Authority, Autonomy, and other Tools of the Trade



  • @surreality said:

    It's also worth noting -- this is just going back a bit in the conversation -- that autonomy is just one tool in the required toolbox.

    There are others that, without them pre-existing, make a job impossible.

    Sometimes, especially in this medium, part of the job is to create the tools to accomplish it well at the same time. It's something that, while we tend to grouse about it while we're doing it since it can be a real pain in the ass sometimes•, is a less visible process. (Basically, we're used to it.)

    Problem-solving around missing tools is something we do a lot of, broadly speaking.

    Autonomy is one of the ones that doesn't have a workaround like this, which is partly why it's essential to have clear boundaries and limits about it.

    A lot of us like to take a no-nonsense, common sense approach in talks like this -- I mean I know I prefer it -- but a lot of us have different ideas about what, exactly, constitutes common sense on this front. It might be worth having a community discussion about what various people think this entails at some point, since I suspect it would be fairly illuminating. (Shouldn't happen in this thread, though a thread splinter off a thread splinter is amusing in principle.)

    •It also can be awesome brainstorming sessions that are fun, but those are often more rare than the other end of the spectrum is, alas.

    I think that @Surreality had a good point when they said that this would be a worthwhile discussion, but should be had in another thread, so I'm creating another thread for it.



  • Doubleposting because the original idea should stand on its own, but there are things to reply to!

    @ThatGuyThere said:

    What I mean by authority in this instance if I was chosen to be a sphere wizard I would require the authority to decide who was in the sphere and freedom to run it how I saw fit.

    And where does the gamerunner stand in this equation, precisely? That seems like an awful lot of creative control over a wide area of the game. If I created a game and hired someone to manage the sphere, I certainly wouldn't given them that sort of complete carte blanche control over it. It's still a game that's run under a certain vision, after all, and that means oversight. Anyone who thinks that they should have that much control would probably be better served, IMO, by creating a game of their own.

    @Surreality makes a good point in that a lot of what we do requires a certain level of creativity when it comes to problem solving. Often, this is caused by restrictions that we have in place, either restrictions in behavior due to game rules or social norms or restrictions on our powers to act based on invested authority or lack of permissions, code-wise or other. In some instances, we have no access to tools that would make our lives easier but come with a certain amount of danger that gamerunners are not willing to risk in the hands of people who are, effectively, still subordinate to their vision of the game, or shouldn't have access to certain information that the top tiers have access to.

    Learning to negotiate those sorts of situations requires equal parts diplomacy and cleverness. Simply having absolute power means largely nothing in the grand scheme of things. You can have wizard flags or access to God or whatever, but if you lack the insight to be able to navigate trickier waters in a relatively graceful manner, you're still going to be missing one of the key elements -- respect. And respect exists and flows at every level. We, as players, have to respect that there is a vision for the game that we don't have either the right or the authority to change on our own. Staffers have to respect that players have feelings, goals, interests, and those things should be taken into account. Staffers have to respect each other, acknowledging differing visions of the game and occasionally ceding to someone else's interpretation of things.

    There are a lot of tricky bits to this hobby, especially when handed positions of authority. Unlike in the real world, where you have actual bosses and get actual money, this is done by volunteers and enthusiasts, many of whom have precisely no leverage on each other and are simply working for the satisfaction they get from helping to create something. So I think it's important to keep that in mind. Often, we sound like we're entitled to those things, but that's simply not the case, and it might be wise to keep that in mind if we want to continue the hobby in a healthy and responsible manner that actually generates fun.



  • I think there's a lot of variance in what people expect they're able to do -- or what their authority can/does entail.

    A good example of what I mean is something @Ganymede has mentioned a number of times: being able to say, "No, that person can't play in a sphere I'm TL/head admin/sphere head for." (Or removing someone from the sphere if they're already in it.)

    Some games require spheres to take all comers, while others could potentially extend these abilities to any staffer in the sphere, with or without the TL's approval.

    Another would be something like sphere caps or temporary app freezes (for whatever reason) -- if it isn't game-wide policy, are sphere leads allowed to do this? Sometimes that'd be a yes, sometimes a no.

    But I'm betting that for each of these examples, each of us has an idea of what we should be allowed, and not allowed, to do if granted authority over a sphere.

    This is the kind of thing I mean when I say: a lot of folks have different takes on these -- and countless other -- situations, and it's probably a good idea for headstaff to lay this out somewhere if they have a strong opinion about it one way or the other. RfK gets a commendation here because it sounds like headstaff there did a fairly solid job of laying this out, even if I disagree with some of the specific choices they made.


  • Pitcrew

    @Derp
    The game runner/God/Coordinator or whatever title they have in place has the power to hire and fire the sphere staff.
    For example if I was running the game I would talk with someone in depth before offering a sphere head position, make sure they were on board with the theme I had for the game as a whole and talk about how they planned to implement it in whatever they wold be running. If we had a meeting of minds with that then I would step back and let them run the show, if things occur where I disagree enough with what they do then you remove them.
    I know there are many styles of running games that I would be completely unwilling to staff under, in fact most are that way. I know most game runners would look at what I wanted as far as authority to run a sphere and move right on to the next guy or gal. that is not a bad thing, in fact that is likely the best thing. It means I won't get put in a position that I would not be happy in and where my constant friction with the people in charge would make everyone else unhappy.


  • Coder

    I think sphere's are a bad idea. You're already separating the player base. The game as a whole is a single unit and should be run that way. I don't think there's an issue with staffers that are noted as being knowledgeable about a specific thing. Like 'Hey, this guy is really good with werewolves.' That's different. This guy still does everything he can for the game as a whole, it's just he knows a lot about werewolves.

    RFK was structured that way. We had mortal, mortal+ and vampire, but we didn't separate those. We didn't have a mortal staffer, a mortal+ staffer and a vampire staffer. We didn't have a werewolf staffer for those npcs and plots. We had staffers that were noted as being more knowledgable in certain things. Shav and I did blood sorcery because we were more familiar with it, but others did it too. The understanding was anyone could do any job.

    Basically, I hate the idea of starting out a game with the idea of segregation. That starts out bad and ends badly because people go into it thinking that every piece of the pie is separated by a divider wall.



  • @Alzie said:

    I think sphere's are a bad idea. You're already separating the player base. The game as a whole is a single unit and should be run that way. I don't think there's an issue with staffers that are noted as being knowledgeable about a specific thing. Like 'Hey, this guy is really good with werewolves.' That's different. This guy still does everything he can for the game as a whole, it's just he knows a lot about werewolves.

    RFK was structured that way. We had mortal, mortal+ and vampire, but we didn't separate those. We didn't have a mortal staffer, a mortal+ staffer and a vampire staffer. We didn't have a werewolf staffer for those npcs and plots. We had staffers that were noted as being more knowledgable in certain things. Shav and I did blood sorcery because we were more familiar with it, but others did it too. The understanding was anyone could do any job.

    Basically, I hate the idea of starting out a game with the idea of segregation. That starts out bad and ends badly because people go into it thinking that every piece of the pie is separated by a divider wall.

    I think this works and it doesn't, though it's somewhat outside the scope of the thread in some ways.

    IMHO, people should be willing and able to work any job they are knowledgeable enough to handle -- and everyone should be able and willing to do jobmonkey work. Plot should be coordinated game-wide as much as possible.

    When it comes to making HRs for a certain character type, or approving custom content, however, I do believe there should be someone who gets the 'the buck stops here' authority for that group to ensure cohesiveness. Should they listen to ideas and suggestions? Obviously. But I'd personally never grant anyone staffer on the game the authority to change or add anything to any group's HRs, restricted content, or custom content.

    I have experienced the 'too many cooks' problem to an astonishing degree, and it can rapidly lead to utter chaos even among friends and with the best of intentions and knowledgeable people involved. Headstaff still retain final oversight, obviously, but having experienced the divisiveness and horrible ideas being thrust on a game due to the 'too many cooks' problem, there is no way in hell I'd ever implement it myself.

    I've also seen what happens when people get a shiny idea in their head and want to ramrod it into being despite it being a terrible idea. That's a can of worms I not only wouldn't open, but I'd drop back and nuke from orbit at the first possible opportunity.


  • Coder

    @surreality To be clear, I'm not suggesting there not be a clear line of authority. There should be a clear line of authority. Even on RFK, Shav was where the buck stopped. I am however suggesting that I dislike spheres.



  • Problem is, that means headstaff is the de facto lead for all major calls.

    We see what happened when headstaff got overburdened.

    That's the #1 reason a middle tier is a necessity.


  • TV & Movies

    @surreality said:

    This is the kind of thing I mean when I say: a lot of folks have different takes on these -- and countless other -- situations, and it's probably a good idea for headstaff to lay this out somewhere if they have a strong opinion about it one way or the other. RfK gets a commendation here because it sounds like headstaff there did a fairly solid job of laying this out, even if I disagree with some of the specific choices they made.

    This is definitely a big part of the failing when it comes to running games. A lack of effective management, a lack of leadership. Many positions are handed out with minimal instruction or explanation and little to no interaction afterwards.

    But laying out clear expectations is just the very beginning of the process for taking on staffers into your game. If any part of the game is a collaborative effort it should be the part between the Head Wiz and the staff. We use titles like Sphere Lead or Team Lead. But rather than being a leader in their position, they are more of a pointer. They just set the direction they want things to go in and expect it to go there. Rather than being in the driver's seat, they lounge in the back and wait for arrival. And for some reason that seems to be fine with a great number of Head Wizzen, who then scratch their heads when things go wrong.

    Good players don't always make good scene runners. Good scene runners don't always make good staff. Good staff don't always make good Team Leaders. But a lot of times these positions are used interchangeably without concern, sometimes just to fill the position. The idea that 'something is better than nothing' is not always so true on MU*s. Often cases a bad 'something' can be much worse than 'nothing'.


  • Coder

    @surreality said:

    Problem is, that means headstaff is the de facto lead for all major calls.

    We see what happened when headstaff got overburdened.

    That's the #1 reason a middle tier is a necessity.

    If WoD Mu* Spheres is all you know, then Spheres suck and middle management is a necessity.

    If you've experienced games where people can be in charge of a major group and not have it a fiefdom, then the lines become quite blurred.


  • Pitcrew

    It should be pointed out spheres are not necessary for people to carve out OOC fiefdoms.
    I am not sure where I stand on spheres actually I think they can be a useful organizational tool but also think at times they promote a bit too much insularity, in the end i think I would default to them if running a WoD game if for no other reason then familiarity, enough of my idea flaunt the WoD Cultural norms I would stick with that one.



  • But the WoD is insular by default. That's the way it's designed. You have certain templates which behave under X system of rules, which run in groups exclusive (or almost entirely exclusive) to themselves, each with a different focus on a different aspect of the game world. Their paths cross by accident, most often, and far less by design. Having someone familiar with those over-arching rules sets and foci is really essential to making sure that everything goes down the way it's supposed to, and allows for easier coordination. While it's fun to be able to pick up any job and do it, even if you don't have rigidly defined sphere staff, you will end up with informal sphere staff simply because they know X system better than Y system and are more capable of making informed decisions on that, and others will defer to their expertise in that matter to make sure things flow smoothly.

    You can't take insularity out of a game that is by its very nature and theme an insular endeavor. When you have to hide from the regular people and be trust-but-verify with other supernaturals, it's something of a given.



  • Frankly, with or without groups of some kind, people can, to put it bluntly, fuck shit up.

    I've seen this in action on WoD games as a problem child more than on games that were not, really. As a result, though, I'm speaking in broader terms based on experience with both.

    Take a basic XP spend. In WoD terms, this is a spend on a skill or attribute. In a system where all characters function under the same ruleset/powerset, it could arguably be anything. 'Sphere staff' setups in WoD could handle anyone's basic XP spend, as while some spheres have special discounts or rewards for certain skills based on type, it's not hard to write a staff cheat sheet on this, and/or note to players, "Hey, if you have any special conditions related to this spend, put it in your job." (I favor 'and' because even clueful staffers sometimes overlook or forget.) There's no reason any staffer at all can't handle a spend like this. WoD is the only place I've seen people forcibly divide this up and it's an example of where the sphere model breaks down. This is the kind of job I think any staffer should be willing and able to do under the heading of 'basic jobmonkey'.

    (I need to stop agreeing with you, @Derp, really this is getting weird!) But like @Derp says, some people are more knowledgeable in certain areas than others. Not everyone is qualified to make any given judgement call on the game, and this becomes more and more the case the more groups there are on the game that require tending. In a game like RfK, with one super sphere and m/+, it's not hard to learn everything. Now try applying that logic to TR and imagine the chaos that would have ensued. You would not have found many qualified candidates for staff at all under those circumstances. Also, I've seen 'the jack of all trades is master of none' proven true more times than I can possibly count, so frankly, in WoD, this becomes an absurd expectation without someone who can handle certain special cases because they're the person that knows them best, and has ideas most in line with headstaff's intended direction for the game.

    Again, I have seen the 'too many cooks' problem in action. If I was running a TR-style game, I would stick to the sphere model with a middle-level authority to filter the heavy duty judgement calls for any given group, though 'basic jobs' would be open to any admin to pick up and do.

    Personally, I wouldn't allow the 'no one but this sphere is allowed to play with our toys by staff fiat' other games have permitted under the authority of a TL/sphere head/whatever, which is one of the primary problems people have with the sphere system. But again, this is a headstaff call as to whether or not that is allowed as part of that role's authority or not.


  • Coder

    I just want to point out that the rewrites of most of NWOD for GMC has taken away the insularity. Werewolves parlay with other manner of supernaturals and it isn't taboo, Vampires know that other supernaturals exist and are content with occasionally working with them, from the mage preview its apparent they are aware they aren't alone and have issues with what implications that provides but aren't sure how to handle them. OWoD? Insular. Totally insular. NWoD? Yeah not really, not so much.

    I am not really sure why we're pretending that organizing into spheres is the only way to run a game. World of Darkness is a single game world with lots of supernaturals. WoD is unique in that it's the only game system where people actively attempt to separate out the different types of character templates.

    When you look at Fading Suns, you don't say that Merchants, Priests, Nobles and Aliens are separate spheres. Nobody does that. They're just different things players can play. It's all one large game world.

    When you look at shadowrun, you don't say that Deckers, Mages, Shamans, Riggers, Street Samurai and the numerous other professions are all separate spheres. No, you just say they're all different types of people you can play. It's still one large game world.

    The same way with the world of darkness. Supernatural is just a type of thing you can play, but it doesn't mean werewolves are somehow part of some different game world than mages are. I think that's one of the biggest problems in sphere games like the reach. They segregate everyone based on splat and pretend we're all playing in a separate game, then act surprised when people get pissed off at any attempt to re-integrate other 'spheres' into their sphere.



  • @Alzie I'm not saying 'werewolves exist in their own reality'. I have explicitly stated, repeatedly, that I don't agree with that.

    What I'm saying, and have said repeatedly, is that it is valuable to have someone on the game who is most knowledgeable about that system to be the one to make the more complicated calls in regard to it rather than 'anybody can'. Because 'anybody' is not equally informed, period.



  • @surreality said:

    (I need to stop agreeing with you, @Derp, really this is getting weird!)

    I know, right? Spooky.

    @Alzie said:

    WoD is unique in that it's the only game system where people actively attempt to separate out the different types of character templates.

    When you look at Fading Suns, you don't say that Merchants, Priests, Nobles and Aliens are separate spheres. Nobody does that. They're just different things players can play. It's all one large game world.

    When you look at shadowrun, you don't say that Deckers, Mages, Shamans, Riggers, Street Samurai and the numerous other professions are all separate spheres. No, you just say they're all different types of people you can play. It's still one large game world.

    The same way with the world of darkness. Supernatural is just a type of thing you can play, but it doesn't mean werewolves are somehow part of some different game world than mages are. I think that's one of the biggest problems in sphere games like the reach. They segregate everyone based on splat and pretend we're all playing in a separate game, then act surprised when people get pissed off at any attempt to re-integrate other 'spheres' into their sphere.

    But among those, WoD is the only one of those games wherein each of those has a specific focus point in that game world, which I brought up earlier, that doesn't often connect with others in the 'fundamental raison d'etre' sort of way that the focus provides for those other things. Vampires are creatures of social manipulation and scheming that can rage over centuries. Mages, likewise, can be social manipulators, but their stuff is much faster, and is not their primary focus -- solving certain Supernal Mysteries is. Werewolves are almost wholly focused on the balance of the Shadow, which others can interact with tangentially, but rarely have as much focus in. And while the God Machine has the capability to touch everything around it, few of those others are as informed about its nature as Demons are, who are the only ones actively rebelling against it, even if others occasionally muddle its plans.

    So while you're right that they do interact occasionally, they're also prone to high levels of distrust, and often tend to keep to themselves, either because their foci do not cross or because they design it to be that way whenever possible. Just because they can interact now doesn't mean that it happens all the time. The games are still insular by nature. It's why there are separate game lines for them, each unified by the world they inhabit but otherwise completely different from each other.

    So comparing them to the other games, wherein all of those things are all straight from the core and lumped together in one big category, is drawing a false comparison. One of these things is not like the other. Ergo, it's wholly reasonable that the insularity found in one is not a fluke, even if the others don't have it.

    Thus why it's important to have people who are focused on those aspects of those game lines that help to define their reason for being, even if you don't organize it into sphere staff. The game itself will organize itself into spheres just because of the nature of the creatures that inhabit it and their individual missions. To pretend otherwise is to do a disservice to those game lines and the players who play within them. They expect to play something within that game line, which means that focus has to be respected, even if you don't have traditional sphere staff.


  • Pitcrew

    there is one big difference between Fading Suns, Shadow Run and most games we mush and WoD.
    You buy Fading Suns you get the rules to play all the various character types sure some options are added in supplements but you can play a noble, merchant clergy or alien with just the base book just fine.
    Shadowrun is the same way you buy the base book and all the rules for mages, riggers etc are there. Again lots of options added in the supplements but the base book only can work.
    For WoD you buy the base book it lets you play humans, to play vamps you have to buy vamp. to play Werewolves you have to buy werewolf etc. So it is not really the same. If you are staffing a Shadowrun game the base book at least gets you prepared to answer mage question and only odd things require more than that. If you are staffing a WoD game you need many books to be able to do it all and that from a financial stand point alone points to having spheres to ease the burden on perspective staffers.


  • Politics

    @Derp said:

    Thus why it's important to have people who are focused on those aspects of those game lines that help to define their reason for being, even if you don't organize it into sphere staff.

    In non-gaming terms: every lawyer that can practice in a jurisdiction has passed the required bar admission test; however, you don't necessarily want a criminal attorney to handle your workers' compensation claim, and you shouldn't expect him to be able to.


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