Stance Crap and Authorial Intent.

I’m going to say something very unpopular. Ready?

Actor stance and Author Stance are different names for what are two streams of the same authorial act and only really exist to explain and define each other. They are NOT different things.

OK. Disclaimer time. I am talking the only way that anybody can with any degree of certainty: out the framework of my own experience. While my experience is varied and diverse, it is decidedly west of the pond. I know that there are freeform LARPers and experimental gamers that will fight me tooth and nail on this – and perhaps rightly so. I’m willing to admit that I don’t know what that is like and so can not really test the idea. I let y’all fight it out among yourselves.

With that in mind, I think this is the way, and the only way that Actor stance exists: In an old 7th Sea campaign. I had a character Livia who had fallen in love with two different men. She was extremely conflicted about it, and when it came down to having to make a decision, had a terrible time choosing between them. All the while, I as a player, knew that she was going to end up with Fortuno, because damn it, he’s one mofo sexy rogue, and me? I’m a complete sucker for a mofo sexy rogue. The latter is, of course my author stance and the former my actor stance.

That statement up there about Livia feeling conflicted is something that I have made up, because the character is fictional. I’ve come to the statement through a very different process than the statement about the mofo sexy rogue, but it’s still something that I have constructed, made decisions about and chosen. Giving it the name Actor Stance only helps delineate it as a parallel thought process that is occurring in my head beside the one about the sexy mofo rogue. The terms “Actor Stance” and “Author Stance” is a tool that helps me clarify to the listener that I feel or think two divisive things about one situation.

Now, say in the same situation, I did not think or feel two divisive things. Say, Livia, my character was just as clear about choosing of Fortuno at the time as I, Mo, was about what she should do. Then the terms “Actor Stance” and Author Stance” is used, again, as a tool to illustrate something: of course being that there is no disparity between the thought processes

The problem arises when we talk about Actor Stance and Author Stance as if they are not related, or as not products of one single source (my brain). Actor Stance does not exist separately from me, it is a product of me, just like Author Stance is. If I talk about what Livia thinks as if it is divorced from my self, then I am creating a fallacy. I created the character, I have made choices about the way she has pushed and pulled on the world and about how these events have changed her. I own her, and her process is a part of me.

Still with me, even if you do or don’t like it? Goodโ€ฆ I’m going somewhere.

There’s an old argument that’s been going on between Nar GM’s and Players that have come to Nar games (particularly Immersionists), that says that the Players don’t Author, and that is destructive to the story. The converse is often thrown back that Nar games destroy the immersion process (or socket character enjoyment ) by either demanding authorship and bring the immersionist out of the immersive seat or meddling with the “integrity” of the character. Neither of these statements is necessarily true.

Here’s the situation:

It’s a super heroes game. The Player has expressed a strong, Author Stance desire to meet Superman, but has never expressed such a desire in Actor Stance. The GM is putting the opportunity on the table.

GM: OK, So you hear that Superman is in Metropolis.
Player: OK.
GM: Are you going to go?
Player: No.
GM: But you want to see him meet Superman, right?
Player: Yeah, but John has no reason to go to Metropolis.
GM: Come on, just make him go. You never author your character!!

Everybody’s frustrated.

Here’s what’s happening. There are three Author Stance statements that the Player is saying. Only one is articulated in a way the GM is understanding.

1.) I think it would be cool for the character to meet Superman, (for whatever reason) and I would like that to happen. The GM has obviously heard this quite clearly.
2.) It is important to me for the character to feel “organic”, or play naturally. This may have been an articulated statement at one time, but it’s not clear to the GM at the moment, or is not valued by the GM at all.
3.) Because of 2, I need you to give me reason in game to go and fulfill my desire.

There are also a few things the player is misunderstanding:

1.) “Authoring your character” in this case has relatively little to do with authoring or with author stance. The player has authored, and employed author stance by declaring a desire to meet Superman. What the GM is actually saying is: “It’s not my job to change your Actor Stance to meet your Author Stance. This is a Narrativist Game. Employ your Director Stance to insert a reason to go to Metropolis.
2.) In many games, the “organic” declaration is stated frequently by the Player, but is not heard by the GM as an Authoring Statement. Instead it’s heard best as a statement of enjoyment of the game, at worst, an episode of MyGuyism. All too frequently it’s just ignored, which makes the player feel like the statement has been made and accepted, and therefore should be respected.

How do you fix it? Social Contract of course. If there is a strong, crystal clear directive at the beginning of the game, everyone has expectations down: “There may be times for you in the game to change the way your character thinks or feels or acts for the good of the story. If that situation arises you are responsible to change those things in a direction more friendly to the game, and to find your own means of accomplishing this, either by simply changing your character’s mind or by employing your Director Stance in a way that is acceptable to the GM.” Players with any experience in trad games at all have been enculturated to:

1.) Express all desires in Actor Stance,
2.) Abandon any hope of control over the setting,
3.) Just enjoy the ride via the character and
4.) STFU Newb, I’m the GM.

Therefore, if the social contract does not expressly re-negotiate it, this will end up as the unexamined default, and everything will run amok..

Up next: Push vs. Pull

29 thoughts on “Stance Crap and Authorial Intent.”

  1. I completely agree. Here’s the deal:

    You can only act out something that someone has already predetermined. If you’re making it up as you go–even if you have a strong idea of who the character is–you’re still writing the lines, still authoring the actions. There is no way anyone who’s roleplaying can actually be an actor and not an author at the same time.

  2. Yeah, I agree as well.

    I find it puzzling inded to say that Actor stance is not authoring. A lot of people seem to insist on this — i.e. that playing without Director Stance or other out-of-character statements means that you’re doing nothing but submitting to a GM-authored plot. Where does this come from?

  3. I do not agree, and I have to admit that I think your uses of the terms “Actor Stance” and “Author Stance” muddy waters that are normally quite clear. Let’s look at the Provisional Glossary:

    Actor Stance: “The person playing a character determines the character’s decisions and actions using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have.”

    Author Stance: “The person playing a character determines the character’s decisions and actions based on the person’s priorities, independently of the character’s knowledge and perceptions.”

    Although one might claim that Actor Stance as defined here is rarely ever attained, the general attitudes expressed here are not so difficult to understand. Actor Stance is the result of an agreement between the players that they will not use their OOC-knowledge of the world to decide things for their character – such agreements are, in my opinion, misguided, but it is clear what it means. And see how it is logically impossible to use these two stances at the same time?

    Now look at your superhero example. First, you list three “Author Stance” statements the player has made; but NONE of the is actually a statement made in Author Stance. None of them is a decision about actions of characters, therefore, stance does not apply at all.

    Look at the 7th Sea example. When you say that Livia feels conflicted, that has nothing to do with Actor Stance or Author Stance – it is not a decision about what your character does. If you say that you know she’ll choose the sexy rogue in the end, then that is STILL not an example of Author Stance, because you are not making the decision there and then, you are only expressing what you believe your decision will be in the future. (Who knows what may happen in between? The sexy rogue may die.)

    If I may venture a guess, it seems to me that you have conflated the Actor Stance / Author Stance division with a in-the-fiction / -in-the-real-world division.

  4. I’m not really sure where the line between “actor stance” and “author stance” goes, especially regarding to immersion. The way a suspected hardcode immersion freeform larper could see it, could be that you’re free to author stuff as long as it happens within the parameters you have made or that have been given to as your character, which you have then compiled into a kind of mental construct of the said character. Or as long as you are authoring stuff through or connected to your character.

    Wheter you’re doing stuff within the parameters (“I’m not going to Metropolis, since I don’t have a reason to go there”) or because it’s stuff you, as a player think as cool (“I’d love to have a scene with Superman so heck, I’m off to Metropolis”) is up to the player and not really accountable by GM or fellow players. The decision process happens inside the players head and I doubt that even the players are usually conscious about their decisions. Some might be.

    As a sidenote, I suspect it’s usually easier for some, uhh, hardcore immersionist players to note and use the parameters as the characters are provided to them and not created by the player.

    As for social contract, very much agreed. Social Contract should be clear to participants even when playing in “traditional way”.

  5. Yep, what Victor said.

    As for J. Kim’s question… I think people have their own personal bias and stuff; it’s the only explanation. I first read of these stances talk over at the articles on the Forge, and Ron & Co were always very careful to dissociate these “technics/tools/ephemera” from *any* statements about the game, like what creative agenda is in use, etc. People should go and read the source instead of getting these things second-hand and making their own assumptions about what they mean/imply.

  6. John,

    From my experience, I’d posit: training. I spent a lot of time in my early playing life being told that I had not only no power over anything but my character, but that active GM-meted punishment would ensue if I ventured into that domain. A lot of RPG texts on how to GM and how to play reinforce that attitude.

    A lot of people, even when it’s explicitly negotiated in the social contract that they use DS to supply what they need to do what they’re doing don’t ever think of it or try because they have no comfort using it and negative associations with trying. Especially where players without GM experience are concerned, there needs to be some positively reinforced training time to get the gist of the process and some confidence therein.

    If the mind of my character is my only playground of comfort and control, it’s the place where I do my best work – regardless of how when or if it comes to the table. This is also where some of the defensiveness and resistance about active character re-engineering comes in. Some players feel this: “It’s the only place I have that’s safe and mine. You have the whole rest of the game, leave it alone.”

    Victor,

    I don’t agree. Your position requires the assumption that only the outward decisions and actions of a character made at the table as part of the game count towards stance. How the character feels, what the character thinks about a certain situation, how the character’s psychology reacts to the events of the game are part of a whole process of decisions and actions that occur (most likely) out of view of the GM.

    Actor Stance, as implied by it’s very nomenclature is not the decision the character makes, but the mental positioning the player chooses to take an action. You are right that it is logically impossible to actively employ both stances at once as a place to act from however, by the time a character is asked to make an act at the table from any stance, he has actually already made several actions (from either stance) internally. Though I’m positive many would argue that decisions made off the table don’t count for anything at all because they have not been made part of the SIS, they absolutely do count towards resolving this particular frustration, more so, than the decision the player ultimately makes in the game.

    The GM in the example is asking the player to change the action of his character in game. By the time that the GM has asked him to do so, the player has already made decisions (from either stance, usually Actor) for the character. The player is identifying that, whyever or whenever it was made, the decision has already been made that the character never just goes to Metropolis by chance, and that some thing is needed to allow the Actor Stance to change so that it can feel natural, comfortable or plausible to the player.

    Maybe more later, but for now, I’m late for work. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Victor,

    What Mo said, plus this: Olivia did, in the end, chose to go with Fortuno — the rogue. There was an actual character decision made, and so stances do apply.

    It’s just that it isn’t so easy as “well at that exact moment Mo was thinking about her character’s view or world knowledge” or “Mo was deciding what she wanted to do from her OOC desires.” She was, at that moment and in the moments leading up to the decision, doing BOTH.

    Even when Mo is making author stance choices, she will always filter it back through author stance. This is because her character is the prime socket for her play. I, otoh, often go pure author stance and go right for making statements about the story becuase story, not character, is where I plug in.

    I think here you’ll see a differnce between Dogs and Polaris as well. In Dogs you have to author, but can author through your character — allowing a blending of author and actor stance. In Polaris you have to author towards the story, meaning you can’t just author through your character. However, to say that Polaris allows more authorial control is bogus. It just does it in a different way. It’s authoring yourself vs. authoring with your character. And if/when you author with your character then many players will be using Actor and Author stance at the same time.

    The stances are still important, because they help define the process by which the decisions are made and the angles of attack we have upon it — but the specific moment by moment deliniation you’re insisting on isn’t very helpful (to me, at least) in figuring out what is actually going on in the human brain around the issue.

  8. These two posts leave me much more confused then I was before. I don’t get what Mo is saying at all. Mo, you start out by claiming:

    Your position requires the assumption that only the outward decisions and actions of a character made at the table as part of the game count towards stance.

    Stances, as defined, only have to do with decisions by the players – so how does my position imply that the decisions and actions of the character count towards stance? Even more mysteriously, the decisions the character makes at the table? Surely, only the player is at the table, and the character cannot make decisions in the real world?

    I assume that when you say:

    by the time a character is asked to make an act at the table from any stance, he has actually already made several actions (from either stance) internally,

    you actually wanted to write ‘player’ where you wrote ‘character’? (Characters after all don’t act at the table and certainly don’t act from a stance.) But even so, I don’t really understand what you are saying. It seems to me that you are saying that whenever a player makes an overt decision, he has already made many decisions that he has not spoken out loud, some of them from actor stance and some from author stance.

    But surely, this is not the case? First, let us notice that everything about “how the character feels, what the character thinks about a certain situation, how the character’s psychology reacts to the events of the game” has nothing to do with stance, since stance is about the character actions, not his psychology. I truly doubt whether characters make many decisions in the player’s unspoken thoughts – but I’ll grant you that they may.

    Second, let me stress how artificial and unnatural Actor Stance is. A player taking Actor Stance filters all the information he has about the game, allowing only a small part to influence his decisions. He must actually make a decision as if he did not know some part of what he as a matter of fact does know. This is difficult, calls for a heavy dose of self-examination and honesty, and is certainly not the natural way that people think about stories or their own characters in stories. I just can’t believe that anyone will go through the trouble of taking this stance unless there is a very specific social contract that states that it is mandatory – and if such a social contract exists, and the player is committed to it, why would he break the contract in order to use both kinds of stances?

    I mean, I don’t get it. You speak as if Actor Stance is something natural that people just slip in to; but it is not. It’s strange, it is a bizarre artefact of old-school roleplaying, and I can’t see anyone just slipping into it, let alone do it constantly and in quick succession with Author Stance.

    Brand, when you write:

    Even when Mo is making author stance choices, she will always filter it back through author stance. This is because her character is the prime socket for her play.

    you mean ‘actor stance’ where you write ‘author stance’ for the second time, right? That doesn’t make the statement less of a mystery to me, though. How do you filter something through a stance?

    I can totally see how Mo likes to immerse herself in a character. I can see that after she’s made a choice from Author Stance, she then ‘slips into’ the mind of her character and finds a good reason for the character to actually act along the lines of the decision she just made. I can even see this being a process where possible courses of action are weighed against the internal dynamics of the character’s mind and rejected or accepted in that light, until there is some final decision about the course of action that the character will take.

    So, if you guys are talking about some process that is a quick succession of immersive thinking and non-immersive thinking, I can totally see what you are talking about and I’ll agree that it is real.

    But it is not a succession of Stances. Is any OOC-knowledge used in this process? If yes, the player is in Author Stance. If no, and if using OOC-knowledge is in fact scrupulously avoided, then the player is in Actor Stance.

    Stances have nothing to do with immersion.

    Maybe Mo’s post is really insightful, but I’m no longer sure it’s about stances at all.

    Regards,
    Victor

  9. Heh. Now you’ve confused me, Victor.

    It seems to me that you are saying that whenever a player makes an overt decision, he has already made many decisions that he has not spoken out loud, some of them from actor stance and some from author stance.

    Absolutely that is what I am saying.

    First, let us notice that everything about “how the character feels, what the character thinks about a certain situation, how the character’s psychology reacts to the events of the game” has nothing to do with stance, since stance is about the character actions, not his psychology.

    I do not agree with this at all. A Stance is a metal positioning from which an action is taken, not the action itself. It’s the place the decision comes from, which has everything to do with the feelings, thoughts and internal psychology of the character (as it exists in the player’s head), or of the player himself.

    let me stress how artificial and unnatural Actor Stance is

    Wow, that’s a big statement, and one that speaks very loudly of someone who does not use character as a socket – as the locus of enjoyment in the game. Either it’s that, which makes the process alien to you, or we still have a fundamental misunderstanding between us about what the process is.

    The process is an entirely natural, very easy, and ultimately facinating one for me. Artificial is a weird word to describe it, because essentially roleplaying itself is an artificial process: We’re creating fake people that play in fake settings and do fake things. So I’ll set that word aside.

    When I play, I have (at least) two very strong independent streams of parallel thought. They are created and expand naturally through the game.

    One is responsible for creating, fostering and maintaining a conceptual model of my character. The character has a fully functional psychology that differs vastly from my own. My characters have flaws, ones that they are aware of, and ones they are not. They have layers of denial, they can be, and are, affected by trauma. They are dynamic, and they are continually changing because of the events of the game. At any point in time, were we to step aside from the game, I could tell you exactly what my character thinks or feels about what is happening in that moment.

    That is my Actor Stance. If you asked me to act purely in Actor Stance, I would be able to step into the character, and make a decision based on everything the character knows, feels and understands, to the exclusion of everything else. That decision would not be based on any out of character knowledge.

    If you think about it, I making decisions in my Actor Stance on a continual basis, because with every new event in game, I am integrating the experience with everything the character already is. Most of these decisions, of course, happen in my head and not outwardly because the group has gathered to tell the collective story, not to hear every minutia of my character’s psychology.

    I also make decisions from my Author Stance to influence my Actor Stance, but I’ll go into that one in a minute.

    The parallel process, is of course, how I think and feel about the game myself. This includes the satisfaction I am having with the character, with the story, with the other players. It includes wants and desires from all of those things as well. It also includes the responsibility of providing others (story, players, GM etc) with things I might not want or be interested in. That’s my Author Stance, the place I act from as an author of the story. I make lots of internal decisions in Author Stance too. I decide if I like a plot, and if I as a player want to see more or less of it in game. I think up cool things to contribute to the SIS โ€“ an NPC, a situation, an action I might take.

    Not only is this parallel process entirely natural for me, it is necessary for me, if I am fully going to enjoy the game. Itโ€™s the process with which I plug into game emotionally.

    Now, within my Author Stance each of the following components might occur:
    -I really like that NPC. I would like my character to meet him.
    -The story isnโ€™t emotionally intensive enough. It needs more drama.
    -The path my character is taking is causing friction in the story/game/social setting. I should do something to correct that.

    I can then choose to act from my Author Stance to do the following:
    -Employ authorial control directly to the world to make a reason for my character to meet the NPC I personally like.
    -I can pawn my character to do something in game: I can pick my character up and put her into a situation that she would not naturally go into (if I were acting in Actor Stance).
    -I can act in Author Stance to change the decisions I make to formulate my Actor Stance, thereby changing the way my character will act in game. This last one is tricky, and one I meant to post about later, when I felt I could explain it fully. Where there is a variety of ways that my character could choose to act, I can author my character to choose one over the other for the sake of the story, the game, the GMโ€™s sanity or the social contract. I can also use my Author Stance to author an internal fiction that allows the character to act differently while still maintaining a sense of character continuity or integrity. Clear as mud?

    Maybe Mo’s post is really insightful, but I’m no longer sure it’s about stances at all.

    I think it is about stances, but it has become about a lot.
    Essentially, the original point of the post was to identify that both Author and Actor stances were a product of the same person โ€“ you (or me, as the case may be) and as such, both could be a locus of authorial control. You can change the game by influencing the game directly as a player, or you can change the game by influencing the way your character develops. Can we agree on this piece?

  10. Hi Mo,

    I think this may all be an issue of terminology. I understand what you are saying about two parallel processes in your mind; it’s just that I don’t think they match with Actor Stance and Author Stance as defined in the ProvGlos and used on The Forge. (And neither of those two processes you speak about are what I wanted to call ‘unnatural’ and ‘artificial’.)

    Since I don’t think those terms – as defined in the ProvGlos – are very useful anymore, it is probably a waste of time to fight a terminological battle about them. ๐Ÿ™‚ I do suggest that you seek different names for the two processes you are describing, but I won’t cry if you don’t.

    You’ll have to explain this one to me, though:

    You can change the game by influencing the game directly as a player, or you can change the game by influencing the way your character develops.

    How is the second not a subcategory of the first?

  11. Victor,

    I’d say that the two are parts of each other. The second can be a subprocess of the first, but it is an important one and one that is (sometimes) overlooked in the ways players control the game. Too often I think that many discourses about authorial control (author stance may, as you say, not be the right word) focus on how you directly impact the game, rather than on how you indirectly impact the game.

    I think that’s what Mo is going to get to with the Pull/Push post though, so I’ll stop now.

  12. Hi, Mo

    I agree, and I think that that’s pretty much the point of narrative stance theory. I think that they’re called “stances” because, like martial arts stances, you shift from one to the other naturally throughout the course of play.

    With that in mind, I’ll add director stance to the mix.

    Check this out:

    Author Stance: I want my guy to meet superman.

    Actor Stance: I have no reason to visit Metropolis.

    Director Stance: My widowed aunt lives in Metropolis, and I need to go visit her.

    Actor stance: I have to go take care of my poor, widowed aunt.

    Very rare is the play that does not incorporate all three stances in some aspect.

    yrs–
    –Ben

  13. From my tack, Mo is talking about more than the four stances when she says ‘stance’, and Victor is applying Stance to character action when in fact is applies to player action. Stance is also all about power, which I haven’t seen mentioned once thus far. That, and you’re relying on the SIS, which torpedoes any discussion eventually. Here’s how I’d construct it:

    stance – the fictional information that a player is allowed to call upon, the fictional elements the player is allowed to affect, and whose priorities the player is expected to follow when proposing statements about the fiction.

    Victor, when Mo determines what her character thinks and feels, she is making a statement about the fiction, whether or not this statement is thereafter processed by the System / Lumply Principle. This statement does not ever have to be shared, but even if it is hidden inside her mind, there are rules to it — she’s not supposed to just start imagining fluffy bunnys flying in the air. As such, stance does apply to these statements, because she can and will be making these statements (even if only to herself) from a stance.

    Mo, your desire or agenda differs from your characters’, certainly. That you will not make a statement about the fiction that makes your character act contrary to her desires does not slam you into actor stance. Presumably it’s also a part of your agenda that you prefer some realism or continuity of character, and so finding a way to reconcile your player-goals and your character-goals is, as far as I can see, a perfect example of author stance. I don’t see you doing author and actor in parallel, I see you doing author stance, a part of that being a preference for continuity.

    As far as going to Metropolis, that the player says “No” that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing Actor or Author at that point. It could be either, really. If the player is allowed to perform in author stance, they can, I dunno, accidentally get on a train to Metropolis that they thought was going elsewhere or something. They can see a newspaper with superman pictured and decide that today is the day they go meet the guy. If they make such a statement, then they are taking up author stance, but if they do not, they aren’t necessarily sticking to actor stance.

    The only thing that I take a real big issue with is your point three in the superhero example, 3.) Because of 2, I need you to give me reason in game to go and fulfill my desire. This sets off all sorts of bells and whistles in my head, with passive-agressive codependent gamer culture bullshit being dragged into a perfectly enjoyable game. It may just be your phrasing of it, with “I” and “you” involved. Would I need a previously-ratified statement about the fiction from which I can act be accurate?

    Overall, I tend to agree with a bit of line from Victor, that ‘stance’ is an increasingly obsolete term. It conflates way the hell too much and assumes even more.

  14. Josh,

    I agree with the alarm bells. However, let us turn it around. If it were the GM saying, “I need you to give me something to make this work” would we get the same alarm?

    What if, instead of being something said passive-agressivly and only subtextually, it was said outloud.

    Because if -anyone- at the table is sitting there sulking because they aren’t getting candy, it is a problem. If, otoh, someone steps up as an adult and says, “I need some help to get to where we both want to be” that’s anything but co-dependant.

  15. That’s a little better, but then the other side of the problem — they guy who only ever makes statements after he’s had everyone else suggest things / tell him what to say. Why is that guy even at the table? What happens when we phrase stance in terms of responsibility rather than limitations?

  16. Josh,

    Victor is applying Stance to character action when in fact is applies to player action.

    Look at the definition: “The person playing a character determines the character’s decisions and actions using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have.” What is Stance about? It is about player decisions about character decisions/actions.

    So, yes, I’m applying it to character actions; and I’m applying it to player actions in the same breath… because that is what the definition states! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Well, as I said, if you guys want to use Stance-talk to describe moment-to-moment thoughts as in Ben’s example, by all means do. I don’t think it’s a very good choice of terminology (‘stance’ sounds to me like something more constant) and I don’t think it’s the way it used to be used (which was more about the kind of knowledge you were allowed to use and the kind of power you had, not about the classification of moment-to-moment thoughts), but who really cares? It’s not that important.

    Regards,
    Victor

  17. Josh,

    Because he wants to be? And if he can actually make his synthesis cool, then because we might want him to be?

    Now I do believe in responsibility, but as I play with children (like 8 year olds, not 17 year olds, though they are also children…) and learning disabled folks, I may have a different agenda than lots of folks.

  18. Victor, I find the definition to be out of date. The provisional glossary was last updated in May of 2004, and I think things have developed a little since then. Polaris, Primetime Adventures, and Dogs were all released after that update. You may disagree, which is certainly your perogative, but I’m finding stance to be increasingly obsolete. I ramble about it in my blog.

    Brand, I’m not saying it’s one or the other, and certainly there are a host of reasons to include anyone in any game. Mostly I was just floating the question — what happens to the game when contributions are your responsibility, not a constrained action? What happens when the game is set up with the understanding “you are here to contribute this, that, and the other thing to the collaborative process”?

  19. I don’t think the terminology is all that important, so I won’t talk about it.

    What’s important to me is that there are, in fact, two things — playing the character (and largely, though not never entirely sucessfully, trying to ignore ephemera like die results, stakes, etc) and playing with, well, “other stuff” (which is divided into several characters — board game mind, GM mind, etc).

    And how a game forces you to switch between these mental states (or doesn’t) is, well, important.

  20. Josh,

    I think a lot of your question also becomes relevant to the discussion in the Push/Pull post. What differentiates pull from inactivity is effort, and so in that case I think the question of responsibility becomes vastly important.

    I was just pointing out that there can be different types and levels of responsibility, depending on what you’re wanting out of game. I can see you and I and Ice, for example, getting together and smashing each others mental faces in as part of a game and having a ball. Won’t work with all groups, however. Not even a little.

  21. Sorry to be late to the party. : )

    Joshua: I think part of Mo’s point was to say that the way we’ve been commonly looking at the stances (as distinct, non-overlapping activities) is out of date.

    My understanding of the common usage of actor stance includes all of the immersive experience-in-character (of its psychology etc) that Mo talks about. The decisions specified in the glossary are creative decisions about the character, as well as in-character actions. Leaving those out is an artificial division.

    Assuming actor stance is just taking on a very specific creative constraint about what you will create in play. But it is a complex, self-interpreted constraint that can be (and was intended) to be dis-empowering.

    But what Ben wrote made it crystal clear to me:

    Step 1: Author Stance: I want my guy to meet superman.

    Step 2: Actor Stance: I have no reason to visit Metropolis.

    Step 3: Director Stance: My widowed aunt lives in Metropolis, and I need to go visit her.

    Step 4: Actor stance: I have to go take care of my poor, widowed aunt.

    The issue Mo is nailing is that folks trained by the social contract of traditional play feel that they don’t have the right to take step 3. They feel cut out of Director stance so don’t think they have the authority to bridge the gap between their own Actor-stance constrained choices, and their Author-stance informed desires.

  22. I think part of the problem in this discussion is that Victor is using the glossary definition, which is very different to how the terminology was used on RFGA. Others here are clearly using the terminology as it was used in RFGA. I can’t cite examples, but my impression as to how the terminology was used on the Forge is that it was very often used in the RFGA sense, but that may have been just my slanted reading of the text. It also may have just been how some of the contributors used the terms. But I think clarity in the terminology is lacking, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

  23. Emily,

    I think part of Mo’s point was to say that the way we’ve been commonly looking at the stances (as distinct, non-overlapping activities) is out of date.

    Indeed.

    The issue Mo is nailing is that folks trained by the social contract of traditional play feel that they don’t have the right to take step 3. They feel cut out of Director stance so don’t think they have the authority to bridge the gap between their own Actor-stance constrained choices, and their Author-stance informed desires.

    Absolutely. Now sometimes they still don’t get it even after you said it six times and hit them with a rubber mallet.

    I also just hoped to underline the idea that Actor Stance is as much a result of the player’s decisions as anything else in game (granted, constrained by the bounds of IC knowledge). What I was getting to here was to lead into the Pull vs. Push discussion so that I could talk about Pull techiques immersionists can use to author more effectively and buy/win harmony in game.

    Lee: Please clarify, what is RFGA? I probably sound like a newb when I ask, but as I said, I didn’t grow out of the Forge. I’m missing your cultural reference. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  24. RGFA narrative stance theory, first developed by Kevin Hardwick and Sarah Kahn: the original discussions are now lost, but a quicky summary of the 4 stances is given here (scroll down to the narrative stance section).

    It is interesting to note, although largely irrelevant, that audience stance, part of narrative stance theory, but dropped from Forge stance theory as not being a way in which players act on the game, has been made formally relevant in such games as PTA, and explicitly if informally relevant in others such as DitV.

    RGFA was a major locus of rpg theory discussion back in the 90’s.

    However, I don’t think you are using RGFA stances, so all that is probably entirely irrelevant. Sorry.

    [Although I was never an active participant in RGFA, I am married to Sarah Kahn, so the history of narrative stance theory is rather dear to me.]

  25. Hear, hear. The concept of stances broke serious ground in getting us to where we are. John Kim has excellent archives of all those discussions and theory.

    IMO audience stance is a very important aspect of play. Ben Lehman has discussed at length & it’s pretty critical to how I view design these days, but is deeply intertwined with all the rest of the ways to be in a game.

    Also, in-character as a stance and “deep in character” are not in common parlance now. It seems like they have been subsumed into what’s thought of as “actor stance”. They are all about immersion. I’d recommend reading the Advocacy Faq, Mo.

    http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/rgfa/faq_v2/faq0.art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *