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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 73 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Wide Angle Gaming  (Read 9621 times)
John Kim
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« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2003, 03:07:13 PM »

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
  The other way in which I mean there are no secrets if that if the secret isn't at  least shared with the GM, it functionally does not exist - until it's revealed.  Which means, rigorously, it might as well have been invented at the time it's revealed.  By some people's definitions, that means it's not really a "secret" at all.  

You seem to be defining "function" as being unrelated from the imagination of the player, which makes no sense to me.  I mean, nothing in an RPG is actually going to fix your car or butter your bread, so none of it is truly functional.  But if something makes a difference in the experience of play, then I think it counts as functional in some sense.  Now, you could say that something has more limited function if it only affects one or two players instead of everyone.   But play as a whole is the sum of experience of all the players.  

In any case, I don't think it is true that a secret has zero affect until it is revealed.  It is likely to subtlely influence play.  Just as a parallel, consider two mysteries.  In one the author makes up clues at random, and only at the end makes up a solution to fit them.  In another, the author has detailed the crime, and all the clues are generated from that.  I do think the different approaches make a difference in the result -- even though in both cases the solution only truly exists when it is revealed.
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2003, 03:50:08 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
You seem to be defining "function" as being unrelated from the imagination of the player, which makes no sense to me.


Hmm . . .  "function" was a very bad word choice, my appologies.  I think my point here was more about how the effect of "a secret only I know that I've had all along" vs. "a secret that I just made up" is (or at least CAN be), in RPG play, basically indistinguishable to the other participants.  

Taking a totally different angle on this - I'm kinda analyzing why it is that I personally see so little use in "real" secrets, and I see two reasons: one, they rarely seem to actually be secrets, and two, often the exact same effect can be acheived by just inventing the "secret" (or at least some defining details of it) at the appropriate time.

Gordon
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contracycle
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« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2003, 12:01:28 AM »

I thought "functional" worked ok; or perhaps to rephrase it, a secret that is unkown to the GM (or whatever entity is fulfilling that function) might as well not exist.

The character perhaps has the "secret" that they are a were-wolf.  On the night of the full moon, they announce they are growing hairy and befanged.  Except this is a total surprise to the GM, who says "no you don't", because the GM canont see any reason whatsoever that this should be occurring.

OTOH, it seems to me this sort of thing would be perfectly workable in games in which the players power over the character extended to directorialism, in which case it might be fine.

My second problem with secrets is that IMO sometimes they are used to "upstage" a game.  It may well be that this arises from stylistic clash and is a dysfunctional mode.  The scenario I am thinking of is one in which, at some moment of crisis, a player pulls out of the hat some deep dark secret, like being Beelzebubs love-child, which has a really radical impact on a presently unfolding scene.  IME, all this does is instantly and severely deprotagonise every other character; the scene that was about everyone has been unilaterally hijacked to being a scene about only one significant character.

Now as I say, this may well be symptomatic of a more profund underlying problem, and not a problem with secrets per se.  But I feel the situation is aggravated by not being addressed much in gaming texts; I think a game in which secrets among and between players (I frankly exclude the possibilityy of a secret being kept from a GM-entity) are a normal aspect of play needs to have an explicit discussion about where those secrets are expected to fit and how they can be used to support play.
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John Kim
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« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2003, 03:02:29 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
  I thought "functional" worked ok; or perhaps to rephrase it, a secret that is unkown to the GM (or whatever entity is fulfilling that function) might as well not exist.

The character perhaps has the "secret" that they are a were-wolf.  On the night of the full moon, they announce they are growing hairy and befanged.  Except this is a total surprise to the GM, who says "no you don't", because the GM canont see any reason whatsoever that this should be occurring.

OTOH, it seems to me this sort of thing would be perfectly workable in games in which the players power over the character extended to directorialism, in which case it might be fine.  

Well, as you say, this depends on player power.  If PC personality is left entirely within the player's sphere of power, then the player may have secrets to that PC's personality with no fear of contradiction.  For example, a PC might have the secret that he is manic-depressive, changing with the phase of the moon.  If player power extends beyond that, then they may have secrets which go further.  

To take a particular example, I played in a Theatrix-variant campaign ("Immortal Tales") which was true troupe-style in that all four players alternately GMed.  My PC in that game was Harkel, a Norseman with a dragon inside of him.  With my public character sheet I included a description of him, of the Worm (as he called it), and of the transformation process.  However, the true nature of the curse and the exact progress of the transformation I kept as a secret.  This was important because there was an ambiguity: was the Worm an expression of Harkel's personality (i.e. his dark side), or was it an external entity?  I wanted that to be something which people judged for themselves, rather than be guided by preconception.  

Oh, but the point was that this was a secret which governed real change (i.e. what aspects of the Worm come out), but which I had power over by the game contract.  

Quote from: contracycle
  My second problem with secrets is that IMO sometimes they are used to "upstage" a game.  It may well be that this arises from stylistic clash and is a dysfunctional mode.  The scenario I am thinking of is one in which, at some moment of crisis, a player pulls out of the hat some deep dark secret, like being Beelzebubs love-child, which has a really radical impact on a presently unfolding scene.  IME, all this does is instantly and severely deprotagonise every other character; the scene that was about everyone has been unilaterally hijacked to being a scene about only one significant character.  

Hmm.  I consider this a good thing as long as it isn't over-used.  Indeed, my impression is that many Forge designs intentionally give players the power to grab control over the scene this way with or without secrets.  IMO, consistent spotlight hogging is bad, but taking your turn in the spotlight is good.

For example, in my present game, Laura is playing Thorgerd Thordsdottir, who for the first dozen or so sessions was in disguise as her late brother Thorfinn.  Disguised as a man, she took revenge for her slain family.  When her secret came out, it definitely made its own scene, and in fact dominated the session as a whole.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2003, 07:32:15 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
I thought "functional" worked ok; or perhaps to rephrase it, a secret that is unkown to the GM (or whatever entity is fulfilling that function) might as well not exist.

This seems to strike directly at the Lumpley Principle. If the system is the method by which items are entered into the shared imagined space, how can a secret one player is holding from the other players enter this space? Whatever the reasons or specifics of a situation, in the end the other players are not mind readers and to make use of inter-player secrets, there had best be a damn good reason or it is likely to not work.

Of course, for most things there had better be a damned good reason, right?
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John Kim
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« Reply #20 on: June 11, 2003, 08:49:11 AM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
  This seems to strike directly at the Lumpley Principle. If the system is the method by which items are entered into the shared imagined space, how can a secret one player is holding from the other players enter this space? Whatever the reasons or specifics of a situation, in the end the other players are not mind readers and to make use of inter-player secrets, there had best be a damn good reason or it is likely to not work.  

Again, here you are saying "will not work", repeating the earlier use of not being "functional".  You seem to be saying that the shared imaginary space is the totality of the experience.  Anything which doesn't become a part of that "doesn't work".  

I consider this rather limiting.  Another way of phrasing this is "The player's imagination should never extend beyond what is expressed publically at the table."  That is, if the player imagines something, but doesn't bring it into play, then it is a secret and doesn't work.  

In my ideal, each player (including the GM) has an imagined space which extends well beyond what is expressed in play.  The System defines how those spaces intersect and interact, but doesn't limit what is imagined.  Thus, as GM I may imagine many things which the players do not know.  The purpose of play is not to expose all those.  The purpose of play is to have an enjoyable experience.  If some of those were not exposed, but everyone had fun -- then it worked.  

The same applies to a player.  If I have a secret as a player, then that is already a part of my experience.  If it adds to my enjoyment, and doesn't subtract from anyone else's, then it has worked.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #21 on: June 11, 2003, 09:15:52 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
I consider this rather limiting.  Another way of phrasing this is "The player's imagination should never extend beyond what is expressed publically at the table."  That is, if the player imagines something, but doesn't bring it into play, then it is a secret and doesn't work.  

Hrm. This is going into an odd place. A major portion of the activity of roleplaying involves using the shared imagined space. If one were to remain in one's own space, there are other activities that allow for that without having to deal with the shared space.

I don't like bringing up the "if you want to write, go write" agruement, but if something is not being shared, it had best have a darn good reason to not enter it into the shared space. "Darn good reason" can be most anything, really. It could be simply the character's emotions or private thoughts or whatever. Nobody else would know that. But if it's something that would effect the shared space somehow, then the hard question here is why is it being held back? And the answer to this, IMO should be a good reason or else you'll run into the "I turn into a werewolf." "No you don't" situation.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #22 on: June 11, 2003, 09:33:10 AM »

Quote
but if something is not being shared, it had best have a darn good reason to not enter it into the shared space.
Isn't the usual reason for secrets, the surprise of revealing them, sufficient? That is, a secret is withheld primarily for the impact that it will have on later revelation. Same reasons authors use it, for example. It can take all the prior context, and puts it into a different light.

Now can this be abused? Sure, easily. But used within the constraints of the social contract there's little reason to fear secrets. I think that most abuse of secrets is caused by other dysfunctional play. That is, the player thinks that it's the only way to generate protagonism, to pop secrets on other players. But if that's the case, then the problem lies way deeper than the player's use of secrets.

I totally agree with John that play is about more than the shared imagined environment. That's simply where player interaction resides. Much play is internal to the player.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #23 on: June 11, 2003, 09:49:34 AM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Quote from: John Kim
I consider this rather limiting.  Another way of phrasing this is "The player's imagination should never extend beyond what is expressed publically at the table."  That is, if the player imagines something, but doesn't bring it into play, then it is a secret and doesn't work.  

Hrm. This is going into an odd place. A major portion of the activity of roleplaying involves using the shared imagined space. If one were to remain in one's own space, there are other activities that allow for that without having to deal with the shared space.  

This seems to be reductio ad absurdem -- the equivalent to "Well, if you're going to use cards in an RPG, why not just play a card game?"   The original topic was about PCs having secrets: Matt gave three examples from his D&D game.  For example, one PC is privately evil but hides it, not telling the other players unless their PC learns of it.  Having secrets like this doesn't negate all interactivity.  

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
  I don't like bringing up the "if you want to write, go write" agruement, but if something is not being shared, it had best have a darn good reason to not enter it into the shared space. "Darn good reason" can be most anything, really. It could be simply the character's emotions or private thoughts or whatever. Nobody else would know that. But if it's something that would effect the shared space somehow, then the hard question here is why is it being held back? And the answer to this, IMO should be a good reason or else you'll run into the "I turn into a werewolf." "No you don't" situation.  

Well, again, this seems to be exaggerating.  I don't think anyone was talking about having a secret like "my character is a 20 foot tall giant".  All of the examples of secrets are things which the other PCs do not know, i.e. which are not directly in the shared space.  The question can be put the other way: i.e. if none of the other PCs know that your PC is evil, why should that information be revealed to the players?
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #24 on: June 11, 2003, 10:15:29 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
The question can be put the other way: i.e. if none of the other PCs know that your PC is evil, why should that information be revealed to the players?
Because if you don't tell them, all the other players will get disgusted and walk away from the game when you do reveal it?  Or before, if it's coloring things and confusing people in ways they don't like?  Whereas if you tell them, they can WORK with it and actually help you explore whatever it is you found interesting about having a secretly-evil character in this game?  And you don't have to tell them (or yourself) ALL of it  . . .

This is a matter of taste issue to a large degree, and we're all probably highly influenced by personal experience.  I've seen FAR more annoyance and dysfunction result from charcater secrets than I have enjoyable "a-ha!" revelations, and thus tend to avoid pure secrets.  John finds something very satisfying about allowing a personally-held secret to color his character decisions, and (best as I can tell) doesn't even neccessarily need to reveal that secret, ever.  As long as there's no "nudge-nudge, wink-wink, I-know-something-you-don't" going on, that's fine by me - but usually what I see happen is one of the other players has his PC confront the secret-holding PC, cause this unknown secret is just dominating play too much for it to be enjoyable for the other players.

But not all groups and situations will have that reaction.  Maybe the bottom line is this - a good social contract includes a shared understanding about the nature of charcater secrets.  Once that's done  - secrets can be used in various ways (as some posts in this thread indicate), and we could develop details of what needs to happen for true secrets to work, how partial secrets provide x opportunities, and . . . etc.

Gordon
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lumpley
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« Reply #25 on: June 11, 2003, 11:35:06 AM »

Vincent's mini-rant #2, redux.

Calling them secrets and thinking of them as secrets only makes sense in a narrow range of possible social contracts.  "Secrets" are actually a kind of plan.  They're the kind of plan you make when you're confident that your conception of your character will trump, systemically, the rest of the group's conception of your character.

I don't think it matters, as long as the social contract is chugging happily away.  That is, if you're empowered to make your character actually be his sister in disguise, groovy.  Call it a secret, call it a plan, who cares?  Creative ownership means that being committed to a plan is functionally the same as knowing a secret.

(Especially because there are all sorts of sneaky ways to get group assent to your plans, before revealing them in full.  Probably Laura from, John, your Thorgerd / Thorfinn example had been dropping subtle hints and gauging everybody's responses all along, setting the whole thing up and making sure that when the time came nobody'd flip out, everybody'd buy it.  That's only appropriate when you've got a plan you like and a social contract that supports it.  It sounds way cool, frankly.)

It's when "secrets" are contentious that the difference is significant.  Then the first best thing you can do is call them what they are, plans, ideas, contingencies.  Talk about how you get your ideas accepted by the group, not who has the right to keep what secrets from whom.  It can't hurt and it may be a big step toward a solution all by itself, that's what I think.

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John Kim
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« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2003, 12:12:00 PM »

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
  This is a matter of taste issue to a large degree, and we're all probably highly influenced by personal experience.  I've seen FAR more annoyance and dysfunction result from charcater secrets than I have enjoyable "a-ha!" revelations, and thus tend to avoid pure secrets.  John finds something very satisfying about allowing a personally-held secret to color his character decisions, and (best as I can tell) doesn't even neccessarily need to reveal that secret, ever.  As long as there's no "nudge-nudge, wink-wink, I-know-something-you-don't" going on, that's fine by me - but usually what I see happen is one of the other players has his PC confront the secret-holding PC, because this unknown secret is just dominating play too much for it to be enjoyable for the other players.  

The question is: how much of this is differing experience (i.e. my groups played differently than yours) and how much is differing taste (i.e. my groups played the same as yours, but we enjoyed different things).  Could you say more about how secrets came to dominate play?  I know there is a very obvious problem with secret action in play.  i.e. A player passes a note to the GM, and it means dead time for the rest of the players while the GM responds.  But I think you're getting at more than that here -- general annoyance at there being imagined stuff out there which you don't know.  On the other hand, it is possible to enjoy this -- as the sense that the world and characters have depth beyond what is immediately visible.  

As another approach, I wonder if my PCs would be annoying to you.  (That isn't a slight, by the way -- they were certainly annoying at times to other reasonable people in play.  I have had a reputation as a troublesome player at times, with good reason.  I'd like to assign most of that to style differences, but I have some doubt.)  What information would you need to know whether you found them annoying?  

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
Quote from: John Kim
The question can be put the other way: i.e. if none of the other PCs know that your PC is evil, why should that information be revealed to the players?
Because if you don't tell them, all the other players will get disgusted and walk away from the game when you do reveal it?  Or before, if it's coloring things and confusing people in ways they don't like?  Whereas if you tell them, they can WORK with it and actually help you explore whatever it is you found interesting about having a secretly-evil character in this game?  

As you say, this is highly influenced by personal experience.  In practice, I find that I am frequently annoyed by the intended help provided by other players.  In contrast, I am less troubled by lack of such help.  The help jumbles things up and doesn't produce anything which flows from character.  For example, with an "evil" PC, the help may be to set up situations which show the character the error of his ways.  But I think this trivializes the issue of evil, and is unfair to the character.  By artificially generating such situations, you undermine the reasons why the character is evil in the first place.  

Now, there is probably something which I would consider good help, but it seems extremely tricky to me.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2003, 01:26:16 PM »

Vincent raises a very good point. A point I meant with 'darn good reason,' but didn't approach it very well. In keeping something hidden from the other players, you are doing so for a particular effect, either to have the big reveal later at the appropriate time or to keep it hidden always because there is no way or reason for the others to know it or a variety of other possible plans.
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Lxndr
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« Reply #28 on: June 11, 2003, 01:29:16 PM »

Remember, in the original post, the player was trying to keep "I'm evil" a secret from the GM as well.  Is keeping that sort of secret from the GM qualitatively different from keeping it from non-GM players?
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #29 on: June 11, 2003, 01:41:51 PM »

Hi, Alexander.

To answer your question, I would have to say that it depends on way too many factors. In some games/groups, keeping anything from the GM is pointless because the GM is the first and final authority. In others it is much more possible.
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