Monday, October 26, 2015

Justify my Love

I absolutely LOATHE and DESPISE Justification systems in chat games.
The main reason is a personal one. There was a game I was involved in, and I rather liked it. The players at that site were actually a lovely bunch and I rather liked playing with them.
I got in at the jump of this game. As one of the very beginning players I had a slight advantage in terms of a small amount of points to spend, that once the first month of play had passed, I'd be able to spend freely. It was about 25 points, so, not trivial.
And if that was what had taken place, things would have been fine.
The problem was, the original ST who built the venue flamed out within 2 weeks of opening the place. It happens. I don't blame him. Any new place is likely to have a certain amount of turn-over in the first couple of months.
The fellow who replaced him, well...
Let me simply say, and I'll be clear that I am speculating here…I am convinced that he would have been perfectly happy to run a vampire venue where none of the players had any power, or money, or weapons, or clothing, or havens. Each and every single one of his NPC's was more powerful than any ten players combined, and they all acted like jerks.
This by itself, we probably could have weathered. We also probably could have weathered the fact that he and his Assistant ST, started going through people's sheets and removing things they found objectionable, things that the former ST had signed off on. Things that we'd sort of gotten used to having. I think he wanted his player-base to be hungry, naked, covered in pee, and on fire. I think they both did.
Many of us were unhappy. But the thing that made us most frustrated is that seemingly no one was being allowed to spend their points. See, They wanted you to justify your purchases. I got no problems with explaining to a storyteller how I'm planning to purchase something with my points. That's no trouble at all. But they seemed to want an inordinate amount of information. Like weeks of blue-booking. You know what? I have better things to do with my time than spend a lot of it writing about how i'm practicing this or that skill multiple times per week. I'm sorry that sentence is unclear. I have better things to do than POST multiple times per week about trying to pick up this or that skill.
Finally, deeply frustrated and sitting on about 50 points. I sent a PM to the ST explaining that I would gladly do whatever it was that they wanted in order to spend my points and I'm sure that the rest of the player base would likely do it as well, if only we knew what you required.
To which he replied, and I swear by Frank Zappa's guitar hand I am not making this up, "But figuring it out is half the fun!"
He, and perhaps his Assistant ST, had decided among themselves, that making us play guessing games was more important than running a venue full of happy players. Not only that, but he only ever looked at Character threads about once every other week, so these negotiations on expenditures dragged on for MONTHS.
At this point, i recognized that this venue was doomed. I spoke to the people I enjoyed playing with, and advised them to get as far from this place as possible. Some left, some stuck it out. I don't know if any of that ever worked. I heard after I left that the ST publicly wondered WHY I or anyone else would ever leave.
I didn't play another chat game for at least 2 years.
I admit, my feelings on this are just that, feelings. But my thinking on this is sound.
*Justification systems are a choke point in any game, especially for an ST who thinks he's still running a table-top game. They are different animals. If I am running a TT game, I already know what my players are doing and whether they've done the necessary things to garner something unusual. If I'm running a chat game with 50 players, i would have to read dozens of requests every single fucking day How much can an ST reasonably be expected to read?
* If you're running a justification system and you require your players to write a justification for something under 4 dots, or something that's in the core rules, then you are WAY too anal retentive to be in charge of your game.
* I have seen ST's require a player to write a justification for getting a fire-axe. Not Laser-guided missiles, Not mil-spec weaponry. This is a weapon that is available to any human/vampire that is near a Wal-mart that is open all night. This is being a control freak.
* Recently, A site that I play on has moved to a justification system after having only needed a set of training times, The site is relatively new and players are pointing out that their characters would have been designed differently if they'd stayed with the system they'd started with. Now, players who are making their new characters will have an actual design advantage over veterans.
I can look at my own sheet and see that it's true.
*Justification systems create game balance issues, especially in cross-over venues. Your Changeling ST may be very tight with point expenditures and require a lot of effort to prize loose good things. Your Geist ST may be fairly indulgent and as a result, you may have players that can mop the floor with players of other venues. I don't think there are too many GMs who will willingly accept draconian hard guidelines on what they can and must require of their players. It smacks a bit too much of being told how to run your own damn game. If you WANT the extra understanding of what a player is doing to acquire this or that, YOU can bloody well ASK for it. But if i'm running MY game over here…All i'm going to see is that your requiring me to do a LOT more paperwork than I was used to.
*J-systems also create favoritism issues. Look. This is a medium that enables people with fairly busy lives to have the opportunity to game. Pants-less if possible. Not everyone is going to have time to write a novellas-worth of blue-book. And odds are good, as an ST, you won't have time to read it. Not everyone is a shut-in with immune-deficiency issues and over-developed fingers.
Not everyone is good writer.(God knows I stink on ice.) and not every character is blue-book fodder. I've had characters that were a LOT of fun to write, and I didn't even care if the ST read my posts, other than my formal requests. And other characters, I just don't do that with. It depends.
In any case, what I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of factors that can tip your situation, and have the ST showing you, or not showing you,favoritism. Once a game acquires a reputation for favoritism, it almost never shakes it.
* Even the tacit message of installing a justification system is damaging to your games culture. it essentially says. "You players can't be trusted to spend your points responsibly without us checking up on you." And that's not a message I, or many others, are ever going to be comfortable with. Even if there are people who NEED checking up on.
Look. Maybe I'm over-reacting here. As like as not, when I talk to my ST's about what I'm trying to accomplish, I try to be thorough and clear. And for the most part, it's not a problem at all. But it only takes one real jerk to make you see how flawed a system can be. For instance, I have always held that the idea of pedestrians always having the right of way in a city street is a flawed system. It is predicated on the idea that a motorist can (A) See you. and (B) Care if you live or die.
Any system like that, is one I don't have a lot of confidence in


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