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Making Stuff Happen non-Stance

Started by lumpley, November 05, 2001, 12:53:00 PM

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Cool, I'm there.

So let's see, so here's my thing: what happens in the game, happens because everybody agrees it does.  Right?

Who gets to assert things that happen?

How does an assertion become part of the group consensus?

What happens if one player disbelieves in the assertions of another?  How is credibility distributed among the players?  

Can you assert the effect of something and be in a Stance at the same time?  (Plus, can you assert the effect of something from in character?)

It seems to me, kind of randomly, that Stance is a subset of this whatever-it-is.  Stance is a particular arrangement of who-gets-to-assert and how-credibility-is-distributed.

That's where I'd start.

-lumpley Vincent

Ron Edwards


I agree with you, and actually it's a bit of a puzzle to me why this isn't self-evident.

A whole lotta stuff goes on in role-playing to ensure that the Exploration is consistent (which does NOT mean identical) among all the participants. Not all of this stuff is done from Stance.

If we are talking about people or things DOING stuff, then we are talking about Stance.

However, the effects or continuations or elaborations of those Stance statements are not themselves Stanced.

Nor are statements like "The day dawns bright and early, scents of magnolia and jasmine fill the air."

People assume a LOT of stuff about Stance that I never said, then get mad because I didn't anticipate their misreadings. Please, folks, take a look at the essay and read its Stance section as MINIMALLY as possible. All that stuff about My Character vs. Other Ones could have been avoided if that had happened, and the same goes for this topic.


Don Lag


I think I get what you mean by Stance now. I've been among those assuming a lot more about Stance than can fit in your description. I apologize to anyone I may have confused in my misinterpretation.

Now that I understand, I don't see much use to the concept. I'll scan the forum in case you've already discussed the usefulness of the concept of Stances.

What I'd like to discuss is a more broad concept (in the sense that Stances would be particular instances of these) that I outlined in previous posts on the Further on Stances thread.

What I've become interested in, are the creative places from which one states things about the game. From the terms "Director", "Author" and "Actor" was it that I assumed a more broad definition for the Stances.

In this sense "The day dawns bright and early, scents of magnolia and jasmine fill the air." is a statement that comes from a different place than "The castle guard shoots ya with his arrow", "Bonzo is severely wounded by the arrow", and "Bonzo says 'Ouch' and grabs stomach".

If the game were about Bonzo the Hero (him being the Protagonist), then the first two statements define the Circumstance of Bonzo, while the third defines a characteristic of the Protagonist himself. Finally, the last statement defines the action of the Protagonist in reacting to his Circumstance.

Does anyone see any use for the concepts which I try to display here? Is it clear what I mean?

PS: I re-read Vincent's post, I think we're both trying to look at the same thing. Would my above ideas be close to what you're hinting at Vincent? or are you on another entirely different track?

[ This Message was edited by: Don Lag on 2001-11-05 19:36 ]
Sebastian Acuña

Ron Edwards


I think this is valuable. Although you might be demonstrating that interesting reaction in which, "Now that I understand it, it doesn't seem important any more ..."

Stances are important. They have to do with the Things that Do Things in role-playing, and how we, as active agents of role-playing, generate the actions of the active agents in the game-world, is a valid topic.

I do agree that it is a SUB-topic, though, of all the statements necessary for a shared Exploration.

I'd place the statement about the castle guard (presumably by the GM) as Director Stance, and the statement about Bonzo's reaction to the arrow-hit as Actor or Author Stance (depending on details we don't know). The other two statements are not Stance statements, in my opinion.

The first about the air and smells is a "framing" or "setting" statement, and the third about the arrow's hit-effects is an "effect" statement following a Stance statement. I suggest that we are dealing with SERIOUS boxes-in-boxes here, although I'm not immediately certain as to what they really are.

The biggest box would be the framing statement. It contains two boxes, one of them being the guard's action (which itself contains the arrow's effect-box) and the second being Bonzo's action.

It strikes me that all Stance statements are separate boxes at the same level, but that might be too simplistic. Just a thought ...

I am also suspicious regarding combo-statements, such as the ones regarding that damned horse, Jurux, in an example given in another thread. It would not surprise me at all if a given statement could encompass more than one box at the same time (that is, a set of nested boxes).


Don Lag

What I meant was that once I finally nailed what Stances are, they appeared to be nearly a subset of what I was thinking about. Not that that is bad, largely general concepts can turn out to be of no practical use besides completeness.

I'm not too sure about the boxes analogy. It is rather complex to start thinking about the infinitude of situations that may arise and trying to see if the box analogy holds.

But I'll think of it other terms. As far as I know, establishing hierarchies among objects is very effective for modelling and discussing their functionality ina given context. I'm no expert so if anyone knows me to be wrong please tell. Object Oriented Programming and Chomsky's generative grammar seem to stem from the idea that the box-in-a-box model is useful for certain stuff. If I had to make a quick call on it though, I'd say that what separates the essence of a statement about the enviroment (about the flowers or whatever) and a statement about what has changed in Bonzo the Hero resembles more a semantic value of both than the "grammar" of "roleplaying statements" (I don't refer to whether the actual statements are well-formed, but rather the structural aspects of their interaction at the game level).

I've even lost myself in that parragraph. Basically what I mean is, that the peculiarities which we are observing in differentiating roleplaying statements are of separaet nature.

I'm focusing on their relevance to Protagonism and Circumstance regarding a very simple bipolar model and which might have some implications to discussing roleplaying style. In this sense, the game is created exclusively by definitions stated by the players and which fall into one of three categories regarding the type of information they supply about Protagonist and/or Circumstance.

It seems to me, Ron, that in your view Stances are emanated from the players while certain effects are originated in the game itself. Can a statement be creative in the sense of generating new information about the game and yet not be Stanced? Am I still misunderstanding something about your point?

I'm sorry I always post so long, I have a hard time sorting out ideas in my head :smile:
Sebastian Acuña

Ron Edwards

Hi Sebastian,

First of all, quit apologizing for your posts. They're really interesting.

Let's see now.

"It seems to me, Ron, that in your view Stances are emanated from the players while certain effects are originated in the game itself."

Hmmm ... I think that if you mean, by "players," anyone at the gaming table, then that might be OK ... but actually, no, that's not the big picture. Statements about setting, for instance, like "It's a fine fall day," are generated by a player (the GM, usually), but are not delivered from a Stance. Maaaaybe such a thing could be Director Stance, in a VERY big, scene-affecting context, but I don't think so. I think it's a framing-device.

"Can a statement be creative in the sense of generating new information about the game and yet not be Stanced?"

Yes. The frame-type statements like "It's a fine fall day" are creative in the sense you mean without being delivered from a Stance. That's why I decided to go with a hierarchical model, because the OTHER non-Stance statement, regarding the effects of the arrow, DOES "originate from the game" in the way that you describe in the first sentence I quoted.

So I'm seeing frame-type statements that set up for Stance-type statements to be made in context, and then effect-type statements that emerge from the Stance-statements, as mediated/determined by the resolution system of the game.

Whew! Either all of this is incredibly obvious or we're really being deep.

"It's such a fine line between profound and stupid." - This is Spinal Tap



here's a thought,

statements can be broken down into nouns, verbs and various other parts of speech and sentence elements (subject, target, adjectives...)

identifying the elements of a statement should help us identify whether we're talking about Stance, or what other kind of statement we're dealing with

(these examples may turn out to be flawed, my aim here is to demonstrate the concepts and refine later)

- a statement where none of the nouns are Active Agents(*) is a framing/setting statement

- a statement where the subject is an Active Agent is the subject is either Actor or Author stance

- adjectival or adverbial phrases state effect (ie, a statement that is purely adjectival is a statement of effect, "He deals 10 points of damage.")

- what about a statement where the object is an Active Agent?

well, I hope there aren't any grammatical errors there

I see the basic form being

[subject] [verb] [object]

where the questions asked are:
(for subject or object), is this noun a character or non-character?
(for subject or object), if a character, a PC or NPC?
(for each phrase), what descriptors (adjectives or adverbs) modify this element?

last thought, obviously who is making the statement is also relevant, ie, GM or player

(*) I assume this means PCs or quasi-PCs like that damn horse?

At Last - A Vole Of Your Own

[edit: using "object" instead of "target"]
[edit: sigh, missed one]

[ This Message was edited by: kwill on 2001-11-05 21:27 ]

Ron Edwards


I suggest that Director Stance be added to your "subject is Active Agent" category. If the guano box falls on Ugly Pig Bob, it just became, for all intents and purposes, a character (Active Agent). So did all the attacking alligators when they lined up in such a way that you can walk across them to get off the islet you're trapped on.

I really wish people wouldn't use "target" in discussion of
Stances and related matters. It's really, REALLY confusing. The grammatical term is object, so let's stick with that.

My long-standing point which no one seems to grasp is that the object of a statement in role-playing has NOTHING to do with Stance. If the box falls on Ugly Pig Bob, the Stance applies to the box. If the arrow strikes whatsisname, then the Stance applies to whoever shot the arrow.



"Whew! Either all of this is incredibly obvious or we're really being deep."

tell me about it

having now read the points I missed while making mine, I guess it's obvious I feel grammatical analysis would be useful, so there ;>

(and in exactly an OO/grammatical parsing way, considering my comp sci background and general world view)

specifically, though, I see this being useful in an analytical rather than modelling way; ie, "here's a statement to throw the model for a loop: X Y Z", "okay, what the hell are we dealing with here?", [deconstruction of X Y Z ensues]

I see a linear flow-type model as Ron outlined being really useful (Framing > Stance > Resolution > Effect); does this apply to Fortune in the Middle, or would that be Framing > Resolution > Effect > Stance (ie, Framing > Outcome > How Did The Outcome Happen?)

it would appear that Resolution > Effect is a given, but perhaps the order of the other elements can be meddled with (although beginning without framing would be odd)

on a general note, I think there is something to be said for identifying, but seperating, rarified examples of particular model elements; for example, Framing certainly seems to be strong Director Stance to me, but it is useful to seperate it out from Stance

(similarly I think Audience Stance being identified as the non-Stance is useful, but that's not an invitation to go into it in this thread!)

so, my highest level of abstraction would be

Stance Statement/s > Resolution/Effect

but the I find the most concrete level at

Framing Statement > Stance Statement/s > Resolution > Effect

and analysis of each statement still valid at

[player]: "[subject] [verb] [object]"

where the noun and verb phrases are broken down and analysed as suggested above, and "player" means GM or player

talk about being obvious, I almost said "it is useful to do X for usefulness" up there! :razz:

At Last - A Vole Of Your Own

[edit: using "object" instead of "target"]

[ This Message was edited by: kwill on 2001-11-05 21:23 ]


eek, I will correct all appearances of "target" to "object" (doh!)

sideline, just to check, what exactly do you mean by Active Agent? any character, or PC and quasi-PC characters?

Don Lag

kwill. I think what you're getting at is a manner in which to assign meaning to a certain phrase. Once the meaning is determined the decision whether it constitutes a Stance of any type happens on a different level. It seems to me you're just refering to the cognitive process that ocuirrs in our heads to actually determine what the other guy is trying to say :smile:

Ron. It seems we're finally synchronized. I thought you had frame-statements in your "model" but I didn't want to imply it unless I heard you explain it out :smile:

I am now absolutely convinced that we're talking about different levels of perhaps the same thing.

The level I'm refering to "wraps" the Stance level. I think now is the time that a more precise terminology for what I'm thinking about should come in handy.

As far as I've thought about the whole issue, this is what I see:

The Game: an alternate reality created collectively by a set of persons. (note: this definition of Game is intended only for the scopr of this discussion, it does not mean to be a precise definition of the concept of what a game is in our culture or anything like that).

Player: one of the persons that participate in The Game.

Protagonist: One of the greater types of elements in a Game: what The Game is about. Usually transaltes to the Players' characters, although I'm leaving room here for other possibilities.

Circumstance: The second of greater types of elements appearing in a Game. Although the Protagonists interact with each other, there must be a Circumstance within which they interact (and can also interact with).

Circumstance and Protagonists are defined mutually, any element in a Game is either of the two and neither can exists without the other. A Game is cannot be said to be in place if there lacks Circumstance or Protagonists. It is understood that a Protagonist's characteristics are separate from his interactions with his Circumstance. Whereas observed "actions" originated from agents belonging to the Circumstance are in themselves nothing more than an instance of more Circumstance.

The creative process, that the Players take forward, is accomplished through the utterance of definitions regarding the virtual world that The Game is.

Anything that a Players states about this virtual world, and that is accepted by the rest of the Players, constitutes necessarily a definition of the virtual world.

There are three categories in which a definition might fall. These categories are put forward in terms of the elements of Circumstance or Protagonists that are affected.

Statements of Circumstance: define an element of Circumstance in the Game. Example: "The day is sunny" (in a game where the weather is NOT a Protagonist). Also "a horse in the market kicks Bonzo the Hero in the back" is a Statement of Circumstance, considering that the game is neither about the horse or the market, but perhaps of Bonzo the Hero.

Statements of Protagonism: define characteristics of Protagonical elements of the Game. Example: "Bonzo the Hero is hurt" (considering that Bonzo is a Protagonist and that his health is something relevant to his definition).

Statements of Interaction: define the interactions a Protagonist has with his Circumstance. Example: "Bonzo the Hero yells 'Damned Horse!'"

There is a very fine line between all these. For example when the horse kicks Bonzo, aren't Cicumstance and Protagnoist interacting? Perhaps, but in the sense I mean and an interpretation in such direction would be due only to my incapacity to better forge a correct taxonomy. According to the present definitions, the horse kicking Bonzo wouldn't be a proper interaction. Rather the interaction would be that the Protagonist (Bonzo) interacts with his Circumstance (a horse kicking him) by feeling the kick. "Bonzo feels the horse kick him" would be the proper Statement of Interaction. Note that many times the Statements are implicit, not phonically uttered by the Players, but necessary in order to maintain the virtual world's coherency.

Sebastian Acuña



my concern with subjects, verbs and objects was in the hope that a grammatical parsing (that is, identifying characteristics of grammatical elements) would identify what type of statement (Stance, Framing, Statement of X...) we are dealing with

I'm beginning to suspect that things are too loose for something useful to emerge, but I'm keeping it in the back of my mind as I read new models and definitions

I think the Protagonist/Circumstance definition is important, defining more clearly what I've previously thought of as "us" and "the world" (as well as the blurry Circumstance-becomes-Protagonist elements like the horse Binky, or whatever his name was)

my previous breakdown, which may still be applicable as a level of lower abstraction, was Self, Other and Environment (stolen wholesale from the essential English Literature conflicts/themes Man vs Self, Man vs Man, Man vs Nature)

the distinction here lies in that Self is necc. Protagonist class, Environment necc. Circumstance class, whereas the other PCs would be Other of Protagonist class, and NPCs Other of Circumstance class

(and of course we can have peculiar variations if we want, like Environment of Protagonist class in animist games, but that's an interesting twiddle rather than a model flaw, methinks)

more definitions

I think replacing "game" with "roleplaying game" corrects all problems in the previous post

perhaps we should refer to players-meaning-GMs-and-players as "roleplayers"?

where are we?

the roleplaying game world is made up of Protagonist and Circumstance objects (and Blurry objects, sigh), and is defined by the events that take place involving them, achieved by group consensus

events in the roleplaying game world taking place within the framework:
Framing Statement > Stance Statement/s > Resolution > Effect

(where a framing statement may not be made but implied as "the last framing statement plus the elements and effect of the previous event/s")

a Framing Statement involves only elements of Circumstance (ie, also a Statement of Circumstance)

a Stance statement involves an interaction between Protagonist and Circumstance or Protagonist and Protagonist

(note that Circumstance elements may be elevated to Protagonist; "the box drops on Ugly Pig Bob Joe")

Resolution takes place with game mechanics (Fortune, Drama, Karma)

Effect is a largely adjectival/adverbial statement impacting either Protagonist or Circumstance

identifying a statement's type or Stance may yet be possible by breaking it down into
[player]: [subject] [verb] [object]


the only difficulty I see is that ron's stance definitions and discussion have a strong element whereby Circumstance is made into Protagonist (eg, the box falling on Ugly Pig Bob Joe); there may be a conflict here that invalidates these models understanding each other

ooh, ooh, I had a bunch of paragraphs explaining my dillemma, but I think the solution may be this...

if a statement [v]
  • has a Circ.-made-Prot. subject it is Director stance (other Director stance statements also exist, multitudes of them)

    if a statement [v]
    • has no Protagonist elements, it is not Director stance, but a framing statement (ie, framing statements are NEVER Director stance, ignore anything I said before about that possibility)

      here's the cunning bit, a framing statement may include elements you think are Protagonist but are not, for example NPCs; "Ugly Pig Joe Bob rises in the morning" and "the sun rises in the morning" could both be framing statements

      the idea here is that these are simply statements of the way things are (Circumstance), rather than as the result of Effect

      similarly, interacting Circumstance elements do not count as events having Effects but as Framing Statements "Ugly Pig Joe Bob drinks a beer." could be as much of a framing statement as "You're in a bar."

      now the important part is to identify when you're dealing with pure Circumstance, and when you're dealing with Protagonists or Circumstance-made-Protagonist

      another way of identifying pure Circumstance is as "description" rather than "events"...

      "You're all on a raft, you're being thrown overboard."
      "You were all on a raft, you've been thrown overboard." the obvious difference here is in the meaning, but the point I'm making is that in the second statement the GM has clearly in his mind the fact that *having been thrown overboard is Circumstance* there is no Protagonism involved (ie, the possibility of fighting back)

      so, Framing and Stance are distinguished by Circumstance as subject versus Protagonist or Cicrumstance-as-Protagonist as subject; Effect describes the outcome of the event

      hopefully this is clarification for someone other than just me; I am now going to bed and will deal with any hoo-haw later (I'm pretty confident this works, although I may have to clarify)

      [whine] are we there yet? [/whine] ;>

      { aargh! quick mention that the linear flow concept fits in neatly with the comp sci concepts of pre-conditions and post-conditions; pre-conditions must be in place before something happens (Framing), and post-conditions resolve the something (Effect), where "something" is (Stance > Resolution) more later, possibly }



Dang y'all.

Couple concerns.

One: My simulationist self balks at using 'Protagonist' to mean 'active agent.'  I make active, protagonist-type decisions about antagonists and supporting cast all the time.  You may say that in my game even the antagonists are Protagonists, and it's true I guess, but still I balk.

Two: Every statement, Framing Stance Resolution Effect, is subject to the same process: how does it go from being just a statement to being accepted into group consensus?  (It may be a dumb point to stick on, but it's my point, dammit! and plus I think it's a meaty one.)

Three: What's most important is that we arrive at a level of description that doesn't invoke the difference between GMs and non-GMs.  We want to describe that difference, not use it.  To that end, Protagonist/Active Agent vs. Circumstance is useful provided that nobody think that NPCs are automatically Circumstance or anything like that.

In other words: GMs can own Protagonists and non-GMs can own Circumstances, willy nilly, depending on how the group is structured, no definitions involved.

Don Lag:
QuotePS: I re-read Vincent's post, I think we're both trying to look at the same thing. Would my above ideas be close to what you're hinting at Vincent? or are you on another entirely different track?
I think I'm on the same track, but jeez, it's hard to tell, isn't it?

Yes, I'm trying to get at the creative places from which one states things about the game, as you say.  I'm especially interested in the entrenched but circular GM / non-GM split, which seems to me to be about how your creativity is curtailed by the structure of the game.

QuoteI am also suspicious regarding combo-statements, such as the ones regarding that damned horse, Jurux, in an example given in another thread. It would not surprise me at all if a given statement could encompass more than one box at the same time (that is, a set of nested boxes).
My poor misused maligned horsie!

Combo-statements happen all the time in play.  By box you mean Stances and non-Stance, right?  If what Stance or non-Stance you're in depends on the exact things you say, then a. we can fall in and out of all of the stances over the course of a single sentence and b. we can (thus) have no consistent experience of any of the stances -- they're too fleeting.  Which is fine, but then we really do need something about our experiences: IC and OOC, maybe?

QuoteSo I'm seeing frame-type statements that set up for Stance-type statements to be made in context, and then effect-type statements that emerge from the Stance-statements, as mediated/determined by the resolution system of the game.

...yeah.  Okay.

Given that every type of statement can in principle be made by every type of player, okay.

-lumpley Vincent

Ron Edwards


I agree with Vincent that the word Protagonist is being horribly abused here. Since it's his Simulationist self that's protesting, and my unabashedly Narrativist self as well, that's a fair corroboration, eh?

I kind of like the term "Active Agent," myself, for what we're discussing. It's defined as "Thing in game-world which acts." It can be DAMNED subtle.

For instance, Sam sits patiently while the GM and Bob play a scene with Bob's character, Bartholemew, who happens to be necking with Fiomella, the wife of Sam's character, Sebastian. Sam, grinning evilly, presently says, "That's when I show up" [referring of course to Sebastian].

That's Director Stance. For Sebastian to show up then, Sam has forced time and space to accord with this - wherever Sebastian was, and whatever decisions he made, and whatever delayed or hastened his approach, now is the time he showed up. The Active Agent that affected this scene was ALL OF SPACE and ALL OF TIME, neither of which were explicitly mentioned by Sam.

The Active Agent does not have to be a Protagonist. It does not have to be alive. It does not have to be ANYTHING except for an imagined element of play.

What makes a statement a Stanced statement is that it pertains to an Active Agent doing something. When it's Author or Actor stance, the Active Agent also happens to be a character of importance. When it's Director Stance, the Active Agent is NOT a character of importance, but the action PERTAINS to a character of importance.

All other statements are not Stanced.
- "The day dawns bright and early. The scent of roses fills the air." This pertains to the characters of importance (assuming this describes where they are), but nothing is happening to them or to anyone else. No Stance. The phrase sets the stage for future Stance statements.

- "Suddenly a shot rings out!" Director Stance. An Active Agent is afoot.

- "Sebastian cries, 'The rebel bastards,' and, pants around his ankles, seizes his rifle." Author or Actor Stance; let's say the latter just because Sam happens to be really into playing Sebastian from in-the-head right now.

- "Bartholemew dives for cover, and it just so happens that he lands behind the same wagon as Bartholemew's wife, Fiomella." Director Stance. Bob has affected time/space of the game-world such that Fiomella has ALREADY ended up behind that wagon, BEFORE Bartholemew dove there.

- [later] "Sebastian runs around (his pants are on now) the wagon, calling out 'Fiomella!'" Author Stance. Sam could easily have had Sebastian run in any ol' direction looking for his wife, but happily has him run in such a way that he sees Bartholemew ensconced behind the same wagon. He might justify it by stating that Sebastian THOUGHT he saw her going this way, which, since she did, would almost certainly make sense to everyone at the table.

- Any and all statements of bullets' effects, the outcome of the fight (if there was a fight; the initial shot could have meant anything), and all that other resolution-outcome stuff are NOT STANCE STATEMENTS at all, no matter who or what they pertain to. They do not involve new actions by Active Agents, but are merely continuations of previous actions by Active Agents.

Whew! That's my call so far.



Hey!  Character Creation is one big glob of Framing Statements!


So but here we have a case where non-GMs are allowed to make Framing Statements, but (conventionally) within very tight constraints, even sometimes having to buy their statements with limited points and so on.  I'm only allowed to make 100 points worth of Framing Statements, in effect, for instance.  

Weird.  Who am I buying the Framing Statements from?  The other players?  Worse, the GM?  Is "Acanthus is smarter than he is experienced" really a for-goodness-sake COMMODITY?

What we do for fun is whacked.

-lumpley Vincent

Oopsie.  I ranted.

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-11-06 11:10 ]