*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
August 20, 2019, 06:26:27 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 49 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: [Norwegian Style] Role-playing epiphany: Characters rule!  (Read 10024 times)
Jaakko Koivula
Member

Posts: 61

Postmodern man-thing


« on: July 11, 2010, 10:10:09 PM »

I might've realized something about my views on role-playing, bear with me.

We played a bunch of norwegian games at the after-parties of Finnish convention TraCon. Matthijs Holter held two small 15-minute freeform-thingies that he had written for the con. At another party we played It Wasn't Me! by Lasse Lundin, from the Norwegian style -anthology of norwegian role-playing games. I enjoyed all the games a ton, but I also was left with this nagging feeling, that there was something missing.

It Wasn't Me! is a sort of collective story-telling game. A celebrity has been murdered and one of the players has done it. In the beginning you only know who was murdered and pretty much all the other facts about the story are formed during the play. We ended up with Lady Gaga being murdered on a freemasons' yacht, by injecting her with horse steroids. A somewhat more detailed play report can be read at: http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=12464

The game doesn't really have any characters to begin with. Each player sort of arrives at a character during the story. I ended up as being a cook and we also had a hippie, anarchist and a FIFA-referee in the game as murder suspects. The characters sort of randomly get facts slapped on them during the discussions and end up as being someone tied to the murder. Play proceeds in turns, where first everyone describes a really general fact about the murder and then those are fleshed out by free discussion between the players/characters. It Wasn't Me! really doesn't differentiate between the two a lot.

After playing a bunch of free-formy storytelling-games in a row, I realised that even though they are very interesting and fun, they don't really do for me what I expect role-playing to do. I realised, that I really need a character doing something, for I to get those role-playing-kicks* out of a game.

For me, the character is nearly primary compared to the story. If the character goes around being protagony and getting into trouble, an interesting story should unfold sooner or later. Just straight on telling a collective story with a bunch of friends seems for me like skipping an important step. Show and tell, except you don't get to show at all.

This was my first time playing a bunch of more norwegian styled games. At least these games seemed to differ a ton from forge-inspired games in that they emphasized freeformy storytelling over playing characters a lot. For example, I have this feeling (haven't got a chance to play it yet, but read the book and the APs) that Eero's Zombie Cinema is a pretty character oriented game, even though it's also called a story-telling game. You don't start the game with heavily developed characters and they'll propably die somewhere along the way, but it's still the characters who essentially are at the center of each zombie movie. I also remember some thread here, where Ron wrote that you can't play Sorcerer, if you don't really want your guy doing something. You have to want to play your character, otherwise there just is no point. And that if you do play your guy, nothing else really matters or can go wrong.

How do you feel about characters? Do you need them as much as me in your gaming, or are they just peripheral to the story?

*read: kicks I associate with role-playing
Logged
Jaakko Koivula
Member

Posts: 61

Postmodern man-thing


« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2010, 11:35:15 PM »

Errata: actually the two Matthijs' games weren't written for the con, they were just translated into finnish and published at the con-program. You can check the games at: http://norwegianstyle.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/five_characters.pdf and http://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/the-orc-in-the-well/
Logged
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2010, 04:44:09 PM »

An interesting element of some of the more Illusionist-play is that character is simply a proxy-viewer to the story: they don't matter except as a window to the events the GM is revealing.

I think some forms of Pawn-stance Gamist play drop character in a similar manner without the negative "proxy-viewer" effect. Because I do enjoy Pawn Stance Gamism, and am playing in a 3E game right now where this is even the case: my half-orc wizard is really just a collection of resources to pit against whatever challenge the DM throws our way. There's very little role-playing, character desire or development -- more like none. Sometimes we'll do a funny voice or a short and ultimately meaningless character bit, but mostly it's just us players goofing around at the table, then trap-finding and monster-fighting.

Now, all my play isn't that way. In games like CoC, I really wanted character to matter. Because in that kind of game, it really should. Unfortunately, the GM in our recent CoC game was from the old "any character ever could be dropped into this module and it doesn't change the module" school of play. So we had multiple sessions of "your characters chance upon this horrible thing that has no real connection to or meaning for any of them, now you need to fight it or escape it" (and then it got really surreal, before he rebooted the game completely). I role-played my guy, did all the stuff you do when you're playing-to-character, but it made for an ultimately disappointing campaign, because, well "Who cares?"

Character-enmeshed-in-situation is the key, I think. Or at least for me, when we're talking about character.
When they're not tied tightly to the situation, in my experience, a game falls back on kind of a disconnected soap opera drama.
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2010, 01:12:52 AM »

Hi,

Quote
How do you feel about characters? Do you need them as much as me in your gaming, or are they just peripheral to the story?
If your refering to the random fact adding as story, I wouldn't call that story. I think people talking fiction at a table doesn't automatically == story/story generation. So I would say if characters are peripheral, then the activity isn't about story (atleast not first and foremost - for example sports games generate 'a story' as a byproduct, but aren't about making a story)
Logged

contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2010, 06:39:57 AM »

Not sure I agree with Greyorm's point about illusionism - I think illusionism is probably most succesful when players are fully embedded in their characters and are therefore sufficiently engaged already that they can allow events to roll over them, as it were, without diminishing the experience.

At any rate certainly for me have a clearly defined character over which I have control is important.  There have been a few designs I recall in which other players statements could become definitional of your character and I recoil at the prospect.  I need to be inside the characters head to make decisions, and I can'y be if my understanding of the character can be altered by others, no matter how procedurally tight.  Similarly I dislike taking over an NPC, or a another player's PC, or an aspect of a PC, like the Shadow in Wraith, or even, as the GM, an NPC created by a player.  None of them sit well with me; I'd rather have some automated response chart.

OTOH, Ron's highly motivated characters in Sorceror don't suit me terribly well either; I need some time to bed down into a new character (and it doesn't always work), so they tend not to have powerful motivations when they first enter play.  It would take me a few sessions of settling in before that sort of thing appears.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Jaakko Koivula
Member

Posts: 61

Postmodern man-thing


« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2010, 09:49:40 PM »

I actually think that you guys might not feel that differently about characters in illusionist-play. Contracycle pointed out, that a strong character can ease the player into GM's story. This is most propably true. You don't need to have all this narrative power or chance to make the story into something different, if you're totally immersed into your dead set fatalist samurai -character. Your character wouldn't dream of trying to cock up the daimyo's plans, so you as a player don't do either. But that actually is also what Greyorm said. Character is just used as a window into GM's story. It might be a strong characterful character, but it couldn't really act as a proper protagonist. Sure the GM might make him the hero of the story, but the player couldn't do anything with the character. If you would have been arbitrarily given some completely different character in the beginning, you could use that as a window also and the story wouldn't change at all.

It seems to me, that you might need a suitable character to enjoy illusionistic game. Greyorm's experience with CoC might be a good example on what happens if you bring a "wrong" kind of character into a game like that.

Contracycle mentioned character control being important. The risk about that might be, that in a truly illusionistic game, the GM might take even that away you: "You can't do that, you're supposed to be the hero! Ummm, 29 guardsmen barge in and tell you to stop! Then they leave and take the child with them." That's another reason why I think that characters don't really matter in illusionist-play. It's the GM's show. You can either enjoy it, or then go somewhere else. What character you play, really doesn't enter into it. The characters only matter as a tool to make the play bearable.

Which actually might sound like quite a big a deal, but oh well.

Callan: I sort of agree with you on that random facts don't necessarily add up as a story. They might though. And Im not sure if a randomly emergent story would really be that much worse, or "less worthy" than a consciously created one. But I also think that you don't necessarily need strong player defined characters or protagonists, to create a story. For example, in Matthijs' Orc In The Well, there are really no characters at all. No player is playing a character. Each just tells what the orc feels or what happens to him. Sure you can create a ton of NPCs along the way, like adventurers peeking down the well and dropping rocks on the orc, but they don't really seem to be "characters" in the sense that role-players tend to think about them. And still the game is blatantly aimed at creating a story. Story of what happens to the orc in the well.

All that said, I personally enjoy character-based story creation more. And somehow I even find it more artistically pleasing. I personally might create better stories, when Im doing it via characters, than when Im just churning them out whole. But is that just a personal preference, or something that has some bearing in a more general sense also?
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2010, 11:00:39 PM »

Quote
Orc In The Well, there are really no characters at all. No player is playing a character. Each just tells what the orc feels or what happens to him.
*snip*
Story of what happens to the orc in the well.
No character?? I'm kind of in a moment here where it's like there's this big elehphant in the room and your saying there is no elephant, as you sit astride it's back and guide where it moves with some reigns? The orc isn't a character?

On the other subject of the whole illusionist thing, I would think you guys would want to avoid trying to figure ways in which illusionism is somehow functional - it's lying, and dysfunctional. Doing things that appear functional doesn't make it not dysfunctional. No matter how much bread you add, a bullshit sandwich is always a bullshit sandwich - don't really need more 'smelly chamberlain' thinking. Participationism, where everyone knows they aren't going to control anything or anything much, is the furtive yet basically honest/functional version of illusionism.
Logged

Jaakko Koivula
Member

Posts: 61

Postmodern man-thing


« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2010, 11:35:10 PM »

Well yes obviously the orc is a character. But my point was more the:
Quote
Sure you can create a ton of NPCs along the way, like adventurers peeking down the well and dropping rocks on the orc, but they don't really seem to be "characters" in the sense that role-players tend to think about them.
I should have just included the orc in as well.

What I mean by this, is that the orc isn't a proper playable character really. He's just sitting there thinking about stuff and having stuff happen to him. He can't affect the reality of the story at all, he just can alter his perceptions about it. Playing that sort of character in a "normal" role-playing game would be just ludicrous.

"Ok, there's the dragon. He is going use flaming breath on you all. First combat round, what do you do?
"I use dual wielding to get the fire resistance from my dagger. Then I do full attack with power strike."
"I cast magic missile and take a 5 foot step backwards!"
"I remember how my uncle used to talk about dragons, before he was killed last week. I feel completely terrified about the great beast, but somehow even that doesn't really seem to matter."

Maybe the orc also doesn't feel like a role-playing character, as he is so internal to the story. There is no differentiation between the story and the character. There's just this one clump, where you can't separate one from the other.

And yeah, it would be prudent to notice the difference between illusionistic-play and participationism. Atleast I have been pretty much thinking about them both, when writing about illusionism in this thread. I still think that a strong character might help participationist-play work better and might even make illusionist-play bearable. Not ethically laudable, still.
Logged
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2010, 03:32:04 AM »

Well, umm, no, on participationism v. illusionism.  The difference between the two is use of overt force as opposed concealed force.  That doesn;t necessarily imply functionality either way.  There are plenty of accounts of people being perfectly happy in games with concealed force; they're just not the same people who want to control story themselves.

On the orc in the well, people in fiction can be "characters" in the most trivial sense and not really characters in a fuller sense.  They may exist purely for reasons of setting or colour.  They are not main or viewpoint characters.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2010, 03:51:46 PM »

Jaakko,

I'm inclined to make a sexist remark about men only thinking in terms of doing, and men thinking if they're not doing, they're nothing. I'm male so I have my own perspective on this.

The game is called 'orc in a well' - why are you playing that game if you aren't interested in the orcs position on all this? On how he takes things? I mean you even say play is describing how the orc feels. How can you do this if you aren't interested in how he feels on this? Why would you do this?

There's a book out there called...butterfly and the diving bell, or something. About a real life guy who had a stroke and afterward could only blink one eyelid. That's a HELL of a well! In fact after completing his book, dictated by blinks, he suicided (well, had himself killed, technically, but he was so far down the fucking well he couldn't do it himself - how would that feel!?).

He was still human, a person, a real life character.

Now, I'll totally grant someone could go up to an activity centered around the orc in a well text and simply not give a damn about anything in the activity. But that doesn't mean orc in a well has story without characters, it just means people are capable of partaking in an activity they don't give a crap about.

You say there isn't a strongly defined character in 'orc in the well', yet he's in the damn title of the game! How much more defined can you get!?? Yet I totally grant no matter how defined, people, or more specifically gamers, are capable of turning up to an activity and ignoring anything about the activity that doesn't suit their dream of 'what roleplay really is'.

Quote
"I use dual wielding to get the fire resistance from my dagger. Then I do full attack with power strike."
"I cast magic missile and take a 5 foot step backwards!"
This isn't story - story is a reflection on WHY people take actions, not just a verbatim list of actions taken. No, the fire resistance isn't a reason (it's no more story than someone putting their socks on before their shoes is story) - why are they going against the dragon? None of this apparently 'story making' action answers that, so it isn't story. It could be used as part of a story, but in itself, it isn't. That or if you want to use a definition of story that has it just being a verbatim repeat of actions, okay, I'd grant your point. Just keep in mind that gamers have had a history of being told by game book after game book that they are really making a story, when perhaps they aren't. The brain damage threads are a hypothesis on what that does to a young mind, in terms of what is called story.
Quote
"I remember how my uncle used to talk about dragons, before he was killed last week. I feel completely terrified about the great beast, but somehow even that doesn't really seem to matter."
Frankly this character is more interesting to me even as he does nothing? Is he a brain in a jar, carried by the other characters, and can do nothing? Or is he capable? If he is capable and yet keeps doing nothing AND if there is no reflection on why he does, I'll grant that it's slipping toward non story/just verbatim repeating of details.

Quote
Maybe the orc also doesn't feel like a role-playing character, as he is so internal to the story. There is no differentiation between the story and the character. There's just this one clump, where you can't separate one from the other.
Maybe that's how roleplay, as in playing out a role, is always supposed to feel, rather than feeling any disjuncted seperation between character and story? Maybe that's part of your epiphany?

With your hypothesis that you can have story without characters, I'm really not convinced by your orc in the well evidence. Either you were ignoring the point of the activity, or you were playing character so very naturally and fluidly you were unaware of it, like you breath without having to think about it or notice that your breathing. Or maybe there's a third option, but I'm not seeing it as yet.


Gareth,
The difference is consent, not force - indeed it strike me at this moment and looking at the glossary 'force' is a bugaboo word invented out of a failure to recognise lack of consent (or a desire to ignore it). I mean, really "The Technique of control over characters' thematically-significant decisions by anyone who is not the character's player"? It's the players character, by the rules, yet somehow by magnificently applied technique apparently it isn't? Or it's just straight out lying/doing something they said they wouldn't, perhaps? As I understood it, participationism works off consent, like a magic show works off consent rather than trying to genuinely con anyone into thinking real magic is happening. But I've read functional patterns into forge ideas before, only for them to eventually get touted in insane ways (LP comes to mind), so maybe I don't get the forges use of the word.
Logged

greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2010, 05:31:59 PM »

But I've read functional patterns into forge ideas before, only for them to eventually get touted in insane ways (LP comes to mind), so maybe I don't get the forges use of the word.
I don't know if this is truly the case or not, but my understanding is that your perception is correct. I certainly see it the way you do.
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2010, 08:44:52 PM »

We may be drifting but: Force was coined to remove the connotations implicit in "raliroading" and to therefore be able to discuss whats going on without all that baggage hanging over the issue.  I think it's useful in that sense.  As I understand it, both Participatism and Illusionism use force, and can do so with consent.  When force is applied without consent, and to the detriment of the social contract, then this can be termed Railroading with all the pejorative connotations.  So the distinction between I and P is the visibility with which force is used.  Certainly, people have claimed reported being happy with, and having stable social contracts in, games which use both sorts of force.  The issue only becomes fraught when the GM basically lies about the fact that they are using force to players who would not have consented.

Sure, characters in illusionist games probably aren't full blown protagonists.  But note definition (2) for this term in the Glossary; this is a term that is only properly applicable in the sense being used here, i.e. relevant to story, for Narr play.  The habitual use of "story" to describe all forms of RPG, when story is conflated with Narr princples, drives me up the fricken' wall, and that is the mistake made here.  Characters can still be, as Greyorm describes, enmeshed in situation, without being actual protagonists.  If the whole thing is built with craft and skill and aesthetic sensibility, then it can still be satisfying as a play experience even if true protagonism in ther Narr sense is absent (standard caveat applies: to some people).

Friend of mine is slavering at the prospect that the next Assassins Creed is to be set in Rome.  He is interested in the period, and visted the city himself, and this all brings an element of relevence and excitement to the idea.  If I made a game-at-the-table (as opposed the systematic use of 'game', sigh, another of my bugbears) to scratch this itch, I would not need to construct a full blown premise driven Narr type story; all I need to do is give him an excuse to run around in 16th century Rome.  For that purpose, I might well construct a "story" of sorts, but that story is nothing more than an exercise in structure and contextualisation, it is not the point of play as such.  Thererfore, Illusionist or Participationist techniques are perfectly viable.  But none of that means that the character is unimportant; it still  needs its own integrity and coherence, still needs to be wholly owned by the player.  Yes I might do something like having the 29 burly guards burst in (although in fact I'd be mortified at having to be so crude, and would hope to be a bit more cunning), but this does not necessarily deprotagonise the character because the character was not primarily a means for the making of that sort decision anyway.  Nor does the concealed element of Illusionism undermine the experience; in fact it lends verisimilitude and plausibility to the experience of play, and so everyone is happy and we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2010, 10:59:41 PM »

Hi!

Contracycle is right about the meaning (in forge terminology) of these words (illusionism, force, etc.). The difference between illusionism and participationism is not the consent of the players or their knowledge of the use of Force, but the way that force is used (overtly or using the "Black Curtain" of illusionism, even if the players know about it)

These posts should help clearing the issue for people interested:
Illusionism: a new look and a new approach
Is this Forcing?
[NWOD][VtR] New Game - New Possibilities - New Questions!

For a (long, but useful) discussion about the difference between "Force" and other kind of GM authority, there is this thread:
Bangs&Illusionism - in which Ron beats down Confusion

I am posting all these link hoping to put to rest this side discussion about Forge terminology and helping to return the thread to the original topic.

About which...  I have to tell that I agree on some of Jaakko observations, but not on the conclusions.  I have played Matthijs' "five characters" and other games where the character was without any depth, and games more in general where the pleasure of play was all about "playing it out", making up dialogue, more impro-like than like a coherent narrative. But I don't correlate this with having a "my character, only mine!" to control absolutely.

For example, many games use group-based techniques to generate characters: in "Annalise", your character has a Secret that you draw from a hat full of the secret written by people at the table. You get the one I wrote, maybe, and I don't know (and you don't know I did wrote it).  In "Spione" NO-ONE at the table has a "my character" at all, everybody play everybody. But these two games in my experience, produce the most intense character-based stories.

The difference in my opinion it's not so much in having a character, but in the choice you can make at the table.  When you can say if a character will risk his life for freedom or not, no matter if it's "your character" for the entire game of for that moment only...  if you can have your say in the matter, the story and the character will matter to you. If not, if you have to play a pre-written part or reduce the choice to a roll of a die... not so much.

Another variable is time. In 15' you will never care a lot about a character, obviously.
Logged

Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2010, 12:49:09 AM »

It is drifting - I'll be very short 'The Technique of control over characters' thematically-significant decisions by anyone who is not the character's player.' is like saying if I control white in chess, there's some magic technique where someone else can reach over and move white, and this mystical technique is called force. It's rubbish. Never mind connotations, it's like saying 2+2=3. If the rule is control is assigned to the player, it takes another rule to grant control of a character to another player (or they otherwise just agree to ignore the rules they originally set out to follow). There is no mystical force that transfers this character control. I can't engage any discussion resting on the idea of 'force' as it's just self contradicting bugaboo. May the force not be with us (as a supposed technical term). Nuff said from me.
Logged

Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2010, 05:54:11 AM »

Callan, you are conflating "This is my character" with "I have absolute control on every aspect of this character".

The first phrase mean "In this specific rpg, the game rules give me the responsibility to portray and role-play this character"  It doesn't mean that WHAT you role-play was decided by you. This depends on the specific rules of the specific rpg. For example, in AD&D the GM could (and would) control what your character would do in many different ways (using the alignment rules, using the improvement rules, using the character class rules, using the magic rules, or using the monster rules - really, he had a vast choice of techniques to take the control of your character from you. You still had to role-play his choices, because it was "your character").

Even in the games where you HAVE total control of the choices made by your character, that choice can be make meaningless using really simple illusionist techniques.
For example:
- You make a very good tactical choice that the GM didn't think about? He can simply double the (secret) strengths of the NPC (hp, powers, etc.) to nullify the effect.
- You use a spell that the GM didn't think about? The NPC have some sort of magical protection (or he can simply fudge the resistance roll behind the screen)
- You decide to go to city A instead of city B? The GM simply swap the two cities.
- You don't search for clues that you need to continue the GM' story? The clues are given to you by a NPC.

In partecipationist play, the GM let you know (directly or by his or her behavior) what the "right choices" are.

There is really nothing "mystical" in all this.  They are simply techniques. Very popular techniques (I believe that every one of these listed techniques is much more used than "stakes" or any other recent technique. Illusionist play is still the most popular one)
Logged

Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!