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Author Topic: Who do you hook?  (Read 3150 times)
Gordon C. Landis
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« on: November 02, 2001, 05:26:00 PM »

First - get your mind out of the gutter!  Now . . .

In one of the extraordinary Art-Deco Melodrama thread(s) over in the Sorcerror forum, Ron made a statement about the GM  "hooking" the players vs. the characters.  I'm a bit reluctant to pluck it out of context, but I'm also uncertain I can paraphrase it well. So . . . clearly (to me, and - I'd assert - to anyone who had the context I plucked this bit out of), Ron is talking Ron-style Narrativism here, NOT saying this is "the only/best way to roleplay", it's always like this for all GMs, game groups, and game styles, or other possibly inflammatory variations on those.   If you can accept that, read on, otherwise . . . "this is not the thread you're looking for."

In fact - I'm going to edit this down, to lessen the likelyhood of distraction from the main point.  

"Why are you concerning yourself with the CHARACTERS' reason to do anything? . . .   My task is to interest, even fascinate, the PLAYERS. Again and again, people keep repeating "have to hook the player and the character" . . .(((Ron doesn't see this as a valuable approach, for HIS Narrativist games))) Once the players are genuinely interested in ANYONE'S situation in play, then they will move to put their characters into some aspect of that situation."

Wow.  This so strongly challenges my "instincts" in the matter that I'm not exactly sure where to take this.  Obviously, I'm interested in thoughts from the rest of the Forge, and I CAN wrap my brain around how, in Ron's carefully-preped, group-Premise buy-in, extreme-Creation-from-players world, it COULD be true.

But in Vanilla Narrativism (never mind non-Narrative styles, where such a statement might not apply) - how could this work?  I mean, even in VN, even with a strong/frequent Author stance, a certain amount of player identification with the character is required for roleplaying, isn't it?  No matter how interested player-Sue is in (say) why the Baron is cruel to his daughter, if her character Electra is "aloof and unaffected by the feelings of others" . . . seeing the daughter crying is just a chance for her to glance disdainfully and walk on.  In some narrow (as far as I can see) middle ground, where the player is UNCERTAIN about whether the character should be hooked or not, I can see where hooking the player is the key to keeping things on track, but . . .

Maybe I'm just too strongly effected by many, many games that have "blown up" when someone says something like "I'm sorry, I just can't see why my character would care about that".  Implicit in there, I suppose, is a certain primacy of their character "concept" over the "good of the game", and I have seen jerks who use this as a tool to control the game, but it's not JUST a disfunctional behavior - it's also an entirely (to me) fundamental aspect of the RP experience: we look at the game world and game events (at some times, and in some ways) through the prisim of the character we've created.

Must that be abandoned to play a successful Narrativist game?  Is that what Ron's statement is implying?  Is there some other aspect of this hook player/hook character situation that I'm missing?  

Gordon

PS - Maybe it's as simple as . . . "put their character into some aspect of the situation" includes Electra's disdainful glance.  But that hardly seems like a GM tool to hook anyone into a LONG TERM interest/involvement . . . heck, time to shut up and see what folks have to say.

Edited to make the quoted text from Ron more direct to the point I'm interested in, and less likely to be misinterpretted due to missing context.

[ This Message was edited by: Gordon C. Landis on 2001-11-03 02:34 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2001, 06:18:00 PM »

Hello,

I ought to be the one who weighs in first, I suppose. I can't say I'm thrilled about it ... this comment is taken from a VERY deeply embedded point and its face value is certainly going to be misread.

The quote is from a passage about what is going on FOR ME AS GM, not for the player. Under no circumstances am I saying that a player doesn't or shouldn't care about his or her character's motivations. The very necessity of the retroactive step of motivation in Author Stance, ESPECIALLY in Vanilla Narrativism, testifies to that.

To be absolutely clear: the GM in a Narrativist context has no need to worry about the characters' motivations. His or her job is to facilitate the players as authors, which is strictly a matter of engaging, interesting, and providing cool things for the players. Their job as authors may well include an enormous amount of work regarding character motivation. Their method to do that may well involve a great deal of identification. All the identification and "motive" you want can be piled in at this point.

So that ought to be settled - I AM NOT STATING THAT CHARACTER MOTIVES ARE IRRELEVANT TO ROLE-PLAYING. I AM STATING THAT THEY ARE IRRELEVANT TO THE NARRATIVIST GM, OR MORE ACCURATELY, TO MY OWN, PERSONAL APPROACH TO THIS TASK. CHARACTER MOTIVES MAY BE A VERY BIG DEAL TO THE PLAYERS.

Please note that in Narrativist play, the special quality of Author Stance, such that the character does things because the PLAYER wants him to, does not include a CAUSAL role for character motivations.

One other issue is related here. I have stated in the past, regarding Narrativist play, that identification with one's OWN character isn't much to get excited about. Much more important is to achieve a degree of identification ACROSS player-characters, such that I identify with little Kayla as played by Khyber, or with little Bobby as played by Mario, as they identify with little Donald as played by me.

I could go on a fine rant regarding how failure to grasp this concept has ruined more role-playing experiences than any other I can think of. However, that would tread close to the dangers of confusing what *I* *like* over what *generally* *is,* so I will not. Furthermore, it's not really the topic at hand.

Best,
Ron
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joshua neff
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2001, 08:55:00 PM »

My thoughts on this matter are a trifle confused. Or rather, I'm confused by the whole idea of "hooking the character AND the player". Because it's not the character that's playing the game, it's the player. As far as I'm concerned, if the player is hooked, how can the character NOT be hooked? As with Ron, I'm not discounting "character motivation". But if there's this really obvious conflict going on that makes you, as a player, go all jawdropped "WOW!", what would possess you to then say "Eh, but my character would ignore it"? I can't think of a single enjoyable game experience in which I was hooked but my character wasn't. Because the game, no matter in-depth I want to get with my character, isn't about my character, it's about me enjoying myself.
I'm sure I'll catch hell for saying this, & someone will stand up & claim "no, I've often loved the game, but my character wasn't hooked", but I think people who claim "my character wasn't hooked, which is why he ignored that big obvious plot hook" are denying the fact that they themselves weren't really hooked. If the player is hooked, the character is hooked. That's it.
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--josh

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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2001, 11:09:00 PM »

I was really apprehensive about pulling this point out of its' context, and I appreciate the responses.  Let me say again - I have read the context, and everything Ron says (that this is his approach, in a particular style, NOT discounting other styles, not saying character motivation is not important AT ALL, etc.) would be obvious to anyone who had.

The added clarification (which was in the original statement, I just didn't focus on it) that we're talking ONLY about where the GM should look helps - but not entirely.  I mean, if the player is using the characters' motivations as the filter through which he views the game, and the GM isn't . . . that seems likely to cause problems.  In strictly practical terms.  I may be someone who would normally be very susceptible to, say, children in distress, but I'm playing a Noble Military man who is dedicated to his duty.  I will not be hooked into the starving orphans subplot when my duty is clearly to protect the Ambasador.

I suppose the GM, knowing that the player is (by reasonable assumption) interested in the things the character is - can still focus on hooking the player (because the character motivations are present in the player).  My immediate, instinctual reaction (you know, the kind that made me post this in the first place) is "huh? You (as GM) are making your work harder by looking at the motivation through an extra, unnecessary filter."  But . . . maybe it's actually easier.  After all, having the GM "guess" at the motivations of a character is also problematic - they are not the experts on the character, the player is.  While each participant (GM and players) ought to be a BIT of an expert on each other . . . hm.  I'll have to try it.

Not to fulfill Joshua's prophecy, but I've often been in situations where I-the-player COULD be hooked by a game event, but it made no sense for the character to be hooked, leading to problems (which sometimes could be resolved - occasionally easily - but not always).  Now, it's true to say that I actually WASN'T hooked, but I can see where the GM, if he was focusing on hooking me-the-person, would be shocked that I wasn't.  Thus my concern about player rather than character-focus as a "positive" GM tool.

I'm thinking out loud here - appologies if I'm wandering - but maybe this works: it's not hooking me-the-person, it's hooking me-the-player.  Me-the-person could be problematic, as the character I'm playing could be quite different from me-the-person . . . but me-the-player includes all the discussion about the character, the things I've said/indicated that make the character interesting to me, maybe even the game mechanic clues I've made in character creation - a bunch of stuff.  Realizing that me(or whoever)-the-player is NOT just me-the-person, but includes specific stuff I've indicated about the character that interests me - OK, that might work.  To repeat myself, I'll have to try it.

This actually looks like a deep and valuable topic to me - I'm seeing many interesting angles, like how a tendency to focus on me-the-person can make GM/player relationships among close friends a bit problematic.  And I suspect that my experiences would reinforce Ron's theoretical rant - but like he said, that's another topic.

Restated and summarized, the topic here is "Will focusing on hooking the player and essentially ignoring the character really help a GM, at least for Narrativist games?"  My instinct (and I suspect many others, not that there's any evidence of that in the thread at the moment) was "No, that's crazy talk."  With Ron's clarifications, and my mental model of "that's me-the-player not me-the-person" - you know what?  That really may be a VERY valuable insight, and having a GM focus on hooking the characters actually is a waste of time and energy.  One more time . . . I'll have to try it.  I'm probably a few months away from a "slot" (in life and with my group) where I can GM, but this is at the top of the list for "things to do differently".

I'm still interested in other thoughts, but given everything, if this thread quitely passes - I guess that's OK too.

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2001, 05:06:00 AM »

Gordon,

You've answered your own inquiry perfectly, by stating that the GM's task is to hook person-as-player, not person-as-person. If you look at my phrasing, you will see exactly that concept, already there.

Please note also that the original phrase was taken from a discussion of running Sorcerer specifically, which includes the crucial character element of the Kicker. The Kicker's purpose, as you know, is to move the character into action in a way that does NOT reflect their ordinary life.

That is precisely the solution to the "protect the ambassador" situation. The character "is" a guy who protects the ambassador. The player has provided the Kicker that he has learned about this little girl in trouble and has moved to do something about it. The GM comes in LATER, and is NOT responsible for bumping the PC into action; the player has already provided that in-game function.

I am shuddering in horror at the thought of a group which, session after session, year after year, is composed of players who fasten upon separate "objectives" born of "what my guy thinks," and a GM who desperately attempts to nudge or shoehorn or lure the characters into dealing with something ELSE (ie "the scenario").

Authorship means authorship. Do musicians play off-key from one another in a jam session and claim their instruments "made them do it?"

Best,
Ron
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Logan
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2001, 06:14:00 AM »

I think maybe the issue here is the role of the GM. Often, the GM is sort of driving force and mother-provider for a game group. That's where the need to hook players comes from. If the GM is driving the game, he has to come up with something to make the players act/react. The players are then passengers with the option to follow along and have a game, or not - with annoying and occasionally disastrous results.

The alternative is for the GM to act as facilitator. Rather than driving the game, the GM is there to let the players have what they want - for a fair price. Then, the players become their own providers and driving force. I think this sort of arrangement is very natural for Narrativist games (especially as Ron describes Narrativism), but there's no reason it can't work in any other kind of game.

The thing is, a facilitator GM still has power and input, but he lets the players decide why they're playing, what they're seeking, etc. He just takes all that, weaves it into whatever plan he has and rolls with it. And the players hook themselves.
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333Chronzon
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2001, 07:01:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-03 09:14, Logan wrote:
I think maybe the issue here is the role of the GM.

Often, the GM is sort of driving force and mother-provider for a game group. That's where the need to hook players comes from. If the GM is driving the game, he has to come up with something to make the players act/react. The players are then passengers with the option to follow along and have a game, or not - with annoying and occasionally disastrous results.


I've seen this time and time again.  Often the role of GM is never clearly defined amongst the people role playing and each person in the brings different *unstated* expectations for the GM role to the table.  This king of GMing you mention above *can* work well if the *players* are all on board with the idea of the 'GM as Authority figure/Leader.'  A 'Leader' GM *can* be an incredible asset to a group and to fun in general - IFF (If and only If) the Players completely understand that that's the *Role* the GM is fullfilling in their shared Role Playing activity.  THey have to choose to ceed to his authority and accept that authority of it will never ever work.

This kind of situation often dissolves (and very quickly) under several situations:

1. This is how the *GM * pictures his role, but he has neglected to articulate this to his players.  (Either at all, or unclearly)

2.  The Players only *think* before hand that this is what they want.  When the rubber hits the road, however, they balk at either how the 'Leader GM' goes about the role (too heavy handed, incompetantly, etc.), or they discover that it was simply not what they were expecting at all.

3. One or more players is an 'authority' personality type as well and cannot put that part of their personalty 'to bed' and let the 'Leader GM' actually go unchallenged in his authority.  This can lead to various problems, in my experience.   The most common I can think of off the top of my head are: the 'Back Seat Driver' Player who is always attempting - with various degrees of subltly - to 'wrest control' of the game session from the GM (I see many 'jerk *players*' being of this bent), the 'Rebel Player' who simply chaffes at the very notion of 'authoritarian control' in the social environment of the gaming experience, and the 'Rules Lawyer' - who is often actually a manifestation of the Back Seat Driver - but is in my experience a distinct class due to their often passive-agressive attempt to refute the 'right' of the GM's claim to authiority by reference to a *higher* authority, that of the 'Game Designer' or 'Game Maker.'  

Often times 'Leader GM' groups are subtly sabotaged by the players in an effort (conscious or unconscious) the 'overthrow' the "Leader GM's" authority.  Whether this is the GM's 'fault' or not depends on the specifics of the situation, but I happen to think that in 90% of cases its the clear *result* of a failier in understanding and communication of the GM role by either the GM or the Players, but most probably *both.*      


Quote

The alternative is for the GM to act as facilitator. Rather than driving the game, the GM is there to let the players have what they want - for a fair price. Then, the players become their own providers and driving force. I think this sort of arrangement is very natural for Narrativist games (especially as Ron describes Narrativism), but there's no reason it can't work in any other kind of game.

The thing is, a facilitator GM still has power and input, but he lets the players decide why they're playing, what they're seeking, etc. He just takes all that, weaves it into whatever plan he has and rolls with it. And the players hook themselves.


This is the role as GM I tend to take.  We are all here to *cooperate* in having fun.  To this end I take on the responsibilities of the GM.  I see my role in most games as the 'coordinator' of gaming activities and the 'authority' in the sense that my authority is derived from the voluntary aquiesence of the players to the set of guidlines we have agreed to follow as a group *before* play begins.  I tend do run games in style of 'Vanilla Narrativism' (to use Ron's def ) with a Sim' foundation - CoC in particular - but before I do this I do my level best to make certain everyone involved is operating on the same page of understanding in regard to all of our respective roles.

It's really in the end a matter, I feel, ,of clearly establishing in the minds of everyone who is involved just what all of our roles in the execution of a role playing session *are* and what we *expect* in thye execution of those roles.

Just my two cents on this issue, I hope I have contributed something usefull to the discussion.

Scott B.
       
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