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The Zeroth Law & the Burden of Interaction

  1. #1
    West's Avatar


    A couple of chargen questions finally spurred me to write this, although it's been on the burner for a long time. It's not directed at anyone in particular, but more along the lines of my musings on gaming.

    There are many unwritten laws that govern gaming; be it LARP, table-top, or over the intarwebz. They all have one thing in common: the Zeroth Law.

    The world revolves around the player character.

    That's it. The tricky part is that it applies to each and every pc. To every player, their PC is the center of the universe, the lens they view the world through. That makes for a lot of different worldviews.

    The Zeroth Law also dictates that players are unlikely to participate in things that don't interest them. Again, this applies to every pc.

    I've often seen character concepts that strive to be "different", but end up being isolated. Or players that won't compromise in the slightest (Oh my character would never...). A short while later, frustration sets in because no one will interact with them -- because they're interacting with more accessible characters.

    There's nothing wrong with different. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being tired of the archetypes or wanting to stand out. However, there's a line between different and unplayable. For example, any concept with the word "loner" in it is probably going to be unplayable in a large-scale game like this. Or something like "I hate people, and only talk to ghosts and/or spirits."

    The Burden of Interaction is how I refer to making your character an accessible, entertaining experience for other players. You can be a hulking, gross Nos, and still be enjoyable to interact with. You don't have to be an SL4 Daeva. On the other hand, if you're an SL4 Daeva who ignores people... The Zeroth Law also means that players will not keep trying to engage a character they don't enjoy. It doesn't take long at all to isolate yourself.

    In short, when you begin creating the world that will revolve around you, make sure you're creating a world you'll enjoy; a world with room for others to visit.
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

  2. #2
    West's Avatar


    More from The Book of West; again, not aimed at anyone in particular.

    Another issue I notice is playing "the right way", in reference to families, organizations, or refinements.

    You're too social for a Nosferatu.

    You're not angry enough for a Summer.

    You're not animal enough for an Orphan of Proteus.

    Here's the thing.

    We're all doing it wrong.

    This is the logical distillation of the major splats:

    Vampires should kill anyone weaker than themselves. There's no reason to share hunting grounds. None. If they need pawns, they should Vinc them.

    Changelings should be terrified of being discovered and hiding, not hanging out together and taking jaunts into the Hedge.

    Werewolves don't belong in a city.

    Mages should be doing the Agoraphobic Space Mage thing, or building a new Ladder in Antarctica.

    Yeah, maybe those aren't 100% accurate, but they're closer extrapolations than what we're presented with in the core books. Ultimately, we all share a social contract which is similar to the Burden of Interaction. We gloss over or hand wave the fundamental reasons why these societies and cultures wouldn't exist.

    Yes, the books do present fundamentals: common themes and traditions for us to use as guidelines. However, realize they're not absolute.

    I play(ed) a flamboyant Winter, as opposed to the sneaky, quiet archetype.

    I play a tactical Acanthus, as opposed to the air-headed go-lucky archetype.

    ...and so on.

    Maybe there's background reasons that pull a character "off canon", or maybe they only believe in one theme more than any other -- but not wholly. Besides, if everyone went strictly canon archetype, we'd all be the same boring.
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

  3. #3
    Player of the Month
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    SrsBsns's Avatar


    I'd just like to give this a bump, since a discussion in chat brought it to my attention and there's been some new people (including me) who weren't around when it first was posted six months ago.

    Also, "Agoraphobic Space Mage" is my new favorite saying
    Every time Japan comes out with a new fad, I wake up in a cold sweat halfway around the world and just know something wicked this way comes.

  4. #4
    InvertedMonkey's Avatar


    Bumping this.

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