Thursday, June 27, 2013

Under the Microscope

Let it never be said I'm not willing to do my homework.

Lowell Francis at Age of Ravens posted video from a panel discussion at the inaugural ConTessa online gaming conventions. Titled Collaborative World Building and Gaming, the eighty-five minute video features three games designers - the Microscope dude, the Diaspora guy, the Psi*Run woman - along with Francis and his wife, Sherri Stewart, who moderates the panel. In his blogpost, Francis expands on a few of the comments made in the video. I admit, I skipped the last five minutes, but as they were winding down with questions from the con forum, I think I got the gist of what the panelists had to say.

To no great surprise, the panelists make an argument for collaborative world building - CWB hereafter - including their personal experiences, presumably gained from actual play, their different approaches to it in their games, and why they feel more traditional roleplaying games would benefit from CWB; Francis in particular seems to be most interested in this application, particularly in his blogpost. Among the arguments offered in the video and accompanying post - and this is by no means the complete list - are that CWB encourages player buy-in and investment in the campaign, reduces referee workload, fosters an environment of trust between the players and the referee, and may draw out reserved players and curb domineering players. More efficiently trapping mice and curing the common cold may have been in there is well, probably in those last five minutes that I skipped.

Now to be completely fair, their passion for CWB is no less than my own for sandbox, status quo game-worlds and the associated playstyle, a topic on which I bang away pretty relentlessly. I don't presume that what I like is, or should be, universal to all gamers; I absolutely understand why gamers enjoy linear adventures, frex, and, as a rule, I attempt to offer at least some explanation or examples of other playstyles and preferences.

The panelists actually get close to this just short of the one hour mark. There's mention that CWB may not be for all gamers: in discussing scene-framing, it's noted that some gamers find it challenging to switch back and forth between character and player perspectives, with Meguey Baker - Psi^Run woman - suggesting that some havent' cultivated the skill "or don't care." Right at one hour, Ben Robbins - Microscope dude - finally gets around to mentioning that, for gamers who want a "world of mystery," collaborative world building can spoil the game. He immediately moves on to suggest that it's simply a matter of players being "in on the joke," and that they can learn to, in his words, "participate in an informed and joyous fashion."

That's as close to the panelists get to addressing what is the biggest sticking point of collaborative world building for me, and perhaps for other gamers as well: as a player, I want to explore the game-world, not build it. The "world of mystery" isn't something I want to get past; it's one of the most important features of roleplaying games for me.

The panelists generally display little appreciation for, or interest in, why the "player/GM dyad" works for so many gamers and has for so long, and that's fine as far as it goes, of course. In Lowell Francis' blogpost, it goes rather beyond simply ignoring other positions to exaggerating a fringe argument, that referees who don't embrace collaborative world building may do so because they 'fear the players,' instead. Francis goes on to note that, yes, the players may end up making significant changes to what the referee is interested in running, but that's okay, because the referee can still add surprises, even when the swords-and-sorcery campaign he planned to run is morphed into a high fantasy romp through the players' input. After offering a number of benefits from CWB to the traditional referee, Francis concludes with a few "drawbacks": it nay require going outside the referee's "comfort zone," the game system may not actually support the suggestions made by the players, and that - presumably from their new-found investment - the players may want to play longer than the referee planned to run the campaign at the beginning. Some drawback, that last, huh?

The sad and somewhat frustrating thing about this whole exercise is that neither the panelists nor Francis' blogpost take note of the trumpeting African bull elephant in the room: the difference isn't between the players collaborating in world building or not - it's between collaborating in world building in-character or out-of-character. The characters in my Flashing Blades campaign may, per the rules of the game, rise to the highest ranks among the ministers and courtiers of France and the princes of the Church; they can control armies and ministries and bishoprics, accumulate vast wealth, own chateaus and estates. They can rival or literally supplant Richelieu or Mazarin or Colbert or Turenne.

Or they can become pirates. Or knights. Or explorers. Or diplomats. They can change the game-world in any number of ways, large and small. But they do it in-character, in actual play, not out-of-game in accordance with a set of game designer's guidelines.

I understand that these particular panelists are preaching, and it's not incumbent on the minister to offer the devil's side of the argument, but honestly, I really wish that the panelists had recognized this and addressed it, because I think it would be a much more interesting discussion than the one I listened to.

22 comments:

  1. First, let me agree on a point -- that everyone's experience will be different, everyone's tastes will be different, and so everyone will have a different point of view on various play styles.

    Let me also admit that I haven't listened to this panel discussion; they may well say some things I'd take issue with in the same way you do.

    Final disclaimer: I've played Microscope and absolutely adore it. It's a great supplement or alternative to other styles of play, and requires essentially zero prep.

    That said... I respectfully disagree with the gist of your opinion as I understand it.

    First, color me disappointed that you seem to be trying to pick apart claims about CWB based on theory alone. The title of this post got me excited, thinking you'd, you know, played some Microscope, and would be giving your thoughts based on actual experience. Alas, from what I can tell, you've never played any CWB game at all, or even read the rules of one, and are just sort of bristling at a perceived slight to your own favored style of play.

    On that note, I'd be surprised (to put it mildly) if any of the panelists said that CWB should entirely replace DMs' private world-building, or that it was unequivocally better. In my experience the argument should be that CWB deserves more consideration than it usually seems to get, compared to old-school D&D, White Wolf, tactical boardgames like 4E, and other gaming styles. Beyond that, the point that Ben Robbins (creator of Microscope) repeatedly makes is that CWB can enrich a world and provide egalitarianism that is normally lacking.

    Jumping to your final argument, I note that you don't seem to really grasp what Collaborative World Building is. Players who, in-game, become ministers or kings or famous entertainers, who assassinate big-shots or release entire armies of ghouls from their unquiet slumber aren't really building the world so much as participating in it. The world has already been set out by the DM; they're just poking it and sometimes it changes shape, a little, in response. To be honest, anything else seems like it would be a boring, undynamic exercise in futility, IMHO.

    Now, depending on the group's style, DM-centric campaigns can have something closer to the CWB the panel probably covered. Players can create their priest's entire religion so the DM doesn't have to; they can place hometowns, or even home-nations, on the map; they can invent groups and customs and languages and races. That's more like actual CWB than "my character becomes a pirate!" -- but even that involves an implicit surrender, in that in a DM-centric game any player decision can be invalidated by DM fiat. True CWB is where no one player has that absolute veto over any other, and it really is a completely different experience that allows a lot more player creativity than you'll see in any "yey I get to tweak the DM's setting a little" situation.

    From my point of view, as someone who has experienced the difference, your "trumpeting African bull elephant" looks more like, say, a "sort of elephant-shaped piece of shrubbery." It's got the right vague outline and none of the right content.

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  2. Backing up a bit, I'd like to engage you on the perceived drawbacks. I see zero conflict between CWB and player-side mystery even if you jump straight from building a world into playing in it. Quite the reverse, actually; now PCs can actually know about their world's history and culture and so on without the players needing a big info dump from the DM and without resorting to potentially confusing tactics like "It's just like this corner of real Earth history except that X and Y and Z are different and unicorns are real." It's not like a game of Microscope will involve mapping dungeons or ripping the mask off of every possible puppetmaster villain. A DM who can't surprise the players using a collaboratively-built setting... maybe isn't ready to be DMing.

    Finally, while I agree that it's perfectly valid for a DM to go "I have this awesome setting and I want to run it; anybody interested in playing in it can join!" -- that really does feel pretty lopsided sometimes, especially if one person always DMs and the rest of the gaming group is always just going along. Everybody's tastes are a little different, right? I see nothing unfair about a DM being asked to step a little outside of their comfort zone and run a campaign with a slightly different flavor than they would have crafted on their own... that's essentially what 99.9% of DMs are doing to players 99.9% of the time, right? Asking them to play in a game world that may well be different than the ideal one in their heads? Shoe on the other foot and all that.

    If a Microscope session produces something and you're just not into the tone of it... there are several options. The simplest is to say "Sorry, guys, I'm just not inspired by this," and have another go at it... while paying more attention to the Palette.

    Another is to let someone else DM, and hang on to your own world-building ideas for later. I suspect the vast majority of RPG players have had the experience of "having an idea but having to wait to execute it... if the opportunity ever arises at all." So waiting your turn before executing the world you want to run might just build some character. 8^P

    Another is to simply hollow out a pocket of the mood you want in the world to play in. I mean, the Call of Cthulhu setting could just as easily host rip-roaring action (fighting against cultists, say?) Byzantine intrigue, and other play-styles; there's no rule that even a horror-centric setting like that can never be used for not-horror. Conversely, more heroic styles can just as easily be used for horror, or romance, etc. It should take just a smidgen of creativity and work to adapt almost any setting to almost any play style or world-feel you want.

    That is to say, even if the rest of the group creates a world that is mostly high fantasy in flavor, you also have creative input in CWB. (I mean, it's not like CWB has a rule "the DM is the only one who can't participate this time HA HA HA!") So it should be possible in Microscope to set up a space for play style X even if the rest of the history is better suited to Y. Anybody who can't zoom in on some section of a Microscope history -- or just move to a space outside of the bookends -- and use the general setting to forge, say, a swords-and-sorcery campaign may simply lack the chops to be building and DMing their own world anyway.

    I hope you can see where I'm coming from on this, and I hope that any future comments you make on the topic are more explicitly guided by actual experience with the kind of DM-less play they're talking about. I'm certainly open to criticisms, but I don't think they're very helpful when they basically sound like "I heard some people talking about a thing and I'm going to judge it based on that rather than on its own merits." Anyway, thank you for your time.

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    1. First, I'm glad this topic generated discussion, and disagreement is always welcome.

      "First, color me disappointed that you seem to be trying to pick apart claims about CWB based on theory alone. The title of this post got me excited, thinking you'd, you know, played some Microscope, and would be giving your thoughts based on actual experience. Alas, from what I can tell, you've never played any CWB game at all, or even read the rules of one, and are just sort of bristling at a perceived slight to your own favored style of play."

      I own Burning Empires and played with the World Burner rules to create a couple of planets for a (regrettably short-lived) Traveller campaign some years back. so yes, I do have some practical, first-hand experience with the subject.

      Confanity, you seem to be trying to place a chip on my shoulder that isn't there. I'm not 'picking apart' what the panelists said, and I'm not 'bristling at perceived slights.' I'm noting that what is, to me, the most interesting point-of-contention regarding collaborative world building doesn't even appear on the panelists' radar.

      Btw, "Under the Microscope" is my favorite song by School of Fish, one-hit-wonders best known for "Three Strange Days" back in the early Nineties. It's also reflects looking at something so closely that you miss the context around it. The reference to Microscope is tangential.

      "On that note, I'd be surprised (to put it mildly) if any of the panelists said that CWB should entirely replace DMs' private world-building, or that it was unequivocally better."

      Lowell Francis' blogpost comes pretty close to that; presenting weak opposing arguments to your own and leaving out the most substantive of those arguments isn't really the sign of a serious attempt at addressing the issue under discussion.

      "In my experience the argument should be that CWB deserves more consideration than it usually seems to get, compared to old-school D&D, White Wolf, tactical boardgames like 4E, and other gaming styles."

      In my experience, players routinely make up game-world details pertaining their characters' backgrounds in all of the traditional roleplaying games I've ever played. The difference is not one of either/or, but rather one of scale.

      "Beyond that, the point that Ben Robbins (creator of Microscope) repeatedly makes is that CWB can enrich a world and provide egalitarianism that is normally lacking.

      Yes, there's a good deal of talk about "power," "safety," and "fairness" in the panel discussion - Ben Robbins' points about body language were particularly interesting, though they beg the question, don't players exert the same sort of subtle influence over the referee? - and there appears to be a presumption that this can somehow be addressed through game-rules. For me, based on my own experiences, this is a solution in search of a problem to solve; there have certainly been a mix of personalities in the games I've played over the years, but I haven't encountered a situation so dire that it would even occur to me that 'more rules!' would somehow provide a solution that simply talking with the other gamers around the table can't solve. (The idea that social dynamics around the table can be resolved through game-rules is best left for another discussion.)

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    2. "Players who, in-game, become ministers or kings or famous entertainers, who assassinate big-shots or release entire armies of ghouls from their unquiet slumber aren't really building the world so much as participating in it. The world has already been set out by the DM; they're just poking it and sometimes it changes shape, a little, in response."

      That's one way to look at it, and I would've loved to see the panelists discuss that, maybe with a couple of traditional gamers for balance.

      "I see zero conflict between CWB and player-side mystery even if you jump straight from building a world into playing in it."

      That's true if you limit the scope of what the players can add. Adding secret societies, frex, during CWB works against the "world of mystery" that many players value.

      Forgive me for not going into details with the rest of your reply - I think I'd largely just be repeating myself. I'm not 'against' CWB; I've tried it, and I understand its appeal, particularly the idea that it can create the baseline knowledge of the game-world which all of the characters share.

      Toward that end, one of my future projects here in RBE is using Microscope to create a ruritania for use with swashbuckling games; look for that later this year.

      Thanks for the replies, Confanity - always appreciated.

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    3. Thanks for the reply! I'm sorry if I misread the argument you were trying to make. I'll be looking forward to that project, then. 8^)

      One point to clarify, though: I still disagree that "adding secret societies" and so on in world-creation removes the mystery from the ensuing play. Even if the players know that Society X exists, and has done various things in the past, they certainly have no way of knowing that current events are due to X being up to its old tricks, some rival or copycat group Y, or some other factor entirely and their knowledge of X is nothing more than a red herring.

      For example, we know about -- say -- Yakuza. But if someone takes a potshot at the mayor of a Japanese town, simply knowing that the Yakuza exist and occasionally shoot at people does nothing to harm the mystery of who did it; at worst, it gives you a potential lead to investigate, and that's never a bad thing for players to have.

      The point I was trying to make is that no finite CWB can ever be exhaustive; anyone who has the creativity to attempt world-creation certainly has the creativity to use the results as a springboard; there's no rule against adding new content after you've switched from Microscope to a more traditional PCs-vs-NPCs RPG.

      Sorry if that was unclear, and again thanks for your reply!

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    4. "One point to clarify, though: I still disagree that "adding secret societies" and so on in world-creation removes the mystery from the ensuing play. Even if the players know that Society X exists, and has done various things in the past, they certainly have no way of knowing that current events are due to X being up to its old tricks, some rival or copycat group Y, or some other factor entirely and their knowledge of X is nothing more than a red herring."

      Except we're not talking about a secret society anymore, but rather a formerly secret society. Membership in the Yakuza may be a (poorly kept?) secret, but the existence of the organisation itself is hardly a mystery.

      If you want a secret society, you need to (1) add the secret society during CWB and then all of the players pretend it doesn't exist, (2) add the secret society during CWB and then allow the referee to change it so that it's actually not the secret society the player who proposed it intended it to be, effectively vetoing the player's input, (3) ignore the secret society added during CWB because it's not really secret, or (4) agree that no one can add something during CWB that is a secret from the everyone else except the referee.

      None of those options are 'bad' or 'wrong,' but each one carries certain opportunity costs. Players can, and do, partition player knowledge and character knowledge pretty routinely, so (1) is a viable option, but how much and what kind of information the players need to partition may adversely affect their engagement with the game.

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  3. "The "world of mystery" isn't something I want to get past; it's one of the most important features of roleplaying games for me."

    I couldn't agree more. Having read Microscope, I wouldn't mind running it a few times as a one-off exercise but so much of what I love running and playing in campaigns is peeling away the onion layers of mystery.

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    1. I like Microscope. Our group enjoys it. It is cool. But it's really structured brainstorming + roleplaying.

      The "world of mystery" is largely the only reason I continue to run or play games.

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  4. "Beyond that, the point that Ben Robbins (creator of Microscope) repeatedly makes is that CWB can enrich a world and provide egalitarianism that is normally lacking."

    Let's look at world enrichment first. CWB is not cost free. There are two issues that I see with gaining the potential richness that CWB promises.

    (1) Continuity. Using multiple creators makes it more difficult and resource intensive to maintain fictional [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuity_(fiction)]continuity[/ulr] and setting coherence. Whereas I, as a sole GM only need to maintain continuity in the world I create and in the changes to it based on character action, in a CWB setting the group has to agree on and document the continuity – much like what one sees on a long running TV series. And much like what one sees on a TV series, it is easy for continuity errors to creep in.

    (2) Exploration. If I am creating the world, I can't later explore or uncover the parts of the world I created – since they are already known to me. For some players, exploration is a big part of the RPG draw. Mike is one of those types of players. By sharing the creation process such a player cannot then explore what they have created. Of course they may be able to explore things others have created, but often the process of CWB will make information about other's creations known to all the players. So CWB can really cut down the degree of fun available to explorer type players.

    continued in part 2

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    1. Lessee.

      0. Try angle brackets (<>) and 'a href="blabla.url" '

      1. Sir, you seem to have misunderstood the nature of "Collaborative World-Building." Microscope, at least, has a good system for keeping a record what the group has created -- and is extremely robust in terms of "continuity." In fact, a lot of the really great creative moments in it come from people finding clever ways to resolve seeming contradictions or paradoxes. In all my play experience (and for that matter, in all of the summaries-of-play I've read) there have been zero difficulties with "continuity."

      And to be honest, if play extends out to multiple sessions, it's probably going to be easier for a group to keep its world straight than for an individual -- less chance of 100% of the creators forgetting any given fact, eh?

      2. That's valid, to an extent -- but again, I'm going to argue that when you stop world-building and start the exploration-focused traditional RPG play, any DM worth their salt is still going to be able to surprise you.

      Let me give you an example. You learned the history of your homeland in school, right? Are you going to argue that nothing you ever encounter in that country can ever surprise you again? Because you learned the names of some leaders, and some famous dates, you know the layout of every apartment building and the personality of every shop clerk? No thug can ever get the drop on you? You can never find a street in your home town that you've never walked down before, and walk down it for the first time? There can never be mystery in your life again until you move to a new country? 8^P

      No, if your fun is damaged in any way by CWB, then either you have a very specific taste that only allows you to play amnesiac characters in worlds you've never heard of before, or your DM sucks. Tell me, have you ever actually played in a world that you helped create, and suffered as a result? Or is this problem simply one that you imagined into existence?

      Please don't take that as me being snide, by the way -- I'm just pointing out that theory and practice are not one and the same. Let me refer you again to Peter Dell'Orto's question, "Has that problem come up in actual play?"

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    2. I may well not understand how you are using the term CWB. That is always a risk with new jargon.

      So is the CWB process you've used one that ends before play begins or one that continues after play begins? I can't tell from what you've said. Are the players adding to the world as play goes along?

      Shared memory does work better overall, but shared recall is not an exclusive property of CWB. Any player can recall a prior session whether or not they helped create it. CWB doesn't add anything to the advantage of shared memory.

      On the other hand, creating something that is continuous, and coherent is not easier for multiple people than for one person. TV shows have people whose only job is continuity tracking. And they get it wrong. A lot.

      "2. That's valid, to an extent -- but again, I'm going to argue that when you stop world-building and start the exploration-focused traditional RPG play"
      This sounds like the CWB process stops before play begins. I've never run a game where the world building was all done up front. It's always been a process of accretion. So I guess I am confused about what the boundaries are on the world building under the CWB paradigm you've followed. Can you clarify?

      And yes I have GMed and played in several settings with multiple creators each of which ran for a minimum of 5 years. Continuity was always an issue. So was coherence. The greater the degree of shared world creation, the more likely different creators had different visions and the greater the difficulty and effort required to get continuity and coherence. Managing to get both to a level I enjoy over a long term campaign takes a continuing, non-trivial effort. The fact that you have never experienced any issues with continuity or coherence makes me think you must be looking for a significantly different sort of play experience. Because, honestly, that is just baffling that it never occurs for you.

      Also, I've got to say comments like "Perhaps it'll be best for you to reserve judgment until you get some play under your belt" are rather condescending.

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  5. Let's look at egalitarianism next. You list egalitarianism as if that were something all players should desire. It's not for four reasons.

    (1) Politics is an art, but art is not politics. While I want egalitarianism in the politics and law, I don't necessarily care for it in an artistic endeavor. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the works of art I like best are created by or controlled by a single artist. Certainly I don't imagine a painting by Velazquez would be improved by an application of egalitarian artistry. But one may say that is an unfair or extreme example. I would then go to a couple of TV series that I enjoyed because of the richness or setting, character, plot, or both: Babylon 5 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course both series had multiple writers and directors, but at the center, there was one person providing a consistent creative vision and I think that shows in both the continuity and the quality of the product.

    (2) Tyranny of the Majority. In a traditional GM setup the GM is the arbiter. In an egalitarian setup no one person is the arbiter. Necessarily in the creative process there conflicts will occur. So how are these conflicting creative differences reconciled? Without a tyrant of a GM, the process is some voting or social agreement process. But if the world is to have even a moderate amount of continuity this necessarily means that sometimes your creation gets over ruled and someone else's creation gets put in instead. So we've just changed who is telling you no. Instead of the GM, now it’s the table. I haven't achieved creative freedom by eliminating the GM, I've just changed who is saying no to my ideas or yes to some other conflicting idea. But no still means no.

    (3) Transaction Cost. In a traditional GM setup the GM does the majority of the world building work. Some find that work a burden, others a pleasure. By engaging in CWB the group has crowdsourced the creativity. So less work for the GM. On the other hand in a traditional GM setup, managing continuity is, as I mentioned above, relatively simple. But as the number of creators increases one of two things must happen. Either someone must spend a lot more preventing and reconciling inconsistencies or the group must be satisfied with less consistency in the game world. The transaction cost for maintaining the same level of consistency in a CWB setting is higher than in a GM-WB setting. In effect, the GM spends less effort creating (as the other players spend more time creating) and both the GM and the players spend more effort maintaining continuity and coherence in the game world. As a GM I enjoy creating. I enjoy effort spent on continuity less, but I want strong continuity in the game world. So CWB asks me to spend less time doing what I like and more time doing something I like less.

    (4) Opportunity. In the political sphere I want and need egalitarianism precisely because there is only one government. From a practical standpoint, if my voice is not heard in politics, I can't just pick up my sticks and go make a government of my own. And if my voice cannot be heard, the government may exert it's control on me in undesirable ways. That's why egalitarian ideals are important politically. In RPG, the situation is completely different. In an RPG I always have the freedom to pick up my sticks and leave. If I don't like the game you run, I can leave. I there is a game I want to run, I can GM it. I don't need creative control in your game, because I have it in my game. And the reverse is also true.

    continued in part 3

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    1. Let me cut to the chase: I'm not saying that we should burn all the DMs and that every RPG should henceforth be nothing but CWB. I am saying that it sounded like CWB was being dismissed out of hand, and that it can be a good addition to one's repertoire of nerdy pencil-and-paper activities.

      I mean, yeah, there's a spectrum. Sometimes even the DM doesn't want to bother with world-building, and just buys and runs a module. No harm in that any more than in DM creative control, in partial DM control, or in completely collaborative world-building.

      That said, again you simply seem to not know what I'm talking about. You are talking about problems that I have simply never experienced in play, nor heard of anyone else experiencing. Perhaps it'll be best for you to reserve judgment until you get some play under your belt, or look up some online. We can perhaps continue the discussion after BV reports back?

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    2. "You are talking about problems that I have simply never experienced in play, nor heard of anyone else experiencing."

      That's my exact reaction to many of the problems cited by the panelists in the discussion, and in cases where I have encountered problems they mentioned, I found other ways to deal with them.

      CWB is a solution for problems I personally don't have or deal with differently around the table.

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  6. "Jumping to your final argument, I note that you don't seem to really grasp what Collaborative World Building is."

    I'm sure Mike understands this. He knows that his players are not doing CWB in the same sense as the panelists. That's why he distinguished between "collaborating in world building in-character or out-of-character."

    "Backing up a bit, I'd like to engage you on the perceived drawbacks. I see zero conflict between CWB and player-side mystery even if you jump straight from building a world into playing in it. Quite the reverse, actually; now PCs can actually know about their world's history and culture and so on without the players needing a big info dump from the DM and without resorting to potentially confusing tactics like "It's just like this corner of real Earth history except that X and Y and Z are different and unicorns are real." It's not like a game of Microscope will involve mapping dungeons or ripping the mask off of every possible puppetmaster villain. A DM who can't surprise the players using a collaboratively-built setting... maybe isn't ready to be DMing."

    I don't think you understand the explorer player type in gaming. Having a few mysteries or unknown things like did Colonel Mustard use a rope or a wrench to kill the host or was Mrs. Plum the actual murderer may not be different in kind from wanting to explore a whole world, but it is significantly different in quantity from the ability to discover anything about the world.

    " I see nothing unfair about a DM being asked to step a little outside of their comfort zone and run a campaign with a slightly different flavor than they would have crafted on their own... that's essentially what 99.9% of DMs are doing to players 99.9% of the time, right? Asking them to play in a game world that may well be different than the ideal one in their heads? Shoe on the other foot and all that."

    You may not see it as unfair, but then you aren't the one being imposed on are you? You wanting me to step outside my comfort zone to run what you create is a non-starter. If you like it, you run it. I don't get paid to be the GM. Until I take a job getting paid as your GM, you don't get to assign me work. And GMs don't make players play, they offer an opportunity for players to play. Players, being autonomous individuals, decide whether or not they want to play (or continue playing).

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    1. ...The point I was trying to make is that what he characterized as "collaborative world-building in character" was not so much "world-building" as it was ordinary play. I mean, in old-school D&D players search dungeons, slay monsters, and find treasure. To me that's not "building," but rather "exploration." Otherwise I'm extraordinarily confused about what you think will destroy the mystery of what. If normal play is "world-building," then do you need to start a new world every session to keep your previous session's play experience from removing all the mystery and exploration from the new one? 8^P

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  7. I want to explore the game-world, not build it.

    This.

    The only thing that irks me is when CWB fans adopt a condescending attitude toward trad RPG players, who are framed as "fearing the players," unwilling to leave their "comfort zone," etc. Grr.

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    1. I hope you certainly didn't feel condescended to in this case; the big point I was trying to make was that this doesn't need to be an either-or choice between building and exploring. If your DM for the exploration part is even remotely competent, you should be able to do both. 8^)

      That said, if you're the type that's just not interested in creation at all... well, no skin off my nose; it's just a matter of taste.

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  8. I hope I'm not condemning or disparaging non-collaborative approaches. Most of the campaigns I've run and am running are more classic- "you guys get to play in my world games." I'd really hate to think I was dismissing anyone's play style- narrativist, OSR, whatever- fun is fun. There are some things I enjoy playing in less and more, but that should never be the basis for any kind of statement that what someone's doing is badwrongfun.

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    1. Thanks for jumping into the discussion, Lowell - I really appreciate it.

      It's fine to argue for something you feel strongly about - I certainly do it myself - and I don't feel that you're "condemning or disparaging non-collaborative approaches" so much as I think you and the panelists really overlooked why non-collaborative approaches are preferred by some gamers in the first place.

      I would say there's much more to the subject than the panel discussion addressed, however, and, rather than an hour-plus of talking about how cool CWB is, spending more than a minute on why some gamers don't favor it could've made for a much more interesting and ultimately enlightening and useful panel.

      Again, thanks for weighing in.

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    2. I only had a little bit of time yesterday to respond, so I hope to be able to write up a longer commentary tomorrow to post. Zak's point below is interesting- and certainly would be worthwhile in a longer and more structured panel.

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  9. You seem to have missed Black Vulmea's really simple point because you're busy being defensive. The point is: the discussion could've been _more interesting_ .

    And it could've _been more interesting_ if collaborative world building were examined not _only_ in terms of why you should but also in terms of _what it costs_ and/or _different ways to do it_ including in-world and out-of-world.

    Saying " I didn't mean to offend anybody" misses the point. The point is this idea is more complicated and more interesting than you gave it credit for.

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