Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Back to Basics - Empathy as the Goal

This is related to my post on the thesis that GMing is very much like Active Listening. Related to my Back to Basics line of articles.



I've been following Extra Credit Lately, and this piece speaks to me. Particularly as a GM or as someone who wants to Immerse in a Historical Setting.


Thesis: Evoking Empathy for the complexity of the situation and the character's internal conflicts is a mark of a Good Role-Playing Experience.

Can I use this Thesis to judge or measure a Scene? Isn't this a great tool to measure how RP-meaty or substantive a game and scenario can be?

What this thesis is leading me to is differentiating Game Decisions and Empathic Decisions (talked about in the Extra Credit Video above). That when we role-play a scene, I do not just simply look at Goals and Objectives, I look at factors that confuse and obscure objectivity and influence the decision making in a powerful way. It leads to the idea that "Can I judge a scene on how Heavily Empathic Factors weigh in on the decisions of the Character?" The farther from Objectivity, and the closer of having Irrational Motive govern the Characters. I can't exactly throw rationality out the door, but It i not anymore the most discernible element in a decision's factors.

Which  leads me to ask - Does this Game System allow for these messy empathic factors from influencing the decision making in the game? I can go on to say, that when I design my own GM-tools or RPG system, the easier it is for me to muddy a decision for a player the better the ROLE-PLAYING aspect of a system. I realize by this Metric or Standard, some systems grant the GM and Players more tools? 

Its the opposite of real life where we struggle for Objectivity, in an RPG we struggle for STRONGER EMPATHY of the character's circumstance. This is to exercise our empathy so that when we do struggle for objectivity, we have looked at the problem with other perspectives in consideration. 


How do I reward Empathic Decisions? 

Since these are suboptimal strategies, more often these kinds of decisions get the character killed and ends the stories. How do I rewards Empathic Decisions, while keeping the story going long enough to extract maximum drama and catharsis?

To get to the Point: I don't have a real answer. What answer I have deals with altering how we deal with Success or Failure in the Game system. I've altered my method of adjudication in my games, I do not explicitly say the penalty to the roll, I just ask the players to Roll. I do have some penalties in mind BUT what matters is the degree of success and WHAT the players/PCs further do in the situation. Basically - dont make it about ending in failure, that the story keeps going while the PCs are still alive even when they have a serious set back.

So, as a GM, try not to let it end with a roll. The Roll just summarizes the circumstance, but ultimately its the number, quality of strategies employed by the PC/Player and the Empathic Content that determines the consequences. This method of going about rolls allows for Non-Binary Success or Failure approach. It's the opportunity for the GM to make Un-intended or ambiguous consequences. --- the Story Goes on, but the Tone has Changed. This requires self infliction of the "Framing Effect".

The next problem is: How does the GM think of Ambigous Consequences, that the Actions of the PCs move the story forward and that the movement forward can be Success and Failure or something in between or mixed. Lets leave that for another post.

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