You are here

Content by Consensus - Ah... there's the rub...

After I posted our Session 0 beta description... Ron responded with... "It's possible to ruin things by front-loading and world-building, but this is more like what I described than not. It was more talky than I've been recommending, and granted, a little more content via consensus than I prefer, but that latter is a preference rather than a mandate."

I responded with, "

Content via consensus... bad?

I'm interested in your dislike of content via consensus..."

Ron said: "

Not "bad." Let's see, on an everyone-to-me scale of negative implications for game features and practices ...

  • This is broken, ill-designed, no fun, and contra-indicated. Do not do it if you value your time even a little.
  • This sucks. I mean, for me and what appears to be a lot of other people.
  • This is no fun for people in |[specify] circumstances or with [specify] preferences.
  • You might not want to do it because [this] is what typically happens.
  • I don't do it because I dislike what typically happens.
  • Anyone might like it but I tend not to, unless something else is in place so it works for me

This falls into #3 to ##5, counting downwards, and since this is a project design toward a particular zone or aesthetic of play, I was careful with my verbs in my comment above.

I then went searching for any refernces to this. Not easy to find, but one was very recent, even though it doesn't use Content by Consensus in term, it clearly is calling out EXACTLY what I'd described in my Session 0 post:

​Ron: "Brainstorming before character creation and indeed before anything else, usually resulting in a shit-ton of minor “not” statements, a number of comics references, a lot of super-alternate history, and a detailed set of origins and how-we-mets. As a whole, this is not play or prep for play, it is its own process of fiction production which drains play potential and removes actual individual creative contribution in favor of an editorially-acceptable blend."

The last phrase there seems to be the rub, as Ron sees it. "...drains play potential and removes actual individual creative contribution in favor of an editorially-acceptable blend."

Now, this is couched in mild terminology, but clearly drenched with disdain for this process. I'm just not sure why...

What is removed from play by this process other than a clash of expectations that creates hard feelings and friction in the group?

In what way is an editorial direction (by the group, not an edict from the GM) a bad thing? I don't see this minimizing individual contribution as much as simply providing a framework for it. The creative process is enhanced by boundaries vs. pure white space.

Every assertion by a player or GM is, by the nature of itself, also a series of "nots"... so how is it a problem to knock some of this out in pre-play, which I agree, is a process of fiction production, but a necessary one.

If the process is "too talky" then how else should it look, since RPGs are all talking.

Also, I feel this process serves a very important social function for the group... if the table can only be convened once every other week or so, how do you keep the enthusiasm and interest going, but by talking and throwing out ideas and "what ifs?" The players wanted to share what they had come up with, and get feedback... not just from the GM, but from the group. Then, when the table is convened, there is the sense that there is already a "thing" to be sitting down to, and an investment in the game, not just in the character (which was an old, old problem that made for very ugly times.)

​What am I missing about consensus building that is problematic? Also... perhaps it is just me, but "a project design toward a particular zone or aesthetic of play" is what Ron is after... but I am not at all clear what the zone/aesthetic is. Perhaps I'm dense, or perhaps our play is inherently rejecting that aesthetic and we don't realize it.

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

I'm replying to two specific points which I think will expand well into the whole post.

First,

In what way is an editorial direction (by the group, not an edict from the GM) a bad thing? I don't see this minimizing individual contribution as much as simply providing a framework for it. The creative process is enhanced by boundaries vs. pure white space.

You're re-phrasing me into a position I'm not holding. "Pure white space" is not my position and not the issue. I'm advocating for boundaries, and addressing the next (and very tempting) problem: filling in the space within them too much.

The first section in the Beta document is not filler. All those three-corner diagrams and accompanying verbiage are specific, effective rules for filling in within the boundaries just enough for powerful play to do the rest. Testing those is more important than point-shuffling, which is easily adjusted and refined throughout the process and won't be finalized until the end.

There's a false dichotomy to avoid, I think: either "pure white space" or a very filled-in, circles-and-arrows, carefully vetted, agreed-upon wall. I'm aiming at an important design and play aesthetic, just as you say. As as I see it, that aesthetic characterizes a major feature of the first-generation Champions, which is to say, high-potential, exciting, but sketched boundaries to create and develop within, using a brilliant point system as an ongoing method. It was almost completely obliterated by the Hero System as such and its accompanying Champions 4th edition, which adopted the points-build-the-world aesthetic and swung very hard toward the filled-in wall as preparation.

Second, if I have disdain for something, I'll say so. If I write mildly, it's mild. The filled-in wall isn't what I'm designing toward because it has observable neutralizing, dampening effects on the aesthetic I'm talking about. No slur toward anyone who wants a different aesthetic is involved; simultaneously, no concession toward that desire or polite silence about its features is included either.

Expanding these into the whole post: the question is what the game is for. Putting aside any and all questions of "true" Champions, "real" role-playing, et cetera, what is this one project for? A role-playing game which enables people - should they be inclined - to create the best superhero comics experience they can. That's entirely different from, for instance, playing Autoduel Champions as an engineering and tactical endeavor. Here, "different" is not code for "superior." Acknowledging the difference is critical and honest, and as I see it, intelligent point-and-building design can be part of either one.

Add new comment