Stance and stancibility

So, where was I? Oh, yeah: stance.

Le Forge has this to say about stance:

  • In Actor stance, a person determines a character’s decisions and actions using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have.
  • In Author stance, a person determines a character’s decisions and actions based on the real person’s priorities, then retroactively “motivates” the character to perform them. (Without that second, retroactive step, this is fairly called Pawn stance.)
  • In Director stance, a person determines aspects of the environment relative to the character in some fashion, entirely separately from the character’s knowledge or ability to influence events. Therefore the player has not only determined the character’s actions, but the context, timing, and spatial circumstances of those actions, or even features of the world separate from the characters.

So I was thinking to myself, actor and author stance are basically about playing a character, in the former case according to the character’s motivations, and in the latter case according to your motivations as a player (retro-justified as needed).

Director stance appears to be about playing the environment. But wait: we can subdivide this further also.

Let’s say that Regulator stance is playing the environment in accordance with the fictional logic of the environment. So, for example, you’ve just dived into the Niagara Rapids wearing naught but a polka-dot bikini and a baseball cap. In Regulator stance, I’m afraid you’re toast. You are swept away. The last we see of you is a flash of polka, a flailing arm, then nothing.

Meanwhile, God stance is playing the environment in accordance with your own motivations. Ok, you aren’t likely to survive a headlong dive into the Niagara Rapids, but I’d quite like it if instead of dying, you find yourself hanging by a delicately positioned tree branch, and just within sight of your arch-rival… what will he do now?

The same breakdown can be applied to less environmental questions. Say I want to know “will the inhabitants of Endor rise up against their invaders?” – I can resolve that by thinking about their motivations and the things we know about the situation, or I can do it according to what I think would be interesting, or what I’d like to see. Maybe that’s Sociologist stance and Dictator stance, I dunno.

So there we go. Director stance isn’t just a monolithic thing you can do, it means decisions justified in different ways, just like when you play a character. Maybe it would be simpler and clearer to divide the scope of decision-making in two. Actor stance when you’re playing a character, Director stance when you’re making wider decisions; Endogenous justification when you’re going with fictional logic or character motivation, Exogenous when you’re deciding for other reasons.

One last thing – in practice I almost never go into a pure Exogenous way of thinking. Basically if the fictional/in-character reasoning is overwhelming and obvious, I go with what that says. If it’s, like, 90% pointing in one direction then I’ll need a strong external reason to ignore that. If it’s less clear-cut, I’ll think more about what would be interesting, or just go with my whim. It’s still helpful to be able to clearly talk about the decisions we’re taking and the reasons for taking them, but it’s fair to say that these aren’t either/or.

Author: rabalias

Rabalias grew up wanting to be a pirate. But a band of evil bureaucrats kidnapped him and forced him to work for The Man. Even so, Rabalias was patient and cunning. He escaped by gnawing his way through the walls of his prison and concealing the hole behind a picture of cthulhu. He fled to the coast, and stowed away on the Black Armada, where he worked his way up to the rank of Admiral.

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