The Elsir Project
Role of the Chairperson in keeping the Social Contract
The Chair Person
As described in the tenets, the chairperson is responsible for the order and focus of the gaming group. The chairperson asks players what their character is doing, and makes sure that everyone gets equal chance to contribute. This is the same role as a chairperson would play in any meeting; directing the social aspect of the group. Even in the closest group of friends a player may still need to step in gently every now and then to keep the game on track.
In this game, the chairperson keeps the group focused by applying and reminding players of the tenants. He is the keeper of the social contract, that the group has agreed upon the game, its direction, style, and who is assigned what role. For example, he might remind others that another player has a right to make decisions for his characters as long as they don’t break the social contract, such as, sabotaging another story with their own.
The social contract is defined as the agreement of all players they wish to participate in the game. Ron Edwards and authors at “The Forge” define it as “all interactions and relationships among the role-playing group, including emotional connections, logistic arrangements, and expectations.” Because the group of players are in agreement on what they are trying to accomplish, they are bound by that contract. When one fails to meet up to their part of the contract, then a disagreement is the result and the game cannot go on (i.e. "I’m taking my dice home.)
In a traditional role playing game (i.e Dungeons and Dragons), the Chairperson is by default is the Game master who designates player’s turns, moves the group along to new agenda (encounters), and brings order to the group. The Game Master as chairperson is also responsible for facilitating so that all voices are heard and have equal time if appropriate (at least in very inclusive games). Many games break down if the Game Master is unable to have his group focus on the game itself; in which case the Social contract is broken.
The players themselves are also bound by this contract by 1) respecting the Game masters authority 2) respecting the other players 3) following the established rules of the game, and 4) participation. When a player fails to follow these conditions, the game is disrupted, much like an a person in a meeting who talks out of turn, does not listen to the agenda, or begins to start another meeting while the main meeting is in order (needless to say, in the business world, such a person would not be invited to future meetings, let alone keep their job). In any case, the social contract expectations on players requires a level of maturity.
Chairperson’s Role in the Elsir Project
At first glance, it may seem the Chairperson’s role is not a very important or expectant job. Indeed, a clearly organized group of dedicated players need not a chairperson to facilitate in most games. However, at the beginning, and as new players are introduced, their job is essential on creating the fair and balance use of the games free forming mechanic. The Chairperson is constantly making sure the game is civil, allows for all players to participate and is enjoyable. In addition, the Chairperson should develop techniques in order to facilitate the game seamlessly through gently reminders or through role-playing even among good friends.
In the examples given in play, we saw the player, Jackie gently use reminders and through role play in order to involve all the players.
1)Determines Game Structure: The chairperson is responsible on how the game will be conducted. They determine how each player will take turns, how long each will have “screen time”, and to bring general order in the game. For example, the Chairperson that the table will go in a clockwise on characters turns, starting with the Alpha storyteller. He may also determine players have a maximum of 1 minutes to do their part of the narrative. he can even go as far has having players collect or spend tokens of their time to measure how much contribution they make.
2) Introducing Characters: The Chairperson should, when in doubt of the direction the Alpha is taking, introduce as many of the characters into a scene as possible. A Chairperson, through their Beta role, can create parts of the scene to bring other characters into the story (i.e. “Remial looks down the cobbled street and recognizes an old friend. ‘Gusatov, what ails ye?’”) or remind or dictate players to be together.
3) Giving Screen Time: In cases where much time is spent on certain characters of the story, the chairperson would pull the story to then focus on other characters. (i,e. “Meanwhile, as Lady Shasta and Matilda watch Mr, Whiskerton and Brunswick climb the wall, the sounds of heavily armored soldier are heard around the corner…”).
4) Bringing Events together: In some cases, the complexity of the story or events requires the group of characters be located in the same space or time. The chairperson may move the story to try and create that scenario "ie. Jonas sighs, “I don’t think its a good idea to split the party” or “just as the soldiers draw their swords, the gate door opens and Brunswick and Mr. Whiskerton appear.”
5) Reminders and Enforcing the Social Contract: In extreme cases, the chairperson must remind players of their roles in the game and the aspects of the games social contract (i.e. “Patrick is the Alpha, so he has the privilege of starting a combat.” or “Jason is the referee, he makes the final call on the skill roll”. In addition, they may also remind the players of their conduct or give opportunities (i.e. “Lets give Dave a chance to take a turn” or “Jose, is their anything you want to add for Dreft?”). Finally, the Chairperson will remind the players of the rights and privileges afforded to them in the game and outside (i.e. “We have a proposal that the magic items used in this session are usable twice a day rather than once.” or “If you wish to change how we award XP for future games, you can make a proposal before next session and we will vote on it.”
6) Brings the session to a close: The chairperson also has the final say if the game session has finally been closed. For example, if Alpha says they have no more story to tell, the Chairperson see if another wants to continue. If not then he proclaims the end that session.