Flip-a-Card: Authority part 1

January 22, 2020 - 1 min read

The current deck has a card called ”The Facilitator”. Early feedback is that it’s too vague as written. Here’s the questions that I understood from that feedback:

  • Who answers questions about the world?
  • Who decides what happens in the fiction from moment to moment?
  • Who arbitrates questions about rules?
  • Who determines whether a card’s fictional triggers have fired?
  • Who arbitrates questions about rules?

I’m going to make some assertions, define some terms, and then see if I can restate these questions in my own way. This is part 1 of a series of posts attempting to do just this.

  • “The table”: a specific group of people, often at a physical table, who are working together to play a game
  • “The players”: all the people making up the table
  • “The game”: the act of applying game rules to the social activity of role-playing, to create an ongoing narrative
  • “The fiction”: the narrative created by playing the game
  • “Spotlight”: clock time or overall level of attention and detail paid to a person, place, or thing in the fiction
  • “Characters”: people in the narrative who receive spotlight, and whose actions are narrated by one or more players

Given these definitions, here’s some assertions.

  • In any narrative, the characters are the principal focus, so we care the most about who has authority to speak about them
  • Fairness to the players is an important consideration
  • For that reason, the total spotlight allotted to the characters that each player controls ought to be roughly equivalent
  • It follows that if one player has authority over more characters, each character they run ought to have less overall spotlight

RPG characters are often divided into “Player Characters” and “Non-Player Characters”, or PCs and NPCs. Instead, I’m going to call them “principal characters” and “ensemble characters” (PC and EC). PCs get the majority of spotlight, while ECs get what’s left. ECs are supporting cast, friends, acquaintances, or adversaries.