Tuesday, September 19, 2017

9 Answers that Don't Say You Like Me

I am perpetually getting this sort of explanation for why some posts don't get comments:
"... and I still don't know what I would say in response to it. Well, I can at least fell comfortable saying "bravo." ... BTW, this is a common occurrence after reading your longer winded thoughts and, I have long suspected, a reason why your best posts so often suffer from a lack of comments ..."

I'm choosing to believe people just don't know how to comment without sounding "sycophantic" ... which is something people also complain about to me all the time: "I would have said it was amazing, but I didn't want to sound s~"

So here are 9 possible choices for answers to a blog post that don't expressly say "I liked this" or "It was great" ~ statements that apparently make people here feel stupid, even though tremendously stupid-minded blogs I have seen have this stated dozens and dozens of times in the comments fields.  I am often in awe of how some addlepated blog meanderings get described as "brilliant post!" without anyone feeling sycophantic.

Oh well.

I suggest the gentle reader should try one of these.  They are expressed in the reader's first person.

1.  This made me think.  I [formerly believed/still believe] that [my opinion] was true.  This [has/hasn't] given me reason to change my mind.  But I may be wrong.
Probably isn't an excuse to build up an argument or otherwise derail the comment into a long-winded description of your point-of-view, unless you can back it up with sources or sound, a priori reasoning.  But a simple statement one way or the other is perfectly fine.


2.  After reading this, I went to the [text/source/video] that you linked.  Here's what I found.
Simple, elegant, expands the conversation and brings the point back to the same inspiration that got me writing the post. Certainly looks like you hold your own in the conversation.

3.  This was something I [had/hadn't] heard before.  I [thought/had heard/had read] that [the point in question] was such-and-such, and not what you're saying here.  [Optional]: I have examples: [quote].
I haven't read everything or seen everything, so I'm always interested in someone else having the same idea or printed material which states categorically the opposite of what I'm saying.  I'm not really interested in someone's blog, but anything that is formally published material is of great interest.

4.  Hm.  I found my attention especially drawn to [this point] and [this point].
Does not expressly state if the points were agreed with ~ but it does help me zero in one what resonates with people who read the blog.

5.  Regarding [this point].  Would you be willing to elaborate further?
This one is a danger because trolls love to press this button.  I've found in the past that a troll will keep asking me to write more and more about a subject, just to see how many words I will pile upon words.  So I can't say that I'll necessarily oblige, but it is always nice to be asked ~ and if I am asked in a particular encouraging way, I'll probably step up.

6.  If [this] and [this] were true, it would probably mean [this].  Have I got that right?
Not everyone has the art of speculation in their veins ~ but speculation is a terrific conversation driver and I encourage it.  Even if you're completely out to lunch, there's the old argument that there are no bad ideas except not speaking.  A bad idea can often get good ideas going, since deconstructing ideas, both bad and good, solves problems.

7.  You once talked about this before [link if it can be find].  Has your opinion changed over the years?  Will it change?
Taking my temperature is a good way to get a back and forth started.  Giving your temperature as well, if you're up for it, is better - but perhaps you can get me to say something you'll feel more comfortable commenting upon.

8.  As long as you were willing to talk about [this], do you have an opinion on such-and-such?
I'm always hunting for new subjects for a post.  It can't hurt to give me one.  If I start getting a lot of them, obviously, I'll pick and choose - but I might get to everything eventually.  Remember, I started all these posts about monsters because a single reader mentioned that I had never written down my rules about dragons.

9.  A point I'll support.  I linked this to my [blog/facebook/twitter/whatever].
Positively the best thing in the world you can do for me, apart from supporting me on Patreon.  Being told that I'm liked or that a post of mine is liked is a very small thing.  Being willing to step up and connect YOUR NAME with something I've said is HUGE.  If you want to tell me how much you liked something I wrote, try this.


19 comments:

Jorunkun said...

Not to be snarky, because I actually, really, do enjoy your work, bought your books and all, but ... a "like" or "upvote" button like they have on FB and Reddit would probably do the trick.

Alexis Smolensk said...

LOL.

Honest to gawd, Jorunkun, I'm not asking to be liked. Blogger has a like option and I'm not interested. What I want is conversation.

Tim said...

Ah, but that would mean we readers would have to mull over your thoughts and work to push the conversation further... and, in "this fast-paced modern world", who has time for that?

Heck, who even has time for reading a complicated blog which deconstructs our assumptions about role-playing or challenges its golden calfs, when there's millions of hilarious identical D&D memes, all posted and reposted ad infinitum on the same Facebook where we can get our viral videos of cats and hicks? Poppycock! Bring on the mindless titillation!

JB said...

Sorry to be sycophantic, but this is actually a great post...I think I'm going to bookmark it.
: )

Justin Kennedy said...

This post was interesting. It made a fair number of points that I make to others in my personal life quite often and upon reading your suggestions it was a little embarrassing to have a blind spot of a type I consider to be a pet peeve of mine put in my face. Embarrassing enough that I spent some real time examining why I fell prey to the kind of conversational listlessness that I find so annoying in others (asked for their feelings, not knowledge, on a subject people are so damn quick to say, "I don't know" and really feel like it's a defensible reply).

There were a few points I finally came to:

One is that, in your reply to me about your view on the History is Sacred clip, you didn't ask me any questions. Well, you did but I took them as rhetorical. Even if I was correct in that feeling, this is perfectly fine as this is your blog, but it also led this reader into an area of confusion as to your desire to have a conversation on this particular topic or to instead lecture about some or another view you hold. Thinking back to when I replied to you, there was, I think, a more or less subconscious desire to not ask another question (in the same vein as the common concern of a student or lecture attendee to ask a string of questions that derail the course, or here, blog for everyone else). Again, not complaining merely explaining. In the future, I will assume you at least not annoyed to field multiple questions.

Another is that I did actually do one of the suggestions on your list (#4) by mentioning I noticed a formerly missed subtlety of Kinison's, though I admit gaining observance of an obvious in hindsight joke is really a fair response to a multi-paragraph reply. Further, I said I would think of what you had said. That, if true, is also a respectful form of praise. Now, I don't think you were talking to me directly in "9 Answers That Don't Say You Like Me", but you also reinforced the feeling of sitting in a lecture hall by using my response as segue to a new general topic while not actually replying to my second comment (which is fine and not at all out of the ordinary! It's your blog). I feel uncomfortable chasing you from post to post to continue a conversation if my thoughts happen to spawn two or three in a row.

Lastly, surely you're kidding about wondering why simple-minded blogs get tons of simple-minded positive comments. It's 'cause they're readers are there for simplistic ideas and rehashed concepts that offer no real improvement and require no deep thought to understand... and the blog writers deliver. Don't compare us to them, sir; you've cultivated quite the different readership. Politely accept the consequences.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Politely accept the consequences, is it? Methinks I see a gauntlet at mine feet.

I felt the comment about your new insight into Kinison to be a personal one and did not view it as needing comment. I had made my points about Kinison and felt it was enough. You didn't tell me anything informational about the world that was new to me so I had nothing new to comment upon. So I left it.

Then, Hillfolk. I was absolutely not interested to examine a "DramaSystem." And when I did, it proved to be exactly what I expected.

See this on page 7? "DramaSystem shares a common purpose with the story games school of roleplaying games design, which privileges the exploration of narrative over other design goals ..."

I did not respond to this comment of yours about Hillfolk because I am trying to change my behaviour and not spend a lot of time beating people up over their personal role-playing choices. I did not respond out of politeness.

Would you like my opinion? I think it is dreck. Worse, it is derivative, mastubatory, ego-inflated dreck. It is not a game. It is permission for adults to play pretend.

You shouldn't expect me to comment further on it.

Regarding your comment above, good. I'm glad I've got you thinking. I generally don't have any trouble getting into a conversation and I certainly don't need a question to start one. But try to understand: I hate almost everything about the "game" industry: because it keeps producing shit like the stuff you put in front of me. At the beginning of my blogging career, I did not hesitate to say so. Because of that, I am a pariah in much of the community. I don't think like them, I don't run like them, I don't design like them. And I would like to take an axe to the communities they run.

If I can back myself off from expressing my honest opinion (it's out there, I don't need to repeat it), the better for everybody.

Justin Kennedy said...

Ah, curtailing your speech, but not your thoughts, for a purpose deeper than the current conversation. A prudent move, but also the type of political awareness that works against an open back and forth between reader and writer. Again, completely understandable but definitely something I will hold in mind for determining future comments.

As to DramaSystem, man, I feel you. As a standalone, it leaves so damn much to be desired (seriously, those painful podcasts? One involved an alternate Earth populated by intelligent dinosaurs with completely human mannerisms {one was even a southern belle!} and a fuckin' alien controlled church conspiracy).

But you wrote something that I feel gets to the point of me bringing up this system and that I felt I alluded to by mentioning how a mechanic or two could be adapted for new players. You said, "It is permission for adults to play pretend."

That's what stuck out to me on encountering this system. These vidya-trained newbs don't seem to have the raw background in history (I leave much to be desired as well) or understanding of what a pen-and-paper RPG brings to the, erm, table that a video game (or darkly hysterical totalitarian dystopia that the WotC events represent) can't.

Imagine a tool that catered to the toe-dipping phase of RPG's new players. The moment when whatever sense of awe and wonder that you have been able to hide and protect within yourself gets a glimmer of hope that it can peek out, flourish, and perhaps even be shared with others? To fully give oneself over to that as an adult is daunting. Ergo, we economize thinking in terms of our character. In a good outcome I can see a bit of gentle persuasion (manipulation? definition depends on the person, I guess) that relies on taking advantage of their hyper reward-based gaming mindset and exploiting it by letting them 'win' certain situations by giving in? Isn't this the missing ingredient? Undoing the unconscious training that they must win to feel good? In a modified system here, you can reward them for giving in, and with some encouragement to give in in accordance with their characters desires, weaknesses, background (as opposed to the players emotions in the moment) even spin it as a victory.

As a concrete example (okay semi-concrete, my memory is spotty), couldn't you see the situation in your online campaign where a PC committed suicide while being held by some dopplegangers, even against your urgings. If he could have felt true to his character by 'calling a scene' where his character would be strongly inclined to suicide, you could instead relieve him of all his drama tokens (look, I know the system is cheesy) or incur some future penalty if he is already drama token-poor and his conviction and will could falter. This relieves guilt of the player as he has suffered a penalty, and reveals a new wrinkle to the characters psychology.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'm really not interested in policing the sentimental attachments that players have with their characters; I want that attachment to be there but I don't want it to overwhelm the game and I certainly don't want to make rules to control it.

The right thing to do with the fellow who insisted his character commit suicide was not to give him another character. Not to run him. Social contract broken. He lowered the game to his standards rather than raising his efforts to the game.

People who crave make-believe play do it because they are the own arbiter of their own success. They don't have to suffer the roll of a die; they don't have to play inside boundaries; they don't have to solve problems with solutions, only with answers. That's what they like. That's why this make-believe shit got popular among RPG players.

Justin Kennedy said...

On policing sentimental attachments, I completely understand that this is a decision to be made group by group, and therefore your view is absolutely legitimate and I cannot comment against it.

However, when you argue to what is 'right' and apply it to someone's ignorance of (or disrespect to) the social contract I feel that slides past the point of your blog writings which is predicated on elevating the game. That idea is borne from an understanding that this hobby of ours is far more deep and rewarding than most players ever come to grasp. In other words, from what I can gather reading your posts, you seem to care more about elevating the game than determining the 'fitness' of your players. Granted, he acted in a strange manner but now that the situation has passed can we not ruminate on ways to prevent it from recurring in the future, rather than only leaning on the known cure.

As to your last paragraph, I repeat that I wouldn't advocate for a complete shift to DramaSystem but would instead entertain the idea that, for newbies (and these defined as one who hasn't yet tasted the actual sensations of the unique immersive quality, character or otherwise, of RPG's), a transition period of gamifying their characters desires and fears while also introducing the deadly and consequential environment that a sandbox requires. I mean, drama tokens ain't meant to be used in battle. Perhaps even long-time players will allow for drama tokens to be spent by a newbie while being unable to expend them themselves (practically, they would hold them only to resist the requests of a character or NPC); a kind of nod to the newb's newbiness.

This might allow even for a natural, healthy type of patronization. One that would encourage the newb to lay down his extra protections and join the 'adults table' with some haste, but allow for a 'safety blanket' effect while they became comfortable with the idea, and let's be honest, finish evaluating the DM and their game and deciding if they wish to be a part of it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

It is not that I feel the game is more important than individuals: but I do believe that excellence comes from rising to the challenge of a game and not from manipulating the game to one's prejudices.

I see no reason why we would seek to ween newbies on a wasteful past-time instead of just asking them to play the actual game. I have on scores of occasions introduced completely new persons to my game without reducing the complexity or demands of the game in any way ~ they have to see the game in the raw to understand what it offers. The only "nod" they need is a little help from fellow players ~ which in turn helps build the group's togetherness. They don't need to be patronized.

I'm lost as to your point, Justin.

Justin Kennedy said...

I understand if you don't feel the need to ween players, but this 'we' you speak of includes a great many DM's who are less skilled than yourself, in a less established world/system than yourself, and, very importantly, have no or perhaps just one player who can be thought of as experienced and invested.

I'm willing to admit the guilt that I leave much to be desired as a DM, but instead of only hunkering down and trying to catch up to the example you have set I am also open to using a crutch or two to help the unfortunate player come to terms with having a less than stellar game runner. That is my point.

But, no bother. I asked for your take on integrating a few game mechanics and you gave it. Thanks.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sorry, but I'll be damned if I know what I'm asking anyone to do that requires a lot of skill. Put a monster in front of them and give them an equipment table. Put an NPC in front of them that does a job, then answer the players when they talk. That requires genius?

Justin Kennedy said...

Skill and genius are two different things.

There is much skill involved in running and this is borne out by you writing both a ten thousand word post on the subject as well as a book. Not trying to argue for argument's sake, but that feels like a very strange point for you of all people to make.

You are asking your readers to present a consistent set of rules, maintain an open and logical mind to change them on the fly if needed, present a consistent and self-consistent world, arbitrate sometimes very subtle interpersonal differences, etc.

There's a lot to take in on this blog, Alexis.


Alexis Smolensk said...

I seriously do not think you are arguing for argument's sake, Justin.

Don't forget that I'm asking people to present a consistent set of THEIR rules, not mine. I'm asking people to maintain an open and logical mind within THEIR ability and at THEIR level, not at mine. To present as consistent a world as THEY'RE able.

And to try not to arbitrate at all, but to discuss, express the problem and reach a consensus, in keeping with the DM's personal vision of THEIR game.

There may be a lot to take in on this blog, but pick and choose, Justin. Know what you can manage right now and leave the other stuff on the shelf for later. It's still going to be there when you're ready.

Hell, man, I've had 38 years experience and I'm crazy obsessed. I've just spent 32 hours in the last three days obsessively rewriting my trade table. Two 12-hour days and then 8 today. DON'T expect yourself to design at this level until you're ready.

Until then, do what you can. And give yourself a break. I'm sure you're doing just fine as a DM. Relax.

Read the post I just wrote.

Ozymandias said...

If I may make a point about player skill:

I have a group of brand new players. As in, never-played-an-RPG-before. Video games? Yes. Pen-and-paper roleplaying? Nope.

I use a system that's very similar to Alexis'. There's a heavy emphasis on tracking the most minute details. Some of these I've left to the side until I feel the players are able to handle them. I consider these early sessions to be something of a "tutorial."

Yet when I introduced the fatigue and exhaustion rules, each player immediately figured out a solution ~ a process by which they could track the change and adjust to it quickly and efficiently ~ that works for them. Hell, I only had to check a couple times to make sure they were using the right numbers.

Regarding Justin's point ~ as well as I can understand it ~ I don't know that it's necessary to offer "a transition period of gamifying [player] characters' desires and fears" if only because there's no real separation between the player's fears and desires, and the character's fears and desires. Suggesting otherwise invites discussions of "meta-gaming" which, I hope, we can all agree aren't really . . . well, aren't really real.

Ozymandias said...

...and for the record, I like Alexis' work.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hmph. Sycophant.

Keltoi said...

I really like your work, while I don't always agree, every post makes me think, sometimes even makes me feel really stupid. I want to explain this by saying that usually I am the smartest person in the room and even though more and more we are finding IQ tests mostly pointless, tested at a 152.
Sometimes I want to comment and occaisonly have, but in a lot of your posts I am completely blown away and cannot think of anything sat.
I love your work and want you to keep it coming, though I am a fan of your crunchier posts over others.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thanks Keltoi (and everyone else).

While we're talking about it, I was tested at 156. Then I went and married someone with 168 and had a daughter. Shame I pulled her down. She has been tested at 156. So the world turns. But really, 4 points doesn't make a difference.

I may or may not have a crunchy post coming up. We'll see.