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.