2009-04-06 : Fistfightville

2 short plays. May contain spoilers.

Play #1: Battlestar Galactica

Vincent: I liked Starbuck's ending.
Carrie: It was bullshit.
Vincent: They were like, "yeah, Starbuck was only a narrative contrivance all along." I liked that they were honest about it.
Joshua: All characters are only narrative contrivances.
Vincent: Nuh uh.
Joshua: Uh huh.

Play #2: The Old-school Renaissance

Vincent: What's missing from so-called story games is "if your character has the high ground, you get +2."
Rob: In other words, you win if you can best utilize the infinite resource of the GM.
Vincent: No! If you can utilize the very concrete in-game reality.
Rob: ...Of which the GM is the arbiter.
Vincent: No! The GM isn't the arbiter, she's the reporter. At worst the interpreter. The in-game reality is definitive!
Rob: Nuh uh!
Vincent: Uh huh!

1. On 2009-04-06, Robert Bohl said:

I win.


2. On 2009-04-06, Jonathan Walton said:

Vincent, you're such a dirty Sim-lover at heart, really.  There's no there there.


3. On 2009-04-06, misuba said:

... unless maybe a there is created and enforced by rules. But how would you?


4. On 2009-04-06, Ben Lehman said:

The there is there. You're just not seeing it because you're pretending that games aren't played by people who have non-rule related social relationships.



5. On 2009-04-06, Ben Lehman said:


That all the characters are narrative contrivances is pretty obvious from the end of season 1 on (I didn't watch much further.) What's amazing is apparently there's no narrative that they are contrived in the service of.



6. On 2009-04-06, Vincent said:

I think that I would have put it differently from "played by people who have non-rule related social relationships," but yeah, that's the one.

The group has a shared commitment to the fact that my character Andrus is standing on higher ground than his enemy is; this shared commitment predates the GM's observation that I should add 2 to my die roll. It might predate it by only a fraction of a second, but it does. The cases where it's only a fraction of a second aren't problematic because sometimes it predates it by minutes and minutes, and the GM proves herself reliable then.

And this certainly has nothing to do with Right to Dream play, if that's what you mean by Sim, Jonathan.

Re: BSG: Ha ha. Retroactively clear to me; I guess I was seduced at the time. Gloriously, in this one instance, they admitted it!


7. On 2009-04-06, Marshall Burns said:

What's missing from so-called story games is "if your character has the high ground, you get +2."

I know, exactly, right?
Which is also why the Rustbelt does have it.


8. On 2009-04-06, Ben Lehman said:

But you knew I was on your side, anyway.


9. On 2009-04-07, Jenskot said:

In Dogs,
Who gets to say if you can use a specific Trait?
Or a specific thing that isn't on your character sheet?

When we play, we use the Belongings rules for, "if your character has the high ground, you get +2."

Higher ground is a thing. Information is a thing.

If it is described in play, if everyone believes it, then it can be used. We break it down that the players decide if it is believable, the GM decides its dice based on the description.

Sometimes we agree that a thing can only be used once per game in this way. Or that to use something described, it has to have been described in a previous scene.

Other times we don't predetermine our Traits. We leave them undefined like Relationships.

I've found the more we make the player's descriptions meaningful, the more we care about stakes.


10. On 2009-04-07, Brand Robins said:

These plays make me happy.

But then, I'd pay money to see a Ron-Vincent-Joshua three-way bum-fight.


11. On 2009-04-07, Matt Wilson said:

Ingrid: You get +2 for being on the hilltop.
Tovey: No, I get +3. *knocks Ingrid down*
Ingrid: Wah. Okay +3


12. On 2009-04-07, misuba said:

In other words, you win if you can best utilize the infinite resource of all the other players.


13. On 2009-04-07, Ben Lehman said:


Or: you can best win if you utilize the limitless resources of your own imagination.


14. On 2009-04-07, Moreno R. said:

This is what I was writing here:

Vincent, A LOT of "so-called story-games" give you something like a +2 if you have the high ground...  :-(

Sorcerer do, for example. Annalise do (if you write it down on a piece of paper). Dogs conflict is ALL about this (and I am not talking about using "high ground" as some object you have. I am talking about the kind of raise you can do: you can't raise with "I jump over him by above and wrestle him to the ground" if you don't have the high ground...
But, before posting it, I did take a look to your next post, where you precise that Dogs indeed has it, but In a Wicked Age, not.

And I thought about the times when I played IAWA, and how I missed these right-ward arrows (without knowing it at the time), and why I prefer DitV.


15. On 2009-04-08, Callan said:

Why does 'predated' agreement matter somehow?

And what does "played by people who have non-rule related social relationships" mean? Non rule related? Like they have a relationship outside of the game? Or does it mean their relationship outside of the game is somehow without rules between them?

*prefering something more akin to hacking than fistfighting...*


16. On 2009-04-08, Ouroboros said:

This is the funniest thing I've read all day. Poor Starbuck. Poor GMs.


17. On 2009-04-08, Jonathan Walton said:

Ben, I would appreciate it if you would not assume that I disagree with people because I am thinking stupidly. You just killed any desire I have to continue this conversation.


18. On 2009-04-08, Ben Lehman said:

Jonathan: Can you model a proper response for me? What should I have said?



19. On 2009-04-09, Jonathan Walton said:

"Hey Jonathan, I feel like there is a there there because the social relationships between the people give reality to that stuff."


"Jonathan, is it possible you're overlooking the fact that preestablished stuff in the fiction is upheld by the social relationships between players?"

Instead of

"You're blind and/or willfully ignoring something."

Vincent's response was fine too, clarifying the stuff that went unsaid in his original post, explaining where he thought the realness lies.  He also strongly disagreed with me, but told me I was wrong without telling me it was because I was trapped into some kind of outdated worldview.  I guess I just prefer being told I'm wrong in this particular case rather than being told that I'm trapped in wrongness land.

I mean, yeah, I guess I started it with calling Vincent a dirty Sim-lover, but I intended that to be a jovial jibe (also, I had no clue what he was trying to get at, and even now I think his claims only hold true in some cases).

Frex: Vincent seems to be saying that the group's understanding of "what happens" (as per loopily poopily) will always be enforced by the group even if it conflicts with the GM.  Like the GM says, "You don't have high ground," and then the playes say, "Yes he does, that was preestablished in the last scene."  And then they eventually build consensus or whatever, even if it's by the GM using authority to arbitrarily overrule the players.  Eventually a consensus supposedly emerges.

However, I'm not sure I really believe in true group consensus that much anymore.  If I'm the high ground player and the GM overrules me, even if the other players go along with it, I may still have the high ground IN MY MIND, despite getting no mechanical bonus for it.  That's still a part of what this story means to me.  In fact, the way the GM overruled me may become influential in the fiction, as I get slightly pissy about it and that influences the actions of my character.  And then later, when I'm telling the story of what happened to someone else, I'll have to include the GM overruling me because otherwise the story of play and my character's actions make less sense.

All of this makes me suspect that things only have as much reality as people are willing to allow them to have, making them more arbitrary than Vincent suggests while still being relatively stable in any given moment, as long as "group similarity" (as opposed to group consensus) is upheld.  Still this can be a fleeting, ephemeral thing.


20. On 2009-04-09, Ben Lehman said:

Hey, Jonathan: So you're complaining that I incorrectly filed you? I was responding to four people, at least (Mike, Rob, Joshua and you in that order). If I incorrectly characterized you, consider maybe that that part of what I'm saying doesn't apply to you.

In other words, if the shoe fits, wear it. If the shoe doesn't fit, for the love of God, don't wear it. It'll be uncomfy.

I don't see any more permanency attached, or even willfullness, attached to what one is pretending at a given moment, vs, for instance, what one loves. I pretend lots of things in the course of the average day (most recent, this morning: If China had popular elections, what would a populist foreign policy vis-a-vis Japan look like?) What I love by comparison changes very, very slowly, and is more central to my identity.



21. On 2009-04-09, Ben Lehman said:

So I had a pretty nice series of IM conversations about this aspect of GMing (providing contextual bonuses to players) and how it conflicts with other aspects (like creating challenges.) I think we came to the conclusion that these games can be fun*, but there is a conflict of interest there, which can be an incentive to cheat / be a poor sport.


* The example I used is softball, and umpires. The umpire officially decides the whole game, every time. Furthermore, in a lot of under-funded softball leagues, the "umpire" is just one of the players (or it's: call your own balls, call your own strikes, call your own outs). Yet, while there's the same conflict of interest, there's almost no cheating / poor sportmanship. This is because everyone can see the game space, and can tell when the ump is cheating.

There's a parallel there to GMing.


22. On 2009-04-10, Callan said:

I think one should always assume one is possibly blind to something. The only offense is if the other person doesn't care about you in the slightest (in which case, why are you talking to them) or that they care about you, but they keep going on and on about it (we all have alot of things to do in our lives, clearly, and only have so much time to devote to things).

It shouldn't be considered, by default, offensive to be called blind by someone (who cares about you to some degree, and doesn't harp on about it endlessly).

Otherwise the little boy who pointed out the emporer is naked (in the emporers new clothes story), was being rude. He wasn't being rude, was he?

Though sometimes when I see what people care about, I think he was.


23. On 2009-04-13, Sammy said:

Regarding narrative contrivances: in a special prior to airing the last episode of BSG, Ron Moore claimed that he had an epiphany, which was to say, "It's all about the characters." He went on to say (roughly paraphrasing) that as long as he was true to the characters, he couldn't really do any wrong when it came to writing the final episodes.

I would interpret that as meaning that either a) the characters are not just narrative contrivances, and that they really matter in and off themselves, or b) that the narrative doesn't really mean anything, and ha ha suck it fanboys. Given how seriously he seems to take it, I'd go with a.

Also, I'm with Carrie. Starbuck's ending sucked.


24. On 2009-04-13, Jim Henley said:

Starbuck's ending was when she put her own picture on the Wall of the Dead, two or three episodes before the finale, and regarded it there with bittersweet acceptance. It was moving, if you are me. The moment when her aquastor disappears with no explanation is Apollo's ending. Apollo's ending works better or worse depending on how you feel about religion getting in your SF. As a longtime Gene Wolfe fan, I'm fine with it.

Not to deny that in many ways, the series after the first half of Season Two becomes an increasing mess.


25. On 2009-04-13, Matt Wilson said:

I think calling starbuck "only a narrative contrivance" is a bit silly. It completely disregards her relationships with the rest of the cast, which were complex and interesting. It's like appreciating a movie only for the special effects.


26. On 2009-04-13, Vincent said:

Jim, that's the one! At another point in the conversation I said that Starbuck's real ending was when she found her body, but that clearly wasn't right and I dropped it. I was reaching for the moment you say.


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