Monday, July 30, 2018

Differences Between Game Groups (PIG-PIP)

PIG-PIP Theory of RPGs Part 3.

Here's 1
Here's 2

29. Common differences between game groups.

Differences between individual players (including the GM) are discussed a lot more than differences between groups as a whole, this is because differences between living people at the same table immediately results in real-life discussion (sometimes this is an argument, a lot of times it's just fun) whereas differences between entire groups can only result in discussion if:

a) Someone records a group's behavior in enough detail to see how the group works,
b) ...puts that record somewhere that gamers with totally different assumptions will see it,
c) ...these totally-different gamers notice and say something.

This is relatively rare, though increasingly-common in the post-Youtube environment.

It's impossible to list all extant differences between game groups and how they experience games differently, but some common (and commonly unacknowledged) differences that contribute to confusion in accurately discussing game experiences are:

-High Trust vs Low Trust: In the highest trust games, everyone involved has had a number of voluntary and positive social experiences with each other outside the game. In the lowest-trust games people are meeting during the game session for the first time (like at a con or game store). Commentators who unconsciously assume low-trust games tend to be the ones obsessed with safety concerns and broadcasting the fact that various forms of clearly obviously bad behavior  (racism, sexism, murder) are not👏 allowed👏 at👏their👏 table👏 . Commentators who unconsciously assume high-trust games wonder why this needs to be said.

-RPG-Experienced vs RPG-Inexperienced: Procedures and rules affect players differently depending how aware of the procedures the players are, and also depending exactly which group members have a higher or lower degree of experience.

This can have a variety of outcomes depending on other factors: unfamiliarity can make a group ignore procedures out of ignorance or hew to them beyond the point of utility out of a naive belief they have no other options.

-Text-Deferential vs Text-Skeptical: Text-deferential groups attempt to play Rules-As-Written. Text-Skeptical groups don't.

Mainstream game talk (especially fandom around D&D, Pathfinder and other commercially-dominant games) often proceeds completely unaware text-skepticism is possible or viable even though (paradoxically) most mainstream GM-guides, core books, official communiques and mainstream-designer twitter accounts openly (if not consistently) advocate it.  A fairly confusing situation occurs, for instance, when someone who unconsciously assumes a text-deferential attitude toward a set of core rules attempts to evaluate a (usually 3rd-party-published) supplement that asks for a necessarily text-skeptical attitude in order to be compatible with more than one system. The critic then is in the position of being theoretically able to grasp that different systems are different but unable to grasp that this may require they change something in the supplement's rules or the game's rules or both to make them work together.

-Goal-Homogenous vs Mixed-Goal: This term applies to a number of differences that players often have between each other (challenge-oriented player vs acting-oriented player, for instance) which are frequently discussed in RPG circles. When discussing groups, this means the entire group has the same goal (homogeneous) or doesn't (mixed-goal). We're not going to get into what those goals might be here today because that's a whole thing, but in discussion of group types it's worth pointing out that homogeneity and heterogeneity are themselves characteristics that can affect the game experience.

For example, a goal-homogenous group may require a less-skilled GM, since there are fewer different desires to accommodate. On the other hand, it might require a more-skilled GM since play may quickly stagnate if the group only pursues goals it predicted wanting to pursue in the beginning, so a GM may need to throw them a curve or two.
And now, a word from our sponsor:
You're running out of time to help out with Demon City


Anonymous said...

I really like, in particular, the text-differential vs. text-skepctical (TD vs TS) distinction. It's one that gets talked about a lot, but up to now we did not, to the best of my knowledge, have consistent or useful language to describe, and I think often gets conflated with other things.

Adam Dickstein said...

Very interesting post.

Often I find I don't have exactly the right terminology I am looking for when attempting to describe the differences between various groups I've played with/am playing with. This definitely helps.