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Independent Game Forums => Adept Press => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on February 25, 2002, 12:35:21 PM



Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 25, 2002, 12:35:21 PM
Gentlemen, and Gordon in particular,

This post deals with concerns in two current threads, "Soul reviewed" and "Relating Sorcerer's Soul and Sorcerer & Sword."

Consider issues of baseline kinship and sexuality. Now consider them in the context of a larger society, which itself brings ties of obligation and reputation. Imagine those first ties being, at times, in concert with those second ties, and, at other times, in conflict with those second ties.

Therefore we are not talking about an either-or situation, but an embedded one. I say again, wearily, that my claim that the first set of ties are the "default" ones that most consistently capture people's attention, in no way is a claim that the second set of ties are not there.

Dramatic stories lacking explicit kinship/sex ties are quite possible. To no one's surprise, they occur in settings and situations in which those ties are unavailable except as memories: men isolated in conditions of war, for example.

Complexity is added within each category as well, in terms of "my uncle or my son?" or "which potential romantic partner is for me?" or "do I betray the cops whom I work for or these guys I've become friends with?" In other words, each category has many internal options and conflicts, as well as potential conflicts and confluences with the other category.

As you can see, this is a tremendously high-potential model for the decisions a human being is faced with, with absolutely no "right answer" in terms of standards. Stories, to my way of thinking, are means of working out the complexity for oneself.

I should also point out that this is a simplified model; there are actually two categories in each stated one above (making four total). Furthermore, the social categories are especially prone to internal conflicts and "customizing" to specific circumstances.

Gareth, if this outlook presents a conflict with what you would like people to be like, or to do, there's nothing I can do about that. I'm not inclined to address any model or outlook that you extrapolate from it (as distinct from the original), nor to address any "feelings" you bring to the discussion.

Gordon, one of the problems with your analysis and conundrum, from the start, is that you are attempting to address the issue internally rather than thinking in terms of utility of play. The question is not, "Do I feel this claim is right?" but rather, "Does this technique consistently produce more enjoyable role-playing of a particular kind?" In other words, it's not about you, but about the people around you and their interests.

Mike, your comments about Freudian views are not relevant. My approach to these issues is distinctly non-Freudian, which I'll be happy to explain over private email.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on February 25, 2002, 04:21:54 PM
(I'd send this as a private msg to Ron, but it seems a few others might be interested, so, here I go . . . )

OK, *something* is just not connecting for me in this communication about the R-Map stuff, and I can't quite figure out what that is, or why it is.

Ron, while I think most of the essence of your post here is clear to me, you lost me in the specifics along the way . . . I'm with you on the two sets of ties, and that they can be in concert or conflict.  I understand that you are NOT saying the second set of ties is UNimportant - no either/or, NOT that the 2nd set isn't there.  But I also understand you to be saying that the 1st set (kinship and sexuality) are almost always a better FOCUS - "the second set of ties are only important when taken in the context of the first", to offer a
paraphrase of . . . heck, let me dig up the quote from another thread (not as a cherry-pick to "disagree" with you on, but beacuse it seems like the very heart of the issue that's got me concerned):
Quote
Therefore, yes, intent, organizational affiliation, and ideology are important for role-playing. I do not suggest that they be ignored or pushed aside or otherwise left out. But they gain their importance insofar as they reinforce or violate the lines of a relationship-map.

Intent, organizational affiliation, and ideology correspond with your larger society "obligation and reputation" in the post starting this thread, right?  These are "2nd ties", kinship and sexuality the "1st ties".  Right?  If so, I'm following you.  My issue/question may be right here, but . . . let me keep going a bit . . .

With "Complexity is added within each category as well", I've lost a bit what you mean by category . . . "1st set" and "2nd set" as 2 categories?  Kinship, Sex, Obligation, and Reputation as 4 categories?  If the latter . . . what happend to Intent, Organizational Affiliation, and Ideology?  I do understand that a complexity of internal and "other category" conflicts and confluences will result, in any case.

Quote
As you can see, this is a tremendously high-potential model for the decisions a human being is faced with, with absolutely no "right answer" in terms of standards. Stories, to my way of thinking, are means of working out the complexity for oneself.
I quote that bit just so that I can agree 100% and say that having a RPG be "like this" is what gets me excited about Narrativism.

Since I'm not EXACTLY clear on what constitutes "categories" ("1st set" and "2nd set" seem like the likely culprits now that I've been working up this response), I'm not sure what the two categories within the two categories might be - sounds interesting (e.g., feel free to amplify/clarify), but we should probably let that lie for the moment.

As far as utility of play . . . as I've said in a few posts, testimonials from those that have tried it encourage me to do the same.  I understand the distinction here, and I can't deny that it's *possible* I've got a theoretical problem that just isn't a practical issue.

But it is precisely in thinking about OTHERS in my group that my concerns arise - if we're playing a spy game, goddammit, they're going to want the game be about SPYING, not who's sleeping with who or who's related to who.  Who's sleeping with who or is realted to who are elements for them to use in pursuing their spy-agenda, as the spy-realted Premise is developed.  Sure, just because I build an R-Map about sex & kinship doesn't mean that the play is about that - but why would I "waste" time with a tool that doesn't help make available my intended Premise, and might in fact *hide* things that WILL make it available, and that are more likely to hook players that have bought into that Premise?

There are (if I'm understanding right) two categories in the model - why does one constitute the lines on an R-Map, and the other not?  If the claim is "because it'll hook the players better", I just don't buy that that will ALWAYS (or even mostly) be true (note: I *do* buy that it will sometimes, even often, be the case).  Just because Sex and Kinship are available in a story does not mean that a story is best served by "using"/focusing on them, or that a map of those Sex and Kinship relationships will best "help".

At least, I haven't seen why that would be so.

Gordon
(hoping this is all taken in the spirit of trying to *understand*, not as debate for its' own sake)


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 25, 2002, 05:58:43 PM
Gordon --

My copy of Sorcerer's Soul only shipped today (if everything is working correctly at www.Sorcerer.com), so I won't comment on Ron?s definition of terms until I at least read the darned thing.

I will, however, briefly comment on potential problems with players -- specifically, let's say, in the Spy Game you mention. (And Ron, if I'm putting the wrong words in your mouth, I apolgize -- but again, I'm very excited about what I've ready so far, and it's all bouncing around my head.)

Let's say we open up an old issue of Dragon and read a story based on whatever the heck their spy game was called.  Will we find ties of family and sex?  At best, maybe, but only in ways that probably don?t impact on the thematic complexity of the story.  (The protagonist leaves the red head lying in bed before going off to save the world.  Whatever.)  Why?  Because this story is going to use set pieces of the genre to no better effect than to set the set pieces up.  There will be no exploration of larger issues.

Now, say, we open up a John LeCarre novel.  Are we going to find ties of family and sex? You betcha we are.  Because LeCarre's books are about the larger issues.  It, too, will be a spy story.  But the spy is activity that engages what it means to be a human being in the world of spying.  Smiley's wife is having an affair with some at the Circus.  It's a secret.  But it's not a secret.  How does that impact him as a man who lives as a man of secrets?  How does it impact him when he could choose to put this man into danger -- or not?

Throughout Sorcerer, and throughout this web sit, Ron's made it clear that he doesn't think "stories" that are a collection of genre set pieces are really Narrativist.  Which is what he's trying to build -- and trying to help us build.  For Ron, and for me, a story that puts people into horribly complicated relationships that complicate feeling and action are exactly the most fun.

Players who want a spy story that's about Spying are going to have a jolly time... But probably not in one of Ron's games.  That's a difference between Simulationist sessions and Narrativist -- in the first you can successfully go through the "motion' of building a "story" because all the surface stuff is there.  Ron is saying: "Go deeper.  There's a heartbeat underneath the trappings.  And here are some ways to make that  heartbeat heard clearly during play."

So.  If you have players who don?t need to know that the woman they?re turning for the CIA has a father who's already terrified of getting on the list of the secret police -- fine.  But for me, when that father flees when he realizes what's going on and puts the whole mission in jeopardy because the daughter won't cooperate, I don't know what the protagonists are going to do, but I know that how they handle the daughter and the father make the mission all that much more sensitive, emotional, and revealing about the characters *as they take action reflected through the Pemise.*

Will these ties work better than two guys who work at the office?  Maybe, maybe not depending on the group, I suppose.  And certain tales can be found that don't depend on these relationships. But I think you'll find that these tales also don't go that deep into matters the really explore a Premise.  (Not always, clearly. Exceptions can be found.)  But Ron seems to have really researched how stories are consctructed (and I have too) and I can tell you, as a writer, if you want to increase the stakes and get the audience more engaged, hook their characters up through blood and sex.  (It may not seem fair, it may not be nice, it may not be the way it should be, but there it is.)

(For the record, I find more and more any discussion of this sort without mention of a specific Premise to be meaningless.  Ron always assumes there's going to be a premise.  We could make the matter generic: Assume Appropriate Premise (AAP); but if find that only by choosing a real premise can useful examples be created, real problems solved.  The question that would need to be asked, working backwards, is: in a world where spies interact with people who don't have sexual and familial relationships impinging on them, what honest, worthwhile premise is possible?  Again, you could do it without these ties -- obviously -- but which choice will be richer, more complex and offering more meat during the course of the story?)


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on February 25, 2002, 09:39:36 PM
Christopher,

Thanks for the long and well-considered response.  I find much value in your final paragraph (paraphrased, "further discussion may be meaningless without a specific Premise"), but I need to clarify one bit - just as Ron is not claiming affiliation/ideology are unimportant, I'm not claiming we should have "a world where spies interact with people who don't have sexual and familial relationships" - I'm questioning why, in a world that has both familial/sexual AND other relationships, we should make the familial/sexual links the CORE of our map.

In your example of the nervous father and the daughter being turned . . . my instinct would be to build a map around the fact that the daughter is "available" for turning, and that the father is terrified of the secret police.  Then I'd expand, perhaps with "why" information - is the daughter available because she's greedy (perhaps - and I'm making this up, I have no map-tool in mind that would provide this - a link to a "Greed" node on the map)?  Ideologically motivated (link to "Individual Freedom")?  Is the father terrified because of something he once did (link to "Secret Past")?  Simply because the secret police are brutal (link to "Personal Cowardice")?  Did he once see someone beaten to death (link to "Grounded Fear")?  I can see how all this can be tweaked to various Premises of a spy game, and brought to bear to hook players interested in Greed, Ideological Motivations, and the like.  The father/daughter relationship becomes a (possibly quite powerful and important) stressor on these Premise-associated "lines".  Put another way . . . someone wants the daughter to betray the double-agent attempting to recruit her, and thus stresses her "Political Ideologue" trait.  The fact that the "someone" is her *father* ups the ante, perhaps in a very effective way, but what REALLY matters (for purposes of story, Premise, and hooking players who are already interested in that particular kind of story and Premise) is the "Political Ideologue" issue.  Again, that's where my instinct leads me.

Ron seems to me to be saying my instinct is wrong - I should map the familial/sexual, and the rest of it will be stressors on those relationships.  He says this will be a better starting point, hook players more effectively, and provide superior exploration of Premise.  At the moment, I find this an Impossible Thing to Believe.

So . . . not NO family/sex, not just "two guys in the office."  My conundrum springs from "Why family/sex as the Overriding, Primary Focus?"  One main answer seems to be "remember, a map exists to hook the protagonists into a developing story.  Family/sex is a GREAT hook."  OK, got ya.  Really - I understand that.  I'm already thinking about the MANY ways I can use that bit of wisdom - and it is wisdom.  But, is it always (or even mostly) the very best way?  For me and my group, I can see SOME situations where the opposite is true - continually FOCUSING on the familial/sexual will become a dull and predictable gambit.  Of course, IGNORING it would have the same problem . . .

Heh.  I've gone on much longer than I intended too.  I'm diving into the deep end and developing a Sorcerer story centered around terrorism, and certainly the vague, ill-defined "map" (possibly entirely the wrong word) in my mind will use sex and family - in the manner I describe above, as stressors on the more "fundamental" links of chosen allegiance and committed actions.  That'll be where "the rubber hits the road" for me, though I look forward to other posts in this thread as folks feel they have something to add.

Gordon


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: contracycle on February 26, 2002, 03:36:20 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Gareth, if this outlook presents a conflict with what you would like people to be like, or to do, there's nothing I can do about that. I'm not inclined to address any model or outlook that you extrapolate from it (as distinct from the original), nor to address any "feelings" you bring to the discussion.


What I "like" is wholly irrelevant; the claim, that sex/blood are the primary and overriding drivers in human experience or story is IME Not True.  In fact, as I have pointed out before, I think it is a silly thing to suggest; even a cursory reading of history should show this to be the case.

In fact I find it an odd claim in the light of your interest in the Thirty Years War; what better evidence could be given for the power of abstraction and ideology to motivate human beings?  One might suggest even further that these drivers are so powerful as to sever the normal bonds of sex/blood, and that the frequency with which this occurs should suggest that the sex/blood relationship is like gravity - omnipresent, but easily overcome by other forces.

I don't deny that these bonds are indeed universal, nor that stories can be constructed from them.  But I do think that it is ridiculous to claim that this is the primary venue of story, or that such stories are in some sense superior to those based on other concepts.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: contracycle on February 26, 2002, 03:52:22 AM
Quote from: Christopher Kubasik

problems solved.  The question that would need to be asked, working backwards, is: in a world where spies interact with people who don't have sexual and familial relationships impinging on them, what honest, worthwhile premise is possible?  Again,


This appears a ludicrous question to me; this is precisely the point at which the issue of relationship-based story stops being the expression of an opinion or perception but becomes a normative statement.  Why on earth would there be a difficulty discovering a premise?  None, unless one presupposes that premises are primarily about relationships.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Valamir on February 26, 2002, 06:17:25 AM
Quote
In fact I find it an odd claim in the light of your interest in the Thirty Years War; what better evidence could be given for the power of abstraction and ideology to motivate human beings? One might suggest even further that these drivers are so powerful as to sever the normal bonds of sex/blood, and that the frequency with which this occurs should suggest that the sex/blood relationship is like gravity - omnipresent, but easily overcome by other forces.



I'm finding it very difficult to ascertain exactly where people are missing the point.  

The point is NOT (once again for the zillionth time) that these abstract motivators are not present.  The point is NOT (once again for the zillionth time) that these motivators can not be strong, prevelent, and overwhelming.  The point is NOT (once again blah blah blah) that these abstract motivators can't be MORE powerful than ones of blood and sex.

The point IS that that if you cast these motivators into a setting you can get a good story.   But if you cast these motivators into a setting OVER A BACKDROP OF BLOOD AND SEX you can get a great story.

Whats more powerful from a story perspective:

A noble in the 30 years war is willing to betray his lord for power, or a noble in the 30 years war is willing to betray his FATHER for power.  

A noble is willing to kill a woman to keep her quiet.
A noble is willing to kill his DAUGHTER to keep her quiet

No one is saying that the former doesn't happen.  No one is saying that the former isn't actually more prevelent in reality than the latter.  What is being asked is which event in a story is going to reach out and grab you at a visceral level.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: greyorm on February 26, 2002, 06:35:13 AM
This response is primarily intended for Gareth:

The reason that sex/blood/death relationships are primary are because they simply are.  Strip everything else away, and that's what you are left with.  Why?  Because we're flesh-meat-animals, plain and simple, and flesh-meat-animals are all about sex, blood and death.

You use the example of the Thirty Years War as a counter-point to this, stating that the Thirty Years War is a prime example of ideological motivations.  However, I'm betting that if you remove all the ideological frosting from the cake, you end up with a lot of very basic, primal motivations cleverly disguised by human intellect as being about something else.

Of course, your example also misses the point, which not that ideological motivators do not exist or do not influence humans, but that they do so on top of a web of sex/blood/death.

In short, no one fights because they believe in something...they fight for something because it ended up mattering to them on a personal, motivating level.  Simple belief, in and of itself, is not enough...there must be a driving urge behind that belief to cause it to become a motivation that is acted upon.

How is this so?  Look at any individuals life and you find a complex web of relationships underlying it.  They may not appear in the history books we all read and the events that are written down, but they're there, and they are the primary and shaping forces in any individual's life...they're also invisible to the general public and the pen of history.

Let us make an example: Thomas, the inventor, stays at his lab all night most days during the week, neglecting his son and wife for his inventions, which he loves and adores.

What's really going on?

Thomas hates his wife; he despises her constant naging and demands for attention and because he has spent so much time away from home, he has no idea how to interact with his son. His drive to invent and create are shaped and formed by this relationship...if he loved spending time with his wife, he wouldn't be at the lab and he wouldn't be as prolific as he is.

Another example: a young man goes off to war, to fight for his country.  Why?  Because he loves his country...actually, he's trying to escape from his parents, get away from home and strike out on his own to prove himself as an adult.
If he had no desire to prove himself as discrete from his parents, he never would have joined the army.

Do the characters ever need to realize any of this?  Nope.

Thus any example that might be referenced fails to support the contention that sex/blood/death are not primary fails to take into account that at the base of everyone's life exist these very primal, instinctual motivators, regardless of the events which are recorded for posterity.

Yes, so-and-so may have led the charge that broke the enemy's lines, but what so-and-so is doing out there in the first place, what their social-sexual relationships are, is where the person is.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 26, 2002, 07:11:11 AM
Gordon,

And thank you for your thoughtful post in return.  Just so you know, I was responding specifically to this sentence in your original post:

"If we're playing a spy game, goddammit, they're going to want the game be about SPYING, not who's sleeping with who or who's related to who."

If I extrapolated this point beyond what you meant, I apologize.  But it seemed quite a strong statement, and at the crux of difference between normal Simulationist Gaming and Narrativist.

Gareth,

1) For the record, just so you don't feel alone and surrounded on this point, I don't think we're flesh-plant-animals.  For the record, I value emotions *and* ideas.  For the record, I reiterate what others have said, The R-Map doesn't denigrate ideas or the soul, it is simply a tool to add more tension to story, to bring out more interest and to highlight the dificulty off being alive as a person with ideas and a soul.  

2) For the record, I think Valamir nailed it.  You may have alredy dismissed his reply, but I'd take one more look after taking in some deep breaths.

3) For the record, please submit the great spy novel/play/short/story/movie with a strong Premise that *doesn't* have stressors on family and sex among the characters.

4) For the record, when you make statements like "cursory reading of history" or, in the other thread on this subject, refer to stories that use relationships of family and sex to heighten all the other aspects of the story as "not as satsifying" as other kinds of stories, I really am stuck, and can only reply:

Sophicles, Euripedes, Ovid, Homer, Beowulf, the Mabinogion, Thomas Mallory, Moliere, Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Milton, William Blake, G.B. Shaw, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, George Elliot, Mary Shelly, Victor Hugo, Proust, Thomas Mann, Hemingway, James Joyce, John Le Carre, Grahm Green, Sam Sheppard, Phillip Pullman, Anne Tyler, Angela Carter, John Crowley,  Johathan Franzen -- off the top of my head.

*No one here is saying the R-Map is the primary aspect of any session.* Nor would I say the works and authors above make family and sex the key to the works -- but by God, family and sex is all over those works, strengthening whatever else is going on in the story.  To miss that is to only be able to argue that by mentioning this, I'm claiming these stories are only about family and sex, which would be strange, since I clearly pointed out in the previous sentence that's exactly what I'm not doing.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2002, 07:30:39 AM
Hi Gordon,

PART ONE
I evidently tangled you up a bit with the "complexity" issue, so let me clarify that.

[Interesting: I drafted about 70% of a small Sorcerer supplement called "Paragon" exactly about these issues in December. Other things came up since then, but clearly I should have stuck with it.]

Think in terms of concentric circles, like a dartboard. The innermost circle is one's own well-being, one's romantic/sexual contacts and commitments, and one's children. The circle right outside that is one's kin: siblings, cousins, parents, etc. These together are "category 1."

Note that conflicts may occur entirely within either zone, e.g., my uncle vs. brother, or my life vs. my child's. They may also occur between zones, e.g., my marriage vs. what my family thinks of my spouse.

Now draw two more outer circles, which together make "category 2." By and large, you may consider a single tie in this category to be weaker than a single tie in category one, although the cumulative effect of many ties and extraordinary circumstances for a given tie can override this trend.

The next circle out concerns reciprocity - doing stuff in ways that tend to rebound on oneself favorably, along socially-acknowledged modes. Things like political alliances (or identity if you want to call it that), ethnic membership, religious institutions, social action groups, terrorist organizations, whatever. Both oppression and activism vs. oppression fall into this zone.

Finally, the other, outermost circle of category 2 concerns any interactions with those one does not know or does not perceive oneself to know (this is an important concept; we often think we know people we don't, like one's "countrymen" in the abstract, and treat them as if they were in the previous zone). Actions concerning ties of this sort (if they may be called ties at all) include "good Samaritan" actions and, conversely, "Unabomber" actions.  

All of these categories exist. Consider the following:

1) The pound-for-pound strength of these ties, in a default sense, are stronger the more inward you go. Note that if this is not the case for a person, it is indeed the case in terms of others' judgments of that person.

2) Actions may be taken that reinforce ties in more than one zone at once, such that one helps one's kin and the community simultaneously. The sense of "justification" regarding these actions is extraordinarily powerful.

3) (related to above) Note that most "self-sacrificing" activities correspond to combinations of powerful ties at the social-alliance zone in concert with ties in category 1 (the two innermost zones).

4) Deception of others regarding both ties/relationships as well as past actions is exceptionally effective, as it tends to result in non-deceptive reciprocation by others in the social-alliance zone. It is also risky - discovered deception engenders massive resentment, and at that socially-allied level, angry humans are a fearsome opponent.

5) Morality per se (in the strictly descriptive sense, with no reference to the Absolute) originates from the constant juggling and re-combining of effort among these zones of relationship. Since no one particular zone is "the good one," and since conflicts among them arise constantly, humans are very attentive, very confused, and very negotiatory creatures.

6) Stories which address these kinds of conflicts (as opposed to simple ones like "will this girl get that guy" or "oh no, flee the predatory monster") are, by definition, dramatic. That's what drama is.

PART TWO
You legitimately ask "why," which applies to my point #1 above. The answer concerns issues that almost nobody is well-informed enough to address without some serious pedagogical preparation. Suffice to say that I am working from extremely hard-core principles of biology, cognition, literature, and sociology in confluence. (See the reference list below.) I will follow up on this privately if you desire.  

Furthermore, since the precise construction of these issues, and its application to narrative, are my own professional work rather than some textbook, recognize that I cannot be accused of dogmatism (i.e. following "the word" from on high). Discussion of these matters therefore must be strictly in the form of discourse, not what one feels to be true. I place strict limits on whom I enter into this discourse with, as (bluntly) it is not worth my time to do otherwise.

Finally, the "four zones" model above is *not* the entirety of the human being. Imagination, language (a sub-set of cognition), and religiosity - and most importantly, the definition and role of development - should be acknowledged as related topics.

Best,
Ron

P.S. I should point out that you have just received information worth several hundred dollars of consulting fees. Yes, people pay me to work this stuff out for them, regarding specific stories and scripts.

P.P.S. References include The Biology of Moral Systems by Richard Alexander, The Biological Roots of Human Nature by Timothy Goldsmith, The Origin of Virtue by Matt Ridley, The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker, Introduction to Comparative Cognition by Herbert Roitblat, and The Human Animal by Weston La Barre. Combine these readings with Mystifying Movies by Noel Carroll, Men Women and Chainsaws by C. Clover, The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, and Sayles on Sayles. Also see Mythologies by Roland Barthes, and Subculture: the Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdidge.

P.P.P.S. My views and thoughts on this matter are distinctly opposed to those of (a) Laura Mulvey and Christian Metz, whose writings I consider to be unmitigated bullshit; (b) "science studies," ditto; and (c) the Frankfurt school of ideological criticism, which is nonetheless good reading, e.g. Mark Crispin Miller's Seeing Through Movies for a basic/intro view.


Title: several hundred dollars of consulting fees
Post by: Paul Czege on February 26, 2002, 08:10:15 AM
Ron,

That was a fantastic post.

Paul


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 26, 2002, 08:35:17 AM
Quote from: greyorm

not that ideological motivators do not exist or do not influence humans, but that they do so on top of a web of sex/blood/death.


Perhaps it was from Raven that I got the idea that it was based on Freudianism. I do see the layering idea as being somewhat different, but the moving of these motivations to absolute pre-eminence has similarities to Freud's basic ideas that all motivations come back to these three (BTW, taken out of context, the above statement is less Freudian than the post as a whole). Anyhow, perhaps Ron and Raven don't precisely agree on this?

On to Ralph's take. First to quell Chris I will put my Bridge on the River Kwai concept into Premise form. "Is Honor more important than Victory?"  Now, going into the game with that idea, to take Ralph's idea I suppose that the game would be better if I somehow managed to bring the Camp Commandant's wife into the game or one of his offspring. Or his mistress. Or somehow to have the Brittish POWs have their loved ones involved.

I wonder why David Lean didn't think of that when he filmed the movie?

To repeat the question, what do I do in this case?

Quote
Dramatic stories lacking explicit kinship/sex ties are quite possible. To no one's surprise, they occur in settings and situations in which those ties are unavailable except as memories: men isolated in conditions of war, for example.

So, Ron, do you propose that I still make a sex/blood map and refer to those memories for guidance during play? This is going to be of more importance than the ideological relationships between the characters?

Or have I missed something? Are there limited cases where other types of maps might be more efficacious, and your claim is just to the majority of situations?

Mike


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2002, 09:20:59 AM
Hi Mike,

I think a careful reading of my above post (the circles) will help with your conundrum.

Place a group of people into a situation in which the "inner circles" are not immediately relevant. Their concerns will necessarily concern relationships, decisions, and actions concerning the outer ones - usually the "social alliances" circle, e.g. national identity, sides in a military conflict, small-group cooperative concerns (e.g. men of different nations in a POW camp).

Two sources of conflict emerge. The first is (a) "official" social alliances like one's designated army or country of origin, against (b) "unofficial" ones like being victimized in the same, oppressive situation together. This is a powerful issue, especially when #1 becomes more and more abstract. I call attention to the documented instance of WWI soldiers calling an unofficial cease-fire across the trenches on Christmas Day, and joining their foes for a few hours of peace to celebrate the holiday. Conversely, note that #1 may be prevented from becoming too abstract by constant reminding of the inner-circle associations of "official" alliances. (I'm fighting for my country and my family, and I have this picture of my wife tucked in my pocket to remind me.)

The second source of conflict is the immediate demands of the innermost circle (e.g. survival in the moment) against the demands of any social alliances, of whatever sort (i.e. those defined above). This is the whole "traitor," "which side matters," issue.

Both of these issues in concert give rise to your "Honor vs. Victory" Premise. Both of them take strength from somewhat abstract associations with the inner two circles, and they take center-stage in a story when those inner circles cannot be directly acted upon due to circumstances.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Clay on February 26, 2002, 10:02:48 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

On to Ralph's take. First to quell Chris I will put my Bridge on the River Kwai concept into Premise form. "Is Honor more important than Victory?"  Now, going into the game with that idea, to take Ralph's idea I suppose that the game would be better if I somehow managed to bring the Camp Commandant's wife into the game or one of his offspring. Or his mistress. Or somehow to have the Brittish POWs have their loved ones involved.

I wonder why David Lean didn't think of that when he filmed the movie?

To repeat the question, what do I do in this case?


Mike,

I think this falls pretty clearly into the case Ron mentioned when the objects of those ties are not immediately present (e.g. war).  I see a couple of possibilities here.

First, I don't think that this situation is one where the relationship map is a good tool to use.  You identified the theme yourself as being victory vs. honor.  The blood/sex ties are off camera, and this theme only plays on it to the extent that our characters are obviously concerned about what these related parties might think about them.

To make the story worth the telling, we need to have our main character(s) change from one moral state to another.  So we first set up situations which establish their current values. Establish some back story first, for both the character and the situation. You can use the kicker to handle at least some of this, although obviously there's also backstory for your situation.  

Put the character in a situation which will establish their current moral state.  The test here should provide the opportunity to demonstrate their current values and what undesirable outcomes those lead to.

Depending on the nature of your story, you may need to spend some time building to a situation which challenges the character's world-view. The consequences of their current moral state must be sufficiently unacceptable that they are determined to change.

Now present the character with a situation where the consequences are even bigger.  They can continue on their current course and their reward will be great, but the negative consequences will be magnified even more.  Maybe the consequences are that they loose the respect of their men, that a friend will die, that unknown innocents will suffer.  It doesn't really matter, the character must merely be pushed to the point where a change is necessary to reconcile their actions to their own self image.

In summary, just because relationship maps are great tools, don't automatically assume that they're the only tool we should use.  My circular saw is a great tool, but I don't use it when I'm re-wiring the basement. Likewise, when I'm telling a story where the important conflict is internal, I probably don't need a tool designed for supporting external conflicts.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 26, 2002, 10:03:20 AM
Just to be clear, here. In my theoretical game you would still map out a relationship map for the purpose of "punching up" the power of the characters' actions?

See, this seems weird. I know it's possibly a fallacious idea, but the way I see it, the best execution for the "Bridge" scenario would be for the GM to portray the characters much as they were portrayed in the film (modified of course by the player interaction). Anyhow, not once anywhere in the film does any character ever once refer to any family. At least not that I can remember, which is the important part (And I've seen the film at least ten times). In fact, I'd hazard that it was sort of important to display the British as not whimpering about so-and-so being a family man. The concept of honor here forbids such activity. Stiff upper lip, you know.

Before anyone jumps on it, the one excetion from the film is William Holden's character, but he would be a PC and not on the map, and his relationship with the nurse is a complete throwaway. Even in Alec Guinesses meanderings about how the bridge might make them remembered for years to come, I don't believe that he ever mentions family or anything.

So, while a relationship map might make the situation more potent for me, the GM, how will it have any effect on the players who will never see any indication of the map. At least not if I'm doing the movie as Lean did. Survival? Are you saying that I can only portray the urge for survival if I as the GM know that the character has some family? The players will not know. In the film the Commandant threatens to gun down all the brittish officers if they do not work, but, despite not knowing if they have relations, you still feel for them. They may assume there are relations, but then if they can do that then why the need for the map in this circumstance?  

Is it a difference in the media (film vs. RPGs)? Or would you claim that Lean's version of the story was not well portrayed (would have been improved by imserting family or lovers somehow)? Or again am I missing another option?

Mike


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 26, 2002, 10:18:02 AM
Quote from: Clay

In summary, just because relationship maps are great tools, don't automatically assume that they're the only tool we should use.  My circular saw is a great tool, but I don't use it when I'm re-wiring the basement. Likewise, when I'm telling a story where the important conflict is internal, I probably don't need a tool designed for supporting external conflicts.


Ah, but Clay, that is the point of this entire thread. Ron's claim is that his version of the Relationship Map is superior to others in all circumstances.

In my "Bridge" scenario, I would have a map, one that would show just how all the characters feel about each other. How do the Brittish officers feel about each other and the guards and the Commandant, and how do those characters feel. That would be useful in my opinion (hell, it's what the whole scenario is about, the characters opinions of each other; I love when Guiness says, "I think that Saito is the worst commanding officer I've ever seen").

So my claim is simply that, in this limited instance, the tool that I propose would be superior to Ron's "blood and sex only" map. And by extension that there are other circumstances where other maps would be superior. I'd even be willing to buy a "most circumstances", or "almost all circumstances" or even "all likely circumstances" (I have to admit that I had to search for the Kwai example). I just stop short of "all circumstances".

Mike


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Paul Czege on February 26, 2002, 10:21:52 AM
Hey,

Is there a place in the model, and in the Bridge Over the River Kwai scenario, for the notion that men pursue fame, and power because these things increase their desirability as a mate, their ability to mate more often, and to choose from a wider selection of more attractive partners? Is this notion a linkage from category 2 into category 1, or a non-factor?

Paul


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 26, 2002, 10:29:08 AM
Quote from: Paul Czege

Is there a place in the model, and in the Bridge Over the River Kwai scenario, for the notion that men pursue fame, and power because these things increase their desirability as a mate, their ability to mate more often, and to choose from a wider selection of more attractive partners? Is this notion a linkage from category 2 into category 1, or a non-factor?

Yet another Freudian heard from.

Sure, Paul, maybe you're right. But if the players never see it or operate on that assumption, why do I have to draw a map that includes a link from an old British commanding officer to every female human in the world?

Mike


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2002, 10:43:13 AM
Mike,

Your entire point, question, and claim is based on a misapplication of terms.

You are not talking about a relationship map, you are talking about a "feelings matrix." That is fine. You can make up a feelings-matrix, and use that as a basic reference during play. This is a standard RPG technique and I have no beef with it. It is not, however, a relationship map of any kind.

Imagine a scenario with plenty of relationship-map material, and look! You can have a feelings matrix too, right there alongside it. That's called "notes."

Now, imagine a scenario in which the individuals are isolated from family and sexual/romantic contact. Oh look! All you have now is the feelings-matrix.

What is so difficult about that? I am claiming that the former method has more "grab," and glory be, it does have more grab (see Christopher's examples). That means that successful stories of the second type have to be exceptional in their content in order to be good at all. Or, to put it another way, a relationship-map story is very effective even if it's kinda stupid, but a non-relationship-map story is only effective when it's very, very good.

"Kinda stupid" vs. "very good" in the above paragraph is a function of how well the conflicts are articulated, how little time is lost on irrelevant stuff, and how much "pressure" is being put on characters during key scenes - in other words, pacing, performance, and reinforcement, as well as including the non-kin issues I described above.

Again, you are not challenging any claim I've made. You're discussing the potential effectiveness of another technique entirely.

To falsify my claim, one would have to find an example of a compelling story in which the non-relationship-map concerns were prevalent over relationship-map concerns, when the latter are present and available.

For instance, in Aliens, Newt is not Ripley's actual daughter. However, their daughter-mother bond is full and valid in audience terms because no other "actual" daughter or "actual" parent is present, and indeed, Ripley learned, earlier, that her own actual daughter was dead.

If you could find a reverse of that situation, specifically one in which the "actual" bond has not been invalidated in some way (e.g. the actual daughter cannot be a psychopath or otherwise "unavailable"), then I'd be interested. I expect that you'll be looking for a long time.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Clay on February 26, 2002, 11:21:46 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

[Ah, but Clay, that is the point of this entire thread. Ron's claim is that his version of the Relationship Map is superior to others in all circumstances.


I don't recall Ron saying anywhere that Sorcerer relationship maps were superior to all other story creation tools.  The only claim I saw was that Sorcerer relationship maps were better for creating stories where the main conflict is defined in terms of a relationship with others.

Your example is not applicable here, because you're trying to tell a different kind of story.  A different kind of story requires a different kind of tool.

Truth be told, I don't really care if Ron's tool is the best.  I mostly care that it's a tool that I can use effectively. So far I've had good luck using it.  Even if I don't need a full-blown relationship map for my story, I can make use of the fact that blood/sex relationships make good story drivers.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2002, 11:39:56 AM
Mike,

Knock off the Freudian references already. Paul's point is modified-Darwinist and the two bases of theory are profoundly different. You're harming your position.

If you're being generic with "Freudian" to mean only "underlying basis for behavior," then say so. If you are using it literally, then you are making no sense.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: greyorm on February 26, 2002, 11:56:51 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

Perhaps it was from Raven that I got the idea that it was based on Freudianism.

I hope not.  I've never discussed relationship maps until now because I never understood them until now.

And as to Freud, I think the man's a quack, and I utterly dismiss anything and everything he had to say.  In fact, due this I think you misread completely what I am saying about human interactions and our primal core.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes

absolute pre-eminence has similarities to Freud's basic ideas that all motivations come back to these three

This is perhaps the source of the problem...I attempted, and apparently failed, to indicate that they are not pre-eminent -- that is, existing above and beyond all else -- but basic, existing at the root.  They may never be seen by the chronicler, or ever thought of by the chronicled, but they are nonetheless the primary influence/motivator of the rest of the personality.  Every human individual has at their motivating root their social relationships, the strongest of which are sex/blood/death or love/power/fear if you prefer.

In fact, what I attempted to say in my post is reinforced and completely compatible with Ron's circles-in-circles metaphor; there is NO disparity between them.

Quote

Now, going into the game with that idea, to take Ralph's idea I suppose that the game would be better if I somehow managed to bring the Camp Commandant's wife into the game or one of his offspring. Or his mistress. Or somehow to have the Brittish POWs have their loved ones involved.

Nope.  The relationships still exist, still influence the individuals in the story, even if they are never overtly utilized in the story.  The Camp Commandant's wife need never appear in the story for his relationship with her to have an effect upon the story.  But the Commander's wife is a red herring...

Quote

This is going to be of more importance than the ideological relationships between the characters?

They (sex/blood), in fact form the basis' for the ideological relationships.  Does the Commander love his Lieutenant?  Or is his fear of death or torture greater?  What sort of bond do the two have?
(Speaking here as one who has never seen and knows nothing about the movie...take it as a general example)


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: jburneko on February 26, 2002, 11:57:32 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Or, to put it another way, a relationship-map story is very effective even if it's kinda stupid, but a non-relationship-map story is only effective when it's very, very good.


I'd like to pop in here and add just a little anecdotal evidence to back this up.  In my own opinion my Deadlands game falls firmly in the 'Kind of Stupid' category in terms of the actual PLOT.  However, I've noticed that ever since I started using a relationship map my players are like 1000 times more forgiving of plot holes, continuity errors, and other 'kind of stupid' things that go on in the game than they ever have before.
It's like the players are too busy paying attention to the relationships to be critical of the other details.  It's a wonderful, wonderful tool.

Jesse


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 26, 2002, 12:47:00 PM
"Humans are very attentive, very confused, and very negotiatory creatures. "

Well.  Ron's got my number at least.

Christopher


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: lumpley on February 26, 2002, 02:02:51 PM
Ron,

a. I'm clueless and b. if I weren't, I'd almost certainly agree with you.

But if you happen to find yourself in a video store with a good non-mainstream selection and you don't have anything else in mind, pick up Beat Takeshi's flick Brother, as Emily Care mentioned.  I'd love to hear what you think of it.  As I recall it, we find the relationship between the lead and his brother's friend much more compelling than the relationship between the lead and his brother, and we judge the morality of the lead's actions in terms of the relationship with the friend, not the brother.  All three are present in the scene, it's not like his brother's out of the picture, and he and his brother are close, allies, not enemies.  So if there's substitution going on (like Ripley and Newt) it's subtle and very effective.

His other movies, the blood and sex relationships are definitely prime.

-Vincent


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on February 26, 2002, 02:10:44 PM
Christopher,

Ah, the perils and pitfalls of forum-based communications.  I let myself get a little emotional with "If we're playing a spy game, goddammit, they're going to want the game be about SPYING, not who's sleeping with who or who's related to who," and look at the trouble it gets me :-)  The key word there for me is "about" - the game is ABOUT spying (or more accurately, about a Premise that somehows ties in very well with spying), but can include as elements/issues/etc. . . well, whatever seems good.

Ron,

"Thanks" seems like a good place to start.  I'm continually impressed with the generousity (of their time, effort, and knowledge) that everyone here at the Forge offers, and (even just by looking at the posting stats), no one sane is going to accuse you of being ungenerous.  I am 100% certain that there is great value and usefulness in your model/post, and I'm sure I'll be mulling it over for some time.

I *think* I can focus in a bit better on some of my core questions/issues about the sex and family focus.  I'm out of time now, but . . .  I'll be back.  I see just a bit more juice here, before it's (*finally*, some folks are no doubt saying) time to move on . . .

Gordon


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 26, 2002, 02:53:47 PM
I feel that there is quite a bit of eqivocation going on here, but, hey, that's communication. I probably am just suffering from a lack of oxygen or something. We've all made our points. Isn't this the point at which you usually call the thread to a close, Ron?

Mike


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 26, 2002, 03:03:12 PM
"There is no such thing as peace, just periods of mutual exhaustion." I'm not sure where that quote is from, perhaps John Gardner's Grendel.

Somewhat more optimistically, I'm pretty sure we're all at least closer to understanding one another's views. Thanks to all, and Mike's right, this is probably the "call it" moment.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Fabrice G. on February 26, 2002, 03:21:32 PM
Hell, a lot has already been said, but this morning I decided to post about it, so here are my two cents...

First, R-map is a tool, that you should use IF it promote the kind of story you want to tell.

Second, IMO R-maps are designed to give another depth to a situation.
e.g. in Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer gets killed, whoa, big deal. This way it's just another murder case. But if her father killed her that's a lot more creepy.
e.g. #2, in Violent Cop (by Takeshi Kitano), during the last scene, the lead character kills a youg lady who's been raped a drugged to the point that she's addicted. With this situation you think "whoa, big deal !"(again :) ). But what if this woman is his young sister that he kill out of mercy ?

I think that R-map is a great tool because it allows you to look at any situation and apply effective, emotionaly strong twist to power the drama of your story.
It's not The Ultimate Tool, but an efficient one. More so if you're comited in a deep relationship kind of game, but even in a straight game, it can give it depth and an emotional dimension.

Why ?

Because, IMO relation maps are touching the player, not the characters.
It's all about Transgression.
The strenght of the R-map is about the distance/opposition between what is usually expected from a relation and what really is happening in the story.
In the Twin Peak exemple, the shock of the revelation is efficient because it opposes the father's traditional features.
-traditional: protection, love, guidance, security.
-trangressed: violence, lust, destruction, insecurity.

R-maps can act as a filter trough witch you can view any situation in a new (often more dramatical) way.
 
So yes, it's a tool to deepen the emotional commitment of your story.
Is it the best one ? Yes if what you want is damatical depth in relationship.

Well, just my two euros ;)

Fabrice.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on February 26, 2002, 06:16:15 PM
It is really, really easy to "wander" when discussing this issue, and I'll probably do so in this post.  But the core issue for me is "I want a compelling story in my game.  Is a blood/sex-based R-Map the best way to go, especially in terms of hooking the player's interest?"

(Note that the phrase "compelling story" encapsulates quite a lot - interesting Premise, engages the players, has opportunity for Drama, etc.)

Perceived answer from Ron et al:  "Yes - unless you've got a situation where the R-Map elements aren't available, and in that case, you've increased the difficulty of creating a compelling story.  Remember, even when you have a R-Map other elements are still important - look at them as "stressors" on those R-Map lines."

My claim:  "Best way?  It depends.  If blood/sex are available, it's going to be useful to have a Map of them.  For some stories, that may be almost enough in itself.  For others, you may need to "map" other elements, or use another tool - feelings matrix? - to bring out elements useful in the exploration of your Premise.  What hooks your players may be those other elements, or the R-Map - if the former occurs or seems likely to occur, you MIGHT still use the blood/sex elements to "stress" that other element."

Actually, there's not a *huge* disparity between these approaches, and so for me, these threads are in some ways a tempest in a . . . not a teacup, but hardly an ocean either (there is a disparity, and it may well be important, but I'm not sure NOW important).  And there was a lot of strength and zeal in the "blood and sex first" statements that just didn't ring true for me - so that's why I'm in these threads.

Now, a bit of wandering - first, a quote from greyorm -
Quote
Every human individual has at their motivating root their social relationships, the strongest of which are sex/blood/death or love/power/fear if you prefer

As I understand Ron's model, love/power/fear are NOT in the inner circle, and are NOT synonomous with sex/blood (or death, which is another matter entirely).  You seem to be talking about "primal emotions" in some way . . . and I agree that stories (good ones) almost can't help but invoke these.  But put love/power/fear in the inner circle . . . and I think you've changed Ron's claim fundamentally.  In a way I personally might be less likely to see problems with, but since that's NOT what we're discussing . . . I confess, I fail to see what your post demonstrates.  Uh . . . nothing personal, I'm just lost as to where you were going with your points.

And a quote from Ron -
Quote
To falsify my claim, one would have to find an example of a compelling story in which the non-relationship-map concerns were prevalent over relationship-map concerns, when the latter are present and available.

I think this does bear on the core of my issue - not that I'm really interested in "falsifying claims".

I offer Tim Powers' "Declare".  I found the relationship map concerns of familial relationship (especially the "surprise" revelation) very un-compelling, and the politico-religious conflicts FAR more interesting.  Now, I have to allow that the sex part of the map was compelling, but I'm a sucker for a love story . . .  and the "betrayal" (my god!  SHE slept with HIM!) was NOT particularly compelling.

None of which makes the slightest bit of sense if you haven't read the book - and I've already spent too much time here on a thread that's just about "closed".  Suffice it to say I have NO problem coming up with multiple examples of stories that contain both blood & sex issues and other issues, where the other issues are more compelling/interesting than the blood/sex.  Again (I'm as wearly of repeating this as the blood/sex folks are weary of repeating that other elements aren't UN important), not that the blood/sex can't heighten the other issues, but they are NOT the core, compelling element that hooks me - nor, I submit, are they what hooks a fair number of other folks.

I find Ron's circles-within-circles model FANTASTIC - but it is a model that includes many elements.  It in no way convinces me that focusing on the inner circles will do a better job of providing me material to explore my Premise and hooking my players than doing a good job with outer circle material (and including inner circle material as "stressors") would.

My fear in using blood & sex all the time as the primary focus of lines on an R-Map - and using those R-Maps in an RPG - is that I see it almost-inevitably leading to an endless chain of "not only is she a betrayer - she betrayed her OWN DAUGHTER!", "not only is he greedy, but he SLEPT HIS WAY to the top!", "how can you love her - she was MARRIED TO HITLER!" (whoops, Nazi reference - the thread really is over.  Wait let me change it - "she was married to KENNETH LAY!")

In short, eventually EVERYTHING becomes bad soap opera.  Yeah, in some ways life's like that, but in other ways it's not - most importantly, in good stories it's not.

(Falling back on the old 'net standard), Hope that's helpful,

Gordon


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: greyorm on February 26, 2002, 08:51:37 PM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

As I understand Ron's model, love/power/fear are NOT in the inner circle, and are NOT synonomous with sex/blood (or death, which is another matter entirely).

I've lost you...not a problem.  This issue seems to have lent itself to folks on different sides of the fence trying to discuss their side of the fence with the other person and becoming frustrated because the other doesn't see what they see.

The problem here is that I'm trying to use terms to explain myself instead of writing out explanations in full -- that is: love = sex; it is the same thing in my mind, the primal bond with another human being, as are the others...
I'm seeing these terms sex & blood as metaphors for a variety of relations: sibling, parent, king and advisor, child and teacher, soldier and companion, etc.

That is, social relations based around primal instincts: love, power and fear.  The ones you see very clearly in ape society.  This is sex and blood.

Further, as per the examples I gave in my own post: the soldier's wife may never appear or become overtly involved in the story, yet if we as authors/readers know that the reason he is out there fighting is because of some strain on his relationship, some love of someone, or some other primal base, we can relate and his story gains that much more power.

Imagine the soldier who has no family to go home to, no friends or companions, who doesn't form any relationships with anyone...he just goes around blowing up bad guys.  It isn't really that compelling.

Look at the movie "Predator"...some of the impact comes from the fact that Arnie never would have been in the situation if he hadn't been betrayed by his closest friend, another officer (and bonds formed between soldiers in the army are a great deal like family relationships).

Look at "Jeepers Creepers," which ends up having a whole ton of emotional impact at the end because the two protagonists are BROTHER and SISTER.

Quote

My fear in using blood & sex all the time as the primary focus of lines on an R-Map - and using those R-Maps in an RPG - is that I see it almost-inevitably leading to an endless chain of "not only is she a betrayer - she betrayed her OWN DAUGHTER!", "not only is he greedy, but he SLEPT HIS WAY to the top!", "how can you love her - she was MARRIED TO HITLER!"

In short, eventually EVERYTHING becomes bad soap opera.

Perhaps this will help: This is exactly what I've been trying to point out is not the case; these examples focus exclusively on the relationship map as the only element, and a twisted one at that, instead of the underlying element.

Ron's example of Ripley and Newt ties in here...there's no stress on the relationship between Ripley and Newt, it is set up and -- if you aren't watching for it -- goes unnoticed.  Yet that relationship, because it is based on the primal social reflexes of mankind, is very compelling.

There is nothing soap operatic about the relationship, and it does a disservice to the idea to assume that cheap television hooks are what relationship maps are all about.

Here's an example: in my current D&D game, one of the most compelling storylines is the story of the warrior-woman, because she is trying to restore her family's fortunes through her actions.  Sex and blood.  The other is that of an exiled elven man searching for a human woman whose life he saved long ago (also the reason for his exile). Sex and blood.

Neither story is overtly about sex or blood...yet these elements underlie the characters and provide impetus and weight to their actions.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on February 26, 2002, 11:31:57 PM
Raven,

I lost a rather long reply here when my login timed out, and I don't have the heart to recreate it.  Super-short (for me) version - "love = sex" is not, by my reading, part of what Ron's talking about here.  

Ripley/Newt soap-operesque?  Probably a matter of opinion.  My own varies based on mood - at times, yeah, it seems like just a cheap Hollywood manipulation to set-up the "Battle of the Mothers".

But I'm NOT saying realtionship maps are about cheap television hooks.  I like 'em, even with blood and sex, I just question why blood & sex (in their pure form, ignoring the "everything can be seen as blood and sex" perspective for the moment) would always be primary.

I think that's most of it . . .

Gordon


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: greyorm on February 27, 2002, 06:24:01 AM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

I lost a rather long reply here when my login timed out, and I don't have the heart to recreate it.  Super-short (for me) version - "love = sex" is not, by my reading, part of what Ron's talking about here.

I'm NOT saying realtionship maps are about cheap television hooks.  I like 'em, even with blood and sex, I just question why blood & sex (in their pure form, ignoring the "everything can be seen as blood and sex" perspective for the moment) would always be primary.

Short and sweet is always better, otherwise we tend to get lost in the details of our own arguments.

First, there are two distinct subjects being talked about now, I'll get to both of them:

Simply, I'm not talking about sex and love being equal, that is sex automatically leads to love, or vice versa, but rather the relationship aspect of "sex."  "Sex" as a metaphor for certain primal relationships, such as that between lovers or parents and children or brothers-in-arms.

Blood I also see as a metaphor for various relationships, such as those based on violence (frex, person X killed person Y...now there's a blood relationship between the killer and person Y's sister), or power-over (via threats or violence, etc).

The above is a little different from Ron's exact statements, so to address the "must always be primary" bit...well, they are. This is the other subject:

I keep repeating this point, but I guess so far no one has grasped it: they aren't PRIMARY, as in overt, obvious, central-to-the-plot...they're primary in that these relationships define character, choices and events.  That is, they are at the root of a personality...so even if something isn't directly about blood/sex, blood/sex is underneath it all driving the personality of the individual.

As I said in my last post, the stuff that grabs the audience is usually the primal social relationships of a person, which we as authors are privy to during a game. Even if the whole game is about something else, knowing those personal details, that those relationships exist, make the character more real, make them matter more.

Imagine the scene in "Speed" where the first bus is blown up with only the driver aboard -- right before that, the audience learns the driver is married (in chit-chat between friends); when the bus blows and he dies, it hurts more because the character had a primal relationship (even though it wasn't part of the direct story).

Anyways, enough said...if I haven't been clear enough yet for others to grasp, chances are that I won't be.

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

Ripley/Newt soap-operesque?  Probably a matter of opinion.  My own varies based on mood - at times, yeah, it seems like just a cheap Hollywood manipulation to set-up the "Battle of the Mothers".

You know, honestly, until it was brought up in this forum, I never even thought about it that way, not even remotely; never saw the Newt-as-surrogate-daughter thing either.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: contracycle on February 27, 2002, 07:56:33 AM
Quote from: greyorm

Why?  Because we're flesh-meat-animals, plain and simple, and flesh-meat-animals are all about sex, blood and death.


Thats the reductionism I dislike.

Quote

However, I'm betting that if you remove all the ideological frosting from the cake, you end up with a lot of very basic, primal motivations cleverly disguised by human intellect as being about something else.


I could not possibly disagree more.  IMO the 30 years war is effectively the precursor of the British Empire, albeit it would take us way OT to explain.  The landscape of Europe was altered; Empires broken, churches challenged.  To subordinate all this to mere animal reflex?  I don't buy it.

Quote

Of course, your example also misses the point, which not that ideological motivators do not exist or do not influence humans, but that they do so on top of a web of sex/blood/death.


Actually, I think they abstractions of sex/blood.

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In short, no one fights because they believe in something...they fight for something because it


Again, I totally disagree.  In fact, I think most people (soldiers) fight becuase they are so indocrinated.  Murder is a learned behaviour.

Quote

Let us make an example: Thomas, the inventor, stays at his lab all night most days during the week, neglecting his son and wife for his inventions, which he loves and adores.

What's really going on?


(Start Politics)
Thomas is in the rare condition of being an artisan producer.  Thus, his work is one of the few aspects of society from which he is not alienated.  By contrast, the capitalist nuclear family model is entirely artifical and thoroughly alienating - human beings are "tribal" creatures.  Thus, Thomas is less alienated by his work than he is by his own family, and spends time at the most rewarding activity he has available by preference.

Quote

Another example: a young man goes off to war, to fight for his country.  Why?  Because he loves his country...actually, he's trying to escape from his parents, get away from home and strike out on his own to prove himself as an adult.


Again, the nuclear family is an artificial device for the regulation of consumer behaviour - the privatisation of childrearing, if you will.  Furthermore, capitalist society obliges its youthful members to undergo and indoctrinating process euphemistically described as "getting an education"; this process serves to subordinate individual ideals to the collective identity.  Traditions like swearing allegiance to a flag are absolute give-aways of this agenda.  Thus, the young lad is IMO a victim; unable to relate to his family at least in part, unable to conceive of positive action beyond the established social bounds, he feels the need to be active - life is action - but has few appropriate outlets.  The army - Be All You Can Be(tm) - plays upon this alienation and frustration.

(End Politics)


Quote

Thus any example that might be referenced fails to support the contention that sex/blood/death are not primary fails to take into account that at the base of everyone's life exist these very primal, instinctual motivators, regardless of the events which are recorded for posterity.


Correct - these are at the base.  But we do not live at the base; we are NOT merely our inherited mammal brains.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 27, 2002, 08:03:47 AM
Hi everyone,

Raven's post above has stated the "primacy" issue very nicely.

One thing about this and previous threads that has made me uncomfortable is that I am not certain that Gordon, in particular, has received confirmation that his concerns are being heard. I will be first to state that (a) his concerns are valid and (b) they deserve respect as such. My extensive replies have not been presented as a crushing weight of dogma to squelch the questions, but as my best attempts (in this medium) to deal with his legitimate inquiry.

Gordon has raised two issues that need clarifying - note, not answering, just clarifying in terms of issues and argument.

1) My first post in this thread about internal vs. external should be reviewed - we are not, and cannot, be discussing things which may be answered by "How I look at it" or "How that made me feel." The concern is efficacy of scenario design in Narrativist role-playing. We are talking about effects and reactions of people across groups - e.g. a bunch of role-players, a movie audience, a collective readership across centuries, or anything like that.

Therefore Gordon's concern about "[name of movie] compels me more than [name of other movie]" is of interest, but it is not a falsifier - we cannot be discussing stories in terms of individual reactions, but in terms of generalized reactions. Or, if I'm mistaken about this, then the entire discussion has gone awry, because it could only have resulted in a single post, "Oh, that's interesting" and be done.

(To some extent, I generated the problem by describing a potential falsifier, and I surmise that a Forge member or two is going to scour the Earth until he finds a bundle of them in order to say "Naaaah!" Unfortunately for them, that falsifier potentially exists, but evidence of its existence is going to have to override the considerable evidence for my claim. Contrary to popular belief, "a single falsifier" is actually not enough.)

2) Gordon legitimately asked the foundational question: "Well, then ... why?" I have taken this to private discussion as I do not consider it suited for a public forum. Frankly, the answer is technical, disturbing, and potentially misleading given certain common misconceptions. The question at hand for this discussion was not why, but what, and I think it's been addressed.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: contracycle on February 27, 2002, 08:24:55 AM
Quote from: greyorm

This is perhaps the source of the problem...I attempted, and apparently failed, to indicate that they are not pre-eminent -- that is, existing above and beyond all else -- but basic, existing at the root.  They may never be seen by the chronicler, or ever thought of by the chronicled, but they are nonetheless the primary influence/motivator of the rest of the personality.  Every human individual has at their motivating root their social relationships, the strongest of which are sex/blood/death or love/power/fear if you prefer.


I can buy that.  HOWEVER it is exactly the case that ideology is the layer that exists above; it is an abstraction of the personal feelings of blood/sex and their application to general classes of behaviour, to other people, to people you never have and never will meet.  And as a result of such ideologies, people alter, sever or reconstruct their relationships - as the feminist dictum has it, the personal IS the political.

Thus I would suggest that if we wish to relate to characters, to tell stories which are grabby, we should not a priori shift off screen these complexities; we should not, as I see it, insist on portraying simple emotions over complex ones.  Peoples relationships to such social bodies that act as vehicles for their ideologies are extremely important to them - defaulting to the 30 years war again, is an individuals conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism, frex, of such abstraction that it cannot operate as the basis of a story?  I see no reason that I should assume that this individuals biological relationships are sufficiently powerful to be greater drivers of their behaviour than this conversion; if that we true, we would never have monks.


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 27, 2002, 08:55:02 AM
Well stated, Gareth. I should like to point out that all of my material in this thread is referring to most common and widespread behaviors, not to what Joe Bob is going to do this very next minute.

All discussion so far as been at the level that I might present to college freshmen in a "let's talk about film" course (in fact, I do teach such a course). To address the concerns you're raising, we'd have to rack it up to a level worthy of college senior or beginning-grad level discussion. We could spend an entire semester examining the facilitative, cyclical effect of ideologies as products of these behaviors (e.g. social-alliance level), self-reinforcers of these behaviors, and ultimately (in many cases) self-destructive entities regarding these behaviors. Participants would have to develop an understanding of "selection" that applies to any transmissible entity/phenomenon, that does or does not apply under various conditions, and that can contribute to extinction as well as to perpetuation of the group in question. (This understanding is rarely achieved in college education, rendering the class I am describing almost impossible to conduct; I have seen it occur only with flickering, variable levels of success.)

To rack it up to a level one might find among professionals, this discussion enters zones in which hardened biologists, philosophers, and sociologists often founder. It remains one of the most trenchant, terrifying issues in the most cutting-edge and integrative overlaps among fields today.

Best,
Ron


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Blake Hutchins on February 27, 2002, 10:03:53 AM
Now you have me quite interested indeed, Ron.  The smoke is coming out of my ears after parsing that post, but yes, I think I follow you and what I think I understand has me wanting to learn more.

My quick two cents -- not responding directly to Ron's point, but to the gist of the rest of the thread -- is that I see a distinction between the discussion of R-map components and a discussion of foundational story elements.  The primal plot movers sex and murder (and perhaps mystery) are distinct from the R-map bonds of sex and blood-ties, in my opinion.  I'm not sure, but I think some of the back-and-forth has resulted from people confusing the plot movers for the relationships.  Note that the sex-murder-mystery (or sex-murder) plot list is only the most condensed version of the how-many-plots-are-there theory.  One may start with plot movers and add the relationship structure, or one may begin with the relationships and inject the plot movers, but they are two different birds.

Best,

Blake


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: AndyGuest on February 27, 2002, 10:15:46 AM
Quote
First, I don't think that this situation is one where the relationship map is a good tool to use.


*G* Doesn't this back up the point though ? A relationship map is useful where family/sex relationships are important. Where, for example, honour is the driving factor maybe we should have an honour map ?


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on February 27, 2002, 02:20:40 PM
Quote from: AndyGuest
A relationship map is useful where family/sex relationships are important. Where, for example, honour is the driving factor maybe we should have an honour map ?

Yet another (final?) attempt to get at the "heart" of the issue . . . first, I want to reinforce Ron's emphasis that what we're talking about is effective ways to prepare Nar RPG scenarios.  I also want to add a corallary to his "what we're talking about is reactions across groups" - for a particular group, in a particular instance, the reaction may be distinct from that of the general group, and those particulars may have a logic and predictability of their own.  In other words, we may be able to determine situations where blood/sex R-Maps are NOT the best answer - not in a way that "falsifies" (which I have no interest in) that they are GENERALLY the best answer, but merely as "other cases" that particular groups/stories may find useful.  I'm intriguied by the notion that, since a mature Nar RPG group actively chooses to collabaritively engage a known Premise, the "rules" of Story change . . . but probably not.

Anyway, three answers to the quoted inquiry - the first based on my understanding of Ron's approach:

"No, if you want to explore a Premise involving honor, create a blood/sex R-Map and hang some "honor hooks" off it.  That's what'll engage folks and produce a good story.  This does not mean that the other issues ("honour hooks" in the example, ideology/complexity in Gareth's post) are unimportant - within the given story, they may even be predominant - but FOR THE GENERAL CASE OF MOST PEOPLE, they will have power and grabbiness because of their tie to the R-Map blood/sex relationships."

Now, what I'll call the "River Kwai" approach:

"Yes, build an Honor Map - by stripping away the blood/sex, you 'purify' the honor-exploration of your story.  The participants will be hooked directly into the issues you're interested in.  By not including blood/sex, you give the issues around Honor the equivalent *strength* of blood/sex, as (by various ways of thinking) they effectively serve as stand-ins for blood/sex  Note that EVERYONE better be interested in Honor, as you've left behind the core, interesting-to-just-about-everyone issues."

And, finally, what I'd instinctively say:

"Sure, build an Honor Map - but don't forget about the power of blood/sex.  Blood/sex can be a really effective 'stressor' on the links in your honor map.  The particulars of the charcaters in your group, the Explorative elements (Color, Situation, and etc.) in play, and your own history/predjudices will determine how much you should utilize the blood/sex element."

Note that if you take this last approach, and decide you want to "pump up" the blood/sex, you may have a functional equivalent to the first approach.  And that if you take the first approach, but really leave the blood/sex just lying in the background and emphasize the "honor hooks" (or end up interacting with non-blood/sex-tied individuals), you may have the functional equivalent of the final approach.  And that both the first and final can look at the "River Kwai" approach as an interesting edge case that doesn't invalidate their general thrust.

So . . . how do you pick an approach?  If you want to "get it right", you can look at the "why" question (which I confess I find fascinating, just in terms of understanding the bio-social-psychological underpinnings of it all) to determine which is the "overall best" approach.  Or you can look at your group and make some guesses about what will work in your particular situation.  Or make a saving throw vs. giving-a-shit and just play . . .  

Deep breath . . . I can imagine replying if folks are confused or fundamentally object to something here, but other than that, I think I'm done.  Thanks to all - as I mentioned somewhere, I've now commited to GMing on a regular basis (start date 16 days and counting), so this stuff IS directly relevant for me.  Lots of good stuff in here, no matter how awkward/contentious it gets at times,

Gordon


Title: Relationship map issues
Post by: greyorm on February 28, 2002, 09:14:05 AM
Quote from: Blake Hutchins

some of the back-and-forth has resulted from people confusing the plot movers for the relationships

I was going to say this exactly to Gareth, but then Blake nailed it.

Succinctly, I agree with you wholeheartedly, Gareth, and never was it my intention to imply or state that the ideological abstraction could not or should not be utilized as the basis for a story.

These are two seperate issues: stories and  relationship maps, and I believe there has been some confusion of the two issues into one.
Rather, the abstraction (ideology or the premise) still exists on top of the primal web (the Relationship map)...the R-map does not tell the story, it is simply an element of it, and by exploring the premise (such as the conversion from Catholicism to Protestanism) one does exactly what you say: one alters, severs and reconstructs the map.

Additionally, I see your two examples from the post above -- the politics -- as easily, in fact BEST done with R-mapping!  I note that the main examples were all about alienation and community as they are affected by the current Western political/social structure.
What else would one use an R-map for if not these very things?  So I think it is that we agree with one another on the issue, but have been misunderstanding one another to an extent until now.