How hard should staff enforce theme?


  • Politics

    @Thenomain said:

    Alice in Wonderland can be read without the satire element, for example, and legitimately so, so how would you enforce the satire and fucked-up nature of a theoretical AiW game?

    I'm not sure you can reconcile both. Satire is satire: a calculated ribbing of some particular trope. Fucked-up shit sort of implies going off of the rails of any trope or purpose. To enforce satire, though, I think you are very much limited to heavy staff RP involvement.



  • @Ganymede said:

    @Ghost said:

    Aha! But what about the element of Grimm's Fairy Tales?

    Perhaps we are working with different versions of Changeling: the Lost, or coming from a different perspective, but in my opinion, the player's character is the sweet little old lady. She just doesn't know it yet.

    Mmmm. Fae: Dark Ages. You want to see the kind of mind boggling combination of magic, horror and a mixture of fantasies? F:DA. Blight farms! Make the land fertile! Etc.

    Also, Changeling: The Lost does move how you're saying, but generally it is undercurrent. The Changelings get that way to fight The Others, until The Hedge, or Wyrd take them and - MUAHAHAHAHAAA!

    One morning you're watching Winnie the Pooh on the television, the next; you're living it.


  • Pitcrew

    It might be worth considering what is meant by "enforce", as well.

    Setting a strong SENSE of theme is a good start. But telling people who you've approved that they're "playing it wrong" is unlikely to lead to a better game culture and happy players. I'd argue that we should be finding the RP and characters who best exemplify whatever theme we're going for, and reinforcing that positively. If, for example, you're running a zombie apocalypse game, publicly give bonus XP to posted scenes that, for example, have a group of survivors killing and eating one of their own because they're starving. Publicly praise the player who has their PC die in a zombie attack, or do Something Stupid that imperils the community because they're starving or crazy.


  • Admin

    @Thenomain said:

    Not a theoretical question. How would you enforce a certain reading of Alice to get that kind of game?

    The easy answer is 'you can't'. You can enforce - which to me means "oversee and infuse scenes with" - that sort of thing but doing it game-wide is impossible since not all players would be able or willing to do so without supervision or assistance, and you can't provide them all with a Storyteller around the clock.

    A better answer though is 'you can, but it's slow, by working on making it part of the game's culture'. Then those specific players who don't conform are either regulated or isolated by the majority and new ones become educated as to what you're looking for through osmosis simply by being in roleplay with others.

    I suspect what it comes down to is whether your vision of the game is something players are willing to coopt and invest in or not, which isn't a given. I mean you'd think "hey, I'm making a game about a certain reading of Alice" would only draw folks who like the material or the angle you chose but there's a kind of player who will go to a MU* with a specific theme and play things contrary or at least irrelevant to it. The trick is to make people want to do it.

    I mean you could chase them around with a big stick but it's a soul-grinding process for everyone involved. I'd go with the cultural shift thing.


  • Coder

    @Ganymede

    I meant more the innocent reading of Alice and the fucked-up one. Or: Can you make an Alice game where the players are not fishmalks, without it being Just Another Faerie Tale Land.


  • Politics

    @Thenomain said:

    Can you make an Alice game where the players are not fishmalks, without it being Just Another Faerie Tale Land.

    If this is a challenge, I'd accept it.

    I would start with the Wiki. I would refer everyone there. I would then inundate the game with scenes to start with to show the players what I would like. Hopefully, they could run with that.

    Nothing too different, I guess.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain said:

    Not to turn this thread into What's Wrong With Changeling Players, but Winnie the Pooh and Hedge Bars are from people who are unfamiliar with the source material. Once things like this get approved, staff would have to take a break from their otherwise very busy day and find a good resolution to make this stuff not happen. The discussion might start with something like, "I think you may have read the wrong book."

    I had a point here that I forgot to conclude with: Once a character is approved, it's very hard to correct borderline non thematic actions, which breeds more, and more, as the border moves to accepted and the less accepted thematic violations become borderline and then, later, the norm.

    This needs a name. It's why all WoD settings become Bland By Night.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain
    I officially dub it theme drift.
    Part of it in inevitable. In any game that is remotely successful staff will be outnumbered by players by a wide margin. PC tend towards being exceptional individuals that is why we play them but it is a very common theme to be the guy that pushes the envelope as a character. Look at Dirty Harry. He is a maverick cop. Lets say there is a game that focuses on realistic crime drama. Harry Callahan is a perfectly in theme character but near the edges, well the next char that want to play the common maverick trope goes one step father since who wants to be the lesser maverick . This continues until said Dirty Harry is the closest thing to exemplary police work and procedure on the game. players are going to play what they find fun, if that is hedging theme then it will be an uphill battle for staff to keep theme in place.


  • Coder

    I do like "theme drift", but I think it goes further. "Theme normalization," perhaps, where the players as an entity drag the theme toward an unspoken expectation that is at odds with the theme from the source material that they apparently wanted to play.



  • "Theme normalization" makes it sound like its supposed to happen, or is a good thing. I think its more of a hijacking or kidnapping than anything. Its a conscious effort put forth, generally by a group of compatriots with a like-minded goal, who will not hesitate to make life miserable for everyone if they don't get their way.


  • Pitcrew

    @Miss-Demeanor said:

    "Theme normalization" makes it sound like its supposed to happen, or is a good thing. I think its more of a hijacking or kidnapping than anything. Its a conscious effort put forth, generally by a group of compatriots with a like-minded goal, who will not hesitate to make life miserable for everyone if they don't get their way.

    How about "theme homogenization"?



  • @Coin Ehhhhhhhhh... homogenization has too many definitions. And I mean that literally. It has four definitions. The first definition wouldn't be far off, though I'm still more partial to giving it a negative connotation as I firmly believe that 99% of the time its done through conscious decision and effort.


  • Pitcrew

    @Miss-Demeanor said:

    @Coin Ehhhhhhhhh... homogenization has too many definitions. And I mean that literally. It has four definitions. The first definition wouldn't be far off, though I'm still more partial to giving it a negative connotation as I firmly believe that 99% of the time its done through conscious decision and effort.

    Homogenization can be plenty negative, especially within a society that claims to sponsor, support, and encourage individuality.



  • And is still a word most often associated with dairy products. Also, we all know that society is lying through its teeth by claiming to support anything other than the continuation of the status quo. So it still doesn't work very well. RPG's, by their very nature, require you to conform to a ruleset and stick within a theme.


  • Pitcrew

    @Miss-Demeanor said:

    And is still a word most often associated with dairy products. Also, we all know that society is lying through its teeth by claiming to support anything other than the continuation of the status quo. So it still doesn't work very well. RPG's, by their very nature, require you to conform to a ruleset and stick within a theme.

    [throws hands up]

    I think you're overcontextualizing something. A word exists and fits; if its other definitions and meanings overshadow its purpose in this case for you, that's personal, I think. But either way, no skin off my back.



  • None of the terms suggested didn't -fit- to some extent. Doesn't mean any of them were the -right- term, my own suggestion included.


  • Admin

    @ThatGuyThere said:

    Look at Dirty Harry. He is a maverick cop. Lets say there is a game that focuses on realistic crime drama. Harry Callahan is a perfectly in theme character but near the edges, well the next char that want to play the common maverick trope goes one step father since who wants to be the lesser maverick .

    Let's say you launch a game based on Dirty Harry. It's set in the seventies for that added grit factor and you intend to run hardcore cop drama.

    Some players come in who like the seventies angle. Not the cop drama stuff - they run something completely different, such as try to run their time-machine version of Narco there by having their PCs start importing heroin from Colombia, or maybe don't even go to crime but play PCs engaged in a oil tycoon family fued. Or whatever else that's not quite what you had in mind, hand-picking one aspect of your game (in this case the time period) to do something else instead.

    Now - this is where it gets tricky - say they're having fun with it. In fact it's gaining popularity compared to the mainstream game purpose, more players are getting into that than chasing bank robbers or avenging kidnapped kids. What do you do?


  • Pitcrew

    @Miss-Demeanor said:

    "Theme normalization" makes it sound like its supposed to happen, or is a good thing. I think its more of a hijacking or kidnapping than anything. Its a conscious effort put forth, generally by a group of compatriots with a like-minded goal, who will not hesitate to make life miserable for everyone if they don't get their way.

    From another angle, is it a good game if it's demanding an experience that players don't actually want? In my experience, it ISN'T a single group of unified people who are actively running off all the silent masses who want to play the game The Way It Should Be Played. Rather, it's the simple fact that people aren't as devoted to playing within a given theme as they might say they are. A lot of people say "Oh god, Winnie the Pooh bars in the Hedge - it's the WORLD OF DARKNESS"...while, at the same time, they're totally running their Victorian tea houses, or playing Biker King of the Wastes.

    When it comes down to it, quite a lot of people want to play something that's fun, has an element of wish fulfillment (wish fulfillment about being an over-sexed, druggie biker who turns into a ragewolf without having to worry about cops or consequences is as much wish fulfillment as the pretty sparkle princess with her true love) or power fantasy, and is easy enough to get into that you can go from contemplating to playing within a day or two.

    While I would like to see more games with a stronger theme, I don't think that the theme drifters are actively setting out to "ruin" a game, and I don't think they're a unified crew of saboteurs - they're just players. Playing what they consider to be fun. I feel like, if you want a stronger adherence to theme among the playerbase, you have to show the players WHY and HOW playing to the theme you're hoping for is going to be fun for them.



  • @Pyrephox And I have personal experience with getting shut out of a sphere because I tried to play a game TO THEME, while the other group decided it should be all pretty princesses and tea parties. They aren't necessarily trying to ruin the game, but they have zero qualms about ruining YOUR experience if you don't play the same game they are. And yes, this is multiple time occurrences.



  • Staff should always enforce theme. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I've found that having a few NPCs around is a good way to do it, offering the 'canon' viewpoint.

    Of course to enforce theme, you need to both have an articulated idea of what your theme is, and easy access to theme. It shouldn't be buried deep in news files.