Saturday, December 26, 2015

Eero Tuovinen Is My Hero (Part III)

Eero Tuovinen has this to say on "optimizing at the expense of a robust and compelling fiction", e.g. by "swinging some sort of a pole-marmoset-flint knife combo platter in a customized effort to keep my character safe":

[T]o me the ideal of beautiful and powerful play in an organically developing Gamist game with heavy focus on positioning, such as this style of D&D, is to grasp with determination at a subject matter and challenge proposition that you find compelling; the question is not whether you could win at a GM's obstacle course by stacking rules and positioning to your favour, the question is whether you can triumph against a challenge chosen and internalized by yourself within the fictional constraints, partially unspoken, that determine whether your play is petty or compelling. Not whether you can build a knight that can slay a dragon, but whether a knight as per your understanding of knighthood can slay a dragon.

From this perspective we find that the actual tactical and strategic choices the players make and feel most strongly come about as a combination of two elements that reinforce each other: is what you're doing compelling as a fictional proposition, and is it smart (or effective, equivalently) as a move? In this context the oft-cited D&D attitude of maximizing your effectiveness for the sake of party success is irrelevant, and it is much more relevant to make room for an individual player's character image, the personal constraints they choose for their challenge: this guy [...] wants to triumph without resorting to underhanded tricks, this one wants to play a naive greenhorn, this one's playing a fatalist who is seeking his own death... All of these can be played in effective ways that are also compelling rather than flimsy in terms of fictive credibility.
I find the knighthood example particularly apt because my group has had discussions about the viability of playing an honor-bound, never-back-down-in-the-face-of-evil paladin in our old school campaign.