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Author Topic: I think my girlfriend is a...simulationist  (Read 3350 times)
Paul Czege
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« on: July 17, 2001, 06:23:00 PM »

My girlfriend is playing in Scott's Sorcerer scenario, which had its second session on Monday. It's basically her first experience with roleplaying. She played Soap previously, but that's a GM-less game.

One of the challenges of the game has been having a lot of information as a player, from witnessing the scenes of the other characters, but not being able to figure out how your  your character can act on it. My character, Steffan Solmama, is the chief campaign consultant for a republican senator from California (I know...this is fiction). Steffan knows the Senator's wife contracted HIV from having illicit sex with a prominent media mogul named Donald Karras, who just died of "pneumonia". And she's convinced that that he was deliberately infected with the disease, that it was an attack on him by an enemy. Steffan has spotted Karras' telltale on a videotape, so he knows he was a sorcerer. But Steffan doesn't have any of the information the other characters have gathered that I know as a player. So I'm looking for the enemy of Karras, and I don't have a place to start. The players have been running their characters fairly separate from each other.

I decide that Steffan's most aggressive plan would be to use his demon's Boost of Cover ability to empower someone with an appropriate Cover to break a lead and point me in the right direction. I pick a TV journalist I saw working Karras' funeral, who happens to be my girlfriend's character Leah Andrews, and arrange to meet her at a hotel bar and use Boost on her Cover while having a conversation about her investigation of the scandal surrounding Karras. The way Scott handles the Boost is to give us, the players, a hint. Years of playing RPG's featuring obstructionist NPC's is apparently great training for getting the most out of a hint, because I totally took that hint through all its contortions, making it obvious to everyone that the reason Karras had invited Leah to the dispensation of his estate, totally out of the blue, is because he knew she was a sorceress, didn't trust his family, and was going to give her a lead on his enemies as a way of avenging himself from beyond the grave. Of course, Steffan wasn't the one who'd been Boosted, and he didn't know Leah had been invited to the reading of the will. So the question became, was Leah going to tell Steffan about this realization she'd had while Boosted? Both Steffan and Leah had spotted each other's telltales during the conversation.

And ultimately the answer was, no.

Despite knowing she might be going into a den of hostile sorcery at the reading of the will and would maybe need help from another sorcerer, and a strong presentation by me of the "your enemy's enemy is your friend" argument, the answer was, no. She played her character determined to hold out for more information from Steffan.

Did Steffan have more information? Yes. He had a videotape of Karras having sex with the Senator's wife. Would Steffan hand that tape over to a journalist, thereby ruining the Senator's re-election campaign? No.

Scott was effective at explaining how part of the job of a player in a Narrativist game is to work to create the most dramatic story. He described to the players how the ability to determine which characters would be at the reading of the will is something that should be considered in the context of the whole story.

But ultimately, her decision came down to, "My guy would hold out for more information."

I give her a lot of credit for sticking to that despite pressure from everyone else in the room. And I give her a lot of credit for being able to argue her position without being upset at me personally after the game session. Still, I didn't have Steffan pull Leah's hand out onto the table and pin it there by plunging a dinner fork into it. He didn't then bust Leah in the mouth with his beer mug, knocking out teeth. And he didn't follow that by torturing her for what, as a politician who can spot evasiveness in others, he knew she was holding back. I'm stupid, but not that stupid. However, I don't think I've dated anyone previously who'd have been able to handle the situation the way she did, without taking it personally, to where it would have had an impact on our relationship.

But she's established that she's less interested in Authorial stance, and crafting compelling drama than she is in depicting Leah accurate to her own internal conception of the character. I'm thinking I'm dating a Simulationist!

Paul
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Uncle Dark
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2001, 08:36:00 PM »

Paul,

So sorry to hear about your tragic situation.  Still, it could be worse.  Try and concentrate on the positive aspects of the relationship, the things you have in common... :wink:

Lon
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Supplanter
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2001, 02:56:00 AM »

Beautifully described, Paul, and as a piece of narration, rather bravura. Because a key element of the evening is one you don't explicitly acknowledge. You tell us your girlfriend was in My Guy mode, yes. (And a story in which character is grossly violated for the sake of plot is a shitty story.) But you just kind of drop in this part:

Quote
Did Steffan have more information? Yes. He had a videotape of Karras having sex with the Senator's wife. Would Steffan hand that tape over to a journalist, thereby ruining the Senator's re-election campaign? No.


Which is to say, you were in My Guy mode too.

"For the sake of the story" you had every bit the opportunity your girlfriend had to move things along. All you had to do was have Steffan give Leah the tape. But I guess that would have been out of character for Steffan...

Best,


Jim
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2001, 08:26:00 AM »

LOL.

Actually, Paul, in my experience with my wife, I have found that them darned Simulationists (at least those focused on character) can interact very well with Narrativism, as long as room is made for their goals.  My wife doesn't really care for the use of Author stance.  She plays RPGs in order to be someone else.  Stepping outside of that ruins the experience for her.  BUT...she doesn't care if others do so around her.  Therefore, the other players are more actively involved in the construction of the story, and she reacts to the story being constructed around her.  This sometimes results in her character having less of the spotlight, but that is perfectly acceptable to her, because she is still getting the fulfillment of experiencing her role.


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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2001, 09:30:00 AM »

We should not overlook the fact that consistency and intensity of character is a key part of good story-making.

"My Guy" mode specifically sacrifices good story-making, and I think a lot of us recognize that a player in this mode is balking at something. It may be a legitimate balk ("I've been screwed by the GM too many times and damned if I'll help him do it," or "Bob is bullying me again, and I'll show him he can't get what he wants out of my character") or it may be a

This was what, your second game session? So what's wrong with the two characters developing an antagonism? What's wrong with the consequences of them FAILING to get their heads together be really nasty? Why is "story" synonymous with "would be to our advantage"?

I am smelling very deeply hidden Gamism here - "we should have gotten our information together so we'd have an advantage in the next scene" - masquerading as Narrativism ("Cooperate with my PC or you're damaging the story").

Jeez - let the woman be an author - that means NO ONE tells her what to do with her character. And trust her, as well as yourselves, to make her decisions pay off in story terms when the time is right.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2001, 09:31:00 AM »

We should not overlook the fact that consistency and intensity of character is a key part of good story-making.

"My Guy" mode specifically sacrifices good story-making, and I think a lot of us recognize that a player in this mode is balking at something. It may be a legitimate balk ("I've been screwed by the GM too many times and damned if I'll help him do it," or "Bob is bullying me again, and I'll show him he can't get what he wants out of my character") or it may be a matter of dysfunction (i.e. the player is a jerk). It may even be a solid philosophy of play (Elayjitism).

But I don't see "My Guy" mode at all in Paul's account.

This was what, your second game session? So what's wrong with the two characters developing a conflict of interest? What's wrong with the consequences of them FAILING to get their heads together be really nasty? Why is "story" synonymous with "would be to our advantage"?

I am smelling very deeply hidden Gamism here - "we should have gotten our information together so we'd have an advantage in the next scene" - masquerading as Narrativism ("Cooperate with my PC or you're damaging the story").

Jeez - let the woman be an author - that means NO ONE tells her what to do with her character. And trust her, as well as yourselves, to make her decisions pay off in story terms when the time is right.

Best,
Ron
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2001, 05:55:00 PM »

Interesting comments from everyone.

It was a fun encounter, but there were some OOC dynamics going on that Paul did not mention.

For one, we were on a time constraint, and that encounter happened very late in the evening.  I still had a scene I wanted to run - which all of the players were interested in getting to - and so we wanted to move things forward a little faster than they were happening.

Two, this game has been one big experiment for me.  Not only am I trying to run a game I've never played, but I'm making my first foray into Relationship Mapping as well.  As if that weren't enough, I've made it my personal goal to try to break up the "party mentality" that normally permeates adventures I've run (maybe this isn't a normal problem with Paul and his friends - this is the first I've ran anything for them).  And while I feel like I've succeeded at helping the players realize their personal agendas, they've only crossed paths in superficial ways (and we're approaching the third act of the story!).  Ever seen Traffic? This game feels a little like that (if only it were half as good as that film).  Anyway, the game so far has amounted to each player getting a scene or two at a time for himself/herself, and while he or she is conducting business, I feel like the others may be getting bored.  This may just be paranoia on my part...you'd have to ask Paul or the others to find out.

Anyway, those outside factors contributed heavily to my desire to get these two together.  Was it right or wrong?  Who knows?  For what it's worth, the antagonism between the two characters was very compelling, and the way things worked out did not hinder the story at all.

On a more personal note...

This has been a great learning experience for me.  Sorceror is a fun game with lots of material to draw upon (even if I'm not making the best use of all the game's cool little nifties), the Relationship Mapping seems to be working, and I'm learning tons about Narrativism just by being around Paul and his buddy Tom.  Oh, and I understand scene framing alot better now.  I've still got a long way to go, but no one said it would be easy.

Or did they?
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2001, 07:32:00 PM »

Hey, I think some of the replies here may have lost sight of how fabulous my girlfriend is. I tried to establish that pretty clearly, but maybe describing her awesome scene with Matt's character from earlier in the game session will make that more apparent.

His character is a remarkably creepy social outcast who works as a photographer for a television station and uses sorcery to take sexual advantage of women who'd otherwise never give him the time of day. He happens to have an envelope of photographs he took of a prominent fatherly actor having forcible sex with a 15-year old TV starlet who's been missing for more than a week since the pictures were taken. My girlfriend's character Leah is a female TV journalist who's suffered a dramatic downturn in her career simply because she's getting into her later 40's. The station manager just took her off an ongoing story she'd been covering for two months, and gave it to a younger, prettier colleague named Marla.

Matt's character seized upon Leah at the Karras funeral and offered to sell her the photos. She told him she wanted to see them first. He eerily suggested she come to his apartment, but she turned that down. They arranged to meet at a Chinese restaurant. Sitting in the atrium of the restaurant, he produced the photos and asked her for $10,000. Of course, Leah didn't have that kind of money, and my girlfriend was clearly struggling mentally with what to do next. Matt was great in this scene. I think it was his best scene of the two sessions of the scenario that we've played. And I think it was Scott's most successful scene as well. Marla arrived, having overheard the conversation between Leah and Matt's character at the funeral, tossed an envelope with $10,000 onto the table and offered to buy the photos out from under Leah. It was great. My girlfriend turned to Matt and said, "Let's go back to your apartment." Scott upped the ante by having Marla loosen a button on her blouse and pursue the same tactic. Matt responded, again with perfect eeriness, "Why don't the three of us go back to my apartment and talk about it."

I egged my girlfriend on, saying, "You're a sorceress, you don't have to compete on her level." And she delivered an awesome resolution to the scene. She used her demon's Command power, which works only on animals, to beckon a couple of the seagulls in the lattice above the atrium to position themselves and deliver two perfect bird shits directly into Marla's cleavage. While Marla freaked and screamed, Leah snagged the envelope of money and stuffed it into Matt's character's shirt pocket and dragged him the hell out of the restaurant for the exchange.

It was a great scene...because it awesomely establishes Leah's protagonism. The story that my girlfriend is apparently working up for Leah is based on a theme of workplace rivalry. Protagonism for a character is about their ability to deliver a theme of the author's choice to the audience. The audience loved the scene. And Marla is probably Scott's most compelling NPC at this point because of her involvement in such a protagonizing scene.

Which is to say, you were in My Guy mode too.

Steffan's theme is about him being a user and a manipulator, and ultimately about what happens to someone like that. The scene between him and Leah was protagonizing for him because I was working up his theme by Boosting her and then trying to extract the information. I think it was probably the second most protagonizing scene in the game, after the sequence with Leah, Matt, and Marla in the restaurant.

Evidence of this is how important a specific resolution of the scene apparently was to the other players. Protagonism is about how important a character becomes to the audience.

My girlfriend and I had a conversation about the game last night after I'd written my horrible previous post about what a Simulationist she was turning out to be, and it was a pretty insightful discussion. She'd used the phrase, What's in it for me?, a couple of times during the scene, which myself and the other players had interpreted as her roleplaying Leah's resistance. In fact, what she was trying to say as a player was, "I see how important a certain outcome is to everyone, help me figure out how to agree to that outcome in a way that doesn't compromise who I want my character to be." And phrased like that, there are lots of possibilities besides handing over the videotape. Perhaps she would have demanded an exclusive interview with Senator Bion. We just weren't communicating effectively OOC. She recognized the thematic significance of the scene for Steffan just as much as everyone else in the room. And it was just as obvious to her that not giving Steffan the information about her invitation to the reading of the will wasn't so endemic to the theme she'd been working up with Leah that she wouldn't have her do it. She just wanted to not compromise her concept of Leah as a strong-willed journalist by having her give it up easily. And my not having Steffan give up the videotape to her was the same thing, not compromising him as a tool for the story I'd been working up with him. So I'm not sure that kind of decision is the same thing as "My Guy" mode...but I'm open to being convinced otherwise.

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-07-18 23:38 ]
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Supplanter
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2001, 06:49:00 PM »

Quote
So I'm not sure that kind of decision is the same thing as "My Guy" mode...but I'm open to being convinced otherwise.


I agree with pretty much everything Ron said. I just worry that part of the discussion is hanging up on a nicety: whether or not your play of Steffan constitutes "my guy mode" or "protagonizing."

It really doesn't matter. My concern here is that at the time of the session and even at the time of your original message, you somehow saw your girlfriend's unwillingness to sacrifice her character conception for the sake of getting everyone to the big event as a problem, and your own unwillingness to sacrifice your character conception for the sake of getting everyone to the big event as simply an unremarkable fact. And yet your respective positions were entirely symmetrical.

Talking about how you were really "protagonizing Steffan" doesn't change the symmetry. What's more, had your girlfriend yielded, it would have meant that you would have protagonized Steffan by deprotagonizing Leah. Leah would have been, at that moment, simply a background character in Steffan's story.

The other thing that jumps out is male participants defining the female participant's behavior as a problem.

As Ron points out, a failure of Steffan and Leah to hook up is as ripe with story potential as a success would be. And with a GM and players, including Girlfriend and Paul, with author power, it should be possible for someone to author a reason for Leah to be present at the event even if Steffan's come-on doesn't work.

What seems clear is that in actual play, one PC's protagonizing can come at the expense of another. I suppose the question is, whose job is it to watch out for that? The GM? The player of the PC at risk? Observing players? The game designer? In this case it looks like your girlfriend handled the matter well enough on her own. Do we demand that vigilance from her?

Best,


Jim


[ This Message was edited by: Supplanter on 2001-07-19 22:51 ]
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