What Is a Right?

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What Is a Right?
« on: September 11, 2014, 09:44:03 PM »
I just spent a lot of time writing up a post, and it got eaten, so fuck you, answer my questions, because I've done a lot of work and all I get is more questions.

  • What is a right?
  • What is the purpose of calling something a right?
  • Do rights imply duties?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on NPCs?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on PCs?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on players?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on the MC?
  • Do NPCs have rights?
  • If so, do they imply duties on PCs? on players? on the MC?
  • Do players have rights?
  • Does the MC have rights?
  • Do non-players have rights?
  • Do rights imply duties on nonplayers?
  • Are there universal/status rights?
  • If so, can PCs claim implicit rights
  • Do rights have a accompanying social support systems?
  • If so, are they different for each right? For each domain?
  • Why use an intricate rights framework in a setting that, historically, did not organize itself under the concept of rights?
  • How would you describe a exemplary historical Dark Ages society in terms of rights?
  • Does a right imply a character or player against whom to claim the right?
  • Do characters without an explicit right lack an implicit right?
  • Is a rights framework appropriate for the rules of a game? Of a role-playing game? Of a collaborative role-playing game?

There were more questions and even some justifications and arguments, but they got eaten, and I'm not typing them up again until I've got something to argue against other than my own questions. I will say, though, that I'm not making a distinction between rights in the game and rights outside of the game, because I feel that the game text is fuzzy on that too.

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2014, 12:04:26 PM »
My two half-pennies:

1) I think these are good questions
2) I don't know the answers to many of them
3) For me, the concept of rights is thematically evocative enough that, for me, going into the game not knowing the answers and playing to find out feels like an interesting and probably fruitful option
4) This one I think you're dead wrong about:
"Why use an intricate rights framework in a setting that, historically, did not organize itself under the concept of rights?"
 -- I think rights, and duties and obligations and privileges (which as you note are all interrelated) were absolutely core to self-understanding of many Dark Ages societies. Each individual class having specific rights, the burghers, the nobles, the peasants, the king, was absolutely crucial to their social organization. Rights to graze here, to go there, rights to an audience, the liege's right to call his vassals to fight, the vassal's right to protection. The accumulations and negotiations of rights, the granting and withholding of them, was a fundamental part of politics under developing feudalism -- the king granting charters to towns allowing their residents rights that the surrounding serfs did not have, for instance, or battles between church and crown over who had the right to appoint bishops. Some of this is more medieval than Dark Ages but that makes it all the more interesting -- many rights which by the medieval period were nailed down and institutionalized, a matter of course, were in the Dark Ages still being figured out, as massive migration of peoples brought groups with wholly different conceptions of rights into conflict, so that, for instance, in Merovignian France, former Roman citizens had the right to be tried under Roman law while the invading Germanic peoples had the right to be tried under Salic law.

What the period did not have was any concept of universal rights -- "The Rights of Man". The notion that you were accorded any rights simply by being born a human being was alien to the period. But that's actually what makes rights powerful as a game quasi-mechanic -- each playbook has different <i>rights</i>, which makes perfect sense for the Dark Ages and would be nonsensical after the Enlightenment.

To throw in my own analysis, I think rights are the single thing AW:DA is doing which is most provocative and experimental (and which are presumably designed, according to Baker's formula, to royally (pun intended) piss off 5% of his potential audience) -- and the main thing that's provocative and experimental about them is their intentional blurring of the narrative, mecanical, and real-world-social-contract-between-MC-and-players spheres. (The "denied right" move option "hold it against the MC" looks to me like a provocative and outrageous push towards emotional bleed). I have no idea if this is actually going to work on-table but it's probably the thing I'm most excited about about the game.

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2014, 06:04:32 PM »
To throw in my own analysis, I think rights are the single thing AW:DA is doing which is most provocative and experimental (and which are presumably designed, according to Baker's formula, to royally (pun intended) piss off 5% of his potential audience) -- and the main thing that's provocative and experimental about them is their intentional blurring of the narrative, mecanical, and real-world-social-contract-between-MC-and-players spheres. (The "denied right" move option "hold it against the MC" looks to me like a provocative and outrageous push towards emotional bleed). I have no idea if this is actually going to work on-table but it's probably the thing I'm most excited about about the game.

My thought was "I guess AW wasn't misunderstood enough..."

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2014, 07:30:40 PM »
My take:

  • What is a right?
  • What is the purpose of calling something a right?

A right is a privilege that allows you to have something, or behave a certain way. Maybe you were brought up and taught that its something you have, or something you can exercise. It might be something you earned, by proving yourself or by being declared by a superior, but it could just simply be something that everybody knows about you and that you know with certainty.
Within the framework of the game, assume the same thing. Your character has the right to do the thing described in the right, and everybody else within the fiction pretty much knows you have that right too.

  • Do rights imply duties?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on NPCs?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on PCs?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on players?
  • Do PC rights imply duties on the MC?
  • Do NPCs have rights?
  • If so, do they imply duties on PCs? on players? on the MC?

Within the structure of the rules I would say the most obvious answer is "no."
But these are all good questions that could perhaps be answered within the game.
Why does the Court Wizard believe he has the right to a day of rest? What does he do to earn that right? Was it bestowed upon him? Did he become the Court Wizard because that is a right inherited with this role? What duties does he perform to maintain that right?

  • Do players have rights?
  • Does the MC have rights?
  • Do non-players have rights?
  • Do rights imply duties on nonplayers?
  • Are there universal/status rights?
  • If so, can PCs claim implicit rights

Nothing within the rules says so. I'm kind of confused why you would think the players have rights since they seem to speak directly to the social narrative within the game's fiction.

  • Do rights have a accompanying social support systems?
  • If so, are they different for each right? For each domain?

They have a support system that you create.
If these questions were being asked of 9th century locals I imagine their answer would be "Everybody knows the King makes the laws. Why? Because he's the King. Who else would do that?"

  • Why use an intricate rights framework in a setting that, historically, did not organize itself under the concept of rights?

This is completely wrong! As others have said, there's no concept of universal human rights, but the right to rule was very much a part of archaic civilization. Look at Augustus Ceasar, look at the Pope, look at King Arthur, look at Alexander the Great, look at Genghis Khan. All of these people had the right to rule over lands that swore fealty to them, in some cases because those lands were conquered and in others because people believed that right was bestowed by god at birth or via ceremony.
And these are just obvious examples, google: "mandate of heaven" or "divine right"
The divine right of kings was something that was just a traditional part of society and not much is written about it in Western historical texts until people started coming together and saying that it was a dumb idea and maybe the monarch shouldn't have a divine right.

  • How would you describe a exemplary historical Dark Ages society in terms of rights?

Tough question. Normally I wouldn't start in terms of rights, but I would default to using the local ruler as an example of the right to rule. And probably point out that rights were contentious and people fought over them constantly. Look at the Magna Carta, because that was written in the 1200s and was supposed to codify what rights rulers had beside the king based on traditions that were known but never previously written down, and it was also meant to curb the king (denying rights) because he was walking over everybody else's rights by exercising his own.
It also led to a lot more fighting as well!

  • Does a right imply a character or player against whom to claim the right?

I'm confused by this question because I don't know what you're really asking.

  • Do characters without an explicit right lack an implicit right?

Not necessarily. Depends on the right and how you're exercising it.
You have the right to speak, but you can't just say anything because there are consequences for offending people. Correct?

  • Is a rights framework appropriate for the rules of a game? Of a role-playing game? Of a collaborative role-playing game?

Certainly. Yes. Play to find out!
Looking for a playbook? Check out my page!
http://nerdwerds.blogspot.com/2012/12/all-of-playbooks.html

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2014, 11:21:01 AM »
Good answers!

As Vincent says himself in the playtest doc: "You can see the setting in the rights", and then goes on to elaborate which rights are which parts of the setting.

So: the rights are the setting's framework, or soundboard or whatever metaphor makes sense.

They are also how the player characters develop.

Per

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2014, 07:21:17 PM »
I feel like, while its necessary for our modern mind set to understand all of this, to your character it would sound a lot like over thinking it. In the real Dark Ages, there was a concept that rights came from God, either directly or indirectly through priests who interceded between people and God and kings who rules by divine right themselves. In a more anthropological description, we'd say that the belief in divine right was a tool for maintaining a social order. Whether that social order came from agreement of the people, force of arms or whatever is not something your average person living in that system puts much thought to. Where does our modern right to free speech come from? It comes from a system that to a greater or lesser extent protects that right and thrives from its existence.

Why does the Wicker Wise have a right to cast enchantments? Because that's part of her job as an intermediary to the old gods. She casts enchantments, sacrifices people to ensure a bountiful harvest etc. If you take those things away from her, you're denying the position of Wicker Wise itself in your society. The fact hat an angry Wicker God may also take vengeance on you is almost an aside to the fact that by denying her, you are denying your culture. You are breaking the rules that the world works by just as surely as you would be through murder or building a perpetual motion machine.

Why does the Court Wizard have a right to a day off? Because he's a holy man and holy men have a sabbath day when they're not supposed to labor. Taking away that right directly undermines what the character is. Its wrong in his eyes, its wrong in his god's eyes. Its wrong in the people's eyes.

The last one is a big point that I think hasn't come up much.  Regardless of where rights come from, its a safe assumption that your people respect them. So if you take a grievance to your people and they judge it fairly, they're going to come down on the side of someone whose rights have been denied.

*

Golux

  • 23
Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2014, 12:12:27 AM »
All this discussion of god given rights gives me pause to think.

I have been a big proponent that rights in AW:DA do not prevent action.  By that I mean that if I want to slay whom I must for the protection of all even if I have no right to do that I can do it.  No game mechanic will stop me. It would be interesting if the MC had a move for this.

When a player acts without right...

It might be a similarly non-mechanical move, but the MC can make it known you move without those rights given to you.

Then again... it might be too messy deciding what actions are within ones rights and what aren't. It's just a thought...


Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2014, 12:32:02 AM »
I realize I kind of comented on the discussion s opposed to the original question. Here's my take on some of that:
Yes, NPCs have rights gut they don't have Rights in a character sheet sense. Just like NPC in AW have a history with PCs or other NPCs but no Hx score. That seems like a strictly mechanical answer but it goes to both the agency of NPCs compared to PCs and their ability to do and be things not set out in playbooks.

Yes, Pcs and NPCs have duties. Those duties are defined more by the game world that your group comes up with than by systems. If there's a supernatural menace, the Troll Hunter is expected to kill it. The War Chief has a duty to defend the stronghold. However, there is no "if someone fails in their duty" move.

I actually think player and NPC rights are an interesting discussion but entirely separate conversation. Both certainly have expectations of what they're allowed to do and can hold it against the MC or each other if denied them.

By and large, rights have a social or mystical support system but the details are left to the individual player/group. I feel like a PC should be able to explicitly count on the default response of his people being to uphold his right. If his people aren't nearby, it is important to figure out whether some other group supports those rights or if they are regularly in conflict with the local people.

Yes, characters without a right have no right to x. The presence of a right implies a lack of that right to everyone else.

As for appropriateness, I think its a fascinating idea. I like that it makes the players and the characters confront where these rights come from and what to do when your rights are denied. They're a big motivator for PC action and they help define both the expectations of what the game will be about and a way to create tension from the difference between those expectations and the game's reality.

*

Golux

  • 23
Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2014, 01:57:57 AM »
Yes, characters without a right have no right to x. The presence of a right implies a lack of that right to everyone else.

I'm not so sure.  I see it a bit softer than that.  In my game the Keep Liege has foreign allies on her Household & Belongings sheet.  She did not however take the, "you have the right to write your distant allies for aid."  She did so.  I can't say that because she doesn't have the right that they automatically say no.  I'm going to have the allies (now that they are here) be a little more demanding in recompense for her aid since she didn't have the right. 

I see rights as:

You can do this thing.  Other people can do this thing too but they can be stopped or told not to.  Woe be to the soul that dares defy you your right for they are yours and can not be taken from you!


Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2014, 02:26:37 AM »
Sure. A right doesn't imply your ability to do something. Its softer than that. In the case of writing allies for aid, anyone can write but not everyone has a mechanical system for the aid that they receive. They have to rely on the MC's interpretation of the principles instead. You can write for aid but you have no right to expect aid. If they refuse, they're not denying your right.

I used an example in a different thread something like this:

If someone in your town is a werewolf and you don't have the right to kill people for the greater good, you can still do it. You can also expect to be treated as a murderer.
Anyone can try to talk to god(s) but only the Court Wizard has a right to expect a reply and possibly only he has the right to do it within the stronghold's laws.
If you don't have the right to contest the crown, you can take a shot at it anyway, The Petyr (Baelish) Principle, but if you win you are denying the rights of everyone who had the right to do it.
If you don't have a right to an enchanted weapon, you can own one anyway if you acquire one in play. On the other hand, if someone else has the right but no weapon and they take yours, its theirs by right. You can still try to take it back but you're denying their right then and they were not denying yours by taking it from you. He has recourse that you don't through his gods, his people, even on a player level.
In the event of some odd emergency, someone without the right to command the stronghold's armies may do so but only the War Chief can take for granted that the army will always follow his orders.

But as I was writing for this thread, something even bigger came to mind. A War Chief who isn't allowed to command an army isn't really a War Chief. A Troll Hunter who's tried for killing the werewolf isn't really a Troll Hunter. Denying someone's rights is a direct attack on the core of their identity, or even an attack on the validity of that position existing at all. You're not just denying the right, you're denying their place in society. Considering there are at least two major ways of life coexisting and coming into conflict in the game, that's a perfectly sensible mechanic to have. Maybe your goal is to say that the Wicker Wise and her annual sacrifice have no place in society. Its a valid move but its also a huge deal. The whole thing is a bit system light but its quite consequence heavy.

Come to think of it after the Petyr Baelish joke, this would all map pretty well to Westeros.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2014, 02:35:09 AM by nomadzophiel »

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2014, 02:47:14 AM »
I have a hard time seeing "You have a Right to X" as different from "Most people agree that you have a Right to X". After all, it's not like the right is an objectively extant thing you can put on your shelf and point to; it functions only if people respect it.

So if you have a Right to the hospitality of hearth and hall, you can go up to a hall and ask for lodgings, and people will generally recognize that they ought to take you in. They still might not, but you, they, and anyone watching know they're not doing what they ought.
If  you have no such Right, you can still ask. And it's not like you're guaranteed to fail. The people you're imposing on know that they're under no obligation to help you, but maybe they like your face, or you Win Them Over, or they recognize from your colors that you and they serve the same king.

What the Right provides is a social context in which the default is to give you the thing you have a right to, without further justification. It neither enables your actions nor forbids other people's, it just fills in a piece of the local social contract.

The fact that you can hold Rights violations against other PCs or the MC is a totally different thing though. That's extremely direct meta communication and in any group I play with I would expect the right-violating player to back down immediately.

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2014, 03:46:37 AM »
The fact that you can hold Rights violations against other PCs or the MC is a totally different thing though. That's extremely direct meta communication and in any group I play with I would expect the right-violating player to back down immediately.

I disagree. I my opinion denial of rights should provide a lot of fictional drive in this game, and it has nothing to do with what's going on on player level. Rights are a fictional thing, I don't why people insist that they are some meta-thing telling players (the actual people at the table) what the can or should do. Of course you have the right(!) as player (incl. the MC) to have your (non-)player characters challenge other characters' rights. In fact, I think you have the obligation to do that. This is also why one type of Rights are challenging another type, for example the Old Ways challenge the New Nobility and vice versa.

On another note, I think that it adds to the confusion that some Rights are directly mechanical (Add 1 to whatever), while others are in fact like Moves (fx. blessings of the Sun, guatdian soul, travel into region). I know I will have a problem explaining that to my players (first playtest next Sunday). How do you deny those?

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2014, 05:45:55 AM »
They are insisting that because the playtest rules literally say so:

Quote
When someone or something denies you your right, choose 1 of the
following....
Declare that the MC or the other player should reconsider, or else you will hold it against them.

The "them" very clearly refers to the real people in this situation, not the fictional characters, since no fictional characters are even mentioned in the sentence. The Denied Your Right move gives several options for in-fiction response, and also gives an option for out-of-fiction response, in which you directly tell the other people sitting at the table that you will be mad at them if they keep doing the thing they just did. (Of course, telling the other players that something is upsetting you is also an option we always have in all games, but having it in the rules with a particular trigger gives it extra legitimacy.)

Re: other note, someone denies your Right to the Blessings of the Sun and Moon if they lock you in a cell with no windows, since you can't call upon them from there. I think only the MC could deny your Right to seek friends when you travel into a region, for instance by declaring that a region has no people in it or that you couldn't possibly know them. I don't think the +stat Rights can be denied.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2014, 05:59:10 AM by chelonia »

Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2014, 07:01:03 AM »
They are insisting that because the playtest rules literally say so:

Quote
When someone or something denies you your right, choose 1 of the
following....
Declare that the MC or the other player should reconsider, or else you will hold it against them.

The "them" very clearly refers to the real people in this situation, not the fictional characters, since no fictional characters are even mentioned in the sentence. The Denied Your Right move gives several options for in-fiction response, and also gives an option for out-of-fiction response, in which you directly tell the other people sitting at the table that you will be mad at them if they keep doing the thing they just did. (Of course, telling the other players that something is upsetting you is also an option we always have in all games, but having it in the rules with a particular trigger gives it extra legitimacy.)

That is true, and I do hope it's a typo or imprecise statement on Vincent's behalf, because that's weakass in my book. I don't need a roleplaying rules interface to interact with my gaming friends - I can just say right out: "Dude, what's going on? You realise you're being a dick right now?" etc. :)

It reminds me a bit of the meta-keys in Clinton Nixon's The Shadow of Yesterday, where your character could get extra XP if you, say, brought a pizza to the game night, cleaned up after yourself etc.


Re: What Is a Right?
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2014, 12:39:28 PM »
I have a hard time seeing "You have a Right to X" as different from "Most people agree that you have a Right to X". After all, it's not like the right is an objectively extant thing you can put on your shelf and point to; it functions only if people respect it.

Except if people don't respect it you get a lot of dramatic potential/screen time. I'm better at examples. Say there's a a particularly urban stronghold. They hold to the New Nobility ways to the extent that the Old Ways aren't just absent but actively disbelieved. There's never been a troll in living memory and they are chalked up to old wives' tales. A Wicker Wise is not going to have her right to a sacrifice respected by these people because human sacrifice is horrifying. A Troll Hunter won't have his right to kill someone who is a harbinger of worse things because those worse things are just fanciful stories. So there's no assumption that you right will generally be respected but there is an assumption that when its not, something important will happen.

By playing one of those characters, though, you're telling the other players and the game world that these things are important to you. By the very fact that the Wicker Wise exists, we know that in the fiction, sacrifices to the Wicker Man are important at least to that player. Anyone can still deny those sacrifices but doing so is explicitly consequential and the Denied Right moves are the vehicle that the player has for making it consequential.