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Author Topic: Relationship map issues  (Read 16821 times)
greyorm
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« Reply #30 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.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #31 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
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greyorm
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« Reply #32 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.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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contracycle
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« Reply #33 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.

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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.

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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.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 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
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contracycle
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« Reply #35 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.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #36 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
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #37 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
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AndyGuest
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« Reply #38 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 ?
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #39 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
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greyorm
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« Reply #40 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.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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