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Author Topic: principled play Vs. lawful play and the "players contract"  (Read 11462 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #30 on: August 14, 2009, 04:44:28 PM »

I'm not familiar with the rules of werewolf myself, but in terms of that what I'd be looking for now in the games procedure is the ability for someone/rest of the group to prompt play onto the next stage of the procedure. And thus move on from any crap declarations (and effectively this is the designer removing abusive stuff, by providing the rest of the players a broom, so to speak). As opposed to common RPG design, which does not offer any way of just getting onto the next procedure if someone's declaring crap. If it's 'design' to get past crap in that situation, I'm curious about whether werewolfs rules actually require such 'design' or just a prompt to get on with the next step of the procedure.

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If it's the latter I wouldn't get too worked up about it, but if the former, whoo, we seriously need to get to the bottom of that! How do you think those people see those things that they find them them acceptable to support?
Power games, yes, but stealing the credit for ideas I think is something you brought up, JW.

A recent example that seems to be pretty standard came up on RPG.net (Where I'm under the handle 'Noon'). Here's what someone said
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If you come to my game expecting us to rigidly follow every rule no matter the context or feel of the moment, I would tell you to lighten up or find a different group. There's no room for rules-lawyers at my table.
Also apparently he didn't have to tell anyone this in advance if 'enough' GM's do things this way.

I'll highlight the priorities there - if someone threatens the context and especially 'feel', they get ejected. This 'feel' comes before people. People are there for the benefit of the 'feel', rather than than the feel being there for the benefit of the people.

I don't know what makes them think it's justified, except perhaps as a quasi-religion. Particularly with the 'if enough people/GMs do this, then that's how we can treat people', it seems.

The same sort of behaviour gets a significant reference in the nar essay
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Rarely, another person participates and (horrors!) actually overtly moves the planchette, or discusses how it's being moved. That person is instantly ejected, with cries of "powergamer!" and "pushy bastard!"

And remember, charitably I've said it's possibly power games because they think you can't have the baby without the sleazy/power games water. As if you can't throw one out without throwing it all out. I didn't just call it power games - you shortened it to that. It's possible this discussion is a power game - which I would reject completely if I knew for sure - I'm definately not interested in playing such a thing. My continuing participation would not be out of assent to such a power game, but out of ignorance to the reality of the situation (heh, which reminds me of the smelly chamberlain threads on anyway...but that's another story).
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #31 on: August 15, 2009, 03:25:20 PM »

Power games, yes, but stealing the credit for ideas I think is something you brought up, JW.

Yep, I wondered which bit of "the bathwater" you were referring to. I'm pushing hard for common definitions just so we can communicate faster, by using your own terms, and rephrasing stuff etc, hopefully we will root out misunderstandings quicker. In this way I hope we will be able discuss something successfully here that some people have skirted around for years.

A recent example that seems to be pretty standard came up on RPG.net (Where I'm under the handle 'Noon'). Here's what someone said
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If you come to my game expecting us to rigidly follow every rule no matter the context or feel of the moment, I would tell you to lighten up or find a different group. There's no room for rules-lawyers at my table.
Also apparently he didn't have to tell anyone this in advance if 'enough' GM's do things this way.

I'll highlight the priorities there - if someone threatens the context and especially 'feel', they get ejected. This 'feel' comes before people. People are there for the benefit of the 'feel', rather than than the feel being there for the benefit of the people.

Awesome, now we're getting somewhere!

Imagine instead people were thinking "Someone threatens the rules and they get ejected, the rules come before people."

See? Your doing exploration of rules, they are doing exploration of colour. That's the real thing they are after, and rules are a means to an end. Someone who tries to elevate the rules above that end gets ejected. As far as I see it, in that example they are not after power games but the dream, the feel.

To make you both happy, they should play by a different rules system that fulfils the feel and story dynamics they are after, so the two of you can engage with the same stuff in your own ways. They are getting into colour, setting and situation, etc, and your getting into system. As I tried to say in my first big post:
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if this is not a game about manipulating rules structures for competitive advantage, if this is not a game about political "setting the agenda" via social means....what is it about?

Rules lawyer is a term often used inappropriately because people do not understand what the other person wants from the game. There is an equivalent term you might want to use for where someone uses "the dream" as an excuse for abuse. Maybe "dream lawyer"? Smiley In the same way as with rules lawyer, the term hides those who are just trying to explore something, a setting and style of play, based on the fiction in the book and possibly it's reading list, which they thought everyone had agreed to. The game "A-state" was designed setting and reward cycle first, with the actual resolution rules as an afterthought! I don't have the game with me, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they encourage a lot of rules shifting to produce the tone it is designed for.

I suspect games like Fate are starting to encourage "right to dream" play to come together in a way that is not participationism, either in the GM's world and story or (if I stretch the term) the designer's. The difference is that we are not living one persons dream, and participating in it, but trying to weave multiple dreams together. Careful and clever GMs have done this for years, but there have been few rules structures associated with it.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #32 on: August 15, 2009, 06:35:23 PM »

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Imagine instead people were thinking "Someone threatens the rules and they get ejected, the rules come before people."

See? Your doing exploration of rules, they are doing exploration of colour.
No, the rules are there to protect people. You may as well try and say the laws against stealing come before people, because people are put in jail if they break that law. No, the laws are there to protect people (specifically protecting people who live in a certain way/who don't steal). People come first.

The examples I gave show where people do not come first. It's where the 'feel' comes first and people are ejected to protect the 'feel', not to protect other people. That's why I describe it as quasi-religious.

Tyler, in terms of this, it's interesting to note that if people are willing to derogitorily name someone and/or eject them if they threaten 'the feel', clearly any documented agreement that's there to protect people will also be thrown out - as that's just not a priority.
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Tyler.Tinsley
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« Reply #33 on: August 16, 2009, 09:02:15 AM »

Tyler, in terms of this, it's interesting to note that if people are willing to derogitorily name someone and/or eject them if they threaten 'the feel', clearly any documented agreement that's there to protect people will also be thrown out - as that's just not a priority.

If people value a game more then their friends there is little i can do to help them

I value people more then any specific game experience, usually if the "wrong" people show up for the intended game I switch to a more suitable game or lower my expectations.

I think stating a game's principles up front will make sure people are agreeing to play a game they can deal with.

As for power gaming, it's just a case of miss matched principles. Some games require players to make beneficial choices in an effort to provide the best possible challenge for the other players. If that kind of play is undesirable then it's best to make sure anything that would allow, inspire or reward that player action is not in the game.

rules lawyering is a possible symptom of a few thing's
A player is being competitive
A player is being idealistic
The rules are actually unclear

given the difficulty of writing law that is both easy to understand AND definitive, unclear rules will happen but it's the game designers job to do it and the better you do the more often your game will work.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #34 on: August 16, 2009, 09:29:27 AM »

No, the rules are there to protect people. You may as well try and say the laws against stealing come before people, because people are put in jail if they break that law. No, the laws are there to protect people (specifically protecting people who live in a certain way/who don't steal). People come first.

Really? I'm a little surprised you equate the rules of a game and general law. Now maybe that's hyperbole, but surely rules can exist that are not there to protect people, that are just made up to be officious? Or even just fun! Say I make up a rule for an rpg that, for example, you have to complete a sudoku before saying anything. That's just be pulling a bad example from the air to stand in for the hoops that you often have to go through in games. That rule, by definition is not necessary to protect people, because you can just add it to any existing game.

So surely you don't need to follow all the rules to protect people!?

So what am I trying to say here? Sometimes, people will play a game with rules, not because they need protecting from each other, but because they just enjoy the rules. Sometimes they will follow different kinds of "rules", more nebulous and more defined by hard-to-state aesthetic considerations, which also come with a set of more classical rules, that are supposed to help you match that specification.

In that situation that is not "life or death", some people will get pissed off that you are not playing by what they think is important, and say that they would rather not play with you.

Would I? Well it would depend; I play lots of different games with different groups of my friends, and sometimes I might suggest that a game is going very well for a few players and not for others, and we should split off those people who really want to play it, and the other people can do something totally different. This is a more polite and friendly version of the same thing.

rules lawyering is a possible symptom of a few thing's
A player is being competitive
A player is being idealistic
The rules are actually unclear

I'm interested in that second one, what do you mean by idealistic?
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Tyler.Tinsley
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« Reply #35 on: August 16, 2009, 09:57:55 AM »

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Callan S.
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« Reply #36 on: August 16, 2009, 04:22:27 PM »

Really? I'm a little surprised you equate the rules of a game and general law. Now maybe that's hyperbole, but surely rules can exist that are not there to protect people, that are just made up to be officious? Or even just fun!
Not by, atleast, my use of the word 'rule'. In some countries they call it marriage when 12 year olds are 'married' - I don't call that marriage and I wouldn't call these rules. In every other human activity like sport or boardgames, rules are there to protect first.
"Ah, but roleplay is different!"
If your tempted to say that, were getting back to quasi religion where you apparently don't have to tell people in advance what you mean by rules, if enough GM's do it that way (just like the example guy I gave above). Though if your tempted to say "Ah, but roleplay is different and I would write that in the blurb and in the forward or somewhere else as well!" okays then - that gives people fair warning and if they want to adopt your definition when playing, they've been given the opportunity to decide if they want to do so, so that's still protecting people first.
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Say I make up a rule for an rpg that, for example, you have to complete a sudoku before saying anything. That's just be pulling a bad example from the air to stand in for the hoops that you often have to go through in games. That rule, by definition is not necessary to protect people, because you can just add it to any existing game.

So surely you don't need to follow all the rules to protect people!?
Your example lacks a certain amount of theory of mind. I'm on the inside track with you here on the forum because your defining your use of the word 'rule' to include this. How the heck would I know in real life, unless your there to tell me or write it in the text? If you don't do either of these things I will assume these words are there to protect/are 'rules' as I use the word 'rule'. Your thinking that if you know something, someone else will as well and in doing so, your making an inadvertant con job/bait and switch.

Just to lighten that up, I heard an anecdote from someone where they came from overseas, where jetlagged, with their baggage around them, and a massive five o'clock shadow. He was waiting outside a bank for it to open up early in the morning (his plane had come in way early). Someone gave him a $20, because he looked like a homeless person. He tried to give it back, but the guy who gave it to him refused and walked on.

This was an inadvertant con/bait and switch. Trying to give that example so as not to be a jabbing moral finger, but still calling it a con job and a bait and switch none the less. (actually since he tried to give it back, it reduces the con aspect, but go with me on this)
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Philosopher Gamer
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #37 on: August 17, 2009, 03:20:20 PM »

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Callan S.
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« Reply #38 on: August 17, 2009, 10:04:27 PM »

Given a gamist objective, yes, even the rules in solitare are protecting other people - you follow the rules so you know when you say to someone that you beat it, your not giving them the wrong impression. Outside of a gamist objective, I have no idea - the idea leaves me cold and empty.

You keep refering to rules just being for fun. The first priority, atleast in how I'm using the word 'rule', is protection - they can have a second priority (and a third, and so on), but it's a screw up in design if the first priority isn't met first. If someones just writing 'rules' 'for fun' then they are just screwing around with someone who plays with protection first in mind. It doesn't matter how much it's explained in this thread, it's screwing with them unless the document says, upfront, the 'rule' texts have been written with 'for fun' as the only priority. I'm pretty certain the massive board/card game market runs off protection first design. No, not fun first. That's not contradictory - the protection, by protecting people, protects what fun is generated. Fun cannot protect fun because it's just fun. It's not protection - fun doesn't mystically provide protection as well (except on the monkeys out of my butt principle). One type of fun often kills another type of fun - that's why so many roleplayers wrestle with GNS, because they thought they could 'do anything' in an RPG and there would be no conflict.

Mid play, it's not a question of whether they are good rules. If that's the only question that comes to mind, your disruptive to anyone who has protection as first priority. Hell, I'd say your disruptive to yourself, if you take it fun cannot provide any protection to itself.
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JoyWriter
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« Reply #39 on: August 18, 2009, 11:11:06 AM »

Given a gamist objective, yes, even the rules in solitare are protecting other people - you follow the rules so you know when you say to someone that you beat it, your not giving them the wrong impression. Outside of a gamist objective, I have no idea - the idea leaves me cold and empty.

You keep refering to rules just being for fun. The first priority, atleast in how I'm using the word 'rule', is protection - they can have a second priority (and a third, and so on), but it's a screw up in design if the first priority isn't met first. If someones just writing 'rules' 'for fun' then they are just screwing around with someone who plays with protection first in mind. It doesn't matter how much it's explained in this thread, it's screwing with them unless the document says, upfront, the 'rule' texts have been written with 'for fun' as the only priority. I'm pretty certain the massive board/card game market runs off protection first design. No, not fun first. That's not contradictory - the protection, by protecting people, protects what fun is generated. Fun cannot protect fun because it's just fun. It's not protection - fun doesn't mystically provide protection as well (except on the monkeys out of my butt principle). One type of fun often kills another type of fun - that's why so many roleplayers wrestle with GNS, because they thought they could 'do anything' in an RPG and there would be no conflict.

Mid play, it's not a question of whether they are good rules. If that's the only question that comes to mind, your disruptive to anyone who has protection as first priority. Hell, I'd say your disruptive to yourself, if you take it fun cannot provide any protection to itself.

I wish this had come out earlier! Look at the rpgnet thread with GNS glasses and you will see that you are going "step on up" and he is going "right to dream". Rules just are for something different to him, and I suspect very strongly that if the rules at all times matched the tone and mood he was going for, he would stick to them as strictly as you. He (and presumably his group too) is not after doing negative things to people, he simply wants to protect a way of playing the game that works for his group. Creative denial is not that you are "in denial", but that you deny what doesn't fit to that specification. It is a wall not a blindfold. It is creative because you carve out a space with alternative feel/tone/dynamics/whatever from the rest of the world, like processing an audio signal to reveal a song.

According to the design articles I've seen, most people don't design with a protection vs fun idea, what you call protection is I think totally built into one simple design perspective: The game will specify as clearly as possible how to reproduce the structured experience that the designer has designed. The simple formality with which the game is conceived provides all your protection stuff. (If I understand what you mean by it)

Many sorts of interactions between players are allowed, and the degree to which players are "protected" is very limited, in many games it is simply limited to protection from confusion, (in the case of clear design) and possibly, (as many games don't bother to mention it) from other people picking up their game pieces. I can make a game to do that easily; it's not a heavy design constraint. All the other more complex stuff that distinguishes chess from backgammon, that's about making a game that is enjoyable. The strategic depth, all of the rest of it, that's design for fun!

I want to emphasise that I never learned either from a rule book, I saw why the rules are good and stuck with them as I learned them. My first game of chess was an unfolding of slowly changing rules as I moved pieces and found out what they did. I've learned many card games and boardgames in the same way, not from up-front rule-memorisation, but from learning bits as the rules came up.  If that was "unprotected" playing, well it didn't do me any harm! I didn't learn a million sub-restrictions about not hitting people with chess pieces, I got into the idea of representing some abstract world in which we could compete. In a game of chess I was playing, we could take the bishop piece off the table and replace it by an old camera film cartridge, providing we put it in the same place, with no fear of breaking the protection of the rules, because we didn't need protecting, we just needed clarity.

In short then, you can follow the rules of a game and still hurt people, or simply offend people and annoy them. These rules are not protecting them from your actions. At the same time for a game to operate it needs a certain level of clarity, and rules protect this. I would suggest that rules are designed to protect themselves, not players, and the extent to which they do the latter or enrich a player's life is a way to distinguish good rules from bad ones. Have you never said "This game sucks, let's play a better one"?

Just look at the Reiner Knizer podcast on the top of the playtesting forum (skip the first ten minutes if you want to get to the good questions) the rules are for something, and you shift around your rules text until it produces that something. That's what it's all about! We (and I now feel confident to include large swathes of game designers in that categorisation, smug or what!) don't build games for the protection of players, that's dealt with on the level of relationships or game playing structures like tournament structures. Discouraging "anti-social" playing within the rules structure is a serious bonus, but there are so many variants of anti-social behaviour you can't catch them all. Instead you just try to create an awesome experience and challenge that people would rather do than be annoying.

Fun can protect fun, or at least stop it being damaged, because people keep going with an activity they enjoy, and many people will restrain themselves if they see that their actions are spoiling another players enjoyment. In other words the same behaviour that creates "going easy on people" can also encourage people to stick to rules, because other people enjoy them, or because they themselves find them interesting to explore. Surely you've played a game with a small child before where they make up the rules as they go along? If you know them well enough (and they are over about 6) you can get them to stick to a reasonably constant rule set just by giving good reasons at every stage. Now that I think of it most of the children that works with are the very imaginative exploring ones, I can think of a little "pow pow" kid who would not value that much at all. But still, a game can be sustained just because the people in it value the interaction. As I implied by comparing the different children, that depends on the person you play with.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #40 on: August 18, 2009, 05:59:20 PM »

This is sliding into a pattern I've encountered before - the wall of text/swarm of points that come at it from a dozen different ways at once. In terms of practicality I think it ceases to be discussion once this happens.

I'll touch on a couple of points before wrapping up - with 'The right to dream' alot of people have focused on the 'dream' part and have kind of looked past the 'rights' part, as if insignificant. And in terms of hitting people with chess pieces, I've seen this before with roleplayers reasoning - a certain inability to distinguish what is game and what is not, and using that as reasoning that you can play a game and still hurt people. Imagine a circle, and inside it are moving a bishop diagonally, a pawn a square forward, a knight in his crooked step, checkmate, etc. Outside that circle is throwing chess pieces at the other guy. It is not a sub restriction *bopping you on the head with the crook of my cane*, it's outside the game itself!

I think traditional RPGs (and not a few indie RPGs) are broken circles - they do not completely encircle something, so what is something that's inside the game and what is outside, is blurred. Participate in them for long enough and even with games like chess, something like throwing pieces at the other guy blurs as to whether it's in the game and it's a sub set rule or it's outside the game entirely and not relevant as an example at all. This seeming inability to determine what is part of the game/inside the circle and what is outside almost makes me draw paralels with the brain damage threads. It leaves me concerned and chilled, somewhat. Hopefully it'll simply be disproved simply by delinating what is outside a circle/game and what is inside, or atleast confirming that there is an outside and inside. And so I'll leave it there - this post hog is done. Hope there are some useful parts you can take away from it, Tyler!
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #41 on: August 19, 2009, 04:21:39 AM »

Hey man, I'm just trying to engage with what you said:

1- Most designers design for "protection" of players

2- Fun cannot protect fun

3- The people in your example thread do not value people properly


If you refuse to read and think about what I said, then yep, this is the end of the discussion. But I'd ask you to consider what I've said, where I'm right or wrong and come back to me in maybe a week or so. This discussion uses text, so it's entirely possible just to pause and consider, I won't mind.


When you refer to things being "outside the game", I think I agree with you; it's outside because it might happen or might not happen, the rules don't decide that. They don't say where you should play or what you should be wearing either. And because they don't refer to it, they cannot be "protecting" you in all those avenues. Because at the same time as you play a game of chess you might be hitting your opponent on the head. The game is providing no protection to the other player in that case.

I think putting too much faith in a game to protect you from the other players is the wrong focus, and too much of a strain to put on the designers, whether of boardgames or rpgs. Instead just play with people who like you or within a structured environment. If you want games to be clear, then as I've tried to emphasise that is a very different objective.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #42 on: August 19, 2009, 09:14:11 AM »

Hmm, on reflection, the distinction I made was too definitive: Taking it back to the original point, about principle and rules, I can see an affinity between sportsmanship in chess or other boardgames, and the principles you suggested right at the start Tyler.

In other words, real protection for players, (in terms of people not griefing or worse), can be associated with the game, in terms of the culture of playing attached to it. People don't just play chess by the rules, they usually learn a form of sportsmanship around it that includes things like "not insulting people for hours about their cheap tactics when they win" or "sitting down and playing the game without jumping about or being distracting as you do it".

Perhaps the problems that some rpg groups have had is that they do not have an equivalent model of socially acceptable play for rpgs, because there is sufficient difference across the divide from one type of game to another that the experience cannot be directly transferred. To be honest I suspect a role-playing game needs a much higher level of mutual respect because of the creative effort involved. In this case perhaps the "players contract" is best as a spur towards a more healthy playing culture with clear expectations of what people are here for, to head off incompatibilities like the hypothetical Rick/Callan one.

In that case I would use the first chapter of the rpg text to say exactly what principles the game is designed around and requires, sort of like stating the pre-requisites of a course. You can still make it like a contract by saying that everyone must read it and agree to it, or play can't really continue, but many people may consider this a bit preachy. I might even include it in the "what you need to play this game" section, almost as a sort of emotional equipment!
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Callan S.
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« Reply #43 on: August 20, 2009, 08:32:37 PM »

JW, I've read you through atleast twice, I wish you wouldn't keep deciding what I've done or haven't done with absolute certainty. Feel free to start a new thread in actual play, cutting and pasting from here or whatever, and I could try and get somewhere there. This isn't really our thread to tell each other to come back a week latter.
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