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Author Topic: What's Wrong with Pawn Stance?  (Read 5753 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: November 08, 2002, 03:55:16 PM »

Okay, let me go ahead and answer my own question:

"Nothing, if it's what you want."

My point is that I think Pawn Stance has gotten a bad rap.  First of all, it has a slightly demeaning name, and one that is out of synch with the terminology of the other Stances.  Actor, Author, and Director all describe what the player becomes when they take a specific Stance, but Pawn describes what the character becomes: a tool for the player's will.  What is Pawn Stance but the character becoming an avatar of the player?

I was thinking recently of games where the player plays his/herself (specifically, Storypunk & The GM is Dead, my two current projects) and how they fit into the whole stance scheme.  This would seem to be a specific kind of Pawn Stance except there's not even the layer of removal of having the PCs be other people.  Then again, there's a fine line dividing that kind brand of Pawn Stance and Director Stance, depending on how much control the avatar is given over the game itself.  

For instance, at certain points in The GM is Dead, the players play themselves in a kind of real-life LARP, interacting and discussing what's going on in the game (this OOC discussion is absolutely essential and can still be considered part of the game).  However, the conversation simply improves their understanding and has no real effect on in-game events.

On the other hand, Storypunk gives the avatars massive control over the game world.  Imagine Universalis, except the manipulating forces are not the players but their avatars within the game world.  So, Jill's character (who's named Jill, acts like Jill, and even looks like Jill) walks through the countryside to find a good place for a castle, and then creates one, along with all the characters, objects, intrigue, and ramifications that entails.

Is this just constantly switching back and forth between Pawn and Director Stance?  I suppose it could be, but that seems a messy way of describing it.  Any better thoughts?

Later.
Jonathan
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MK Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2002, 05:48:05 PM »

You're right; Pawn Stance doesn't have parallel terminology.

What about Puppeteer Stance?
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MK Snyder
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2002, 05:49:25 PM »

"On the other hand, Storypunk gives the avatars massive control over the game world. Imagine Universalis, except the manipulating forces are not the players but their avatars within the game world. So, Jill's character (who's named Jill, acts like Jill, and even looks like Jill) walks through the countryside to find a good place for a castle, and then creates one, along with all the characters, objects, intrigue, and ramifications that entails. "

Suggestion: God Stance
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2002, 06:27:42 PM »

Quote from: MK Snyder
You're right; Pawn Stance doesn't have parallel terminology.

What about Puppeteer Stance?


That certainly has better connotations, i.e. that the player is taking on the role of a removed puppeteer and not becoming the pawn of his/her character (which is what "Pawn Stance" sounds like, when placed alongside the rest).

I also think it needs to be recognised that Author Stance isn't necessarily the "default."  In Ron's GNS essay, it makes it sound like Pawn Stance is a secondary, lesser part of Author Stance, when really they're just two sides of the same coin.  In fact, in many cases, I might prefer the "honesty" of Pawn Stance rather than the "retconn-the-character's-motivations" of Author Stance.  Why would you necessarily want to pretend that the character is not an avatar of the player if that's what's obviously going on?  In many cases, that illusion is desirable, but, in just as many cases, it's superfluous.

Quote
Suggestion: God Stance


Hmm... Nice suggestion, but I don't think we necessarily need to come up with a new Stance for every single permutation that exists.  I think Pawn/Puppeteer Stance is different enough from Author Stance that it deserves seperate classification, but "God Stance" is basically just an embodied form of Director Stance.  And there's nothing about Author/Puppeteer or Director Stance, I suppose, that says that the player can't have an avatar in the game.  In fact, Author/Puppeteer Stance requires an avatar.

The difference here, though, is that Director Stance has historically been used seperately from characters or avatars.  There are a few games (though I can't think of any specific ones right now, except Agone) that have had the GM take on a semi-IC role as "god" or "all-powerful ruler" of the game world, but this has mostly been underempasized.  I guess I would just be pushing this further by using this kind of IC-GM structure as the default player role.

Thoughts?

Later.
Jonathan
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2002, 08:55:58 PM »

I'm continuing with these ideas in a new thread in "GNS Discussion."

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4199

Come join the fun.

Later.
Jonathan
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2002, 09:30:43 AM »

I suppose that Pawn Stance get a bad rap because it does not require a certain anount of limitation on what can be done in it usually in justifying character actions with the confines of how the character has already been defined, including actions and/or personal breakthroughs that redefine the character.

For a character who normally wouldn't to, say, kill someone in Author stance, just to use an admittedly lame example, this action must somehow be justified, usually through a series of events where it becomes believable that the character would go against their nature to take a life. In Pawn stance, the character can simply kill someone without ever having a reason. This feels more artificial and it probably why Pawn Stance is looked down on in a way.

But, this is a poor example because it's using Pawn Stance in a situation that clearly is better suited to Author Stance (possibly even Actor Stance)

Also, it seems that for Pawn Stance to work, attention to who the character is is barely touched upon because it is not important. The character is a vehicle for the player to experience and interact with the game. Nothing more. We don't care what they had for breakfast or if they love their mothers. So to make Pawn Stance really shine, you need a game that takes full advantage of this and brings it forward while not bothering with the other stuff that really isn't important.

Or such is my take on it.
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2002, 09:41:35 AM »

Hmm... pawn stance immediately makes me think of those guys who were playing to win. You know the typical GNS conflict thingie with people prioritizing different things. The people more into winning the game usually played pawn stance to optimize their advantages in the game, which made it difficult for others to use Actor Stance.

However in a functional group then Pawn stance doesn't really have a problem. It's just that a lot of people associate Pawn stance with dysfunctional play since it came natural to those players prioritizing Gamist play that always were unable and/or unwilling to shift into other stances or priorities to accomodate the needs of other players. :)

My take anyway.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2002, 10:52:35 AM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Also, it seems that for Pawn Stance to work, attention to who the character is is barely touched upon because it is not important. The character is a vehicle for the player to experience and interact with the game. Nothing more.
Quote from: Pale Fire
...it came natural to those players prioritizing Gamist play...


Exactly.  But this needn't necessarily be associated with particular kinds of play.  Sure, Pawn Stance may seem ready-made for Gamist play, but that's not the full extent of what you could do with it.

Narrative Pawn Stance -- the players' avatars build themes in the game world, based on their own personalities and desires, while careful to keep within the boundaries of the social contract, making sure not to alow resentment to build up between players.

Simulationist Pawn Stance -- the player's avatars explore the artificial world around them, doing whatever they feel like, not limited by the restraints of "keeping IC."  They could even play themselves, trapped within this fantastic setting.

Later.
Jonathan
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2002, 11:12:54 AM »

Certainly Jonathan, I'm not disagreeing with you.
And the game you're working on is certainly a good canidate for pawn stance play.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2002, 02:46:28 PM »

Hi Jonathan,

Three points ...

1) I didn't originate the term Pawn stance; it came from the original Stance discussions.

2 I like your idea of S-Pawn and N-Pawn. It works for me as something that can apply to all three stances, just as the concept of "vanilla" can apply to all three modes.

3) I guess I always find thread titles and topics like this very difficult to deal with. Since there isn't any text in my essay or (as I recall) any whatsoever on the forums that state, "Pawn stance is flawed or limited or retarded," I dunno what to say to a claim that "Pawn stance gets a bad rap."

Best,
Ron
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2002, 03:04:03 PM »

Hey Ron,

Despite all the flak you've been getting recently, this thread wasn't really aimed at you in particular.  I already guessed that the term "Pawn Stance" was something that developed later (seeing how it's inserted into the GNS Essay), and I didn't mean that you had anything personally against it.

My point was that Pawn Stance seems to have gotten a bad rap in the minds of many of game designers here.  I was reacting to comments like "well, if you did that, it would basically be Pawn Stance, so let's try something else."  I apologize if that message got lost.  Please don't take it personally.  I'm just busy working on two games that heavily utilize Pawn Stance and am discovering how cool it is.  I wanted to share the fun.

To prempt any other bad feelings, my thread "The Case for 4 Stances" on the GNS Forum isn't aimed at you either.  It's not "Ron's GNS Theory is flawed" but "here's a cool way of looking at stances that gives you 4 possibilities."

Later.
Jonathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2002, 06:27:31 PM »

Hi Jonathan,

Bad feelings, schmad feelings. Nothing of the sort, dude. None of this is rooted in a sense of injury.

My only concern is finding some documentation for your observation. Can you point to a thread or two?

Best,
Ron
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2002, 09:05:07 AM »

Sure,

Part of my feelings, I guess, came from the first page of http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4111">this thread, which seemed to associate Pawn Stance with a Gamist-style mindset.  Basically, there isn't really much literal "role-playing" going on with Pawn Stance (or Director Stance or Author Stance, for that matter), because the player is acting completely divorced from the character that they are supposedly playing.  But I balked at the idea that player desires were necessarily selfish or involved the use of special OOC-knowledge, which seemed to be what the examples were implying.  Sure, I suppose the people involved in that discussion weren't saying, I don't think, that Pawn Stance was bad, but the type of play that they were attaching it to doesn't seem to be the type that gets supported much in Forge-designed games.

I am also basically objecting to the whole Author/Pawn distinction as rather artificial.  In my mind, Pawn Stance is basically a nicer term for what has been historically dubbed "acting OOC" and Author Stance is merely "acting OOC but covering it up well."  Again, historically, Author Stance has been preferred to Pawn Stance because it keeps up the illusion that there is real "role-playing" going on, instead of players simply doing whatever they want.  But, these days, when "roleplaying" has come to mean a great deal more than "playing roles," is the illusion of Author Stance really more desirable?  Really, the only "playing roles" that gets done is in Actor Stance or http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4199">God Stance (basically, Director Stance with a character), and God Stance is currently very, very rare.

Why is Author Stance, then, one of the Big 3, and Pawn Stance a secondary thing? (this is more philosophical, I know that the concept of Pawn Stance developed later).  I suppose I feel that Author Stance should mean what "Pawn Stance" currently does, and that we need a new term for pretending to act IC when using Author Stance.

So that's where this is coming from.  Does that help any?

Later.
Jonathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2002, 09:34:52 AM »

Hi there,

Yes, I see where you're coming from, although I think you're confounding a theoretical question ("How does Pawn relate to all three 'main' stances") with a feelings/values one, and a very squishy one at that ("Why does Pawn stance get a bad rap"). We'd do well to abandon the latter entirely, I think, aside from quickly and easily saying, "Comments which imply a wrongness to Pawn stance are not of interest," except when they pertain to explicit game-design or play goals that would rule it out.

You wrote,
"In my mind, Pawn Stance is basically a nicer term for what has been historically dubbed 'acting OOC' and Author Stance is merely 'acting OOC but covering it up well.'"

I don't see why this is controversial or even especially interesting. It seems like a perfectly reasonable summary to me, with two exceptions.

1) The term "merely" is (as usual, like "just") playing a huge judgmental role in the sentence.

2) "Covering it up well" is perhaps more of a central artistic aim than you are giving it credit for - it is, essentially, how any author manages to draw in and engage any audience member, rather than see his or her work rejected as contrived.

Given that Pawn stance clearly exists as a graded extreme of Author stance (and vice versa), and given that Author stance (again, with its partner Pawn) can be turned to any metagame goal whatsoever, I'm still not sure that I'm seeing your question.

Best,
Ron

P.S. For purposes of this thread, I'm putting aside the "four stances" quesion.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2002, 09:48:16 AM »

Hey Jonathan,

Really, the only "playing roles" that gets done is in Actor Stance or God Stance (basically, Director Stance with a character), and God Stance is currently very, very rare.

I think I disagree. A player brings just as much subjectivity, bias, advocacy, and investment in personal character to Author stance as he does Actor stance. Real people "Author" themselves all the time without dissolving into dissociative personality disorder. "The problem isn't that I'm a poor judge of character. The problem is that I love too much!"  Any guy who's ever hung around the known stomping grounds of an attractive woman, hoping to have a "chance" meeting, is authoring himself. Anyone who's ever rehearsed a conversation with an authority figure, reworking and revising arguments in response to the other person's imagined retorts is authoring himself. The only difference is that in-game Author Stance features a higher degree of control over circumstance.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
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