Mappy, mappy, on the wall…

I was having a look at some dungeon maps someone had drawn. I have to admit, I did dissapear into them a bit. It prompted this question, which I asked there but will place here (because it struck me as content already made and ready to use on this blog, hehehe!)

Here’s what I said/asked

When I look at it, I start to think of what each room might mean. Because I know someone else drew it up and may have had or did have some intention.

But if I drew up one myself, I’d know exactly how much meaning any room would have – as much as I put in. With none to start. While looking at someone elses map tends to start with something there to springboard the imagination, as opposed to starting with nothing. Does that seem odd?

I think it’s interesting in terms of inspiration.

Height advantage +2, electric boogaloo

It occurs to me I spend alot of time going “My god, NO! It doesn’t work that way at all!”

So instead, here’s how I see it functioning based on what’s actually possible to do between people (people who can’t mind meld).

There has been some prior narration. Lets says someone talked about some stairs, some PC’s at the top, and some bad guys at the bottom. No ones snarled and pulled a knife on anyone, so these narrations are sitting there and everyones content with them being as they were spoken. Some may have slightly different visions – being further up the steps than others imagine it. Some might think it brighter or darker. But what’s in everyones head has a fairly high number of matching parts. Well, unless the prior narration was quite obtuse.

Okay, now someone goes to attack and they say “And I get a +2 from being higher up on the stairs, height advantage?”.

Note the question mark, because they do so looking toward the GM with a questioning expression.

Now this is a game where the GM decides if you get height advantage. This is a key point. Because in alot of texts it often does say “If X has height advantage, they get blah blah”. Who decides this? OR to be more exact, if two people at the table are saying opposite things (one says he gets it, the other says he doesn’t get it), who breaks that mexican standoff? These stand offs definately happen.

I mean, it’s easy to think the other guy is nuts and the player SHOULD get the +2. But by the same token, perhaps YOUR nuts and he shouldn’t get +2? Everyones first instinct is to treat themselves as correct and the other guy is wrong, but that doesn’t mean your correct.

Okay, so the players looking to the GM. The GM has complete control, but he is opened himself to the prior narrated events, and he lets those events ‘move’ him. It’s like watching a film of someone walking toward a banna peel and then they stop the film. Will the guy slip? It’s easy to be ‘moved’ by the prior events to say yes. It’s not crazy complex or deep, it’s just being moved by prior events narrated. And importantly, if you feel moved to say no, your right as well. It’s how YOU are moved, not anyone else. We want to know how you feel moved by the events.

So he most likely will say yes, the players has higher ground. But if he says no, the player takes it gracefully.

Now the thing is, often the GM being moved by prior narration can get really harmonised between all participants. They can get so in sync that the player pretty much knows they will get the +2, it’s almost like a special understanding between them (and almost a little like couples who can finish each others sentences, I’ll note). But while this special understanding is great, don’t expect it. Be happy when it’s there, be happy to be playing when it’s not. But alot of roleplayers seem to demand this special understanding (and that seems totally counter to it being special OR being an understanding) or no one is imagining it right or something.

I’ve been in syncronised moments. They are nice. I like them. But I do not crave them. Not for the sake of playing, anyway. And frankly they are outside of the game, even if they influence play. They are a special like minded link with the other participants. That’s really a social bond – and to demand a social bond simply for the benefit of playing the game is ass backwards. And yet I read accounts of people expecting syncronised play in pick up games!? With random strangers – and not liking the strangers when it doesn’t happen! Blaming them for spoiling the game and not putting the game first – when this syncronising is social bonding!

Well I say it is. The capacity to know another persons mind, and to understand them and feel what they would choose and actually be right and they know you’d guess them right – um, and in varying amounts, what else is there to friendship???? That’s the heart of friendship, unless I’m mistaken. And yet this syncronisity is being expected not because they want to make/find friends, but so they can play a fookin game!?

That is why I like hard procedures that tell you exactly what to do and cover every event. Because I don’t want to go into a procedure with dead ends where I have to syncronise with someone, not for the sake of forming or deepening a friendship, but for the sake of a functioning game.

Oh, if you did get a game going in such a circumstance, it feels great, because your all syncronised and ‘get’ each other. But you didn’t really get the game going, you just bonded. That’s what feels good, not the game! That’s why they have those stupid camps where teams have to work together to do stuff. Because successfully working together tends to bond people, and bonding feels good!

Gone a little ranty at the end. But that’s how height advantage can work and how having a complete procedure is better than expecting a syncronisity between players. Wanting syncronisity between friends, that’s good. Wanting syncronisity between friends in order to get a game to work, thats…hmm, I might just say it – its bad. But pretend Ron Edwards said it in a lengthier way that’s more diplomatic.

Compromised Art, by Default Assumption

Unlike other artistic activities, where someone can paint a picture by themselves, or even a band member can write a tune just using his instrument alone, how many people would say you were roleplaying, if you did it alone?

To be more specific, there is no solo recourse in this artistic activity, it seems. And to work with a group always means compromise – it always means compromising art. If you don’t compromise, your not roleplaying, it would seem.

I’m not sure a default assumption of always compromising art is healthy.

I’m going to look into a default of no compromise, and perhaps compromising to others needs (ie, they get to participate to some degree/at all, and how much) if I feel like doing so.

The idea of others not, by default, being able to participate, would probably classify it as not being roleplay, to most roleplayers. But on the other hand, that would assume they should always get a say in everyone elses art. In painting, sculpting or music, this assumption doesn’t exist. Someone can do it alone and it’s still recognised as painting or such. You don’t get people saying ‘Unless you compromise your art to include me somehow, your not actually painting’.

It occurs to me there’s a lack of indipendence in the artistic pursuit that is roleplaying.

Embedded false truths: When trust works against progress

There’s a sort of conversational thing, especially on the toneless internet, where you don’t want to be talking to someone who really just wants to screw you around or treats you like a bug.

And that’s fair enough. But at the same time the roleplay community tends to find the trustworthy and well meaning, by comparing notes on ‘how things work’. If someone shares that, they are worthy of some trust or are well meaning, whatever.

The thing is, if this notion of ‘how things work’ is actually false, then it’ll never get corrected. Because to question the notion is to undermine the reason the other person trusted you in the first place.

I’ll draw an example from D&D boards, which I hope (in order to make a point) at least my readership don’t share as a notion of ‘how things work’, and that is ‘It’s not really railroading if the players don’t realise it’. Agree with it, and you get trust. Don’t agree and you end up on the outside of something. But if the notion is a false one, then it has become embedded and accepted and can never be challenged because as soon as you challenge it, the other person retracts their trust and ignores the challenge. They say your being ‘combative’. And that’s when they’re being polite.

Though I’ll grant that if you meet with the person in real life, you may develop other reasons to trust them/think them well meaning, like they gave you a beer, or lent you a DVD, or you lent them something and they returned it. This gives some room to latter on question the notion. It will still tear down the trust that was given by it being shared between the two people, unfortunately. But the other things that indicate trust, will remain and all is good.

But on the internet, do we share beer or share DVD’s? Not that often. So on the internet, in roleplay discussions, how often do you have to give the nod to a false notion in order to be able to discuss anything at all/be trusted enough to actually talk with?

And how much does this embed false notions and perpetuate them in online roleplay culture?

Cause, you know, it’s not really railroading if the players don’t realise it……

Would you enjoy agreeing to that notion, just to get enough trust to actually talk with someone? And your own notions that you expect someone else to just agree to or that proves they are untrustworthy – are you perpetuating something just as much?


Something was going wrong and my efforts ended up taking up space over at anyway. So I thought I’d draw some pictures!



#2 Anika’s Odyssey, an adventure game in the classic style


#3 Most roleplay games


I’m aiming for the impact of having #2 and #3 being identical and almost entirely identical to #1.

Though I have to spoil that impact and say that in Anika’s Odyssey, there are hints towards a pre determined solution. In #3, there is no pre determined solution. There is no correct answer. Or to be exact, no person has pre determined a correct answer. Which means there is no correct answer.

It’s hard to describe this. It’s like horoscopes – people take the ‘right answer’ from them, that they want to see. You’ve probably heard the old example of a classroom of teenagers who are handed their ‘personal’ horrorscope. They can’t look at each others. They are then asked how well it describes them. The majority say it describes them really well.

They all have copies of the exact same text.

They all drew from it what they wanted to draw from it.

Same goes here. A player will see the answer they want to see, in regards to whether someone gets high ground.

The problem in roleplay culture at large, is that they don’t see that they do this. It’s not a problem in itself, it’s actually kind of fun to ‘see’ an answer (like pretending wrestling is real is fun, or ‘reading’ tarot cards is fun). It’s only a problem if you can’t see that your inventing answers. It’s only a problem when you think you refer to the imagined space to determine if someone has high ground, rather than simply inventing the result.

This goes against the desire of most sim players, I imagine. Because they want the integrity of some kind of internal truth to their imagined worlds, and they are refering to that ‘truth’ that they ‘see’. For it to simply be self invention utterly is makes it completely flimsy and loses the ‘truth’ that made it so compelling.