Friday, February 19, 2016

Podcast Reactions: Play On Target -- Trust

Once again, a set of reactions to the Play On Target podcast. This time, the discussion centred around the issue of trust in RPGs. I highly recommend listening in on this one, as the issue is responsible for many a dissolved campaign (and even gaming groups).

Interpersonal Trust

To my mind, many of these 'violations of trust' seem to center around a case of a difference in expectations -- between the GM and the Players, or between the Players themselves.

They can be as mild as a difference in expectations for a horror game -- perhaps where the GM meant psychological horror, while the Players understood it to be supernatural horror.

On the other hand, it could be an outright violation of general etiquette, which we need not tackle as the differences of social maturity in groups (especially in the stereotypical demographic of gamers) are not really my area of interest right now.

What does intrigue me for this topic are cultural differences that we end up blindsided by, because gaming is a very different pastime from sports, joining a book club, or getting drunk at the local watering hole. While we may pretend to be different people at these events, or show only a particular side of ourselves at these gatherings, you're still generally being judged as 'yourself'. In RPG sessions, there's a "player character" that you can hide behind, or be confused by, especially if -- as mentioned prior -- the stereotypical demographic isn't that well-versed in social skills or introspection.

Admittedly, gamer culture is young, and varies from play group to play group, sp there's no commonly referred to body of knowledge for newbies to refer to. Solutions to many problems appear to be common sense, but rely on anticipating (through experience or a certain level of human empathy and cultural sensitivity) that specific problems are likely to surface. 

And to complicate matters --

Game System & Trust

That's right, sometimes the game purposely works to make the PCs betray each other, and thus (potentially) have the players feel betrayed as well. In real life.

If I recall correctly, Phoenix Command really messed with trust in the GM and the game itself. If I recall correctly, the players's book sets up a particular kind of game (rah-rah we're the best nation in the world), and the GMs book tells a different (post-apocalyptic rebuilding) game campaign.

Paranoia was a game that gave every character a secret society and a mutant power (both grounds for treason), and the secret societies often gave conflicting sub-missions to the current mission that the Troubleshooters were assigned to.

Cold City had a mechanic (much like to an optional rule in Night's Black Agents) that encouraged PCs to build up trust between the characters, so that when betrayal took place it would give a bonus to a particular action.

In these cases, these are by design -- with varying degrees of success per gaming group I'm sure. (After all, not everyone takes to the resultant lying and backstabbing in boardgames like Diplomacy).

However, +Lowell Francis points out that some games themselves violate trust, suggesting certain kinds of things about the gameplay and setting, but aren't supported by the rules.

I know how he feels, and it's part of the reason I totally support bell curve systems like the Hero System vs. any linear systems (unless they're coupled with something like the point-spend mechanic in Gumshoe). They make your PCs feel competent, instead of lucky amateurs.

Fading Suns' Victory Points had that problem, if you looked at the ratings of stat and skill levels. So did the classic WOD system (5 pips makes you one of the best in the world? Sure didn't feel like it), and one of my favourite systems for other reasons -- Interlock.

Summaries and Future Reactions

In short, the topic touches on many surprising aspects of the gaming experience. Once again, the Play On Target crew have unearthed a key topic that can be mined in more detail in future posts.

Which I hope to do some day soon.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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