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?
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.