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Author Topic: Horseplay gone too far?  (Read 25312 times)
John Kim
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« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2003, 09:50:22 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
  This issue is so central to role-playing in my experience that I decided to frame an entire supplement for Sorcerer around it. This is kind of a roundabout set of links references, but at my Sex & Sorcery news update at the Sorcerer website, I list a bunch of Forge discussions about the new supplement's contents under development, and in them are linked some more general discussions. So my apologies for the weird mulberry-bush approach to links citations, but I'm presenting them 'cause John's & Liz's situation, as presented in this thread, is exactly why I wrote this supplement in the first place.  

Cool.  I picked up Sorcerer at my local game store two months ago, and I read it through once, but I haven't had a chance to really consider it in detail.  Certainly approaching the question of sex and gender is pretty darn rare.  The other example I can think of is "Love and Death" for Wraith.  However, I found that disappointing because after a very good first half where it discussed the issues, it switched to three dull pre-plotted-story adventures.  Still, the first half has some decent discussion.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2003, 10:06:15 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
[However, this is a game design forum and I wanted somewhere to take the conversation other than just shrugging and saying "Dude, your GM's got issues."

Dude, don't worry about it. The Forge as a site focuses on indie RPGs. This is the actual Play forum where we discuss what actually happens at the gaming table. Where we talk about things a tad more solid than theory. If it's a social issue like that, even those it really is outside of the scope of the sight to deal with it, we call a potato a potato.
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John Kim
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« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2003, 11:14:09 PM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Quote from: John Kim
However, this is a game design forum and I wanted somewhere to take the conversation other than just shrugging and saying "Dude, your GM's got issues."

Dude, don't worry about it. The Forge as a site focuses on indie RPGs. This is the actual Play forum where we discuss what actually happens at the gaming table. Where we talk about things a tad more solid than theory. If it's a social issue like that, even those it really is outside of the scope of the sight to deal with it, we call a potato a potato.

I feel like I'm repeating myself here, but let me try again...  In many forums outside the Forge, if someone complains about his frustrations with -- say -- a railroading GM in Vampire, they will just be told "Your GM sucks.  Deal with it.  That's a problem with your GM, not with the system."

One of the nice things about The Forge is that people are working on ways to constructively change that.  Just because the GM is responsible for railroading, that doesn't mean that the system doesn't have an influence -- and thus is in part responsible.  Designers here mostly accept that responsibility, which may sometimes mean tilting at windmills (i.e. trying to solve the problem of a control-freak GM with mechanics), but at least they are trying.  

Your argument seems to be the opposite of this.  If a GM does something, we should hold only the GM responsible and not look at how the system influenced it.  i.e. System Doesn't Matter.  

I don't accept that.  There are a number of things in Ron's essays that I don't agree with, but the basic point of "System Matters" is to me very clear.  System is not neccesarily the most important factor, but it matters.  Now, in that essay his examples are mainly GM/player authorship issues, but I think that it also applies to sex and gender issues, and a host of other issues as well.
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2003, 12:56:12 AM »

Interesting post, John, and you're right. Too often people shrug and say 'get a better GM' when the problem either lies with, or is aggrivated, by the system. It also fairly obvious how this could be solved, a line added to the Mastery of Shapes ability (spell?) saying 'any character transformed into an animal has no sexual attraction to real animals'.

But what then if you wish to do the Loki thing listed above? I think that would be a clever and interesting use of the ability, and wouldn't like to see it curtailed in a rule simply there to make sure the GM isn't being an arse.

Hmm, how about 'when transforming into an animal the character can chose all aspects of the creatures form, including colouration, size, age and sex (within normal ranges for that animal)'? That actually might be kind of cool, since it would allow, for example, a player to transform into a juvenile and solicit sympathy from adult animals.

Perhaps an interesting question to be addressed by the rules is how transformed and real animals interact. Does a transformed player acquire knowledge of how the animal's communication and behaviour works, or will they attempt to smile and inadvertantly bare their teeth aggressively. Will they understand what that call actually means? Will their way of moving disturb real animals? How deeply do you want to model all of this anyway?
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2003, 05:35:57 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
[Your argument seems to be the opposite of this.  If a GM does something, we should hold only the GM responsible and not look at how the system influenced it.  i.e. System Doesn't Matter.  

I don't accept that.  There are a number of things in Ron's essays that I don't agree with, but the basic point of "System Matters" is to me very clear.  System is not neccesarily the most important factor, but it matters.  Now, in that essay his examples are mainly GM/player authorship issues, but I think that it also applies to sex and gender issues, and a host of other issues as well.

It matters, but it hardly a cause or even a factor in every situation, unless you use the broader definition of system which includes social contract.

IIUC the situation basically boils down to the GM said "This happens." Most of the players said "That's stupid." The GM replied "Too bad. I'm the GM so it happens whether you guys like it or not." Note: chances are the second two things were not actually said out loud in this case, but this is the way of it IIUC. This is more a social issue than a system issue. Per system in this exchange, it's just who gets to say what happens but I reckon there's little in the rules governing what can be said when you get to say what happens. Nothing made the GM set up this situation with the pc-turned mare and the stallion except for his own opinions and judgement. He said it, not the system. All the system do was make it stick or give you no recourse but to accept and deal with the situation.

But, all of that said, I would say that Ron's comments are especially enlightening on the subject.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2003, 05:47:48 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Quote from: John Kim
However, this is a game design forum and I wanted somewhere to take the conversation other than just shrugging and saying "Dude, your GM's got issues."

Dude, don't worry about it. The Forge as a site focuses on indie RPGs. This is the actual Play forum where we discuss what actually happens at the gaming table. Where we talk about things a tad more solid than theory. If it's a social issue like that, even those it really is outside of the scope of the sight to deal with it, we call a potato a potato.

I feel like I'm repeating myself here, but let me try again...  In many forums outside the Forge, if someone complains about his frustrations with -- say -- a railroading GM in Vampire, they will just be told "Your GM sucks.  Deal with it.  That's a problem with your GM, not with the system."

One of the nice things about The Forge is that people are working on ways to constructively change that.  Just because the GM is responsible for railroading, that doesn't mean that the system doesn't have an influence -- and thus is in part responsible.  Designers here mostly accept that responsibility, which may sometimes mean tilting at windmills (i.e. trying to solve the problem of a control-freak GM with mechanics), but at least they are trying.  

Your argument seems to be the opposite of this.  If a GM does something, we should hold only the GM responsible and not look at how the system influenced it.  i.e. System Doesn't Matter.  

I don't accept that.  There are a number of things in Ron's essays that I don't agree with, but the basic point of "System Matters" is to me very clear.  System is not neccesarily the most important factor, but it matters.  Now, in that essay his examples are mainly GM/player authorship issues, but I think that it also applies to sex and gender issues, and a host of other issues as well.


Yes but what we have or what you have brought to the table are two different issues.  One is a game issue or a gaming issues, the question and treatment of gender.  Certianly in the RPG industry with regard to this and other issues, System does Matter. I do not think there is any question that some systems or designs do not do enough to foster a sense of gender freedom in character.

Of course the question of gender and sexuality have a scale far outside of just 1 game and 1 system. An adult discussion of homo-sexuality to one person is courting sin and damnation to another.  

Do you think LotR is mysoganistic? Did tolkien hate women? Is this prevalent in the game thats derived from his works? I think its very poignant to ask those questions and once answered, how does that affect your choice of game to play or book to read?

Ron Edwards has made a great game in Sorcerer. Its about summoning Demons but thats ok.  However, I do an Actual Play where my female character seduces the demon of another PC who is his dead sister. So hot live female on dead female action. Ron comes on actual play and says thats great! You however, are offended by the scene. Do you stop playing Sorcerer?

thats just one example but the question is: How do we let game designers know what we want in terms of social conscience or social statement?

The second is a GM who has made IMO a very poor and biased decision based on questionable science or excuses in an attempt to either degrade character or railroad the players' actions. Obivously I lay outside of the equation ot playing in the game or knowing the GM and if this is the only bad judgement call he has made, it could be an aberration.  At the least you may want to have a side dicussion about this whole episode with him, if you have not already. Especially since you are indeed still playing in the game and open dialogue seems possible.

Again, this is my 2 Lunars as far as it goes.

[Edit: Spelling and also to clarify: Ron has never expressed to me any opinion on hot live female on dead female action, it was all you know just hypothetical]

Sean
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2003, 05:50:12 AM »

Quote from: Mr Jack
Too often people shrug and say 'get a better GM' when the problem either lies with, or is aggrivated, by the system.

THing is, I don't see this as a problem with the system. I really can't say if Ron's belief that the GM was just trying to block John's move because doing this would upset the plot. I really can't say, since I cannot see inside the GM's head. I'll have to just allow that this may have been a factor in his mind and we must allow that it is equally possible that it was not, until we gain further information. If it was indeed a block to protect the plot, other moves were possible. Why create a bizzare sexual situation?
Quote
It also fairly obvious how this could be solved, a line added to the Mastery of Shapes ability (spell?) saying 'any character transformed into an animal has no sexual attraction to real animals'.

OK, but where does that end? D&D is already well over 600 pages with the three core books. I do not see the value in this kind of micro management. I would think that "If you have sexual situations in your game do it with at least a little taste," would be enough. Ron seems to disagree and has written a suppliment on the subject.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2003, 06:13:58 AM »

Addendum: This just came to me to illustrate my point.

Kids are playing dodge ball. One kid gets the ball and throws it right at another kid's groin, purposefully. Wham! Thud! That's gotta hurt. Now should the rules of dodge ball be augmented to disallow groin shots? I suppose an arguement can be made for it, but that solve nothing with the kids who hit the other kid in the groin on purpose. Did he have a problem with the other boy that he would try to really hurt him? Is he the sort who just likes to inflict as much pain as possible? These are the real cause of the problem and are not addressable by the rules of the game.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2003, 06:14:16 AM »

Hello,

So let's talk about System. As you guys all know, I tend to use this term awfully broadly, including such things as "standards for who gets to say what when, and make it stick." Yes, in many games, such standards are not explicitly written down as rules, whereas in some they are, and in many more, they are interpretable based on side-comments or meta-text of some kind.

What else can be included in System? It strikes me that in John's example, we're talking mainly about character creation and its contractual, procedural consequences for later play. That's a big deal, which I imagine isn't a controversial point.

Let's take a game with a lot of customizable character options but which still carries a strong sense of "typing." If you go by my schema for "roles," from that The Class Issue thread, then levels #2-3 would be awfully well-articulated for such a game. Just to keep people from running off to track down the reference, I'm talking about (a) a sense of the character's "story role" (leader, ingenue, staunch guy, sidekick, etc) and (b) a sense of the character's "societal role" in the game-world (ranger, prince, bandit chief, etc).

So here you are, and you choose your options such that these two kinds of roles are very, very clear to you for this character, especially relative to the setting in question - oh, and let's say that we're dealing with a canonical setting which carries a lot of literary/fictional weight, and emotional commitment on the part of the role-players. Playing in this setting is an homage, taken seriously.

In such a game, how can the System for character creation let you down - or more accurately, communicate Consequences X to you, regarding your character, but Consequences Y to your GM or anyone else in the group?

1. It can contain options that simply contradict or devalue elements in the source material. The "animal changing" spell thing seems like a candidate, hence the mutual desire to see it limited makes sense. Easily spotted and fixed. This is kind of trivial as long as people bring their commitments to the process and talk about them a little.

2. It can contain ranges of effects that give "power" to the character's #2 role, rather than to the character's #3 role. This is a big fucking deal, and it's why all the hassles about classes/no classes arise in the first place. You see, the #3 role is in-game: Aragorn's a ranger, hence he can track, run all day, shoot a bow, etc. But the #2 role is far more metagame-y - Aragorn is a King Born, or even better, a Conflicted King Born, and working that out through play is a very different issue from seeing Aragorn "do ranger stuff."

Here's my point: the railroading GM likes to confine player-characters to their #3 roles - their in-game definitions - and to keep the #2 roles very, very fixed and predictable, with any changes in them well-observed and managed by him, the GM, throughout. That way, it doesn't matter whether the Information Finder in Call of Cthulhu is a fussy librarian, a wise-ass reporter, or an alcoholic mystic. According to this sort of GM, the player's job is to put a hell of a lot of energy into the #3 stuff, and everyone knows that the Information Finder will Find the Information during that phase of play. The GM feels extremely propietary over the character in this regard.

But here you are, John, with your Druid ... who glory be, makes a decision that pulls her out of "nature stuff, sniff the air, sense bad orc things on the horizon," and straight into "investigate and rattle the cage stuff." Hey! Hey! says the GM. That's ... why, that's story role stuff! That's mine!

To you, the options chosen during character creation were raw meat for whatever changes and commitments you wanted to bring to the #2 level of the character's role - the story role. To the GM, the options chosen were only #3, in-game societal role, case closed, and the story role wasn't to be "affected" by those options in action.

Before I go on, does all this seem like blather and over-categorization, or am I making sense?

Best,
Ron
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2003, 06:14:37 AM »

Quote
Thing is, I don't see this as a problem with the system.


I agree, Jack - I think this is a GM problem -  however John was asking the question 'could we fix it with rules' so that was the question I addressed. I think it's a valid question and one worth running with for a while to see where it goes.

Where does it end? That's a very good question. I don't like six hundred page rulebooks either, and I would be rather put off by a chapter entitled 'how not to run sexual situations like a fuckwit'.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: May 21, 2003, 06:17:00 AM »

Hi there,

Following up on my last post:

The class issue

Also see Item collecting, which brings up a related issue and contains many useful insights.

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #26 on: May 21, 2003, 09:14:00 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
That's what this anecdote reminds me of. I'll betcha a copy of Sex & Sorcery that your-all's tactics regarding this NPC were out of the GM's comfort zone of control of the upcoming events. I'll betcha he even had plans for that horse in the upcoming scene, or at the very least, anticipated that you'd ask questions of the horse that he wanted to keep secret for some future-planned revelation. The entire point was to keep "the GM screen" up in terms of information exchange - so he threw a big wall at you, purposefully spiced with the hard-to-port-ensign innuendo, in order to back you up and head you off and keep you bloody away from his control of what was going on.

I have re-read the thread because it seemed to me that there was a bit of talking past each other going on.

First, I do not think that the game book promoted this situation. With only male example players and characters, it certainly did encourage balance of the sexes, but it certainly doesn't encourage it the way FATAL* does.

Next, refering back to the quote above. Re-reading John & Liz's posts on the incident, I find assuming that the GM was "keeping the screen up" was just that, an assumption. It is possible that John's actions could have potentially derail whatever the GM had planned. It is also possible that his plan was to have the players try to catch the NPC and see if they managed to do so and when this situation came up, he decided to got the wink, wink nudge, nudge route. Fact is, we have no data on the GM's plans or not, so all we can do is assume. Even so, there were plenty of other ways to block John's move without it use a technique that was controversial enough to spawn a couple pages of discussion.  

I don't know what can we do here? On the one hand, we have the entire problem as Liz outlined. This is a social issue that the group will need to work out themselves. I suppose we could offer advice on this, but it we ultimately be their call on what's done, if anything is done or not. On the other there is this whole thing that Ron's addressing, which while interesting, I doubt would have warranted a post from John or had even been noticed much in play without the first issue. That and we don't have enough facts to support or discredit this view about what the GM was doing. It is strongly suggested, I admit:
Quote from: John Kim
Regarding the other problems, the short answer is yes. At least originally, I think the GM was nominally following the advice of the LotR book. He had a series of chapters, and each chapter has a primary goal and a secondary goal. XP is determined by how well we accomplish those goals. He seems to make a genuine effort not to force the PCs to do things. However, as we stray further from the chapter, he does get more uncomfortable

Hmm... upon reflection, it may indeed be a real issue here, although some items need to be clairified.

What was the goal of this chapter? To catch and interrogate this NPC (perhaps taking his ring which sounds like a faux one ring, or possibly is the one ring and Frodo has the forgery? Did Smaug eat Bilbo and that's why this ring was found among Smaug's bones?), thus leading to the next goal? Or was it to follow the NPC to some place and situation where a resolution point will occur? If we knew this, then we could know a bit more about this situation and know why this particular move was blocked. If the GM was protecting his "story stuff" or if the goal before the PCs was to nab this guy and the GM was just putting up another obsticle.


* I had considered not naming FATAL here, but screw it. I would imagine we could discuss FATAL intelligently here were there anything intelligent to discuss.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #27 on: May 21, 2003, 10:05:44 AM »

Hey Ron,

Before I go on, does all this seem like blather and over-categorization, or am I making sense?

It makes total sense to me. Of course I admit to being the choir, but it does a better job of explaining my abiding fondness for http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=1816#1816">the time I was able to steal something at level #2 with my character Puntila than anything I've come up with myself. There's a not-unenjoyable tradition of Gamism to player/GM wrestling over level #2, I think. The pervasively denied aspect, however, is that such a victory is almost always achieved at level #1, rather than level #3.

Paul
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Caldis
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« Reply #28 on: May 21, 2003, 10:20:40 AM »

To me this is an example of a break in the social contract.  The Gm, maybe egged on by lurid jokes, came up with a situation that the players found inappropriate.  It doesnt matter if he was doing it in an attempt to railroad the story line or if it was just an off the cuff attempt at creating a humorous situation, in either case it was offensive. That doesnt make the gm a bad gm he just followed an impulse down the wrong path at the wrong time with the wrong group.

I think Ron's description of the three types of sexual content levels typical in RPG's to be useful in hammering out where the group comfort level is.  
In a game with a bunch of rowdy teenaged boys I dont think having your character in horse shape be the object of the stallions affection would be out of place.  

I dont think that any system can really combat this sort of thing, it's a deeply ingrained part of human nature.  Even in a narrative game like Trollbabe I could see a GM inserting a lewd unwanted element in a similar situation if he wanted.   Unless you were roleplaying asexual lifeforms though then again jokes may come up.

So maybe you should discuss with the gm what level of sexual content you are comfortable with.  For LOTR that is trying to emulate the books I would suggest that Denial is the best policy.  I think there's a fine line between Function and Dysfunction and if you are going to go for functional you better spell out what the boundaries are i.e. no being raped.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: May 21, 2003, 10:36:52 AM »

Hi there,

I think everyone agrees that the Social Contract is what's at stake.

I was kind of hoping that people would follow up on my later post, which concerns how System can and does contribute to the issue.

To clarify as best I can, if character creation does not give the player explicit "rights" concerning the story-role of the character, but provides abilities and options that might influence and possibly change the story-role, then some clashes are going to occur over that role.

A certain sort of GM (Sim/Sit to be precise, expecting players to be Sim/Char) is going to want the character reliably to Do His Thing, using whatever variety of abilities the player chose for That Purposes of That Thing. To the GM, when the player does Another Thing with those abilities, that's plain breach of contract. Accusations of "taking over," "hogging the story," etc, often mask the GM's resentment in these situations.

A certain sort of player (Narr/Char to be precise) is going to want to address The Thing not in one way, but rather in a fashion to be determined through the moments of play specifically without pre-supposing or contracting to it. All the abilities are "ammunition" if you will for arriving at those moments of play and may have been chosen just for that purposes (anticipated but not pre-set synergy). When confronted with the above GM, the player is going to cry "railroad!" and point to the abilities' application as listed in the rules.

No system design will prevent Social Contract breakdown, but one system can be better designed to avoid certain pitfalls than another. From what I can tell, this particular system looks like it provides a couple of slippery chutes right into the pitfall that I'm talking about.

I suggest that all of the horse-horniness issue is a smoke screen masking this much more trenchant issue.

John, 'specially, is this making any sense? Is this the sort of System issue that seems as if it illustrates "system does matter"?

Best,
Ron
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