Over at my good friend Tommi Brander’s blog, Cogito, ergo ludo, there’s a really interesting conversation between Tommi and Eero Tuovinen in the comments to this post. It’s about the advocacy model, which Eero explains as follows:
In a game that is set up for advocacy the idea is basically that while one player might be the GM, the majority of the players run their own characters, often created by them just like in any old roleplaying game. These players have two jobs in the advocacy model: a) to express an interesting, sympathetic character and b) to utilize the rules mechanics to enforce the character’s will on the setting. To say the same thing slightly differently: the player creates a protagonist (a sympathetic viewpoint character) and makes sure that the character strives in the game for his own benefit. The important bit of the advocacy model is that we find two things: the first is that a properly designed game (for this purpose, understand; there are other things you can do with roleplaying) will not require the players to take on any other responsibilities. The second is that the primary source of enjoyment in an advocacy game actually comes from the very fact that the players have no other responsibilities but to advocate for their characters.
The reason for why I’m constantly dragging advocacy up as a concept nowadays is that I’ve been encountering a lot of storytelling games that I haven’t been entirely happy with for the very reasons identified by the advocacy model. An alternative method for creating a highly dramatic game, you see, is to expect the players to take a high degree of responsibility for the dramatic outcomes of the game; this is typical of games that include verbiage about how the players should feel responsible for the fun of the game and thus regulate their characters to not make difficult choices that “ruin” the story. The point of the advocacy model is that we don’t need to make this sacrifice if we want story: it’s possible to both get an exciting story and advocate for your character fully.
This makes a lot of sense to me.