We played Durance on Thursday night. It was great. I'm a fan of the streamlined situation generation and the questions that drive play in scenes. Lots of characters and lots of death. Good stuff.
After we played, we chatted a bit, and it became clear that two players had had a bit of a tussle over how much shared authority people had over each other's characters. They communicated about it, and no blood was spilled, so all is well. But I've seen this kind of conversation happen in other contexts, and I've seen players get extremely frustrated about play that over-reached into their control zone. This phenomenon makes sense given that we are playing with new rules (that is, rules we've been working with in many games over the last 10+ years but are still very different from mainstream games), where a lot of shared authorship happens about the world, events, even character actions.
I keep wishing I had an easy way to say "oh, it's this kind of game". A short hand to get people on the same page early on in the game, and perhaps head off this kind of conflict. And a way to establish some etiquette about play. It's polite and respectful to make suggestions for other people's characters in games where everyone is expected to share characters and share ideas about what someone else's character would do, or what would happen to them. For example, Breaking the Ice works this way (with dice meted out in response), Microscope makes all characters fair game, and Universalis has defined resources that allow you to do so or not. In games where there is a *lot* of collaborative world building, storytelling and plot direction, it may seem natural to also then make suggestions for other players about their characters even when that is explicitly not what is allowed. Fiasco, Swords without Master and Psi*Run are games with a ton of shared authorship, in which the players retain full control over their characters (to my understanding). But it's easy to not see those bounds and slide into speaking for someone else.
We have the stances (actor for in-character play, author and director for story/meta-oriented, pawn for seeing the character as a means to an end). We also have role monogamy, or one-to-one (player to character), one-to-many (each person can have multiple characters) and many to many (characters are shared) play. Looking at it in those terms, this is when people make in-character or authorial/directorial decisions for someone else's character when they're playing a one-to-one game. But even so, Durance brought this up: in a game where mostly you make all the decisions for your character, there can be moments when it is right and good for someone else to. In Durance, in each scene a Guide asks a loaded question about one of the characters that frames them into a scene with potentially some decisions having been made about what the character did. For example, one Guide in our game said "How many notable characters died in the carpet bombing sent by the Brigadier over his kidnapped wife going native?" This was a great question, embraced by all. It's a powerful, and straightforward technique. But when that moment is done, control recedes back to the character's player.
I'm starting to think of traditional GM/Player distribution of authority as locked down. It's defined and doesn't shift (much) over time. It's mediated by the mechanics between the players. Many, many games aren't like that any more. The roles may shift, the boundaries be much more flexible. Having shared characters (or not) is probably the simplest way to talk about it.
I'm curious to see if this is an issue others also encounter, and if so how you deal with it and talk about it.