Group Dynamics and A Spectrum of Roleplayer Identities

edited September 2008 in Story Games
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?

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Comments

  • edited September 2008
    The table -- that's the bones. To put some meat on those bones, here are two examples that actually happened in my group:

    In a group discussion, we had one player, call him Player A, say that what he really wanted from a game was to be a 'hero.' The ensuing misinterpretations spanned several different campaigns.

    Player B thought: Right, a hero -- someone who makes the morally right choice according to his culture, even when he has strong personal incentives not to do so.
    Player C thought: Oh sure, someone who has a challenging goal that will require them to balance multiple important aspects.
    Player D thought: Who's to say what's heroic and what isn't? Being heroic is in the eye of the beholder.
    Player A meant: A hero -- someone who defeats the bad guys using all the power at his disposal.

    The different points of view are roughly (from B to A): manager, strategist, radical, and guardian/warrior. The key point here, and the thing that links this strongly to play, is that each of the other players GM'd their respective campaigns under the assumption that they knew what was meant by 'hero' and operated accordingly. They each provided exactly the sort of thing they would want if they wanted to be a hero -- tough moral choices, challenging goals, and contradictory perspectives. But that wasn't what Player A wanted, and yet none of them had any idea how they could possibly be failing to deliver it. In fact, all of them thought he was simply being difficult. After all, they knew what hero meant just as well as anyone else, and they were providing opportunities to be just that, so what could possibly be the problem?

    Another example, which also spanned multiple campaigns: Player D's characters continually contradicted every other character in the group regarding their core beliefs. The reaction was universally negative.

    Player A thought: This guy is questioning what it means to be bad. How annoying -- everyone ought to know who's bad. It's obvious.
    Player B thought: This guy is disrupting the camaraderie amongst the group, and tearing down the cultural norms. How annoying -- everyone ought to follow the dictates of their culture. That's how you get along with each other.
    Player C thought: This guy is questioning my goals, and whether accomplishing them is really better than failing. How annoying -- how are you supposed to know if you've accomplished something worthwhile if you don't even know which things are better than other things?

    All of them viewed him as being willfully difficult and malicious. They saw that these sorts of conflicts of belief often lead to PvP, and that was something none of them wanted any part of. The points of view here are the same as in the last example, so you've probably already guessed that...

    Player D thought: Everything is subject to interpretation. It'll be really cool and interesting to see how all these things depend on your perspective.

    I found all of this out through a long series of mostly one-on-one conversations with the members of the group. They'd tried talking to each other, but most of the time, they ended up talking past each other -- and they eventually figured out that's what was happening, but they still couldn't resolve it, because they couldn't figure out what was causing it.
  • Here's a thing. Just a data point. In each one of those sets, there's at least one thing that I find appalling.

    There's also at least one thing I find appealing.

    If I had to pick my strongest desires, drives, and enjoyments from roleplaying, it would be being forced to take responsibility for my actions (which seems Strategist), with interrelated mechanical procedures that beg questions with subjective answers (which seems Holist), and to examine and question my own qualities and principles (which seems Radical).
  • edited September 2008
    I think I mentioned above that I don't believe people necessarily operate from a single one of these all the time. I think of it more like a probability wave -- some people tend toward certain ones more than others, but I don't necessarily expect someone to find any one of these 100% appealing.
  • Posted By: Max HigleyI think of it more like a probability wave -- some people tend toward certain ones more than others...
    image
  • edited September 2008
    Wikipedia yields this:
    In mathematics, chaos theory describes the behavior of certain dynamical systems – that is, systems whose state evolves with time – that may exhibit dynamics that are highly sensitive to initial conditions (popularly referred to as the butterfly effect). As a result of this sensitivity, which manifests itself as an exponential growth of perturbations in the initial conditions, the behavior of chaotic systems appears to be random. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future dynamics are fully defined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.
    Are you suggesting that although which viewpoint people choose may appear to be randomly distributed, it is in fact deterministic and defined by where they start? Because otherwise, I don't know how to interpret your comment...
  • Any arbitrary binning scheme of a data set is guaranteed to be able to fit all the data. Binning schemes that have no correlation to underlying phenomenology are strongly susceptible to being topologically transitive. Hence, chaos theory.
  • edited September 2008
    Ah, nice threadcrap then.

    Sure, we could divide up the ways of looking at roleplaying however we like. Even though it is arbitrary, the point is that I've found this one incredibly useful and maybe someone else will too.
  • I wrote up a nice, long post actually detailing what I meant in an attempt to have actual dialogue. Naturally, story-games logged me out in the intervening time. The post is gone, which unfortunately means that yes, this will ultimately remain a threadcrap. Fuck.
  • Reading over the chart while imagining various activities (gaming-related and not), I believe that one will more-often trend to a cross-ethos set of values, with total alignment to one ethos being the more infrequent occurrence. It varies even from game type to game type (or scene to scene). For example, we might be playing D&D and, in a conversational scene, I might trend toward a Romantic ethos (simple, fluid--no "roll Diplomacy") mitigated by a Manager's sense of "proper simulation" (ex: use of obsolete diction). When tthe inevitable skirmish breaks out, I'll shift--without a moment's thought or hesitation--Is that your main goal? Be cognizant?--to a mix of Strategist and Warrior... while STILL holding onto a bit of the Radical (sharing limelight, teamwork, egalitarian).

    As a set of measures and a common jargon, this is pretty useful. In a given moment of conflict, it can help to find discontinuities or dysfunction.
    But it doesn't strike me as being in any way categorical (meaning, a way to summarily describe a given person's overall trend or inclination).
  • Eric: Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C. Know it, use it, live it. Do that before every click of Add your comments, and you'll never have to bail out on making a good point again.

    (Alternative method: If you lose a post and don't want to retype it all... say nothing. Note that this works far better than saying something cryptic or dismissive, if eventual dialog is one's goal. Return when there's time to retype.)
  • Posted By: Max HigleyI think I mentioned above that I don't believe people necessarily operate from a single one of these all the time. I think of it more like a probability wave -- some people tend toward certain ones more than others, but I don't necessarily expect someone to find any one of these 100% appealing.
    Okay, I can run with that. But then isn't the term ethos a bit off, in this case?
  • Posted By: David ArtmanEric: Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C. Know it, use it, live it. Do that before every click ofAdd your comments, and you'll never have to bail out on making a good point again.

    (Alternative method: If you lose a post and don't want to retype it all... say nothing. Note that this works far better than saying something cryptic or dismissive, if eventual dialog is one's goal. Return when there's time to retype.)
    Yeah, I had that coming.
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsBut then isn't the term ethosa bit off, in this case?
    Maybe, but it's not a big stumbling block. Ethos, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as "the characteristic spirit, prevalent tone of sentiment, of a people or community; the 'genius' of an institution or system." As such, if one takes a give type as a single "system," and accepts that the system is coherent or of-a-piece, then ethos is a fine term for the types.

    But, as I said above, and *individual's* ethos needn't--almost always won't, I'd argue--totally align with one of the ethos types. So while it's not totally off-base as a term... it COULD be just dropped entirely and the chart would still serve its purpose (in moment-to-moment assessment of agendas and desires). On the gripping hand,lexicons and semantic systems sort of beg for categorical terms, to collectively refer to a set of types. So maybe we DO need a better term than "ethos" for the gamer-type rows.

    Orientation? Priority?
  • Posted By: EricYeah, I had that coming.
    *bows* You do yourself credit for both recognizing as much and reading my post generously (it was only, oh... maybe 42% snark?).
  • edited September 2008
    Posted By: EricI wrote up a nice, long post actually detailing what I meant in an attempt to have actual dialogue. Naturally, story-games logged me out in the intervening time. The post is gone, which unfortunately means that yes, this will ultimately remain a threadcrap. Fuck.
    That actually is a topic that interests me, so I'm sorry to see a post on it get eaten, and I understand that sometimes it happens. No hard feelings on my end. Maybe we can talk about it by email?
    Posted By: David ArtmanReading over the chart while imagining various activities (gaming-related and not), I believe that one will more-often trend to a cross-ethos set of values, with total alignment to one ethos being the more infrequent occurrence. It varies even from game type to game type (or scene to scene). For example, we might be playing D&D and, in a conversational scene, I might trend toward a Romantic ethos (simple, fluid--no "roll Diplomacy") mitigated by a Manager's sense of "proper simulation" (ex: use of obsolete diction). When tthe inevitable skirmish breaks out, I'll shift--without a moment's thought or hesitation--Is that your main goal? Be cognizant?--to a mix of Strategist and Warrior... while STILL holding onto a bit of the Radical (sharing limelight, teamwork, egalitarian).
    That seems a bit more granular than the scale I was imagining using it on, though you certainly can use it there. It seems like the more you zoom in, the more you'll find crossovers. At higher or more general/abstract levels (like 'why I roleplay'), I've found that people tend to be a bit more consistent.

    On a related note, these aren't intended to represent types of people, they're more like types in people -- types of thinking that we use. When you hear someone say something that matches up well with one of the rows of the table, the thought I'm trying to provoke isn't "Oh, he's a Strategist," but instead "OK, he's in Strategist mode right now."
    Posted By: David ArtmanPosted By: Marshall BurnsBut then isn't the termethosa bit off, in this case?
    Maybe, but it's not a big stumbling block. Ethos, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as "the characteristic spirit, prevalent tone of sentiment, of a people or community; the 'genius' of an institution or system." As such, if one takes a give type as a single "system," and accepts that the system is coherent or of-a-piece, then ethos is a fine term for the types.

    But, as I said above, and *individual's* ethos needn't--almost always won't, I'd argue--totally align with one of the ethos types. So while it's not totally off-base as a term... it COULD be just dropped entirely and the chart would still serve its purpose (in moment-to-moment assessment of agendas and desires). On the gripping hand,lexicons and semantic systems sort of beg for categorical terms, to collectively refer to a set of types. So maybe we DO need a better term than "ethos" for the gamer-type rows.

    Orientation? Priority?
    It's not meant to describe the whole row -- it's meant to describe the characteristic spirit and prevalent tone of sentiment of the row. I mean, the whole row isn't an ethos, but each row has an ethos. On the question of what to call the rows in this table, I've always thought of them as worldviews, but that may be broader than people will be comfortable with. Modes?
  • Posted By: Max HigleyWhen you hear someone say something that matches up well with one of the rows of the table, the thought I'm trying to provoke isn't "Oh, he's a Strategist," but instead "OK, he's in Strategist mode right now."
    Word. I agree totally. And, again, that is what I see as virtuous in this analytic model.
    Posted By: Max HigleyI mean, the whole row isn't an ethos, but each rowhasan ethos.
    Nuanced application of the apparently nounal form presented in the table. "Having" an aspect is adjectival... so you'll forgive some confusion, yes? :)
    Posted By: Max HigleyOn the question of what to call the rows in this table, I've always thought of them as worldviews, but that may be broader than people will be comfortable with. Modes?
    Any evocative word will do, as I see it. I din' even have a big beef with the use of ethos--I just spoooged outloud in text, thinking about what it "sounded" like after reading an alternate interpretation.

    I think I might have even typed--and, obviously, deleted--"Mode." Mode is active, but not adjectival. Compare to "orientation/oriented" and "priority/prioritizing". "Modal"--while an adjective--isn't as evocative. Put another way, the preceding terms are adverbial--"Guardian" and "RadicaL" and "Holistic" all modify the "type term" (ethos, at the moment). Adverbing a noun just rings wrong, to anglo ears.

    ... I'll try to post again when I'm a bit more coherent, in the AM.
  • Posted By: Max HigleyI think I mentioned above that I don't believe people necessarily operate from a single one of these all the time. I think of it more like a probability wave -- some people tend toward certain ones more than others, but I don't necessarily expect someone to find any one of these 100% appealing.
    Expanding on this, but from the other end, I do think there are cases where someone has a particular bias against one of these modes, and uses it with a frequency approaching 0% of the time.

    A related phenomenon is that there are some people (I, for one) who are much more comfortable using certain modes regarding what they imagine than in real life. I can play characters strongly centered in Warrior mode thinking and aim toward Warrior type goals for how I want the game to play out, but I would be very uncomfortable with the raw application of power as an approach to group dynamics. I've encountered that before, and I didn't enjoy it. Others may be fine with that.

    Those are the sorts of differences you can figure out by talking about which parts of this table you identify with and which parts you don't like. That's largely why I crafted it -- I kept having the nagging feeling that behind minor squabbles were major philosophical differences, but that no one could quite articulate them.
  • edited September 2008
    Posted By: Max HigleyThat's largely why I crafted it -- I kept having the nagging feeling that behind minor squabbles were major philosophical differences, but that no one could quite articulate them.
    [ot]
    May I *ahem* direct you to something I wrote long ago, to serve philosophy in general, which SQUARELY addresses this very last point?
    The Degrees Of Being: A Linguistic Framework
    And the Wordle, for shits and grins:
    image
    [/ot]
  • Hmm. My initial reaction is that the typing and organization of concepts/methodologies within aren't arranged in a way that's intuitive to me. I'm really having to squint at the types to see what the modes actually look like and take a stab at which ones my friends and I use.

    I'd say I operate in mostly Strategist-Radical, with occasional Warrior and Manager popping up. But that's really a guess, because as i said I don't really see how the modes "hang together" across the row. A couple seem really solid and obvious, like Warrior, but for instance I have a hard time connecting "Navigate Gray Areas" with "Strategist"-I mean, sure, given that there ARE gray areas, the Strategist will want to successfully navigate them, but what about the desire for gray areas to exist at all?

    Also: "Radical" is a very strange choice of terms to me. . .I mean, I would define Radical in the ideological sense as "extremist and disruptive to existing systems" or some such. Are you talking about Radical in, I dunno, a chemical sense? Like, atoms free-floating in a system that are more likely to enter into chemical reactions == community, sharing, connecting with others, etc?

    Bottom line, I guess I'm saying that I'm not even deriving utility in identifying a given mode of the moment off of this chart. Instead I'm having to cherry-pick keywords from all over the place (but not the whole mode they belong to) to put together a mosaic of my roleplaying "worldview." To wit, my fictional goals can be summed up as "characters under pressure showing what they're made of," and the best I can come up with to match that is "Navigate Gray Areas" from Strategist and "Chance to Demonstrate Heroism" from Warrior, plus "Appreciate Varying Interpretations" from Radical. But several aspects in other columns of each mode don't fit my goal, like "to [necessarily] feel powerful" or "to [necessarily] make good decisions." SO I'm kinda scratching my head over what to do with this.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited September 2008
    You know, that's actually really helpful feedback. There's a thing there that is non-obvious from my perspective. If you squint at the bottom of the table it says that it's based on something else. And for me, that something else has involved like 10,000 pages of reading. So, from my point of view, the way they hang together is obvious, based on my background. Unfortunately, trying to distill that background into something anyone else has the time/energy/inclination to read and make use of is rather difficult, which, in a way, this thread may be demonstrating. I think it may be easier to make it make sense as a dialogue, so let me see if I can make progress toward answering your specific concerns:

    Regarding the Strategist and gray areas, consider the difference compared to the Manager. From a Manager point of view, there are certain principles of how things ought to work. There are right and wrong ways of doing things, and the idea is to do the right things and avoid the wrong things. It's a black and white kind of mindset; things are either all good or all bad. This works pretty well, until you run into places where principles contradict -- now, you're forced to violate one principle or another, and resolving this conundrum presents a difficult challenge to this mode of thinking.

    The Strategist mode is precisely tailored to handle this problem. It does so by asserting that, instead of strict categories, there is a continuum of good and bad. The aim for the Strategist mode then is to optimize for the most possible net good in the face of countervailing considerations. Doing so requires one to plot a strategy for getting there, and you'll have to make it up on your own, because, in contrast to the Manager mode, the Strategist doesn't have pre-given principles to rely on. Without strict categorical principles, the basis for plotting a strategy is observation. Either from playing around a bit to see how things work, or by drawing on my past experience, I can figure out what the trade-offs are between the things I want.

    Why does that mean that the Strategist will want there to be gray areas? Because, given that I get enjoyment from strategizing/optimizing, I need the world I'm running around in to offer me opportunities to do so. A black and white world simply won't do, because it doesn't provide the multi-faceted situations I need to do what I enjoy.

    As for Radical, it's a borrowed word, and I've never liked it either, but I have yet to find any better word. I mean it in the sense of aperspectival post-modernism, but aperspectival post-modernist wouldn't fit in the box. Maybe Relativist is a hair better, but I still find it lacking. The overall point of that mode is that, because what you see depends on where you stand, meaning is relative and must be constructed by the interpreter. Since we're all just creating our own meanings, there's really no absolute standard to measure against and it's hard to make the claim that any viewpoint is better than any other. If that's the case, it's natural to value equality, mutual respect, tolerance, sharing, etc. The flip side is the perception that every viewpoint is necessarily biased.

    For this mode, a black and white world equally will not do. It doesn't provide opportunities for interpretation, or for pointing out bias. But neither is a grayscale world acceptable, because it implies that there is some universal standard of good and bad, or better and worse. Any such standard would necessarily depend on a certain perspective, and would thus be biased, subject to interpretation, and non-universal.

    Does this sort of explication of the core of the mindsets make it clearer how they hang together?
  • Radical is better. Of course I got a philosophy degree, which is not the same thing as where you got it from, but I recognized what you meant straight off.

    I think your story about what different players thought each other wanted is a lot better than the framework, in fact once you have that figured out, you can and ought throw the framework away and delete it from your hard drive - it's not "meat on bones", it's 1.0 and 2.0.
  • edited September 2008
    As I dealt with the same sorts of miscommunications, over and over again, I realized that there must be underlying phenomena. And there were.

    Sometimes we like to think of ourselves as unique snowflakes. In some ways, it's true, but it also obscures part of what's happening. Every snowflake may be different, but they're all still made out of frozen water. Even where the surface features are different, there's still the deep structure of how the atoms in the water molecule bond and polarize it, creating certain kinds of crystal structures. That deep structure is shared by every snowflake, and still results in their intricate and surprising features. People are the same way -- wonderfully diverse and enjoyable surface features, fairly similar deep structure.

    What's interesting to me is that, having pried into what's happening underneath the surface, I see similar dynamics everywhere. That's what's made this framework useful to me. Not only did it help me understand and deal with what was going on in this group, but it helped me understand my history with other groups, as well as many of the big roleplaying kerfluffles on the internet.

    Of course, there are additional factors at work, and I don't discount them. The surface stuff gets talked about a lot more often than the deeper stuff though.
  • Posted By: Max Higley
    Does this sort of explication of the core of the mindsets make it clearer how they hang together?
    A little bit, thanks. It's still kinda hard for me to see myself in there. But I can understand where you're coming from on the categories.

    Perhaps it's that I see a disconnect between the Story Stuff, and the other aspects of a Mode? Like, I (hypothetically) might be all about shades of gray and tough moral quandaries, Artistically, but Socially I'm concerned with preserving group feeling and belonging. Y'know?

    JD: Would you (or Max) care to explain this usage of the term to me?

    peace,
    -Joel
  • Posted By: MelinglorPerhaps it's that I see a disconnect between the Story Stuff, and the other aspects of a Mode? Like, I (hypothetically) might be all about shades of gray and tough moral quandaries,Artistically, butSociallyI'm concerned with preserving group feeling and belonging. Y'know?
    Absolutely. The two are side by side on the table because they're examples of the same mode of thought extended into each domain. Each box is like asking, if I were thinking in mode X, what sort of answers might I come up with about topic Y? The table is organized by modes of thought so that (hopefully) you can get a sense of what each mode is like, but I'm not trying to say that someone who prefers one mode on the left side of the table will prefer the same mode on the right side of the table, or even column to column. It's totally cool that people use different modes of thought when thinking about different topics. In fact, I'm really happy that's something people notice when looking at this!
  • I'm glad that discussion continued on this thread, because to be entirely honest, I didn't see even a little bit how that first chart could be at all helpful to anyone, and especially not to me. Now that a few (more specific) examples have been given and some of the most obscure points have been expanded on, I can at least understand why someone would've looked at that and thought "Ah ha, this provides insight into the social dynamics of my gaming group." It doesn't into mine -- or at least not to me, or maybe just not to me while my coffeemaker is broken and I'm taking more naps -- but I'll keep it in the back of mind in case someday I see a great need to separate the handful of friends I play with into categories.

    If someone wants to dish out a few examples of ways this chart can be used on-the-ground to make a gaming group hum, that'd be awesome. I'm really feeling the largest disconnect there.
  • I think you could probably take a good measure of wind direction and velocity by paying attention to the chart. That would almost certainly happen in high-friction moments at the table.

    Like in a recent game I was in with a rotating GM, I swapped out and became a character for a bit. The very first place I went was to look at raw character effectiveness. The characters are super-simple (3:16) so there wasn't much there. But then that urge raised its ugly head again when I decided it was tactically optimal to use a Strength (a rare super-bennie that's hard to replenish, if you don't know how 3:16 works). I wanted access to the cool power, but I had no narrative insight. So I made up a totally lame, weak flashback to justify the Strength. Later, when the winds had shifted -- I had moved out of Strategist mode and into something closer to Warrior mode -- I gritted my teeth at what seemed like real weakness in my play.

    So as a GM, you can keep your eyes open for this stuff, right? Like, you have a player who's fucking up the drama of a situation by seeking low-threat/high-success solutions. That player is probably being a Strategist, but what is the GM being? Maybe he's in Manager or Holistic mode. You can probably project into the future what'll happen if the player is still in Strategist mode and starts grating against the "final authority" role the Manager wants to be in.

    You don't need the chart to do this, obviously, but it's kind of a neat checklist of stuff that might describe the current mood and needs of people at the table. What's less clear to me is what triggers changes in role/perspective. Like...I don't know the moment I shift to Holistic, but I'm definitely in a different GMing head than I am when I'm being more Managerial.

    p.
  • Posted By: Max HigleyI'm not trying to say that someone who prefers one mode on the left side of the table will prefer the same mode on the right side of the table, or even column to column
    Ah! Big light bulb! It all clicks into place, now. that was a big hangup for me, now disappeared; I'm gonna have to study the chart again in that light.
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteIf someone wants to dish out a few examples of ways this chart can be used on-the-ground to make a gaming group hum, that'd be awesome. I'm really feeling the largest disconnect there.
    Indeed, I can't really see getting together with my guys and going, 'Hey, here's this big chart of different modes of thought, let's all look at where we all tend to operate on this spectrum." It'd be a frikkin' lead balloon. I suppose it might help to have in mind so that when tensions arise you can cut through the bullshit and tease out what people are really saying and desiring. Like Paul said, it could be a handy "Wind direction and velocity" meter.

    peace,
    -Joel
  • edited September 2008
    Posted By: Accounting for Tastebut I'll keep it in the back of mind in case someday I see a great need to separate the handful of friends I play with into categories.
    Like I said above,
    Posted By: Max HigleyOn a related note, these aren't intended to represent types of people, they're more like typesinpeople -- types of thinking that we use. When you hear someone say something that matches up well with one of the rows of the table, the thought I'm trying to provoke isn't "Oh, he's a Strategist," but instead "OK, he's in Strategist mode right now."
    That being said, I think if you look, you'll find that people do play favorites -- even if they use all of these modes, maybe one or two of them really light up their eyes and get them excited. And what gets people excited, that's the sort of thing I want to know when I'm running a game.
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteIf someone wants to dish out a few examples of ways this chart can be used on-the-ground to make a gaming group hum, that'd be awesome. I'm really feeling the largest disconnect there.
    Posted By: MelinglorIndeed, I can't really see getting together with my guys and going, 'Hey, here's this big chart of different modes of thought, let's all look at where we all tend to operate on this spectrum." It'd be a frikkin' lead balloon. I suppose it might help to have in mind so that when tensions arise you can cut through the bullshit and tease out what people are really saying and desiring. Like Paul said, it could be a handy "Wind direction and velocity" meter.
    Sitting down with a chart and discussing it, yeah, that's probably lead balloon. It's not something you really have to share with your group to make use of though.

    In my own usage, the biggest use is simply for seeing. I just watch what's happening, and see if it makes sense when I look at it through a lens of differing value systems. If it does, then I've got information I didn't have before, and that helps me figure out where to go with the situation. That may mean during play or in the post-session debriefing, but it can also mean in the planning phase before the first session.

    In our group, before I realized that there were different priorities masquerading as agreement, there were a lot of recurring patterns in the way our group functions (or fails to) that mystified me. One example of that is the story I told above about the meaning of hero. It happened over and over again -- one player said he wanted to be a hero, was presented with an apparent opportunity to do that, and would let it walk right by him. Then in the post-game debrief, he would say he didn't feel that he'd had a chance to be heroic, and the other players would get in his face about how he just wasn't being active enough and taking the chances that were offered. It caused a lot of bad blood between the group members, even though they're all nice enough people. Both sides thought the other just couldn't understand what was going on -- and they were both right. Because we were all mired in our own perspective, we couldn't see what was happening. Having this idea of different modes of thought helped me back up from that a bit, and realize that different ways of thinking produce different visions of heroism.

    Having a list of several value systems helps me take a vacation from my own perspective, and live in someone else's world for a while. That, in turn, is a huge aid to spotting what dynamic is driving ongoing conflicts. It's also a big help in catching mistranslations before they cause too much damage. By being aware that the members of the group may mean very different things when using similar language, I'm more able to ask clarifying questions that help the group understand each other.

    A consequence of seeing what's happening, though, is being able to use that information to make the game more enjoyable. Now that I know we have different ideas of what's heroic, when I'm planning or running a game, I can offer each player the sorts of situations, hooks, and bangs that make sense to them and provide the sorts of opportunities they're after. And that's the second main way I use this chart.

    In terms of "when this happens, do this" techniques for play, I'm afraid I can't offer any. There are so many possible combinations of modes of thought that could be operating in a group, and so many different interactions and dynamics that can result, that you'll probably just have to feel out what's happening and where to head with it. You know your group better than I do. I can, however, offer one tradition/goal/principle/strategy/perspective/approach :) that always seems to push things in a positive direction: Meet people where they're at, instead of where you want them to be. The chart helped me tell the two apart.

    In addition to the uses related to play, I think this may be fertile territory for design. Even though it was/is one of those kerfluffles I mentioned, GNS spawned some interesting designs. I suspect that designing for one or several of these modes might produce some new and interesting bits too.
  • Huh. Those answers definitely clear things up quite a bit for me...I'm glad I asked, now. Thanks!
  • I just discovered this thread. I find Max's idea very stimulating. I'd probably rework the chart to use terms that speak more to me but it's a good basis.
    Posted By: Max Higley
    Having a list of several value systems helps me take a vacation from my own perspective, and live in someone else's world for a while. That, in turn, is a huge aid to spotting what dynamic is driving ongoing conflicts. It's also a big help in catching mistranslations before they cause too much damage. By being aware that the members of the group may mean very different things when using similar language, I'm more able to ask clarifying questions that help the group understand each other.
    My vision of how I would use such a chart is rooted in the issues I see building up in my own group. We all met through various forum/websites. We don't know each other very well. And I suspect a lot of implicit/ambiguous concepts are hanging in the air and are difficult to spot while playing. So I would probably print my version of the chart, hand it to my fellow players and ask them to circle cells they feel close to and cross cells they really dislike. And then we could revue all our choices together and get a discussion going. I don't care much if all categories make sense and all combination of columns and rows are reflecting a real game tendency. I see the process like a moment to gather as a group and look at ourselves in a mirror (the chart) and discuss what we see. Later we can ditch the chart all together and it's fine. But if we can anticipate "kerfluffles" and understand what's happening behind them, it would be great !
  • edited September 2008
    For bonus points, take GNS and match it up with the table. In fact, take any theory you can find, and do that. Then take the complaints that people have against a particular bit of theory, and match those up. Better yet, try out complaints against theory in general!

    All kinds of fun to be had! ;)
  • Max,

    What I don't get right now is this: The table is not meant to lump people into categories. What's the point, then, of having it organized in categories at all? Shouldn't each column just be a bag of traits - instead of saying "Huh, seems like I'm in Manager mode when talking about my values today", wouldn't it be easier to say "Huh, seems I'm all about stability, order, law and morality values today"?
  • edited September 2008
    Categories are appealing because many people like lists, and orders, and hierarchies. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone's aware that they aren't accurate depictions of the real world, they're just fun.


    (Although to be honest, I wish that the caveat on the table had been "the table is not meant to provide new jargon for RPG debates," because I'm seeing references to Manager and Radical and the like in other threads, and it's annoying as hell. It certainly doesn't make anyone's points stronger or easier to understand...quite the opposite, actually. But I could charge at that particular windmill all goddamn day and it wouldn't make any difference, so I'm just rolling my eyes at those posts and doing my best to ignore them.)
  • I think the views describe different things.

    Some people come into a roleplaying game with the desire to be a 'Warrior' or a 'Strategist'. Unfortunately, the stronger those impulses are pursued, the more the game is more like a strategy game or violence based parlor game.

    Nobody walks into a game wanting to be a Guardian, Holist, Radical or Manager (Well, unless they're kind of a dick in the case of Manager). Those are all activities in support of making a group creative effort functional. Your chart doesn't represent the key activity of participating in a group creative effort the same way it does playing a strategy game or talkin' 'bout killin' orcs.
  • edited September 2008
    Posted By: Sean MusgraveNobody walks into a game wanting to be a Guardian, Holist, Radical or Manager (Well, unless they're kind of a dick in the case of Manager). Those are all activities in support of making a group creative effort functional. Your chart doesn't represent the key activity of participating in a group creative effort the same way it does playing a strategy game or talkin' 'bout killin' orcs.
    These modes really are things that people want to get from imagining together. I personally have walked into a game wanting to be three of the four things you listed, and I've seen people who wanted each of the four. Like I suggested above, you might think about what that says about you that you view it that way, particularly in the case of the Manager. I'd wager it'll tell you something about your values, and about what you consider the key activity of participating in a group creative effort.

    Though there may be some of my own bias in the table, I tried to keep it as value neutral as possible -- that is to say, I tried not to write the Manager as a dick, just as I did for all the others. In that sense, the table is sort of like a Rorschach blot you can administer to yourself, by reading it and watching your own reactions.

    On the jargon count, no such luck. It gives me a way to express that a particular conclusion comes from a particular kind of thinking, which is hugely helpful in avoiding unnecessary conflict. Then I can say "Someone thinking in mode A would probably see it like this, and someone thinking in mode B would probably see it like this, and neither one of them are wrong. They're actually thinking differently, and it leads them to different conclusions."

    Like, in Bret's thread about leading by the nose, there were some posts that expressed condescension for the players. And my point here, and there, is that one way of thinking about planned story isn't better than the other. It's just different. Manager and Radical are equally OK ways to think about story, but they do result in drastically different approaches. And unless you can spot that there's a perspective difference going on there, some people just look stupid, or primitive, or uninitiated, and so on. And the other people look equally crazy from the opposite point of view. Once you know that there's a difference in the underlying thought process, then it makes much more sense, and it opens the door to figuring out what's going on in the other person's head that makes them value one approach over the other.
    Posted By: MatthijsWhat I don't get right now is this: The table is not meant to lump people into categories. What's the point, then, of having it organized in categories at all? Shouldn't each column just be a bag of traits - instead of saying "Huh, seems like I'm in Manager mode when talking about my values today", wouldn't it be easier to say "Huh, seems I'm all about stability, order, law and morality values today"?
    The categories represent kinds of thinking, and the columns represent how that kind of thinking might tackle a particular topic. They're grouped together to point out that different sorts of thinking give rise to different value systems. With that knowledge, I can work on understanding kinds of thinking that aren't my habitual comfort zone. Like, I don't fit into any one of the modes listed, but there are definitely modes that I use very rarely -- Guardian, for example. My capacity to understand what people were saying when they were in Guardian mode was very low as a result, and it made conflicts arise. So I worked on that, trying to figure out what that mode was all about. It's still not my favorite, but if I were to sit down in a game where that was the dominant way of approaching things, I think I could enjoy it now.

    It's really not about pigeonholing people. Maybe the tendency, when you first something like this, is to start figuring out where everyone else falls. I'd suggest going about it the other way. Look at yourself, and see which modes seem comfortable, which ones seem uncomfortable, and which ones sound completely alien. When I wrote this table, it really helped me spot and express some of the thinking beneath, and connections between, preferences I'd struggled to explain up to that point.
  • edited September 2008
    Errrr... where'd the table go in the original post?
    I liked it! :(
    -C-

    [edit: this is apparently a bug for me, other people can still see it. Could you just provide a bare link for me?]
  • Here's the address of the image:

    http://img363.imageshack.us/img363/7277/rpselvesnm7.jpg

    ImageShack is having weird issues for me too right now, so I'm not sure if that'll work for you either. If not, I can email it to you (and, if the issue persists, find some other place to host it.)
  • Perfect, thanks!

    -Char-
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