Spicy rolls and princess play

This is a split from the long thread about spicy play. I separated it because that thread's run pretty long and I can't be bothered to read through it in its entirety at this late date. I'm sure somebody will tell me if I missed something important.
@komradebob I nominate a replacement name for Princess Play as SUPER SERIOUS BUSINESS
For what it's worth, I chose "princess play" originally in reference to the kind of children's play that has particular similarity to it: while performative/competitive children's games like "cops and robbers" are often compared to rpgs, role-immersive play is also popular with children. Boys often like to pretend to be superheroes and such, but this type of play is perhaps associated more with girl-children, who might indeed play at being a princess (or a mother, or a superhero, or something else).

I have never intended the description as a negative one, and I'm not quite sure why it's so often taken that way. My best theory - cynical as it is - is that gamers are so steeped in cultural misogyny that they automatically take it as an insult if something they do is compared with something girls do. It's like I'm calling you an unmanly man by describing your playstyle as "princess play". What I personally think about princesses and gender roles doesn't even enter into it.

I'd be fine with "role-inhabiting play" as a term myself, but... don't we want to have catchy, fun jargon that's easy to remember? For me just starting to call this sort of play "princess play" was a minor breakthrough, as comparing the psychology of what was actually going on at the table to a small child playing dress-up actually helped me understand and observe the creative psychology on a thoroughly different level.

(The fact that "princess play" goes thematically together with the somewhat related concept of "dollhouse play" works well for me, too. In comparison, calling it "superhero play" wouldn't work at all - people would just assume that I'm talking about superhero rpgs instead of a specific creative agenda, albeit one common to superhero rpgs.)
What is the difference between 'spicy roll' and 'princless play' from the player's perspective? How can they work together or why not?
@Eero_Tuovinen?
I think that practices similar to the "spicy roll" have been used a lot in a princess play context, and successfully too. They evidently go together well.

They're not the same thing, however, assuming I understand the "spicy agenda" correctly. The way I understand it is that it's a new name for participationist GM-story railroad. The name comes from using task resolution dice rolls as a dialogue technique; rolls are interpreted in a vague fashion where they essentially become an improvisation aid for the GM, and occasional justification for player pushback - spice on otherwise diceless fiat resolution.

Given this understanding, it's a classical comparison between a technical framework (what has occasionally been called "technical agenda") for structuring a game, and an actual creative goal of play. The "spicy play" is a method of defining player roles and activities during play, while "princess play" is what you're attempting to achieve. The former seems to me rather well suited to achieving the latter.

Some specific features of spicy play that have the potential to work for princessing:
* All sorts of descriptive rules for defining characters exist, which helps you establish an interesting character identity. These descriptive rules are clearly under-utilized by the resolution system, which is a good thing, as you aren't forced to optimize the character towards some specific task unless you want to.
* The GM does not have an intrinsic motivation to challenge and break the player characters; he doesn't even need to care about them very much in his GM role as long as they don't stray from their assigned story roles. Plenty of space for the players to strut their elf-stuff.
* The task distribution between the GM and character players frees the character players from having to care about things like "what happens next": they're free to focus on princessing, which is ultimately an aesthetic, non-strategic activity that requires a background context (which the GM provides) but doesn't necessarily feed back into it.

On the other hand, there are totally Spicy games that are not very princessing-friendly. Call of Cthulhu is my go-to example of a Sim game - also a very Spicy-friendly game - that is very much not an ideal platform for princessing. The game presumes that the player characters are much less interesting than their setting, requires them to be rather ordinary, doesn't even let them be conspicuously good at what they do... it is in many ways the opposite of a typical princessing game like say anything from Whitewolf ever.
The reason I asked about the relation between princess play and spicy roll is because while they are two, clearly different things, my mind instantly tied them together.

1. Princess players need rules to fancy their characters and make them shine.
2. So it seems that it is very easy for them to use the spicy dice rolls as an inspiration for the fiction, of course only if
A. they retain the rights of interpreting and narrating the outcomes, or
B. the GM is able to never break their vision of their character.

3. Some unwanted (1s) results could be still ok, if it means that my character got captured so I can show off my coolness in the prison and break out.

4. Swords without Master is maybe the best spicy roll princess play rpg ever! :)
I agree on all points. SwM might also be the only spicy roll game text that I've actually read, unless we count Dread as one. (I wouldn't myself - Dread explicates the related idea of "progress-tracking dice" rather than "spicy dice".)

Do note that the easiest way to avoid 2B is that the GM actually understands the player desire to princess all over the place. I've found that GMing Simmy stuff like say superhero games or high fantasy hero games has become massively easier for me once I figured out this princessing stuff. It truly is often the case that what makes the player really happy is simply the opportunity to play their character in a situation you provide. As long as your chosen systemic paradigm can deliver that, and encourage the forming of strong princess identities, and not break characters, you just might find out that your game is already doing everything some people want to do.
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Comments

  • edited December 2018
    My best theory - cynical as it is - is that gamers are so steeped in cultural misogyny that they automatically take it as an insult if something they do is compared with something girls do.
    My best guess is that everyone is so accustomed to cultural misogyny that they automatically assume an insult is intended when they hear terms like "princess play". The cultural connotations of both play and fictional princesses do little to counter this impression.
    I'd be fine with "role-inhabiting play" as a term myself, but... don't we want to have catchy, fun jargon that's easy to remember?
    That would be ideal, yeah. How about "role-living"? Or "interior play"?
  • The way I understand [the spicy agenda] is that it's a new name for participationist GM-story railroad.
    I don't think that's entirely accurate, but it probably doesn't matter here, because this:
    The "spicy play" is a method of defining player roles and activities during play, while "princess play" is what you're attempting to achieve.
    sounds totally viable to me.
  • edited December 2018
    I call the player who seeks princess play the Actor (damn phallocratic suffix). For them, it's mainly about expressing a persona.

    "These descriptive rules are clearly under-utilized by the resolution system, which is a good thing, as you aren't forced to optimize the character towards some specific task"
    I think I disagree, if I understand correctly. The Actor should be able to use their game resources fully to express their character. It is sub optimal only if their table don't know their desired play style. If the Actor plays in a confined area of mechanical inefficiency, this is a very bad clinical sign.
  • Is expression really necessary though? I find that a lot of my princess play satisfaction is internal, rather than performative. It's the same kind of mindset that has a person spend an hour tweaking the physical appearance of their character in a video game character generator despite the fact that their physical appearance has no mechanical effect on the game.

    I can be whatever I want and it has zero direct impact on play, and that disconnect is actually a desirable thing. It's heavily actualizing in that identification with a character doesn't impede your ability to participate. Forcing someone into a niche necessitated by the game actually works counter to the Princess Agenda.

    That was, I think, a major issue in a lot of people's criticism of perceived imbalance in 3E D&D, for example, that character option choices they wanted to be expressive too often resulted in mechanically sub-optimal characters, particularly compared to players who weren't interested in Princessing.
  • edited December 2018
    OK. Imagine you are handed a pre generated character. It is optimal. You act it. You express it. Is this not Princess play ?
    Oh no, I understand! That's the Actor. Princess play is a whole ritual of play pretend that summons the character. Also, it has an hint of power fantasy and family fantasy (what's the English for Freud's roman familial ?)
    Whereas the Actor is trying to reconcile into a persona all the capharnaüm of tools, resources and constraints that are needed for the game to run smoothly (=a character).
  • DeReel: princess play is not the same thing as being an actor. Princess players generally see strong inborn meaning in the character roles they inhabit (I would say "immerse in", but that's another terminological kettle). I agree with Yuka about much of the payoff being internal. There are social rewards to princessing as well, but you are your own first audience when doing this stuff.

    For example, one of the players in our gaming group has a clearly observable interest towards playing macho, honorable warrior type characters. He usually picks characters like dwarves, paladins, noble savages or similar in various games. His favourite character play moments, the "princessing opportunities", revolve around tough male bonding (boisterous laughing, drinking, wrestling with bears), justice (avenging wrongs, giving bold speeches before battle) and similar themes; he generally likes situations where it's pretty obvious how a brave warrior type would tackle them. We tease him regularly about how he tends to play to a type, even in games where princessing is not particularly well-supported. He plays a "tough Irish cop" in Call of Cthulhu [grin].

    From my observations this player rather enjoys princess play, but it's not because he likes to Act in character - it's this specific type of character that appeals to him, not the process of acting by itself. I realize now as I'm writing this that this guy happens to incidentally also have a theater hobby, so he does in fact apparently like acting as an artform, but believe me - I can distinguish when a player is playing to his type and when they're simply taking a character and running with it.

    These "typecast" princess players aren't nearly the entire population of gamers amenable to princess play - I think that it's a pretty common creative agenda that most of us can enjoy. However, they illustrate the psychology well: to be truly entertained by princessing you actually need to find the role-inhabiting process somehow personally meaningful. The character concepts you find meaningful in this way will change over the lifetime of most people, and some people always have a wide interest in various kinds of roles, but it's always important to be true to whatever it is that you find relevant yourself.

    I myself used to have an inclination towards magical and elfy character concepts when I was starting with roleplaying (I was a "pretends to be an elf" kid, I guess), but then I became a GM for so long that I'm only slowly coming back to grips with what I actually like to play. I think that I would need more and more consistent opportunities to be a character player in Simmy games that support princessing to really get to the bottom of this personally.
  • My best guess is that everyone is so accustomed to cultural misogyny that they automatically assume an insult is intended when they hear terms like "princess play". The cultural connotations of both play and fictional princesses do little to counter this impression.
    This is directly the source of my negative reactions. I'm a woman who loves princesses, but I'm so used to seeing men on the internet use princess negatively because of how steeped in misogyny society is.
    OK. Imagine you are handed a pre generated character. It is optimal. You act it. You express it. Is this not Princess play ?
    I would personally say that one can do Princess Play with characters that aren't their own OCs, as long as they get deeply attached to the characters, make them their own, and love them.
    A big part of princess play (as I understand it) has to do with loving your characters deeply, and wanting nothing more than to express who they are and tell their story.

    The task distribution between the GM and character players frees the character players from having to care about things like "what happens next": they're free to focus on princessing, which is ultimately an aesthetic, non-strategic activity that requires a background context (which the GM provides) but doesn't necessarily feed back into it.
    I feel like this one gets a bit complicated if you're the type whose princess has a deeply embedded story. Like, it's kind of a variable in my eyes depending on how much you look at characters and story arc as the same thing.
    Like, I would definitely call my playstyle a version of princess play, but we don't have a GM, and place a lot of importance on crafting what happens next, because with our play being nothing but the character arcs, telling the story beautifully is an intrinsic part of expressing out characters.
    Basically, I make no real distinction between controlling the story and controlling the character, since for me, characters and their story arcs are inextricably linked, are different facets of the same thing, if that makes sense.
  • edited December 2018
    I was confused. Many traits you used apply to the Actor except the part about playing your Archetype. "A real Actor can play anything !" (add your favourite diva's foreign accent)
  • I'm presuming that Princess Play, like many sorts of sim play, requires psychological buy-in from the players. So like, if you like the pre-gen you're handed, maybe there's no problem there. But if you don't, then you won't "act it" and "express it" the way you would a character you actually want to play. I'm not sure to what extent Princess Play can encompass a "cold" portrayal.

    If I get what you're saying DeReel, it's that you could fail to achieve satisfying Princess Play by, for example, trying to play someone charismatic who can't mechanically charisma their way out of a wet paper bag, and I think that's true: mechanics can reinforce or hinder your expression of your character. I'm not saying that character optimization and character expression can't coexist, just that decoupling them doesn't have to be an impediment, and can actually work to the benefit of either or both. Particularly if the primary draw of PP is passively psychological, then it's probably more beneficial to eliminate the possibility of failure hindering it than it is to rely on success bolstering it.

    As an aside, in the Japanese roleplaying community there's an entire defined technique dedicated to this sort of disconnect, called "Makenai Roleplay" (something like "not giving in, not losing"): it's the practice of trying to use roleplay to spin bad mechanical outcomes into something that still maintains the ideal of your character.
  • edited December 2018
    For me too, the Actor gets paid first by interior satisfaction. It's sad if they have no public. I think you can do the Acting in a bold way, risking failure to achieve (sucess in the mission ?) in Sim play. Or you can play it safe. Pianissimo interstitial acting. A question of % in your agenda.
  • This is directly the source of my negative reactions. I'm a woman who loves princesses, but I'm so used to seeing men on the internet use princess negatively because of how steeped in misogyny society is.
    Yeah. I like princesses, though. I'm going to play an outright Disney princess type character sometime when I get a chance in a Simmy long-term campaign. Ars Magica or something princess-friendly like that [grin].
    I feel like this one gets a bit complicated if you're the type whose princess has a deeply embedded story. Like, it's kind of a variable in my eyes depending on how much you look at characters and story arc as the same thing.
    Like, I would definitely call my playstyle a version of princess play, but we don't have a GM, and place a lot of importance on crafting what happens next, because with our play being nothing but the character arcs, telling the story beautifully is an intrinsic part of expressing out characters.
    Basically, I make no real distinction between controlling the story and controlling the character, since for me, characters and their story arcs are inextricably linked, are different facets of the same thing, if that makes sense.
    That makes sense to me, certainly. In my experience there are a variety of different game structures that can do a good job for princess play purposes. For example, I think that a GM-plotted superhero game is often a very sensible vehicle for players who want to get their Wolverine on, so to speak. Meanwhile, we did a wuxia-themed princess play campaign with relationship mapping (and the implied weak plotting) last winter, and that worked, too, in this regard. (Most of the players had difficulty grasping the genre, admittedly, but that wasn't a structural fault.)

    My comments on how the Spicy dice vision can support princess play were just one way to go about it. Princess play can be achieved quite well with game structures that aren't anything like Spicy dice GM shows. They're not just distinct concepts, but they're, ultimately, concepts about different things: one is about game structure, the other is about game goals. (Or that's what a dirty Forgite tries to tell you, anyway.)
  • That makes sense!
    Thank you for clarifying! ^_^
  • edited December 2018
    My comments on how the Spicy dice vision can support princess play were just one way to go about it. Princess play can be achieved quite well with game structures that aren't anything like Spicy dice GM shows.
    Yeah, that was my thought re: @hamnacb 's question too. There's no inherent link there, but sure, you can do that combo if you want.

    I have clearly lost the battle to replace the term "princess play" in this thread, but I still think a substitute would be valuable for other audiences.
  • edited December 2018
    I find that I'm loathe to discard the term "princess play", given how perfect it is for describing this style of play, and how memorable it is. At this point it's ensconced in my personal vocabulary and unlikely to be replaced, at least in private use.

    I agree that assumptions of misogyny (which is unfortunate, but understandable - there are many good reasons to assume that a gamer on the internet might be, indeed, trying to insinuate something) are what's holding us back from adopting the term without reservation.

  • I suppose so, even if I'm not that concerned about rpg theory evangelism. I don't mean to sound callous, because it's just gaming, but I don't necessarily feel that other people need to understand my armchair rpg theorizing [grin]. It's questionable whether theory has been that useful outside specific initiatory context anyway, historically; seems to me that the important thing is to find like-minded people who can benefit from shared exploration, rather than try to make theory generally accessible. You either get what the other guy is trying to say because it is useful in your own situation, or you don't, and terminology won't help there. Even the most neutrally phrased theory will just annoy people for whom it's not relevant.

    Still, alternatives - "Identity-experiencing agenda" would be both precise and unlikely to ruffle feathers. I feel that it's not very transparent, so you get to explain what it means a lot, but at least it doesn't bring inappropriately frilly dresses to mind.

    Maybe the best thing to do terminology-wise would probably be to create a grand exploratory framework that provides a lot of names for all sorts of creative agenda variations in bulk. That would have the necessary conceptual weight to justify abandoning prior word choices in favour of a consistent terminology.
  • I think it's going to be REALLY hard to beat "princess play", frankly.

    The best thing I can think of might be to take a really colourful character and make a label that way.

    "Wolverine Play", for instance. Or perhaps "Gandalf Play", or "Wize Wizard Play". (The gendered connotations, now masculine instead of feminine, is still not ideal, though.)

    What about riffing on the Vampire comparison?

    For instance:

    "Masquerade Play"
  • Yes, I can see "Wolverine play". That could be a name for passive-aggressive turtling as well, though [grin].

    That last one is pretty interesting, but that's mainly because it invites me to question whether the enhancement people have with masques is similar to princess play. I can see that, myself. People have masks they find enticing to adopt, and the reasons are perhaps similar to why somebody would feel it interesting to pretend to be an elf.
  • edited December 2018
    Ooh, "Masquerade Play" is great! Or even "Masque Play" if one wishes to sever from the specifics of Vampire.

    The beloved character idea is cool too. Wolverine is good for reveling in badassery, but maybe a slightly more navel-gazing hero would be a better exemplar? "Skywalker Play" for how Luke gets to discover that in addition to being a noble-hearted farmer, he also has it inside him to be a magical warrior?
  • edited December 2018
    Wouldn't Princess Play pretty much be the basic form of roleplay almost everyone does spontaneously, at least in small amounts, at any sort of costume party/Halloween party/fancy dress party?

    I mean, some gamers may hate the term, but non-gamers would probably grok the term with about two sentences or less or explanation. I'm not sure any of the boring, hard to remember, alternative terms suggested have much advantage over Princess Play in that area.

    Also, Princess Play, as a term, makes me laugh.

    Wolverine Play I find unacceptable. Everyone knows Nightcrawler was vastly cooler than that Canadian psycho runt. :wink:

    And yeah, in practice, everything White Wolf, especially early WoD 1e, is way into Princess Play territory and is pretty awesome for that. I can't imagine WW having ever gotten nearly as successful without it hitting a whole bunch of PP priorities in practice.
  • As is usually the case, I agree with the comrade on all counts. And it's not just Nightcrawler - practically the entire New X-Men crew are superior to Wolverine. I'd take Sprite over him. Only Thunderbird ranks lower, and that's just because he dies in the first story.

    +1, as they say.
  • I like Princess Play a lot as a term because I love princesses. It takes some clarification, but I think that's okay.
  • edited December 2018
    Thank you so much for this thread, it is great.

    How is PP related to SIM? Is it a subcategory? If yes, it is, than what other kinds of SIM are possible?
  • edited December 2018
    SIM's Real Name is Legion, for it contains Multitudes!

    Truthfully, I'm not sure. I would say yes, because I love wallowing in the source material ( like being Nightcrawler for a while).

    And, as has been discussed in another thread recently, you can create your own Source Material to wallow happily in.

  • edited December 2018
    How is PP related to SIM? Is it a subcategory? If yes, it is, than what other kinds of SIM are possible?
    I was actually going to ask Eero if he might expound briefly on Doll Housing, but then I got distracted. I suspect that, by analogy, Princess Play : Character :: Doll Housing : Setting, but I also think that there's a little more to it than that, as the relational aspect you have to your character is more direct/less mediated than the one you have to setting.

    Like, it's easier to passively enjoy simply being your character, while a setting needs to be at least minimally interacted with to get it to give you the right kind of SIM fuzzies.
  • I myself think that princess play is a specific type of (or perhaps vessel for) simulationist creative agenda, yes. To be clear, this is an experiental conclusion and not structural speculation as such: princess play feels very much akin to some other types of play that I think are Simulationistic. They all blend together seamlessly in the right conditions, really, which I guess might just be my imagination because it's suspiciously precisely what GNS theory would predict [grin].

    Others I know of... at least these come to mind (and yes, they also have weird names):

    Dollhouse play is when you enjoy building fictional stuff and parading it around. Point-buy games like GURPS get into this occasionally, and Ars Magica is basically just an extremely ambitious "let's all build a wizard castle together now" dollhousing project. This differs from princess play mainly in the way the relationship between the player and character is construed; dollhouse play is less absolute about the intimate relationship, it's less about "I need to be an elf" and more about "let's make a cool elf together" or "let me show you this cool elf I made".

    Substantial exploration is when the game has a basis in prior art and focuses on discussing that prior art from various fresh perspectives. Call of Cthulhu, some MERP motivations, various Star Trek and Star Wars games... My own Chronicles of Prydain campaign runs on this + princess play + some plot stuff, pretty much.

    GM story hour is the railroad plot stuff: the game delivers a first-person perspective on a story that is hopefully narrated skillfully. Horror games in general often run on almost exclusively this stuff. Dread, Dead of Night, etc.

    Mechanical monkeying is a thing that comes up in the heaviest type of Sim games, such as the classic point-buys and Ars Magica and whatnot. I think that it's a rare type that is difficult to get right, as it requires the players to be successful in crafting the system itself as a chassis of poetry for the actual subject of the game; if there is no specific and particular beauty in the way you solve the point distribution issue in simulating the Noldor vs. the mortals or whatever, then you're just wasting time with mechanical overhead instead of engaging this type of Sim value-add. You need to make mechanical discovery, and many systems aren't even capable of offering that.

    I'm sure that there are other varieties of Sim, of course - this is just a list of what I've experienced personally over the last decade with a sufficient impact for me to have noticed it as being structurally discrete. The smart monkey might notice the relationship the above list has to the Forgite "elements of Exploration" analysis, which I do not believe to be a coincidence.
  • Princess play is very much not a sim agenda in my eyes, but I'm thinking that's because of the way I view characters as inextricably linked to their arcs, so optimally expressing my character required direct control of her story.
    I think where stuff falls as far as GNS with princess play really depends on the princess play group's opinions on what a character is rather than it being a baked in essential of the agenda.
  • edited December 2018
    I'll just say "Princess play" is a poor term because beforet his thread I assumed it was exactly the same as doll house play, except about your player character and his/her skills, look etc.
  • Heh, "GM story hour" has a great ring to it. I might use that. "GM theater" and "GM tour guide" might be cousins, with the corresponding emphases on plot, heady experience, and exploration.

    If I get what you mean by "dollhouse play", I might call it "Minecraft play". Not sure how literally you intend the "let's build a thing" as the primary reward of play over time. Setting out to build a wizard castle and then finishing it and ending the game sounds awesome to me, but I've never seen an RPG remotely like that. I'm more used to moments of minecrafting/dollhousing in games about something else.

    I think there's a considerable and potentially confusing overlap between what you're calling "substantial exploration" (least catchy name here) and what some of us call "genre emulation". Might be worth picking apart a bit?

    I'm also curious if the "what if?" experiment, running a simulation, falls into what you've already covered or is separate.
  • I just assumed those two were the same thing, David ( Genre Emulation and Substantial Exploration), except that substantial exploration might be even more specific to one property than genre emulation.
  • Princess play is very much not a sim agenda in my eyes, but I'm thinking that's because of the way I view characters as inextricably linked to their arcs, so optimally expressing my character required direct control of her story.
    I think where stuff falls as far as GNS with princess play really depends on the princess play group's opinions on what a character is rather than it being a baked in essential of the agenda.
    Thing is, what you describe sounds like a very clear example of Sim to me [grin]. It would go under that "GM story hour" label in my list above, except for the (for me personally) completely incidental technical detail of having multiple players doing storytelling. I can totally believe that storytelling and princessing are essentially parts of the same whole for you instead of two elements that can be considered separately.

    Discussing GNS categorization is clearly an Extremely Useful Thing We Should Now Start Doing.

    A thought that might be useful or might not: for me one of the core differences in what a story even means to Sim vs. Nar is about the fluidity of protagonist identity. A game where the protagonist identity is discovered through play, and this is a big deal, is clearly Narrativism. A game where the protagonist identity is largely fixed, probably emblematic and clear, is similarly a very typical Sim pattern that hampers a narrativist agenda in many ways.

    When I'm confused about whether something I'm doing is Sim or Nar (this is not very common, partially because it's not that important), that's what I look at: is this about discovering a new story with new truths, or is this about reviewing an old one? Is it important to express this idea I have, or is it important to engage in a dialogue where a new idea might emerge?
  • I think there's a considerable and potentially confusing overlap between what you're calling "substantial exploration" (least catchy name here) and what some of us call "genre emulation". Might be worth picking apart a bit?
    I would call genre emulation a type of substantial exploration, yeah, in the way I usually see it happening. It's basically a review of prior art with all the tropes still intact, but without all the particulars. Doing Lord of the Rings without the lords or the rings, if you will, as opposed to just assigning somebody to play Frodo and starting from there.

    The whole "substantial exploration" class of Sim might not be very useful to other people. For me it's useful precisely because it recognizes it when a Sim game has an underlying dependence on prior art and when it's dealing with other stuff like e.g. a given player's dwarf obsession. So from my perspective a "let's replay Chronicles of Prydain with all the same events and characters" game is very similar in its creative purposes to a "let's play a high fantasy game with all the tropes in the right places" game.
    I'm also curious if the "what if?" experiment, running a simulation, falls into what you've already covered or is separate.
    That is a nice question, I like it.

    I would say that what iffing is also a type of substantial exploration alongside genre emulation - it relies on a bunch of prior art over which you run your re-evaluations. Our Chronicles of Prydain game is actually a light exercise in "what if" as it barrels along - the point of distinction being, "what if a bunch of D&D heroes existed in Prydain on the eve of the War of the Horned King?" (I characterize it as a light exercise because I'm not putting major effort into the simulation so much as just picking on interesting threads of possibility that the heroes knock loose and showcasing them.)

    It might indeed help make the techniques involved in play more transparent if we sliced that "substantial exploration" slice of the Sim pie a bit more. We have "genre emulation" and "what if", which are both pleasantly clear things. There's also "enjoying a classic", which captures the idea that substantial exploration is often about celebrating a separate work of art that you just happen to like a lot.
  • edited December 2018
    That makes sense. I'm used to thinking of sim as physics simulation, world simulation, etc, but I suppose that story simulation would also totally apply.
    The way that I play is definitely not standard narr, since standard narr requires "play to find out".
  • My automatic assumption on hearing the term 'princess play' is the player in question thinks 'its all about me'. So its usefulness has already been sabotaged by that common usage.

    Im with eero - I tend towards creating characters that rely on cleverness and sometimes agility, probably because I dont identify with being a physically powerful specimen IRL. I have a 6'8 friend who is something of a clutzy gentle giant who nearly always plays the gigantic powerful barbarian types who 'club first and ask questions later. or not'

    Are we talking 'role identification' or even 'wish fulfilment' here?

    Like 'this is how I see myself, or how I would like to be'

  • Princess Play has the advantage of being binomial and alliterative.

    Character Showcasing?
    Teaparty Play?

    Btw. I have always chosen Princess Play as a player even when It put me at odds with the table and even the game itself. And I usually play to these goals as a GM but in a sandbox with fronts rather than on a railroad. I didn't know what It was called until last year when Eero and I discussed it.
  • What I'm interested in, vis-a-vis this thread, is how to properly enjoy Princess Play. Both during chargen and during play. What sorts of things must one pay attention to during chargen, in order to make a character suitable for Princessing? Then, once play begins, what does Princessing "well" look like?
  • edited December 2018
    I started a thread about being a good player in Spicy Die play. There's some overlap there!

    It didn't get very far, but there's some input there (and I would love to hear more):

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21139/the-spicy-roll-agenda-player-edition
  • edited December 2018
    @stefoid I'd rather say people are attracted to a type of character for whatever reason. Else, there is no reason not to see PP as a limitation only. There is always identification. I suspect the character is an Archetype (I see no counter example). The power fantasy is at the same time a way to ensure the space for identification is safe : if you try to break the dream, the princess will block you off socially, the superhero physically.
    I still think it's the Actor with a limitation (isolation).
  • My automatic assumption on hearing the term 'princess play' is the player in question thinks 'its all about me'. So its usefulness has already been sabotaged by that common usage.
    That's actually a part of my insight from the GM side of the equation - the realization that it actually is about the player and their character. I understand how this can be viewed as selfish, but emotional honesty is important for getting anywhere in the arts, so own up to it and figure out how to make it work.

    The big question for structuring the game, as a designer or gamemaster, is about figuring out how to allow the various players the space they need to perform their wish-fulfillment self-therapy ideal-self crapshoot in an emotionally safe and fun way. In other words: how to let everybody get their princessing on (including the GM in a way, often enough) without stifling the fun.
    What I'm interested in, vis-a-vis this thread, is how to properly enjoy Princess Play. Both during chargen and during play. What sorts of things must one pay attention to during chargen, in order to make a character suitable for Princessing? Then, once play begins, what does Princessing "well" look like?
    I'd say that it's helpful for the player if you understand yourself and know what you like. It's difficult to stumble upon a character that's fun for you to play for its own sake by pure accident.

    A strong princess play character is not built on abilities or premise so much as they have a theme: Wolverine is "the best at what I do" with all the macho teeth-grinding that implies, for instance. Many people play essentially on instinct, but it doesn't hurt if you understand why you like Wolverine - that you're intrigued by the warrior lifestyle of a self-satisfied badass with nothing left to prove.

    (By the way, this "theme advice" is a staple of traditional rpg text ritual content - the shallow parts that we skip when we read them because they're all fucking same always. Trad games often pay a lot of respect to princess play, even if the concrete support is usually haphazard. I've never really understood why you actually would want to start your character creation by freeforming up a character idea, but this often useless or even harmful conceit is actually useful for a princess play orientation.)

    Once you have that concept, there's probably all sorts of game mechanics involved in giving it concrete expression in the given game. The real challenge during play is about realizing the character in action, however: how does the wolverine-ness of the character actually get portrayed in the activities of the game? Here it would be ideal if the game actually wanted you to wolverine all over the place, otherwise it's just going to be disruptive as fuck.

    Every princess play character concept essentially comes pre-matched with its own "core activities" or "emblematic situations". Ideally the game "supports princessing" by having some way of achieving those situations. If this is the case, then Wolverine gets his turn at some point: maybe it's a combat game of some sort, so if you wait enough, the GM gets around to it, and you get to spout the tagline and turn the room into red mist. (To perhaps wallow in the societal displeasure this causes afterwards, or whatever your specific Wolverine take is about.)

    My theory is that princess play is performative: while cool-down periods are practically necessary, they must be book-ended by opportunities to actually perform the character archetype, or there's no point to playing the game. It would be wrong to say that it's the only fun part, but I believe that you will have more fun playing Wolverine if you get to do the things Wolverine does: you try to solve things with violence, and hopefully there's a Cyclops there to hold you back from doing it when inappropriate; you flip all spiritual all of a sudden as you reign in the raging beast inside you; you become a righteous avenger in response to the circumstances. The individual games have nuanced interfaces that the players use to actually perform their character roles, so doing these things may imply dice-rolling and giving thespian speeches and whatnot, but the real unifying theme is that you get to rub your character vision all around the play space - that's the creative reward.

    The question of what good princessing looks like is an interesting one, as it depends on how a given game is structured - what it expects the players to do so that it flows well as a joint creative exercise. It may be the case that it's actually important to the game that your princessing entertains the other players in some way, for instance. Often rpgs face the challenge of having to entangle a sometimes very solipsistic player character concept in a meaningful way with other complex material prepared by some other player. For example, a superhero game may actively rely on both the player doing Wolverine in a vivacious way and him willingly entanging Wolverine with whatever it is that the GM has brought to the table.

    From this viewpoint I'd say that good princess play is about flexibility and an ability to engage with the game outside of the narrow perspective of waiting to be let loose. I know that I enjoy playing a princessing game like D&D 4th edition with people more if they have a rich, varied and flexible interface between their character concept and the external world. It's much more interesting to GM for a princess character who actually reacts to most situations in a colorful way instead of just sitting there like a zombie until their specific fetish gets trotted out. Wolverine is actually an example of a character who can be a drag in this regard if the player's Wolverine vision is that the only thing he ever does when not murdering somebody is drinking beer - that's something you got to plan around instead of expecting the player to support you, in many games.

    It is worth remembering that princess play doesn't usually form the entire creative payload of a given game. You usually have other things to enjoy in there as well, such as plot, some clever mechanical monkeying, or whatever. The opportunities to throw out cool powers and spout one-liners are just part of the entertainment. Your princess play will be more enjoyable if you can enjoy those as well instead of sitting impatiently and waiting for your opportunity to be Wolverine the whole night.
  • edited December 2018
    So for Good Princess Play, you need de-isolating mechanics, like Bonds between player characters, or a relationship map to make the lack of bonds obvious. This way the collection of Archetypes can work as a whole, the herosphere, or coordinate interaction via plot elements.
    Anyhow it can't be all in your head : you've got to prepare it before play or act it out, or plain say it, for the table to coordinate their action, or prepare for failure (real). eg If the other players don't take the cue that your Barbarian is gonna rage at the Princess ball, your isolation will wreck the plot. Note that if it's only the characters missing the cues, that's funny .

    @yukamichi Also, thank you for the tip about "Makenai roleplay". I can't find anything even googletranslate-able in English, though.
  • Yes. That Wolverine thing there is actually an old parable from the Forge. Wolverine is popular, sure, and many roleplayers like to play characters very much like him, but the real point of the thought-exercise is to ask: how does the group handle it when Wolverine-the-eternal-loner gets into a violent argument with Cyclops, the wise leader? Do we have the necessary tools for running scenes necessary for character expression like the one where Wolverine tries to attack something and Cyclops stops him, or the one where the two fight (but not really) over leadership? Is there a Cyclops at the table, and does he understand his role in helping Wolverine express himself? Doing this kind of stuff is impossible if you don't have a meta-level awareness and some kind of communication to coordinate the players. Playing in a purist "always in character" way actively hampers this kind of character expression, because the other players won't necessarily know when you're doing a bit where Wolverine is supposed to lose, and when you're doing one where he's supposed to win, to properly support his theme.

    (I realize that all this doesn't necessarily make any sense at all if you're not familiar with the old late '70s through '80s X-Men comics where Wolverine comes from. Old farts having old fart parables, with camels and stuff.)
  • edited December 2018
    I got used to call this Power Fantasy. I feel this term more appropiate because it can be applied to any gender, it doesn't assume your preferences nor imposes any tag that may appeal to one side of the gender discussion and offend the other. It can carry all the implications of this play style just okay and it's got a history, at least since Forge times.

    I mean, Power Fantasy as I understood was applied to games where PCs get more agency over the fiction so their story and presence become central to the game. I'm probably missing something, but is there a particular difference between both terms, Princess Play and Power Fantasy and what they mean?
  • I think Power Fantasy has easily as many negatives attached as Princess Play, especially since there's often an unspoken-yet-understood or assumed Male in front of Power Fantasy.


    I also feel Power Fantasy implies a certain amount of constant success in superficially challenging* situations in a way that Princess Play does not. Part of that may be that Princess Play does have characters experiencing (minor/temporary) (loss/failure), provided an ultimate win is achievable. Part of it may be that there isn't even that much even superficial mock challenge involved.


    Someone mentioned Tea Party play as a term. There might be a fair bit of Tea Party Play in Princess Play. Or at least Sexy Vampire Blood Rave Play. No real challenges involved. Your character goes to the Cool Undead Kids Hangout, Looking all Cool, and Does Cool Stuff, with Cool Music Playing, while bouncing off other characters doing the same thing. I'm pretty sure I have attended a couple dozen VtM LARP nights that pretty much amounted to exactly this.

    * superficially challenging here means challenging in appearance only. A Dragon appears! It gets an ass-whupping immediately! No real challenge of even a weak sort was ever involved.
  • Funny enough, I feel just the teeniest tiniest bit of discomfort with "power fantasy" - it doesn't sound like something healthy or desirable in its connotations. It has a history of negative subtext, if you will. The underlying psychology is the same thing, though, as far as I understand it.

    Aside from that, my only complaint is that in my opinion the rpg culture is too obsessed with strength, so implying that all princess play is about power (rather than other issues) feels culturally counter-productive - I think that gaming as a culture needs more honest appreciation of the variety of human issues, not relentless hammering on the issue of strength-based agency alone. Of course the same argument can be applied to "princess play" as a term - several people have outright said that it's a distracting phrasing.
  • That is a bit of a pickle, isn't it?

    On one hand there are memorable terms that often involve "reclamation" efforts of negative slang terms.

    The other choice seems to be pseudo-academic sounding terms, that while neutral, are bland, forgettable and quite possibly have the same issues that old Forge terms tended to have, namely that using academic-ish sounding terms tended to encourage academic-ish sounding debate over the at them while also encouraging a sort of anti-intellectual snobs movement against everything and anything associated with them.

    Personally, I prefer the reclamation terms many times, just because it reminds me personally to be serious about the stuff, but never over-serious about the stuff, which is a trap I've been know to walk into.
  • edited December 2018
    FWIW, the first time I saw the phrase "Princess Play", I immediately thought of "Gary Stu/Mary Sue" connotations.

    The examples of the player always picking someone like a "tough irish cop" certainly sort of smell like playing a Marty Stu character, but there wasn't enough description for me to make that assertion with much certainty. :)

    I don't mind the term Princess Play either way.

    I do kind of have a hard time telling the difference between this concept and Protagonism. I probably don't have a good understanding of either, but just throwing that out there as a question in case it might be a useful thing to ask.

    Edit: Protagonism as defined here: 'A term commonly used on The Forge with two meanings which unfortunately often mix-up player and character. It can mean (1) the characteristic of the main characters of stories of any type, or (2) power given to the player of a character during role-playing to control his thematic choices, often associated with Narrativist play. "
  • I suggest someone write each suggested term on an index card, throw them all in a hat, mix them up, and pick one.

    It makes as much sense as hair-splitting over a half dozen or more very similar term+ concept combos.
  • I see it less as splitting hairs and more like trying to see what difference the term is trying to communicate.
  • I mean, yeah, I think that's the initial reason. I don't think anyone is being deliberately obtuse. I just think we reach a point when it all involves wheel spinning.
  • The examples of the player always picking someone like a "tough irish cop" certainly sort of smell like playing a Marty Stu character, but there wasn't enough description for me to make that assertion with much certainty. :)
    Well, yes. Isn't the whole point of the Mary Sue critique to question the sense in pushing your own princess play entertainment on other people? It's rather non-trivial how to make this sort of thing meaningfully social, and the answer certainly doesn't seem to be "go write novel-length fanfiction about your wish-fulfillment OC".

    Or, to say that another way: roleplaying as a culture is big on Mary Sue-ism. It might be a smart idea to figure it out and perhaps attempt a constructive understanding. Giving it a negative label and forcing it underground isn't going to make it go away.
    I do kind of have a hard time telling the difference between this concept and Protagonism. I probably don't have a good understanding of either, but just throwing that out there as a question in case it might be a useful thing to ask.
    A Narrativistic protagonist is a character embroiled in a Premise. A well-developed princess play character is steeped in Theme. One is a question, the other an answer.

    Frodo as a Narrativist character: "I am a British everyman, let's see how far that gets you against Satan."

    Frodo as a Simulationistic character: "I'm a hobbit with all these character ticks you've come to know and love. I am particularly at home as a humble yet persevering hero. Let's maybe put me in a new situation and see how I cope."

    Wolverine as a Narrativist character: "I might be an actual wolverine mutated into human form, that's how savage I am. Can I become a superhero and learn to get along with my multicultural team?"

    Wolverine as a Simulationistic character: "I am the best at what I do, and what I do isn't nice. I adventure with ninjas when I'm not doing my top gig as the baddest-ass X-Man."

    The above juxtaposition is supposed to demonstrate how the entire attitude towards what a character even is becomes different when your creative purposes are different. One viewpoint sees the character as a ticking time thematic time bomb that exists so you can "play to find out". The other sees the character as a finished work of art in itself, ready to be dropped into various situations and enjoyed.

    The reason for why Narrativist games are generally bad at supporting princess play is that almost all narrativist games feature character-internal thematic conflict that becomes resolved by the character changing and growing as a person. This is antithetical to the idea of letting a player define who their character is; narrativist games are traditionally often rather polite and round-about here, but the fact is that you don't get to decide that Frodo would never fall into temptation: the process of play will find that out, and maybe he will after all.
  • edited December 2018
    Hehe, sorry for beating a dead horse, but reading about the player referenced above, I'm thinking of things like "method acting", or even being the type of actor who has roles specifically tailored to who they are. These seem like imperfect analogies, though.

    Still, am I getting closer to understanding the concept if I said it was about becoming (edit; and i mean actually becoming) that kind of character in play and that bringing a deep sense of satisfaction as part of some wish fulfillment?
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