Multiple Standards

Standards are a funny thing. What one person considers normal by their lights is astonishing by someone else’s, but on the other hand, one who gets held to one standard might find themselves having difficulties with another. And in the parts where one runs into another, life gets messy.

Sometimes it’s an in-world thing. When you’ve got superhumans, should they be judged by human standards, or humans by theirs, or do you need two (or more!) separate scales? How much does culture, or inherent nature, play into the scales? How many standards do you need?

On the other hand, in-world might just apply to organizations. Some people have a tendency to try to make adjustments for experience, reviewing people as compared to their expectations of someone with that level of experience and attainments. This is useful in that it means that the comparisons are realistic, but it occasionally gets odd looks when someone whose job requires higher levels of stress and dedication is being beaten out by the new kid who just has to make a little bit of effort. On the other hand, there’s what happens if you measure everyone as compared to your platonic ideal of a member of the organization; it gives the young something to strive for, sure, but the amount of progress it requires to make it sustainable can be downright overwhelming, giving the hard workers at the low end the feeling that the standards are beyond their skills.

Then there’s what happens when two sets of standards clash. Consider high school and college. Many teachers fall into one of two very broad categories: the ones who consider writing a paper to the letter of the instructions and going no further to be a C, because they consider that the average student’s expected effort, and the ones who would give an A for the same paper and possibly less. I’m sure at least some of you have discovered the problems of trying to get in on GPA when you’ve got one of the tough teachers and people with less qualifications but more lenient teachers (or ones who were lucky enough to get into a school with grade adjustments for difficult courses, or both) are whizzing past you.

And, of course, this applies to game groups as well. There’s a lot of potential for standard clash, particularly with subjective mechanics like Exalted’s stunt die system; there come to be problems when you put someone specializing in clever with a GM who seems to only value flashy (or vice versa), for instance, and there’s the whole issue of keeping the real-life social monsters and MacGyvers from trampling on the people who haven’t cultivated those skills, or the old hands from overwhelming the newbies. I’ve run into a lot of trouble with that in my game; trying to balance the experienced with the inexperienced, the people who know how to and enjoy playing to my standards with those who enjoy something of a type I find a bit overdone, the good talkers/planners with the people playing good talkers/planners.

Standards are easy to discount, but they can’t be ignored no matter which side of the fourth wall you’re on. Keep them in mind!

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