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§7.16. Social Groups

Crowds of characters introduce new challenges, because we often want to show them interacting with one another, or to describe individuals in less detail when a whole group is present.

Strictly Ballroom gives us a set of characters who pair off each turn, making sure to mention each one once, and leaving one unfortunate person behind as a wallflower: this exemplifies how we might use a behavioral rule not to dictate the behavior of each individual separately but rather to model a whole group together. Happy Hour does calculate movements for characters individually, but then collates the descriptions, creating a single paragraph to describe whatever group is currently in the room.

Characters can also have complicated attitudes to one another, and it can be helpful to use relations to track these. Unthinkable Alliances demonstrates the grouping of characters into alliance factions, while The Abolition of Love provides a host of relations to track love affairs, marriages, memberships in families, and mere mutual respect.

Emma combines these two effects: its characters move between social groups depending on how they feel about the others in their particular talking circle, and descriptions change depending on who is where in the room.

Lugubrious Pete's Delicatessen simulates a queue at a deli, in which the customers who most impress Pete get served first.

* See Traveling Characters for groups of characters who move around and have their movements collated into a joint description

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*ExampleUnthinkable Alliances
People are to be grouped into alliances. To kiss someone is to join his or her faction, which may make a grand alliance; to strike them is to give notice of quitting, and to become a lone wolf.

*ExampleThe Abolition of Love
A thorough exploration of all the kinds of relations established so far, with the syntax to set and unset them.

*ExampleLugubrious Pete's Delicatessen
In this evocation of supermarket deli counter life, a list is used as a queue to keep track of who is waiting to be served.

**ExampleStrictly Ballroom
People who select partners for dance lessons each turn.

Social dynamics in which groups of people form and circulate during a party.

**ExampleHappy Hour
Listing visible characters as a group, then giving some followup details in the same paragraph about specific ones.