objectivity and subjectivity. You will remember that we described "subjective" knowledge as a set of beliefs gained from the perspective of a single individual ... their "experiential knowledge," we called it. We described "objective" knowledge as something that was true if it was universally true. Very well, let's look at this again from the perpective of the players' growing experience about the setting, which we covered in the third lab.
We have a tendency to express our beliefs in black-and-white terms, but we do learn to our discomfort and our credit that beliefs are a complex mixture of grey semi-truths about ourselves, applying in different situations according to our feeling of control, our immediate need, our feelings towards other people and things that have only just happened that trigger us in a multitude of ways. Still, if we were to categorize our beliefs, we would view those that directly applied to ourselves as the most important. We can call these first-person beliefs. Some apply to our values: I love my family, I like to watch violent movies, I enjoy vacationing at the beach, grunge music is garbage and so on. Our deepest beliefs, however, tend to be ethical: this is how the world works, I need people to treat me like this, I am a good person, I deserve a break once in awhile and such.
One step removed from ourselves are second-person beliefs. I love my family, so YOU need to respect them, I like violent movies so you should also, everyone should like vacationing at the beach ... and of course, you need to know that the world works like this; if you don't treat me like this, you are a bad person; you don't deserve a break right now if it fucks me, etcetera. Find enough people who support your second-person beliefs and "I" becomes "we" ~ we enjoy violent movies, we are good people, we deserve a raise in pay.
Finally, there are third-person beliefs, largely disconnected from your personal experience. The Broncos should have traded that guy, the government has its head up its ass, I would have made the second Iron Man movie differently, Britney Spears' career is over, feminists are screwed up, take your pick. Third-person beliefs are often completely full of shit because they're third-person; we know almost nothing truly relevant about how the Broncos view their own club or what compromised the making of a movie, or why a singer who sells out stadiums doesn't understand that her career is "over." Third-person beliefs are fun but mostly based on misinformation.
The composite of all these subjective beliefs is called your "world view." It is based on your orientation to all the things you believe; if you were the wardrobe designer for the next Britney Spears' tour, your perception would probably be different than if you were a D&D artist painting miniatures in your basement for income. Your beliefs depend on who and what you're connected with; it is as much a physical perception as it is one of values, emotion and ethics.
Okay. Let's turn this on its head.
When we present a setting for a role-playing campaign, all of our beliefs about that campaign, our world view of that campaign, become facts. They become objective truths.
If you find that hard to grasp, consider. In any setting of our making, if we imagine that the king should have executed his prime minister, that isn't an opinion. We know why the king should have, we know what the prime minister is planning and we know everything that is going on in their minds that we care to know. When we have an NPC tell the party, "The prime minister isn't planning on killing the king," we're not guessing. We know if it's true. We even know if the NPC believes if it is true.
When we say there are 781 people living in that village over there, we're not estimating. We're not saying there are "about" that many ... we're saying exactly how many there are. Oh, we may say to the party, "There are seven or eight hundred people there," but the exact number is right there for us any time we're ready to name one. And we are never wrong.
There are two things we don't know. We don't know what the party will do or say; and we don't know anything the dice will decide. Often, the party will surprise us; but we know if we're suprised and we're free to update our total knowledge accurately at the moment we're surprised ... so this is not much of a challenge to our power.
The dice are different. The dice are fickle and they will often cause things to happen that fall way out of our expectations. Every time we invoke the die to make a decision about what's possible, we're not relying upon either objective or subjective belief: we are initiating an experiment ... and as we know, experiments often produce results that are difficult to stomach as knowledge, once they happen.
[This is, incidentally, one of the reasons why fudging is common; having perfect knowledge of everything else, and the ability to update that knowledge on the basis of accepting or discarding something the players might do, is a difficult pill to swallow when the dice subverts our omnipotence. The temptation to change the die, and retain that omnipotence, is overwhelming. We will make any excuse that defends that change]
IN THE LARGER SENSE, we need to understant that this shift from subjective to objective truth is something only the DM experiences. The players do not have the benefit of any of this knowledge. From their perspective, the "knowledge" the DM relates is just as subjective as any other experience they gain from the world outside the game. Anything the DM tells them may or may not be true. The DM has no power to guarantee that any statement that's made will be taken as 100% factual by the players ... which creates a dynamic that can be both astonishing and exasperating, depending on the DM's comprehension of this rare dichotomy.
The sort of person who embraces the DM's chair is the sort that is comfortable with possessing total knowledge in the face of people who don't. Some DMs will use that disparity to their advantage; others will forego that advantage for the benefit of the players. Experienced players learn to tell the difference.
DMs uncomfortable with possessing that knowledge, learning they can't truly share it with anyone, will back out of the position in favor of returning to the player's position. Having the knowledge ~ understanding in part that it should not be shared, that sharing it will often meet with doubt or even apathy and that decisions creating the knowledge will lead to party unhappiness, frustration and even character death, is very uncomfortable for some. Of course, the demands to create the knowledge have their own toll.
Most of us hardly know ourselves very well; to ask a person who only partly understands their own nature to now make a world for others to judge, resist or resent is simply too much. We cannot ask people to play god who haven't the stomach for it. After all, it isn't just creating those second- and third-person truths about the king, the prime minister and the NPC. The DM takes over the role of creating those first-person opinions as well.
Think this is the way the world works? As DM, I know how the world works and you're not there yet. Think you can decide how people will treat you? As DM, I'll let my invented people decide that. Think you're a good person? As DM, I define "good." This is what "playing god" means.
It is easy to think those things are a judgement on the player by the DM ... and rest assured, many players absolutely take it that way. Remember, these are the beliefs we have at our core. When those beliefs are challenged, we don't care if this is a game or not. It is our responsibility to define elements of the game, such as ethics, values, emotion and such in the same way the players might; otherwise, the game itself will not exist as something the players will want to play. We can begin to discuss how that works with our next class.