The Window

the 3 precepts
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The Three Precepts

The Window assumes that the people who use it are intelligent and mature. It is not a system meant to keep unruly actors in line or ensure that the Storyteller is fair about her decisions. This approach leaves certain pitfalls that inexperienced users can get trapped in. That is why the following philosophies need to be stated. These simple rules are the big ones, the guiding light for good roleplaying. If you follow them then using the Window will be a breeze.

The First Precept:

    "Everything about a Window character is
    described with adjectives rather than numbers."

The central idea here is that adjectives tell us more about a character than numbers can, and in a much more realistic way. Those things which define a person in real life are as varied and subjective as the universe itself. Certainly, there's only so much you can say about a person with a number.

The best we can do in the real world is to try and rate an individual's traits compared to other people, or some inexact "average," and we do this with adjectives. We say something like, "He's extremely good at driving." Never do we say, "He's a 5 at driving," but for some reason this is exactly what most roleplaying systems try to do.

As you may have guessed by now, the Window tries to more accurately represent the way that we perceive people by breaking up all their skills and traits into several levels of competency and assigning to each of them an adjective or brief description. In the above example, the character sheet would literally say "Extremely good at driving," and that would be that; we now know that this character is an excellent driver. Not only is this more realistic, but it also allows an actor to learn about a character at a glance, without knowing a thing about the system.

Always remember that a Window character is a person, described with images and personality just like a real person. Even though there are a few dice and mechanics which the Window uses as storytelling tools, these are not what the character is about. It is considered improper and backwards--against the rules, in fact--for you to describe your character in terms of dice, numbers, or other system-oriented terms.

The Second Precept

    "It is the actor's responsibility
    to play their role realistically."

The Second Precept is the Window's way of addressing the "balance" issue which other roleplaying systems provide with hit points, damage dice, and skill modifiers. Such rules are designed to distinctively limit the actors in certain situations, forcing them to be realistic. The Window does not use such rules: it is up to the actor to evaluate his character's situation and react accordingly.

One outgrowth of the Second Precept is the assumption that the actors are willing (and hopefully pleased) to properly roleplay the effects of physical and emotional stress. So if a character is shot, he acts like he's been shot: he doesn't go leaping from building to building or wrestling alligators, for example--unless that makes sense in light of the story and his abilities.

Similarly, if a character is the victim of some severe emotional trauma they should be affected by it in the same way a real person would be. (The system obviously can't tell you what that reaction should be: only you know your character.)

Some other things to keep in mind along these lines:

Separate your knowledge and motivations from your character's. Superior stories can often be told if the actors are aware of things that their characters are not. Recognize this advantage for what it is, and stay conscious of what your character knows (and particularly what she doesn't know.)

Never forget that your character thinks like a real person with real emotional responses to the world around her. Seek out emotional scenes and get into them. Get sad, angry, despondent, loud, happy, frightened, worried, or intimidating as the story demands. Try to leave your own insecurities behind and stand boldly in the spotlight with every chance.

Always stay in character; it will make your role and the whole story come to life. Speak with your character's voice. Act on your character's beliefs. Dress in his clothes if it helps you get into the experience!

The Third Precept

    "A good story is the central goal."

This is a big idea, though a simple one. It starts with the realization that the actors and the Storyteller are all cooperating toward the same goal: entertainment. If everyone takes equal responsibility for the quality of the story then all will benefit when it really starts working.

There are times when a good actor will let go of their own ego and let the story take precedence over their character. There are times when a good Storyteller will allow the actors to narrate scenes. The days of rival camps delineated by a GM screen are over. Though obviously the Storyteller's vision is what creates the seeds of roleplaying, nothing much will grow without the actors' input. An open, out of character dialog about the direction of the story should be maintained so that the Storyteller knows what's working and what's not.

Strive for originality in all things. Your characters, their actions, and their contribution to the narrative are totally up to you to decide, and the essence of roleplaying is a creative one. Don't allow yourself to fall back on stereotypes, and remember that what you create when you sit down to roleplay is totally unique to you and your group of friends. The story you mutually envision should be your own.