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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 77 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: The Invisible Rules of Role-Playing  (Read 17244 times)
John Kim
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2005, 08:22:09 PM »


The important thing in my mind for a formal definition of role-playing is about where it draws the lines, and what that emphasizes.  For example, some people will define role-playing to exclude things like Tunnels and Trolls solo adventures, and/or computer-moderated solo dungeons.  This de-emphasizes role-playing games which are similar to those (i.e. mechanics-heavy dungeon crawls, say).  I think it's best to get these biases out in the open, though. 

I have an old page on Borderline RPG Cases, and I'd be curious where it stands on these.  It seems to me that condition #3 is roughly equivalent to my own definition of "role-playing game" (where #1 and #2 are implicit in the understanding of "game").   My definition is this: Hypothetically, a person watching the game looks over your shoulder and suggests a move, and your reply is "No, my character wouldn't do that."  If this happens, or is capable of happening, then at some level you are playing a role-playing game.   Now, in Markus' definition, a "personified character construct" could imply that at least some actions are taken on the basis of that understood personality.  If so, I think my definition and #3 are roughly equivalent. 

By comparison, though, there are a number of people on the Forge who don't define RPGs as requiring identification with a player-character.  i.e. So games like Once Upon a Time are still RPGs.  Again, this is a matter of emphasis, which avoids marginalizing games like Universalis which sometimes have limited character identification.  I hope it

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- John
JasonPalenske
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Lost in the Gameverse


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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2005, 08:39:47 PM »

Ron is going to kill me here, but one an alternate analysis for this as a role playing game is  that regardless of Killcrazy's intentions, actual play has generated a thematic question... "What is the price of fair play and decency?"   The question will probably be answered in this scenario as "death with honor."   None of this has been addressed mechanically and one of the players isn't addressing the concept at all, but the interactions between the players and the system as whole has created a (very limited) role playing game regardless.

Another analysis is that it isn't actually a role playing game because the power to define and redefine the game world is NOT allocated to participants of the game.

Actually I would say the power is there. Thespian, or John Bull, took that power in the fact he decided to play fair and honorably, therefore at least changing the game world for himself and for Killcrazy even though he may not realize it. He could also decide to change the world again and decide the only way for him to be able to win is to use Killcrazy's tactics against him.

Sometimes I think mental tactics are roleplay of the highest order.
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Montola
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Posts: 36


« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2005, 05:26:34 AM »

Thanks for the huge number of comments. Let me address some points under debate.

Quote from: Joshua
This is a relatively minor nitpick, but you're assuming that player-characters (or equivalents) are a necessary element of roleplaying?  Your definition here does not assume one PC per player (so Troupe Play is still in), and does not assume that there must be a GM (so GMless play is still in) -- am I reading this right?  I suppose it's not really "roleplaying" if there is no role to play, but there's something about this that strikes me as problematic.

I agree with Mark Johnson's reply to this; if you lack characters, you have essentially a story-telling game. However, I'm extremely liberal with characters; I'm happy as there is a total of at least one "character" in the game. Character can be anything with a personality; of course these personalities are always anthropomorphic in a sense -- you can play a stone or a teapot if you wish, but then you end up creating an anthropomorphic personality for that teapot.

Quote from: Chris
Now your definition does work for role play games and wargames as well (since they are just a short jump from D+D) but as the Hadith says "Actions are judged by intentions." I don't think we can accidentally role play.

This really is a philosophical question which leads you to various paradigmatic alternatives, and really not worth drawing much blood : Many definitions are crafted based on intentionality and awareness, while many are not. And mine is not.

The tea party with dolls is usually excluded by the demands of power structure and actions being based on the current state of the game world. I claim that role-playing is one formal way of playing (playing as in child's play), and the tea party often is not sufficiently formal. If it is, voilá, your kid just reinvented the wheel. And I do believe that this wheel has been reinvented a million times.


As Elliot mentioned, the power structure issues and the nature of the game world I have given some hammering in my earlier papers; especially Role-Playing as Interactive Construction of Subjective Diegeses, A Semiotic View on Diegesis Construction and perhaps also Designing Goals for Online Role-Players.. You can find all of them from my publications-page if you are interested.


In a private email I was asked whether the full paper of The Invisible Rules of Role-Playing is going to appear in an electric format later on. The answer is unfortunately: Probably not, not soon at least. However, it'll be in the book by Aldred & Neuenschwander, which I believe will be a must read for all theorists anyway.


Thanks for the discussion so far!

 - Markus
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2005, 11:23:24 AM »

Good discussion.
Quote
of course these personalities are always anthropomorphic in a sense -- you can play a stone or a teapot if you wish, but then you end up creating an anthropomorphic personality for that teapot.
Hmm. What if you play an animal, and play it like an animal? That is, you have the lion chase gazelle, and lounge around in the hot sun? OK, I can't claim to have seen this, but I have seen players attempt to play aliens as other than human analogues.

So do characters neccessarily have to be human or anthropomorphized? Or can one play any role? Perhaps playing an entire business, never dealing with the acts of the individual that runs it, but only with the business as it's own entity? How about armies?

If the answer is that you have to play a human-ish personality, then if I play an alien, what do you call that?


John, the only argument by which Universalis is an RPG is that players are expected to act the role of characters on occasion. Rather that there's provision for such for when it will likely (though not absolutely certainly) happen in play. In any case, Markus is only defining the act of role-playing here, and not Role-playing Games, so the best we can say with respect to this definition and Universalis is that sometimes people playing Universalis perform role-playing. On the other hand, that's all you can say about any game.

That is, I think everyone here is thinking that if X = Role-playing, and Game X includes Role-playing, then it's automatically a Role-playing Game. Markus is that your intent? Or are you not implying anything of the sort? I think that we're jumping the gun on making that association. By this sort of logic, the old-schoolers who say that a RPG like Over the Edge is not a RPG, because it in no way fits the definition of "game." So we'd be forced to term it "Role-playing Diegesis" or some such to replace the missing term. Rather, the definition of RPG is at this point a traditional one, and not based on the definitions of role-playing, nor of game.

As my carpenter would say, "They are what they are."

Mike
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ewilen
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« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2005, 03:42:52 PM »

I think the essence of what Markus is trying to convey through "anthropomorphize" is not that one thinks of a thing as literally human, but that one views it as something capable of thought or feeling. In logic this sort of thinking is called the "pathetic fallacy", although I wouldn't see it as fallacious in the case of animals (many of them), let alone hypothetical space aliens.

Another way of phrasing this would be that the universe of "things" contains a subgroup of things that one can imagine what it is to be like. Within the context of roleplaying, we often allow ourselves to enlarge this subgroup. I don't ordinarily find it worthwhile to imagine what's it's like to be an electron, but if I do, then an electron could be a personality for the sake of roleplaying.
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
Montola
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« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2005, 10:32:19 PM »

The idea is that because we are human, our brain works like human brain. And human brain can't simulate a lion, only emulate -- i.e. it can act credibly, but it can't be the same. Hence, all characters are by necessity mentally anthropomorphic.

The reason why I emphasize this is probably that I come from a pretty immersionist culture [no, all Nordics are not immersionists, but the people I play with usually immerse more or less], and in some point immersionism was criticized of the fact that it is actually impossible to immerse into a 2000-year old vampire character (for instance), since we have no possibility to understand how one of those would think. But this anthropomorphization applies on other playing styles as well, I believe.

Electron is a good example. You could role-play an anthropomorphic electron if you wanted.

The only thing I'm still considering here is the fact that some of my friends said a couple of years ago that they "role-played VGA-Planets", by playing entire nations (like ambassadors, parliaments and everything, so that every player played one nation 100% and sent messages to other players according to what was happening in that nation). I'm not sure if they really role-played, if these nations constituted characters -- they didn't have personalities I think, or they may have had 50 billion personalities each -- and hence I'm wondering if they were anthropomorphic whatevers or not.

(But hey, every definition needs borderline cases).

Quote
That is, I think everyone here is thinking that if X = Role-playing, and Game X includes Role-playing, then it's automatically a Role-playing Game. Markus is that your intent? Or are you not implying anything of the sort? I think that we're jumping the gun on making that association. By this sort of logic, the old-schoolers who say that a RPG like Over the Edge is not a RPG, because it in no way fits the definition of "game." So we'd be forced to term it "Role-playing Diegesis" or some such to replace the missing term. Rather, the definition of RPG is at this point a traditional one, and not based on the definitions of role-playing, nor of game.

The concept of role-playing game is entirely secondary to my work. I don't care what that thing is, I find role-playing the interesting thing. It can be fostered by Monopoly the board game (without breaking much of the rules); it was actually done some ten years ago in Finnish Ropecon.

So I'm not saying that any game ruleset enabling role-playing is a role-playing game; actually I'm saying that you can scrap the rulesets and it's still role-playing. Like games can be played with very light and impromptu rule systems, and like games can be applied without exactly playing them (dance around in Pacman in fancy patterns), role-playing can be done with very light and impromptu rule systems and role-playing games can be used without role-playing.

 - Markus
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #21 on: October 26, 2005, 09:43:49 AM »

Thanks for the clarifications.

Can you play a non-anthropomorphized electron? Really two questions - if I'm playing an electron are you saying that I must be anthropomorphizing it? Or is there some level at which I'm only emulating it? For an easier example, if I said I was playing a rock, and said that the rock just continued to stay at rest for the remainder of the game, have I played the role of the rock? Or am I just describing an inanimate object and the effects of inertia? What if I narrate it cracking due to the stress on it's bonds of changes in temerature and water seepage?

So are you saying that one cannot "play" certain things? Or that in playing something that we anthropomorphize it? If the latter, it seems that anything can be a role.

Mike
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Montola
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« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2005, 10:04:37 AM »

Mike,

the way of playing under the study, role-playing requires characters to have such personalities, that those personalities are by necessary always anthropomorphic.

(Within my conceptual and theoretical framework)

Best,

 - Markus
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ewilen
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« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2005, 10:17:40 AM »

So I'm not saying that any game ruleset enabling role-playing is a role-playing game; actually I'm saying that you can scrap the rulesets and it's still role-playing.

In that case I'm wondering about the second of your three criteria. If role-playing occurs outside of a "game" do the participants necessarily "recognize the existence of a power hierarchy"?

I do think there's something important there, in the sense that "to roleplay" one must allow oneself to be subject to some externalized authority, or be implicated in some structure, which constrains one's contributions to the process. Perhaps "recognize" is too strong a word?
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
Montola
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Posts: 36


« Reply #24 on: October 26, 2005, 11:52:36 PM »

Quote
In that case I'm wondering about the second of your three criteria. If role-playing occurs outside of a "game" do the participants necessarily "recognize the existence of a power hierarchy"?

I do think there's something important there, in the sense that "to roleplay" one must allow oneself to be subject to some externalized authority, or be implicated in some structure, which constrains one's contributions to the process. Perhaps "recognize" is too strong a word?

I've been thinking this as well, and it's a question of where exactly to draw the line. My choice is somewhat arbitrary, as is yours I think.

Recognize was the weakest word I found. :-)

 - Markus
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ewilen
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« Reply #25 on: October 27, 2005, 01:36:54 PM »

Maybe the active voice is the problem? I'm partial to my "constrained by/implicated in" language, though I'm sure the body of your text will clarify your intent in any case. :)
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
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