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Aug. 3rd, 2005 @ 01:23 am A Question of Leadership
Firstoff, i want to repeat my thanks to all who have kindly answered the questions that i posed in my last entries.
Once again, a little question i would like to pose, in line with the discussion that tomorrow_devil initiated: How exactly if at all is a leader determined in your group? Are the decisions generally made in a democratic way, with everyone discussing what should be done and following what the majority thinks is the best idea, or is there one person who tends to make the decisions and take the reigns, or do you alternate between those methods or use entirely different ways of determining the course of action, and if so, how is determined which method to use?
If there is one designated leader – how is he determined? Is that a question of whose character has the highest attributes/skills/appropiate traits in leadership/charisma/etc. or is the personality of the player more important?


In our group, there are ultimately two different ways in which a leader can emerge: first, by simply buing the necessary advantages like military rank that will automatically earn the character this position, and secondly, if no character has chosen to expend the points to become leader by right, one of the characters tends to emerge and take the reigns. That is not to say that all decisions are made autocratically: occasionally there are extended and lengthy discussions on how to progress, exspecially if no one is really sure what course of action to follow, but there generally tends to be a person who does most talking and who makes most decisions for the others. It is my experience that such a person generally emerges in any group of people, and i also heard as much in the seminars that i visited, but i got scolded recently by tomorrow_devil that those are not entirely scientific, so i want to do some more research ere i repeat that. Regardless, fact is that despite changing constellations of the groups there was generally one leader (sometimes two who alternated temporally – once one got tired the other took over, since leading a group is tiring buisness, in a game as well as in reality).
In a recent session, i had to appoint an official leader for the group for plot reasons. No one volunteered – they either shunned the work and the responsibility that comes with being a leader (even though that position is normally not clearly designated in our group) or they deemed their character unsuitable of claiming the position. But since this was a military organisation, i had to appoint a leader, and i had little inclination to make that an npc and have the players follow orders through the entire adventure. So i used the old trick of simply killing the current commander in the field, and let the battle for succession ensue. When it became clear to me that this was still insufficient, since all that happened was half-hearted internal struggle, i used the last trump up my sleeve: i had the group be attacked. Suddenly, one of the characters started barking orders, and everyone else followed them.
Once again it showed that under pressure generally one and exactly one leader emerges. This is also why all military organisations (that i know of) these days are structured strictly hierachically yielding the power of decision-making to single persons: not because it is necessary the best way of decision-making, but because it is the simplest and quickest, which is of more importance in situations normally encountered in the field.

If you can find the time i think it would be highly interesting to discuss the different means by which the groups tend to distribute the decision-making.
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icewinddragon:
From:wondahboy
Date:August 3rd, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
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In the case of my game, one player is a young king who has just inherited the throne while the other players are nobles or people otherwise slightly below the king in rank; however, I've placed the players in a story where the king is out of his element, so he often asks advice from the other characters, but ultimately ends up making most of the decisions himself. It helps that the player of the king's character is a dominant person himself.

If the leadership wasn't determined by a heirarchy defined by the story, it would most likely start out as democratic with the possibility of it migrating towards one dominant player. The stress of certain situations really does bring out the true leader in a group as well.
From:maleus
Date:August 3rd, 2005 05:32 am (UTC)
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eww... democracies are messy.
From:icewinddragon
Date:August 5th, 2005 12:10 am (UTC)
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A Democracy is the rule of the stupid masses. One of the reasons why i prefer a platonian aristocracy.

Pax vobiscum

IcewindDragon
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From:bouncedreality
Date:August 3rd, 2005 06:34 am (UTC)
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In games that I play in with my friends, I tend to end up being in charge - as when I run a game they spend up to an hour deciding how to go about doing something simple, then come up with such an awesomely complicated plan that they didn't bother thinking of the consequences of and ends up being their undoing.

Of course they are just like this in real life too, which is why I'm glad I don't live with any of them any more :)
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From:sieobahn
Date:August 3rd, 2005 07:58 am (UTC)
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In most games I have been in, there was never a character declared as leader. Usually one player would dominate the others and end up as a defacto leader.

This is a problem in my current group, the players are fairly passive. When I DM I have to railroad them to get anything to happen. When I play I will push things along, and if playing a charismatic PC, take an overt leadership position in the group.

Usually not having a declared leader is not too bad, but they work as individuals, not as a group. (At least only one player is so blinkered he does not consider the other PC's and has screwed himself over several times because he will not understand it is a co-operative game). In social interaction it causes problems with one character starting negotiations, and the rest of the group chiming in and asking questions and causing general chaos. They certainly give me lots to use against them!
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From:foxsable
Date:August 3rd, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, same here. A leader will just emerge. Should that leader begin making wrong decisions repeatedly, they're just ousted or replaced.
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From:ballestra
Date:August 4th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC)

Who are you leading?

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My main take on party leadership is that the leader must lead the players, not the characters. While we can go on at length about how we only "think what our character would think," we are still confronted with the reality of knowing the other people across the table from us. If we think that our gaming friend is indecisive or shortsighted in reality, this colors our view our their leadership as a character.

http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/leader22jan02.html
From:icewinddragon
Date:August 5th, 2005 12:08 am (UTC)
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You certainly got a point there.

I wonder though, whether a good storyteller should not possibly coach a player whose character has taken the position of a leader - just as you tell a player what would be a reasonable way to climb over a fortress wall if the character has extensive knowledge in climbing, even though the player himself may really have no idea on just how to climb from a bunk bed. The knowledge that the player with the necessary leadership-skills is actually backed up by the storyteller - who generally is the ultimate arbitrator on how the situation in the game looks like - should give the players enough confidence in the character to allow someone who has few if any leadership-qualities in real life to play a leader in an rpg, and thus possibly even learn how to lead a group in real life as well.
I mean, that after all is one of the major assets of roleplaying: being able to do something that you would not do/are not capable to do in real life, is it not?

That of course only applies if a good storyteller is available at all - for someone who has just started with rpgs that is likely very hard if possible at all.

Pax vobiscum

IcewindDragon
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From:ballestra
Date:August 5th, 2005 03:52 am (UTC)
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I certainly believe that leadership can be cultivated, if the raw materials are there. "Raw materials" in an RPG sense include (in my opinion) a good working knowledge of the game system rules, a personality that does not demean or belittle other players, and a head for problem-solving. The rest, the actual leading, is a matter of experience, and the storyteller can certainly help support such a player/character.

If it's evident, though, that the player doesn't really know how the system works, or is only out for themselves, or doesn't exhibit old-fashioned horse sense, I think he or she will have a hard time leading the party unless the storyteller is prepared to hand down the "you will follow this person" dictum from On High.

By nature, a leader is tacitly asking the other players to stake their characters' (admittedly fictional) lives on his or her judgement, and in my experience, most players need *something* to base this trust upon.