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It's Not Just A Game!

(The Final) Conflict

by Coilean mac Caiside
Sep 20,2002




Passive and "adventuring" alignments aren't just ways to define the character. They also help to show how the player wants to approach the game; whether the player wants to sit there and react to whatever the world throws at them, or go out and pro-actively interact with it. It can be disastrous if the type of game the GM is running, doesn't mesh with what the player is planning - old news, I know, but imagine this particular example:

A "passive" player is roleplaying out his character's life within the village, waiting for events to strike and draw them into the plot; the GM is spending all their time updating events outside the village and in, waiting for the PC to form motivations and implement them. Eventually, the player gets bored and complains that there is nothing dangerous or unusual occurring, no challenges to defeat. The GM responds that, yes, it's rather difficult to overcome an adversary what isn't there [meaning that, since the player has hardly shown motivation for anything, no one has {seen it important enough to} set themselves in opposition to this]. Frustrated, and suddenly angered by the loss of time, the player blurts out "No adversity to overcome?!? Then what are we doing here???".

Well, not losing, that's for sure.

But is he winning? It depends on how you define that. Some people would say they've won if they wake up in the morning; others aren't satisfied until they've utterly crushed every last man, woman, and child in the gauntleted hand of victory.

The passives can All Just Get Along; they've learned to take pleasure in the "small" things. Keep in mind that this has usually been the majority of a population; so you might also describe them as only enjoying the "common" pleasures.

Those of the "adventuring" alignment, however, seem to set their standards higher.


"I always expect the worst. That way, all of my surprises are pleasant ones." - Unknown

By what do you judge success? How often do you determine this? I won't say that any answer is better or worse than another; but I will try to show you how to examine the details.

A cleric whose task is to convert an entire population, but does not have to do so all at once, may experience varying degrees of success; but when would this cleric even consider it possible to make the judgment?

Success is often measured by some form of comparison; such as success in keeping honor intact, if the character's performance during the interval of time matched their self-expectations. It can also be in the form of current fortunes, as compared to past or future - are they [still] better off than when they first started out? Than the end of the last interval? Have they met or exceeded the achievements they wished to find?

There is tolerance, also. How do you react to finding out how much [or little] you've succeeded? Are you incapable of abiding a single problem to remain in your life; every obstacle must be removed, and every enemy, eliminated? Or do you just shrug and say "I'm still alive, and have a chance to rebuild my fortune."?

Bolstered by these helpful questions, the player in our example asks "So basically we're just in a soap opera? Pure role-playing? Like . . . ?"


Ideally, the rolls of dice are determined by fate - the fate of the people we are simulating. Alas, I cannot ignore the very strong case which modern physics/statistics make about this being random, nor the even stronger case made by die-"rolling" cheaters. Amber bypasses this last issue by not using dice.

Amber states that a player can tell the GM his character is beginning to study up on riddles - and, later on, say that he "answers the sphinx." It also implies, in another section, that the success of specific actions can be directly related to the campaign you are in - one GM may have decided that what you try leads to disaster, and another GM lets it accomplish a result perfectly. These are both problematic - though fixed in the first instance, and accepted the second. The exact problem, at root, is this:

Puzzles, and other challenges to the players to come up with specific solutions or fail, forces conflict into a "our minds vs. the GM's mind" shape; winning becomes a question of "Is this riddle easier for me to solve than for the GM [to assign]?", and more a matter of outwitting the GM or deciphering how her mind works, than applying actual effort [to the actual problem].

This is much less of a danger with combat, where conflict is through the dice and/or character-only statistics. However, if you "roll Intelligence/Wisdom" or similarly use the dice to solve the problem, you're back to the randomness again, and the arbitrary nature of solutions that cut off roleplaying. The "randomness" can hurt you - and will, if you roll tasks often enough - the physics will make the die dictate results that should not have happened, and the statistics will even out successes/failures. There should be a way to handle things besides this or the "impress the GM" method - and there is.


Each time you perform a task, the level of success may vary. This happens with rolling dice too - and when we see the 1's, 2's, and 3's scattered on the table before us, we realize as players that it's probably why that attack just went "tink" against the villain's armor. But as characters, all we know is that we put our full effort into that blow - and it didn't work! So what justification do we have for trying again? Players can see damage - we . . . ?

We just shoot them again if we missed once!

The dieroll is an equivalent means of determining the effort brought to bear on a situation. Another one is to reward the player for what they bring through from the character's world. The stronger their connection, the more likely they are to know exactly what did happen in result. My main methods of measuring this [and I'm aware how insufficient they are; I'm always looking for more] are to look for creativity, and the originality of their ideas.

Yep - in short, they have to surprise me. But it is my sincere hope that, in so doing, they have drawn on the world - through their character.

I also consider "effort" as a way of testing the environment for more information. You try something, and I have a chance to reveal more, by knowing where to look when I examine the results. I also look, myself, at the world in general, using my familiarity with it to predict where something will go. Not to contemplate what I want to happen, but the general tide of events. On the rare occasion when the consequences I predict to your action goes against everything I've observed up 'til then, I may intervene - but even this method is imperfect, since your character may be the rare figure whose single actions [a butterfly flapping it's wings] can rapidly change the world.

I genuinely do like surprises. Perhaps that's why I reward players for giving me one. Other GM's like surprises too; others pretend to, but have really just invented this choose-your-own-adventure scenario, and are so nervous and/or indecisive about how it should turn out, that they've recruited the players to make these choices for them. I'd rather not be the latter; I like predicting that things will turn out a vague way, but only to later be proven wrong about it, since this means that I have learned more about that world.


"If you can't win fair, just win!" - U.S. Grant

"Die"-rollers cheat by controlling events - remotely. They influence the dice to manipulate the outcome of an event towards their character's benefit. Cheating with dice removes the main reason of using dice in the first place - to sometimes succeed and sometimes not, in a way that is not dictated by players. The range of values on the die also narrow the margins of success or failure, and allow more factors to effectively influence an effort.

Yet it isn't just the players who cheat [and no, I don't mean the GM]. I feel that cheating is fine, if it's in-character. To continue our example:

The GM has explained the type of game she's running, and the player is incredulous - at what is being required to get the adventure started. "You mean . . . you expect me to just put myself in harm's way?" he asks.

Great Victory . . .

"Winning isn't the most important thing; it's the only thing!" - J. Caesar

In our example, the player's character was not just getting by in life; he faced adversarial conditions in the surrounding environment as well. Ask any farmer [of a few centuries back] if they worked 16-hour days for the hell of it.

Yet role-playing games are also about character conflict, and that doesn't just mean combat. Combat is simple because all you have to do is kill the problem - it may not always be that easy. Killing the problem does have the advantage of finality, however. [Have 'Speak With Dead'? You can kill first and ask questions later.]

Why is combat so often the answer? Because "adventurers" are already used to the fundamental philosophy behind it. They've embraced the idea of "doing unto others," and if "passive" discussion doesn't work, well, nobody can argue with you if their tongue is cut out, jawbone shattered, intimidated, unconscious - or dead.

I'm not saying you should think of "adventurers" as "aggressive" next time you see the term. Dammit, it was their fault for not agreeing with you! They had the chance, and they chose to anger such intolerant people! No, the concept I suggest you associate with "adventurers" is "bully."

. . . at Great Cost

"The problem is that, when you have a big enough hammer, sooner or later every problem begins to look like a nail." - Abraham Maslow

Alas, you often reap what you sow. And in battles, people die. Even the PC's. [Well, depending on the system and GM, each of which may be leaning probability in favor of the players and/or away from mortality.]

Fortunately, it's possible for those of an Adventuring bent to take a more . . . non-hostile approach to the solution, such that any failure need not equate death. There's no need to be such a bully about it - to flex that superiority in every situation. Unfortunately, the habit of instantly escalating any confrontation into an either/or, they die or we do outcome, comes hand in hand with the fixation on Victory - as opposed to . . .


It's a frequent result of many conflicts. Sometimes there's a tie, or the battle is unresolved, and sometimes - as in the case of a cleric converting many heathens to his religion - everyone wins [or, more accurately, changes their minds to think they've won]. But most of the time, one [or more] side[s] wins, and everyone else loses. This happening to an adventuring party often spells the end of their time together.

Almost everybody enjoys good fortune, so it's not unusual for a player to share in their character's feelings. But it's not good to let that desire to win grow so fierce that it crowds out all other delights. Said plainly: if you expect not to have fun by failing, you won't. In the failure of your character, you can find much else to take pleasure in - and even find it beneficial.

In-character, yes, you will earnestly avoid suffering. Here's a reminder: it's called your Survival Instinct. But the world isn't perfect - intent oft leads to disaster. To failure.

You can [learn to] have fun - by laughing at yourself. You may find yourself, one day, gleefully throwing obstacles in the path of your character, conspiring with the GM to make life more difficult for them - because it makes the game more entertaining. Once you've separated your view [as a player] from the Survival Instinct which drives the character, you'll begin to perceive all the failures which daily plague our characters.

You'll also begin to perceive those failures which can be experienced byother characters - and this can upset their


It's all very well and good to create [more] trouble for yourself, but players with different points of view on the matter usually take umbrage at your even making a suggestion that might lead to something bad for their character. Or mentioning a possibility, however true, which could make things worse for them. This manifests in everything from insisting that conversations from NPC's be held away from other players so they can't kibitz, to expecting you to only make comments on their behalf, to allowing the GM to remain ignorant of a section of rules which directly forbids their action, and yelping when you helpfully remind the GM that it's an illegal [ab]use of the power.

But that's not all! Often players, when catching you making things more difficult for your own character, will still object - taking it personally. They feel that anything you do to your characters affects their character - because they feel that their character, is the group itself. They'll even take steps to counteract your "cheating" - steps that, in anyone else's view, could themselves be "cheating." Specifically, acting on the information they hold as players - of your character [or, from their view, acting on the knowledge "their character" {the group} holds].

Local omniscience is nice, but when everyone in the group knows everything about everyone else in the group, an important factor of roleplaying is removed. All intrigue is done through the DM with the NPC's, and character interaction might as well be socializing. There is no character conflict, and combat doesn't count. You need a nice game like Paranoia, where the [OOC] precept is that the players are all against each other, to teach important, valuable, and ultimately fun lessons.


The group is not a collective entity controlled by all players. The group is an imaginary construct, used to refer to a lot of individuals who . . . well, coordinate may not be the right word. I know a lot of groups who don't plan or use any coordination at all. For at least one outcome, their actions interlock to create results.

Think of all the novels you've read. In how many of them does everyone all just get along ? Every "main character," that is, every "protagonist?" Ruling out the ones where a solitary "hero" wanders their way through the story, how many have character matches "Fit for the Gods!"? I don't recall any myself. That's probably because such a story wouldn't have much substance. To exaggerate, it might read something like this:

Supersword the hero heard about Evilmage the villain, and decided to go to his Tower of Doom to kill him. Along the way he slaughtered Helpme the innocent bystander and Grunt the pillaging orc who just happened to get in his way. When Supersword the hero got to the Tower of Doom, he had a short battle with Evilmage the villain, managing to kill him.

Integration may be an in-character way to refer to "groups." But out-of-character, since many other factors contributed to that Effect [whether they be NPC's or aspects of the general environment], we might say that a bunch of players got together to focus on the details of a story, to enlarge the roles of several particular individuals and their interaction. A good word for this is:


Think about it. You go to some effort to make sure that your character will "fit in." In each set of people, all of whom participated to some extent in bringing something about, only a few might be spending most of their time together, throughout. It's more convenient to run a campaign if all the people stay with one another, unless they "switch character" [alter focus from one individual, who will not be with the rest for a while, to another that will] from time to time. But some people don't want to play certain characters, and the trick is in finding the exact group which contains one of each. In this sense, players conspire to fit within the group.

I used to do this. Now, I change the situation to involve the character with the group.


Imagine ordinary people, who by circumstance and desperation have been forced into extraordinary actions. [-eagerly- "And the stress activated his latent . . . !"] I said forced , not forged . We'll get to that later, under Advancement. They're still normal, but in a different situation, one that demands they rise to the occasion.

There are several cliches which utilize this story-telling method. The two worst enemies who are hired to work together for a common goal, imprisoned and need each other's skills to break out, or are chained together and need to move through hostile territory, are just one set. Whether in a movie, novel [or more, from a series], a few episodes of a TV run, or chapter[s] in a book, however, it eventually comes to an end; one of them is killed off [conflict resolved], or they kiss and make up [another form of resolution, of the "happy ending" variety]. This works fine for the aforementioned categories, which need closure, but do role-playing games truly need to have a set end?

It should indeed be possible to run a campaign in which character conflict perpetually exists. Ordinary people can eventually be crushed by it, true, and may then have to seek "retirement" to recover from their stress. But if they were forced together and to continue, how easy will this "retirement" be? If it isn't an option, they may go mad. And this is covered in role-playing games - in Call of Cthulhu, characters quite frequently suffer from...


"The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success." - Elliot Carver, "Tomorrow Never Dies"

In CoC, going mad is practically inevitable. It can even be regarded as the ultimate goal of each game. From a roleplaying perspective, this is about the worst fate you can put yourself in for - experiencing the slow deconstruction of a mind from the inside. Roleplaying someone who is sinking into madness, without becoming insane yourself, would require great skill. The chance of this is why horror gamers receive, by default, my deepest respect. I'm far too terrified to risk it myself, but I do appreciate some reasoning for it. Going mad as the price for perceiving, let alone manipulating, what you must interact with to "succeed" in the story - that is remarkably similar to roleplaying the bad with the good, the "losing" with "winning".

As I said, I am too terrified to inflict this dual suffering upon myself. However, I do regularly "lessen" my characters in related ways. Now, I'm not saying "Heaven forbid I should play a character that grows, that matures."; I'm wondering "Heaven forbid I should play a character that doesn't." Why should all change be towards maturing, my character changing for the better ? Is it bad roleplaying to change my character in a way that isn't?

Being through some trying times may shatter someone's personality, and leave them a sobbing heap less capable of dealing with life. If this places me at a disadvantage either roleplaying-wise or through mechanics, can anyone truly gainsay my choice - in the name of "roleplaying?" I, after all, am the one whose responsibility it has been to stay aware of the character. And I am not keeping them from. . .


"I'll let you do the killing. You need the experience." - Morvin Crumb, Dragon's Gold, Piers Anthony & Robert E. Margroff

We play/run games that we like: to have fun. Participating in something which, in addition to everything else, is entertaining , is obviously more desirable than activities which aren't. But that's just considering the Fun Factor - and there's more than just fun here. It's often been said that gaining gold/exp for your character does not benefit you, real life. Yet that shouldn't also mean you can't progress as a real being using the simulation.

By placing your viewpoint into different situations, which others help you reproduce in a realistic fashion, and by aligning that viewpoint with other people, you not only practice the ability to view yourself objectively, but have the chance of learning from a situation before it happens [for real]. The realism of the simulation will help make it seem like it's really happening, and your emotional attachment will help anchor it to you - in a more meaningful sense than you would get by memorizing it from a book. You can draw upon your experiences as a character, turning them into something useful, by automatically recollecting how a character of yours was once in a similar situation.

With experience [in roleplaying], a player can also learn how to discern whether or not their character would fail at an action. Yes, without rolling dice. But there is reasoning behind not allowing them to dictate the times this happens: they could always choose to succeed [based on when the player felt it was truly important]. And failing only when you can afford to arouses boredom - a sensation that is plaguing our player from the example above [no, it wasn't abandoned, just neglected for a time].. He's finally decided that he was not, by any definitions of the word that count , winning. But has he lost?

You may suffer a loss, but did it come hand-in hand with advancement? Or was it deliberate? Did you want to miss out on that opportunity, to get rid of that semi-crucial item? Even characters may decide that something has grown too easy. And try to give themselves a little bit more of a


In Amber, advancement takes conflict. In other words, without threat, there is no advancement. Likewise, without victory, there is no advancement. Characters can only advance if they actually overcome some kind of obstacles. - Character Advancement, A Game Master's Guide to Campaign Construction, AMBER Diceless Role-Playing

There is conflict in day-to-day life. There is also conflict in a high-powered PC's vs. low-powered monsters campaign. Neither bring much risk to the lives of those dealing with them. The level of risk, however, depends on the form of conflict - and which is deemed more important. You might not be in danger of your life, but since death will only have removed your character from the campaign, the prospect of social embarrassment can be worth much more - it inflicts long-term consequences.

If we insist on rolling dice for the "social" skills, why not roll dice for combat as well? No, I mean just that - roll the comparative combat skills against each other, and whoever wins won the fight, without going into detail. The answer, naturally, is that different combat-related skills may vary, and the trick is to maneuver everything into a confluence of opportunities where you can bring your superior skill into play against their lesser skill. Which is really just another way of saying that you're roleplaying combat - the system is in place for politics as well, just less visible since many game-writers put all their detail into the combat mechanics.

Character improvement through "on-the-job-training" is a common-sense justification for gaining "experience" so quickly when out adventuring, yet not [within the official system] being able to advance at all, or nearly as quickly, when taking formal courses on anything. And I think that this "on-the-job-training" should be worth more - for that job. No getting your ranger to tenth level in the dungeon, then stepping outside for the first time and pointing to all the rare greenery to flawlessly identify it on the first try. I value this training process, however, because it involves role-playing - the player is taking a direct hand in their character's progress. Certainly, it should be possible to learn combat skills without playing through all of it, if you find that boring - but you should roll dice to determine whether or not you survived the necessary risk.

The application of experience should also be gradual - in real life, how many skills do you possess which did not have varying degrees of success? If the system is level-based, not point-based, you may have an even easier time of it - the less choice there is to make about which skills to take, the more reliably every amount of experience can be matched up to a corresponding improvement which will be made. You don't stay ignorant about a subject until you graduate the course in it, then become instantly fluent - you slowly build knowledge, choosing your specialization if any back when you can choose which topics to focus on acquiring more information about, and may encounter minor failures when you try to apply yourself professionally. Don't demand the same of your characters.

Allow them a chance [even one to make the attempt] approximately equal to [experience earned towards the next level] / [experience required for the next level]. If they have 3,000 experience, and need 4,000 for the next level, 250 experience [3,250 total] will give them a one-in-four chance of knowing something relevant - and being able to use the skill, in that single instance, as if they were a professional. This also will allow them to roleplay practicing for an ability they're planning to obtain.

Your ranger may be able to get to tenth level killing monsters inside the dungeon, but what about your ordinary peasant? Is he doomed to never gain any experience, never advance, if he never goes on an. . .


To that ordinary farmer, bringing the harvest in on time while facing an early winter that year, was a big challenge. And he risked starvation for his entire family if he did not. If he accomplishes that, hasn't he earned something more than survival? He becomes a hero to his family, perhaps - but why do we seek more extravagant heroics?

In our modern culture, terms like "due process" and "vigilante justice" discourage anyone from escaping the system; a system which indiscriminately battles great villains - and heroes. How can a single person, acting alone, come to affect things on a wide scale? The belief in heroes, that heroism can exist, has largely been lost - a mindset we can experience by roleplaying a character that does live in such a world.

In a world where Good and Evil are external forces . . . where a single act of unsolicited kindness, or paladin tortured to death, can weaken one side in all manifestations, worldwide . . . the "small" stuff will matter. And if the act is reciprocal, that farmer should benefit just as quickly as the slayer of paladins. No matter how high his Agriculture skill, one year or another the farmer should have failed his crop, right? Statistically. Which only matters if you were rolling the dice.

Training "during adventure" is one thing; a retired character, on the other hand, like a farmer, could be rewarded by never having to roll. For a "hero" that is going out to slay the "mythical" agents of an opposing force, neither force can bring their power to bear on the situation, guaranteeing success; Chance has the opportunity to intervene. When not wrapped up in the nexus of conflict between two such mystical forces, however, a character could benefit from their benign intent.

In Amber, a character cannot have both Good and Bad Stuff; they cancel out. In a world where both forces are vying for the most aligned beings, however, why should one side give up on the battle for one being, merely because the other force has already staked a claim? Allow a character to accumulate Favors, in a sense, but classify each Favor by what force owes them this; the Favor can only be called in for an activity which that force would not oppose. The farmer need not irrevocably declare his allegiance with the first act of Good or Evil he commits - each act of a given nature feeds the corresponding force, and each force hopes it will be fed the most.

Or a being could enter the realm of Chance, and attempt to have a personal say in which force reigns supreme; find an area of conflict in which the two forces hold back from direct interference [lest their collision destroy the universe?], and their personal will, skill, and determination can truly affect events. Yet not many choose this arena - for, though it is a major way of tipping the balance, it also entails leaving their mundane life behind. Not many are willing to make this kind of


I have described many occasions for conflict within this article; you with your character, another player with your character, you with the GM, you with another player; it seems only fair to conclude this article by addressing how you might be in conflict with yourself - Personal, not Situational. Before going into depth on these Personal Conflicts, however, I feel I should expand on what I mean by a "Situational" conflict.

You're hungry after dinner, but you only have enough spare change to get an ice cream cone or some cotton candy. Or there's a game AND date on Friday night, at the same time, but they're hours apart. Typically, you make a choice, and it's one or the other. You suffer a loss from this, but it probably won't hurt you over the long run, and you can make a different decision if the opportunity comes up again.

First, you could Accept the loss; since you did manage to do one, decide you hadn't lost , per se. Second, you could mug someone else for their money and buy both, or waylay your date and drag them off to the game; imagine a stubborn Refusal to "fail" coupled with a willingness to commit almost any act to ensure total success. Finally, you could Compromise, tossing your dignity away for a moment to beg people for change, or trading your date future favors in exchange for a rain check - this last also holds the advantage of being less likely to get you arrested by the police in the near future ;)

It also requires you, however, to make some sort of trade-in for what you want - you have to sacrifice something else you wanted [if you didn't, why was there a conflict?]. This isn't much worry - in a Situational conflict. There is very little chance of pre-determining future choices by your actions - you make many of them every day without limiting your course in life. But this is reversed in the Personal conflicts.


"There are two sort of fools: the fool who says 'This is old, and therefore good'; and the fool who says 'This is new, and therefore better'." - Anon

Where is your belief put in? What views do you not only support, but take for your own? And what if two views tell you that the other is invalid, suspect, weak? That is where you may face a conflict within yourself - be forced to abandon one view forever, or allow it to remain, influencing your decisions though part of you believes it to be faulty. Now, you might be able to make a compromise - combine [within yourself] the strengths of those two points of view, and discard their weaknesses - but what if each side's strength is seen as their weakness by the other? In trying to resolve this dilemma, I contemplated this article by Andrew Rilstone.

If all "advancement" [progression through life] were for the better, a very logical case could be made for later stages being superior to earlier stages. The progression which Andrew is describing seems, at first, to be quite set in origin and destination - the pace is chronologically set, and since no one is [known for] living "backwards," they go from childishness to maturity.

Then I was struck by the phrase "try to rediscover our inner adults." I wondered, what if you had a child trying to rediscover his inner adult? Childishness can be "the state of being a child," or it can be the stereotypical distinctive qualities which people associate with children more than any other group. Maturity, likewise, can be "the state of being mature" - but nothing absolutely forbids a child from possessing it. When it comes to childishness and maturity, who is defining which must come first, which is of greater importance? For or against, you can generally find two reasons:

1. We have it and look down on the other for how they're less than us.

2. We don't have it and envy the other because we believe it's better than what we have.

The first focuses on the "bad" qualities, the weaknesses; the second focuses on the "good" qualities, the strengths. And some people, as Andrew described, can be both - becoming the strengths, discarding the "weaknesses". It was in examining the "strengths as weaknesses" for either side, in my own situation, that I found the


"Whereas once I was blind, now I can see." - The Game [movie]

Roleplaying and powergaming - two viewpoints, or ways of being, that seemed mutually incompatible. I had thought that what was present in one, was made impossible by the other - but, upon reconciliation, it became apparent that there was nothing in this. The only "incompatibility" between roleplaying and powergaming came from believing that in order to embrace one aspect, one must cast away the other - and the rejection of all portions of that belief, thereby.

By drawing on the connection to my character, I can learn from them - to control that, I can deliberately limit my own choices of characters, restricting myself in what I reach out for - I may *choose* to play characters with common sense, that can think, apply tactical ploys. Also, instead of stretching my own mind to match that of my character's, I could [in playing someone less astute than myself], still apply the limits of my mind - I funnel it into making things fun, by: challenging for me!

I need not always play those with an ability to "take care of themselves," either - many very wise, extremely skilled fighters, have spoken some very true words . . . saying that the opponent they most fear is the untrained newbie. Why? Because, with no school of learning, their moves cannot be predicted - and, in fact, they may try something the master would never expect simply because the newbie does not know it cannot work [in such a case, the phrase might even be "shouldn't" have worked]..

But back to the dualism dilemma. Must I choose one or the other? Well, I reject that. If I make a choice, go to either side, another will lose meaning; I would rather forge my own path. I have roleplaying in my heart, and powergaming, and I will find a way for both. I have shown you a way to treat the symptoms, not the cause; powergaming, for me, is no longer a bad thing, but a good. Neutralize that which would ruin roleplaying, and both can be enjoyed safely. I do not know if there is a word yet for what I am, but one thing I am sure of: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.


" . . . I have learned a great deal through the years, and expanded my knowledge of the field; of specific issues; of the conditions; of applications, and I intend to continue expanding it, but I have never had to change any of my fundamentals . . . " - an interview with AYN RAND, University of Michigan

Have my articles been arranged in neat easy packages, especially this last one? (Must.. refrain.. from.. comment.. ;) -Ed.) I should hope not! Do all the lessons in your life arrive in neat little packages?

Do you expect them to?

There is a disadvantage to our modern, structured educational system [well, actually, there are several, but for the purposes of this section I'm going to focus on one in particular]. In bringing several people together in an institute which is specifically focused on learning, for a set time [i.e., here and now], it allows them to discuss it in a group of many - much like some rather ancient philosophers did with a lyceum. But in focusing all this attention on "learning in the lyceum," it also draws attention away from the "learning outside the lyceum." Many people learn a specific frame of mind, a "learning" mental state, and only invoke it when they are at school. Of those, some have even come to expect that lessons will have clearly delineated applications and be arranged for easy comprehension. This leaves them less able to use everything they experience as a lesson, or cross-apply lessons to different situations.

Several of the methods described in my articles may seem alien to you. But don't pay attention to the methods alone - they're just a housing for what I'm truly attempting to communicate, the concepts. Discern what is useful and apply it to your own situations.

Instead, you may also find that some of what I am saying possesses striking similarities to something in your own experiences. This does not mean it is the same. It is only what I have been trying to locate - the overlap between our dissimilar modes of thought. My focus is entirely different - but has nonetheless led me through some areas you may also frequent.

Is there validity to my way of life, or have I merely bullshitted myself into using what can't be put together? Is my thinking truly different, or am I just offering excuses to justify leaps of logic which exceed your most generous allowances? One may as well ask if the reverse is true - and I felt this worth the risk. Call it faith that your way is valid - but it's proven beneficial, allowing me to learn from practically everything I encounter. The real question is, in the interests of learning something from my articles . . . will you extend the same in return?

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What do you think?

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  • (The Final) Conflict by Coilean mac Caiside, 20sep02
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