Wednesday, December 07, 2011

In Which The Warlock Postulates Verbage and Bondage...

In my recent games, it's become more and more apparent that games have begun to fall into a continuum of sorts, when talking about set pieces.

As most English teachers can tell you, verbs come in two sorts: active and passive. Active verbs imply some sort of action: run, jump, climb, eat, eviscerate, disembowel, etc. Passive verbs come from the declension of the infinitive "to be"--is, are, was, were...all of these are passive voice verbs.  Writers typically try to avoid passive voice verbs, by and large, but there are several times where passive voice may be more appropriate to a situation or character.   

As GMs, we all like to think our games run in the active voice, but rarely is that truly the case. Rather, we're often most content to be on the receiving end of our entertainment. The start of "The Flood" provides a great example of this phenomenon. It seems like a very active-voice introduction--steam wagon battles and ghost-rock bombs drive the plot forward at breakneck speed. But, in actuality, the PCs are merely witnesses, and not participants in the majority of the action. While the Great Rail Wars reach their culmination, the PCs get to watch their NPC counterparts hog the spotlight. This isn't meant to be a knock against the campaign--my players have loved it and I've really enjoyed running it for them--but for all the high stakes, the PCs are skating around under the radar rather than rolling with the movers and shakers.

Much has been made of so-called "sandbox" gaming, where the plot is entirely driven by PC actions and motivations. And, truly, in ideal terms, that would provide a more active gaming experience. However, this requires significant buy-in from all players at the table, with prep work spread across numerous people.

Anthony Bourdain clearly has
the Two-Weapon Fighting edge...
My favorite foodie, Anthony Bourdain, describes the act of eating as a fundamentally submissive, passive experience. Done correctly, Bourdain claims, a diner should feel comfortable enough to hand their minds and palates over to the chef and simply savor. The chef, in essence, dominates the show, determining each flavor, each texture, and each experience as they intend it to be.

Perhaps in this vein, good game mastery, like the act of cookery, should fundamentally be a dominant, active act? But then, what of the active player, eager to break off in new directions? They're in a different position than the eater, whose role has intrinsically less input. Should a gamer be penalized for positive actions that add to a game? Of course not!

Fun...and good for theorizing on
proper Game-Mastery?
As strange as it is to say, the best analogy I can provide would actually come from BDSM, of all places. If a game master is a dominant, then the ideal player would be a submissive that struggles and resists, providing input and suggestions that provide intrigue and nuance to the established norms of the game. And, as one might imagine, the best Dungeon Master (in both senses of the term) is the one that knows when to back off, and let the players play.

As with all things, balance and variety serve as the keystone. While a player might be dominant in one game, they may come off as submissive or passive in another. Similarly, a quality GM should be able to alternate control of the game, passing dominance back and forth amongst players, all the while loosely holding the reins of the ongoing story.

38 comments:

  1. I can't say that I'd ever considered it in this perspective, but you have a point. The top provides a range of experiences and sensation for the bottom, just a DM provides scenarios and situations for the players. In both cases the 'master' can be reasonably expected to determine the experiences to be delivered, either through request from (or consideration of) the 'submissive' participant(s).

    Fascinating, thank you for bringing this idea to my attention.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment, Keith!

    I had honestly been debating whether to go so far as to make the actual analogy between BDSM and the game-table, but the balance between dominant and submissive roles was so fitting to the game-table, that I decided it would be worth the somewhat head-scratching controversy.

    I'm currently working on a few game-master centric essays to accompany my "The Pendulum Method" in an upcoming book. I may just have stumbled upon my third essay topic without even realizing it.

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous9:19 AM

    I'm no longer certain the place you're getting your info, however great topic.

    I must spend a while learning more or working out more. Thanks
    for excellent info I used to be in search of this information
    for my mission.
    Feel free to surf my page :: froxh.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous2:01 PM

    fantastic put up, very informative. I'm wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector don't realize
    this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you have
    a great readers' base already!
    My webpage http://www.communityoftalents.nl

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous6:41 PM

    Howdy! I'm at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!
    Here is my page ... http://transconventional.com/EldenSquir

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous8:58 PM

    First off I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you don't
    mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head
    before writing. I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost
    simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Cheers!
    My webpage ... insurance company

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous5:40 PM

    Hi, Neat post. There's an issue along with your website in internet explorer, might check this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a good component to other people will omit your wonderful writing due to this problem.
    Here is my web site - seo company india

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous2:20 PM

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest
    of the site is extremely good.
    Also visit my blog post : smoking drug

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous8:25 PM

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to
    be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I'm looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    Here is my web-site ... building Incoming links
    Also see my web site: advantages of link building

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous11:20 PM

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage?
    My blog is in the very same niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from some of the information you provide here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks a lot!

    Here is my blog post article marketing

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous12:21 AM

    Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make
    my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your theme.
    Appreciate it

    Check out my web site - Working At Home

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous5:12 AM

    I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it.

    I have you book marked to check out new stuff you
    post…

    my homepage ... http://wiki.seerious.info/index.php?title=U┼╝ytkownik:LinwoodRh

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Thanks to my father who informed me concerning this blog, this webpage is in fact
    remarkable.

    Also visit my website - calcium supplements

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous3:04 PM

    My family all the time say that I am wasting my time here at web, but I know I am getting know-how daily by reading such fastidious articles
    or reviews.

    Feel free to surf to my homepage :: http://wiki.vidait.vn/index.php?title=Self_Hypnosis_To_Stop_Smoking

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Hello there, You have done an excellent job.
    I'll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I'm confident they will be benefited from this site.


    My page chrisbaloney.com
    my web page > http://www.vetsforonehealth.org/?q=node/5677/

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous4:07 AM

    I have read so many content concerning the blogger lovers
    but this post is in fact a fastidious article, keep it up.



    Feel free to surf to my blog post http://goossipz.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I
    would like to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do so!
    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great article.


    my page fiber Supplements Especially

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous5:32 AM

    That is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one.

    A must read article!

    Here is my web site buy backlinks

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous12:01 AM

    Hey there! I'm at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the fantastic work!

    my website - business checks

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous5:19 AM

    I delight in, lead to I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for.
    You've ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

    my web page - ordering online checks

    ReplyDelete
  21. Anonymous1:57 PM

    I really like what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever
    work and exposure! Keep up the very good
    works guys I've incorporated you guys to my blogroll.

    My web page :: coffee shop

    ReplyDelete
  22. Anonymous5:03 PM

    I was pretty pleased to uncover this page. I wanted
    to thank you for ones time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every
    part of it and I have you book-marked to check out new
    information on your site.

    Also visit my blog: takemassageclasses.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anonymous6:24 PM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about kids christian clothing.

    Regards

    My web-site - www.szakibazis.com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anonymous11:52 PM

    I always used to read article in news papers but now as I am a user of internet therefore from now I am using net
    for content, thanks to web.

    Feel free to surf to my web page; next page

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous12:47 AM

    Keep this going please, great job!

    Feel free to surf to my webpage http://yellowmermaid.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. Anonymous12:55 AM

    Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team
    of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.

    Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!


    Feel free to surf to my homepage :: http://www.acoustichangout.com/china-wholesale-clothing-online-for-women-and-men/

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Hello everyone, it's my first go to see at this website, and paragraph is in fact fruitful for me, keep up posting these articles.

    My website: visit this web page link

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anonymous9:08 PM

    Wow, this post is good, my sister is analyzing these things, so I
    am going to convey her.

    Feel free to visit my website unwanted clothing items

    ReplyDelete
  29. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Very helpful info particularly the last part :) I care for such information a lot.
    I was looking for this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

    Look into my web-site; http://wiki.ku.dk/discoverer/index.php?title=Bruger:BarryTurk

    ReplyDelete
  30. Anonymous11:46 PM

    bookmarked!!, I love your website!

    Also visit my page :: http://www.moremead.com/the-right-way-to-design-your-own-clothes-online/

    ReplyDelete
  31. Anonymous5:17 PM

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to
    do it for you? Plz answer back as I'm looking to design my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. appreciate it

    Here is my web site - www.ktmet.com

    ReplyDelete
  32. Anonymous12:08 PM

    I always used to read piece of writing in news papers but now as I am a user of web therefore from now I am using
    net for posts, thanks to web.

    my blog ... http://whitecoatresearch.com/?p=27

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Good information. Lucky me I discovered your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I've book-marked it for later!

    my homepage ... sakuramboo.com

    ReplyDelete
  34. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Hi there everyone, it's my first go to see at this website, and piece of writing is truly fruitful for me, keep up posting such articles.

    Here is my blog post :: http://azonbundlereview.com/top-5-coolest-indie-clothing-online-stores/

    ReplyDelete
  35. Anonymous1:20 PM

    Hi, Neat post. There is a problem along with your
    site in internet explorer, would test this?

    IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a large component to folks will omit your magnificent writing due to this problem.


    Here is my site: baby clothing

    ReplyDelete
  36. Anonymous1:43 AM

    It's impressive that you are getting ideas from this post as well as from our dialogue made here.

    My blog post http://wiki.methodistyouth.eu/index.php?title=User:BernardWa

    ReplyDelete
  37. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?

    I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the
    blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


    Visit my page; http://wiki.meego-fr.org/index.php?title=Utilisateur:IsabellMc

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anonymous1:05 AM

    I read this piece of writing completely about the difference
    of hottest and earlier technologies, it's amazing article.

    Review my web-site: http://www.ultimaonline-wiki.de/index.php?title=Benutzer:NicoleCas

    ReplyDelete