There seems to be a primary call for grounded, applicable, "jargon-free" thought. So, I've come up with some directed questions that I will first answer myself and then I want to see what others come up with.
1) Looking over your entire history of roleplaying pick out a few "pay-off" moments. By "pay-off", I mean a point at which your personal fun hit peak potential and you got that satisfied, "Yes, this is why I roleplay" feeling.
A) One of my groups is currently playing Capes. For those of you not familiar with the game it has no GM and players may take on different or multiple roles from scenes to scene. My wife was playing a Gageteer named Nick and his created robot "son" Jonathan. I was playing Nick's Grease Monkey father, whose name I can't recall. Anyway, one of the conflicts on the table was, Goal: Jonathan (the robot) shows genuine human emotion. I decided to fight this goal and had the Grease Monkey argue with Nick about how Jonathan wasn't a real son and that Nick needed to grow up and start a real family. I lost the conflict. My wife turns to me and speaking purely in character for Jonathan says, "I hate you" to the Grease Monkey.
B) I'm GMing a Sorcerer game set in a Ravenloft-esq Gothic Fantasy world. One of the players is playing a Baron named Karl whose son has been gone for 20 years and has just returned. As punishment for abandoning him Karl frames his son for murder (neither Karl nor the son commited this murder which was part of my pre-play prep). It works and his son is executed. I have the son return as a ghost to haunt Karl. Karl goes to cementary and tries to summon the ghost of the murdered woman to ask her help in dealing with his son's ghost. In the process his Humanity score drops to zero. I describe how the ghost possess Karl and murders the innocent daughter of the person really responsible for the murder. Karl's Humanity recovers to 1 and he is left with a dead body on his hands.
2) Can you identify such pay-off moments for your fellow players? How often do members of the group acknowledge, set-up, reward or otherwise mutually reinforce each other's pay-off moments?
My Answers (continuing the examples above).
A) In the Capes game a lot of play had centered around characters other players had created including my own. My wife had created all three of the characters in the example above. I know that families are very important to her and that she enjoys expressing struggles between family members. That's why I decided the Grease Monkey didn't approve of the robot child and had him attack the family structure. My wife loved it and fought me hard. The final line, "I hate you." was payoff moment for both of us and we recognized that.
B) The Gothic-Fantasy setting was my creation because I love emotional madness. Karl's player was indulging me by creating a character that fed into that. Up until that point lineage had been pretty important to Karl's player, dealing with the son and all. I played into that by having his possessed character kill the daughter of the real murderer, setting up an opportunity to engage with characters in a similar situation to his own.
3) Finally, in what ways does the chosen system itself (including any personal customizations you may add) aid and reward the mutual setup-payoff cycle among the players?
A) In the Capes game I was very low on game resources (Story Tokens and Inspiration points) because I had been playing my character The Raven very selfishly in previous scenes. I decided to focus on my wife's characters because I knew that if I could get her to fight for something then I'd get Story Tokens and maybe soem Inspiration for it. I was right. When I lost the conflict I earned 3 Story Tokens and 3 Inspiration points. She got 4 Inspiration points. Because Inspiration points are linked to the conflicts that yeilded them we now both have a system enforced method of linking future conflicts with the outcome of this one.
B) By the time Karl went to the graveyard his Humanity was pretty low. He framed his son for murder after all. This instantly put myself and Karl's player on the same page that this scene was very, very important. Karl's player knew full well that if his Humanity went to zero that I would hose him pretty bad. He went for it. The low Humanity synced us up on "importance" for the scene and the concious decision by Karl's player keyed me in that he was cool with me hosing his character at this time.
Now my examples above might seem a little deep but that's because of the kind of player I am. The above questions are offered with no pretensions. I sincerely want to know about your pay-off moments no matter what they may be. I'm looking forward to your replys and thougths.