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Author Topic: What's Wrong with Pawn Stance?  (Read 5115 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2002, 10:02:05 AM »

Quote
"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.


I guess that's my real question then: why is there the continuing need to "cover up" Pawn Stance, turning it into Author Stance?

(You're right in that I was compounding various questions, but perhaps this is the thing that was really bothering me.)

I see your point about Author/Pawn being two extremes, but I guess I'm having trouble seeing the real artistic value in Author Stance.  Couldn't you get the same results by having players switch between Actor and Pawn Stance?  Author just seems to be the product of, excuse my value judgment here, decades of "bad role-playing."  By this, I don't mean the players were acting inappropriately, but that they were trying to do things that weren't supported by the old definition of role-playing and invented the Pawn-Actor hybrid called Author Stance to allow them to keep playing that way.

For example, most published games verbally encourage players to stick to Actor Stance as much as possible, while the system (along with fairly standard GM tendencies) actually encourages them to take Pawn Stance, figuring out how to obtain the best rewards.  Author stance, then, developed as a way for players to take Pawn Stance while looking like they were still in Actor Stance.

It's this deception, which is at the core of what Author Stance is, that I have doubts about.  I'm not claiming that it has no purpose, but that I doubt it's essential to the vocabulary of modern game design.  I suppose that the illusion of Author Stance allows more Gamist players to play alongside more Narrativist or Simulationist players (including many GMs), but is that the only concrete use?

These questions are asked not because I think there're no answers, but because I'm truly interested in how other people view Author Stance, since I, myself, am at a loss.

Later.
Jonathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2002, 10:42:16 AM »

Hi there,

Jonathan, I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that Author Stance is deceptive. Do you consider a novel's author deceptive because he contrives to have a character right on the other side of the wall as the conspirators conspire? Or that he contrives to have a fictional character fictionally born at all?

Perhaps it might be more helpful if you were to consider an example.

Bob is the player and Bartholemew is his character; Sam is another player and Sebastian is his character.

Sebastian and Bartholemew are sloshing knee-deep in the sewers below Paris. Bartholemew has a ring in his pocket, which happens to be Sebastian's ancestral Ring of Something; Bartholemew doesn't know the ring's identity (or that Sebastian is looking for it), and Sebastian doesn't know that Bartholemew has any ring at all. Sam and Bob are both fully aware of the situation.

The in-game events
Their lantern goes out.

Sebastian curses and digs in his pockets for a light source, finding nothing.
Bartholemew curses and digs in his pocket for a light source, finding ... a ring. He says, hold this for a second, and continues to rummage.

Sebastian holds the ring and feels it carefully, and struck by a horrible suspicion, slips it onto his finger.

The role-playing
Minor side issue? Who says the lights go out, the GM or one of the players? What passes among them, verbally or non-verbally, at that point? That's some Director stance to check out.

But back to Author stance. In this case, Sam says, "Hey Bob, I think it's time." They both grin.

Sam: "I look through my pockets and of course find nothing. [in-character] Merde!"

Bob: "I look through my pockets and pull out ... the ring! [in-character] Mon ami, hold this trifle so I don't drop it. Where did I put those matches ..."

Sam: "I'm holding the ring ... hey ... OK, this is really weirding Sebastian out. In a state of half-"no way" and half-"omiGod," he slips it on.

Greatly pleased with one another, they look at the GM.

Note #1: Do you see that in-character vs. out-of-character presentation is completely irrelevant? Both players are in Author stance throughout this scene.

Note #2: Do you see that player-to-character creativity regarding the characters' surprise is a major source of enjoying play, during this scene? That's the benefit of Author (non-Pawn) vs. Author (Pawn), which may be irrelevant to some, but can mean a world of difference to others.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2002, 11:16:29 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
I guess that's my real question then: why is there the continuing need to "cover up" Pawn Stance, turning it into Author Stance?


This is why every time I mention the definition of Author Stance, I also elucidate what Pawn Stance is. Not to say that it's a bastard child, but to say that it exists separately, and distinctly, and may be worth considering in, say, a design.

I've always thought that it should just be considered it's own separate thing, but have stuck with the original theory out of pure convention.

My use of the term "fails" in my definition in the one thread could be construed as being pejorative. This is probably my subconcious bias coming out (I even drift Gamist games by playing in Actor or at least Author stance; this includes wargames, BTW). But there is nothing a priori wrong with the mode, I suppose.

And as for the term, I think it's very apt. The player is moving the character with exactly the sorts of considerations as they would moving a pawn in a boardgame. The problem with Avatarism is that this can indicate Actor mode just as well. Perviously, however, someone sugested Token mode, though this would probably have the same negative connotations.

But this seems like a circular argument.
1. Pawn is a bad term because it describes the activity in a way that's not complimentary.
2. But the description is accurate. And it's not a negative thing to do.
3. So therefore the term is bad.

Well, either playing your character like a Pawn is good, in which case the term is good, or it's bad to play that way. Which is it?

Mike
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2002, 12:03:31 PM »

Ron,

Your example helped me in several ways, but I still have a couple questions:

How is this clearly Author (non-Pawn) and not possibly Author (Pawn)?  I always thought the distiction between them was whether or not the motivation for the actions appeared to come from the characters.  Obviously, Sebation "accidentally" discovering the ring is something the players want to happen, but is the "accidental" nature of the incident what makes it Author Stance and not Pawn?  If it was Pawn Stance, would Bob's character just say something like, "Hey, Sebastian, check out this ring I found" without waiting for the appropriate circumstances?  What's the distinction here?

Mike,

I guess my main concern is not that the term is bad, but that it doesn't fit with the other terms.  What you want is a term that means "one-who-moves-pawns," because the stances are all action-oriented: "one-who-acts," "one-who-authors," "one-who-directs."  What it sounds like now is that the term means "one-who-is-a-pawn," as if the player gives up all control (i.e. Audience Stance).

Later.
Jonathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: November 11, 2002, 01:15:05 PM »

Hi Jonathan,

With your permission, I'll break it down by your questions. I hope this is recognizable as not the typical/horrible line-by-line thing.

How is this clearly Author (non-Pawn) and not possibly Author (Pawn)? I always thought the distiction between them was whether or not the motivation for the actions appeared to come from the characters. Obviously, Sebation "accidentally" discovering the ring is something the players want to happen, but is the "accidental" nature of the incident what makes it Author Stance and not Pawn?

The character-motives in question strictly concern the characters looking for something to light their way in the darkness. Yes, these are used as a foil or circumstance in order to bring up the "ring thing" that both players are looking forward to. The characters are looking for a light source; their actions result in bringing the ring "into play." Since that set of motivations results in that action, that's the "motivation" step. You are confounding "motivation X" with "motivation for outcome/action X," when the two X's may be very different things.

If it was Pawn Stance, would Bob's character just say something like, "Hey, Sebastian, check out this ring I found" without waiting for the appropriate circumstances? What's the distinction here?

That's it. That's it exactly. The players and GM have effectively colluded (and in practice, often without much planning) to bring the maximally emotionally significant moment possible for Sebastian, as a character. There's an element of Character Exploration present which Pawn stance, by definition, is not concerned with.

[Big important point! You will notice that this phenomenon is independent of GNS mode. If they did so such that a Narrative Premise is thrown into high relief, then they are playing in a Narrativist/Character fashion; if they did so such that a "deep character moment" may be experienced by Sam, then they are playing in a Simulationist/Character fashion; and if they did so such that they are now empowered to cope with the threat which everyone knows is about to spring on them in the sewers (as a GM-driven challenge, as primary goal of play), then they are playing in a Gamist/Character fashion.]

Best,
Ron
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2002, 01:33:29 PM »

Okay, I think I see where you're coming from, but one thing still remains:

If your example is Author (non-Pawn) because the players waited for the "right moment" instead of just using the ring whenever they felt like it, what does that say about the possibilities for using Pawn Stance in non-Gamist ways?  Is non-Gamist Pawn Stance still Pawn Stance?

For instance, if Bob wants his character to say "Hey Sebastian, check out this ring I found," but that doesn't fit with the Tone of the narrative, can't he wait for the proper time?  Is that Narrativist Pawn Stance or just Author Stance?  Likewise, if the players are wanting to explore the strange environment and Sebastian's discovery of the ring might make the character go somewhere else, couldn't Bob refrain from using the ring to support that Simulationist goal?

I guess I'm having trouble seeing the distiction between non-Gamist Pawn Stance and Author Stance.  Is there one?

Maybe the distiction is just:
-- waiting for a dramatic moment where Bob's character can say "hold this trinket for me" = Author Stance (non-Pawn)
-- waiting for a dramatic moment where Bob's character can say "take a look at this ring I found" = Pawn Stance (Nar/Sim)

Still, that doesn't seem exactly right to me.  Any help?

Later.
Jonathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2002, 02:38:51 PM »

Hi Jonathan,

I'm kind of wondering why you're so wedded to the idea that Pawn = Gamism. It don't say that anywhere, except as a historical observation. Using Pawn Stance in non-Gamist ways is fine. Perfectly fine. I've said, over and over, that Stance shifts all over the place in normal play of any kind. I wouldn't be surprised if it were quite prevalent, proportionally speaking, in many sub-modes of Gamist play, but again, that's no reason to associate the two things as one-is-the-other or some such deal.

For instance, if Bob wants his character to say "Hey Sebastian, check out this ring I found," but that doesn't fit with the Tone of the narrative, can't he wait for the proper time? Is that Narrativist Pawn Stance or just Author Stance?

Plain old Author stance, if by "that" you are referring to Bob's decision not to initiate the Ring Scene yet.

Likewise, if the players are wanting to explore the strange environment and Sebastian's discovery of the ring might make the character go somewhere else, couldn't Bob refrain from using the ring to support that Simulationist goal?

(Wincing) "Wanting to explore the strange environment" is not necessarily a Simulationist goal. People often confound the term Exploration (which means "imagination") with "characters wandering about poking their snoots into stuff," but that's not correct at all. I could deal with this question a bit better if you were to pose a more definitional example of Simulationist play, but for now, I'll say, sure, that would be Author stance during Simulationist play. I can't seem to repeat it enough: any Stance may be found in any GNS mode of play. The connection between the two concepts seems to be a matter of proportion and timing.

I guess I'm having trouble seeing the distiction between non-Gamist Pawn Stance and Author Stance. Is there one?

Narrativist Pawn stance: Sam and Bob agree that Sebastian and Bartholemew hit the Rat-Lord Sewer Guy high and low, respectively, during the combat scene. Let's bear in mind that this combat scene is just stinking-full of Premise significance, and everyone at the table is into it as such. The two players don't bother to role-play (in or out of character) that the two characters are communicating to coordinate their attacks in an organized way. They just announce that that's what's happening, in an "I said so" way.

(Personal self-check opportunity for everyone! If you say, "But it's combat, so it's Gamist," you fail. You are condemned to read my essay. The horror!)

Your final distinction doesn't seem to be much of a distinction to me. My example above provides the distinction that makes the most sense to me: that in Pawn stance, no in-game justification is provided for the character's actions, which are manifestly expressing a player priority.

Best,
Ron
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2002, 04:50:45 PM »

Hey Ron,

Don't worry, you can stop repeating that :)  I know that the Stances are independent of GNS, but you example was confusing me.  I think my problem was that I keep trying to determine whether specific actions are Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist and it's almost impossible to determine that out of context.

Still, I think I'm finally starting to understand the Author/Pawn distinction, which is good.  Give me a while to mull this all over and I'll see if I have any other questions.  Thanks a bunch for helping me out, though.

Later.
Jonathan
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #23 on: November 11, 2002, 08:48:31 PM »

This may be a bit off topic, but Iíve always considered pawn stance to be some sort of deficient version of author stance.  Now Iím thinking that I may be wrong.  Why not, as Mike says above, just separate pawn stance from author stance and be done with it?  Iíve been talking to Jonathan about adding a 4th stance over in the GNS forum.  Should the fourth be pawn stance?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2002, 07:51:03 AM »

Hi Tim,

I think you're experiencing the same confoundment that Jonathan might have earlier, between these two things:

1) Pawn stance is (a) bad or (b) good.

2) Pawn stance is (a) a type of Author stance or (b) not a type of Author stance.

For some reason, people are having a personal epiphany about #1 ("Hey! Pawn stance isn't a sin!") and then trying to apply it to #2, which is not valid.

To be absolutely clear, my position is #1 (b) and #2 (a). Why do I take the #2 position? It goes to the definition - Author stance is basing character actions on decisions made by the player for metagame purposes (as opposed to Explorative ones). People are having a hard time seeing that the "in-game justification" is a form of including an Explorative element into the process, which is optional.

If you'd like, think of Pawn as the real or whole stance, and "Author" as an add-on. Either way makes no difference. Again, because people have been projecting #1 (a) into their reading of the essay, they are blinding themselves to what's really being said there.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: November 12, 2002, 07:56:07 AM »

Hi Tim,

I think you're experiencing the same confoundment that Jonathan might have earlier, between these two things:

1) Pawn stance is (a) bad or (b) good.

2) Pawn stance is (a) a type of Author stance or (b) not a type of Author stance.

For some reason, people are having a personal epiphany about #1 ("Hey! Pawn stance isn't a sin!") and then trying to apply it to #2, which is not valid.

To be absolutely clear, my position is #1 (b) and #2 (a). Why do I take the #2 position? It goes to the definition - Author stance is basing character actions on decisions made by the player for metagame purposes (as opposed to Explorative ones). People are having a hard time seeing that the "in-game justification" is a form of including an Explorative element into the process, which is optional.

If you'd like, think of Pawn as the real or whole stance, and "Author" as an add-on. Either way makes no difference. Again, because people have been projecting #1 (a) into their reading of the essay, they are blinding themselves to what's really being said there.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #26 on: November 12, 2002, 08:22:44 AM »

Hey.

How come Pawn and Author have to be one a subset of the other?  Can't we just say:

2 possible rationales: in-game and metagame.

Pawn = metagame exclusively.

Actor = in-game exclusively.

Author = both.

I don't see why, in Author stance, one of the in-game or the metagame must "come first," and the other be retrofitted.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #27 on: November 12, 2002, 08:53:28 AM »

Vincent,

Head banging wall.

It's just like "species," OK? You don't have one kind of Homo sapiens, and then these "other" sub-sets which are some kind of lower forms. Once you have one subspecies, everything in the category is a subspecies, e.g. H. sapiens sapiens, H. sapiens neanderthalensis, H. sapiens heidelbergensis, and so on. There is no "plain" Homo sapiens, without a subspecies designator.

[To bio enthusiasts: Yes, I know controversy exists about this particular issue; get over it or contact me privately.]

Therefore the uber-category of Author is wholly composed of sub-category Author and sub-category Pawn, and nothing else. This is basic hierarchical thinking, including the duplication of terms; I never expected anyone to have trouble with it at this level.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #28 on: November 12, 2002, 08:55:49 AM »

Oh.

Okay.

-Vincent
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #29 on: November 12, 2002, 09:06:52 AM »

Ron,

Donít interpret this as being difficult.  Sometimes I just like to summarize in my own words to make sure I understand the concept.

Author Stance Ė making decisions based on meta-game motivations

Author-Pawn Stance Ė making author stance decisions without concern for an explorative consistency

Author-Author Stance Ė making author stance decisions and then adding an explorative element (in-game justification for the action)

If this is correct (geez I hope so) then I must say that yes, your bio hierarchy explanation helped a bunch.  Thanks.
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