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A Lady's Journal
Musings of Improvement
[Cam] Approvals 
7th-Aug-2009 10:38 am
Painted Redhead
The approval application questions are getting out of hand.

Some background, for those who are either new to the Camarilla or aren't members and have no idea what I'm talking about: The Camarilla runs a number of games, each of which have books that come out on a regular basis, and in each book are new toys for its players to play with. Not all of these toys are appropriate for all of the characters, so the Camarilla instituted a complex system of approvals. In order to get the cool toy, you have to convince a certain number of officials that you are not a douchebag and are only getting the cool tchochke to kill everyone else. This is done through an Approval Application.

Back when I started playing in the Camarilla, the application process consisted of the Thirteen Questions. These were pretty (in)famous questions that made sense. They were designed to make you think about your character, convince the officials that you had thought about your concept beyond, "Ogg Smash!", and to agree that you were not going to be a douchebag; and, if you were, you had made a contract that you wouldn't be and someone could make you pay for it in some official capacity (or tear up your character sheet while you stomped off to have a tantrum. Don't laugh; I've seen it happen). They had an added benefit of being a little bit time consuming, so the average thug wasn't going to want to jump through the hoops. Any and all thugs who got through it at least had to have basic reading and writing skills.

Over the course of time and as we ended one chronicle and started a new one, the questions for the application process changed. Over the last few years, the questions have changed a lot - so much so, that every time I put up a new application, I'm forced to review the questions because something, inevitably, has changed.

Now, there are eighteen bullet points, each with at least two questions, and those are just the national questions. Your region might have additional questions (and the SW does: eight more, for those who are playing the home game, and plus three for custom mechanics). The questions have become ridiculously repetitive (how many ways can you say, "I solemnly swear I'm not going to be a douchebag"?), going so far as to ask the same question two different ways within the same bullet point.

A friend of mine is writing his first application. Last night, he messaged me with one of the questions and asked me, "What the hell is this question actually asking?" We've gone from a system that requires some thought about what motivates a character to one in which extraordinarily smart people are unable to divine the nature of these unnecessarily oblique questions.

I actually support the approval process. I think that not enough people really give thought to their characters, and frankly, the application gives gamers a chance to talk about their characters to people who otherwise won't give a shit. I think that having the hoops are important, and once you've passed through them, you feel like you've accomplished something. However, if you can't make someone agree in thirteen questions that they're not going to be dicks, you can't do it in twenty-six. Maybe, you'll manage to scare them off, but mostly, you're alienating your player base.

And now, we go back to slogging through the application. I'll post a word count, and add it to my total words written for Madeleine-Antoinette. This may put me over the 100,000 mark.
7th-Aug-2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
did you warn your buddy that noone actually reads the answers, and that he'll get asked some of the same shit in the comments section?
7th-Aug-2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Er, no. I should probably do that.

I'm occasionally tempted to insert bonus material into the middle of my applications, the way the Neil Gaiman will put bonus stories in his introductions.
7th-Aug-2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
Last night, he messaged me with one of the questions and asked me, "What the hell is this question actually asking?"

Oh, now I'm curious. What was the question?
7th-Aug-2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
How does your character help to reinforce the basic concepts of the venue? Does your character deviate from paradigm? If so, how does this deviation add to the global chronicle?

What this question is *actually* asking is whether your character is a canon-breaking motherfucker. And if he is, why should we let him in? And the correct answer is to explain why your character totally reinforces paradigm.
7th-Aug-2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
I agree with your assesment of the questions. They actually got simplified with Dave mercer as rst and then got gradually more complicated with our rst changes along with our changes in nst and mst.

As someone who has served at the vst, dst and rst level most st's do not care how all the questions are answered, as long as the big ones are answered: how did you get this, how can you cheat with this and will you cheat with this. If you are asked about anything else the st is either being a jerk or showing the higher st that you're actually doing something (I've been guilty of this).
7th-Aug-2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
The regional questions are fine. They get to the heart of the application. The national questions slalom alarmingly between oblique and just plain stupid.
7th-Aug-2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Maybe its just me but I understand the question just fine and don't consider myself a rocket scientist by any means and since I don't put up a lot of apps that's the 1st time I have ever seen the question. I understand it was a new player who didn't get the question but maybe it helped them to realize there are actually basic concepts for each venue and cannon paradigms and that deviation from chronicle is a concern that needs a good reason. And yes the typical answer of those who want approvals is going to be oh no my character totally fits the mold. But how many characters actually fit the mold and further how many who do not actually have a rp story as to why rather than a justification for mechanics cheese they want? Not many. And fewer still are the numbers who didn't build that rp story around their desire of cheese first and I can see how the question would help an ST who may not know the player to flag that. Its also pretty evident looking at characters, backgrounds and their answers to such questions who is kissing up and giving the "correct" answer they think the ST wants to hear and who has actually thought about it and is answering honestly and therefore are a bit more trustworthy and maybe should be trusted with a slightly left of cannon approval.

I am not saying I think all the questions are probably great, obviously its been awhile since I put up an app for anything that needed them so I don't know the questions but I can see how they are useful especially when they must cover every possible thing you're players might be apping for under the sun. If you believe you can create a better set of questions that will likewise help STs to flag people who are abusive or may be abusive with them and will cover every possible thing someone can app for why not write your own set and submit them for use.
7th-Aug-2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
To reiterate:

I am for the approvals process. I believe that players should give more thought to their characters and that the questions should be designed to do that. This has been clearly stated above.

Twenty six questions that repeat themselves do not do that. The application questions have now bogged down to the point that the only thing that is being accomplished is aggravating the players and, as far as I can tell, annoying the ST chain. People who write very complete applications wind up having most of their applications ignored, as evidenced by STs asking questions, the answers to which were already addressed in the application.

A much more productive use of time and effort is in streamlining the questions to get to the information that is actually valuable to the ST chain. Asking four different ways why you think that your character should have a tchochke isn't nearly as useful as asking it once and receiving a complete answer.

At some point, I seem to have enabled anonymous posting. This has been rectified. Please sign in and/or identify yourself.
10th-Aug-2009 01:22 pm (UTC)
Oh and...

This is Kenni at his OOC journal. :)
10th-Aug-2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
Hi, Kenni --

Welcome to the madness. :)
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