In another thread I mentioned that there exists a whole body of techniques that one can use to "convert" players to what amounts to using Author stance. Note that when I say "convert," I'm not assuming that anyone needs converting (and certainly not that anyone else's style of play that doesn't include using this stance is wrong). But you may find that you want to engender in your game more use of author stance in your players. There are many reasons why you might want to try this - for me one simple reason is that it makes the game easier to run - but we'll just assume that you have a valid reason for wanting this in your game.
And we'll also assume here that your players are having trouble grokking just how to do this stuff. This is a non-issue for a lot of players who either are doing these things already, or who will do so with only minor prompting. And, again, at the risk of looking like I'm bashing, I'll say that the most common problems getting players to author are with those players who have been canalized by traditional play that teaches strongly that the player is not to do such authoring.
It's my opinion that, despite some peoples' complaints that authoring is unnatural, and needs to be learned, that it is actually as normal as roleplaying, or even more normal. Neither is taxing, and both are fun. So it can really behoove you to try to re-awaken these natural tendencies in players, to get a broader response in play from them. Again, this all assumes that this is what you want from play, and that you don't find player authoring to be problematic for play.
As a quick note, in case the reader doesn't know what "Author Stance" means, it's a pretty intuitive phrase that means that the player, instead of "channeling" the character, and making decisions based on "What the character would do" or simply associating with the character closely and only making decisions based on what he knows... this is "Actor Stance"... the player makes decisions for the character as though he were the author of a novel portraying the character in question.
What this comes down to, most importantly, is making decisions by including data that the player knows, but the character does not. This is key to understanding this. In a lot of traditional "Actor Stance" play, especially that which occurs in games meant to test the player, if a player directs his character to act with "player knowledge" instead of "character knowledge" this is seen as cheating.
In Author Stance, the player does make use of player knowledge to create decisions for his character, and this is not only accepted, but seen as good form. There is one other criteria to Author Stance, however, and that is that the player, as a novel author would, has the character act plausibly. That is, though the player is using character knowledge, he doesn't have the character do something that would be out of place with his character knowledge. To do so, to have the character act with player knowledge in an implausible way, is known as "Pawn Stance" (as though the character were a pawn in a board game).
I won't go into the usual "Brawl in the Park" example, unless somebody demands it later in the thread.
So, given that we want the player to, at least occasionally, look at the character as though he were the author of the character, how do we get a player who isn't used to this form of play to get comfortable with it? Below are a list of techniques (all of which I've used with success, I should mention) that may come in handy.
- Talking About It -
Just to head off some folks at the pass who will say that I'm being duplicitous or avoiding communication about the subject, I'll agree up front that, in many cases you can just discuss this subject with folks, and this might help. Talking about author stance has two main drawbacks that I've found, however, of which people should be aware:
1. It can offend some people. Often people see a suggestion to play another way as criticism of their methods of play. As opposed to just a preference difference. Why should they change, when they like how they play? Indeed, they are correct. We're not trying to force anyone to do anything that they don't want to do, just discuss adding a new dimension to the way we play. As such, sometimes it's much more powerful to "Show, don't tell." Just be careful in any discussions about this.
2. Talking often doesn't work. Even if you do get an agreement in principle from folks to try out this way to play, they often fall back on what they know. It can be more effective to give them some stimuli in play to get them to head in this direction.
And talking about it is not playing, too. Why not just get to playing, and have it fall into place with the following techniques. Talk about it if you feel that you have to, sure. Might work well. But consider the other techniques to reinforce learning about this sort of play.
- Delegating GM Authority -
In the traditional play dichotomy, the GM has authority to modify the world, and the player their character. This reinforces the idea that the player is supposed to only be considering his character's actions from the "actor" POV. It can work wonders to allow the player to have some of this authority. So, for example, you can ask the player, "What NPCs do you need to have in the scene to address your character's issue?" Allowing the player to move the NPCs to the scene puts the player immediately in the mind frame of the author. This can be done with other things than scene-framing, too. Object creation during scenes. Even creating the basic nature of challenges (though beware the Czege Principle).
- Prompting -
Just having a policy is often not enough to get the idea across. That is, you can tell a player, "Hey, if you ever want to frame a scene, just say so," often results in the player never taking advantage. So you have to prompt the player, like in the example above. By actively suggesting that the player take the authority, you adjust their mindset right then into thinking about doing it. When in the Actor Stance, they are thinking about their character, and not about adjusting anything else. So you may have to prompt them.