Note from decoy73: This is another guide from MurderWeasel, one based on a category of GMing that is less obvious than the one normally caught. Like his guide here, reading it can do nothing but improve your RP experience. Please direct any comments you may have to the board here
Alright, everyone. I’m taking off my mod hat here for a moment to discuss something that I’ve seen a lot of throughout V4, but especially recently. I’m hoping to mitigate this somewhat by bringing the subject up, explaining it, and providing examples as to why it is problematic and should generally be avoided. This isn’t a mod’s ruling, or a roleplaying guide, or anything like that. It’s a request, handler to handler, to be aware of this issue and try to avoid it.
The issue is Passive GMing. By “Passive GMing”, I mean GMing that falls outside what we normally consider GodModding. Megami addresses GMing here, defining it as follows:
First and foremost, the word "godmod" has many different meanings. Listed below are the ones relevent to our roleplay, as quoted by Megami:
1. Godlike modification.
2. To control another person's roleplaying on an internet forum or chatroom.
3. To control a character who is, for all intents and purposes, invincible. That is to say, no attacks or techniques will work against said character and s/he recovers instantly from anything that happens to him or her.
4. To use your character to decimate other characters without giving them the chance to fight back. For example, "Janie shot her crossbow at Marcus who dodged the close-range shot with ease before running up to her and ripping her arm completely off."
For the purposes of this thread, I’ll be focusing definitions two and four. When I talk about Passive GMing, I’m describing behaviors that do exactly what is described above, controlling other peoples’ characters and limiting their responses, only in ways that achieve these results without directly wresting control from the handler. There are many ways this takes place. Here, in turn, are the most prominent ones:
1. The Overly-Long SpeechEdit
This is when a character talks for a very long time, especially during a tense scene, without leaving a chance for anyone else to react. It goes doubly if they are also taking actions while speaking. Basically, the problem here is it assumes the other characters are not reacting/interrupting/leaving/whatever. Now, if your character’s the sort of blowhard who would just talk over everyone anyways, and the situation isn’t going to devolve into combat, this isn’t really an issue. After all, it’s not that no one else is acting; it’s that your character doesn’t care.
And example of a problematic post follows (these are gonna be pretty exaggerated):
As Alexia opened fire, Tim dived behind a log, panting with exertion. Sweat ran down his forehead, mingling with the blood from the knife wound sustained in the earlier fight. He quickly searched his pockets for a new magazine. Time was of the essence. Every second was another chance for the girl to get a drop on him, to kill him.
Alexia’s shots missed the boy as he hid behind a log. It made her angry. Very angry.
“Coward,” she spat. “You think you can escape like that? Go crawling into some little hole and hide there for the rest of your time? You think you can maybe escape or something? Think you’re better than the rest of us? Well, let me tell you something: you aren’t. You’re just another pathetic little worm, just another step on the ladder to freedom.” She slammed another clip into her MAC-10. “I was like you once. I thought we could get out of this the peaceful way. I thought that only a fool would go shooting whoever they saw. I was wrong, and you are too. The only way out is to play. The only way to get anywhere in this game is to fight for it, to wrest every second of life from the Grim Reaper himself! Was it Lovecraft who said, ‘and in strange eons, even death may die’? That’s what we’re doing here. We’re killing Death, even as he takes the forms of our classmates, our friends and lovers, our siblings and cousins, our rivals and our passing acquaintances. That girl you sued to copy math answers from is gone. All that’s left of her is her hollow shell, a grinning demon laughing to itself about how it, it and not you, will be able to go home and see its family again. Well, guess what? To me, you are the demons!”
With that, Alexia launched herself over the log, landing in front of the boy, who seemed to be digging for ammunition. She prepared herself to fire.
Now, at first glance, that doesn’t look too awful (quality of writing aside). On closer inspection, though, it becomes pretty clear that Deckmaster is taking extreme liberties with Tim. That speech is quite a mouthful, yet it is assumed not only that Tim has not taken the opportunity to move, but that he hasn’t even reloaded throughout this. Realistically, Tim could have been blazing away from a few seconds into that diatribe, or been running away or sneaking off or something. Deckmaster, however, is too concerned with looking cool to respect these options, and thus Tim looks like an idiot who just sat still when he could have made a dozen better decisions.
Really, it’d be awesome if folks paid more attention to dialogue as actual spoken words. It takes time to say something, despite what certain popular roleplaying games may have to say on the matter, and it’s not fair to other handlers to rob their characters of the opportunities that time provides.
2. The Dialogue RemixEdit
This is a tricky one, but is probably the most common thing on this list. It often comes about as a result of someone going overboard on their dialogue, as in the first example. Basically, this occurs when handlers incorporate the dialogue of other characters into their own posts, adding their characters’ responses, without consideration for whether it makes sense or not. In most cases, quoting other people is fine. It can really help the flow of scenes. Other times, though, you get stuff like this:
Alex saw the boy walking towards him. One of his friends! It truly was his lucky day. As the boy got close, Alex waved, shouting, “Hey there, Bubba! How’ve you been? Awful mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, huh? At least you’re a friendly face.”
Bubba stalked the trail like a junkie in search of a hit. His nostrils quivered at the scent of fresh blood. Yes. His prey was near. He could see it, could see the boy he would kill.
”Hey there, Bubba!” the prey called.
“Hey yourself, moron,” Bubba snarled. “I’m gonna gut you.”
”How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been better, but since I’ve got some fresh meat to rend from the bone, well, I guess you could say I’ve been worse, too,” he said, twirling out his double deagles.
“Awful mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, huh?”
“What do you mean ‘we’, dead man?”
”At least you’re a friendly face.”
“You wanna kiss this friendly face?” Bubba said, opening fire. “’cause it’s the last thing you’ll ever see.”
Alex walked up to the group, smiling, trying to seem benign.
“Hey guys,” he said. “You seen Pontius anywhere?”
Alex asked if they’d seen Pontius anywhere. Alexia paused. Pontius? He was that freak in the armor, right?
“Yeah,” she said. “We saw him an hour ago, on the slope of the volcano. He said he was gonna get some sleep, so you may be able to meet him.”
Alex approached the group.
“Hey guys,” he said. “You seen Pontius anywhere?”
Bubba knew from the get go that this guy was trouble. he could smell it, could almost taste the stinking sweat of deception.
“No,” he said. “We’ve been traveling together for a day, and we haven’t—“
“Yeah,” Alexia cut in. “We saw him an hour ago, on the slope of the volcano. He said he was gonna get some sleep, so you may be able to meet him.”
Bubba reached for his double deagles, but restrained himself, settling for shooting Alexia a nasty glare instead. She had ruined his masterful bluff, and potentially doomed Pontius through her stupidity.
As you can see, there are situations where inserting dialogue makes things very awkward. In the first example, Alex’s responses stop making any form of sense as soon as Bubba makes his violent intentions clear. In the second, Alexia is cast as unable to take a hint by disregarding Bubba’s plan; however, this is clearly not Deckmaster’s intent as, at the time of his post, Bubba hadn’t even voiced his plan. As a rule of thumb, if your character’s dialogue will change the meaning of already-written dialogue set after it, you shouldn’t wedge it in without the permission of the affected handlers.
Note that this also applies to reordering actions (2.5, Action remixes, I guess). If you cram your character’s actions in before those of other characters that have already been written, it is very unfair to the handlers who have already posted if it changes the scenario their characters are reacting to. Your character shouldn't start shouting for a ceasefire retroactively if the posts prior to yours detail the start of a gunfight. After all, who knows? Maybe, had your post actually been there first, the fighting characters wouldn't have started.
3. The Ninja Stealth Thread EntranceEdit
Characters come and go in threads. It’s part of how things work. Unfortunately, some characters seem to come a bit more... stealthily than others. There are many circumstances in which people can reasonably bump into each other with little to no forewarning (tunnels, night, forests, ambushes, etc). There are also many times when it is totally unreasonable for a stealthy approach to be possible. In those situations, it is very important to not post your character walking right up into striking distance of everyone else present. Of course, if there are no violent intentions on either side, and the approached character(s) seem relaxed, it may be fine. It’s still more polite to give a chance to prevent a standoff from occurring in melee range.
Alexia was standing on the beach, over the corpse of the fallen Pontius. The tears in her eyes did nothing to distract her from the situation. The brains leaking slowly from his ears, where they had been ruptured by the hypersonic drill, the missing middle fingers, taken as grizzly trophies. She couldn’t take it anymore. She scanned the beach, looking in every direction, searching for something, anything to take her attention off the corpse of her lover.
“Why, Bubba?” she screamed. “Why did you kill him?”
((Tim Sillery continued from [wherever]))
Tim happened to reach the beach fairly quickly after hearing the shots. It was a wide open, empty expanse, broken only by the screaming figure. In an instant, he recognized her: the harlot from the forest! So, her squeeze had been slain? Excellent. It was time for a little revenge.
Tim jogged across the beach, pulling his ninja sword from its scabbard. Stopping behind her, he pressed it into her back.
“Maybe he was doin’ him a favor, huh? You ever think maybe getting your brains melted is better than living in a world with a freak like you? Now, hand over your guns, your own, and the one you stole from me before! Move and I’ll spit you.”
It’s absolutely insane for Alexia, who is clearly being fairly vigilant, to not notice Tim coming across the beach to hold her at knifepoint. Realistically, she should have had time to run, shoot Tim, or do some combination thereof. Basically, play nice when entering threads or approaching groups.
4. The Not-So-Subtle Cue/DigEdit
It’s easy to develop plans for things. It makes sense to want things to go your way, or to have set ideas on what is “realistic” in a scene. That does not make these ideas gospel. It is very, very easy to insert little cues into posts, things like “presumably causing him great distress” or “likely stopping them in their tracks”. This should be avoided, unless it is from a character’s perspective (as in, your character is making these assumptions regarding outcome, regardless of reality, as opposed to an omniscient narrative voice implying them).
Worse still is when there are little potential insults hidden in posts. “There was no way he could survive unless he was some sort of alien superhero”, or “Clearly, any human being possessing even a modicum of intelligence would agree”. These basically take a preemptive shot at handlers who do not conform to the poster’s desires/expectations. They imply: “If you are a decent writer and your character is not a Mary Sue alien superhero, they should be dead now.” This often forces handlers to invent contrived situations to explain not taking the suggested course of action, if they do not wish to undertake it or to have their characters look unrealistic.
Pontius looked around, searching for an escape. None was immediately present. The beach stretched in all directions, but he couldn’t run faster than a bullet. He had no choice but to attack. With a roar, he charged Bubba.
Bubba danced backwards, out of reach of the flailing boy, spinning his double deagles free. He opened fire at point blank range, using the precision accuracy for which he was renowned. If Russian assassins trained for decades in the heart of Siberia couldn’t dodge his bullets, it was highly unlikely this moron could, unless he was secretly a wizard. Also, the bullets were armor-piercing.
Pontius groaned as his armor was pierced. Lacking magical training, he had no hope, and fell, dead, to the ground.
Bubba cut off Pontius’ fingers and peed on his corpse.
((Bubba Dover continued elsewhere))
This one doesn’t really come up that often, but I see it enough to want to draw attention to it.
Of course, again, this is when this stuff comes up in a narrative perspective, not a character’s POV. Stuff like this: “Mary Sue said, ‘Oh, yes, we should all hurl ourselves like lemmings into the sea, building a floating island of corpses that the survivors (me) can cling to, outside the danger zones, to wait for rescue/the final four!’ Clearly, any human being possessing even a modicum on intelligence would agree.” is probably fairy benign, as it is presumably Mary Sue thinking these things.
So, basically, I am bringing all this up and making all these examples because I’ve seen a good deal of this stuff going around. I honestly do not believe that people intend to be GMing each other, and I’m hoping that pointing out these issues and illustrating why they are problems will help reduce their occurrences.
If anyone has any comments/other forms of Passive GMing/whatever to discuss, feel free. I’d just request that there be absolutely no calling out of people or naming of specific handlers/characters/threads/whatever. This is to bring attention to a problem and hopefully address it, not to lash out at folks who may have done these things.