Relinquishing control of your character

So this post relates to two things that we’ve been discussing here recently. One is the discussion I had with Lorenzo in his post about using random personality traits in his game (here). Another is this comment from Ron in a previous Hantverksklubben discussion (here):

Sooner or later, with an eye toward actual concepts and play practices rather than mere terms, I’d like to dig into the differences or interrelations among:

  • caring about a character (we may say “my” as a fleeting rather than permanent thing, it’s not important)
  • striving for a best outcome where “best” may be thought of as a player-desired fictional situation
  • playing the character as striving for his, her, or its desires, which themselves may or may not be “good” or “good for them”
  • playing the character as vulnerable to situations or interactions that may turn out poorly for them, for any definition of “poorly”

These are clearly different things, which I think is easy. The harder topic concerns when one or more of them is compatible with one or more of the others, and when one or more of them is incompatible with one or more of the others. Not as a principled abstract comparison, but asinstances of play which we actually do and experience.

So here is an anecdote from an old game that I think it quite interesting and relates a bit to these things. Since we didn’t have a Hantverksklubben game this weekend, I’ll post this instead.

So the game is Det sjätte inseglet, an anachronistic swashbuckling game of tragic heroes falling prey to their character weaknesses and becoming assholes, or maybe dying. Sometimes both. I play Eduardo, a hot-blooded Spanish army captain fighting to take back Spain from the moorish armies of Saladin (I told you it was anachronistic). He’s a stereotypical passionate soldier, butrning with nationalistic fervor. And he learns that Saladin is camped nearby to where his general is located, he storms in and demands that they attack. The general says that Saladin’s army is far too well positioned and it would not be wise to attack them at that position. Angry, Eduardo runs out among the soldiers, holds a fiery speech and whips them up into a frenzy. They are going to attack!

So in the battle, there is a conflict, of course, and I lose. However, there is a rule that my character cannot die unless I as a player give my consent, which I do not. Kim is playing Saladin here, so I tell him he has to give me another out. Eduardo’s story doesn’t end here. And here’s what Kim gives me:

He narrates how we fight valiantly, but it’s a losing battle. My comrades fall around me and finally it’s just Eduardo, on a mountain of bodies, both friend and foe, surrounded by moorish soldiers. But as they get ready to finish him off, Saladin calls out for them to stop. He explains that Eduardo is an amazingly skillful soldier and how it is a pelasure to see him fight. He says that whe cannot bear to rid the world of such a great warrior, and the soldiers lift their swords in salute to let Eduardo go.

I’m speechless. This is not something Eduardo would agree to, surely. He’s a proud nationalist who would die for his country rather than accept the mercy of his enemies. So what do I do here? It seems I have to either break my character’s credibility “for the story”, or kill him off (which would be a pretty dull story, since the character had just been a stereotype so far). But surely you should never betray your character for the sake of story? I was tempted to tell Kim he needed to come up with something else, that this was the same thing as killing Eduardo.

Then I thought: But what if I go with it? What would it mean if Eduardo accepts the offer of mercy? So I describe how Eduardo is faced with the horrific realization that he doesn’t want to die. Running heedlessly into battle is one thing, at some level he always thought himself immortal. But right here, actively choosing death when he can just walk away? He can’t do it. He has led his brothers in arms into battle, into their deaths, and he is too cowardly to follow them. So Eduardo walks away, head hanging in shame, as the enemy soldiers salute him with their swords.

This was a hugely emotional moment and it was the turning point for Eduardo. It completely broke him. He started drinking and ended the game as the personal assassin of Saladin.

Obviously there was some conflict of interests here. Me, the game, Kim, Eduardo and Saladin had different authorities and motivations in this scene, that were incompatible. Something had to break, and it turned out that something was Eduardo. And it turned out to be a very powerful moment in the game because I grounded it in the fiction. I’ve always been skeptical of the people who say they know exactly how their character would act in any moment, who abhor rules which gives other players or the dice authority over their own character. Relinquishing control over your own chatacer’s behavior can mean that you discover something new about them, which is exciting! It can even mean, as in this case, thet the character discovers something about themself, which is great drama. People are full of contradictions.

This scene has lived with me ever since and it has played a big role in how I view roleplaying. I think what really made it so good was not that I accepted the surprising (one may even say illogical) outcome of the rules and authorities at play, but that I grounded it in the fiction. I said “Ok, if I accept this, what does that mean? Can I make it make sense?”. I think this is bounce at its greatest. The game gave me a surprising outcome and it was great. But had I just gone “Oh, ok, I guess I walk away from there and then plan to attack with some other army”, it would have been terrible. I would have broken the integrity of my character without making sense of it. His story would have been completely hollow.


22 responses to “Relinquishing control of your character”

  1. Another example

    I love your post! So I will contribute a story to it:

    In my recent Champions Now game, I was playing the vigilante terrorist hero the Red Star. A strange series of events led to her riding in the limo of the supervillain billionaire philanthropist Nigel Roach, who was attempting to convince her to help him with his plans for police reform and the gentrification of an area of the city. 

    So, he drained her ego and then presence attacked her in this vulnerable state, and got something like a 5 on his core result, which meant that she was awed and inclined to imply, however briefly, with his command to her to basically shut up and listen to his plans. 

    I was heartbroken as I described her sinking back into the soft leather of the limousine seat with a defeated expression. I really wanted her to beat this villain up, maybe even kill him. It didn't make sense to me that she would sit here and listen to someone that wants exactly the opposite of everything she does. But I realized in that moment that she was still vulnerable, convinced that she was right but one failure away from not knowing what to believe. A person in power telling her to shut up really could make her shut up, which really freaked me out. I think if it was up to me and there was nothing in the system that could force my character to consider something someone was saying, she would have gone right into beat-up-the-villain mode, and the group would never have seen this frightened side of her. 

    So he went on to explain his plans for cleaning up some neighborhoods and fighting crime…and then he clearly activated one of my character's psychological situations. He was talking about the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin and how he was glad to see a bad apple put away, and how police reform was needed. The Red Star had the psychological situtation Communism is the only answer!…and police reform isn't exactly radical enough (in fact, it suggests a further bolstering of police forces and more subtle means of oppression and violence). We are talking about a character who opposes the existence of the United States, period. So Red Star's emergency anti-liberal lights go off and she blasts him with a couple tons of molten metal. 

    The mechanics of the game guided me through some decisions that I would not have made if they weren't present. The interesting difference with your story is that my character happened to become more solidified in what she already was, where your character experienced a radical change. And I think, had the conversation/rolls gone differently, that my character could have experienced just as radical a change. 

    • Yes, that’s a great example!

      Yes, that's a great example! And I think both situations could have happened in different ways and have still been perfectly believable. Eduardo could have accepted the mercy but feel he had been cheated on his death in battle, growing ever more suicidal in hopeless assaults on the enemy. Or he could have accepted the mercy, then tried to continue as if nothing had changed, but start to feel a terrible fear and act cowardly. Or finding himself haunted by his decision and imagining that everyone is calling him a coward behind his back. All fun and interesting developments. Heck, he could realize life is precious and that he has been given a second chance, resulting in him becoming a pacifist. In any such situation, there are many ways you can roll with it, and you can make them all work, as long as you make the effort to explain it, to ground it in the psychological reality of the character.

      Your example also highlights how social mechanics can be really powerful story tools for this sort of thing. I've met a lot of people who are perfectly content with rolling Persuasion to manipulate an NPC, but when an NPC rolls it to manipulate their PC, they recoil in horror. Partly I think it's to do with the game offering them very little freedom as is, and that freedom is being taken away from them. In a more open game where everyone has real and significant power to affect the fiction, having a mechanic set your PC's behavior once in a while is less frightening. And if the roll says that your character acts in an uncharacteristic way, well, I guess you just learned something new about your character! That's exciting! Now find out what that is and what really made your character act that way.

  2. Let’s dig into it

    One of the best Monday Labs received no comments and has never been referenced by anyone. It's Nutz R Us, concerning game mechanics which outright remove player control over player-character behavior.

    We found that it would be easier to list the games that don't do this rather than those that do. It is so prevalent and so beloved across RPG design-and-play that it should be acknowledged as a primary design consideration.

    So, to this post and to comments so far, yes, yes, and more yes. This is a plea to add some of the available legwork to the discussion.

    • Great link, though I find it

      Great link, though I find it hard to listen to an hour-long discussion in this kind of format. I'll try to have a listen, but as of writing this comment, I've just read the post and listened to the beginning.

      Sanity and that sort of thing is clearly part of the same spectrum of mechanics, even if it's not the direction I was thinking of going with this. In a way, the thing Sam and I are talking about is the opposite of that: making sure the character can follow where the rules are leading without appearing crazy or inconsistent. However, I guess you can apply the same kind of principle to these kinds of madness mechanics, too. The problem I often have with them is how it becomes so easy to play this zany crazy over-the-top madness thing which, to me, generally breaks the integrity of the character. But I guess the same principle we're talking about above can apply to these kinds of mechanics: grounding it in the charatcer. Taking it seriously and saying "ok, this is what I do, this is the change that the game applies to my character. What does that mean?".

      Characters that are just crazy for comic effect is something that I have a hard time with. It really kills any meaning in the character for me: I can't take them seriously, so I stop caring about them. What does work and gives really hard-hitting drama is the character whose mind is breaking, who knows it and who is trying to fight it or cope with it. A Beautiful Mind kind of thing.

      An amazing thing would be to succeed with the Malkavian thing: a "madness" that is somehow profound and mysterious, of someone who has seen the true nature of reality and disregards social customs as meaningless. One who appears mad to us, but in reality is the only sane person in the room. Tibetan buddhist "crazy wisdom", Kierkegaard, Ernest Becker, throwing off the armor that keeps us safe but which also keeps us from true integrity, and so on. That kind of stuff. It seems quite hard to do. I did play a Malkavian in our "sped up Giovanni Chronicles with Dream Askew mechanics" campaign. I think I did alright, but it was mostly a manner of being obsessive plus a disregard for some social dynamics. I found it hard to play "madness" that wasn't just "noise" (as in meaningless, not as in sound). I think this might be a good topic for Hantverksklubben! I'd love to explore it further. I'll put it on the list, but that usually means it'll take a few months for it to get played.

      Anyway, it's not just a consequence of formal mechanics. (I promise, this isn't about freeform!) It can be a result of the hated "I have to do X or we don't get an adventure" thing. I don't really need the money but I guess I'll accept this quest because otherwise there's no game. That is rightly hated and critisized, and a fair number of people will say "Nope, I'm not going to break my character's integrity just to follow along in the story. I'll follow my character and THAT's the story". Which is obviously fine, and the GM putting you in this position might need to work on their GMing. But you could also say "Ok, let's say I agree to this quest, even though I ostensibly don't need the money. What does that mean?" Maybe I'm actually not as rich as you all think. Maybe that money belongs to my family and I want to be independent from them. Maybe I'm a depressed maverick who needs to risk my life to feel alive. Maybe there's someone in the group I desperately want to impress. Or maybe it's not aout the money, but the McGuffin is actually really important for me on a personal level. And so on. You can get some interesting play out of this if you do the work, possibly in cooperation with other players and/or a GM.

  3. Relating it to skill

    Relating this to another thing we've been discussing a lot lately: skill and "wind-up toy" games. It's extremely relevant that the game didn't tell my character to break, nor Sam's character to start to question her own beliefs. The interpretation and making it work was skill. The game didn't make it easy; it made it hard! The game threw us balls that didn't bounce like we thought they should, given our characters and the story. It threatened to ruin everything! And catching that bouncy ball and running with it, making it work, turning this "wtf" moment into a "hell yeah" moment was awesome. That was me. I did that.

    • I’ve been talking about this

      I've been talking about this as agency – when it matters that you are the person at the table at this moment, and no other person or at any other time. It's been useful to help people realize that "I get to describe it!" or "I can say that guy is my uncle!" is not agency, but merely an Authority technique.

    • Its interesting that moments

      Its interesting that moments that some people would characterize as removing agency turn out to be ones in which who was playing this character becomes very very important. More constraint demands more creativity, but it also gives that creativity a nice foundation to operate off of.

    • Exactly! There is a

      Exactly! There is a pernicious, deeply flawed tendency to equate agency with control. Whereas very much the opposite is the case.

      Given authorities (as I have used the term, which is not about power over but merely those things you do), then systems in which each person operates without permission, under constraints, result in play. Systems which merely bestow control, either upon one person or spreading it around, do not result in play but in performative bullshit or genre product consumption. There is no actual control over anything by anyone in this situation. I can prepare a dungeon for you but I cannot tell you what to do inside there.

  4. Another helpful example + some thoughts

    This is kind of a general reply, so I'm not putting it in any of the pre-existing comment threads. 

    So…last night I played the second session of a game of Burning Wheel I am in with Noah (I'm not sure if the other player is active here/wants to be anonymous). We had a Fight! (rather than a Bloody Versus), because I have always been annoyed at how hesitant people are to use the extended conflict mechanics and we have made it our mission to use them. They offer a lot more room for crazy outcomes than the normal dice pool mechanics, which can feel almost deterministic at times. 

    I was attempting to charge through some goons who had me surrounded so that I could get to my warhorse and get the fuck out of there. I had a Charge/Strike scripted for my first round. My Charge caught one of the goons in the first action of a Great Strike, so he had no way to defend getting knocked to the ground. The other goon had a Strike scripted, though, and he stuck his sword right into my character's stomach. I had no armor on because I was ambushed! I took a severe wound and went down. 

    I was pretty upset, actually, and I don't lose my cool over this kind of thing usually (though I quite often lose my cool over confusing rules, unfortunately). Severe wounds take 3 months to heal…and I was a prisoner. Luckily my guy is a knight, so he was worth a lot more living than dead. He got healed up, but failed his Health test to have a full recovery. That meant losing 2 points (the average stat is 4!) from a stat of the GM's choice permanently and gaining a negative die trait–my awesome Will of 5 was shattered from the experience, and became a 3. I gained the die trait Coward. You can bet my fun for the night was nearly ruined. I let the other players know how I was feeling, but I wanted to keep playing him.

    Suddenly…my cool knight is a cowardly miserable person…his whole personality changed! I made him to be cruel and chivalrous in the way I hate, and I was excited to play this guy. And, in the span of about 3 rolls, he was a genuinely new character. 

    Well. I changed his Instincts to reflect his new position as a grubby, dishonored prisoner of war. No longer did he have the Instinct to Always do harm to those who are cruel to beautiful women…this was replaced with When I don't finish my meal, I always hide the scraps of it where no one can find them. I also added I always keep something sharp hidden on me where no one can see it. The only one he kept was I always keep everyone in the room in my sight. This took a whole new, horrifying meaning as a prisoner of war, and I kind of liked how much it made sense. 

    His behavior changed towards his enemies, now his captors, as well. He begged them to let him return to his father with his sword, to let him try to regain his honor. He offered them a chance to work with his father rather than be the enemies of the most powerful nobles in the region. He tried not to look into their eyes. 

    Looking back on the session, I feel good about how I played him. Now that I have shrugged off my dissapointment, I am more excited than ever to play him again. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am basically playing a whole new character. 

    The game The Hour Between Dog & Wolf (one of my favorite games because there is so much to learn from it and it seems so simple!) does something surprisingly similar–as your hero begins to fail more and more rolls, he changes in the way he relates to the world socially and his stats change to reflect it (eventually he loses the ability to get help from other people because of increasing Stress, for example). Importantly, it isn't the outcome of a roll in which someone is trying to change the character's personality/actions. Like in the Burning Wheel, it is an outcome of a complex network of rolls that surprisingly produce this specific change. 

    I am just adding in these examples because I think that the means feel different, but I think the effect is the same. And I really like what both of these force players to do.

    • Awesome! Yes, this is another

      Awesome! Yes, this is another great example. Interestingly, Det sjätte inseglet is a game explicitly about heroes turning to bastards, and there is a mechanic to drive towards this. In short, to get the dice you need to win conflicts, you have to cave in to your character flaw, so you basically get to choose between being an asshole and losing your conflicts, but sometimes, sometimes you manage to balance it out and get a more or less happy ending. Anyway, that mechanic wasn't what drove Eduardo to the wreck of a man he turned out to be. It was just a lost conflict and the way it was narrated.

      Your example makes a good case for a meaty system, which can really deliver these kinds of things through their varied interactions. I've been designing and playing really minimalist games the last few years, working to find that one little thing that really matters and skipping the rest, and it's been really rewarding and a learning experience, but I'm getting a bit of my willingness to play crunchier systems back. I think a system designed to deliver these kinds of surprising and consequential results that don't come from the desires of the players (i.e. bouncy) would be interesting to design and play.

    • I may have a game or two in

      I may have a game or two in mind for you. What you describe is, perhaps, my personal design specialty.

    • Really glad to read your

      Really glad to read your experience here, Sam! The kind of changes in personality your PC experienced are part of what I want to have in my Finding Haven game, and also my latest zombie game iteration. 

      After you were disappointed by the failed rolls and your PCs subsequent changes, can you identify what helped inspire you to play him again?

    • This is a reply to

      This is a reply to Dreamofpeace (who I think is Manu?). Well…part of the process of wanting to play Gerard (my knight guy) again was sleeping off my dissapointment. The second part was realizing how cool Gerard's story was so far, and how my choices had led to him being where he was. I realized that the character was not broken or unplayable or anything. I also realized that my sadness/anger had been from misaligned expectations. I don't think I had quite internalized how lethal Burning Wheel can be when you don't have buckets of artha from playing the game wrong (the claim that it isn't lethal because you can just save your Persona is boring and encourages players to do nothing until they have 10 persona sitting around….which is, again, boring!)

      Going into the Fight!, the game seems to expect you to have buckets of Persona to spend just incase you get hurt bad. It even says in the text of the Health section something along the lines of Make sure you save your artha for Health tests! right after revealing the absurdly high difficulty of recovering from a Superb wound. 

      I have noticed that my enjoyment of the game decreases when I encounter the types of tests that basically say "Fuck you, save your artha for this." A lot of the more difficult rolls are almost deterministic in nature without artha…which means that a lot of the rolls are almost deterministic until you play 12 sessions. You have to play the game to get the fun dice??? Give me them now! 

      So I basically realized that I need to play way more carefully. And I am accepting, for now, the way the game wants you to play. Because if you don't do what the game expects, your character will be severely punished. And, oddly enough, I am excited. 

    • Hi Sam, yes it’s me 🙂 So

      Hi Sam, yes it's me 🙂 So would you say that if you went into the game with different expectations, you wouldn't have been as crushed by those tough rolls? I'm also hearing that some of the game's procedures are getting in the way of your fun, true?

    • Yes to both of your questions

      Yes to both of your questions. But I don't know if I really have a final judgement or any firm judgement on my feelings on Burning Wheel. Some stuff I really like, and some stuff I don't…so far.

  5. Baring my teeth today

    I’m following up on a small but pointed concept: the experience of “disappointment,” which I think needs clarifying and to be stripped of its alarming or frightening aspects. Simon and Sam, correct me if I misrepresent you in any way. I’m working from my own experience, but I think it matches what you’re saying.

    So: since time immemorial or at least since role-playing’s infancy, players have been told, “Suck it up, that’s the game,” in response to some mechanics-based outcome. It used to be applied mainly for character’s deaths: you’re supposed to take your lumps, then get up, dust yourself off, smile bravely, and march back into play like a good soldier. Objections or confusions are for pussies (which is why they show up tacitly as game design, largely in leaked-tears defiance of such experiences).

    This isn’t what we’re talking about here. It’s not about getting over disappointment. It’s not about losing your investment in your character and starting over. It’s not about casting about in your mind because now you have the “challenge” of playing your cool guy in diminished or messed-up form. It’s not about conforming to the text in Amber that you’d play your guy no matter what because you love him, like a real role-player does.

    This is about fuel. The change-up from one’s expectations is fleeting – it’s not a completed or finished state of mind. It’s transitional from a potential to a kinetic state of play. One must distinguish between committed expectations in, for example, a character, vs. those which are understood to be provisional. This is, I think, obligatory for any thinking and feeling adult. One may even – but this is not required – be willing to convert some of the former into the latter during play.

    Let’s stick with the baseline of knowing that some of your “concept” is provisional, subject to change and even pure destruction. This becomes fuel – i.e., positive – when and if your ability to play is never at issue, never curtailed. Possibly some vision or presumption about what you were playing is now impossible or shattered, but it was only presumption … and you can still keep playing as a real and full person at the table. That’s the main difference from the character death in early D&D or being hosed by some asshole at the table who’s more glib than you at “storytelling” in Amber or a similar game, both of which knock you down as a participant, in real life. (I have very carefully chosen examples that include the most dice-y version vs. the least dice-y version so we do not get distracted by that variable.)

    In the Burning Wheel example, the Beliefs and Instincts rules are available for Sam to change, to respond to the new situation in a fashion that matters for the next situations of play. To him, the character is actually not diminished in effectiveness, even with the reduction in the dice (scores’ dice in Burning Wheel are merely substrate for the bonuses and situational aspects of play anyway). Whether that’s good enough for you or me regarding this particular game is another question; apparently it is for Sam, at least for this variable. That’s one of the core points of whether one likes a given title or not, and it is a personal judgment.

    I think this is a big issue. One of the worst features of RPG design in this century is flinching away from it with “freeeedom” as the rallying cry. If nothing happens that you don’t like, then that’s good, right? It means you like everything! Which is fun ™! Hence we have FATE and other infantile crap built from misinterpretations of The Pool and Primetime Adventures that think these games are about rolling dice (cards, shifting points around, whatever) to get the power to say what you want. Or which create empty spaces to say what you want because it doesn’t matter, and you’re supposed to like it because you’re so free, which is what I see in Dungeon World and Blades in the Dark no matter how many people keep finding table-solutions that make them locally good or at least folerable.

    Instead, it’s about recognizing that change is the core of a working RPG system, and knowing what you’ll accept as changeable (potentially to be flexible about that in play; again, not required, merely possible). Let’s get out of this notion that good little soldiers have to like being beaten up (being squashed instead of bounced), or that good little rebels are free from all change that startles them (no bounce). This shit is at the core of the whole “trad vs. indie” construct, which is, in fact, wrong & stupid & bad. Given that it's possible to play with change, even unexpected or cart-overturning change, it's also necessary to say that because this is a choice and a personal division between acceptable/unacceptable (with the surprising quality of some things being more acceptable than we thought), it is also possible to say "that particular system doesn't work for me," or "I was surprised to find that this one actually did."

    That's also why one should design out of one's own successful experiences of play, and not for what others want, or say they want.

    • I think I get what you’re

      I think I get what you're saying, though it's a bit on the abstract level. I'm not convinced about the early D&D death thing, but I don't think we should talk about it, because 1) I've never played early D&D (or any D&D except a single session of 4E) and 2) I think it would distract from the purpose of this thread.

      But yeah, I read your comment as saying any plans or expectations you have going into the game about how the fiction will evolve need to be provisional, because the essence of roleplaying is that no one player has complete control. Locking on to a vision of how the game will play out is a recipe for disappointment and frustration, either for you (because the game didn't turn out that way) or for others (because you're forcing that vision on to the game, killing the spontaneous collaboration). "Hold your ideas lightly", as Graham Walmsley says in Play Unsafe. When you cling to these ideas from a GM perspective, it's railroading, and clinging to them from a player's perspective is basically player-side railroading, which either stifles the game just like GM railroading (if you have the authority to enforce your vision) or results in frustration (if you don't and your plans are ruined).

      An important part of roleplaying (or at least of the styles that I enjoy) is the meeting and crossbreeding of ideas. The fiction that results is not the product of any one mind, but of many, and the result is unpredictable. With a bouncy system you get even more unpredictability as the game itself throws ideas into the mix. And this can only happen if the ideas have power. If all ideas are subject to the approval of each participant, you get a story by committee, and it's going to be a bland result of the least common denominator.

      And a large part of the fun and the skill of roleplaying, as I see it, is taking these unexpected and even unwelcome things that happen and working with them, making them into fuel for the story. And that's what these anecdotes are about: Taking something unexpected and working with it, making it awesome. Just like in any hobby, your greatest accomplishments don't come from the easy parts, but from the challenges.

    • Ok, let’s see if I get what

      Ok, let's see if I get what you're saying, Ron. If I understand correctly, you're making a distinction between two kinds of disappointment, and saying that they're different in kind. In type 1 disappointment, the crushed feelings result from something truly egregious happening to your ability or agency to play your character in real life. In type 2 disappointment, your expectations about *how* you are going to play your character, and what their features are in the fictional world, have changed, and this can either be a fleeting feeling replaced by renewed creative energy, or the changes are such that you think you are no longer able to play the character – your creative mojo runs dry.

      So the examples that you listed of type 1 are character death in early D&D or being talked over and bullied in a game like Amber. An example of type 2 is what Sam related. I had an experience once in an Ars Magica campaign where another player mind-controlled my character, preventing him from doing what I thought was important for his character concept. I objected but the player refused to budge, so I wound up leaving the campaign. I'm not sure which category that example belongs to – maybe both?

      Anyway your point is that we shouldn't be afraid of type 2 disappointment; changes have to happen to characters. Some games just won't work for some people because they don't enjoy the kinds of changes that happen, and that's ok. Have I got you right?    

    • (to Manu) Allowing for

      (to Manu) Allowing for details which lead into sub-topics and maybe other topics, yes, that's a reasonable paraphrase. I don't think of "2" even as being disappointment at all, as far as terms go. I also think that if one has been trained to tolerate "1," including rejecting the training ("anti-1"), then it's very difficult to assess anything about "2" without fairly intensive play-experience and reflection.

      This may be relevant or helpful: when reading Simon's comment, I changed or adjusted his phrasing where he refers to any assumption or expectation as subject to change. I'm pretty sure I'm not that open or unconstrained about it, so I mentally inserted "almost" and was fine with everything then. So that could be an example of variation on the personal side.

    • Great, thanks Ron. And I

      Great, thanks Ron. And I appreciate the reminder of designing for yourself; if we're not designing for the kinds of experiences we enjoy ourselves, the project is likely doomed from the start. 

    • Since you’re a Scorching

      Since you're a Scorching client, I want to stress the following as a serious component of that professional relationship.

      I phrased the design point differently: "out of," meaning, not for desired positive experiences, but from.

    • Ooh, another important

      Ooh, another important distinction! I think I got it. Thanks!

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