[MUD-Dev] Something in the water

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 29 23:04:02 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Thursday 26 July 2001 12:16 am, J C Lawrence wrote:
> Travis Casey <efindel at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> Wednesday, July 25, 2001, 1:57:08 AM, J C Lawrence wrote:
>>> Caliban Tiresias Darklock <caliban at darklock.com> wrote:
>>>> J C Lawrence <claw at 2wire.com> wrote:

>> I'd say that the first thing you have to do is define what RP is.
>> I've given my own definition of RP many times here before, but to
>> save anyone from having to dig in the archives, here it is:

>>   Roleplaying is making decisions about "what does my character
>>   do next" in character.  That is, such decisions should be based
>>   on the question, "What would this character do, given his/her
>>   knowledge of the situation, current physical/mental state,
>>   etc?"

>> There are, of course, other people who have different
>> definitions.  One common definition seems to be:

>>   Roleplaying is interacting with others in character.

>> I'll refer to these as definition #1 and #2, respectively, in
>> this message.

> The essential difference being that the former is an internal
> perception (you of your character) and the latter an external
> (others of your character).  In essence they are both attempting
> to define the same thing -- its just the viewpoints are different.

I don't think they are attempting to define in the same thing.  In
fact, the reason that I originally formally stated my definition is
that I was disagreeing with people who believed that a single-player
computer game could not be a roleplaying game, because there was no
one in it to roleplay with.

By definition #1, one can roleplay in a single-player game, whether
it be a computer game or a paper game.  By definition #2, one
cannot, short of AI strong enough that the computer can be counted
as an "other".

>>> Posit:

>>>   Player value requires communication.

>>> Counter:

>>>   No communication equals no value.

>>> The silent type who stands about and says nothing communicates
>>> nothing and therefore (arguably) has little/no value to the game
>>> or other players within the game context.

>> Which matters, *if* the purpose of the system is to reward those
>> who are of value to the game and/or other players.  With a stated
>> goal of "rewarding roleplaying", though, we can't make that
>> assumption.

> So:

>   If a bear roleplays in the woods, does anybody notice?

The bear certainly does.  :-) Further, others may become aware of
the bear's roleplaying -- or lack thereof -- later.


I'm playing a character who is supposed to love fresh blueberries.
My character is walking through a forest, alone, and comes across a
blueberry bush is season.  There's no one around, so I know I won't
get any RP points for eating the blueberries, so I don't eat any of
them, and just go on past.

Later, Boffo, who is looking for me, comes to the blueberry bush.
He sees the tracks going by, so he knows someone has been here.
Since none of the blueberries have been eaten, Boffo concludes that
it was not me, and does not follow the tracks.

Even though a player's character is alone, that player's roleplaying
-- or failure to roleplay -- can impact later events.

> Or perhaps more significantly:

>   What value are RP points to a character who doesn't observably
>   RP in the presence of others?

I don't think that's the question you probably meant to ask... as
you've written it, though, the answer is obviously that they have
value according to what that character can do with them.

>> Using definition #1, such a system has nothing to do with
>> roleplaying at all -- you can roleplay without ever interacting
>> with another character, and you can contribute great value to the
>> game without ever actually roleplaying.

> Quite.

> Does the fact that you have a saintly soul or are in fact a chess
> genius have any relevant value if that fact is never revealed or
> detectable?

Insufficient data -- value relevant to what or whom?  It may be very
relevant to the player of the character, since either one could
color other decisions that the character makes.  Perhaps not in a
way that makes these aspects of the character obvious to others, but
it will still color them.


In a D&D campaign I am currently playing in, at one point the
characters had been underground on a mission for more than three
months.  I decided that my character was becoming depressed -- but
since my character was a priest of the goddess of life, and felt a
responsibility to support and uplift the party, he would keep up a
false front and pretend not to be depressed.

Now, since this was a paper game, I was able to simply tell the GM
that my character was depressed.  Later, I decided that my character
was starting to verge on being suicidal.  This, of course, affected
his relationship with his goddess for the worse, impacting his
spells.  In an online game, such an effect could be achieved by GM
intervention, but might also be achieved through watching
roleplaying in some way.

Further, while the other players didn't know that he was depressed,
they did notice some of the outcomes of that... e.g., that he had a
harder time casting his spells, and that, towards the end, he was
volunteering for dangerous jobs a lot more than he used to.

Another thing to consider is that, while a fact about a character's
personality might not have been revealed or detected yet, that
doesn't mean that will always be true.  To give another example from
the same game, I've decided that my cleric has fallen in love with a
fighter played by another player.  However, he knows that another
character in the party is in love with her, and that for him to
express his love could cause problems in the party.  Thus, again,
this is something that I'm roleplaying, but that the other
characters and their players do not know about.  Indeed, since this
wouldn't affect any game mechanical things, I haven't even informed
the GM. However, it has colored my character's actions towards that
character -- he's talking to her more often, trying to be close to
her in the marching order, etc.

However, even though no one knows it yet, it's still possible that a
situation could come up in which my character's love for the other
would be revealed -- and in that case, the other players would be
able to look back over my character's past actions and see that he
was indeed in love with her, but unwilling to express it openly.

To me, this sort of thing is a necessary part of roleplaying, if
you're going to do it well.  Have you ever had the experience of
realizing that a friend of yours believes or desires something, and
then, seeing their past actions in light of that new knowledge,
knowing when they came to that?  Or having old conversations with
them suddenly take on a new significance?  IMHO, in a
well-roleplayed game, those sorts of things should happen -- and for
that to happen requires that people roleplay even things about
themselves that other players don't know yet.

>> IMHO, "rewarding roleplaying" is a very bad specification for
>> what you want a system to do.  In order to implement a real
>> system, the goals ought to be better defined.

> Underneath is a semi-Pavlovian model which assumes that positive
> rewards for Good Behaviour will encourage further Good Behaviour
> (Pavlov concentrated more on negative reinforcement).  Central to
> such an approach is the idea that the Good Behaviour can be both
> defined and quantified, and then, that given such (which is
> tacitly assumed) that a system can be arranged which created the
> positive reinforcement loop.

>   Not sure how many of you have kids: the cherry and stick
>   approach does NOT always work, or even work reliably in the
>   cases it does work.

True.  On the other hand, it does work better than doing nothing.

> You've defined two definitional models for RP: one player
> viewpoint centric and one player base viewpoint centric.  I'd
> argue that under definition #1 RP is neither mechanically
> definable or quantifiable, and that under definition #2 the
> problem is both large and unmalleable.

> However that doesn't seem the critical point.  The critical aspect
> seems to be:

>   Type #1 RP is explicitly undetectable and undefinable by
>   mechanical systems.

Right now, yes -- but there's nothing that makes it *in principle*
undetectable and undefinable.  After all, human GMs manage to work
with it. We may need strong AI to handle it, but I'm one of those
people who believes that strong AI will probably be achieved within
the next 50 to 100 years.

>   Type #2 RP *may* be detectable and quantifiable, but its known
>   to be a hard problem.

Yep.  And, more importantly from my point of view, it's not what I
want to reward.  It may be a halfway decent approximation, but
personally, I at least want to keep #1 in mind as a goal.

> Now, if we're only talking about externally viewed RP that
> significantly simplifies the problemscape -- __ALL__ we are
> interested in are the activities of players that are subject to
> being viewed by other players and thereby judged.

Why limit ourselves to what other players view, though?  We can
detect emotes, says, etc. even when other players aren't present, so
they can also be checked for consistency.  Further, you could add
commands to let players "roleplay" to the system -- e.g., a "think"
command that the system monitors, but which is not echoed to other
players in any way.

To put it another way: definitions #1 and #2 are only two
definitions.  There are many more possible ones.

> That doesn't implicitly select against the taciturn (other than
> socially), but it does select against the wall flower of the
> Shakespearean wanna-be who recites to empty halls where nobody can
> hear.  This latter case however doesn't fit definition #2, and so
> doesn't apply.

> I can see why this doesn't make many RP'ers happy as there seems
> to be a common confusion between the two definitional types such
> taht a firm believer in definition #1 will then think he is
> applying that definition to others in his game when in fact the
> simple fact of the application of the definition to a character
> not his own EXPLICITLY makes it an applications of definition #2.

No, it does not.  You're assuming that the person is only capable of
observing the other character's social interactions with others,
since that is all #2 includes.  However, a person could get
information about another's roleplaying through several other
channels -- especially if that person is a gamemaster in a game.

For example, my telling my GM that my character was depressed was
not interacting with others in character -- but it was roleplaying.

>> Or, to put it another way: The appearance of roleplaying is more
>> valued than the actuality of it.

> Rephrasing:

>   Things are only important if groups of people agree they are
>   important.  If a group decides that a certain form of behaviour
>   is RP and is desirable, then, well, it is.

Sure, I'll accept that.  However, they still have to define what
that is, which is the essential part of my point.  Just saying, "we
want to encourage roleplaying" without defining roleplaying is only
going to confuse things.

>>>> An active staff involved in maintaining a desired environment
>>>> is helpful for RP, while it tends to get in the way of
>>>> game-oriented play.

>>>   You can't kill the beggar!

>>>   Why not?  He's worth 15 XP!

>>>   But he's a beggar!  You're supposed to pity him and give him
>>>   spare change and maybe some scraps of food.

>>>   Screw that!  I only need 20 more XP to level and he'll do
>>>   nicely for most of it.  How many XP is the little orphan
>>>   worth?  Maybe I'll just stab the leper.  That should be worth
>>>   at least 5.

>> Logical consequences within the game world can help as
>> well... and, for that matter, getting rid of the whole
>> "shoot-and-loot" D&D-style experience structure can as well.

> John Hopson's recent post would seem to have hit that one.

Do you have a date for that post?  I think I must have missed it...

In any case, though, many paper RPGs have provided alternative means
of advancement besides "shoot-and-loot" or "XP through roleplaying".
Some of these resemble methods that some muds use.  (E.g., "XP for
accomplishing story goals" is similar to "XP for completing

       |\      _,,,---,,_     Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-' 
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_) 
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