Sometimes things in a group just don't click – each person is working toward a different goal, pulling the group in different directions. Or maybe there a few people whose preferences seem difficult to integrate into the overall group dynamic, who are always headed in their own direction that no one else seems to understand. Perhaps, despite your best efforts, you've had trouble fitting someone into the sort of game you want to play. It can be hard to get everyone on the same page, particularly since everyone enjoys different things and gets different payoffs from roleplaying. It can be a frustrating situation for both those in the minority and those who struggle to include them. When communication breaks down and people become dissatisfied, recurring arguments and bad feelings are often the result, especially when it seems that the only solution is for someone to sacrifice what they want out of a game.
One of the major causes of this sort of group meltdown is miscommunication and misinterpretation. We have a tendency to interpret what is said in terms of our own way of thinking and our own value system, which can obscure the intended meaning of what others are trying to tell us. In order to understand what someone is really trying to say, it's helpful to understand what they
value and how they're thinking. By seeing things through their eyes, their goals become clearer and their approaches start to make more sense. Often, simply by understanding what people value, you can see new ways to create a common vision and encourage people to work together to realize it. For those whose values differ from the majority of the group, the key challenge is finding ways to share their perspective and explain what it is they're after. For others, the challenge is to understand views that may sound very alien to their own way of thinking.
The table below shows a spectrum of six different value systems that may be operating side by side in your group, and how they might be applied to various aspects of roleplaying. Each value system is something I've encountered in others or myself over the course of my roleplaying experience, and which at first I struggled to understand or express. I've come respect each of them as a valid way to approach to roleplaying, and that's helped me to make sure that each person's view is heard and represented in our approach to crafting a mutually satisfying gaming experience.
The table is intended as a tool for fostering awareness of your own preferences, for aiding communication by helping people understand where others are coming from, and for assisting you in creating opportunities for everyone to contribute by matching group members with appropriate roles and responsibilities. Think of it as a 'force multiplier' – by tailoring the social structures, game procedures, and principles of moving the fiction forward to the group members and their interests, you reduce counterproductive efforts and make it easier to involve everyone in creating a high-quality game. It describes six different views, each of which is a reasonably coherent approach to roleplaying, comprising a sense of self, an ethos, a motivation for imagining or roleplaying, a set of values, a preferred social structure, a desired type of procedures and distribution of authority, as well as certain preferences regarding the nature of imagined content. Naturally, people don't always operate from a single one of these views; they may use a few, or range between all of them, or use one most of the time, or apply different views to different aspects of roleplaying.
I believe it's a tool with fairly broad applicability -- hopefully, you will find it useful in promoting healthy group dynamics, optimizing the game experience for maximum fun, and finding synergistic approaches toward making your game successful.
Some questions to ponder as you peruse the table:
Which views do you identify with most?
Which ones make you uncomfortable or fail to strike a chord?
Which views do others in your group identify with? Dislike?
How varied are the views represented in your group?
Do any past or present group conflicts seem like they may involve mistranslation between these views?