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Author Topic: player authority  (Read 8073 times)
colin roald
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« on: January 28, 2004, 08:05:32 AM »

So, Sorcerer is reputed to be a game that gives players unaccustomed power to create the story of the game.  And yet,  there is remarkably little in the rules on the subject.  Kickers, obviously.  And the paragraph about not saying "no", and the bit in combat declarations where players are free to amend their declared actions until dice are rolled.  But I can't think of anything else, unless it's in Sword or Sex.

Now, Sorcerer is obviously not meant to be Donjon.  Ron has commented somewhere that I can't find at the moment that he probably wouldn't allow a player to invent an opponent into existence just so he could have a fight.  On the other hand, in the Art-Deco Melodrama threads he was at pains not to prepare too much about NPCs that were closely related to the PCs, so that the players could have freedom to influence what they were like.  And I think it's established that if a PC wants to swing on the ballroom chandelier, then the ballroom has a chandelier.  

I *think* I understand the difference between these kinds of things, but I'm curious if anybody has worked out an explicit standard for where the line is to determine what players are allowed to make up without challenge from the GM.  And/or, what exactly *is* the "Author Power" people like to talk about here?  How does a GM best encourage it?

Thanks,
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2004, 08:38:13 AM »

Hi Colin,

Regarding the phrase "Author Power," check out my comments in Actor, Author, Director: three spheres of magic and more! in which I try to get across the idea that "power" is a non-technical term in my model.

Regarding authorship and power over (or with) it, it is perhaps best described by Christopher Kubasik's recent post in Thoughts from a player - note that he is focusing on the phenomenon as a group-reinforcement issue, not as a personal-privilege issue.

After checking those out, do you have any other questions about the concepts?

Regarding Sorcerer in particular, it seems clear to me that what you're really asking about is the extent of Director Stance. Probably the best answer is to say that all role-playing groups eventually arrive at their personal "array and composition" of stances during play, and there's no way a rules-set could or should dictate that process' outcome.

However, some systems do require certain stances through mechanics, fleetingly - spending Hero Points in HeroQuest, for instance, is literally impossible for a character to decide to do based on in-character knowledge, and the Coincidence mechanic in Extreme Vengeance requires Director Stance. But as I say, those are fleeting, and a group's consensus to play those games using those rules constitutes a slightly more formal version of the same old process: arrive at whatever stances you're happiest using, to whatever extremes, through play.

Regarding Sorcerer, it's quite open in this regard, although I recommend that all input regarding "what's in the room" be filtered through the "proposal" process - just saying it's there off-the-cuff should at least be understood as a suggestion before haring off to use whatever-it-is. When a group does this,  it turns out that the answer is usually "yes," and that sooner or later the limits of the negotiation become understood by everyone.

Best,
Ron
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colin roald
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2004, 10:24:06 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Regarding authorship and power over (or with) it, it is perhaps best described by Christopher Kubasik's recent post in Thoughts from a player - note that he is focusing on the phenomenon as a group-reinforcement issue, not as a personal-privilege issue.

After checking those out, do you have any other questions about the concepts?

Hrm.  Reading that kind of post is exactly where I feel the disconnect.  Except, well, that one was about character creation, where *of course* the players have lots of Author Power.  Where does Author Power come up once play actually starts?

In the rules, I don't see anything apart from Kickers that isn't in GURPS.  Is Author Power just an attitude, then?  I'm trying to work out what kinds of GM habits I have to change to make Sorcerer work the way people talk about it, and so far I've picked up a lot of tricks about ways to do plot prep focused on the Kickers.  And then a miracle occurs.

I know, I'm being virginal.  But I have to prepare to run this thing somehow.

Maybe it is that simple -- that the only real difference between Sim and Nar play (as I understand the terms) is a matter of emphasis in what you prepare and what you expect to improvise at the table, and what your goal in the game is.  When it comes down to the actual back-and-forth, is it then exactly the same?  Or does this mysterious Author Stance come into it somewhere?

Specifically, is there anything a player might say in the middle of a play session of Sorcerer that he would never say in a parallel game of GURPS?  "I swing from the chandelier" vs "Is there a chandelier?" is a trivial example of the kind of thing I'm looking for.



(I perhaps haven't been reading the Forge long enough to have a clear idea of the definition of Author Stance, and how that may differ from Director Stance, apart from that it seems like Author is about content and Director is about pacing.)
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2004, 10:46:56 AM »

Hi Colin,

We need to get away from the issue of improvising objects into the game-world. That's gumming up the discussion, as I now realize. So - let's forget all about that business of whether the chandelier is or isn't there. Just accept with me - as you do for any role-playing - that it's established somehow, and however that works can be left up to however the group wants to do it. Easy stuff.

Now I see where your hesitancy is coming from, and I think the real answer is best found in this thread: Pitching a "new way". The title implies it's about convincing others, but the topic concerns oneself as well.

Jesse, can you help out a bit too? These questions are far more along your lines of experiences and explanations than mine.

There are two points in your post that I find very confusing.

1. Kickers in GURPS? No, I'm afraid that textually, GURPS does not have Kickers. If you mean that you used Kickers when you played GURPS, that would make sense just fine, but if that's the case, then it seems like the concept in Sorcerer would therefore be familiar to you and not a source of trouble. I'm not sure if that's what you mean, or if you're running into a more serious conceptual problem with what Kickers are in the first place.

The recent thread Sorcerer campaign webpages? presents some good dialogue about this, once you get past the first couple of exchanges.

2. Perhaps you didn't read the post by Christopher which concerned the play-experience as opposed to character creation, toward the end of the thread. I'm referring to his comments like

Quote
Now, I don't know whether it's having a Nar premise, group character creation, or what... But that's just not available as an option anymore. Everyone knows they're there for everyone else all at the same time. ... what I feel in this style of play is simply more commitment and responsibility -- Not to "perform" -- but to be present.

Tuning out really isn't an option. Fantasizing about what my guy might be feeling while another scene is going on really isn't an option. Just "wandering away" through my PC from the group to finally get some breathing room isn't really an option. After all, half the time there's no group to leave anymore.

There's very little taffy pulling wiht the GM and the group for 'screen time'. Nor are there in "in character" arguements about which "strategy" to try (frontal assault? bluff the bastard?) becaue *how* you choose to do something is right -- because the choice is what matters.


(After listing some common in-group behaviors concerning tuning out or concentrating only on one's own character)
Quote
All the techniques in use for Nar style don't just discourage this kind of stuff. They practially remove the ability to do it. If there's no plot to bust, no group to get away from, no tactic unavailabe (because the choice of how you get something done is what the game is about so you're encouraged to do it your way rather than arguing about it via PCs). You're pretty much just a guy at a table with a bunch of other people -- all waiting moment to moment to find out what's happening next. It might be a little like being somebody who's used to doing sprint around the block alone for years, and then suddenly you're told, "We're all going on a five mile hike, all five of us. Come on. Let's go." What are you going to talk about? How can anyone stand just walking along *continuously* that long? What if you just want to get away, get it over with? Well, you can't. You've made a committment to be with *these* people, and there it is.

Anyway. That's where I am. This style of play removes the privacy, time outs, and ability simply to drift away from paying attention to others if you don't want to -- and it does it explicitely by shifting the attention from the PCs to the other players. And this means, once you get this (on the surface thoughts or not), that you know people are going to be paying attention to *you* the same way. *Not* in a judging way, mind you. Just willing to stay with whatever you do no matter what you do.


As I say, Christopher isn't talking about character creation at all, in this post. He's talking about what it's like to play in this fashion. And it seems to me as if what you're asking about is "how to do it," and all I can say is, the Sorcerer rules let you get there. And yes, it takes both attention to certain details and a willingness to let go of other details - each of which are traditionally reversed in most role-playing.

Best,
Ron
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colin roald
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2004, 11:12:07 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1. Kickers in GURPS? No, I'm afraid that textually, GURPS does not have Kickers.

Actually, what I meant to say was that Kickers are the one thing that I can find in Sorcerer that isn't in GURPS.  Sorry for the confusion.


Quote from: Ron Edwards
2. Perhaps you didn't read the post by Christopher which concerned the play-experience as opposed to character creation, toward the end of the thread.


Aha!  No, I believe I missed the whole second page.  *Now* I see why you referred to that thread.
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
colin roald
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2004, 12:21:04 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Now I see where your hesitancy is coming from, and I think the real answer is best found in this thread: Pitching a "new way". The title implies it's about convincing others, but the topic concerns oneself as well.


Yes!  That's what I was looking for.  Also, this (from that thread):

Quote from: Tim Alexander
I think you touched pretty well on my fear of dropping into old habits, anyone got suggestions on how to remind yourself not to do this during play? An, 'I'm stealing authorship' checklist?

Has anybody got one of those? :-]
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
jburneko
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2004, 01:15:59 PM »

Hello Colin,

Some of the differences in playing Sorcerer vs other RPGs are purely conceptual and some are in the subtleties of the mechanics and the two support each other very well.  Let me see if I can hit some key highlights.

NPCs should be treated as opportunities not obstacles.  A lot of Sorcerer games have a strong mystery component, however, most RPGs that involve mysteries work like this:  There's some sort of backstory that all the NPCs have a vested interest in keeping the PCs away from.  Each NPC holds a vital clue to revealing this backstory.  The "point" of the game is for the PCs to come up with ways to get the clues away from the reluctant NPCs.  Often this is used as a "pacing" control device by the GM.  That is, the GM only allows the PCs to obtain the clues in a specific order or at certain times with the intent of provoking highly specific reactions and behaviors.  Eventually these clues add up to indicate one or two NPCs as the "villains" and the whole thing climaxes with the elimination of these NPCs in some manner.

None of that applies to Sorcerer.  Demons are incredibly powerful things and if the PCs don't have the "right" demon it isn't that hard to get another one.  Clue hiding and NPC stonewalling is next to impossible in Sorcerer.  Instead the NPCs are there to grab the player's attention.  Sure, they might have a vested interest in keeping some tiny subset of the backstory hidden but they'll probably be pretty chatty about the other parts of it and also maybe want the PCs to help them out.

In my current Eden Falls game (not a Sorcerer game, but I use A LOT of Sorcerer techniques in it), I opened with not one but TWO murders.  We're only two sessions in and it's already pretty apparent to all who the murderer is but the game is NO WHERE near over because it isn't as simple as going to the police and handing over the killer.  Doing that might solve the mystery component of the scenario but it doesn't solve all the other conflicts and problems the NPCs/PCs have to deal with.

I call this the "open note GMing" technique.  I once had a professor who said his students were allowed to bring any books, notes or other aids to exams.  One day I asked him why he was so generous to which he replied, "If any of those things help you, I've written a poor exam."  What he meant, of course, was that he wanted the tests to see if we had learned the skills to apply what we were taught to a given problem and not just cite back concept definitions or formulas.

That's the test I use to see if my scenario is sufficiently flexible.  It shouldn't significantly shorten the game or "ruin" the tension (maybe a little bit of mystic or suspense but not conflict or tension) if I were to just hand over all my GMing notes at the top of the game to the players.

Playing the NPCs in Sorcerer for the GM is a lot closer to the way the Players play the PCs.

This ties strongly into the mechanics in two big ways.  The first way reveals the falseness of the percieved dichotomy of "roll-playing" vs. "role-playing."  The bad assumption here is that dice have no place in social conflict.  That a game that focuses on mystery and diplomacy shouldn't have any need to roll dice.  The method being employed in such a mindset is Drama resolution.  That is, the belief is that the Players should play the PC based on his character's knowledge and desires and the GM should play the NPC's based on the NPC's knowledge and desires.  And if both parties are "honestly" playing the characters then any social conflict will "naturally" resolve itself when either party has presented a convincing in-character argument.  In practice what this means is that all social conflict is resolved via GM fiat when he/she finally decides to cave.  

This isn't the case in Sorcerer.  If the PC wants something out of an NPC and the NPC really wants to keep it a secret or not do something, minimally it's a Will vs. Will role.  Any really good or really poor "in-character" reasons can act as modifiers.  If the PC wins, then the NPC complies.  The NPC may grumble or complain.  He may beg that the PC please not tell so-and-so that he caved.  However, it gets roleplayed out and justified is up to the individual play group but the DICE resolve the conflict.

This concept applies to logistic problems as well.  I, personally, REALLY dropped the ball on this one durring a key moment in the Space-Western game.  One PC was the chief of security on this space station (which was another PC's demon).  At one point the PC decides to go rogue and his player asks me if there's any place on the station he can hide that isn't covered by the stations sensors.  A long discussion ensued about the limitations of the station's sensors.  That shouldn't have happened.  The Security Chief wanted to hide, the station wanted to find him.  That's a conflict.   It's resolved by dice.  It should have just been a Cover vs. Power roll.  The ROLL would have determined if any such place exists on the station.

Generally, any statement that begins, "Can I..." or "Is it possible to..." can be resolved via the dice as an expression of part of some bigger conflict.  It is by the elimination of some the hidden (but important) points of Drama resolution that most games don't even acknowledge, let alone address, that the system empowers the player to fully express his character and be at the center of the story.

I hope this was useful.

Jesse
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2004, 02:31:26 PM »

Hi Jesse,

I know we don't normally do this around here, but that post was great.

You are now my RPG God.  (I didn't have one before.  It's a strange feeling.)

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2004, 03:07:35 PM »

Wowsers.  Yeah, Christopher is right, me too posts are frowned on, but holy toledo batman,  that post is awesome.

Jessie, please right that up and submit it as an article.  Its absolutely fabulous.
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colin roald
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« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2004, 04:42:57 PM »

Quote from: jburneko
It is by the elimination of some the hidden (but important) points of Drama resolution that most games don't even acknowledge, let alone address, that the system empowers the player to fully express his character and be at the center of the story.

I hope this was useful.

Oh, yes.  Though I suspect I'll have to go around on that one a couple of times before I really feel I grok it.  Thanks!

If I haven't gotten confused by the dates on some forum posts, people have been after you to publish "Sorcerer Unbound" since 2001.  I'd buy it.
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colin roald

i cannot, yet i must.  how do you calculate that?  at what point on the graph do `must' and `cannot' meet?  yet i must, but i cannot.
-- Ro-Man, the introspective gorilla-suited destroyer of worlds
jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2004, 05:15:37 PM »

Well, um, gee, thanks guys, glad I could be useful.  And yeah, I've been scribbling notes and collecting posts and stuff for doing a mini-supplement called "Sorcerer Unbound" for some time now.  The above will definitely be covered in it.  Probably with more complete examples.

Jesse
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joshua neff
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2004, 08:34:03 PM »

Damn, Jesse. That post really helped clarify part of why I've been somewhat unhappy with the way I've been running HeroQuest (even while I've been happy with each individual session). You've really knocked some cobwebs loose in my head. Thanks.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Silmenume
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2004, 11:26:42 PM »

Jesse,

We play the same way!  Its an awesome way to do things.  I don't know if this falls into a similar vein or not, but we also have a philosophy that dice add spice.  The DM can break down any action at a dramatic or tension moment and throw in a die to roll to make things more interesting.  (Any player actions and/or NPC motives included as modifiers)  The act of rolling the die is equally as important as the die result itself.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
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