference between PC & NPC, because it was often hard for me to find people to game with in junior high & high school (I was such a game collector I owned gobs of games, & couldn't possibly have played them all & still gone to school). So i ended up just creating loads of characters & making up little stories about them. & then when I'd actually play, I'd get frustrated by the way the mechanics didn't allow for the kids of cool stuff I could think up. & now, I have games that do allow for that.

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes



I understand completely what you mean.  Even with my current Narrativist leanings, I rather enjoy "putting on a character" (like a new outfit) and just living inside his mind.  My wife plays similarly.  She does not want to direct her character or guide her character.  She wants to exist within her character, to experience what that character experiences, to feel what that character feels, to know joy and pain as that character.

Therefore, I wonder if not everyone wants to be the author for their character.  Certainly some do, but I know that my wife doesn't.  She'd much rather be handed a situation by the GM so that she could experience the feeling of how her character reacts, both emotionally and physically.

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

Clinton R. Nixon

I can see Jack's point pretty clearly here. I, too, am firmly in the camp of people who enjoy Author and Director stance, and can't imagine not using them in a roleplaying game anymore, but I've used heavy immersion in the past and really enjoyed it. (There's a boring gaming story at the bottom of this post about it.)

For me, the time I started to move into an Author role (before I knew the terminology) was after I'd GMed quite a bit. (Edit: I started getting frustrated as I was used to running the story, and suddenly, I had no power to affect things. After GMing, I could see dramatic situations sitting right there and the GM not taking them, and I started to get into Author stance in order to force those dramatic scenes.) When I just was playing roleplaying games, I treated them more like reading a book where I have control over one character (actually, not that different from those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books.) I found it fun to use that sort of escapism--to literally become someone else instead of reading or writing a story about that character.

Author stance is interesting because you get to share the duties of writing the story, and learn something from the session from an observer view. Actor stance is important, though, as scenes in a session can be incredibly emotionally involving and powerful when truly seen through the eyes of a character involved in the scene. In Author stance, I always 'get' my character, and know what's on his mind, but in Actor stance - those same things are literally on my mind, as my concerns.


obligatory "let me tell you about my character" story - skip if you wanna

So, I've often talked about Doc Fortune's (Peter Seckler's) excellent Planescape campaign he ran for me and others. Between using D&D, and Peter's personal GM style, Actor stance was encouraged.

I played a character different from any I had before. He was a huge, hulking, furry imbecile - a bugbear with an intelligence score that inspired pity (somewhere between 4 and 7 - I don't quite remember.) His twist was that he had a heart of gold - and not like the adventuring paladin that 'only hurts people when he has to.' Buglurz (the character's name) was very, very loathe to hurt anyone since he'd hurt people on accident before, and had seen others hurt by his kind. This clashed with his simple philosophy of 'always help my friends and protect little people,' often, however.

Somehow, within a week or two of playing this character, I let him really get to me. I started using this voice of an imbecile, and managed to keep it up during the whole session. (I often found it hard to get out of the voice after the session.) I almost found myself crying once when Buglurz couldn't understand why his friend wanted him to do bad things. (It was an evil clone of his female friend - who he looked to as a mother - but he really couldn't understand that.) We'd start the session, and 30 minutes in, my mind was a fog, with the emotional maturity of a 6-year-old. It actually kind of scared me, and the scrawled crayon-written writings I'd make in character for the GM scared him a bit, too, I think. (At the least, we both stared at them later wondering what the hell I was thinking.)

The game wasn't revolutionary, and didn't use anything new in roleplaying, but I'd count it as one of my best RPG experiences ever. My emotional investment in the game was at an all-time high. I think that can be the magic of Actor stance - when you have the actors and director good enough to pull it off.

Clinton R. Nixon webmaster">

[ This Message was edited by: Clinton R Nixon on 2001-07-11 14:30 ]
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


Disclaimer: The following is an expression SOLELY of my experience and is not a general comment on ALL people who prefer an imersive style of play or purely actor stance.

In my experience when I've come across a person who is a 'method roleplayer' it is because the reason they have come to roleplay is to be someone else doing things they couldn't possibly do in real life.

When I talk of a 'method roleplayer' I mean the actor stance extremist.  This is the person who leaves the room when his character isn't involved in the current scene.  This person demands that I talk to him out of range of the other players if he is experiencing something alone.  This person never shows his character sheet to other players and during tactical situations asks that the GM not be present while he discusses strategy with his allies.

I've noticed a trend among such people.  These people usually have very high-stress lives.  Or at least have a very grim world outlook.  They feel as though they are swamped by a million things beyond their control.  So, the reason they roleplay is to escape all of this.  To be someone else, somewhere else and where the odds are stacked in their favor.

They are not interested in seeing their character come to a dramatically tragic end.  They are not interested in seeing their character thrown into a morrally abiguous but dramatically exciting situation.  When their character fails in any capacity or degree they become very emotionally distraught.  Why?  Because they ARE their character.  That's why they are there.  They are there to succeed at things they feel they can't succeed at in reality.  They are there to be heroes.  They are there to make the right decisions, always.

So why the actor stance?  Wouldn't this be easier in AUTHOR stance?  Not to them.  To them author stance would be cheating.  It would make the experience fake.  It has to be as real as possible so that they know that the triumph was real, their decisions were real.  It's proof to them that in another place and another time they CAN be in control, they CAN succeed. They go back to their high-stress chaotic lives and know that if they were just somewhere else they'd be okay.  Things would be different and they can prove it.

Again this is just my experience.  Thought I'd share.


Clinton R. Nixon

On 2001-07-11 14:23, jburneko wrote:
They are not interested in seeing their character come to a dramatically tragic end.  They are not interested in seeing their character thrown into a morrally abiguous but dramatically exciting situation.  When their character fails in any capacity or degree they become very emotionally distraught.  Why?  Because they ARE their character.  That's why they are there.  They are there to succeed at things they feel they can't succeed at in reality.  They are there to be heroes.  They are there to make the right decisions, always.

You know--when I have used immersive play, it was for the exact opposite reason. It was so I could get into those uncomfortable situations that I couldn't in real life. In real life, I couldn't walk away from my life because I was shattered and run away--I had too many responsibilities. I couldn't actually breakdown when my wife left me--I had a job and a life. I couldn't go back and deal with the emotional damage of losing a sibling because a weak man isn't needed in the world.

In immersive roleplaying, I could do all these things. I could see a child being abused and be too frightened to stop it, and experience that emotional discomfort. I could be allowed to fail, and hurt, and revile myself or someone else, and it would be okay when the session was over. I could push myself into a fatal situation through my own greed and avarice--and it would be okay when the session was over.

I guess people use immersive roleplay to get what they need. The type of people you describe sound as if they need to win sometimes--they need the positive affirmation of being a hero. I need to fail, and learn to live with it.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Gordon C. Landis

>I'm interested in when and how people come to think of
>themselves as authors and creators of their own character

Even a "pure" Actor stance begins with an Authorship.  The character is designed, facets are described, a "picture" is generated, and at some point, the player decides he's "done" - with GM participation/veto as approriate for the particular group/game.  From that point, it is at least in theory possible to never Author again.  All Actoring from that point forward is based on the already-Authored info, plus whatever data come in "through" the Acting.

So I think the answer for "immersive" play is "as a starting point", and once you're past that starting point, you don't do it anymore.  Or maybe you do it between sessions, or when there's some issue in the game that can't be dealt with "in character" - but if at all possible, not while you're playing.  This is why I have no problem thinking about the rgfa Dramatism as Simulationism - the character, and perhaps even the story elements, are set before you start, and then you just let them "play out".

So I think that those who like "immersive" (including me, at various times, though I'm begining to find that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, for me) DO have the same "I'm the creator of the character" that Ron speaks of.  But rather than Acting being a tool for the goal of Creation, they see Creating as the tool for the goal of Acting.  For some (Elaytijists?  gets harder and garder to mock them all the time), that's the end goal.  For others, that Acting is in the service (perhaps) of another Creation goal, a post-play story Creation from the "natural flow of events" that occured while Acting.

Hope that makes sense - and is on-thread.

Gordon C. Landis (under construction)

Gordon C. Landis

Jesse, Clinton,

I can see where both of you are coming from - or rather, where Clinton is coming from and where Jesse's immersive player is coming from.  The issue seems to me to be this: both players can do a lot to make sure their character is CONSISTENT with what they want to get out of the game - Jesse's player by designing a hero (or "minmaxing" - not meant to be disparaging - as appropriate for the game), and Clinton by designing a charater with the flaws he's interested in.  But neither can MAKE the things they desire happen as the game progresses.  In fact, it is (in my experience) all too easy to get "stuck" on a path that is entirely consistent with "what would happen to these characters in this situation", but is COMPLETLY inconsistent with the original desires.  These games can be very disapointing.

Now, for some (as I believe John Morrow said was discussed on rgfa) the disapointment of the "cheating" Jesse mentions is greater than the disapointment of not getting exactly the game they wanted - and I assume Clinton's "with good Actors and a good Director" comment adresses this as well.  But one way to take Jack's post that opened this thread is that there is (in his writing experience) a way to "stay immersed" and also create (read - direct things the way you want them to go for Authorial reasons).

I'm very interested in that.  Can anyone give examples of having this happen in an RPG?

Gordon C. Landis (under construction)

Ron Edwards

Hello all,

I will be the first to state that good Authoring is often done non-verbally, or without much critical analysis beforehand. We all know - or should - that "art" can be done either with or without preconceiving the task at hand. Whether it's music, writing, painting, or whatever.

My personal take on this matter as far as role-playing goes may not be welcome to everyone, but here goes. I think it's a lot like other art forms, in this sense - it's possible to be improvisational and be good, but such an approach usually works only for those who are good when they are NOT improvisational. In other words, Kandinsky (one of the first, if not THE first, modern abstract painters) was a damn good representational artist BEFORE he starting doing raw shapes + colors as his subject.

So in role-playing terms, I do use Actor stance, a fair amount. "What?" you say. "Ron Edwards, Narrativist fanatic, uses Actor stance?" Yes, at times - but I'm still, fundamentally, Authoring the character. I'm merely relying on my confidence that my non-verbal creativity, regarding this character and this story, can generate some good results.

Contrast this with the approach described by Jack, or as Seth describes his wife's role-playing. I do think there's a big difference, in that the "story role" of the PC is not involved, or perhaps is involved under the GM's guiding hand.

However, this was not to pick on anyone or talk about what's "better." My intent is to state that much of the pleasure of "acting" one's character (in a Method sense) can be retained as one develops a more Narrativist approach to the overall act of role-playing. It becomes, as I think the terminology suggests, a "stance" or a technique, rather than the over-riding goal.


joshua neff

I think there is a conception that if your not being "immersive" & sticking only to Acting, but moving into Author & Director stances, you're distancing yourself from the character. I don't think this is the case. I get horribly attached to my characters. & when I'm GMing, I get very attached to my NPCs--& my players tend to like the same NPCs I do, probably because I throw my love for the characters into the characters. (& by love, I don't mean "only the nice characters". Some of my mostloved NPCs have been absolute bastards--the people you love to hate.)
I won't say that I get more attached to characters using other stances than just using Actor stance--but I definitely enjoy the game more (I get incredibly frustrated when limited solely to "I do this right now"). But I definitely don't get more attached to characters when being "immersive" (in the sense of limiting my stance to Actor).

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes

Jared A. Sorensen

One interesting thing that hasn't been brought up with all this talk of immersion and acting and Method roleplaying -- the analogy of actor to roleplayer isn't that accurate.  Actors are (by and large) working within the structure of a script...roleplayers are creating the "script" as they go along (I don't see it as like improv theatre either, although that's more of a feeling without anything to really back it up).

And despite the whole "immersive" thing, it's still possible to engineer the story in authorial stance (or even directorial stance!).  Just introduce an element, in character (ala Puppetland).  You have to be playing with people who can wing it though. :smile:  Of course, you shouldn't really be playing games with people who can't.  

I'm really into the physicality of roleplaying, which is why I like LARP so much (and maybe it's because I want to be an actor, secretly in my black little heart...but probably not).  I like to use weird voices and screw my face up and carry myself differently in order to get the character across.  But I'm not trying to be my character because I really think that such a thing is impossible.  Whatever the character, you're still playing yourself -- albeit yourself done up in greasepaint and as seen through a funhouse mirror.

I've dealt with some real-life issues through RPGs before, yes...definitely.  But in such a case I'm not immersing myself in the character. I'm immersing the character into me.  Which is kind of a freaky thing. :smile:

jared a. sorensen /