The idea of overcoming the obstacle while maintaining roleplay constraints
seems to me to live within the second of the two perspectives @Campbell
identified above. It's not inhabiting the character
and asking what do I do now?
It's analsying the problem-space and asking what should this character do to solve this problem within these constraints
As I posted, most of the play of The Green Knight that I GMed yesterday occurred in this second space (the constraints being the game's economy of Honour and Dishonour) but at a few key moments the perspective changed.
is talking about (i) choosing loadout
and then (ii) deploying loadout
, where both operate under fairly strict constraints.
If, like all good B/X and AD&D players, I've basically memorised the spell list, then a putative character who can use any spell at any moment is much easier to play: all I do is run through my catalogue of powers and deploy the one that will work here! (In combat, probably Sleep or Web but occasionally Charm or Magic Missile; out of combat there's more variety but again it's really just reviewing the constraints.)
But the realities are different, and both when I choose and when I deploy I have to consider what I know I need, what I conjecture I might need, what the future still holds, what other non-spell resources are available and what their limitations are compared to spells, etc.
The constraints generate the problem, but they don't resolve it except in the obvious sense of limiting the elements available that constitute a solution.
Whereas the role of theme/emotion in facilitating choice is quite different: it narrows the range of salient choices without any calculation being necessary. If I'm pledged to protect Frodo, come what may
, then the fact that there are 10 or 100 moves available is no cognitive burden at all if all but 2 of them mean casting Frodo to the winds!
What you describe here seems to me to resemble the way that my friend tends to approach Burning Wheel. To me it seems to live in @Campbell
's second perspective - what should my PC do in order to overcome this problem while earning XP for thematic play
I think there are some RPGs which must
be played in this way for the players not to lose. Classic D&D would be an example. When you introduce alignment with teeth into classic D&D, it introduces a thematic incentive (though mostly of avoiding punishment rather than gaining rewards, in the way that @AbdulAlhazred
mentioned upthread). Now that becomes a further part of the optimisation space. If you play in Campbell's first perspective - what should I as my character do?
- you'll end up hosed. Eg the first time you stand up for your friends against the bullying ogre you'll be crushed by its d10 damage club.
I think there are other RPGs which do not need to be played in this way for the players not to lose. I regard Burning Wheel as one example, and Prince Valiant as another (it's thematic incentives are to extent in relation to character improvement, and probably just as much in relation to bonus dice for action resolution). These games can be played in Campbell's first perspective without the player just setting him-/herself up to lose. The contrast with 2nd ed AD&D is that it invites players to play in that perspective, uses the same action resolution processes as classic D&D, and then tells the GM to sort it all out via fudging of dice and manipulation of fiction; whereas Burning Wheel and Prince Valiant use principles around framing, and consequence narration, and allowing players to push hard for what they care about and thereby earn augments, etc to ensure that the action resolution process won't crush those who adopt first-perspective play.
Wikipedia gives me this sub-entry on sociopathy
an account of sociopathy in its entry on psychopathy; I've bolded what I had in mind in my post:
Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is traditionally a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. . . .
The term sociopathy may have been first introduced in 1909 in Germany by biological psychiatrist Karl Birnbaum and in 1930 in the US by educational psychologist George E. Partridge, as an alternative to the concept of psychopathy. It was used to indicate that the defining feature is violation of social norms, or antisocial behavior, and may be social or biological in origin.
The term is used in various different ways in contemporary usage. Robert Hare stated in the popular science book Snakes in Suits that sociopathy and psychopathy are often used interchangeably.
This is what I had in mind when I suggested that "an actual human being who treats emotional parameters as further points of optimisation, rather than as markers of salience that narrow the decision-space, is probably a sociopath." It is what underpins standard criticisms of act utilitarianism as demanding that people be monsters, because instead of acting on (say) their love for their family it requires them to consider their love for their family as merely one source of utility in a a complex network of sources of utility that are to be optimised through every human action.
Undoubtedly. But generally this involves treating others' emotions
as parameters for optimisation, not one's own. Not always: training to overcome fear and build up physical courage, for instance, involves treating one's own emotion of fear as a mere parameter rather than inhabiting it. I think that taking the same approach to one's emotions of love and friendship and joy - eg so as to become a more ruthless decision-maker - might seem a little cold at beset, and I think it is the fact (as Weber wrote about 100 years ago) that this is the practical result that many modern institutions are set up to achieve that leads to the contemporary genre of economic and political criticism of corporations
(and maybe some other bureaucracies too) as psychopaths.
Sure. This seems unconnected to my remarks about the actual emotional life of humans, though. The player who is doing this is fully engaged in the game, and playing with his/her friends, and in fact is not treating those things as parameters in an optimisation process but is playing for the fun and joy of it.
But I would add that in Burning Wheel there is no "setting up" of failure. Or at least there need not be. On the first point: when I declare an action, I may anticipate failure, or may not. But all I do is decide what my PC is doing and how hard s/he is trying (the latter is measured in artha expenditure). I as a player know that I may fail; I may even know that failure is likely, just like Sam knew that failure was likely as he helped Frodo trudge through Mordor. But I am not "setting up" failure: I am playing my character, not curating the story.
Now on the second ("need not be") point: there are certain occasions in BW play where is is particular opportunity to manipulate one's dice pools so as to optimise the chance for PC improvement. I am not good at that and pay it very little attention in play; as a result my PC doesn't advance much. My optimiser friend is first-rate at this, and does it a lot, and hence his PC advances at a rocket-like pace. Even then he is not "setting up" failure; but I think sometimes he is alienated from his character or at least very much adopting Author stance as characterised by Edwards - he makes a decision about what is the best move to make based on optimisation considerations, and then he retrofits a motivation for his PC's behaviour.
There are features of the game that tend to ensure my approach is also rewarded - eg I think I'm more of an artha-generating-battery than my friend is - but part of what I love about the game is I don't need to set out with artha-accrual as my goal
to accrue it. (This is quite different from, say, how you accrue GP and hence XP in classic D&D, where that has to be forefront in your mind at all times if you're to succeed at it.) I certainly wouldn't say I'm exercising any gameplaying skill in earning my artha! I'm just inhabiting my character, and the game engine is doing the rest.
I think this is all true. I often operate in words rather than images, but when I think of me as my PC it's probably more often film or comic-panel like than "through my eyes"-like.
But the inhabitation I'm interested in, which for me is the pleasure in RPGing, isn't so much that sensory aspect as the motivational and emotional aspect. When my PC is not making decisions based on optimisation, nor do I want to. Different RPGs support this to different degrees; the ones that do are the ones I don't think of as "skilled play" RPGs.