*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 24, 2014, 06:40:20 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Symbolic-Language Gamemastering (from Chunk Theory, from El  (Read 3867 times)
talysman
Member

Posts: 675


WWW
« on: November 21, 2002, 02:31:29 AM »

not sure if this will be helpful, but here's a sort of crude version of a potential "chunk" language that is not quite as crude as the "36 story types" approach. I'm basing this on something I came across when reading books on transactional analysis and script analysis (psychotherapy, not drama,) but I think Berne and the others stole the concept from drama in the first place, which makes this next step perhaps a little ironic.

anyways, the TA people talk about something they call the Drama Triangle. it's a relationship triangle that assumes three participants in a relationship at a specific moment:

    [*]the persecutor,
    [*]the victim, and
    [*]the rescuer.
    [/list:u]

    the persecutor harms the victim in some way. the rescuer helps the victim. there's also a reciprocal relationship: the victim can accuse someone of being a perscutor or ask for help from a rescuer. and finally, the rescuer and persecutor challenge each other. it's a sort of rock-paper-scissors of relationships, almost, although there's no implication that one role "wins" in an interaction with another.

    there's a lot of psychotherapy stuff behind this that isn't really important to gaming, but there was one important point the therapists made: these relationships change from moment to moment, dividing up lifestories into "scenes"; the scenes change either when the time changes, or the place changes. thus, a victim runnning from a persecutor may turn the tables after reaching a safe haven, or a rescuer may become a persecutor at a later time.

    you could write a specific relationship as a two-letter abbreviation (PV, VP, RV, VR, PR, RP) and could write a transition as PV -> VP or RV -> PV, for example.

    my point is that you could use this abstract transition notation system to represent scene-sized chunks. just keep in mind that the P, R, and V are abstract, not specific; the GM fills in the details based on what the players suggest. GM decides is when a complication is needed and what kind, then fills the roles based on what is available -- not just with people or groups, but also with inanimate objects or virtually anything.

    an example, using a pseudo-Indiana Jones setting:

    the players mention they want to find the lost tomb of the scorpion king. they start in England and plan to go to Egypt. the GM needs a low-intensity encounter to start, just a foreshadowing... enter an egyptologist, details made up on the spot (perhaps based on lists of possible names and descriptors written up beforehand.) the GM sets the initial relationship as RV (the egyptologist rescues the "victim" PCs by providing what they need, an offer to guide them to previously undiscovered ruins in the egyptian desert.)

    the players decide they want a scene booking passage to egypt (perhaps they are old-school gamers who think in terms of buying provisions...) in this case, the sea captain they book passage with could also be considered to have an RV relationship with the PCs... time for a complication, thinks the GM, and introduces RV -> VP: the sea captain changes his mind and accuses the PCs of trying to start trouble. the PCs feel a mystery brewing and leave...

    the GM tries to introduce another complication of VP -> PV; the GM introduces an attack by a gang sailors (from the sea captain? or are the PCs jumping to conclusions?) the players turn the conflict around, then the GM drops a clue (VP -> RV): one of the attackers was carrying a letter from a well-known antiquities collector.

    ... and so on. it's kind of rough now, but I think you can see what I'm getting at: a special language to regularly describe the possible complications, plot twists, and problem resolutions that can happen during play.
    Logged

    John Laviolette
    (aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
    rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
    Emily Care
    Member

    Posts: 1126


    WWW
    « Reply #1 on: November 21, 2002, 09:06:42 AM »

    Quote from: talysman
      [*]the persecutor,
      [*]the victim, and
      [*]the rescuer.
      [/list:u]


      "You must pay the rent."  
      "I can't pay the rent."
      "I'll pay the rent."

      Very cool, John.  Seems like this might be a helpful tool in outlining or analysing thematic premises and conflicts in systems and games.


      The traditional 3 act structure would find the protagonist going from:
      VP-->RP

      And it can also be used to describe the convention of villain being defeated while occupying a position of strength or final spite: the hero must always preserve that "RP" status. If they vanquish the villain of the piece while her chips are down, then the relationship becomes PV.  

      --Emily Care
      Logged

      Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

      Black & Green Games
      Mike Holmes
      Acts of Evil Playtesters
      Member

      Posts: 10459


      « Reply #2 on: November 21, 2002, 10:15:06 AM »

      "My Hero!"
      Logged

      Member of Indie Netgaming
      -Get your indie game fix online.
      Le Joueur
      Member

      Posts: 1367


      WWW
      « Reply #3 on: November 21, 2002, 10:49:51 AM »

      I had Ron Split off this thread because I think talking about Symbolic-Language Gamemastering is already getting enough legs on the El Dorado thread to have it's own.  (And I think It's a great idea that I haven't had any time to develop.)

      That being said, I really like the first post here.  I had already suggested that one 'symbol' had to be a 'conflict symbol,' this goes a long way to suggest the most common 'static conflict symbol.'  Talysman does a phenomenal job showing exactly how it gets used and reused, it's orientation changing each time.  This speaks volumes towards what I was saying about divesting the symbolic language from the details that populate it when put into actual play.

      Keep up the great work!  I'll add more when I think of something.

      Fang Langford
      Logged

      Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
      talysman
      Member

      Posts: 675


      WWW
      « Reply #4 on: November 21, 2002, 08:49:43 PM »

      oh, great! I guess I'm nominated to develop that idea further! heh. I was trying to spend some more time thinking about Enlightenment, but since I've finished one of my other projects, I suppose I can think some more about this thread...

      after posting the original suggestion, I decided it would make more sense to interpret the two-character abbreviations as relationships in the order "PC, NPC" rather than the other way around. this helps, because when the players say "this is what we do", there is an implied relationship in their behavior.

        [*]"I attack the sentry from behind" PV
        [*]"I struggle to get past the bodyguard and reach the commandant" PR
        [*]"I intercept the assassin" RP
        [*]"I grab the little girl's hand and pull her to safety" RV
        [*]"I burst into the police headquarters and ask if someone can help me" VR
        [*]"I run from the charging bull" VP
        [/list:u]

        thus, the GM's task changes to finding an appropriate response to the players' actions.

        notice also that this isn't just about conflicts. P, V, or R can also be an object. finding a treasure map could be VR; chasing a villain only to have a bus block your path could be PR.

        the relationships could also exist outside the PCs, as events witnessed. these could be bangs. "you see a foreign journalist asking a gendarme for something, but the gendarme just shakes his head" (VR).

        as for how to use this, I would try using it as a "self-similar plot structure" (was that you, Fang, who talked about a fractal approach?) describe the overall objective plot arc as something like

        VR -> VP -> RP

        (PCs look for assistance with some problem, the tables turn and they must deal with a challenge, the characters turn the situation to their advantage and successfully resist the challenge.)

        this is an overall plot but can also be reflected in individual chapters and in individual scenes. the GM's duty in each scene is to identify the players' stated position as one of the six relationships, then respond in a way that changes the relationship to VR (if the players didn't choose VR.) the players respond to this change, the GM interprets this as one of the six relationships again, and tries to move to VP. the players respond, then the GM responds again by moving to RP and the scene ends ... but with seeds of possible future scenes.

        each scene as a whole could be interpretted on a higher level as one of the six patterns, which means that there will be a VR scene that moves to a VP scene (perhaps by way of another scene) that then moves to a RV scene, resolving one act. likewise, each act would fall some place in an overall story arc.

        for extra credit: each individual player character can have a character arc with its own thematic structure. some scenes, then will be pure "objective story" scenes, others will be scenes related to one or more character arcs. some scenes will be both objective story arc and personal character arc.
        Logged

        John Laviolette
        (aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
        rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
        Le Joueur
        Member

        Posts: 1367


        WWW
        « Reply #5 on: November 21, 2002, 09:22:39 PM »

        Quote from: talysman
        Was that you, Fang, who talked about a fractal approach?

        No it was Walt's post that suggested it.  Good ideas though.

        Bit rushed, more later.

        Fang Langford
        Logged

        Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
        M. J. Young
        Member

        Posts: 2198


        WWW
        « Reply #6 on: November 21, 2002, 11:23:39 PM »

        Quote from: John Laviolette a.k.a. Talysman the Ur-Beatle
        I decided it would make more sense to interpret the two-character abbreviations as relationships in the order "PC, NPC" rather than the other way around. this helps, because when the players say "this is what we do", there is an implied relationship in their behavior.

        I had assumed that you were working in the order of "actor, responder"; this aspect of "PC/NPC" means you actually have twelve potential relationships. For each of your six examples, in which the PC's as the first letter take action appropriate to their identifier and the NPC's are treated by them as the other identifier, you have an opposite example in which the NPC's have initiated the situation (or changed it to the new form), treating the PC's in the subordinate role.
        Quote from: Thus, John
        "I attack the sentry from behind" PV

        versus "The monster lunges at you from the corner."
        Quote from: Again, John
        "I struggle to get past the bodyguard and reach the commandant" PR

        versus "He charges at you, trying to reach the princess."
        Quote from: John again
        "I intercept the assassin" RP

        versus "The dragon interposes herself between you and her young."
        Quote from: Once more, John
        "I grab the little girl's hand and pull her to safety" RV

        versus "The luck dragon swoops down and pulls you from the swamps of despair."
        Quote from: And of course it was John who
        "I burst into the police headquarters and ask if someone can help me" VR

        versus "The girl comes to you and begs you to save her village from the ravaging orcs."
        Quote from: And finally John
        "I run from the charging bull" VP

        Oops--I don't think that quite fits the model. The VP model is one of the victim accusing someone of being the persecutor. That was what was suggested in the original post, and the only real reciprocality for this. This may be the weakest and most difficult permutation demanded by the model, because it's difficult to see where it moves from victim retaliating as victim to role reversal, victim becomes persecutor.

        Quote from: Previously, John
        you could write a specific relationship as a two-letter abbreviation (PV, VP, RV, VR, PR, RP) and could write a transition as PV -> VP or RV -> PV, for example.

        Quote from: ...and later John
        the GM's duty in each scene is to identify the players' stated position as one of the six relationships, then respond in a way that changes the relationship


        But there are twelve potential relationships, depending on who is in which role and which side initiates the current form of the relationship.

        It seems to me that it makes more sense to always keep the initiator in front, and find a separate way to identify the PC. I suggest putting the PC in upper case and the NPC in lower case. Thus Pr would mean that the player characters attack the NPC guard to reach the intended victim, and pR would mean that the villain attacks the PC to reach the princess they're defending. But that's because I see a greater value to having the initiator listed first than to having the PC listed first. You could reverse the notation, such that the capital letter indicated the initiator, but that seems to have less value to me.

        This also works better in PC versus PC situations, where "PC listed first" is meaningless, although such situations might still require a different identifier to sort out who is who.

        --M. J. Young
        Logged

        talysman
        Member

        Posts: 675


        WWW
        « Reply #7 on: November 22, 2002, 01:24:25 AM »

        Quote from: M. J. Young
        Quote from: John Laviolette a.k.a. Talysman the Ur-Beatle
        I decided it would make more sense to interpret the two-character abbreviations as relationships in the order "PC, NPC" rather than the other way around. this helps, because when the players say "this is what we do", there is an implied relationship in their behavior.

        I had assumed that you were working in the order of "actor, responder"; this aspect of "PC/NPC" means you actually have twelve potential relationships.


        nope, only 6. if the monster initiates an attack, it's VP. at any given moment, the PC is either a Victim, a Rescuer, or a Persecutor. it doesn't matter who is initiating the action: if that were the case, then there would still be only 6 forms, because a GM can't use forms where the PC initiates the action.

        if you check through each of your suggested examples for the "NPC-initiated" forms, you will see they already match the inverted form. this is why you couldn't resolve VP -- VP just means the player characters are cast as the victim for this scene and are being attacked, tormented, criticized, or hindered. a victim "retaliating" isn't VP -- retaliation means the victim isn't a victim anymore. it's VP -> PV or VP -> RP.

        to assign forms to your examples:
          [*]"The monster lunges at you from the corner." VP
          [*]"He charges at you, trying to reach the princess." RP (which could change to VP or PV)
          [*]"The dragon interposes herself between you and her young." PR
          [*]"The luck dragon swoops down and pulls you from the swamps of despair." VR
          [*]"The girl comes to you and begs you to save her village from the ravaging orcs." RV (which becomes RP in the scene with the orcs.)
          [/list:u]

          Quote from: M J Young

          It seems to me that it makes more sense to always keep the initiator in front, and find a separate way to identify the PC. I suggest putting the PC in upper case and the NPC in lower case. Thus Pr would mean that the player characters attack the NPC guard to reach the intended victim, and pR would mean that the villain attacks the PC to reach the princess they're defending. But that's because I see a greater value to having the initiator listed first than to having the PC listed first. You could reverse the notation, such that the capital letter indicated the initiator, but that seems to have less value to me.

          This also works better in PC versus PC situations, where "PC listed first" is meaningless, although such situations might still require a different identifier to sort out who is who.


          who initiated the action, as I've said, is meaningless. this is a symbolic system to determine GM responses. everything the GM uses will be NPC-initiated, and everything the players choose to do will be PC-initiated. distinguishing between the two is useless: I already know who intiated the action "I knock the guard unconscious" because I was sitting in the room when the player said it. further, this is not intended as a way to record what happened in a game, so I am never going to have to write down a player-initiated action; as GM, it's not my job to determine what the players do.

          plus, you may be missing something: there's really only three relationships. if one person is a Persecutor and another the Victim, it makes no difference whether I call that "PV" or "VP", it's the same relationship; all of the Persecutor's actions will be typical of persecutors, and all of the Victim's actions will be typical of victims, until the relationship changes. the only reason why I wrote "PV" and "VP" as different relationships is because we need to distinguish between the main character and the opposing character in the relationship, so that we know when a Victim turns the tables on a Persecutor, for example.

          I realize this was my fault, for using "PC/NPC" instead of "main character(s) in a plotline" and "opposing characters in a plotline". if I had done the latter, it would be clear that there's no special notational needs for PC vs. PC relationships: that's not only a different plotline, it's not even something under GM control. remember, we're talking about a GM plot development technique, here, a way to keep the plot movement abstract until the players fill in the details. I, as GM say "the players are acting like Victims here to the evil empire's Persecutor role, and it's time to change roles". the players suggest something about getting help from the barbarians, enemies of the empire... GREAT! that's VP -> VR ... it doesn't matter that the P in the first half is the empire, while the R in the second half is the barbarians; it's the change in player position we're interested in.

          the players never know about this symbolic system. it's just a GM plotting technique, one that helps the GM avoid designing killer opponents or cheating to save a major villain who's "supposed to have a scene later". the players change VP to PV and kill the "major" villain? fine. someone else will be the major villain.
          Logged

          John Laviolette
          (aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
          rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
          Le Joueur
          Member

          Posts: 1367


          WWW
          « Reply #8 on: November 22, 2002, 06:43:02 AM »

          Before you guys get too far into an argument, may I point out you're talking about two different things?  (Both valid here, both well met, and both useful...for different things.)

          M. J., what John is talking about is a 'relationship qualifier.'  There are only six relationships based on his three-part model.  Your confusion over it helped me clarify what I thought it needed (which it doesn't).

          John, M. J. is talking about a 'transaction model'.  Certainly these are founded on relationships, but he's right; when you discuss which way action is flowing, it can flow both ways, making twelve transactions.  (That's why your examples were kind of confusing; they describe actions, but you're talking about relationships.)

          However, what I felt (rather than thought) was that there should be a fourth part (there shouldn't).  The transaction model should also require a 'denial triad' like PD, VD, and RD; in each case whatever is being done is simply denied or stopped, regardless by who or what.  That brings the 'transaction model' up to fifteen (and counting).

          Sound good?

          Okay, now for a simple request.  P, V, and R are quite well done, but on paper begin to look a little hard to read (was it P for Protector or Persecutor?); worse, saying them out loud conveys little about what your speaking of.  Perhaps we could take them out to the first syllable?  Like Per, Vic, and Res, giving us PerVic, ResVic, PerRes, VicRes, ResPer, and VicPer, a bit better.  I leave the naming to you, it's your baby, just try to make it a little less opaque, please.

          Fang Langford
          Logged

          Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
          talysman
          Member

          Posts: 675


          WWW
          « Reply #9 on: November 23, 2002, 12:51:59 AM »

          Quote from: Le Joueur
          Before you guys get too far into an argument, may I point out you're talking about two different things?  (Both valid here, both well met, and both useful...for different things.)

          M. J., what John is talking about is a 'relationship qualifier.'  There are only six relationships based on his three-part model.  Your confusion over it helped me clarify what I thought it needed (which it doesn't).

          John, M. J. is talking about a 'transaction model'.  Certainly these are founded on relationships, but he's right; when you discuss which way action is flowing, it can flow both ways, making twelve transactions.  (That's why your examples were kind of confusing; they describe actions, but you're talking about relationships.)


          I would say that you would only be aware of the relationships through observation of behavior, which is why I gave action descriptions. or, to put it another way, a person's actions are a way of "saying" what the relationship is, or is perceived to be.

          I could see what M J was getting at... it's just that it adds a level of complexity that isn't needed, since (as I mentioned) there's no need for the GM to specify a player character's actions.

          you're right about not needed a D(enied) position. it's perfectly possible for anyone to refuse to play a suggested relationship. mostly, it will be the players who do this, since the GM is not creating setting details beforehand and is only responding to player actions.

          as for terms: they could be abbreviated any way we wish, really. I only used single letters because that's the way they were used in the book that introduced the concept ("What Do You Do After You Say Hello?" I believe it was...) if we're going to use more than one letter, I'd prefer four: Pers, Resc, Vict. it gives a little bit more to joggle the memory.
          Logged

          John Laviolette
          (aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
          rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
          JMendes
          Member

          Posts: 379


          WWW
          « Reply #10 on: November 23, 2002, 03:22:52 AM »

          Hey, guys, :)

          I realize this thread isn't exactly going in this direction, but I think this link really really belongs in this subject. So, here goes.



          Cheers,

          J.
          Logged

          url=http://lisbongamer.mc-two.com/]Lisbon Gamer[/urlLisbon Gamer
          Le Joueur
          Member

          Posts: 1367


          WWW
          « Reply #11 on: November 23, 2002, 07:02:19 PM »

          Hey John,

          Thanks for the clarification.

          Quote from: talysman
          Quote from: Le Joueur
          Before you guys get too far into an argument, may I point out you're talking about two different things?  (Both valid here, both well met, and both useful...for different things.)

          John, M. J. is talking about a 'transaction model'.  Certainly these are founded on relationships, but he's right; when you discuss which way action is flowing, it can flow both ways, making twelve transactions.  (That's why your examples were kind of confusing; they describe actions, but you're talking about relationships.)

          I could see what M J was getting at...it's just that it adds a level of complexity that isn't needed, since (as I mentioned) there's no need for the GM to specify a player character's actions.

          Actually, I don't think I conveyed the use of symbolic-language gamemastering very well as it applies to doing what appears to be the impossible.  See, the way I've been trying to explain (and this is why I was so thrilled with your model) is that you don't know who is what in the next part.

          Let's say you decide that a Persecutor is subjecting a Victim to a little, well...victimization; only you don't know who is what yet.  Say the player comes into the scene and goes all passive/receptive; you have to have a character act 'against' them.  Only then do you know who is the Persecutor and who is the victim; the player's choice of action dictates that they're the Victim.  Now you know who's whom (that's why I like the how your model lets the parties change roles).  This is also why M. J. has an interesting approach too.  Gaming is about stuff happening; knowing the relationships informs your gamemastering, but working in terms of transactions works well too (you have to turn tension into action for it to be gaming).

          That's why I said both were useful.

          Quote from: talysman
          You're right about not needed a D(enied) position. It's perfectly possible for anyone to refuse to play a suggested relationship. Mostly, it will be the players who do this, since the GM is not creating setting details beforehand and is only responding to player actions.

          If you are looking at it as if the players can 'refuse' a relationship, then you're trying to force a role on them; that's exactly what's forbidden in symbolic-language gamemastering.  Forcing is a no-no.  Your model offers an excellent way to analyze where the players 'put themselves' on the fly.  Adding in the extensions proposed by M. J. gives us a way to turn 'what is planned' symbolically as 'actions' into narrative with the players in the positions 'they have chosen' by their actions.

          Likewise, "responding" is also out of bounds.  Symbolic-language gamemastering isn't about one side responding to the other or the other side denying anything.  The gamemaster chooses how a story will go; the players' choices of actions put themselves into the symbols he has chosen.  It's a still-forming theory.

          Denial is when on acts in accords these roles and is refused.  "You must pay the rent," said the Persecutor.  "What rent?" denies the Victim.  Or "I'll pay the rent," announces the Rescuer.  "Don't bother us," denies the Persecutor, turning back to the Victim.  The reason there aren't four poles to your model is because denial only occurs to an action, not in a relationship; denial means there is no relationship.

          Please, keep going.  I'm putting together a top-down symbolic theory, but I haven't had time to knock out the details.  I'll get back to it soon.  Thanks for populating this theory with some really rockin' material.

          Fang Langford
          Logged

          Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
          Pages: [1]
          Print
          Jump to:  

          Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
          Oxygen design by Bloc
          Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!