Rewards for roleplay!

So we were chatting away over a in a different thread about Alignments and XP in old school D&D. My takeaway from the discussion was that Alignment and Class(/Race) are the metrics by which D&D as a system measures "good roleplaying" and XP by which it rewards the same.

I'd be interested in talking about how, as gamers and designers, you like to measure good roleplaying (if at all) and choose to reward that. What methods have you seen? What do you use? Is roleplaying a thing that should even be rewarded, or is it its own recompense?

At least in D&D Alignment and Class act as proscribed styles of roleplaying. You're a dwarf? Here's a paragraph or two of how we expect Dwarves to act. You're Lawful? Here's how Lawful persons act. We were keen to make Alignment specifically attuned to promoting, for example, Lawful behaviour/roleplaying and giving XP out for, say, rescuing princesses. I guess I'm curious as to if good roleplaying and diegetic activity are well coupled by this reward, or whether it's all very trite and Pavlovian?


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Comments

  • edited February 2015
    Dog treats for anything that's not a physical task, a competition or boring in the first place, should be erased from any kind of game design thoughts what so ever. It's basically using exploits in the human mind to make people dance the way you want them to dance.

    Personally, I think it's unethical game design because it uses exploits in the human mind. Too bad that it already exist in form of fan mail, artha, fate points ... and even XP for good roleplaying. And because most people don't know much about psychology, and because it's so common in roleplaying game design, no one questions it.

    It's not pavlovian; it's skinnerian, if anything. "Operant conditioning" is the term for it.
  • Alignment is... not a good tool for that, if that's ever really what it was supposed to be for. (I submit that it was not, though it has since sometimes been repurposed to that end. Poorly.)

    I don't like games that suggest that "Good roleplaying" should be rewarded, because "Good Roleplaying" is useless and vague as a criteria. I like games that tell you exactly what sorts of behaviors to reward.

    Alignment (And class, and race) fall down because at the end of the day, they are vague, and there are no real rules for rewarding people based on them, only punishing people who "break" the vague statutes. So they end up being a sort of flogging punishment that the GM can use to try to beat players into line, rather than a reward.

    OTOH, Rickard, I'm sure, will appear to discuss how ingame rewards for good roleplaying are a "bribe" and should not be used. :)
  • There's two models I like.

    One of them is the one you find in Tenra Bansho Zero, where players toss around the "aiki chits" as "applause". (Golden Sky Stories uses a similar system, and fans of PTA will recognize it as being very similar to fanmail.) It's cool, because there's a neat underlying philosophy here: when you're in harmony (the general meaning of "aiki") with the table, people respond positively to your actions, and react to that with a mechanical response.

    Chuubo's Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine also uses this mechanism in the form of Emotional XP. It works really well, because it brings players together--also a mechanism I've observed in Golden Sky Stories. I don't find it to be manipulative or anything like a Skinner box, or even like Pavlov's experiment. Rather, it's a mechanical reflection of what's going on at the table: the players are appreciating one another.

    It's only a bribe if you're pre-conditioned to see it as such. A quantum bribe, if you will.

    The second method is something you could call "tracking": a mechanical device such as XP which follows the actions of a character along certain paths. One such example is the Milestones from Marvel Heroic, or the Quest Arcs from Chuubo's: as your character engages certain story elements which correspond to a particular arc, they advance in power or some other capacity. D&D is, of course, a classic example of this, with the path being "looting treasures". Dungeon World makes it more apparent with its XP-earning end-of-session questions. Some of Burning Wheel's artha awards (persona for achieving a goal, for example) fall under this.

    Tracking is all about mechanically reflecting the character's actions at the table. And you might notice the common thread there. Applause is oriented towards the player's attitude, and often comes from other players. Tracking is oriented towards the the character's actions, and comes from the game system (although it's typically adjudicated by the players).

    Either way, it's a way to make abstract things concrete in some way. And I very much value that, because I'm the sort of person who likes to analyze characters and plots and to see how certain events change characters and move them forward. And in a weird way, neither of these techniques are completely rewards, even though they contain the concept of incentive. They're just acknowledgements.
  • The key word here is Acknowledgement, not Rewards. If the players know what they like, put it in the game and acknowledge each other for it, you don't need rewards. If one part of this natural process is missing, you'll find hero points, xp and such a valuable tool for creating this kind of flow into the group dynamic.

    Right now I'm removing xp from my 5e D&D game, since acknowledgement is flowing naturally. For my group, this mechanic could ruin that flow by generating meta-gaming influenced actions like killing every single living being for XP and such (some of them seem to have done this before in other games).
  • Why is need the only criteria, though? I'll readily agree that you don't need these mechanisms, but I like them and so do a number of players. I mean, we don't need rules for our RPGs, either. :-)
  • It may well be that XPs for roleplay was a way to keep Lawful characters on par with Chaotic characters in terms of advancement at one point, and simply grew out of that.
  • Why is need the only criteria, though? I'll readily agree that you don't need these mechanisms, but I like them and so do a number of players. I mean, we don't need rules for our RPGs, either. :-)
    Yeah. I get worried when we start talking about any sort of mechanics in terms of "need"; We don't "need" ANY mechanics. But mechanics can improve things. That's why we have... pretty much all mechanics. You don't "need" them, but they make your game better.
  • I like CarpeGuitarrem's thoughts here:

    There's a difference between using XP (in whatever form) to encourage certain behaviour in the *players* (e.g. when you do something everyone finds funny, you get a +1 to your next roll) and using mechanical aids to track progress through the game-state.

    For me, XP in D&D falls into the latter category (I'm thinking particularly of XP-for-gold here - I shudder at the thought of "XP for good roleplaying" as a medieval torture method in terms of where it falls in the evolution of RPG technology). It has nothing to do with roleplaying whatsoever.

    In D&D, it simply tracks how long you've survived (indirectly) and what you have managed to achieve (directly), which has to do with various combinations of smart play, low-risk vs. high-risk play, pure tenacity, and a good deal of luck.
  • edited February 2015
    Several thoughts:

    1) "Good roleplay" XP in general.

    Some people love fanmail and say it binds games together and encourages people to appreciate each other and communicate.

    Some people hate fanmail and say it wracks their games with performance anxiety and turns roleplaying into a popularity contest.

    I have seen "good roleplay XP" function exactly like fanmail, for good and for bad.

    2) Alignments. As for "play your character according to defined parameters, get more XP", that's an excellent way to encourage broad-strokes consistency across measurable actions. It clearly works. The problem, I think, is that most of us don't define "good roleplay" as broad-strokes consistency across measurable actions, so the question of whether XP can encourage what we really want remains unanswered.

    3) Types of formal rewards. I once tried awarding XP to players for making the fiction feel real via gripping performance or sensory description. It didn't work at all, because anything we got caught up in also made us forget about handing out XP. Handing it out after the session broke the feedback link, so that didn't function as an incentive. What worked better was simply kicking each session off with a requirement for some sensory description.

    4) If you want your game to reward good roleplaying, I would say: define what that means, and then structure play so that doing that is the best way to get the players their game goals. (Formal awards can be used or not as befits that structure.) Of course this is easier said than done!
  • Great post, Dave.

    (As far as your #2 goes, my own attempt at a simple but far-reaching take is linked in the OP.)
  • edited February 2015
    Back in my AD&D days, my campaign featured a lot of deity stuff, they were very active in the world (shades of the "Thieves World" series) and everyone's standing with their deity - whether they had claimed a deity or not (didn't matter because this was actually about alignment) - was based on their alignment behavior. I graphed this out in a way that was loosely explained in the DMG, and I've never heard of anyone else who actually sat down and did this:

    I had an X/Y graph for each PC and after each session the Player and I would sit there and count up the "significant" things they had done, and then assign each deed an alignment. I assigned a positive and negative value of absolute 1 to each of those actions, found the average in both G/E and L/C dimensions, averaged that with the X and Y coordinates of their previous position on the graph to determine their new position, and then connected the two dots with a line segment. Over time it was fascinating to watch these little historical squiggles growing and moving around.

    When you showed up at the temple, or asked for divine intervention, or sometimes even when you dreamed, your deity would let you know how pleased or displeased they were with your behavior of late. Rewards such as prophetic visions or spiritual clues would occasionally be involved. :-)

  • That sounds like some (though potentially Lonely) fun! I like it.

    (* FYI: Lonely Fun is not a derogatory term.)
  • +1 on Rickards comment.
    What happened to virtue is its own reward?

    Maybe there is also a difference between European vs US culture (gaming style) here.
    In USA, there seems to be more of a competitive spirit and people dig things like "employee of the month" rankings etc.
    In Europe, there is a tendency to reword collaborative behaviour more than individual performance.
    Of course, this is a very broad generalization, so please excuse the stereotypes.

    One thing that I can support as a reward is when a PC is taking disadvantages intentionally, i.e. FatePoint for (self-)compels in Fate.

    I would see character advancement also not as a "reward", just as a natural progression of the game.
  • In White Wolf games, they gave you an extra XP if, at some point during the session, you speak as your character (more or less.) They called this the "roleplay award". Weirdly, at some point, this morphed into the idea that White Wolf games gave you XP for "good roleplaying". But I can't actually find a White Wolf game this is true for.
  • I absolutely detest rules that depend on a judge for what's cool or funny. Apples to Apples, if I've understood the rules correctly, do this. Many RPGs have similar reward rules. I've had fun with them but I see them as something I fundamentally don't want. This includes getting rewards for good roleplaying or describing moves in a fight in a cool way.

    For some reason, I have less qualms making judgement about diegetic facts ("do they have the advantage in this situation?").
  • Just to clarify: this thread quickly came to center around reward psychology (somewhat tangled up with "currency" like Fate points and artha -- both which have other functions beyond rewards/compensation). That's interesting in itself (I recommend "No Contest" by Alfie Kohn) but I was always more tripped up by the subjective nature of the adjudication rather than any anti-skinnerian (or even anti-mercantile, even if I've got the politics to match a distaste for quid-pro-quo economics) streak. I don't mean to threadjack, but I don't want the two threads to get tangled up, either. Hence this summary post.
    I'm a big believer in behavioral therapy.
  • Fate points are there because of the notion that playing out bad things aren't funny, so the game designer felt the need to give an incentive to the players to play out negative aspects. If you instead assume that the players buy into the concept of how fun it is to play out bad things happening to the character, you can get games like Fiasco.
  • edited February 2015
    The key word here is Acknowledgement, not Rewards.
    I really like this part; recognition for what you do. It has to show consequences to what you did, related to the task. Here is what I always found the alignment system lacking. it doesn't give anything for the game master to play around with. No suggestions of consequences of the players' actions. Extra Credits just released a video related to this:



    While I'm dropping video links, I can link to this one:



    Aaaand also this one:



    Finally, I should mention the overjustification effect and Cognitive Evaluation Theory. The diagram in the Wikipedia article about the overjustification effect is worth looking through and understand. Look at when a tangible reward, not related to the task other than being given because they did it, really makes a difference.

    Cognitive Evaluation Theory focuses on how you can get intrinsic motivation from a task, when you express yourself as a person (autonomy) or master the task (competence). Both autonomy and competence are also supported by flow theory - a theory about how to achieve happiness. The major studies that lead up to that theory also says that tangible rewards can decrease the intrinsic motivation in favor of extrinsic motivation. That is, some people will start doing the task for the reward instead of for the fun of doing the task.

    But all this is just about how you should NOT design a game. The first paragraph is instead about what ways you can go do design certain behavior. And it's hard not to fall into this trap to give mechanical rewards for tasks. I'm aware of it, and I still have a hard time not to involve those kinds of rewards, because it's so commonly used in game design.
  • edited February 2015
    Fiasco uses the two colors of dice to ensure a good mix of failures and successes. Less mercantile than Fate. I agree that it works well.
    I think the Fate points are less reward/consolation (even though that is part of their purpose) and more a sort of "economy model". I've had it collapse more times than it worked well, but that's their purpose I think.

    And I don't put Fate points in the same category as GURPS 3's "for good roleplaying" points.
    It's more something you can "buy" and "sell" (as problematic as that is). I don't have any problems with the drama points in DramaSystem either (the bennies OTOH seem more iffy).

    ETA:
    To answer more directly, I think running Fate kinda depends on people thinking playing out flaws can be cool. The transaction also fills the purpose of affordance; that the rules encourage you to do this, not just allow it, and that you can do it without all the problems of the anti-Taschenlampenfallenlasser culture.
  • I don't really see Fiasco as relevant to this discussion at all, since to me the dice types feel completely arbitrary and mostly meaningless.

    2097 - what is your feeling about "rewards" when they are collectively judged, rather than at the whim of one individual?
  • edited February 2015
    I don't really see Fiasco as relevant to this discussion at all, since to me the dice types feel completely arbitrary and mostly meaningless.
    It was a reminder since I read Rickard as meaning that in Fiasco, people are failing for the sake of the fun of failing and I wanted to bring up that Fiasco does have the dice colors as a way to determine when to fail and when to succeed, and that Fate's compels filled a similar role.
    Like, if the GM compelled the player in the Shoggoth tunnel "you have an aspect of 'scaredy-cat'... how about dropping that flashlight now and running?", the group would surely feel different about it. Similarly, in Fiasco, if you're handed a "bad die" by the group, you know you've got their permission to mess up.
    Ironically, I've mentioned earlier that a few of my players in Fate would tend to buy off all compels.
    2097 - what is your feeling about "rewards" when they are collectively judged, rather than at the whim of one individual?
    Just as problematic. The bennies in DramaSystem come to mind, as do the awesomepoints in Old School Hack.
    In fact, the game that truly unsold me on this type of adjudication was a party game about constructing crazy news paper head lines where the winner each round was determined by voting, so collectively judged. Instead, games like Dixit and Balderdash solve the problem in a great way.

    Rickard's aversion to "dog treats" has been well known for years, but I always assumed it was about the subjective adjudication (which I really dislike) and not about the conditioning aspect of it, which I dig.
  • "Can I see the goblins from where I stand?" <- I have no problems with this.
    "Did I describe the fight in a cool enough way to get the bonus?" <- I do not like this
    Like it even less when there's competition involved (again looking at you, DramaSystem).
  • "Did this Aspect influence my behavior in a meaningful way?" <- I thought I would be against this, but I've had no problems with it.
  • "Did this Aspect influence my behavior in a meaningful way?" <- I thought I would be against this, but I've had no problems with it.</blockquote>

    So...you DON'T actually have a problem with arbitrary decisions, you have a problem with certain KINDS of arbitrary decisions.

    Also, doesn't Fiasco involve voting on dice types? I seem to recall that it does.
  • edited February 2015
    So...you DON'T actually have a problem with arbitrary decisions, you have a problem with certain KINDS of arbitrary decisions.
    Yes, that was the point I was trying to make.
    I have no problem answering "Can I see the goblins from where I stand?" but I get really squeamish when it comes to "reviewing" the quality of someone's textual or thespian contribution. (And, probably even worse, "being reviewed" in the same fashion.)

    In Fiasco, you vote on whether or not you want the scene to have a positive or negative outcome for the character, you dont' vote on the character's performance or on how well they played to their dramatic poles or to their aspects.

  • In Fiasco, you vote on whether or not you want the scene to have a positive or negative outcome for the character, you dont' vote on the character's performance or on how well they played to their dramatic poles or to their aspects.
    Ah, that's right; It's been a while. Though I think part of why dice in Fiasco felt so arbitrary was the fact that "Do you think that scene will have positive or negative effects for the character?" is basically disconnected from everything. It doesn't even tie to how or what the character did in the scene, necessarily, it's strictly a vote on dramatic pacing.

    Anyway, yeah, I think we should scratch the Fiasco discussion, because I don't really think it has anything to do with the original topic.
  • It's a game that tends to bring out and encourage roleplay of "bad" characteristics through its mechanics so I think that's relevant, as a contrast to games that specific use rewards for the same purpose.
  • edited February 2015
    I think the right question for adjudicating dice in fiasco should be more like "what do you think could make the situation worse?" which again, is more a vote on dramatic pacing as Airk wrote, and even a vote on dramatic direction if you consider the question above.

    Perhaps Fiasco may be considered again into the discussion but from a different point of view: Stop thinking on dice as currency and instead look at all the mechanics in the game that allow players to acknowledge each other's contributions by building the story over it, instead of blocking their input. Certain limits are imposed here and there (like with the dice), but most of the time, the flow of the game is attained by using other players contribution to make yours, which is a really nice form of acknowledgement.
  • edited February 2015
    Hey, CarpeGuitarrem mentioned all the games that I loved! (TBZ, Chuubo's, GSS - I'd also add Burning Wheel and Mouseguard in there).

    I found that as a GM I loved the tokens in TBZ because otherwise getting useful feedback from the (polite, British) players is like trying to get blood from a stone. However, when they give the rewards to other participants, the action encourages them to verbalise what they liked about what those people did. And I get feedback! This is literally worth its weight in gold to me.

    When I'm running a game I'm juggling so many balls that I might not necessarily recognise if people like what I'm doing. But, if I have a stack of tokens in front of me, this serves as a concrete reminder that I'm doing well and I should be going further in that direction - or, if there is no stack, that the players are disengaged and I should step up the game. It also shows me who needs more spotlight and encouragement because I can see who has a stack and who hasn't.

    I couldn't care less about how they influence player behaviour! For me as a GM this is an indicator device. And I need it because:

    1) I'm crap at noticing and processing emotions of others especially under pressure,
    2) when asked for feedback afterwards, players simply tend to be vaguely nice because I tend to run for relative strangers.

    And also as a player I do want to play the kind of RPGs that are about performing for each other and making sure we all have fun and contribute to each other's fun. This is a feature, not a bug. I don't come to a session expecting for all the action to sit in my head, unshared. And I want to be entertained by other people's contribution, I want for it to be worthwhile, instead of simply waiting for my turn. And the other way round too - I want people to be entertained, to find my contribution of worth. If it's not, then I can learn how to make it such by listening to what others get their tokens for. It's like the best thing ever - a nonambiguous socially sanctioned way to indirectly, politely indicate "mate, xyz sucked" and "mate, I really like abc, now do more of it" to a stranger. Especially when your co-players themselves often don't know what their preferences are and how to clearly express them.
  • Hey, CarpeGuitarrem mentioned all the games that I loved! (TBZ, Chuubo's, GSS - I'd also add Burning Wheel and Mouseguard in there).

    I found that as a GM I loved the tokens in TBZ because otherwise getting useful feedback from the (polite, British) players is like trying to get blood from a stone. However, when they give the rewards to other participants, the action encourages them to verbalise what they liked about what those people did. And I get feedback! This is literally worth its weight in gold to me.

    When I'm running a game I'm juggling so many balls that I might not necessarily recognise if people like what I'm doing. But, if I have a stack of tokens in front of me, this serves as a concrete reminder that I'm doing well and I should be going further in that direction - or, if there is no stack, that the players are disengaged and I should step up the game. It also shows me who needs more spotlight and encouragement because I can see who has a stack and who hasn't.

    I couldn't care less about how they influence player behaviour! For me as a GM this is an indicator device. And I need it because:

    1) I'm crap at noticing and processing emotions of others especially under pressure,
    2) when asked for feedback afterwards, players simply tend to be vaguely nice because I tend to run for relative strangers.

    And also as a player I do want to play the kind of RPGs that are about performing for each other and making sure we all have fun and contribute to each other's fun. This is a feature, not a bug. I don't come to a session expecting for all the action to sit in my head, unshared. And I want to be entertained by other people's contribution, I want for it to be worthwhile, instead of simply waiting for my turn. And the other way round too - I want people to be entertained, to find my contribution of worth. If it's not, then I can learn how to make it such by listening to what others get their tokens for. It's like the best thing ever - a nonambiguous socially sanctioned way to indirectly, politely indicate "mate, xyz sucked" and "mate, I really like abc, now do more of it" to a stranger. Especially when your co-players themselves often don't know what their preferences are and how to clearly express them.
    You nailed it! So, it's a thing of different tools for different players, but all revolves around acknowledgement, which is in turn used as fuel for inspiration and game flow. I can read people's emotions on the fly even in tense situations but my abilities doesn't work on everyone; some people unconsiously keep the same face and manners as a self-defense mechanism, so having a mechanic to help them communicate better surely helps.

    Whenever I play with people who I can read easily or who are more openly honest about what they like or not, mechanical rewards get in the way of the fun and are easily taken as a recurrent joke. When I tried fate points into another game, players kept pushing the button even when they didn't wanted or needed the points, just because it had turned into an inside joke for us. I felt it ruined a bit some scenes, but I couldn't take it out from the game because players really enjoyed the joke.
  • edited February 2015
    Fiasco uses the two colors of dice to ensure a good mix of failures and successes. Less mercantile than Fate. I agree that it works well.
    Why did you bring up the dice? It has nothing to do with the discussion. It's the end condition that was my point; how everything turns to shit. You play to find that out in Fiasco without any kind of mechanical rewards for doing so. The same goes with Polaris and While the World Ends.

    The participants need, however, to buy into that premise.
  • Why did you bring up the dice? It has nothing to do with the discussion. It's the end condition that was my point; how everything turns to shit. You play to find that out in Fiasco without any kind of mechanical rewards for doing so.
    I like the great tension that roughly half of the scenes are meant to go well for the character. That creates a great arc and make the failures more meaningful.

    The end, that's the last few scenes, the aftermath table and the epilogue.
    I'm mentioning the dice colors in this context because I think the Fate compels are meant to evoke a similar ebb and flow. Some scenes go bad for your character and the Fate points give you permission to mess up, to let the flashlight drop.
    The participants need, however, to buy into that premise.
    And Fiasco has a lot of great design elements to afford such buy in. The relationship-focused character design has many benefits, one of it is that you're almost from the start looking at your character from the outside rather from a deeply invested, immersed stance.
    In the middle, the spotlight mechanics afford some investment,
    and in the end the "This is Jane when she" third party style sentences create distance again for the denouement (and help you pump up the horror since you're not "Jane" anymore).

    I believe this is part of the purpose of Fate points also, to afford the idea for players to have their characters do things the players believe are suboptimal. To overcome the "Don't go into the attic!"-reflex and help create or reinforce the buy-in.
    It's less "yay, I get a point to use later, that's gonna be a nice +2" and more "hey, player. It's ok for things to Go Bad now. It's part of the game. Trust me."
  • Arguably, in Fiasco, the "success" die color has a function in that it says "It's OK to have things Go Well for your character now. That's also part of this game."
  • Arguably, in Fiasco, the "success" die color has a function in that it says "It's OK to have things Go Well for your character now. That's also part of this game."
    I dunno; It kindof... doesn't. Because at the end of the day, the dice and their color is completely disconnected from anything that happens in the game. If the die were decided at the START of the scene, it might provide some sort of useful feedback and guide the scene, but as it is, it's an almost completely arbitrary "here, have a thing that does nothing." gesture. (Okay, technically, it's WORSE than that - it's more "Here, have a thing that represents your 'score' in this game." so if someone were trying to 'do well' they'd be trying to collect dice of only one color, or if they were trying to "screw over" their character, they'd want to collect a 'balanced' set.... and NONE of that has anything to do with what happens in the game, or any influence on it either.)

    IMHO, the Fiasco dice are the worst possible example of this, because they are useful as neither incentive, guide, or reward.
  • No matter who chooses the die, hold it up for everyone to see and then carry on – you don’t need to disrupt the scene at all. The color of the die you’ve chosen will let everyone know how the scene is supposed to play out. Once you know whether the end result is going to be good or bad for your guy, you can play out the rest of the scene. I can’t empha- size enough how satisfying it is to do all this without skipping a beat in the role-playing – just play the scene, accept the die, and let that guide everyone to an appropriate conclusion.

    In the games I've played, we consistently pull dice before any central tension of a scene is resolved. It's been quite useful to help people figure out good resolutions, and we can feel something missing if we wrap scenes and have forgotten to pull dice.

    Obviously, your mileage may vary (and concerns about fiasco dice as scoring certainly makes sense), but I don't think your experience here is universal, or the game's intention.
  • Also, I think the dice post-setup serve at least two other major purposes: enforcing a balance of good and bad scenes, which generally tends to help people get acclimated to the up and down narrative of a Fiasco, and in a weird way, the mostly random nature of the Aftermath feels like a core Coen belief: how things end up isn't predictable by a person's luck at all. (again, concerns about the weirdness of stacking a color noted here)
  • Arguably, in Fiasco, the "success" die color has a function in that it says "It's OK to have things Go Well for your character now. That's also part of this game."
    I dunno; It kindof... doesn't. Because at the end of the day, the dice and their color is completely disconnected from anything that happens in the game. If the die were decided at the START of the scene, it might provide some sort of useful feedback and guide the scene, but as it is, it's an almost completely arbitrary "here, have a thing that does nothing." gesture.
    2097 and J_S are right; I've played in and organized probably close to 80 or 90 games of Fiasco and 2097's view of the light-colored dice is empirically correct.
  • Dog treats for anything that's not a physical task, a competition or boring in the first place, should be erased from any kind of game design thoughts what so ever. It's basically using exploits in the human mind to make people dance the way you want them to dance.

    Personally, I think it's unethical game design because it uses exploits in the human mind. Too bad that it already exist in form of fan mail, artha, fate points ... and even XP for good roleplaying. And because most people don't know much about psychology, and because it's so common in roleplaying game design, no one questions it.

    It's not pavlovian; it's skinnerian, if anything. "Operant conditioning" is the term for it.
    Why are you so angry?
  • edited February 2015
    because it uses exploits in the human mind. Too bad that it already exist in form of fan mail, artha, fate points ... and even XP for good roleplaying. And because most people don't know much about psychology, and because it's so common in roleplaying game design, no one questions it.
    Because of that, and I agree with him. I'm not versed in psychology but in advertising. What this roleplaying tool does (when you analize it RAW) is to validate the GM for manipulating players and/or validate group pressure over a single player. This tool has seen so much abuse that I understand why he despises it.

    Of course, the other side of the same tool is that it's actually useful, when used perhaps more in accordance to the initial intention of the designers: to give shy people a chance to express their preferences for the playing agenda. Sadly, this is a tool that either works wonders or ruins the game, depending on the nature of the people playing it.

    This is one of the reasons why I think designers should prepare for the worst kind of players, but expect the best, instead of the opposite approach.

  • I can understand someone not liking the approach. But I don't understand the rage. Is it manipulation of the brain? I suppose, just like most mechanics are manipulating your brain to an extent. I don't think it is malicious or harmful. Just a ubiquitous feature of many past times and activities. Does it work well? Probably depends on the group. If it doesn't work for your group, it doesn't work for your group. That said it seems to work well enough for many people, so there is clearly some demand for mechanics like this.
  • edited February 2015


    This is one of the reasons why I think designers should prepare for the worst kind of players, but expect the best, instead of the opposite approach.

    I am not convinced of this. I think there is certainly a place for systems that work to stifle bad behavior or problem players, but I wouldn't want every system to tie the hands of good players in an effort to weed out the bad. To a certain extent these are social issues between the players and not the responsibility of game designers. If players use the mechanics as weapons against each other or as tools of manipulation, those are people I don't want to play with. If the only thing stopping Jim from being a jerk to me at the table is a rule in the book, there is a bigger issue than the system.
  • edited February 2015
    I love the observations from @3Jane's post, but I think that's just one side of the coin; some other players use fanmail as dictated by social pressures rather than play, which renders their feedback useless.

    I think there are some keys in the details:
    when they give the rewards to other participants, the action encourages them to verbalise what they liked about what those people did.
    This practice sounds like it'd greatly enhance the clarity of the feedback! And I've never seen it happen before! Every fanmail game I've played, one player has said something funny or clever or intense and another player has tossed them a token and roleplay has continued uninterrupted. Zero "what did you like about that?" chat. How did your group wind up doing this?

    Brainstorm: a game could use different colors of fanmail tokens. You throw different colors for different things. For example, red is drawing us in with portrayal, black is pushing or turning the fiction in a direction that we're excited to explore, and white is making us laugh.

    If these tokens can then be spent for anything, the rewards could match the achievements -- red goes toward character development, black adds GM opportunities, white lets you interject in scenes where you're absent, etc. I already do something like this in my supervillain game -- it works fine, but the game isn't set up to focus on it, so no one wants to bother with picking out the right color bead to toss. So we just go by role at the time of the award (villain/GM/other). But if another game benefits from "what did you like about that?" chat, then maybe it'd be appropriate there.
    It also shows me who needs more spotlight and encouragement because I can see who has a stack and who hasn't.
    This just reminded me -- there's some fanmail game (PtA?) where players start out holding the tokens they can give. The tokens they collect go in a separate pile. So when you look around, you can not only see who'd getting love, but also who's giving love. In my experience, the people who aren't getting excited enough by what's going on at the table to hand out tokens are the ones who might need extra GM attention. Not character spotlight time per se, but some sort of opportunity to help set the tone.
  • @AsIf, that whole alignment-behavior progression chart (and deities having an opinion on it) makes alignment 1000 times cooler to me. I now wish I'd done that in my last long-term game -- probably not feasible to get buy-in, because we had no active deities, but it would have been so cool to look back on everyone's arc. We had one guy go from pious defender of righteousness to greedy power-seeker, another guy go from foolhardy troublemaker to cautious strategist, and the third guy go from cold and vengeful to bold and heroic. I think. I wish I had a record!
  • edited February 2015
    @David_Berg That was a good example of what I call "fictizing" - the art of covering a non-diegetic element with a well-suited diegetic veneer. Because yes, the dieties' view of your alignment was based on non-diegetic judgments (you and me, discussing the session afterward [PS to @Paul_T not lonely at all, very simple math])... but this non-diegetic ritual calculation was transformed with perfect correspondence into a diegetic phenomenon.

    And like your post reminds us - it's not as though PCs never change their alignment. In my world, some did it by choice, and some did it by drifting on the chart until their old diety turned their back on them. This was never seen by Players as a "reward" or as a "punishment", because it was a literal in-game consequence of their own in-game actions.

  • edited February 2015
    [Deleted my objection to Rickard's rewards-hate, as I just noticed that @Bedrockbrendan already said the same thing.]
  • Why are you so angry?
    Frustration, and some more things, but honestly: all those are just excuses. I have to apologize for my tone, and have people to read what I mean and not how I write it.
  • edited February 2015
    I've simply made alignments and levels become diegetic elements. This came from Adventure Time where the characters are sometimes talking about leveling and alignment. Marvel Comics recently did a similar thing (thinking of the Axis crossover).
    Like, I've had NPCs say "We're level 8 clerics" while they weren't, and things like that.
    I see it as a "title of honor" or something.
    Alignments I don't really use so maybe that's different. If I ran LotFP RAW, I would, but in 5e I think it's redundant to have both alignment and ideal, and I prefer ideal.
  • edited February 2015
    I love the observations from @3Jane's post, but I think that's just one side of the coin; some other players use fanmail as dictated by social pressures rather than play, which renders their feedback useless.
    Thanks! I've obviously not experienced the same thing as other people did. My preferences might be also because with regards to social pressures, I think I prefer things to be out in the open instead of non-verbal cues such as sighs or who is listened to more attentively, because the latter simply make me uncomfortable and unwanted without knowing why and how I transgressed against the group rules. If the problems are out in the open, at least I can make an informed decision about what to change and whether to stay with the group or leave it.

    Also, this touches on geek social fallacies. Not all groups are for everyone, not everyone is for all groups. And that's okay.
    when they give the rewards to other participants, the action encourages them to verbalise what they liked about what those people did.
    This practice sounds like it'd greatly enhance the clarity of the feedback! And I've never seen it happen before! Every fanmail game I've played, one player has said something funny or clever or intense and another player has tossed them a token and roleplay has continued uninterrupted. Zero "what did you like about that?" chat. How did your group wind up doing this?
    I haven't played or read Primetime Adventures, but giving verbal feedback is required by the rules of Tenra Bansho Zero, Burning Wheel and Mouseguard. (I think it may also be the case for Chuubo's Emotional XP as well, but a) I don't remember, b) it's not as central game concept there anyway, so.)

    In TBZ, which is the game I was referring above, you're supposed to specifically say what you're handing out the token for. That's partly because it's disallowed for several players to give a token for the same thing, and partly because the game rules explicitly recognise the value of feedback. The GM is supposed to kickstart the process by clearly setting an example at the start of the game (hopefully it'll make it easier for the shy/reserved people to follow an already set example; sometimes it's not enough to simply say "here are the game rules, do it" - people need to see that internal social rules of the group also allow expressing an opinion on the performance of others).

    In BW and MG you hold a discussion at the end of the game, asking about each belief/instinct etc in particular and checking if they were fulfilled, voting for the MVP award and so on. And yeah, the MVP voting might turn into a popularity contest and it might turn out that the group doesn't appreciate your contribution as much as they should have. But my thinking is that they wouldn't have done it anyway but wouldn't have told you, and at least now you know and can act accordingly.
    This just reminded me -- there's some fanmail game (PtA?) where players start out holding the tokens they can give. The tokens they collect go in a separate pile. So when you look around, you can not only see who'd getting love, but also who's giving love. In my experience, the people who aren't getting excited enough by what's going on at the table to hand out tokens are the ones who might need extra GM attention. Not character spotlight time per se, but some sort of opportunity to help set the tone.
    Yeah, that's a great idea! That's not part of TBZ - there's simply a central supply of the tokens - but I did notice another TBZ GM (hi Neil :) hand out stacks of tokens to individual players for ease of access, or encourage the players to take them themselves. And then, indeed you can see who's engaged with other players.
  • Thanks! I've obviously not experienced the same thing as other people did. My preferences might be also because with regards to social pressures, I think I prefer things to be out in the open instead of non-verbal cues such as sighs or who is listened to more attentively, because the latter simply make me uncomfortable and unwanted without knowing why and how I transgressed against the group rules. If the problems are out in the open, at least I can make an informed decision about what to change and whether to stay with the group or leave it.
    Amen to this part of it, honestly.
    Also, this touches on geek social fallacies. Not all groups are for everyone, not everyone is for all groups. And that's okay.
    I still think I'm stuck in a lot of the GSFs. I have problems with people but I don't wanna be alone. :(
  • edited February 2015
    In TBZ, which is the game I was referring above, you're supposed to specifically say what you're handing out the token for. That's partly because it's disallowed for several players to give a token for the same thing, and partly because the game rules explicitly recognise the value of feedback.
    Cool! "Label it so we don't double up" is also a lot less judgmental than "justify your preference" -- kinda slips the evaluation in there very subtly.

    What kinds of things did your players say when awarding tokens? Did you have to nudge them at all, or did they pick up on useful explanations intuitively after your first demo?
    In BW and MG you hold a discussion at the end of the game
    You've gotten "roleplay feedback" info from this? I'm surprised. I mean, yeah, one player gets a "good roleplay" award for Embodiment, but that's one unit of feedback per session. The rest of the awards are for book-defined stuff or for Workhorse & MVP, which my groups always judged by character achievements rather than by how the players played.
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