Player/character divide

edited November 2006 in Story Games
Snatched from the GM Fiat -thread.
Posted By: MertenD&D and numerous other games, as far as I know, don't even address the question of "what I, as a player, want". There is no stake-setting from players point of view as the view itself is not supported - task resolution, by it's nature, does not take players wants into account. Task resolution happens in the context of the character, resolving if the character succeeds in what he attempts. The question of player goals is a production of conflict resolution, or vice versa. The problem with D&D and numerous other systems is that they do not, in any way, address the player/character viewpoint difference and happily let players wander in the dark, either working within the context of character or working with player goals, though with no support. Conflict resolution-based games tend to sidestep the problem by focusing solely on player viewpoint (whereas immersive playing tends to sidestep the problem by attempting to remove the player point of view and working only within the context of character).
Which leaves me to wonder; where did the emphasis on player point-of-view (authro stance in terms of Forge Vocalbury, I think) originate? I don't remember seeing it being addressed (though maybe hinted at) before the rise of Story Games. Nowadays, when looking at such games, it's pretty much the only thing I see. The so called "traditional games" have always left the player/character divide unaccounted for - there seems to be an intention that players should play their characters, but how they should do it and especially why they should do it is almost never properly explained. It's just assumed that "players play the characters", because that's the way things are. This, with the fact that games have rules to resolve tasks (or conflicts, like komradebob mentioned in other thread - did it start out with rules that allow players to give modifiers to Cool Stuff or something?) and still give the GM a free ticket to override them if he so wishes, seems to be a source of a lot of confusion. If someone has published a Roleplaying for Dummies book that addresses these questions - what players and GM's are, exactly, supposed to do - I've completely missed it.

(This also happens to be my major disconnect with Story Games. I'm completely at loss with the idea of players setting stakes, having some kind of goals and using characters as tools to achieve these player-thingies. Around in the Immersive Duck Pond, players don't do stuff outside the context of their characters. There are no ulterior player motives, goals or wants.)

Comments

  • edited November 2006
    Well, the term "author stance" was coined by Ron Edwards in "GNS & other matters of role-playing" as far as I know. However, the concept was one that described the way people actually played, from all the way back to the early days of the hobby. It's the same with much of the Forge theory. (Ron insists that--what was his name, Gygax's partner--had Narativist tendencies, all the back from before role-playing was role-playing.) Much of the early Forge theory and design work was simply different people from different play styles writing rules that expressed the way they were already playing.

    [edit] Conflict resolution was another major "this is how we already play" thing. The simple fact is that different people have different play styles, despite playing "the same" game(s). [/edit]
  • edited November 2006
    Quick side question:
    I was under the impression that with Immersives, the rule was more like "Not during Play", but during "downtime" player motives were fine. Is this correct?

    For example, between sessions, an Immersionist might think it was fine to suggest plotpoints, npcs, locations, whatever. But to do those things during "gametime" would be breaking taboos?

    However, to the main point:
    I don't think this Player Level as opposed to Character Level stuff is new.

    I can think of a number of times over the years when I attempted to introduce folks to rpgs, only to have the thing fall flat. While not the exclusive reason, I do honestly believe that a number of these players were disappointed by the fact that they came into the game expecting something more like Player level resolution/mechanics, and found themselves limited by Character Level resolution/mechanics.
  • Jukka,

    I'm not sure this is really an either/or thing, at least while playing.

    In Nine Worlds, for example, the GM will ask me - the player - what kind of scene I want to have next for my character, but once the scene starts, I try to advance my character's goals: I'm looking out for his interests. My interests as a player are one step removed, as it were. This probably won't make sense, but I'm not invested in whether or not Philoctetes successfully interrogates the woman who betrayed him, but I am invested in having Philoctetes try to interrogate the woman who betrayed him.

    Another example: when I was the Producer of a PTA game, I'd make sure the players understood that they should request scenes that they - the players - wanted to see. But I also emphasized that within the scenes, they should act as advocates for their characters - i.e., they should push their characters to pursue their goals. Of course, PTA adds in another wrinkle in that everyone - Producer and player alike - has their eye on the character's Issue.

    I guess what I am trying to get at is that I don't think story-games are all about "what the player wants" or are completely on one side of the player/character divide. Rather, as you said, many rpgs assume that everything is about "what the character wants" without bringing the player into the picture at all, while many story-games do bring the player into picture in a more central way. Though, again, it isn't always done in the same way in every game.
  • Posted By: MertenSnatched from the GM Fiat -thread.

    Posted By: MertenConflict resolution-based games tend to sidestep the problem by focusing solely on player viewpoint (whereas immersive playing tends to sidestep the problem by attempting to remove the player point of view and working only within the context of character).
    It is absolutely not my impression that conflict resolution focuses solely on player viewpoint. This seems to be a major point of confusion, though, so maybe others will disagree. However, when I think about a game like DitV it is obvious that conflict resolution is about what the characters want to accomplish. A conflict is something that happens when a character wants something, and there is opposition -- that's prettymuch the definition. The only games I can think of that really focus on conflicts as between players are Universalis and Capes, which are at a pretty extreme end of the spectrum as far as the player's relation to the game fiction and characters involved. And both Capes and Universalis include lots of support for resolving conflicts from a character point of view -- in Capes, the only way things are ever resolved is through how the characters act, even if the things they act upon are introduced by the players.
  • edited November 2006
    I'm sure it varies [that is, how much so-called "immersives" engage in out-of-character discussion of the game, with planning and input and so forth].

    Anyway, the stances used at the Forge are based on an earlier scheme from rec.games.frp.advocacy. According to John Kim's site, the RGFA stances were "in-character, audience, actor, and director". The Forge threw out audience and renamed the remaining three to actor, author, and director, respectively.
  • I'm confused, do stances still only relate to how one manipulates stuff in a way centered around one's character(s)?

    If it does, I think I'm talking about something else.
  • Um...I don't agree with the premise. (Again.) The player who says "My guy swings at the orc" surely wants his guy to injure the orc.

    The choice to play D&D, to play in a particular campaign, to pursue one hook rather than another (as recommended in the DMG that's the standard way to play D&D) those are player choices that strongly express what the player wants.

    I'm rather baffled. How in the world does task resolution not address what players want?
  • Suppose the orc has a pie.

  • Posted By: timfireWell, the term "author stance" was coined by Ron Edwards in "GNS & other matters of role-playing" as far as I know. However, the concept was one that described the way people actually played, from all the way back to the early days of the hobby.
    I tend to think so as well; the problem with a lot of games through the ages has been that they don't really address the thing at all and playing groups tend to create their own roleplaying mini-cultures (or Creative Agendas, or something). But I'm curious: which games more or less explicitly addressed player with the mechanics before, say, Sorcerer? The way I see it, most games prior to that tend focus the mechanics around the player character and just leave the player unaddressed, just explaining "roleplaying" with few paragraphs.
    Posted By: komradebobI was under the impression that with Immersives, the rule was more like "Not during Play", but during "downtime" player motives were fine. Is this correct?

    For example, between sessions, an Immersionist might think it was fine to suggest plotpoints, npcs, locations, whatever. But to do those things during "gametime" would be breaking taboos?
    Yes, though it's not exactly unheard of (or a taboo) and probably depends on how people have learnt to play. The style/culture I'm familiar with is pretty much like that and that comes from, I think, strong live-action background. There are plenty of reasons for not to do that during live-roleplaying and tabletop roleplaying (and I'm walking on a very thin ice here, now) is very much shaped by the live-roleplaying experience.
    Posted By: komradebobI can think of a number of times over the years when I attempted to introduce folks to rpgs, only to have the thing fall flat. While not the exclusive reason, I do honestly believe that a number of these players were disappointed by the fact that they came into the game expecting something more like Player level resolution/mechanics, and found themselves limited by Character Level resolution/mechanics.
    You mean completely new roleplayers or those with previous experience? I suspect the former in which is kind of makes sense; if they expect to be playing a roleplaying game (and have experiences with, say, boardgames), the experience with a lot of rpg's is bound to be confusing. Instead of a clear cut game they get a mixed bag of well, you know what. Story Games, the current generation provides more of the game, whereas experience with immersive playing (usually more of the live-action variety) says that getting new people to play is easy because they don't regard it as a game, in traditional sense, at all.
    Posted By: Jon HastingsI'm not sure this is really an either/or thing, at least while playing.
    I think it could be or it could not be, pretty much depending on how a player has learned to play and what he has learned to expect from roleplaying. I'd suspect that most players fall to the category where it isn't, but I also do know that almost all players I know fall into to the either/or-thing. I'd love to see if the resulting experiences are different and in what way, but since the character-stuff tends to happen inside players heads, I don't know if it's in any way possible.
    Posted By: Ice Cream EmperorA conflict is something that happens when a character wants something, and there is opposition -- that's prettymuch the definition. The only games I can think of that really focus on conflicts as between players are Universalis and Capes, which are at a pretty extreme end of the spectrum as far as the player's relation to the game fiction and characters involved. And both Capes and Universalis include lots of support for resolving conflicts from a character point of view -- in Capes, the only way things are ever resolved is through how the characters act, even if the things they act upon are introduced by the players.
    This is, I think, where were hitting the wall with vocalbury. Conflicts certainly do originate from what the character wants, but the funny thing with conflict resolution mechanics is that the actual mechanics almost completely fall outside the context of characters. I'm actually reading the Capes example of play at the moment and while the stuff in the diegesis (fiction, SiS, I think they are pretty much the same thing) certainly originates from character doing something, the actual resolution deals with things like "One reaction to player, not one to character", "Staking three in Capture and Splitting 2/2/1".

    So where a task resolution usually stays within the context of the character - character doing something, resolve if he succeeds or not - conflict mechanism tend to abstract things, usually requiring a player to state something that he wants the character to accomplish, and then narrating the outcome. The difference being "I'm walking on the street and there's a car speeding at me - can I dodge it or not" and "Joe's walking in the street and needs to survive the experience - can he survive or not? I think a car could be speeding at him, I succeed, so I narrate him dodging it."

    If you've learnt to deal with the first way, have always considered yourself to be walking in the street, dodging cars, the sudden leap from character point-of-view to the player-point-of-view is a pretty big one. A lot of the Story Game procedures and mechanics tend to keep the player-point-of-view active quite a lot, so switching from a view to another is pretty taxing, unless that's the way you've learned to play. DitV is a good example of game that requires the switch to happen only when things escalate far enough, so not that often.

    All this from immersion-only players point of view, I suspect that the problems for those more used to this kind of playing find the problem non-existent or just a small inconvinience.
  • Around in the Immersive Duck Pond, players don't do stuff outside the context of their characters. There are no ulterior player motives, goals or wants.

    Merten,

    Before I jump into the discussion of the player/character divide in non-immersive play, I'd like to check with you on this point. Are you saying that immersive players do not play with certain people to befriend them, flirt with them, gain influence among the social group, and so on? Not even necessarily as "ulterior" motives, but as "also" ones?
  • Posted By: xenopulseBefore I jump into the discussion of the player/character divide in non-immersive play, I'd like to check with you on this point. Are you saying that immersive players do not play with certain people to befriend them, flirt with them, gain influence among the social group, and so on? Not even necessarily as "ulterior" motives, but as "also" ones?
    Good point. Let me restate that:

    The ideal immersive play is something where players don't act outside the context of their characters. Wheter this ideal is reached (and it's probably never reached in full, that would require something very... Mental), is a matter of debate. The roleplaying contract (or social contract) assumes they don't have ulterior motives - but since the character is first and foremost something the player makes up in his head (using some source material), it's pretty much impossible to distinquish character and player motives. We assume there are no ulterior player motives. There could be and we wouldn't know, unless they're blatant enough to notice.
  • Merten, what do you want from this thread? You keep talking about immersion. So either you want to talk about the impact of "meta"/author-type thinking on immersionism, or your discussion is a manifestation of a biased perspective--meaning that your perspective is based on your limited experience (we all have limited experience). I find it kind of funny that you're asking, "where does this stuff come from". The answer is that it's always been that way, at least among certain circles of role-players.

    Let me turn the question around---where does the ideal of immersion come from? You're right (at least in my limited experience) that role-playing texts leave much of the player-character stuff unspoken. But that includes immersion. You're assuming that role-playing is "suppose" to be played immersionist, or that that is somehow more natural. You probably don't mean that, but that's the tone I'm sensing. But off-hand I'm not sure any of the texts I've read ever promote that idea. Immersion, just like author-thinking, is something that emerge from actual play, not RPG texts.

    The fact is that because RPG texts speak very little on actual play techniques, wildly different styles have developed across the country. You look at Story Games and see something new, but many people look at Story-Game techniques and go, "duh, that's the way I've understood DnD for the last 20 years!" (Conflict resolution was like that for me. Once I understood it, I was like, "but I already play that way...")

    This is an issue that hinders much RPG discussion. People assume that everyone interprets RPG texts the same way and share the same experience, but they don't.

    Now, if you already understood this, and just wanted to find out more about the history of things, or if you really wanted to talk about immersion, I apologise for going off on this rant.
  • Posted By: timfireNow, if you already understood this, and just wanted to find out more about the history of things, or if you really wanted to talk about immersion, I apologise for going off on this rant.
    I already understood this, yes, but your rant is still spot on. I'm intrested to know how the player-point-of-view came to being and also intrested to know it's history regarding to published games. Did the Story Games (obviously they're not the only games based on empowering and authoring the player, but certainly have some where the whole game is designed around it) first establish it and bring it to open is such firm terms? FIrm term, here, should be understood as a good thing.

    The rant is spot on because I find it difficult to approach the subject without basing it to my experiences which mostly are based on immersive play. I tend to drift towards explaining immersion, because it's pretty much the only context in which I'm able to approach these things. It's quite irritating, at least for me. Must be doubly irritating for people who get different experiences from roleplaying. I'll comfort myself with the thought that understanding both ends of the spectrum could produce something from in-between, taking best of the both worlds.
    Posted By: timfireLet me turn the question around---where does the ideal of immersion come from? You're right (at least in my limited experience) that role-playing texts leave much of the player-character stuff unspoken. But that includes immersion. You're assuming that role-playing is "suppose" to be played immersionist, or that that is somehow more natural. You probably don't mean that, but that's the tone I'm sensing. But off-hand I'm not sure any of the texts I've read ever promote that idea. Immersion, just like author-thinking, is something that emerge from actual play, not RPG texts.
    Absolutely. The game texts don't address immersion, usually not at all - they hint at something like it in the same vague way they hint about how to roleplay in general. They only hint about empowering the player as well. All this vagueness and the assumption that people just, well, roleplay, is something of a root cause for a lot of problems. I find it intriguing that both the procedure-heavy Story Games and roleplaying-contract heavy freeform/immersive playing probably originate from the same dilemma and try to solve the problem in very different ways. More so, that two very different (I could be wrong, and I'm certainly biased) styles of emerge from it. And that a lot of stuff that other finds as potential source of trouble is the strenght of the other, and vice versa.

    I find it absolutely fascianating. I find the fact that the both styles of play - or cultures - kind of brainwash (there, this kind of ties the subject to certain infamous thread dealing with brains?) players to the level where even discussing about other styles of play is hard. I don't find it to be a bad thing, just intresting. I find the fact that immersive play is these days some kind of footnote in game design and especially discussion about playing in general, distressing (though this seems to be slowly changing).
    Posted By: timfireThe fact is that because RPG texts speak very little on actual play techniques, wildly different styles have developed across the country.
    And, finally, this is something what the Story Games are actively changing and what the Immersive Duck Pond is seriously lacking. The way I see it, the current generation of Story Games does a very good job on cementing the How To -part into procedures and solid playing advice.

    But, at the moment, examining how and why the player empowering style of play, and how it was - and if it was - handled in game texts, is what I'm after at. Sorry for the hassle, we can take the immersive-stuff onto another thread (or forum, since I don't see the stuff as very relevant with the Story Games mission statement, and I feel guilty).
  • Posted By: JDCorleyUm...I don't agree with the premise. (Again.) The player who says "My guy swings at the orc" surely wants his guy to injure the orc.
    Sure, but we don't necessarily know why. Because that what his character would want? Because he's really bored and thinks the game will be more fun if he can get some combat rollin'? Because he's not sure what to do, and the other players are asking him to just hit the orc already so that they can get to their turn?
    Posted By: JDCorleyI'm rather baffled. How in the world does task resolution not address what players want?
    If the player wants (for whatever reason) solely to perform a task and see what happens, Task Res does address it.

    If, otoh, the player wants to accomplish some larger goal, Task Res can only address specific bits that comprise the actions needed to enact said goal. "I want to defeat the Blue Knight," might mean a process of:

    * Rolling initiative to see if I go before him
    * Rolling for individual sword strokes to see if I whittle him down
    * Rolling for individual sword strokes to see if he whittles me down first
    * Rolling for skill uses depending on the terrain/conditions
    * The GM deciding whether or not the Blue Knight a) fights to the death, b) fights to surrender, c) runs away, d) surrenders immediately

    Whether I get what I want depends on all of these tasks and negotiations being aggregated into a reasonable outcome, usually a call ultimately made by the GM.
  • As an added example to Buzz's, in task resolution, you sometimes have no way of knowing if the task you are carrying out has any chance of fulfilling your player goals. I always bring up Vincent's "break into the safe" example here. If your player goal is to get incriminating evidence on an enemy, traditional GMs will just ask you what tasks you're trying out to get that. They won't tell you if there's evidence in the safe until you open it. They won't tell you if there's any evidence whatsoever anywhere, i.e., if your goal is actually attainable. That's how my last AD&D 2e GM was, and it's not unusual, because the pervasive notion in many groups is that you can only know what your character knows (and this is where it becomes pertinent to the player/character divide). The GM wouldn't say, "Sorry, you don't have to bother, you wouldn't find anything in his house." He'd say, "Well, go ahead and break in and find out." That's because in traditional play, the GM reacts to what the character DOES, not what you the player WANT in the larger scheme of things.
  • Posted By: xenopulseThat's because in traditional play, the GM reacts to what the character DOES, not what you the player WANT in the larger scheme of things.
    One of my favorite aspects of Conflict Resolution is the assumed "cutting through the crap to the important stuff," i.e., the anti-pixelbitching.
  • Merten, I don't know if you remember the time I argued on your blog that the immersive approach was a natural extension of the wargaming roots of RPGs, specifically a tendency in wargames (which deepened over time, at least in some substrains) to limit player information and control, and even to model motives, so that the player was "situated" in the role of a specific person (or small group of people) in the chain of command.

    For that matter the one player/one character setup prevalent in RPGs points to this immersive approach.

    As for the roots of the alternative, I think it also existed going way back--with players controlling multiple characters, trading off GMing role in a single campaign, or simply treating their character as a "pawn", but it was largely sidelined by, if not actual "immersion", the above structural elements that support immersion.

    Also I don't think it's a coincidence that the emergence of mechanics that strongly support a "player-view approach" has been applauded by people who've been unsatisfied with "traditional games". I think this is at least weak evidence in support of my thesis that the structure of "traditional games" fosters a "character view" approach and vice-versa.
  • Eliot's comments have made me think a bit about the evolutionary family-tree of gaming. Here's what I'm thinking about:

    a)Miniatures Gaming with set rules, but no referee ->

    [Commentary: Good stuff, but players begin to look for more "Fog-of-War" challenge, which leads to...]

    b) Minis wargames+Referee->

    [Commentary: There had been refereed wargames all along, but these seem to have been a relatively minor strain. My view on that may be biased, in that such refereed games may simply not have been written about as regularly, being primarily a club or convention phenomenon. In particular, I'm thinking of games with a ref as both presentor of situation and player of unknown or enemy forces. paddy Griffith's Mugger games seem to fit in here, but with some tweaks peculiar to them. I'd be curious about whether if Dave Arneson or Gary Gygax had encountered Mugger Games at some point.]

    c) Minis Games+Referee+Attempts at actions outside of the normal rules->

    [Commentary: This is definitely moving in the direction that Paddy Griffith's games were taking. At this point, players can attempt to beat scenarios by using presumed capabilities of their units/pieces in ways that go outside of the normal rules. For example, digging or creating breastworks to fortify a position, lighting a building or forest on fire.]

    Interlude: Single piece games
    I'll use that term in place of jargon I'm not familiar with. In practical terms, there is a limit to what a given player can keep track of in a game, and a practical limit on the fine detail that can go into a game ruleset and still have a game finish in reasonabble amounts of time. Briefly, the more pieces you have, the less intricate the rules complexity. Conversely, if a player is only really controlling a single piece ( One airplane, a single battleship), you can create more intricate rules. In fact, it might even be necessary to do so in order to maintain player interest. Going hand in hand with this, it becomes important not to allow said single piece to be easily removed from the game, Given those issues, readers can probably pretty easily see some echoes in early D&D, with it's levels and hitpoints.

    d)Winning the scenario by avoiding the mechanics->
    [Commentary: With a ref in place, and a tradition of trying out tactics based on presumed unit capabilities, the stage is set for the devious player to make an attempt to win without engaging the rules anymore than necessary. At its simplest, this could be bluffing or scaring an enemy away rather than say, using the combat system which might lead to the loss of troops or one's single piece in a single piece game.]

    e) "We could try talking to them"

    [This is the tactical leap that matters in many ways to the development of rpgs out of minis games. If I was to guess what accident sparked the thing off, it was when some person, sort of natural spoke in first person as their piece in order to bullshit their way around an "enemy" to win a game scenario.]

    Was this sort of where you were going Eliot?
    Anyone else want to discuss the other lines of development that then intersected with the one I'm positing?
  • edited November 2006
    komeradebob's exposition on miniatures is actually parallel to what I'm thinking about--because my involvement with wargaming has been almost exclusively board wargaming of the Avalon Hill/SPI variety. Some of the leading lights among the board wargame designers are people who are interested in the actual problems of real military folks as opposed to the "simple" question of making an entertaining game with a military theme. Some of them include James F. Dunnigan, John Prados, Mark Herman, and Stephen Newberg. These, as well as other designers with a historical bent (those who're really interested in "why" military operations work the way they do/did) brought in elements of both Fog of War and Command Control to board wargames. Your cardboard units might or might not move according to the commands you gave them. The enemy's position and composition might be hidden to varying degrees through the use of face-down units or even hiding the units altogether. (E.g., there's no way to simulate the Battle of Midway without some kind of hidden movement system.) Victory conditions or restrictions on action might be constructed to represent the interests of a specific individual or group as opposed to an entire "side". (E.g., in 1977's Imperium, the Imperium player was actually an imperial governor whose resources were limited by what the Emperor would give him and whose goal was the acquisition of Glory; Vietnam: 1965-1975 was similar in that the American player represents not "the whole US" but the generals who have to balance their demand for men and materiél against the political costs.)

    Another development in board wargames was the multiplayer game, starting perhaps with Kingmaker and Diplomacy, where negotiation was as at least as important as tactical skill. Later games introduced similar elements to those described above.

    And yes, partly influenced by miniatures, there have been board wargames which focused on "single pieces". E.g., Wooden Ships & Iron Men treated individual sailing ships in such a detailed fashion that players could play as "teams", with each player controlling just one or a few ships--thus taking the role of captain or squadron commander--and rules limiting communication between teammates to represent the actual difficulty of signaling during battle. The board wargame and RPG actually merged in the likes of The Fantasy Trip, Dragonquest, and to some extent Commando.

    Board wargames generally didn't evolve to the "try unusual stuff" or "avoid the mechanics" stages. Instead there was either a tendency toward (over)elaboration of the rules to cover all possibilities, or via the multiplayer option, the insertion of a social element that could transcend the rules; the resulting psychological element brings competition to a new level. (Unfortunately also risking hurt feelings, as when one player "hands" the game to another. It's been observed in some games that the secret of success is hiding your strength while encouraging the impression that another player is about to win--thus making him or her a target for attacks by third parties.)

    The granddaddy of many of these elements in hobby gaming, though, is probably the "Braunstein", which was indeed a type of miniatures game, as described in an account here.
  • I'm feeling almost professorly, how about you Eliot? ;-)

    So at this point, we've got these different strains of style coming together and mixing in the wargaming hobbyist community. The key points so far:

    1) An urge to "be there" at some level. In both sorts of wargames, there is a move to deal, as a player with complications that your counterparts in the imaginary setting have to deal with, including issues such as personal agenda. Right there we're getting into player identification with their "piece" at a different level than in other sorts of boardgames.

    2) There is a developing layer of interparticipant interaction going on outside of the rules. With board wargames, it's the social interaction between players. With the strains of minis games we've talked about, it's the interaction with the GM, partly to side-step the rules.

    3) An interest in smaller scale "piece" interactions, where players use a single unit or small squad, rather than a larger force. This is generally combined with more in-depth breakdowns of that "piece's" qualities.

    This of course all comes together in D&D. We also see something that will continue to bedevil rpgs for a long time, right up to the present, due to a not-entirely happy fusing of these two strains. Namely, which has more authority, the rulebook or the GM?

    Going along with that question is the other testy issue: Which method is more likely to produce a sense of "being there" for the participants, complex rules or snap GM decisions?

    ( Notice that one of the things that does not come up for a long time: Which has more authority, the Player or the GM?)

    With the creation of D&D, you get this weird hybrid game-thing that takes parts of both of these wargame traditions, then starts discarding some of both strains to become its own animal. D&D, although starting with strong minis-gaming roots, quickly dispenses with minis in practice. ( Undoubtedly a move that aided in it's success-non-minis gamers were unlikely to have minis collections and possibly no access to them. Moving away from minis also meant that even minis players need not buy whole new genres of mnis to play these games if they chose not to do so.). From board wargames, there was definitely a period when complex rules were assumed to give a better representation of "reality", but with the active referee/GM being able to override or substitute rules largely as they wished, presumably to give results more realistic than charts or formulas could provide in non-covered or peculiar situations ( pretty much taken directly from Mugger Games).
  • Posted By: xenopulseAs an added example to Buzz's, in task resolution, you sometimes have no way of knowing if the task you are carrying out has any chance of fulfilling your player goals.... I always bring up Vincent's "break into the safe" example here. If your player goal is to get incriminating evidence on an enemy, traditional GMs will just ask you what tasks you're trying out to get that... That's because in traditional play, the GM reacts to what the character DOES, not what you the player WANT in the larger scheme of things.
    This is confusing to me, and will perhaps illustrate further my original disagreement about the premise of the OP. The whole thing makes just as much sense if the character wants to find incriminating evidence. You can in fact replace every occurence of 'player' with 'character' without any sort of mental dissonance. The example about the safe has nothing to do with player goals -- it has to do with character goals.

    This is all reminding me very heavily of that recent rant of Ron Edward's about people confusing 'stakes' with 'intent.' It is my impression that the majority of conflict resolution systems focus on character intent -- what is important is to discover what the character is trying to accomplish, not what specific task the character is performing. The idea of 'stakes' and 'counterstakes' seem to push people towards a place much further removed from the desires of the characters in the fiction, becoming metaconflicts about narration -- when in fact narrative rights and conflict resolution do not need to be linked at all.

    There is no "player" in conflict resolution, except in the way that there is always a player whenever character actions are being decided. Conflict resolution has no intrinsic relation to "stances" that I can see. I'd be happy to hear arguments to the contrary, but to me this looks like a major source of confusion in the original post.
  • Posted By: Elliot WilenMerten, I don't know if you remember the time I argued on your blog that the immersive approach was a natural extension of the wargaming roots of RPGs, specifically a tendency in wargames (which deepened over time, at least in some substrains) to limit player information and control, and even to model motives, so that the player was "situated" in the role of a specific person (or small group of people) in the chain of command.

    For that matter the one player/one character setup prevalent in RPGs points to this immersive approach.

    As for the roots of the alternative, I think it also existed going way back--with players controlling multiple characters, trading off GMing role in a single campaign, or simply treating their character as a "pawn", but it was largely sidelined by, if not actual "immersion", the above structural elements that support immersion.
    Now, this is interesting. I listen to your comments and then add them with my own (very limited) experience wth wargames, and I think all the rules re-enforces author/pawn-thinking! But I don't think this arguing back and forth is going to go very far. I admit that certain games certainly lend themselves to an immersionist mindset. But of course, there are other games that certainly lend themselves to author/pawn-type thinking.

    I think the issue is that there were two strands of players involved in wargames--Sim and Gam players (I don't konw about Nar). The Sim players (which it's my impression that many wargamers in that era were) would gravitate towards a certain set of games, and the Gam players would gravitate towards another.

    Which brings us to the issue of the historical development of DnD & by extension RPGs. If ADnD is any indication, Gygax has a heavy Sim preference. Because of DnD's prominence, other RPGs also followed suit with that Sim approach, which lends itself a bit more easier to stuff like immersion.

    So I think the issue isn't so much that wargames lend themselves to immersion and all the character-centric stuff ('cause there are wargames on both sides of the fence), but rather all that stuff was the result of the influence of the founding father of RPGs, Gary Gygax. If someone else had designed DnD, RPGs would be looking a whole lot different today.

    Which brings me to an interesting historical fact. I had a conversation with Ron Edward where he pointed out that Gyagax's partner... what's his name... played with a motive or goal-based experience system!!! He was basically playing a version of Clinton's Keys from tSoY! (Which means some of our "innovations" really aren't all that innovative.) Ron argues that...err, what's his name... had narrativist leanings. If Gygax hadn't went out on his own for ADnD, what do you think RPGs might look like today?
  • Posted By: komradebob( Notice that one of the things that doesnotcome up for a long time: Which has more authority, the Player or the GM?)
    You're right, that wasn't an issue at first. Early role-playing was very player-driven. DnD evolved from tournament play, where the referee was there to, well, referee. The GM in early RPGs largely kept this role. It is my impression that all the GM-player authority stuff didn't really crop up until late 80's / early 90's with the advent of GM-as-storyteller.
  • Great stuff, guys.

    I'm kind of wondering how the wargaming roots turned into D&D-era roleplaying roots, and then onwards towards the modern times without addressing the issue of all the stuff that probably existed even then outside what rules governed. Was it just that the culture that formed (not that it was in any way a shared culture, but probably similar) was so strongly based on the wargaming roots and the text of the first editions of D&D and other games of the era, that the GM-as-authority form became status quo. And that, quite naturally, lead to the character-point-of-view?

    If the case is even slightly like that, I'm quite suprised on how long it took before issue was addressed. But then again, these cultures are pretty strong stuff.
  • Posted By: Ice Cream EmperorYou can in fact replace every occurence of 'player' with 'character' without any sort of mental dissonance. The example about the safe has nothing to do with player goals -- it has to do with character goals.
    ...
    Conflict resolution has no intrinsic relation to "stances" that I can see.
    Interestingly, I disagree with where you began, but agree with where you ended. :)

    If you specifically say "character", you are forging a relation to a particular stance; I believe it'd be "actor" in this case, as you're basically asking, "What would the character do?"

    OTOH, if you say "player," you could be talking about any stance, because stance is essentially a decision-making process. The character is just a piece of paper with data on it; the player is the cognitive being driving play.

    That said, you're right that CR systems (most of the ones I've seen, at any rate) don't care one way or the other about stance. BWr play, for example, is driven by the character's Beliefs. However, whether those Beliefs (and the actions I have my PC take) are driven by one stance or the other is irrelevant to BWr.

    But it's important that the text say "player" and not "character," because the latter assumes one specific stance that excludes any sort of meta- or macro-thinking. Ergo, what's so cool about the common CR approach IMO is that not only is it focused on the goal over the task, but it's actively allowing the player to approach stakes-setting from any perspective that floats their boat.

    I have to wonder if the reason that many of the newer, indie RPGs emphasize other, "macro," stances is simply because the authors are trying to make people aware that it doesn't always have to be about "What my character would do." I.e., it's okay to cut to the stuff that you the player want to see.
  • Posted By: MertenI'm kind of wondering how the wargaming roots turned into D&D-era roleplaying roots, and then onwards towards the modern times without addressing the issue of all the stuff that probably existed even then outside what rules governed.
    As you guys point out above, I'd think it was because the whole initial concept of "fantasy wargaming" a la OD&D was identifying with the "piece". Then, add in the basic mode of most game-play being dealing with the piece and not the context of the piece. E.g., you don't often play Monopoly and say, "Man, wouldn't it be cool if I not only lost, but lost really, catastrophically big next turn? That'd be pretty dramatic."

    I mean, recognizing the fun of losing was something I didn't get clued into until very recently. I don't think you can get a grip on that until you separate yourself from your PC, and how easy is that to do when both players and texts use "you" and "I" interchangeably with "your PC" and "my PC"?

    Hmm. I pretty much just whipped all of that out of my hindquarters. God bless coffee.
  • edited November 2006
    Posted By: buzz...and how easy is that to do when both players and texts use "you" and "I" interchangeably with "your PC" and "my PC"?
    This is another one of those misconceptions based on local gaming culture. Across the country, historically, the use of 1st vs 3rd person narration varies greatly. (Also, in play it bares little connection to actor/author/pawn/director stance--saying, "I hit him," or, "He runs away," says nothing about my motives or decision-making process as a player.)
  • Posted By: xenopulseAs an added example to Buzz's, in task resolution, you sometimes have no way of knowing if the task you are carrying out has any chance of fulfilling your player goals.
    Interesting thought. I pulled this discussion into it's own thread Over Here.
  • Posted By: timfireThis is another one of those misconceptions based on local gaming culture. Across the country, historically, the use of 1st vs 3rd person narration varies greatly.
    It's been common enough in gaming that Fine wrote about it in Shared Fantasy twenty years ago.

    Like I said, I was spitballing, but I think the usage, universal or not, says something.
  • edited November 2006
    Posted By: timfirePosted By: komradebob( Notice that one of the things that doesnotcome up for a long time: Which has more authority, the Player or the GM?)
    You're right, that wasn't an issue at first. Early role-playing was very player-driven. DnD evolved from tournament play, where the referee was there to, well, referee. The GM in early RPGs largely kept this role. It is my impression that all the GM-player authority stuff didn't really crop up until late 80's / early 90's with the advent of GM-as-storyteller.

    I think it began to come up fairly early on, actually. There was always a bit of tension between adventures based around a mission ( the dungeon-crawl being the prime early example) and a more sandbox/exploration style of play.

    One aspect to keep in mind is something that occurs when D&D breaks ot of the wargame hobbyist community: A whole lot of non-wargamers, without wargamer preconceptions/habits, suddenly enter the hobby. I'd say that this is probably about the time you see a whole lot more "Chatty Cathy"-playstyle comes in or is magnified where it already exists. I'd almost argue that this particular aspect is what causes the minis gamers to drive out the rpgers once and for all. ( Okay, not really, but there definitely seemed to be a lot of raw feelings from the stories I've heard from varios grogs).

    I'd also point out that choose-your-own-adventure books ( both gamer-oriented and more general public ones) were very popular at a similar time to D&D's big breakout on the market. Personally, I encountered those prior to D&D and I think it definitely shaped my own attitudes towards the way a rpg should be played at a young age. I doubt I was the only one.

    Anyway...
    Character Identification+
    Characterization+
    Non-Wargamers entering the hobby+
    Developing the whole "sandbox" style of play+
    An attempt to play games while moving away from mission-based/geographic based adventures

    That bolded one is interesting, because added to the other stuff, you've got the setup for VtM and the other WW games in the early '90s.

    There are precursors, going all the way back to the Braunstein game Eliot mentioned for that. But by the late '80s, you're seeing lots of experimentation away from the geographic based stuff. The TSR games were playing around in all sorts of ways to get a sort of Chapter-based style of play to fly (Marvel Superheroes, Indiana Jones, Buck Rogers).
  • Posted By: buzzI mean, recognizing the fun of losing was something I didn't get clued into until very recently. I don't think you can get a grip on that until you separate yourself from your PC, and how easy is that to do when both players and texts use "you" and "I" interchangeably with "your PC" and "my PC"?
    I absolutely agree on the fun of losing and absolutely disagree that it would have something to do with separation of player and character during the play. Separating the player and character before and after the play could be an important component, though.

    Jiituomas mentioned the subject in rpg.net and the viewpoint is pretty much dominant through the culture around here.
  • Posted By: buzzPosted By: Ice Cream EmperorYou can in fact replace every occurence of 'player' with 'character' without any sort of mental dissonance. The example about the safe has nothing to do with player goals -- it has to do with character goals.
    ...
    Conflict resolution has no intrinsic relation to "stances" that I can see.
    Interestingly, I disagree with where you began, but agree with where you ended. :)

    If you specifically say "character", youareforging a relation to a particular stance; I believe it'd be "actor" in this case, as you're basically asking, "What would the character do?"

    Not really. All the stances are just different ways of deciding what the character does -- they all input into the question "what would the character do?", with different priorities about how to answer the question. Actor stance says you should answer it entirely based on the point of view of the character; the other stances allow you to use information outside of the character to influence the question of what he should do, with director stance also throwing in some narrative control. But the result of all three stances is the character doing something, and it's only after the character begins to act that task or conflict resolution takes over. I can director stance all I want in a task resolution system, and I can director stance all I want while still making choices about my character's intents -- and neither of those things affects whether task or conflict resolution will be more useful.
  • edited November 2006
    Posted By: timfireNow, this is interesting. I listen to your comments and then add them with my own (very limited) experience wth wargames, and I think all the rules re-enforces author/pawn-thinking! But I don't think this arguing back and forth is going to go very far. I admit thatcertain gamescertainly lend themselves to an immersionist mindset. But of course, there are other games that certainly lend themselves to author/pawn-type thinking.
    Most early wargames did little to "situate" the player through the rules, and many still don't. Sometimes the situation and scale allow such "ambiguity" while still allowing reasonably realistic dynamics. E.g., a "strategic level" game with monthly turns and pieces representing large units often doesn't have to concern itself with fog of war or command-control issues to the degree necessary for an operational game on WWII in North Africa or a tactical game on the Battle of Hastings. But the marketing hype itself was often designed to appeal to a Walter-Mitty mindset, suggesting that the player could find out, by playing the game, if they measured up to the historical commanders.
    I think the issue is that there were two strands of players involved in wargames--Sim and Gam players (I don't konw about Nar). The Sim players (which it's my impression that many wargamers in that era were) would gravitate towards a certain set of games, and the Gam players would gravitate towards another.
    Well, you're starting to lose me by bringing in GNS but with proper allowances I think I agree. SPI under Dunnigan was especially influential in regarding the games as "historical simulations" and marketing them in conjuction with a magazine, Strategy & Tactics, which offered a combination of narrative history and analysis.
    Which brings us to the issue of the historical development of DnD & by extension RPGs. If ADnD is any indication, Gygax has a heavy Sim preference. Because of DnD's prominence, other RPGs also followed suit with that Sim approach, which lends itself a bit more easier to stuff like immersion.
    Gygax had designed some wargames, both board and miniatures, but I do not think he was in the same class as the SPI folks in terms of either interest or design focus. In fact, although AD&D did contain a lot of agglomerated material drawn from historical and cultural sources, other early RPGs were pretty strong reactions against or critiques of (A)D&D's game-y qualities--notably Runequest and Traveller. As I recall Gygax's articles from the Dragon and the 1e DMG, he was often very concerned to defend AD&D from attempts to make it less of a game and more of a simulation. Of course that doesn't speak exactly to the issue of character identification.
    Which brings me to an interesting historical fact. I had a conversation with Ron Edward where he pointed out that Gyagax's partner... what's his name... played with amotive or goal-basedexperience system!!! He was basically playing a version of Clinton's Keys from tSoY! (Which means some of our "innovations" really aren't all that innovative.) Ron argues that...err, what's his name... had narrativist leanings. If Gygax hadn't went out on his own for ADnD, what do you think RPGs might look like today?
    Dave Arneson. This is interesting. Unfortunately about the only detail I can find on the net is a snippet in a brief review of Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign. And here I'm afraid the use of GNS makes further discussion extremely difficult since the Sim in the Sim/Gam distinction you spoke of above, between groups of wargamers, is impossible to map to Sim in the Sim/Nar distinction you're making here.

    You do find a few things in board wargames, here and there, which bring them back out of the immersive perspective or which provide some level of "metagame" mechanics. E.g. Greg Costikyan's Return of the Stainless Steel Rat, a sort of single-scenario solo RPG, used "suspension of disbelief points" which the player could spend to "stumble over clues" to the mystery, or to reduce the impact of injuries. Some games also employed variable victory conditions, such as Magic Realm, where each of the players could select, before play, the exact mix of Fame, Treasure, etc. they needed to win the game. But that's far different from accessing metagame resources.
  • edited November 2006
    Posted By: timfirePosted By: komradebob( Notice that one of the things that doesnotcome up for a long time: Which has more authority, the Player or the GM?)
    You're right, that wasn't an issue at first. Early role-playing was very player-driven. DnD evolved from tournament play, where the referee was there to, well, referee. The GM in early RPGs largely kept this role. It is my impression that all the GM-player authority stuff didn't really crop up until late 80's / early 90's with the advent of GM-as-storyteller.

    I also have to disagree slightly here. D&D did not evolve from tournament play, it evolved from social miniatures hobby play. Tournaments came later. The GM as referee was however already embedded in miniatures play. Take a look at what Dave Arneson has to say about the evolution of the GM role in this interview. He credits Braunstein, which was even earlier, and according to the article I cited above, Braunstein in turn was influenced by Kriegspiel ("an old combat-simulation game created in the 1880s used to train army officers, which used an objective referee to adjudicate between opposing players"). Arneson also mentions, in the interview, some interesting things about the GM's social authority and, I think, general authority over the "in-game fiction".

    But I agree that earliest D&D didn't visualize GM as storyteller. The dungeon was something the GM set up and then the players tackled it however they wished. Storytelling appeared by the end of the decade, though, and it grew in prominence through the 1980's with stuff like Dragonlance, TORG, and Vampire. (Or so I'm told, as I never got into any of those games.)

    (Edit: More from Arneson on Braunstein here.)
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