2009-05-07 : Explaining the Right to Dream

I'm not optimistic! It'll be a pain in the neck and it's not really important, it's a digression. I owe it to Alex D though, and Josh W wants it too, so here goes.

The rules for this thread are strict and non-negotiable. Participate only if you want to honestly understand what I mean by the right to dream. This is not an argument, this is me explaining to you, as a service to you, because you want it. Do not participate if you don't agree to that.

I welcome all questions, but do not present an objection, end with a period, and expect me to respond to it. If you have an objection, present it and then ask your question.

Okay? Alex and Josh, let me know if you're into this and I'll compose my opener.

1. On 2009-05-07, John Mc said:

I don't know about Alex and Josh, but I'm interested.  Of course I read anything you have to say about role-playing...

Question: What are the key differences between your use of the term "Right to Dream play" and the play described in "Simulationism: The Right to Dream" (Ron Edwards)?


2. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Linked: Simulationism: The Right to Dream written in early 2003 by Ron Edwards.

That's not where I'm going to start, though. Hold on to your question and if I don't cover it eventually, ask again.


3. On 2009-05-07, Guy Shalev said:

I hope there'll also be a part on the difference between "The Right to Dream" and "Sim", which you want it to be differentiated from (in use).


4. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Here on my blog, "sim" is as-yet undefined, so there won't really be. I'm sure I'll touch upon differences between the right to dream and rgfa-sim, though.


5. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Okay, here's where I start.

The last time you roleplayed, was your character a good person or a bad person?

A couple of you, please step forward and answer! Then everybody else, please hold off.


6. On 2009-05-07, Graham said:

Good person.



7. On 2009-05-07, Adam Dray said:

A good person. Tobias is a young priest who fled the city because he can't stop picking things up that aren't his. I envision his problem as a kleptomaniacal compulsion. Otherwise, he's a law and order type, and he cares deeply about the plight of the poor and the downtrodden.


8. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:


Graham, what makes your character a good person?

Adam, do all of your fellow players agree that he's a good person?

Anyone: is there anyone here who finds that question - "do all of your fellow players agree that he's a good person?" - strange, odd, malformed or inappropriate?


9. On 2009-05-07, Adam Dray said:

I believe so.

On the one hand, it says so right on the top of his character sheet. Everyone knows that. They know I see him as a good person.

On the other hand, I work pretty hard to portray him as a good person through my choice of actions. He helps people at great risk to himself.

The question is somewhat odd, because Tobias is a fictional entity. But he exists in the context of the fictional world, so there is a morality system there by which to judge him. He can also be judged as if he were a real person in the real world. If he did what he does in this world, would I consider him a good person?

They might also be judging me. Am I a good person because I play Tobias a certain way?


10. On 2009-05-07, Graham said:

Sweetmeat is a beggar in our AD&D game.

He doesn't like violence. He never quite understands why it's necessary to go and kill people. He also thinks it's rude to open other people's letters, because it's private.

He prefers honest speaking and dislikes the wizard/thief, who uses fine words.



11. On 2009-05-07, Roger said:

It's a bit of a weird and strange question, yeah.  My first instinct, which is probably going to make me sound glib and facile, which isn't my intention, is "Dudes!  Look, he's a paladin!  It says he's Lawful Good right here on the character sheet!  Of course he's a good person!  Of course all you other players agree."  I bring it up because I feel like I'm playing right into your hand.


12. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

How about you, Graham, do your fellow players think he's a good person too?


13. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Roger: You are, of course.

Imagine I'm playing with you, and your character has just done something maybe good but questionable, like he's carried a boxful of loot past hungry beggars to sacrifice it to his god. I turn to you and I'm like, "dude, your character's kind of a jerk, isn't he?"

Am I out of line?


14. On 2009-05-07, Adam Dray said:

Was that last question directed at the group or just at Roger? I'll answer in any case.

Are you out of line for saying my character's kind of a jerk? Not at all. You get to say whatever you want.

I have a bunch of ways I can react:

"Yeah, he's kind of a jerk."
"Yeah, he's kind of a jerk, but he's good at heart."
"Yeah, he's kind of a jerk, and maybe he's changing a bit."
"No, he's not a jerk. You are misinterpreting him."
"No, he's not a jerk. I didn't mean to portray him that way."

I don't know that any of these things question if he's a good person, though. Is "kind of a jerk" at odds with "a good person"?

I mean, my character does things that are questionable all the time, like him stealing a small idol from the church (the incident that caused him to flee the city).


15. On 2009-05-07, Josh W said:

Eh, my last character was at least satisfactory! He was a naive new police officer forced into an absurd situation. Made some crappy choices, but nothing he hasn't been able to come back from. And he also has made quite a substantial commitment, so I suppose he has a well developed sense of social obligation. He's a bit of an idealist though and quite fragile, who knows how he'll end up.

The trouble with this train of analysis is that I don't tend to make those kinds of judgments. I was never the big alignment fanboy! And what is more my stance towards reality decomposes good into "fit for situation", "cope-able" and "watchable", as well as some teleological cooperative stuff.

And the other player is pretty functionally minded, so my character is good because he is fullfilling an entertaining role in the fiction. Lets follow this line though so I can see what you mean.


16. On 2009-05-07, Graham said:

The players, right? I don't think they notice. Perhaps a little: perhaps they've noticed things like he gives away his money. Or that he objects to opening letters.

They notice he's straightforward, I think, and likeable, but not necessarily good.



17. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Josh, cool.

> Made some crappy choices, but nothing he hasn't been able
> to come back from. And he also has made quite a substantial
> commitment, so I suppose he has a well developed sense of
> social obligation. He's a bit of an idealist though and
> quite fragile, who knows how he'll end up.

So his qualities as a person - his sense of social obligation, his idealism, his fragility - follow from what he's done, right? And if something cracks him and makes him cynical, you wouldn't then keep calling him idealistic, right? "Who knows how he'll end up."

Can you imagine playing a game where the causality goes the other way? "My guy's idealistic, because that's my character concept, so no matter how cynical he acts, he's an idealist. Vincent, if you just DARE call him a cynic, you're breaking my character concept and you're out of line."


18. On 2009-05-07, Roger said:

Out of line?  OUT OF LINE?  That discussion is entirely the reason I'm playing.  The only reason the paladin is there is for us to have that discussion.  If I can't get into that discussion with you, I'll be a sad little monkey and have it just with myself, but it'll still happen in some sense.


19. On 2009-05-07, Josh W said:

Lol, that reminds me of something I made up ages ago: "It's easy to win, just change what the word win means"

This would suggest that your character becomes the touchstone for idealism in the setting, perhaps as the ultimate limit. Ie, if any other character starts behaving more idealistic than you, then you have to tell them off, or just loose all semblence of a scale of qualities.


20. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Roger: fantastic.

So we're playing, and you want to have that discussion, right? But now it's my character. My character's the paladin with the boxful of loot, and you're like "so you're carrying the boxful of loot past the starving beggars? To your temple? Really?"

And I don't want to have that discussion AT ALL. I'm here to play a good character presumed good; I feel that it's your responsibility to affirm my character as good, not to test or challenge or judge his goodness.

"Why do you have to do that?" I say. "Why won't you just let my character be good, why do you have to look for the bad side of every single situation and put it in my face like that? You're out of line! Let me play my character the way I imagine him, okay?"

Neither of us is right. Roleplaying can work either way. But see how we've got a serious creative difference, incompatible agendas for the game?


21. On 2009-05-07, Judd said:

I am playing in a solo game with Storn and we were chatting after the game.  I suggested that his steppe nomad prince hostage in a foreign lands of the sorcerer king had become kind of a snob.  He was perplexed.

"You shoved your royal blood in people's faces a whole lot; you mentioned it a few times.  I thought you were playing out how his time in the king's court had changed him."

"I didn't see him being a snob at all; he married a commoner!"

"Yeah, doesn't matter."

It wasn't getting heated but I let it drop, figured we'd see if it came up in play.  I thought it was interesting but I think it was the one place where he and I were on slightly different pages in the game.


22. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Oh! I'd better clarify. I'm not talking about agreeing or disagreeing about a character.

Adam said it: "I work pretty hard to portray him as a good person through my choice of actions." If his fellow players agree with him that his character's, yeah, a pretty good person, that's just because he is one.

I'm talking about whether judging someone else's character is fair play, or out of line. Maybe every one of Adam's friends agrees with him that his character's pretty good, but if one of them doesn't agree, is that cool?

Judd, is it cool with you and Storn if you disagree whether his character's a snob? You have your reasons, Storn has his - if after more play you still disagree, will you compare your reasons and try to convince each other, or will you be violating Storn's character concept and it'll make him mad to know it?


23. On 2009-05-07, John Kim said:

Well, we would certainly have a clash of preferences.  It's not clear to me that it's irreconcilable yet.  As Judd said, depending on the details, I might be fine with avoiding commenting on the paladin being a jerk out-of-character.  I'm not sure that is a necessary part of my play.

I've certainly had games in the part where I've dropped to "agree to disagree" in out-of-game discussions about a character.


24. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

John: That's fine. I edited irreconcilable out of my comment because, yeah, it was too strong.


25. On 2009-05-07, Judd said:

Well, with Burning Wheel, he hasn't put it down in any way on his character sheet (Beliefs, Instincts, Traits) that says he wants it challenged, so I'll mostly stay away from it unless his character's behavior really asks for it.

If he had a Belief that read, "I am of noble blood and therefor better than the commonfolk; I will prove how high my station is above them" well that would be a different story.


26. On 2009-05-07, Graham said:

Vincent, I don't get this. We don't really criticize each other's characters. I don't think we really think about it. So, what does that mean? Right To Dream?



27. On 2009-05-07, Vincent said:

Graham, maybe. Would it bother you if someone judged Sweetmeat, or would it just be beside the point?


28. On 2009-05-07, Graham said:

I think it's on different levels.

1. If someone said "Man, that not-wanting-to-fight stuff is really getting in the way of the adventure", I'd be sad, because I enjoy that stuff. But it'd be fair for them to say it.

2. If someone decided to test Sweetmeet's pacifism, by cornering him in a tavern, that'd be quite interesting.

3. If someone decided to test Sweetmeat's pacifism, by murdering his family and giving him a thirst for revenge, that'd be annoying.

4. If someone decided to test Sweetmeat's dislike of money, by suddenly making money important to him, that'd be really annoying. I like that aspect of him. I don't want that to change.

So I don't know. Depends on the circumstances.



29. On 2009-05-07, Marco said:

Two questions:
1. Is RTD based on Ron's article (I have to assume yes—and yet I have to ask)?

2. Is it legitimate for the GM to use GM-Fiat to make the game go a certain way "for the story" in RTD?



30. On 2009-05-07, Josh W said:

Ok, this is pretty hard to state, but i'll give it a go: When judging a character, it has to be meaningful, in that there surely has to be an analogy or difference at th heart of the judgement. Now surely if characters need to "be the good one", they produce a definition for that quality in the world? If whatever they do they are x, then other people are x-ish because they are like them.

So say I make a cynic character and you make an idealist, and we play almost exactly the same, aren't we saying something contradictory about each others characters anyway, even without making a direct judgment?


31. On 2009-05-07, Roger said:

I think I'm picking up what you're laying down here, Vincent.  I'm going to try skipping ahead a little bit.

Vincent the paladin-player said "Let me play my character the way I imagine him, okay?"  That sounds perfectly realistic and plausible.

The thing is, though, that this isn't really enough, is it?  It's probably what he's going to get—the other players will "let him play", and he'll do that, but he won't be walking away from that thinking, wow, that was great.

The absence of being openly-questioned is not enough.  He wants affirmation.  He wants celebration.  He wants this:

V:  I stride past the unwashed throngs, head held high, plate gleaming in the sun, on my way to the glorious temple of my god to pay due sacrifice.

DM:  The poor beggars are all "Please, good sir, I've not eaten in a week!  My nine children are starving!"

V:  "May the god of light have mercy on your wretched souls!"  While I'm there, I do a quick Detect Evil on them.

DM:  Most of them look pretty non-evil... there's one beggar in the back who is radiating some evil, though.

V:  I smite off his head!  "Such are the wages of sin!"

DM:  Excellent!  High-five!
Other Players:  Excellent!  High-five!

And then later on at some point they'll be reminiscing about how great it was when the paladin beheaded that evil beggar, and they'll be high-fiving again.

Is this what Right to Dream is all about?


32. On 2009-05-07, Josh W said:

To put it another way, character concept doesn't stop at the skin, it reaches out into the environment, affecting other characters by analogy or association. There is this mental thing in philosophy of biology called the umwelt or meaning universe, which is the structure of meaning that an organism creates with reference to itself. So a bird creates a universe in which certain insects mean food, etc.

Now from a roleplay perspective, getting those spheres of authorship required for a specific concept to match up can be tricky, especially when someone is very rigid:
We had a player who wanted his character to save everyone, even when they didn't need it!

To match people's behaviour so that concept would not have been invalidated would have required him to be surrounded by a floating nerf-sphere.

So to put it more strongly, isn't avoiding compromising someone's character concept like giving that character total Godhood in the area touched by his sphere of interactions?


33. On 2009-05-07, GB Steve said:

Vincent, would it be OK for me to also talk about Graham's character, as another player in the same group?


34. On 2009-05-08, John Kim said:

Well, a few thoughts on this.  What this reminds me of is some times that I've played with people of rather different politics than me.  I'm thinking of a few conservatives in particular, but there are other differences.  Basically, I wasn't there to argue politics with them, so I'd prefer to leave off out-of-game judgments of PCs.  I didn't comment on their PCs, and I politely dropped it when they commented on mine.  I wouldn't say that comments broke anything for me per se, but it lead to a place I didn't want to go (i.e. arguing politics).

To Roger:  The celebration concept is interesting, though Vincent hasn't used it yet.  I had some thoughts along those lines a while back,

"What makes a good celebration?"

I think there's a lot there that fits.  For a celebration, you want to approach the material positively rather than critically.  It calls for players to be more constructive in a sense.


35. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Stop! Wait for me.


Who gets to decide whether your character's a good person?

Here are two valid, common, incompatible answers:

1. You do, at character creation, bindingly. The rest of us are obliged to abide by your decision.

2. Nobody does. Your character does what she does, and we all judge her goodness-or-not for ourselves, non-bindingly.

With me, everybody? Does anybody think that those aren't two valid, common, incompatible answers to the question?


36. On 2009-05-08, Jim Henley said:

Valid, incompatible answers, yes. My question is, where does a certain class of "good roleplaying awards" fit into the RTD puzzle? e.g. In DC HEROES under most campaign dials (explicitly laid out in the book), a hero who initiates Killing Combat forfeits experience points for that adventure. All these terms are defined (hero, the dials, killing combat, experience-award calc) explicitly in the text. Some versions of D&D include experience penalties or GM-imposed alignment drift for behavior, I think. And there are other games too, I think, where The System or the GM have a say in your character's official goodness or badness. It's not completely your prerogative to decide. Are such strictures incompatible with RTD play? My instinct is that they are not, but it's your answer that I seek.


37. On 2009-05-08, Marco said:

With me, everybody? Does anybody think that those aren't two valid, common, incompatible answers to the question?

I think that having binary formulations like this is sort of like reducing all objects to "a sphere" in physics 101 so that the equations are simple enough for first-years to follow. It doesn't invalidate the theory but it's also not exactly an especially relevant real-world example.

I expect that given people's trigger issues (say the GM sets up a little 'domestic abuse' for the greater-good that the Paladin will engage in) there will be judgments and commentary and there is, in fact, no 'shared understanding' that this stuff is off limits.

The default mode of play that exists in reality around this stuff is based on individual thresholds and specific issues—ALL PLAY is type #2 and it sometimes appears at #1 because the stuff in the game is beneath people's thresholds for the specific kind of conflict.

That's my take.




38. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Jim, there's also "you have to roll to do what you want," like rolls to resist temptation, personality rolls of the sort that Pendragon doesn't really have textually but everybody plays Pendragon with anyway.

Sometimes they're moral, often they aren't - fear checks, for example.

The DC Heroes rule is an interesting one. It's not "heroes don't initiate killing combat," it's "here's what initiating killing combat costs you, so if you do it, you better want it pretty bad."

Earlier, Marco asked:
> Is it legitimate for the GM to use GM-Fiat to make the
> game go a certain way "for the story" in RTD?

My answer's the same: there's room for such mechanisms in all of the creative agendas. In some games, they wouldn't serve; in others, they do; it depends on how the rest of the game works.


39. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Marco, how about this: when we sit down to play together, maybe I want #1, and maybe you want #2? Does that seem more like a real distinction to you?

There are lots of other possibilities, #3, #4, #5 and so on that I haven't described. Maybe neither of us want either #1 or #2. But, it's possible that I might want #1, and you might want #2, yeah?

(Whether then I get the #1 I want, or you get the #2 you want, is all up in the air, of course, contingent upon any and every old thing. I absolutely agree with you there - wanting #1 is probably riskier than wanting #2. It depends upon us, as a group, attending the more carefully to how the game goes.)


40. On 2009-05-08, Graham said:

With me, everybody? Does anybody think that those aren't two valid, common, incompatible answers to the question?

Yes, me! I think it's a false dichotomy.

Last week, I decided my character was basically a good person. Occasionally, people have thrown things my way to challenge that. But sometimes it wouldn't be welcome if they did that. It depends on the challenge and the particular aspect of "goodness" they're challenging.

And it's sometimes cool for them to judge my character and sometimes not, because it's my character and my business.



41. On 2009-05-08, Adam Dray said:

I can see that those two answers are common and valid. I DON'T see that they are mutually incompatible.

I also think there are other answers in between and it's usually more complicated than this.

I'm sorta wondering if using a moral trait like "goodness" complicates the issue. Would we be having this same debate if we were talking about judging the character's "elfness" or "clericness"?

Worse, in a couple cases, we're talking about a label ("good") that happens to be the same as a game construct (Tobias' Alignment is "Good"). That confuses things for me. Tobias is Good because 1) I chose that option in character generation, 2) I play him according to those rules, 3) the group agrees that I play him according to those rules, 4) the group seems to agree that I play him according to the broader non-game definition of "good" anyway.

If Tobias walked past the beggars with a barrel full of food and sacrificed the food to his god, we might have a table discussion. It would probably involve all four levels of "goodness" I described above. 1) Am I changing my choice of alignment for Tobias? 2) Do I think I am playing Tobias within the rules' definition of "Good." 3) Does the group? 4) Regardless of the Alignment definition in the rules, is Tobias a "good" person?

So who gets to decide whether Tobias is a good person?

1. I do, at character creation, bindingly. Everyone else is obliged to abide by my decision.

2. Nobody does. My character does what he does, and everyone judges his goodness-or-not for themselves, non-bindingly.

3. Some combination of those. This is why I don't think they're mutually incompatible. Everyone else abides by my decision but they judge Tobias' goodness-or-not for themselves, non-bindingly.

4. More likely, everyone does (or the DM does). I may have chosen how my character acts at character creation, but now there are rules (written, unwritten, whatever) that the group enforces. Maybe they tell me to change my Alignment. Maybe they tell me I am in danger of changing my Alignment, so I change my character's behavior.

See why "goodness" as an example might be complicated? Is this where you wanted to go with this discussion?


42. On 2009-05-08, Marco said:

I think wanting #1 is part of the human condition for some things but I've never seen someone come to the game wishing their character to be "affirmed as good" as any part of their agenda.

I can see a player going "I'm not here to try to solve urban poverty or get guilt-tripped—I'm here to kill orcs." But I think that's different. Do you think that's different?

As to the second point: is the kind of GM-meddling that kills Nar (GM enforces a premise answer) okay in RTD definitionally? That's what I'm getting at—not stuff like scene framing/moving clue/etc.



43. On 2009-05-08, GB Steve said:

Here goes anyway.

Sweatmeat is a bit confusing because he changed between sessions. My character, Planck, is pretty dumb and, I've decided very trusting of people he knows, which is not necessarily a useful trait between thieves. On the other hand he cares nothing of anyone else.

In the first session, Sweatmeat took some money from Planck, on the promise of a decent return and he didn't see much back. Although by the end of the session he did get a flower which he liked. I played Planck as not really understanding what was going on, although grateful for the flower.

In the second session, Sweatmeat changed and became a generous sort of person. He gave my character some cloth which he gave to his Mum. Planck still doesn't understand why Sweatmeat is being nice, especially when he's nice to people he doesn't know. For example, Sweatmeat asked someone for a book we wanted, whereas Planck's approach was to hit people until he got what he wanted. And he has no compunction about killing.

So I, as a player think Sweatmeat is probably a good guy but I play my character as not understanding his attitude.

The situation is further confused because Simon's character Fireballs is very protective of Planck and advises him and looks after his money, although he does bully him. And Sweatmeat and Fireballs don't always see eye to eye.


44. On 2009-05-08, Weeks said:

With me, everybody? Does anybody think that those aren't two valid, common, incompatible answers to the question?

Uh, no?  I don't think that number 1 is either valid (by my understanding of the notion—that is, I think what it describes is essentially impossible) and not common (cause y'know impossible != common).

But this is probably because I'm the one reader not grasping something.  How could I possibly play an RPG in which you get to arbitrarily redefine the notion of goodness?  How would we ever have a SIS of any sort with that kind of fundamental rift in reality?


45. On 2009-05-08, Jon Hastings said:

I wonder if this might help as a thought experiment to replace goodness with "bad-ass-ness".


46. On 2009-05-08, Jim Henley said:

How could I possibly play an RPG in which you get to arbitrarily redefine the notion of goodness? How would we ever have a SIS of any sort with that kind of fundamental rift in reality?

Does this objection go away if we interpret Vincent's alternatives as social expectations? IOW, 1 is, "I have the social expectation that you won't cavil at my character conception and vice verse" and 2 is "I have the social expectation that you will very much pick at the stress points of my character conception and I plan to do likewise with you".

I'm wondering, where does the social construction of the setting itself come into play? Like, the Paladin carrying the offering to the temple past the beggars. Rob says, "Oh that's evil." Bob says, "The heck. In this culture, the gods are owed their due by everyone, including the beggars. Keep your presentism out of my roleplaying."


47. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Oh! Yes, Jon! Great call. Bad-ass-ness is better than elfiness or clericness.

So try this:

We're sitting down to play. I want to play a badass.

1. I want you all, and the game's rules, to help make sure that my desire to play a badass gets fulfilled. I do not want anybody to ask me, via my character, whether being a badass is worth it, or force me to choose between doing the right thing and being a badass, or to make me earn or win my character's badassery, or to intimate that my character might not be a badass after all.

2. I want the opposite. I WANT somebody to ask me, via my character, whether being a badass is worth it, or else I want to have to fight for and win - or quite possibly lose - my character's badassery.

How about now? Legit, common, incompatible approaches to playing a badass?


48. On 2009-05-08, Marco said:

The bad-ass formulation: much better.

Yes, I think that there are probably many people who wish to simply get a hit of wish-fulfillment for their RPG-dollar. This is the same as liking action movies rather than dramas.



49. On 2009-05-08, Adam Dray said:

Yep, I'm buying the bad-ass formulation.


50. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Marco, and this is a side point, barely on topic:

Well ... I wouldn't break movies down that way. I'd say instead that it's the same as some people going to action movies because they love the formula and want to see it again, versus others who go to action movies because they love the medium and want to see it challenge its formulas. We both love going to action movies.


51. On 2009-05-08, Marco said:

Does being barely on topic mean I shouldn't follow this up?

(because if I can, as someone who has a gig reviewing 'guy-movies' I have to say that if what you want is to see an action movie "challenge its formulas" I do not see how you will love going to action movies since it'll be long strings of disappointment with a startling few points of light—and I think that's /very/ relevant to a discussion of RTD play—especially if the defining feature is that it keeps to the formula)



52. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

I'd like to talk about that! But later.


53. On 2009-05-08, Graham said:

It's still a false dichotomy for me.

For example, Steve's character is a badass in our game.

It's sometimes appropriate to challenge his badassness. And, sometimes, it's appropriate to let him enjoy his badassness without challenge.

And it's appropriate to challenge certain aspects of his badassness: like, for example, presenting him with a situation where he can't win by fighting. But other aspects shouldn't be challenged: like, he's trained to hit wizards, but it'd be silly to bring in a likeable wizard to challenge that.

So, no, I don't think they're incompatible things.

However! You said you wanted to explain your thing. And I understand it. So that's good! I don't agree with it, but I understand it.



54. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Graham, what would your game be like if it were never appropriate to challenge Steve's character's badassness?


55. On 2009-05-08, John Mc said:

So far I'm with you on everything you've said Vincent.

You've described two common, but incompatible play styles.  Got it.

(I thought goodness worked, but I agree that bad-assness works better.)


56. On 2009-05-08, Weeks said:

To address Graham's objection, are we talking about what you want out of the game all the time or at any given moment?

Also, while the bad-assness is better than goodness, the part of number one that I still have trouble with is what the hypothetical you who wants number one expects of the other players when he declares up-front that he wants his character to be a bad-ass and then plays him gentle or bookish.  We still have a rift in the SIS for which I don't see a reconciliation procedure.

(Again, I suspect I'm missing a point.  Also, if you stopped number one with the first sentence, I'd be good for you to continue, I think.)


57. On 2009-05-08, Roger said:

Alright, badassitude, got it.

The thing that I think I see in play is that you've got one or more #1 badasses and one or more #2 players, and the thing is that the #2 people, by virtue of everyone being children of the same culture, all agree with the #1 players about what being a badass is.  So challenges thereto, while theoretically problematic, just never arise.  John plays a good paladin, we all agree that he's doing good paladin stuff, so there's no incompatibility.

It sorta sounds like a weird corner case, but I think it's more common than it first appears.


58. On 2009-05-08, Graham said:

Graham, what would your game be like if it were never appropriate to challenge Steve's character's badassness?

I'm not sure. Not very.

Perhaps this isn't a great example, on reflection, because there hasn't really been a question of challenging Steve's badassness. But I don't think it would be wrong to do so. And we play other games where we challenge each other's attributes.



59. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Marco said "wish-fulfillment." How do people feel about this:

1. "This is a wish-fulfillment game. I'm playing a badass, so none of this is-it-right-to-be-a-badass crap, and none of this you-have-to-fight-for-and-earn-your badassitude crap. Wish. Fulfillment. Don't mess with me."

2. "This isn't a wish-fulfillment game. I'm playing a badass, but I want to find out what being a badass costs my guy, or what he'll give up badassery to gain."

3. "This isn't a wish-fulfillment game. I'm playing a badass, so I want to put my guy's badassitude on the line against everyone else's, fair fights dirty fights just bring it, and to the victor goes the glory."


60. On 2009-05-08, Adam Dray said:

There is another space:

1.5. "This is a wish-fulfillment game. I think I am playing a badass, but only time will tell. Roll the dice." (And if the dice show that I'm not a badass, something is wrong.)

I suspect it's a better replacement for your #1, which feels artificial to me. I can't really think of actual play examples where people playing in wish-fulfillment modes did not want to be tested—but by the rules, the physics of the game, not by player debate.

Constructive denial and all that.


61. On 2009-05-08, Jon Hastings said:

I've seen someone who thought the game was #1 get upset when it turned out it wasn't: "back in the day" when playing Champions and more recently in Sorcerer.

I've also, unconsciously, been there myself (when I first started playing Sorcerer), and had to make a mental jump to get to #2.


62. On 2009-05-08, Gregor said:

Hey Adam, I've absolutely seen people wanting type (1). My good pal Barry played Bad Asses like this in Vampire. For years.

Oh, and all three cases could have "simulating realism" as part of the game (or not) or have "historically accurate background/info" (or not). Those choices don't come into the Creative Agenda, right?


63. On 2009-05-08, Adam Dray said:


I don't think I'm talking about simulating realism. I'm talking about actual play affirming player expectations of character, setting, situation, and so on.

Your good pal Barry played a badass in Vampire. Sweet. I assume that the actual play continuously reaffirmed how much of a badass his character was. Or did he just say he was a badass and the actual play never affirmed that?


64. On 2009-05-08, Marco said:

There are plenty of people who don't want to be tested in RPG-land. There are people who want to show up and experience the story without having adversity heaped upon them (a little is okay—but too much makes the game stressful).

After a hard day at work or when dealing with stuff going wrong in my life, I may want a break from a massive imaginary struggle.

That said, #1 really is a big, big gradient.

1. "this isn't a wish-fulfillment game. NOTE: If you don't have some quality thematic testing of my bad-assitude I'm gonna let you know that hoop-jumping isn't my thing either. Until you as the GM earn the right to test me with sufficient context I don't expect a lot of ham-fisted stuff ... so make sure the build up is there ... if it's there at all."

2. "This isn't a wish-fulfillment game. I am playing a bad-ass, I expect some real challenges and to lay it on the line—but I also expect the game to be real which means many will not be. If your situation is not up to giving me legitimate challenges but cannot maintain sufficient realism as well, I think we have some problems." (this guy holds putting his bad-ass ness on the line equal to organic realism and therefore does not expect a steady stream of step-on-up without a real feat of GM brilliance behind it).



65. On 2009-05-08, Gregor said:

Hey Adam

Vampire was a terrible game for the groups I was in for affirming anything or of delivering fun actual play—but we plowed away for years at it.

However, throughout all that time Barry absolutely rigidly believed in his character's Bad Ass-ness (and also his non-Evilness) and there was a huge disconnect when the GM tried to subvert that or when the other players would ask if his character was in any way up for debate.

Barry didn't want us to question his character—he knew who his character was. He didn't want to question the character himself—he knew where he was going. He liked to win, sure, but he didn't want his character to "win" above everything else (in the end he let his character die in a totally bullshit GM-rigged fight to the death). The GM didn't get it when he was making sure Barry couldn't win. Barry didn't care, as long as he was playing his character. So, the one thing that he got out of all that gaming was being the character.


66. On 2009-05-08, Graham said:

Even with wish-fulfilment, I'm still not seeing they're independent modes of play.

Why can't I sometimes want my wishes fulfilled and sometimes challenged? Where's the room for "Challenge me being a badass, but only occasionally"? Or "Challenge me being a badass, but don't ever challenge my chivalry?".

Because I think we play like that. I had a character in Steal Away Jordan. Everyone was welcome to challenge him to be violent, but I didn't like it when someone put him in a situation where he might be violent to a woman.



67. On 2009-05-08, Adam Dray said:

I'm not sure I communicated my point, Gregor.

I guess I'm asking, was Barry's character's badassedness entirely in his head (and never shared), or did he want it to be demonstrated by the setting and play?

"However, throughout all that time Barry absolutely rigidly believed in his character's Bad Ass-ness (and also his non-Evilness) and there was a huge disconnect when the GM tried to subvert that or when the other players would ask if his character was in any way up for debate."

This suggests that Barry expected the setting and whatnot to uphold his badassedness. That meant he expected the rules to work to support it. That meant he expected all y'all to work to support it.

Did he avoid conflicts that any true badass would not have flinched from, because the rules might prove him not a badass?

Did he ever get mad when conflicts didn't go his way, because obviously he's a badass and he should win?


68. On 2009-05-08, John Kim said:

My experience is similar to Graham's.  Given the formulation as "bad-ass-ery," I can think of many characters whose bad-assed-ness wasn't questioned.  Say, in my James Bond 007 game, I was fairly pointed in not challenging the PCs'  bad-assed-ness.  They might have setbacks, but those would reinforce their bad-assed-ness.  i.e. They could take on a dozen ninjas at once, but two dozen meant they needed to change their approach.  I can think of many other cases in pulp and supers games.

But I see this as a preference for a given character and aspect that can be accommodated.  For example, I can easily play in a game where Heather's character is unquestionably bad-ass, and my character is struggling with bad-ass-ery.


69. On 2009-05-08, Gregor said:

Barry's character(s) were deeply rooted in the setting, they were very rich, and he liked to face up to events and people in the setting (as well as other PCs). He wanted to play his character out and get screen time, he wanted to do stuff in the world and act out his character and have stories for them. I guess there was probably a lot more in his head than we got to see, but I reckon any of the players could have told you after a while what his characters would do in any given situation.

I thought his characters were always bad ass, for sure. He made them bad ass character-build wise, and bad-ass in the attitude of how he played them. I would say the system and the group didn't help support what he wanted out of the game. (And I would say that it didn't support or help what any of us wanted, but that's neither here nor there.)

He didn't back down from anything his character wouldn't have backed down from, and he always backed down when he always would have. I don't know if that makes any sense?

Umm, I need to think about this. But as far as I can remember he most enjoyed being "his guy". Uh, that's me for the weekend.


70. On 2009-05-08, Vincent said:

Stop! Wait for me.


71. On 2009-05-09, Josh W said:

Ok, I wrote this first bit when we were at post 41 ish, but I think it's pretty good, so I'll add a bit at the end to fit in the latter changes:

Ok the first option deals with ontology and meaning, and produces the crazy problems I referred to, it's validity presupposes that all those decisions are made in a compatible way. By saying, "all the other players must abide by your decision" you've emphasised the same thing I had issue with. Essentially you've given that player total power over the definition of idealism for the whole campaign. Now as that definition shifts more and more from what people recognise in the real world, then people will just have to create a sort of genre double standard, which is like an expansion of that players view on a subject into the structure of a whole world.

Actually, I'm ok with that; playing in such a game will set me off into lit crit mode and I'll start comparing "in game idealism" to real idealism, and pushpulling the definition, but I'll still understand it as a mindset constraint to deal with. Now does that undermine the whole point? If "the good guys" are obviously horrible, but just within a game you pretend that good and horrible are pretty close together, or that those horrible things aren't actually horrible, it's all a bit delusional and weird surely? Well we don't feel the same about slapstick! It's all injury and violence, but it's obviously not real so we don't mind! So I'm split on this one, as creating these really different mindsets can be valuable and fun, but when actually involved in one of those games, just like after watching dogma, I take an affectionate deconstructive approach, and try to open up the paradoxes of that worldview while playing out it's strengths.

The other one has no such problems, you just have people doing stuff, all judgements allowed! So much easier, as the judgements will always happen, you just put them on the table. But it doesn't quite give the same grounds for exploring a worldview. Now it will happen anyway with the first option, but with this option we don't have an in-fiction judgement to compare with. Now it seems to me even in this one, we can have a bit of the above happening, only the ontology refers to effectiveness and appropriateness. So "the right tool for the job" is now the thing that is defined rather than "the idealist use of that tool", all the above stuff about affectionate deconstruction can apply, where you use a skill system in such a bendy way that it's absurdities are revealed.

So in a way they feel pretty similar, it's just that the first one allows more of the "gameworld not= your real world" to appear, and puts more of it in player hands.

Now onto your modified "badass" description, this straddles the distinction I made between effectiveness and purpose. If he wants to be a badass, then does he just want to say "my character fell over into a puddle, but he did it in a badass way!", effectively adding badass-ly onto everything he does? Like I said before, that can be really amusing! Or do they have a set, outside group of "badass interactions" that their character must fulfil, regardless of external constraint? Now this redefines the physical structure of the world sometimes, like "This guy can punch through that wall, because he's a badass", the whole chuck norris physics thing. Now these are actually almost the same thing, just to different degrees.

Now about challenge, I think that the player should expect challenge to happen, unless the players have by some freak chance been able to create streight off a world where every player gets the trait definitions they want, with no immovable/irresistible stuff going on. The moment one of those things does happen, players will have to compromise or play a different game. But I suppose you are saying about something different; players valuing the deconstructive effects of an alternative view rather than just considering it an inevitable side effect of playing with other people. Or is it something else; I haven't seen "worth it" appear before, presumably your talking about looking at what compromises would actually be better than the original, say if you have to shift your badass to have a soft spot for someone or a weakness, and you find that more to your liking? Because until this point I've just been looking at keeping the character consistent with the original plan, regardless of if that is a good idea!


72. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:

All right. This is for the "I don't see it" people. One more try, then comes the stern diagnosis, so please do try.

Here's Marco:
1. "this isn't a wish-fulfillment game. NOTE: If you don't have some quality thematic testing of my bad-assitude I'm gonna let you know that hoop-jumping isn't my thing either. Until you as the GM earn the right to test me with sufficient context I don't expect a lot of ham-fisted stuff ... so make sure the build up is there ... if it's there at all."

I love this, I think it's dead on. None of us are inborn or wired with immutable preferences; there are certain subjects and topics, thresholds, bars we set.

So let's look at actual play instead!

1. Over the course of play, everybody affirms, nobody challenges, my character's badassitude. Maybe because nobody came up with a good enough challenge and never tried; maybe somebody tried but I snapped at them out of the game and they backed off. Maybe for whatever reason, the reason why doesn't matter. The fact is, badassitude affirmed, wish fulfilled.

2. Over the course of play, at least once, somebody, some in-game circumstance, gave my character's badassitude a real challenge, and I took it. I accepted the challenge as a legitimate part of play - maybe grudgingly, maybe with enthusiasm, it doesn't matter which. The point is, I didn't get my wish-fulfillment badassery this time, because instead something challenged it.

See it now? I hope?


73. On 2009-05-11, Graham said:

No, I just don't see the division. Sure, I can see it's two ways to play, but they're not independent. You can take bits of one and bits of the other.

I love it when you define things! Every time, it makes me question whether the thing existed in the first place.



74. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:

You can combine bits of "never" with bits of "at least once"? What on earth are you talking about?


75. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:


I say "here's a way people roleplay sometimes." You say "not me, I've never seen that," and then you make a bad leap: "nobody must."

I've seen it. Others in this very thread have seen it, they're like "sure, I've seen that." You haven't, I believe you, but indulge me that it does happen, yeah?

This goes to an important longstanding problem in explaining the Big Model: people who've really experienced only one creative agenda look to find the full diversity of creative agendas within their own experience. They find no serious incompatibilites THERE, of course, so they conclude that the creative agendas aren't seriously incompatible.

Look instead to how you play vs how people play whom you would hate to play with. THAT'S where you find creative agenda differences.


76. On 2009-05-11, Graham said:

Oh, I thought you were saying "Here's how everyone roleplays", so I was saying "Actually, I play somewhere in between".

But, yes, I'm sure people roleplay in those two ways.



77. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:

Okay! Sometimes when you play there are challenges, sometimes there's challengeless affirmation. All good.

Other "I don't see it" people, you good too?


78. On 2009-05-11, Adam Dray said:

I see the two types of play as different. I see some vague links back to Right to Dream (first example) and Story Now (second example). I'd like to see you connect the dots better.

My independent understanding of Right to Dream is more complex than your example, though. Maybe because I don't see "challenge" and "affirm" as opposites. In fact, I think the affirmation process requires a challenge in RTD so that the player can go, "See? I told you." Wish-fulfillment is wishing, not demanding, and the wisher hopes his Dream will come true and everything will be Right.

Maybe I'm latching onto the wrong parts of your example.

Sternly diagnose me or whatever. I hope it's not swine flu.


79. On 2009-05-11, Josh W said:

Vincent, do you ever play "right to dream" style? I ask because the way you describe it, it doesn't seem to have any room for growth. So say you've got all these people wanting their various wishes to be fulfilled, and the GM runs around like a super-butler crooning at everyone???s egos, where's the feedback? Where's the expansion, growth, differentness?

See, when we play, we have some players who have this picture of how they want everything to go, and part of the game is twisting these around, finding innocuous compromises that expand on what they have, suggest it and push it in different ways. Wish aikido basically, no direct challenge, but a lot of redirection.

Would this still be right to dream? Or perhaps I have this wrong, perhaps it's "right to dream" from the perspective of the player being aikido'ed because he's either getting events within a certain sphere of wish fulfilment, of having something even better happen to him. But from the perspective of the GM, I suppose it's something different. It could be a consequence of the GM trying to get his own story into play, or it could be that the GM is just interested in subtly twisting preconceptions.

Is the latter a signature of a devious narrative GM playing with dreamers?


80. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:

Adam: I think you're fine. I think that challenges in right to dream play are a whole issue all of their own, with lots and lots of people working hard on all sides of it for the past 20 years and ongoing. How do you make the players feel challenged, yet reliably win? How do you give your players the "I told you so" they want, when challenging them means they might not get it and not challenging them means it's not even a thing?

(Contrast step on up or story now: How do you make the players feel challenged? By really challenging them. How do you make them reliably win? You don't.)

The right to dream includes lots, lots more than just badass wish-fulfillment, of course. Badass wish-fulfillment is one of its popular genres, but it's only one of many.


81. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:

Josh: I don't know! I don't play with you, I'm in no position to judge.

It's possible that your wish-aikido is ultimately challenging, it's just sneaky, subtle and patient about it. It's also possible that your wish-aikido is the kind of faux-challenging that I just described, creating enough illusion of challenge that the ultimate affirmation rings true. It's also-also possible that it's something else altogether.

Posting about your game in the actual play forum at the Forge and asking "am I playing story now? Or what?" has been, overall and so far, one of the very best ways to learn the big model.


82. On 2009-05-11, Josh W said:

So focusing on faux-challenge in dream, is the core thing that they get the winners cup, and the conflict is just dramatic set-up for the pure glory? That reminds me of the feeling of completing Halo on easy, or quick time events in Res 5; they are not there to challenge you, but to form a pre-requisite engagement with the fiction in order to earn your prize. In other words, challenges exist to pimp rightwards arrows, so that the gate is open for the reward to mean something.

Now when I say reward, I???m talking about the in game situation that is a perfect complement to their wish, everything from ???king of the world??? to ???poor me??? to ???enigmatic surrealism???.

The risk/fear loss potential forces people to look, and then you hit em with what they are really after.

Something like that?


83. On 2009-05-11, Josh W said:

Your posting system seems to hate word's spellchecker! Those ???'s are ' and " by the way, serves me right for not previewing.


84. On 2009-05-11, Mark W said:

As someone who's played in (and run) a fair few games in category 1, I guess what I'd say is that people have un-fun when the result of a challenge isn't one that they themselves see as consistent with their pre-existing image of the character. As long as challenge just reveals and demonstrates badassity, we're good. If the challenge reveals that they weren't really a badass, or that badass doesn't mean what they thought it did, that's not fun.

This is the root of a whole lot of the impulse toward "fudging".

You present the desired thing, threaten it, and then affirm it in the face of threat.


85. On 2009-05-11, Vincent said:

> If the challenge reveals that they weren't really a
> badass, or that badass doesn't mean what they thought
> it did
, that's not fun.

Right on.


86. On 2009-05-11, Josh HB said:

There are two thoughts that occurred to me while mulling this over, over the weekend.

First, about the idea of affirming someone's "badassness" (or whatever) even if they aren't trying to play a convincing badass.

In my own experience, when I'm playing in this way, the other participants have a responsibility to affirm my stated trait, that is connected to my own responsibility to play out that trait as well as I can. If that trait is "secret agent," I need to make a good-faith effort to act in a way that a "secret agent" would act. (If I don't do so, or I have an idea of what a "secret agent" does that's totally incompatible with what everyone else thinks, I am likely to cause problems, the same way that someone who makes self-sabotaging decisions might be problematic in the context of Step On Up.)

Second. Josh W, in my experience with this style, the "win," the final affirmation is less about the narrative climax and more about the OOC postgame. It is less like setting up an easy challenge for yourself so you can declare that you've "won" and more like being satisfied that you just freestyled a great verse about some guy's amazing victory. I am suspecting that it is different from Step on Up and Story Now in terms of where the challenge is taking place.

Vincent, am I on a track that lines up with what you are talking about here? This conversation feels like it is making sense of something that has consistently confused me until now, but I want to be sure I am getting at the same things you are talking about.


87. On 2009-05-11, Graham said:

As I understand it, this is how characters develop in Right To Dream play.

Me: "Yeah, Sweetmeat's changed. He's starting to doubt that being a badass is getting him what he wants. Now, he's trying to protect those he loves."

Everyone else: [reinforces my new concept for the character]


88. On 2009-05-11, Mark W said:

Yep, that's exactly how I've heard it go down. Characters can change, but they change because that's what they should do - for example, if the player's got a "character arc" in mind and it's time for the heel/face turn.


89. On 2009-05-11, Josh W said:

Other Josh, I haven't quite got your meaning yet (and vice versa perhaps); I wasn't really talking about "yay I won" either, but the victory would be the second half of some kind of tension/release structure, the tension part serving to force the player to listen and contribute. So to emphasise I'm not talking about victory in itself, imagine a game where the character is a misery, and has a miserable life. Suppose the player is told that a certain good thing will happen to their character, the player then has to find a way that their character can react to that situation while still being a misery. The challenge is set so that it can be done pretty easily if the player thinks about what has happened before, and the player sits up, thinks for a moment, and says that the character is annoyed that she now has to be nice to someone she hates!

Mission accomplished, the misery has succeeding in remaining miserable!

The difference is that the player could have said "she does blah miserably", instead they were required by the rules to recognise the threat, and use appropriate resources to resolve it, and in doing so they entered the world of the character, took a misery-eye-view for a moment.

Now I suppose that relates to your acting spy-ish, but it's only half way there; if they say "they are like a spy because they shoot people while wearing a tuxedo" and your thinking "but their shooting people up in a train station, that's not stealth!", then even though they might be engaged with the situation, and loving it, you will be put out. Now I've suggested before that if you somehow want to let that one go, either you chalk that up as a "genre" issue, you know, a genre that you are partially creating, and send your own tux enhanced fighters after him, and remember that this player is so not into stealth/facial recognition issues, or you add your own work-around, such as giving him a built in neuraliser in his tux! You know, the comic book style workarounds that mean that no-one recognises superman.

But you're right, there is a whole other field where that players requirement to fit to your dream means that they must tone down the 70s-bond and shift more into 80s-bond or something: Total creative freedom is often not compatible with collaboration, unless you already agree on stuff or just have non-intersecting interests.

There is also the idea that the players want to portray something and are not quite sure how, and that you can tell them how to portray their character "better" which I suspect is where the long lost "roleplaying skills" of the 80s resides! For me that rings more true as the challenge of dream rp than ooc postgame stuff, the creation of the content rather than the postgame reminisces. But that's probably because I don't play with your group; how do you do it?


90. On 2009-05-12, Roger said:

Woah, woah, woah.

We somehow went from something very specific—"My character is a badass, because I say so, and y'all can't challenge me on that"—to something very general: "My character is exactly defined as this thing, and no part of it is open to challenge from any of y'all."  I'm happy with the specific case, somewhat less happy with the general case.

The most obvious example I can think of right off the top of my head is that I've played with people that are entirely happy to see their character challenged in all sorts of ways... as long as you don't question their heterosexuality.  It's off-limits in exactly the "My character is a badass, end of discussion" mode.  "My character is NOT GAY, end of discussion."  But everything else about it is fair game.


91. On 2009-05-12, Callan said:

"1. Over the course of play, everybody affirms, nobody challenges, my character's badassitude. Maybe because nobody came up with a good enough challenge and never tried; maybe somebody tried but I snapped at them out of the game and they backed off. Maybe for whatever reason, the reason why doesn't matter. The fact is, badassitude affirmed, wish fulfilled."

How odd? Because...well, just because no one challenges your assertion, doesn't mean its affirmed?

Is this like asserting the idea (your character is baddass) as if it's affirmed already, and if no one says otherwise, that feeling of affirmed-ness is never popped? If anyone challenges it, it clearly 'pops' the idea that it was affirmed right from the moment the person said (or even just thought) their PC is badass?


92. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Nah. Read the "everybody affirms" as active. "Everybody affirms AND nobody challenges," not "everybody affirms BECAUSE nobody challenges." You could have nobody affirming and nobody challenging because nobody's interested, for instance. I'm talking about everybody affirms plus nobody challenges.


93. On 2009-05-12, Callan said:

Then I think that "but I snapped at them out of the game and they backed off" and the "nobody came up with a good enough challenge and never tried" are confusing me? In those cases I wouldn't see them as affirming and not challenging - in the former I'd see them afraid of being snapped at again, rather than affirming. And in the latter, just couldn't think of a challenge, rather than affirming?

Are you sure those two aren't more like examples of 'rough road', so to speak, on the way to getting affirmation and no challenges? Otherwise they're confusing me?


94. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Sure, that works. Sometimes those things are "rough road," sometimes they're just texture, never rising to enough significance to be any kind of real hitch. Anyway do suppose that there's affirmation going on around them.


95. On 2009-05-12, Callan said:

Okay, gotcha Vincent. And #1 is describing the right to dream? (or did I get mixed up during the thread?) I think I understand what you mean by it now. Thanks!


96. On 2009-05-12, John Kim said:

There's something here I'm not clear on.  From Vincent's #1 and #2.

1. Over the course of play, everybody affirms, nobody challenges, my character's badassitude. Maybe because nobody came up with a good enough challenge and never tried; maybe somebody tried but I snapped at them out of the game and they backed off. Maybe for whatever reason, the reason why doesn't matter. The fact is, badassitude affirmed, wish fulfilled.

2. Over the course of play, at least once, somebody, some in-game circumstance, gave my character's badassitude a real challenge, and I took it. I accepted the challenge as a legitimate part of play - maybe grudgingly, maybe with enthusiasm, it doesn't matter which. The point is, I didn't get my wish-fulfillment badassery this time, because instead something challenged it.
I see these as far as they go, but this is only looking at treatment of a single trait (bad-assed-ness) of a single character.  This doesn't describe a game as a whole.

So, for example, a game might have three characters whose bad-assed-ness is always affirmed, but one PC designed as the new guy whose bad-assed-ness is questioned.  Further, you might have a game where bad-assed-ness was always affirmed, but morality was questioned.


97. On 2009-05-12, Marco said:

I think (looking at what has been written) that the idea here is that the way people pay RTD whatever is important to them is affirmed and not questioned. That is the mode of play affirms something important to you about your character.

However it does not do much for vast swaths of play where the player either doesn't care too much about being questioned or not (i.e. you question their bad-assitude and they deal with it but it's no kind of focus for the game) or where most of the characters do not have a stand that they care about being affirmed (when someone questions the Paladin, the paladin player goes "well, it says in the book I give the money to the church—all paladins do it—so ... eh? Who cares!")

Which of course raises the question as to whether or not the play has no CA or some other CA.

(are we still saying there's 3 CA's and all play falls into them ... plus Zilch play?)



98. On 2009-05-12, Josh W said:

I suspect there is a difference between don't say ___ vs do say ___. In other words, the player may declare something off limits to questioning and probing, but not play it out themselves. An example of this might be the sexuality of one guy???s character. He's not interested in particularly playing a character of a particular sexuality, but he doesn't want other players making those kinds of hints. It's not setting a part of the imaginary space in stone; in contrast it is hedging something out of the imaginary space.

Whereas someone else might be into deconstructing superheroes, so they don't want people questioning whether they actually have powers, on the contrary, but they do want people to question everything else! Does that count as nar? Not much premise there, but it's obviously not the thing you just defined, if I'm getting your definition Vincent.


99. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

In badass wish-fulfillment roleplaying, badass isn't just a character trait, it's your character's function in the narrative. It's the point of play.

Right to dream play doesn't mean "take a character trait and hold it sacrosanct," it means "take a function in the narrative and hold it sacrosanct." (Or else "take a particular narrative and hold it sacrosanct," that's common too.)

"My character is het and don't mess with that" doesn't point to any of the creative agendas over any other. You can play an affirmed het character in story now, step on up AND right to dream. What IS right to dream play, though, is romance wish-fulfillment.

Josh, don't let Marco and John and Graham distract you, they have a long history of not believing in right to dream play. I'm going to repeat myself (via copy-paste):

This goes to an important longstanding problem in explaining the Big Model: people who've really experienced only one creative agenda look to find the full diversity of creative agendas within their own experience. They find no serious incompatibilites THERE, of course, so they conclude that the creative agendas aren't seriously incompatible.

Look instead to how you play vs how people play whom you would hate to play with. THAT'S where you find creative agenda differences.


100. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Now here at last I can answer you about railroading, Marco. Now that I've said "take a particular narrative and hold it sacrosanct." That sounds like railroading, yeah?

My take is: no. If the GM has to resort to social violence - nullifying a player's or the players' input - in order to preserve the narrative, that means that the players aren't there with the GM about the narrative's value. Railroading shows serious creative differences in the group. Maybe social violence will solve them, but that seems like a long shot. My money's on long-term dissatisfaction.


101. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Oh, and Josh, yeah, deconstructing superheroes is a grand tradition in story now play (insofar as something so yound and little can have grand traditions). All you have to do is not presume the conclusion.

If you presume the conclusion and hold it sacrosanct, it's right to dream play.


102. On 2009-05-12, Graham said:

Josh, don't let Marco and John and Graham distract you, they have a long history of not believing in right to dream play.

No I don't! Where have I ever said that? When we play Cthulhu, that's how we play, pretty much. And when we play indie games, we play in a Story Now way.

What I'm doubting is that, as you've defined them, they're separate things. But that's cool. You think they're separate, I don't. We don't need to agree.



103. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

I'm corrected! Cool with me too.


104. On 2009-05-12, Meserach said:

SO has any of this moved us beyond where you were four years ago?

Or is that still current? Because I understood that explanation better, all told.


105. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

If that explanation had been good enough, we wouldn't be here now.

Hey, so everybody. I've used up my (already thin) enthusiasm for this topic, and I figure my non-optimism was justified. So here's this thread from now on:
- Your questions;
- My answers;
- No discussion otherwise.

If you have questions for me, do ask them. Don't answer each others' questions; this thread is mine for that. If you want to have discussions, have 'em elsewhere. I strongly recommend the actual play forum at the Forge as the best place for discussion about this, but abide by its rules, of course.



106. On 2009-05-12, Roger said:

> badass isn't just a character trait, it's your character's function in the narrative.

1.  Is RTD more about Situation than Character?
2.  If so, why did we start with Character?


107. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

1. No.

First: situation and character are coequal and coexistant, always. The one implies the other. Anything that's about character is equally and identically about situation, and vice versa.

Second: all the creative agendas are about the player's relationship with the fiction. When I say "your character's function in the narrative," I mean the function your character serves in the narrative for you and your fellow players, not the character's fictional situation.


108. On 2009-05-12, Marco said:

Josh, don't let Marco and John and Graham distract you, they have a long history of not believing in right to dream play.

Now, now—to be fair, I do believe in it—I just don't think:
(a) The dialog says good things about it but claims it does when cornered.
(b) That RTD + Nar + Gam encompasses all available play in any meaningful way (it clearly does in the RTD = !Nar & !GAM formulation but I don't think that describes RTD play in a useful fashion)
(c) The essay really, really adds GDS-Sim into the CA formulation in a confusing way.

But I certainly believe in it.



109. On 2009-05-12, Josh W said:

Deal, thanks man, I think I now get what your on about. I can recognise those two as distinct motivations, but I don't see them as inherently incompatible, just that they only match up in specific situations. I'm happy to use them in that sense, and try to make peace between the two factions! So that's my last editorial on that subject, and my last post in this thread, unless you want to talk about GM work in right to dream:

I mentioned the super-butler approach to GMing, now to me that doesn't sound like he is getting the opportunity to enjoy his own right to dream, so is that what the rules are for? Taking that mediator role? Have you ever seen that done well where the GM gets to be a proper player too?


110. On 2009-05-12, valamir said:

I read your formulation of "A Right to Dream" and the don't-deny-me-my-wish-fulfillment angle.  And I buy that.  That seems a reasonable description of this thing called a "Right to Dream".

Using "Right to Dream" to identify this wish fulfillment activity is certainly a more appropriate label than Simulationism is.  And ripping this behavior out of Simulationism where it never belonged makes me happy. That hatchet job of a Right to Dream article which combined this wish fulfillment stuff with legitimate Simulationist stuff willy-nilly still frustrates me to this day.

But here's the problem I'm having.  I'm not seeing what you just described here as a Creative Agenda...for much the same reasons that back in the Forge days people came up with ideas like The Beeg Horseshoe because Right to Dream Simulationism didn't seem valid as a Creative Agenda either.

Now that you've distilled Right to Dream down to this core notion of character strikes me as having even less validity as a Creative Agenda.

So what I'd love for you to be saying is: "let's rip all of this Right to Dream stuff out of the definition of Simulationism and stick it somewhere else as its own that Simulationism can finally get its due as a fully realized Creative Agenda free of all of this other stuff Ron saddled it with."  I'd be cheering at that, because I've been trying to do that for years.

But it doesn't look to me like that's what you're doing.
I'm concerned that what you're actually doing is affirming taking this Right to Dream stuff as the Big Model Creative Agenda...leaving the actual Simulationism parts as a collection of techniques but no longer at the level of Creative Agenda.

If that's the case...I can't buy into that at all.

Can you clarify where this Right to Dream discussion is are you fitting this discussion of "wish fulfillment" back into the Big Model?  As a CA...or as something else?  or what?


111. On 2009-05-12, Marco said:

My take is: no. If the GM has to resort to social violence - nullifying a player's or the players' input - in order to preserve the narrative, that means that the players aren't there with the GM about the narrative's value. Railroading shows serious creative differences in the group. Maybe social violence will solve them, but that seems like a long shot. My money's on long-term dissatisfaction.

My view is that railroading is always dysfunctional* to some degree so I agree with this—as a vision statement. On the other hand, I can't take you at face value as representing "the theory dialog" on this point:

If I posit that the GM is the 'guardian' of the vision and is /tasked/ with keeping people in line I'm sure that I can find a legion of people from the theory dialog who'll line up behind me and swear that's how their group did it (and that the group—save for them, the Narrativist—seemed happy). Well, maybe if I do it anonymously.

Furthermore, the current formulation: some element of narrative is held sacrosanct does NOT prevent the GM from running roughshod all over other areas in a way that (at least temporarily) frustrates the players but does not violate the specific sacrosanct elements of the dream.

So if we assume that one-drop-of-railroading will break any CA then, yeah, okay: tautologically no CA can survive it. If my example is the GM preventing the characters from taking a side trip to see something that interested them to "keep the game on track" (and this prevention causes frustration but not the dissolution of the game) then I don't see how that's incompatible with not challenging my badassery.

I think that railroading changes the dynamic at the table to a severity proportional to how out of synch the player is with the GM and how both parties handle the rationalization of intent. But if the players "suck it up" that formally breaks narrativism—I see no reason for it to formally break RTD.

* I know people report "happy railroading" I believe they are accurately reporting it, I just don't think it meets my personal bar for "railroading" when it's 'happy.'


112. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Ralph, I'm doing exactly what you're afraid of. I think that "simulationism" usually refers to a technical approach to play - not a collection of techniques, but a philosophy of technique - that can powerfully support story now, right to dream, or step on up play.


113. On 2009-05-12, valamir said:

Ok.  Someday you and I need to have a long talk about Simulationism.  'cause I don't think anyone who actually understands what drives a Simulationist (which is the simulative qualities of the experience) could ever claim that it could support story now or step on up.

Simulation...TRUE Simulation...(not the stuff that got B.S.ed about on the Forge) fundamentally requires the absolute commitment to the complete and utter absence of step on up and story now once play begins...that's what makes it a simulation.

But I guess for now you get 2 thumbs up for describing A Right to Dream...and 2 thumbs down for missing the boat on the Creative Agenda piece from me...but I won't derail your thread with my arguements about it.


114. On 2009-05-12, Jim Henley said:

Only questions for Vincent to answer shall be my input!

Vincent: Is there any difference worth noting between Right-to-Dream play and rgfa-Dramatism?


115. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Jim, I'm on shaky ground, but my supposition is that rgfa-dramatism is also mostly an approach to cause and effect in the game, not tied to any of the Big Model's creative agendas.


116. On 2009-05-12, Weeks said:

Vincent, at what time scale is the choice between type 1 and type 2 play being made?  I agree that you can't have both at the same time, but I could be playing along Story Now style, get frustrated with a series of conflict outcomes because I was actually harboring some notions about how the character should be even if they weren't very firm or important, and then verge into Right to Dream territory—all within one game session, potentially.


117. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Weeks: Well, think about badass wish-fulfillment or romance wish-fulfillment play. It's really NOT about a given character trait, it's not like "my guy is supposed to be careful, and this last hour has been frustrating because it's making him look careless."

If I say "okay, crew! I have this romantic wish-fulfillment I want, let's play," you know I'm talking about a whole thing. Maybe with a feisty but lonely heroine and a brooding, withdrawn leading man she has to draw out of his shell, and so on - it'll be at least a session's worth of play, probably lots more, before I've gotten it.


118. On 2009-05-12, Meserach said:

To settle an argument I'm having, my question is: so is this old explanation I linked to now actually incorrect, as in, it is no longer what you mean by RtD, or is it merely another way of saying the same thing?


119. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Wow, do I not want to be involved in an argument I'm not even having. Like crazy I don't.

It's mostly just another way of saying the same thing, but there are some important differences. These days I'm talking only and strictly about player-empowered play, so whatever I said then about the area outside the circle, I'm not saying now.

But please, you don't have to defend me to other people, they can just come ask me if they're that interested. And if it's them defending me to you, you should REALLY not do that to them.

I'm right here! I'm very nice and I love to answer questions.


120. On 2009-05-12, ShawnI said:

Can I say that this has been very helpful to me?  It helped me realize that the times when I had been saying "Why isn't she playing superheros right!" was really a case of me saying "I had this cool idea for my character, and the way she's playing her superhero is making me ask questions about my character that aren't fun!"


121. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Great! Thanks for telling me, I'm really happy to hear that.


122. On 2009-05-12, Meserach said:

Sorry, Vincent. If it helps, it was something I was unsure of also.


123. On 2009-05-12, Moreno R. said:

Hi Vincent!

I am going to link this thread to the italian Narrattiva forum, I hope it will help to clear some confusion about RtD play there, too.

But (as yourself said upthread) I have often observed that actual play experience has to precede gaming theory, for that theory to be understood. In your opinion, if I wanted to give advice to people about the games that better show (or help achieve, or provoke) "Right to Dream" play, which titles should I cite?

Another question tied to an observation: one of the most well-loved RtD games is Pendragon, where the characters convictions are tested many times. The characters can fall in temptation, can sin, can betray everything Camelot stand for. But this is shown as a form of "failure" of the characters. It's at the PLAYER level that "what does it mean to be chivalrous, brave, good, etc." is never challenged by the game. So Pendragon is inside Ron's definition of RtD as "celebration" (of Arturian literature) but it's inside yours only if what you said about the character's conviction is applied to the player, instead. It's a difference between the two descriptions or you really meant to talk about the player's convictions, too?


124. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Meserach: Nah, it's just a thing that makes me edgy, no big deal. Followup questions welcome, from you or the other party.


125. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Moreno: I'm not qualified to talk about Pendragon, really not. So I'm going out on a limb when I say yes. My take is that the characters can live up to the ideals, or fail to, without it constituting a challenge TO the ideals.

I wouldn't dare list titles, other than kill puppies for satan. Conventional rpgs are too full of murk and incoherence, too open to drift, to be good examples, overall.

If I were serious about teaching the right to dream I'd design a game for the purpose, one less particular and weird than puppies is. But I'm not.


126. On 2009-05-12, Josh W said:

Ooh thought up another juicy question:

What is non-sim right to dream play like? You know, without the strong chains of internal fiction causality, but still keeping player-pre-defined narrative intact?


127. On 2009-05-12, Josh W said:

Oh and I'm not asking you to design it here and now, just the distinction should add extra clarity!


128. On 2009-05-12, Vincent said:

Josh: Well back in the rgfa days, sim was held opposed to dramatism, which included all kinds of genre-emulation causality. Mook rules, for instance, aren't rgfa-sim. So if your badass wish-fulfillment game includes mook rules, there's some non-sim right to dream right there. Same with, like, getting +2 because your character's girlfriend is in danger, or getting a hit point bonus for throwing away your armor.


129. On 2009-05-13, Mathieu Leocmach said:

A small question to challenge my understanding:

The above discussion focused on Character, you made a link with Situation in #107, but their was nothing about Setting-focused or Color-focused play. Is that a pure accident (character-based explanation is easier) ? Is there a deeper meaning ?


130. On 2009-05-15, Alex A. Biral said:

Hi here, People! New poster here on your blog (found it through The Forge). Vincent, I can see that you are a little tired of this thread, and probably didn't want to post here anymore. So, I am sorry to ask for you to answer this question, but I want to be sure I understood what you meant.

I am having a little trouble understanding that, in a RtD game, the traits of the characters must not be challenged. If I am understanding correctly, in such games, any kind of trait that might define the character shouldn't be questioned because it would get in the way of the character's "dream".

I have seen a few games like that. I have seen games where players who defined themselves as good got annoyed when one of their actions was shown to have hindered more than helped. I have seem gamers who got angry when their characters, who were supposed to be the most badass in town, or the wisest man alive, or whatever, failed to prove themselves so. So, I think I understand what you mean by this Creative Agenda.

However, there is some play, which I categorized (possibly wrongly) as simulationist, that doesn't fit here very well. For example, a game might not challenge what "good" means, it might be well defined as part of the setting. However, it might still challenge the player to take those actions determined as good. His character's goodness would be challenged by the setting, as the player needs to understand and follow whatever moral code the setting determines.

Such game wouldn't have a Story Now agenda, because the players aren't addressing any premise. They wouldn't be discussing what it means to be good or not. They would be challenged only so that they can feel what it means to be good in the setting.

So, in which creative agenda would such game fall into? It wouldn't be RtD, because the player can't trust his character traits will always be respected. It certainly doesn't look SoU. Am I missing something obvious here?

Thanks in advance!


131. On 2009-05-15, Vincent said:

I think a lot of people have jumped to the same conclusion you did, mistaking "character concept is sacrosanct" for the whole of right to dream play, or the basis of all right to dream play.

No, "character concept is sacrosanct" is just one example of right to dream play. The other kind of play you're talking about holds something ELSE sacrosanct, the thematic content of the game.

When you hold the point of play sacrosanct, that's right to dream play. It might be character concept, it might be a particular narrative, it might be presupposed moral conclusions, like you're describing.


132. On 2009-05-15, Moreno R. said:

Hi Alex!

See my own comment #123, above.

In Forge Theory, "exploration" can be divided in (1) Characters (2) setting, (3) situation, (4) system and (5) color, and "right to dream" gaming can be about any combination of these (just to name some example, Pendragon it's usually considered a game that help playing RtD-Setting, while CoC help RtD-Situation).

In that comment above I was clumsily asking Vincent if the kind of play he is talking about here was only RtD-Characters or not, and my take on his answers (#125) was that he used characters only as an example. And this is confirmed by comment #131 above.


133. On 2009-05-15, Alex A. Biral said:

Vincent, Moreno, thanks for the replies! I think it makes more sense for me now.

If I am getting this right, the RtD agenda will always hold some element(s) of exploration as unquestionable, because the whole point of the game will be to explore the said elements (and if people changed it, the exploration would be unfaithful).

Then, Step on Up and Story Now would be easily differentiated by the fact they don't (necessarily) respect any aspects, instead changing, challenging and questioning them according to the specific agenda. In other words, in these agendas, the goal lies outside the exploration, while the Tight to Dream has some goal inside it.

Well, I hope I have understood it this time around. Sorry for the silly question, and thanks for your answers!


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