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Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 02:10 AM
These articles' summary thread may be found here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=6938183&postcount=1).

Intro and Qualifications

Narrativism is a style of play that has players focused, first and foremost, on the collaborative authorship of a compelling story. Sounds simple, doesn't it? And, in many ways, it is- often substantially simpler that either Gamism or Simulationism in terms of the explicit mechanics needed to support it. And it really isn't more intuitively difficult to grasp- we all know a good story when we're told one- the problem is that people misunderstand the formal terms involved on several levels: they confuse 'compelling story' with 'things that happen', 'collaborative authorship' with 'colouring between the lines' or 'acting out your lines', and 'characters with personalities' with 'riveting drama'.

But I think the most frequent and divisive point of confusion can be summed up as follows:

The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast- "The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists." Widely repeated across many role-playing texts. Neither sub-clause in the sentence is possible in the presence of the other.

...If you, the GM, can judge my character's actions, then I won't tell you what I think. I'll play to whatever morality you impose on me via your rulings. Instead of posing your players an interesting ethical question and then hearing their answers, you'd be posing the question and then answering it yourself.
How dull would that be?

...Don't play "the story." The choices you present to the PCs have to be real choices, which means that you can't possibly know already which way they'll choose. You can't have plot points in mind beforehand, things like "gotta get the PCs up to that old cabin so they can witness Brother Ezekiel murder Sister Abigail..." No. What if the PCs reconcile Brother Ezekiel and Sister Abigail? You've wasted your time. Worse, what if, because you've invested your time, you don't let the PCs reconcile them?
You've robbed your players of the game...

...Your goal in the next town is to take the characters' judgements and push them a little bit further. Say that in this past town, one of the characters came down clearly on the side of "every sinner deserves another chance." In the next town, you'll want to reply with "even this one? Even this sinner?" Or say that another character demonstrated the position that "love is worth breaking the rules for." You can reply with "is this love worth breaking the rules for too? Is love worth breaking this rule for?"
But Dogs isn't abstract or academic! This love, this sinner, this law- those are real people, real characters- I mean in real, concrete situations. Create the people and the situations, don't just pose the question in some sort of theoretical way.
Most importantly, don't have an answer already in mind.
The point in Narrativist play is for you, the player, to Say Something.


I don't know art, but I know what I like
I'm not trying to connote some sense of elitism here, but there is a distinction between audience and authorship that needs to be stressed. It is possible to enjoy, appreciate, and even constructively criticise an art form while having no particular aptitude for the art itself as a creative act. It's perfectly possible to become swept up in story as a finished product- as in books, films, and plays- but that doesn't turn books, films and plays into meaningful personal interaction. Having a story present is not, in itself, Narrativism. You have to be involved at the level of artistic expression.

Tactical expediency does not build character
"Do I choose Cloudkill or Disintegrate, Great Cleave or Sunder, Bluff or Intimidate?" are not generally emotionally significant decisions on the part of the PCs. They provide small-scale colour during particular scenes, but Narrativist play is much more about the ends than the means. Players confuse filling in the details of events with genuine control over their overall structure. Neither of these would, in itself, constitute Narrativism.

The absence of plot is not the presence of Premise
GM control of the PCs' large-scale decisions- either through overt railroading, or subtle Illusionism (see the later Sim essay)- is directly antagonistic to Narrativist play, but it's mere absence is not enough to make play Narrativist. Siding with different political factions or varied NPCs is not, in itself, an emotionally-significant decision- it can be, but it might be purely a question of expediency (Gamist) or genre preference (Simulationist.)

Players confuse having genuine freedom of action with the automatic production of a cohesive emotional theme, but coherent stories do not happen by accident. Unless all the players involved actively cooperate to reflect on the Premise of play- some central conflict or dilemma that gives an underlying emotional structure to events, and which the decisions of the protagonists revolve around- the result will likely be an unfocused meandering from event to event, without development or resolution.

Stealth Narrativism
Finally, yet other players assume that, just because the rules of the game don't expressly emphasise Narrativist play, that the players must therefore not be playing in a Narrativist fashion. How can it be otherwise? House rules and metagame. A good deal of 'Stealth Narrativism' has emerged from Simulationist play in this fashion, with the players and GM engaged in producing visceral emotional conflicts that reflect on a central theme, and often without consciously realising it. It all depends on the metagame agenda at work, whether that's formalised explicitly within the rules or not.

Jesse: I'm just still a little confused between Narrativism and Simulationism where the Situation has a lot of ethical/moral problems embedded in it and the GM uses no Force techniques to produce a specific outcome. I don't understand how Premise-expressing elements can be included and players not be considered addressing a Premise when they can't resolve the Situation without doing so.

Me: There is no such Simulationism. You're confused between Narrativism and Narrativism, looking for a difference when there isn't any.


How do you foster Story?

Stories have a premise- an underlying dilemma or conflict that runs through the transcript of events and gives it an underlying aesthetic structure. The central characters- the protagonists- are recognisable as such because their choices reflect upon that dilemma and define themselves accordingly in response.

Premises can be almost anything- Love vs. Duty, Faith vs. Reason, Pragmatism vs. Idealism, Death vs. Immortality- or any imposing ethical dilemma that forms a basis for emotional conflict between, or within, the key characters.

Given that Explorative content for Narrativist play exists to provide meat for addressing a Premise, it shouldn't be surprising that differing starting points for the process can be found depending on what kind of details and efforts are involved in preparing for play.

Just as in Gamist play, the big gorilla of the five Explorative elements is Situation. What I'm contrasting here is which elements begin detailed enough to yield Situation relatively quickly during play, as opposed to which ones can be "relaxed" in terms of detail and depth at the start, to be developed later.

Character-based Premise: Characters begin play with at least one significant Premise-based decision in their backgrounds.

Setting-based Premise: External adversity swarms upon the characters based on unavoidable, often large-scale elements of the overall setting.

Situation-based Premise: The immediate conflict at hand is already under way and rich with Premise; fill in Character goals and Setting justification as needed during play.

I suggest that it's useful to reduce the pre-play effort on the other elements involved. Loading too many of them with Premise prior to play yields a messy and unworkable play-situation in Narrativist terms, in which characters' drives and external adversity are too full to develop off of or to reinforce one another.

...Character-based Premise is the easiest to implement, and unsurprisingly it reflects [Lajos] Egri's ideas in full. Games whose design relies on this approach include Zero, Sorcerer, Dust Devils, and The Riddle of Steel, among many others. I think this form of Premise-building is probably the most common form of Drifting to Narrativist play.

...Setting-based Premise is a bit more developmental, usually involving "someone else's problem" or an overriding external adversity of some kind - zombie attack being perhaps the most basic example. It might actually be a bit better for introducing Simulationist-by-habit players to Narrativist play, as they can start with sketchy characters and grow into addressing a pretty-well-defined Premise over time.

...Situation-based Premise is perhaps the easiest to manage as GM, as player-characters are well-defined and shallow, and the setting is vague although potentially quite colorful. The Premise has little to do with either in the long-term; it's localized to a given moment of conflict. Play often proceeds from one small-scale conflict to another, episodically.
The crucial ingredient here is that the premise has to 'lean on' the protagonists in such a way as to invite emotional conflict on their behalf. A conflict or dilemma with an immediately and obviously recognisable 'correct' solution from the PC's perspective is thematically dead- if you have a particular solution in mind beforehand, then that won't help Narrativist play.


How do you foster Player Protagonism?

Protagonists make tough choices- not necessarily tough on a physical level, but tough on a spiritual or emotional level. Right vs. Wrong, plain and unadorned, is typically not a useful dilemma from a Narrativist perspective, because it presupposes a correct solution- you have to 'spice up' the choice with a twist or complication, so that viable arguments can be made for both sides.

We know Conan's a badass, but the point in "People of the Black Circle" is that he's going to decide about this woman he's atrracted to- help her regain her political power or keep her as a partner? Because accomplishing both is impossible. We know Elric has this amazing demonic sword, but the point in Stormbringer is why he would defy the demon Arioch, who not only makes such power available but also, arguably, loves him. But that form of power and that form of love constitute slavery.
Sword-and-sorcery heroes are all about decisions.

The side effect of this requirement? -You can't possibly predict which way the player is going to choose. By their very nature, the most emotionally interesting possible choices are the most perfectly ambivalent for a given character, and have the most far-reaching consequences. No fixed storyline can survive this without robbing the players of significance to their acts, so no fixed storyline is possible in Narrativist play.

Prolonging Narrativist play means, essentially, hitting those characters with new choices. You get to know the protagonists over the course of events. You can't keep hitting them with the same choices at equal or lower intensity- that doesn't reveal anything new about their character. You take their prior judgements as a starting point, and then gradually escalate- extending their judgement(s) into more and more extreme situations. Sooner or later, the PC-as-protagonist either sees the limitation of their belief(s) and evolves as a character, or makes some crippling sacrifice to confirm their convictions. You're defining the limits- if any- of that character with respect to their peculiar hangups- whether that's a quest for vengeance, the hippocratic oath, love, duty, nationalism or whatever. Of course, this kind of exploration has another predictable consequence- sooner or later, protagonists wind up being 'mined out'. There comes a point where you can't ask any more of them then you already have- their stories, happily or otherwise, must ultimately end.

In Narrativism, every PC is a protagonist, but choices are made by the players based on the demands of complementing the unfolding theme. What is Theme? -The answer the players supply to the question that is Premise. Whether that 'answer' works aesthetically or not depends on all sorts of intangible, hand-wavey variables that are difficult to mechanise precisely- that's why it's an art, not a science. All I can say is you'll probably know a good result when you see it- it's been compared to improvisational jazz. Stories don't happen when left to chance, so this is inherently a metagame agenda shared by all the players.

The key here for the GM is to push the PCs' emotional buttons as hard as possible, while being as accommodating as possible in dealing with their reactions. It's a one-two combination of hard choices and easy improvisation that helps theme to unfold, right there, during play.


Potential GNS conflicts:

Gamist conflict- what's my angle?
For a Gamist, extraneous beliefs and convictions are simply added baggage. The whole point to Gamist play is to minimise the degree to which you are inconvenienced while pursuing a certain goal (even if the goal might be considered abstractly selfless, the means are certainly not.) Why should you ever impair your chances of winning to prove an abstract ethical point? Besides, in much Gamist play, meaningful personal sacrifice can rapidly become impossible (in the most obvious example, a dramatic death is not terribly viable when 5000 GP worth of diamonds can fix all your post-mortality complications.)

Simulationist conflict- appropriate levels of detail
Simulationist play often benefits from extensive, precise, detailed and formal descriptions of character aptitudes and setting topography prior to play, but doing so tends to constrain what the PCs can viably attempt to do, in what situations, in a way that strangles the address of Premise. You can't rescue the princess from the tower if you didn't start with adequate ranks in Use Rope and Climb, and you can't stumble upon a healer's hamlet in the desert if the campaign notes say the place is uninhabited for another 300 miles. Either the PCs need to be relatively undifferentiated in their aptitudes, or aspects of setting should be established gradually during play.

Gamist conflict- niche protection
Similar to the above, the Gamist demand for tactical specialisation as a component of efficient teamwork tends to constrain what the PCs can viably attempt, which, in turn, constrains the address of Premise.

Simulationist Conflict- points of contact
Simulationist play often benefits from elaborate and detailed rules-consultation to resolve the outcomes of different actions in a way that guarantees accuracy, but the fine-grain details of such events rarely have great emotional importance. The differences in range, penetration and reliability between two different makes of popular handgun is rarely significant once, e.g, pointed directly at a hostage's head. Having to look up charts and/or roll dozens of dice to model those differences is, from the Narrativist's perspective, a waste of time.

Simulationist Conflict- lack of task resolution
Narrativist play often benefits from negotiating the fundamental stakes of the conflict first, then determining the victor and degree of compromise using a few simple rolls, and then making up the precise details of what happened afterward- a technique known as conflict resolution. This way, you can get straight to the emotional core of a scene, and ensure a fair representation of everyone's interests, without becoming unduly bogged down in the gritty 'details of implementation.' Nothing could be further from typical Simulationist resolution-mechanics.

Gamist conflict- tactical variety
Similar to the above, the precise tactical details of how a conflict is won are not of particular interest to Narrativist play, so a plethora of balanced options for useful spells, weapon styles, or social resources is unlikely to help here. Whether you finally strike down your lifelong nemesis and avenge your murdered family with Magic Missile, Finger of Death, Delayed Blast Fireball or a good-old-fashioned Blunderbuss probably isn't particularly relevant in the grander thematic scheme of things.

Simulationist conflict- breach of contract


In Simulationist play, morality cannot be imposed by the player or, except as the representative of the imagined world, by the GM. Theme is already part of the cosmos; it's not produced by metagame decisions. Morality, when it's involved, is "how it is" in the game-world, and even its shifts occur along defined, engine-driven parameters. The GM and players buy into this framework in order to play at all.

The point is that one can care about and enjoy complex issues, changing protagonists, and themes in both sorts of play, Narrativism and Simulationism. The difference lies in the point and contributions of literal instances of play; its operation and social feedback.

...Consider the behavioral parameters of a samurai player-character in Sorcerer and in GURPS. On paper the sheets look pretty similar: bushido all over the place, honorable, blah blah. But what does this mean in terms of player decisions and events during play? I suggest that in Sorcerer (Narrativist), the expectation is that the character will encounter functional limits of his or her behavioral profile, and eventually, will necessarily break one or more of the formal tenets as an expression of who he or she "is," or suffer for failing to do so. No one knows how, or which one, or in relation to which other characters; that's what play is for. I suggest that in GURPS (Simulationist), the expectation is that the behavioral profile sets the parameters within which the character reliably acts, especially in the crunch - in other words, it formalizes the role the character will play in the upcoming events. Breaking that role in a Sorcerer-esque fashion would, in this case, constitute something very like a breach of contract.

...I may be a little biased about this issue, but it seems to me that a character in Narrativist play is by definition a thematic time-bomb, whereas, for a character in Simulationist play, the bomb is either absent (the GURPS samurai), present in a state of near-constant detonation (the Pendragon knight, using Passions), or its detonation is integrated into the in-game behavioral resolution system in a "tracked" fashion (the Pendragon knight, using the dichotomous traits). Therefore, when you-as-player get proactive about an emotional thematic issue, poof, you're out of Sim.


What aids, or is often associated with, Narrativist play?

Basically, imagine that you have a bunch of guys coming together to write a story from scratch. If you wanted to be able to mediate creative disputes, ensure their characters got equal doses of attention, remained believable, and were faced with gripping dilemmas, how would you go about it? -That's the central challenge of Narrativist RPG design. Narrativist rules help to support and reinforce the basic agenda of such play, and make that their foremost evident agenda, rather than fidelity to realism, genre convention or the pursuit of balanced tactical competition.

Plenty of metagame discussion. You don't necessarily need to formally articulate the premise or the goals and beliefs of the characters overtly, but Narrativism is inherently dependant on a metagame agenda- so talk about what happened, what would be interesting, what you'd want to do next, etc. Formal statements of character goals, beliefs, etc, and articulation of Premise may well be helpful, but plenty of Narrativism occurs without it.

Metagame resources that actively reward protagonism. Examples include Artha in Burning Wheel and Spiritual Attributes in the Riddle of Steel- both earned through endangering the character in pursuit of goals/beliefs/interests. (Note these do not translate into simple 'role-play XP'- remember that character-specialisation has the effect of restricting players' freedom to address Premise, rather than improving it. Such resources need to remain fluid. -Is it possible that such games need such resources in order to compensate for their detailed Simulationist skill systems?)

Conflict Resolution is more important than Task Resolution. During a particular scene, don't bother about the means without first talking about the ends. What are you actually fighting for? What is it that the characters genuinely care about here?

Etiquette and Consideration. Because Narrativist play often involves a degree of informal negotation over the stakes of conflict, there is a potential for play to be dominated by stronger personalities. Everyone is supposed to get an equal chance to shine as a protagonist and provide thematic input, 'in the spotlight', so the GM, and other players, need to direct play accordingly, and hold it up to the standards of the most reticent player at the table. Good rules will make this easier, but they can only go halfway- there is an active expectation that the players will consciously contribute on this front.

Don't keep long-term secrets between players about the PCs or NPCs. Indeed, it's perfectly permissable to keep no secrets at all. Remember than Narrativism is fundamentally co-operative toward the aim of constructing a cohesive theme- it's in everyone's best interests to ensure that the other players know what the characters' interests, goals and beliefs are, so that they can bounce off eachother productively. It needn't be an IC revelation- this is what metagame chatter is for.

OOC agenda informs IC conflict
Remember that conflict among characters- even between the PCs- is not the same thing as conflict between the players. As long as both are doing so for reasons that the players agree reflect on the Premise, then it's all good! Even injury or death can be a mutually satisfying outcome, provided it happens at the right time and for the right reasons (i.e, as the result of a prolongued escalation of 'tests' for a particular goal or belief.) How far this needs to go can vary tremendously, but I suggest that if a 'supporting cast' of NPCs aren't providing the entertainment, then the PCs will have at least a tendency to turn upon eachother at some point.

Making it up as you go along: Director Stance. If you need a castle, or a village, or a town, or an entire nation, or a conveniently placed mountain range, or simply an obscure bit of information about orcish mating habits, then it's very useful to be able to make one up on the spot. Nor need this power lie solely with the GM- PCs could, for example, make lore-skill checks to establish facts about the setting as they require them.


A Closing Word

This essay is hardly exhaustive, but I hope I've given a reasonably well-rounded and half-way practical guide to what Narrativist play is, and should look like.

Narrativism is supposedly the second-most 'primal' of the the three creative agendas, (just behind Gamism,) but RPGs expressly designed to facilitate it have only emerged relatively recently, whereas Gamist and Simulationist design can be traced right back to the dawn of the hobby (in Tunnels & Trolls and Runequest respectively.)

Sorceror and it's supplements devoted extensive discussion to the mechanics of story creation, particularly with respect to Bangs, Kickers, Weaving, Relationship Graphs, and other juicy tools for the Narrativist GM.

Dogs in the Vineyard is essentially about, among other things, Paladins as they would function in a Narrativist context. Definitely deserving of investigation.

Burning Wheel, Burning Empires and The Riddle of Steel are heavyweight Simulationist hybrids that hum along beautifully once all their component parts are assembled, but they can be a little intimidating to pick up.

Last, but certainly not least, this year's Origins Awards winner for Best RPG- Mouse Guard- is, besides being beautifully illustrated, an almost textbook-perfect example of Narrativism in action, and I would highly recommend checking it out to anyone. It's streamlined, adaptable, charmingly frank about it's objectives, and intended for players of all ages.

LurkerInPlayground
2009-09-06, 03:31 AM
It has become my opinion that the whole conflict between the GNS "schools" has only become more recently a problem for D&D. I may be biased, but I think the game might've become less well designed to reconcile these various objectives.

Namely, early D&D didn't concern itself with story in the "railroady" sense. A kind of "old school" opinion holds that story is a product of the meaning that players ascribe to their careers.

Furthermore, D&D already had a pre-packaged premise. The notion of awarding XP, gaining levels, gold and even XP for getting gold plays into the premise that the players are about personal advancement. They're supposed to be mercenary, even morally gray ladder climbers.

This core mechanic of advancement works for a gamist because it's a simple reward system that keeps the player hooked. However, it also coaches a specific motivation.

Your scores are completely randomized and you set out to go from an ordinary no-talent to a feudal lord, a powerful wizard or something else. The notion of customizing your character was less important than that your man is mostly ordinary. His birth is a chance incident and his native gifts are *not* your choice. You don't get to be a hero from the get-go. The advancement caps out at high level with you becoming able to establish a stronghold and becoming more involved with the responsibilities of a character's newfound status.

All this suggests the premise that your character is a candidate for a rags-to-riches story. Not an epic hero. But a "pulp fantasy" protagonist.

Even the early lethality and logistical nature of the "old school" D&D presupposes the premise that the world is lethal. The only alignment axises from the earliest iterations were "chaos" and "order." It is my opinion that good and evil perhaps only confused the basic premise that the world you lived in was a place where civilization was the exception, not the rule. The lack of character options actually makes characters easier to dispose of and create and is therefore most fitting for the core premise. Survival is the overriding concern and "good and evil" takes a thematic backseat. And anybody interested in becoming a champion of virtue has to win it first.

Around 2e, it appears to me that the notion of "railroading" the story becomes more popular. And it is here where the rules start to fail the new premise. This is marked by such franchises as Ravenloft and Dragonlance.

If your quest is about destroying the One Ring and selfless heroism, it strikes me that a rules set that rewards looting gold off your enemies and gaining XP does not support that premise. The Lord of the Rings were filled with selfless characters who were, in many cases, wealthy and settled to begin with. They had to leave their comforts and their cushy posts to do something suitably heroic, not go out into the world to win fiefs and pick loot off of dead soldiers like common mercenaries.

It's a deadly notion that the "epic" fantasy is somehow more narrativistic than the "low" fantasy. They merely work from different premises and should be treated accordingly. The current D&D has fans that more heavily favors the "epic fantasy" approach, where mere mortal concerns such as food supplies, torches and rope are unimportant.

Simple judgement calls by the referees and abstracted rules that served the "simulationism" gives way to a rules fetish. And I find it absurd in the highest that D&D players seem hell-bent on making their rules a perfect theoretical model of nature.

There's a difference between writing down mathematical laws and creating a abstracted resolution for certain events that can't simply be refereed by the DM with impartiality, hence the luck of the dice. The mechanics should only help suspend disbelief. They're not there to outline the details of some virtual reality down to an exact science.

The problem with complex rules is that they bear a cost to the game by slowing it down. And if your combat rules take too long to resolve, that naturally takes time away from things like exploration and roleplay. In short, overly detailed combat actually exerts a subtle shift in premise.

"Simulationism" exists in service of "narrativism." Without some degree of believability, it is not possible for the narrative to emerge at all. And conflating simulationism with a dogged adherence to inappropriate custom is going to naturally result in conflict.

Holding onto notions of "leveling" and "getting loot" becomes merely a matter of form and tradition, without regard to a change in premise. Then the "new simulationism" demanded "good" and "evil" in the alignment axis, creating a subtle thematic shift. And in 3e mechanics, simulationism means that the rules are baroque and detailed but lack coherence.

No wonder that the balance of GNS approaches are out of whack! Current D&D systems holds elements of those considerations, but have no overall design philosophy that lends coherency.

Fishy
2009-09-06, 04:44 AM
Tactical expediency does not build character
"Do I choose Cloudkill or Disintegrate, Great Cleave or Sunder, Bluff or Intimidate?" are not generally emotionally significant decisions on the part of the PCs. They provide small-scale colour during particular scenes, but Narrativist play is much more about the ends than the means. Players confuse filling in the details of events with genuine control over their overall structure. Neither of these would, in itself, constitute Narrativism.

I have never understood the people who make this argument. It's just completely alien to the way I make my characters.

"Do I pick Bluff or Intimidate," if you'll let it, can have profound effects on a Narrativist level.

Suppose we put 8 skill points in Intimidate, so that we qualify for the Imperious Command feat so that we can shut down enemy spellcasters with the Instantaneous Rage/Intimidating Rage combo. On the surface, this is an unapologetic and nakedly Gamist decision.

However, facts about character abilities are facts about characters: as Aristotle put it, "We are what we repeatedly do." Our barbarian is able to manipulate people through fear. He knows it, over the course of play he will do so several times, it's fair to assume that he's done so in his past- and this can and 'should' shape our creation and perception of who the character is. What kind of person deals with problems by shouting at people? What does he think of himself, how does he interact with the world around him?

Narrativism, as you describe it here, relies upon decisions made by characters. Which decisions the characters make, and which descisions are interesting to make, depends on their personalities: there is no reason why they shouldn't be affected by decisions made at the mechanical level, and vice versa.

Yora
2009-09-06, 05:44 AM
Narrativism, as you describe it here, relies upon decisions made by characters. Which decisions the characters make, and which descisions are interesting to make, depends on their personalities: there is no reason why they shouldn't be affected by decisions made at the mechanical level, and vice versa.
Isn't that simulationism?

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 09:58 AM
I stopped reading when I realized that "plot" was being used as a synonym for railroading.

As a side note, if you think tactical decisions are unrelated to your character, then you're playing two separate games...one for dungeon diving, and one for roleplaying. If your characters have any depth at all, their personality should mesh with their fighting style and vice versa. If I mention that my character fights by raising dead and generally doing other necromancy related things, there's some implicit assumptions about my character that go along with that...and I certainly should tie that information in to how my character acts.

Fishy
2009-09-06, 10:14 AM
Isn't that simulationism?

Well... yeah. Narritivism the way it's being used here relies on internally consistent and fleshed-out characters, and the way you makes those is through pretending to be in their shoes. So.

Yora
2009-09-06, 10:18 AM
It's actually a quite common assumption that "roleplaying" is to blend Gameism, Narativism, and Simulationism.
The three categories were originally developed to classify singulary descisions by a player. You can cast a fireball because it's the most effective spell in your arsenal at that moment, because you need to get rid of a horde of plague-spreading zombies, or because the character is a pyromaniac who uses fire for just everything!

The basic hypothesis of GNS apparently is, that you can seperate and isolate these aspects from each other. And the adherents claim that you should do it and only play games that are limited to one aspect at the exclusion of the others.
But except for a small and sometimes vocal minortity, almost nobody seems to belive that hypothesis to be true. Apparently a market survey study made for WotC shows strong evidence that almost all players play their games as a blend of all there aspects, and that no game has players that strongly favor one single aspect.

woodenbandman
2009-09-06, 11:17 AM
If I were a wizard, I sure as hell would use the most effective spell in MY arsenal. Saying that making effective characters is bad roleplay is just wrong.

Some people build their characters after their concept, and some people build their concept after their character, and for some reason no side is able to convince the other side that their approach is valid. Who's to say that if I wanted to play a barbarian that I wouldn't want to be the best darn barbarian I could? And sometimes, I DON'T want to be the best darn barbarian IN THE GAME, so I play a Halfling barbarian. But I'll still pick up a tasty reach weapon, and use leap attack, and try to maximize the barbarian that I AM playing, because my character knows that it'll hurt more if he uses his momentum, and it's harder to get past his reach weapon. Sometimes, the character might make a decision to use a different weapon because it deals more damage (in DnD this is never the case because some weapons are objectively and undeniably superior to others, and at the same time it doesn't matter at all what weapon you wield so long as you have arms and Power Attack). But making decisions for "gamist" reasons often reach the same conclusion as decisions for "nattativist" or "simulationist" reasons.

Example: I have a spell called cloudkill, which I can cast 3 times a day. I encounter a fire giant. Do I:

A: Cast cloudkill because it will be effective against the giant, and I can afford to expend the slot?

B: Cast cloudkill because I have enough resources, and I want to kill the giant and take its stuff?

C: Cast cloudkill because it's a cool spell and I can do it 3 times per day?

Any way you look at it, you get the same outcome: cloudkill is cast, and the fire giant is eventually killed. yay.

Now, of course, if you create a character that would act exactly as you would in any situation, that's definitely a gamist perspective. But it doesn't make it bad as long as you're having fun with it, which is, after all, what the game is about. Same thing goes for a character who hates violence (some people play that character). You have to sack a lot of decisions that would help people in your party because of your character, but if you're having fun with it, what makes you better than the guy who plays for the gamism? Elitism?

Regardless of a player's motivation, be it gamist, simulationist, or narrativist, they're part of the story, and that is necessary. If you're a king, you wouldn't hire people who only agree with you for your advisors, would you? No. You'd hire people who aren't afraid to tell you what they think, because you need outside perspective. Same for a game. You need a mix of things in the game (say in a war situation), to make the most effective decision. In a game full of gamists, the war would be won, but there'd probably be sacrifices. Or maybe not. Maybe the gamists want there to be as few deaths as possible, to make their victory much more sweet. And for any number of reasons, the simulationist or the narrativist would decide to either make sacrifices or not. So really, regardless of why you play the game, you end up making the same decisions as everyone else.

Raum
2009-09-06, 11:34 AM
The basic hypothesis of GNS apparently is, that you can seperate and isolate these aspects from each other. And the adherents claim that you should do it and only play games that are limited to one aspect at the exclusion of the others.
But except for a small and sometimes vocal minortity, almost nobody seems to belive that hypothesis to be true. Apparently a market survey study made for WotC shows strong evidence that almost all players play their games as a blend of all there aspects, and that no game has players that strongly favor one single aspect.WotC's study didn't say players like all three aspects so much as invalidate the 'aspects' as being anywhere near a player's actual 'creative agenda'.

Their data shows players split roughly into four groups; Thinkers, Power Gamers, Character Actors, and Story Tellers. There's even a fifth group of centrists, if you will, who enjoy aspects of all four. Here are the definitions:
A Thinker is a player who most enjoys the game when it delivers Strategic/Combat Focus. This kind of person is likely to enjoy min-maxing a character, spending hours out of game to find every conceivable advantage available in the system to deliver maximum damage from behind maximum protection, even if the min-maxing produces results that are seemingly illogical/impossible. This kind of person wants to solve puzzles and can keep track of long chains of facts and clues.

A Power Gamer is a player who most enjoys the game when it delivers a Tactical/Combat Focus. This kind of person is likely to enjoy playing a character that has a minimum of personality (often, this kind of person plays a character that is simply an extension of the player). This kind of player enjoys short, intense gaming experiences. The consequences of a failed action are minimized for this player, who will roll up a new character and return to the fray without much thought for the storyline implications of that action.

A Character Actor is a player who most enjoys the game when it delivers a Tactical/Story Focus. This kind of person is likely to enjoy the act of theater; using voice, posture, props, etc. to express a character's actions and dialog. This player will have a character that makes sub-optimal choices (from an external perspective) to ensure that the character's actions are "correct" from the perspective of the character's motivations, ethics, and knowledge.

A Storyteller is a player who most enjoys the game when it delivers a Strategic/Story Focus. This kind of person finds enjoyment from the logical progression of the narrative of the scenario. There should be a beginning, a middle and an end. Characters should develop over time in reaction to their experiences. This player will look for a non-rules answer to inconsistencies or anachronisms in the game experience.

There is a fifth type of player, who does not express a preference along any of the four axis. This person is a "basic roleplayer", who finds enjoyment from strategy, tactics, combat and story in rough equilibrium.Roughly, each of the four quadrents accounts for approximately 22% of the player community. About 12% fall into the fifth, centric position.
Even worse for GNS advocates, the study found eight items all players were dissatisfied without.
Strong Characters and Exciting Story
Role Playing
Complexity Increases over Time
Requires Strategic Thinking
Competitive
Add on sets/New versions available
Uses imagination
Mentally challenging So GNS not only fails to describe the types of gamers, its idea that players will only want to focus on their type of play is disproved by the data.

That's where Edwards and other GNS faithful failed, they created the theory first and then attempted to force data to fit. Which is completely backwards. :smalleek:

Links:
- Breakdown of RPG Players (http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/gaming/BreakdownOfRPGPlayers.html)
- WotC Market Research Summary (http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/gaming/WotCMarketResearchSummary.html)

Diamondeye
2009-09-06, 12:03 PM
This entire idea of "narritivism" is sheer nonsense. IT's encumbered with all kinds fo baggage about how if the DM has a plotline for a story that the PCs generally follow, and make their decisions within, that's somehow not "naritivism". It's either "railroading" (which may be the case) or "illusionism", which is just a way of saying "within the confines of this model, it isn't 'gamism' or 'simulationism', but it's not the sort of 'narritivism' that I approve of so I'll slap a pejorative label on it and claim it's antagonistic. Don't pay any attention to the fact that it then has not place in the theory at all, making it badwrongfun, or else disproving the theory as an overall model."

All this nonsense about "premise", "protagonism", etc. is just a lot of pseudointellectual nonsense.

If you actually buy into this theory, there's 3 approaches

"gamist" - caring about mechanical effectiveness
"simulationist" - caring about the character as a person and how they will act
"narritivism" - caring about the storyline

There's no good reason the storyline has to come from the players, not from the DM. So what if it's "illusionism"? This is just trying to mask personal dislike for a way of doing things with a veneer of intellectualism.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 02:29 PM
WotC's study didn't say players like all three aspects...
WotC's study was made almost a decade ago, when GNS theory was still in it's infancy, but this is a subject I'll have to try to cover in more depth later.

EDIT:
To give a little more detail about the WotC study, I think that it's certainly possible to reconcile the data with the overall GNS breakdown, bearing in mind that Narrativist rule-sets were very poorly represented until quite recently.

Thinkers/Powergamers are both pretty clearly Gamists, the only significant difference being in attention span. The Character Actor is a Simulationist, and the 'Storyteller' could be interpreted as either a Simulationist or Narrativist, depending on how they feel 'character development' should occur.


In other words, even the players who enjoy a "Tactical Focus" still want to be challenged to use Strategic Thinking; likewise, even the Combat Focus player wants a Strong Character and Exciting Story...

This is directly contradicted by the study's own descriptions of each segment, which leads me to suspect that respondents wre simply ticking off boxes that asked whether these were, in the abstract, 'nice things to have'. The Character Actors (Simulationists) are deliberately producing sub-par characters from a competitive standpoint. The powergamers enjoy 'short, intense' encounters and 'return to the fray without much thought for the storyline implications of that action.' The Thinkers are deliberately making characters which are nonsensical from a role-play standpoint, and how, exactly, are the the 'Storytellers' supposed to rub shoulders safely with the powergamers which, as described, have a reckless disregard for the overall 'story arc'? Cripes.

It's also worth noting that study uses the term 'Story' to mean something entirely different from the Narrativist definition of the word (basically, 'everything besides combat.') This has nothing inherent to do with story creation as an aesthetic process: such concerns could be either Simulationist or Narrativist, depending on how the players react to it.

Yukitsu
2009-09-06, 02:32 PM
Any game that forces itself into a rigid category of definition is as incomplete as a meal without food. GNS theory based games included.

CarpeGuitarrem
2009-09-06, 02:49 PM
I agree that a gamer can't be pegged down as GNS, but they can certainly have a visible focus in one of them. It's more of a fuzzy gradient, like the alignment axis. i.e., not all Chaotic Good are created equally Chaotic or Good. See Han Solo, who doesn't really seek to actively antagonize the Empire, and Robin Hood, who seeks to humiliate the Sheriff at all turns. But I digress. The point is, you can think of them more as focuses in the broad field known as "roleplayers". Some tend to gravitate more towards Gamist, some towards Narrativist, some towards Simulationist. If you just say "You can't put someone into a straitjacket like that", you're denying fundamentally important aspects of someone's roleplaying, and leaving out a major deal.

Moving on to the idea that Narrativist = railroading...baloney. Ever heard of David Freeman (http://www.freemangames.com/idea/index.php)? He's a specialist in adding the Narrativist element into games, which can be more or less straightforward, plot-wise. It's true that any sort of narration will inevitably lead to a directed plot by the DM on some level...but honestly, no game of D&D will ever be completely free from the touch of the DM's plotting. Is that railroading? You tell me. Is it railroading that we have a standardized encounter structure (good guys vs. bad guys, fighting until one side is done for) which sometimes has variations when the DM says so? Is it railroading that all characters gain feats (and class features, if you're using 3.5) at regular intervals?

The great big puzzle that Narrativism is trying to solve is how to give a story to the players while still allowing them freedom. Simulationism is great for allowing them freedom, but it's terrible at putting emotion and plot into the game, because plot and emotion can never be calculated, only approximated, by the numbers. That's why most games tend to script story. The major exception is emergent games such as the Sims, but in that case, the amount of story you get is based on what the gamer themselves makes up. You could play an emergent game in a state of utter detachment, seeing the characters as nothing more than statistics, or you could create a story with your own work.

The Narrativist philosophy is that a player should be assisted in the development of this co-creation of a story, with this connection to the characters and the world, which does mean that some things have to be scripted, to a small degree. But in my mind, it's okay. Once you have that story, Simulationism takes care of the details, and Gamism provides mechanical interest, reminding the players that the game world exists, and is different from the narrative and real worlds.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 03:01 PM
I agree that a gamer can't be pegged down as GNS, but they can certainly have a visible focus in one of them. It's more of a fuzzy gradient, like the alignment axis. i.e., not all Chaotic Good are created equally Chaotic or Good. See Han Solo, who doesn't really seek to actively antagonize the Empire, and Robin Hood, who seeks to humiliate the Sheriff at all turns.

I think if GNS had simply stuck to describing players as trending torward one aspect or the other, and tried to see how a system could satisfy all those different desires well, nobody would have a problem with it.

It's the idea that significant amount of players are ONLY one of those types, and thus, game systems should be designed to only work for, and be played by, one of those types.

Obviously, in real life, there's a lot of overlap. Even if someone is a gamist, he probably doesn't mind there being a bit of story, so long as it doesn't ruin the gaming aspects of it. He might very well enjoy it. It's much more useful to look at the motivations as means of describing different aspects of a player, rather than one motivation describing a player(like GNS seems to do).

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 03:06 PM
It's the idea that significant amount of players are ONLY one of those types, and thus, game systems should be designed to only work for, and be played by, one of those types.
GNS theory never claims that players have ONLY one significant concern, but it does claim that (A) one concern tends to be strongest for that person, and (B) because role-play is not a solo activity, incoherent rules lead to different players latching on to whatever aspects of those rules appealed to them most, while quietly assuming that others should do the same, which leads to disagreements- Finally, (C) one mode's demands can actively conflict with those of another. Overall, to a first approximation, it's safest to pick one mode and stick with it, relegating the others to a strictly supporting role, if they appear at all.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 03:09 PM
I also strongly disagree that supporting multiple playstyles inherently makes a ruleset incoherent.

As a side note, how do GNS advocates explain the failure of GNS-designed games to reach popularity? If it is a superior system, then surely, success would follow when it's used?

Raum
2009-09-06, 03:11 PM
WotC's study was made almost a decade ago, when GNS theory was still in it's infancy, but this is a subject I'll have to try to cover in more depth later.Which changes nothing. A 'theory' which doesn't fit the data isn't a theory. A theory which isn't tested and revised to fit data isn't a theory, it's a belief.

Look up the scientific method and its definition of theory...data which doesn't fit a theory means the theory is incorrect or, at best, incomplete.

Superficially GNS is attractive. It punches key words. It puts things in nice neat slots with nice neat labels. Sadly, its faithful are seldom willing to test and revise the hypothesis using real data. Some, including Edwards himself, simply use wordy and fallacious arguments to avoid discussing underlying issues.

Fiery Diamond
2009-09-06, 03:20 PM
This thread is my first exposure to GNS theory, so perhaps you can help me understand a little better - how, exactly, are character-focus and story-focus in conflict? I tend to favor, for example, a plot that is driven by the characters, both in roleplaying games and in writing stories. To put it simply, I fail to see the distinction between Simulationism and Narrativism. Some of the things you declare to be Simulationism I see as distinct from things you declare to be Narrativism, others I do not.

For example -
Simulationist: The skill ranks and weapon damage are important and trump the thematic/story importance.
Narrativist: The weapon damage is really irrelevant when the gun is pointed at the hostage's head.

I see the distinction there, good. I originally thought "Ok, I understand the difference." But then...

Simulationist: Cares more about the character, and may deliberately produce sub-par (by mechanical standards) characters.
Narrativist: Cares about the emotions and values of the character, having this conflict with situation drive the development of the character.

Um... THIS IS NOT DIFFERENT AT ALL. THESE ARE SIMPLY TWO ASPECTS OF THE SAME THING.

I'm sooooo confused...


Edit: Also, I agree with the poster above me, but please answer my confusion anyway.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 03:20 PM
Which changes nothing. A 'theory' which doesn't fit the data isn't a theory. A theory which isn't tested and revised to fit data isn't a theory, it's a belief.
But the survey doesn't directly 'test' GNS at all, because it's using quite different definitions for the purposes of segmentation.

"Do I pick Bluff or Intimidate," if you'll let it, can have profound effects on a Narrativist level.
I'm referring more to the idea that moment-to-moment decision-making within an individual combat isn't the same thing as deciding who you're fighting in the first place: i.e, micromanagement at the tactical level doesn't give you authorship of story. But you're certainly right that long-term investment in particular skills, feats, and ther tactical resources can be a useful commentary on your character in Simulationist terms.

However, think about this for a second from the standpoint of Protagonism. Your character, by investing in Intimidate, is making a statement to the effect that:

"Fear and Brutality is the most useful tool for bending others to your will."
In Narrativist play, that assumptions going to be actively challenged. You'll be put in situations where fear and butality actively hinder your goals to a lesser or greater degree, over and over, until you either change the belief, or suffer for not doing so. Once that happens, in the former case, you now have a skill that contradicts your character's belief, and in the latter case, it's literally doing you more harm than good! The Gamist/Simulationist approach here is being actively eroded by Narrativist demands.

kamikasei
2009-09-06, 03:25 PM
In Narrativist play, that assumptions going to be actively challenged. You'll be put in situations where fear and butality actively hinder your goals to a lesser or greater degree, over and over, until you either change the belief, or suffer for not doing so.

Why is this being called Narrativism? It doesn't seem to merit a title that suggests it represents all storytelling.

Fiery Diamond
2009-09-06, 03:26 PM
Why is this being called Narrativism? It doesn't seem to merit a title that suggests it represents all storytelling.

A very good question indeed.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 03:28 PM
Simulationist: Cares more about the character, and may deliberately produce sub-par (by mechanical standards) characters.
Narrativist: Cares about the emotions and values of the character, having this conflict with situation drive the development of the character.

Um... THIS IS NOT DIFFERENT AT ALL. THESE ARE SIMPLY TWO ASPECTS OF THE SAME THING.
It's a subtle distinction, but an important one, which I hope will become clearer once I can write an essay for Simulationism, but here's the quote for you-

The point is that one can care about and enjoy complex issues, changing protagonists, and themes in both sorts of play, Narrativism and Simulationism. The difference lies in the point and contributions of literal instances of play; its operation and social feedback.

...I suggest that in Sorcerer (Narrativist), the expectation is that the character will encounter functional limits of his or her behavioral profile, and eventually, will necessarily break one or more of the formal tenets as an expression of who he or she "is," or suffer for failing to do so... Breaking that role in a Sorcerer-esque fashion would, [in Simulationism], constitute something very like a breach of contract.
For a Simulationist, identical stimuli should yield an identical response, and decisions should be made based solely on IC information. For a Narrativist, PC decisions are made, to at least some degree, based on the OOC metagame agenda of complementing Premise. These can demand very different things.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 03:31 PM
Why is this being called Narrativism? It doesn't seem to merit a title that suggests it represents all storytelling.
I agree that the term is a little confusing- it has, after all, only a loose relation to narration per se- but the key thing to bear in mind in mind is that it's not about storytelling. It's about storymaking, as a collective pursuit.

kamikasei
2009-09-06, 03:37 PM
I agree that the term is a little confusing

No, I don't think it's confusing. I think it's misleading. I think it's dishonest.

Yukitsu
2009-09-06, 03:46 PM
Specific problems with this essay:

The prelude goes into some depth as to what does not constitute a narrativist game, but does not, in explicit nature, make mention of what it in fact is.

From the presentation, one must assume that it is the presence of premises within the plot, which as presented are not premises per se, but rather emotional based decisions or "in character" decisions based on the demeaner of the character in question, and that further more, these must be based on internal or external conflict. What is then presented is the protagonism, which by default exists when individuals are singled out in the world as different (player controlled) from everyone else (DM controlled). This protagonist must then determine a solution to the question of whether or not they can solve the premise within the bounds of who they are.

In truth, this is not a cohesive or useful guide as to what narrativism actually is. While presented as a dilemma with characters (and really, no more) it does not present why these make a story, or why it creates a specific playstyle, nor presents examples as to what that play style is.

Next is a comparison of how narrativism may not align itself with two other theories, but as presented in this essay, no information on those styles are presented, making it impossible to understand in isolation why these opinions are formed.

However, with a knowledge of what those other styles are, this essay does nothing in particular to attempt a consolidation of multiple styles. For example, the theory cannot comprehend a narrative as simple as that of Sherlock Holmes, where the entire narrative premise (wit vs. convention) portrayed through the protagonist, and foiled by his less intelligent Scotland Yard counterparts is little more than an analysis of tactics employed, which is, in both detail and in revelation more closely attuned to simulationism, and yet the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle are infact narrative in nature, incorporating a great deal of simulationism. It was written as gamist in nature, but tactics are simulationist in practice, as tactics in a gamist scenario rarely moves beyond a combination of more than 3 moves.

Similarly, the details of conflict resolution are often times an important part of a cerebral narrative, where the exactitude of the actions taken can create a great deal of emotional difference, change perception of the characters involved, and completely change the advances of the story line, much for the same reasons. For example, that character Charles gunned down an enemy presents a completely different story from one where Charles grabs a fire poker from the hearth and stabs the assailant to death. One presents a man who is well prepared, cold blooded, and all together darker than the latter, who seems desperate, illprepared for such an attack, and at the same time, likely to be alltogether more affected by such an attack, creating "premises" (Becoming the first Charles vs. Remaining the more innocent Charles) in the protagonist. Clearly the minutae presents a drastic change between stories where an individual is willing to consider emotional reactions to differing mechanics.

It is only when "narrativist" is confabulated with "filled by plot holed" that one can assume that the minutae completely fails to matter, and readers of novels tend to dismiss stories or narratives that contain too many such things.

Stating that adding emotional attachment to the minutae completely fails to satisfy the notion that simulationism and narrativism can in fact intermingle. To a startling degree, in fact.

As well, the complaint that simulationism's requirement of large degrees of detail already present within the world reduces narrativism assumes that the narrative can only be advanced with a particular skill. However, within all good stories, individuals have weaknesses to their character, such as Frodo's lack of martial capabilities, his ultimately faltering power of will, and his lack of resources. And yet within his detailed world, he avoided the use of his weaknesses and went to the depths of Mordor with his strengths instead. That a supposed narrativist would be foiled from achieving something dramatic is only a concern when one refuses to view a situation as having many, or at least a few alternate solutions.

As well, it assumes that a gamist mentality assumes the highest degree of optimization no matter what, and that narrativists simply don't care about mechanical benefits, disadvantages etc. This is not true. An individual can find a solution that is mechanically optimal within the boundaries of what their character is, and who they are playing as a character.

The noted methods for a more enriching narrativist game apply to other styles of games as well. A gamist game is no more adversarial in nature than a narrativist one, and in all situations, it's a game. People should be working together to enjoy the experience.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 04:16 PM
No, I don't think it's confusing. I think it's misleading. I think it's dishonest.

Agreed.

Narrative is a very well defined word, that we all have a decent understanding of. Narrativism is obviously related to that, and most people can be expected to make such a basic connection. It's not obvious that narrativism is referring to other stuff entirely.

I suspect GNS theory would actually be more understandable if it used entirely invented words, since it's obviously not using normal definitions for many words already.

Raum
2009-09-06, 04:22 PM
But the survey doesn't directly 'test' GNS at all, because it's using quite different definitions for the purposes of segmentation.So what? A theory needs to account for all the data it purports to cover. Not just data specifically designed to fit.

I can come up with a theory stating "all Freds are skinny and frail". If I limit my dataset to skinny and frail people, I don't have to worry about being proved wrong. After all, I'm not testing whipcord lean people! That would be some other segment of people...

But don't take my word for it! Read up on the scientific method (http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_scientific_method.shtml) and decide for yourself. I'm certainly not here to proselytize.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 04:23 PM
If I were a wizard, I sure as hell would use the most effective spell in MY arsenal. Saying that making effective characters is bad roleplay is just wrong...
Much of the time, this is perfectly fair, but a character who never makes sub-optimal decisions in the name of some higher goal or belief, put simply, has no goals or beliefs aside from those localised to a single engagement, and is inimicable to meaningful role-play. This is ultimately incompatible with much Simulationist play and all of Narrativism.

A: Cast cloudkill because it will be effective against the giant, and I can afford to expend the slot?

B: Cast cloudkill because I have enough resources, and I want to kill the giant and take its stuff?

C: Cast cloudkill because it's a cool spell and I can do it 3 times per day?
A & B are both, as far as I can tell, Gamist concerns. I don't know what C would be, exactly- it doesn't seem to have much to do with either maintaining consistency or character development.

Now, of course, if you create a character that would act exactly as you would in any situation, that's definitely a gamist perspective...
Welll... that depends on what kind of person you are in real life, but I certainly don't mean to connote that any GNS mode is better or worse than the others.

Regardless of a player's motivation, be it gamist, simulationist, or narrativist, they're part of the story, and that is necessary...
You're part of the transcript of the events, but the 'transcript of events' is not the same thing as a compelling story, and if it were, your creative input to it might still, in effect, be zero.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 04:28 PM
So what? A theory needs to account for all the data it purports to cover. Not just data specifically designed to fit.
We're not talking about screening the data, we're talking about the methods of measurement- You can't measure weight with a ruler, and you can't measure heat with a stethescope.

I suspect GNS theory would actually be more understandable if it used entirely invented words, since it's obviously not using normal definitions for many words already.
I'll be happy to submit your complaints to the authorities, and might have a few to add myself, but I think you are, perhaps, being prematurely dismissive of the body of predictions made.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 04:42 PM
There's no good reason the storyline has to come from the players, not from the DM. So what if it's "illusionism"? This is just trying to mask personal dislike for a way of doing things with a veneer of intellectualism.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Illusionism as a technique for facilitating Simulationist play with players that enjoy stories as a finished product rather than as an active process. There is absolutely nothing dysfunctional about playing in this fashion, and it can absolutely be highly enjoyable for everyone concerned- if they're not 'hard' Narrativists.

Just don't pretend that the players are meaningfully involved in story creation when they clearly aren't.

...all players play their games as a blend of all there aspects, and that no game has players that strongly favor one single aspect.
This is manifestly false. Call of Cthulhu and GURPs lean stongly toward Simulationist play. Kobolds ate my Baby, Rune and 4E D&D lean heavily toward Gamism. Dogs in the Vineyard and Mouse Guard heavily lean toward Narrativism. Any other GNS mode is either strictly subordinate or downright rudimentary in such games, and play is generally the better for it.

As a side note, how do GNS advocates explain the failure of GNS-designed games to reach popularity? If it is a superior system, then surely, success would follow when it's used?
What makes you think they haven't? Look at the three contestants for this year's Origins Award for Best RPG: 4e D&D, Mouse Guard, and Trail of Cthulhu are textbook examples of Gamism, Narrativism, and Simulationism respectively. GNS design is already taking over.

As for why it didn't sooner- well, why is MS Windows the most popular operating system, C++ the most widespread programming language, and English the most prevalant lingua franca? -They were adopted for reasons that had nothing to do with their (questionable) technical merits.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 05:18 PM
We're not talking about screening the data, we're talking about the methods of measurement- You can't measure weight with a ruler, and you can't measure heat with a stethescope.


And if you can't measure player preference with a survey, how DO you measure it?

I would argue that, as a metasystem, GURPS can and does encompass all styles of play. How exactly it's used will even vary significantly depending on the group. 4E is certainly more gamist than 3.5, but it certainly contains other aspects as well. I'd also note that there are a non-trivial amount of players upset at the tradeoffs made to get that design. I just don't see how Trail of Cthulhu is simulationist. The drive aspect could be seen that way, certainly, but it's only one of quite a few mechanisms, and it doesn't *have* to be followed, it merely gives penalties if not. Saying that makes Cthulhu simulationist is like saying the spell Geas makes D&D 3.5 simulationist.

Besides...awards are not popularity. Mouse Guard? Seriously, is that popular? I'd never heard of it, or seen a sourcebook for sale until you mentioned it.

Starshade
2009-09-06, 05:39 PM
Never heard about this theory before reading this and the other recent thread on the GNS theory here. Its interesting, since ive seen so few theories who tries to group pen and paper RPG's and their players.

The problem, is do the theory result in better games? I dont think i'd place Call of Cthulhu, GURPS and even 4. ed D&D so strongly in one of the categories. CoC and GURPS crosses a lot of categories, tho id thing new World of Darkness and 4. ed D&D compared to old WOD and old D&D, moves avay from a balance between the categories towards specializing, thus fitting to a GNS category.
The problem, is i dont think, the games turn better due to it for their audience. They dont turn 'worse' per se, just loosing the customers who no longer likes the new style of games for the WW and Wotc company games. And dont the data mentioned also suggest the theory do not cover the results of it, thus explaining why, say, a move from a non GNS to a GNS perspective, in a new edition of a game, would ruin it for lots of its older users who dont like the new edition and the new sourcebooks?

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 06:31 PM
And if you can't measure player preference with a survey, how DO you measure it?
What I mean is that you would include questions such as- "do you make decisions based solely on IC information, OOC information, or a mix of the two?" "If you use OOC information, do you make use of such information to help you win during a conflict, or to create dramatic coincidences, or both?" "Do you establish the setting in detail beforehand, or make up elements during play"-etc. There's no indication that these kind of questions were asked during the survey, but they're critical to distinguishing different GNS modes.


I would argue that, as a metasystem, GURPS can and does encompass all styles of play.
It can, it's just not particularly good at doing things aside from Simulationism. It doesn't emphasise these things in terms of the core rules, and they require some more work on the part of the GM.

4E is certainly more gamist than 3.5, but it certainly contains other aspects as well.
Strictly subordinate or downright rudimentary.

I just don't see how Trail of Cthulhu is simulationist. The drive aspect could be seen that way, certainly, but it's only one of quite a few mechanisms, and it doesn't *have* to be followed, it merely gives penalties if not.
The idea of leaving a trail of clues to be followed is a classic example of Illusionist play, and mechanising the PCs' mental states through Sanity, Drives, etc. is very much in the Simulationist tradition. It's not focused on balanced tactical combat, and it's not focused on player colloboration to produce story, but it does try hard to evoke, and actively enforce, the conventions and shibboleths of a specific literary genre. These all combine to reinforce the notion that 'Internal cause is King'. That's Simulationism (of the High-Concept variety.)

I'd also note that there are a non-trivial amount of players upset at the tradeoffs made to get that design.
That was inevitable, and probably accounts for WotC's reluctance to discuss these tradeoffs in the first place prior to publication. To be fair, 4E could probably have maintained a little more Simulationism without losing coherence and still sold well, but I think anything that encourages an exodus of D&D grognards to sample the true diversity of RPG design out there can only be a good thing.

Besides...awards are not popularity. Mouse Guard? Seriously, is that popular? I'd never heard of it, or seen a sourcebook for sale until you mentioned it.
Popularity? No. But it's generally a decent indication of quality, and perhaps of impact on future RPG design.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 06:33 PM
I agree that a gamer can't be pegged down as GNS, but they can certainly have a visible focus in one of them. It's more of a fuzzy gradient, like the alignment axis. i.e., not all Chaotic Good are created equally Chaotic or Good. See Han Solo, who doesn't really seek to actively antagonize the Empire, and Robin Hood, who seeks to humiliate the Sheriff at all turns. But I digress. The point is, you can think of them more as focuses in the broad field known as "roleplayers". Some tend to gravitate more towards Gamist, some towards Narrativist, some towards Simulationist. If you just say "You can't put someone into a straitjacket like that", you're denying fundamentally important aspects of someone's roleplaying, and leaving out a major deal.

Moving on to the idea that Narrativist = railroading...baloney. Ever heard of David Freeman (http://www.freemangames.com/idea/index.php)? He's a specialist in adding the Narrativist element into games, which can be more or less straightforward, plot-wise. It's true that any sort of narration will inevitably lead to a directed plot by the DM on some level...but honestly, no game of D&D will ever be completely free from the touch of the DM's plotting. Is that railroading? You tell me. Is it railroading that we have a standardized encounter structure (good guys vs. bad guys, fighting until one side is done for) which sometimes has variations when the DM says so? Is it railroading that all characters gain feats (and class features, if you're using 3.5) at regular intervals?

The great big puzzle that Narrativism is trying to solve is how to give a story to the players while still allowing them freedom. Simulationism is great for allowing them freedom, but it's terrible at putting emotion and plot into the game, because plot and emotion can never be calculated, only approximated, by the numbers. That's why most games tend to script story...

The Narrativist philosophy is that a player should be assisted in the development of this co-creation of a story, with this connection to the characters and the world, which does mean that some things have to be scripted, to a small degree. But in my mind, it's okay.
I am about... 98% in agreement with the above. Narrativism doesn't mean than the GM has no input- on the contrary, the GM can influence events extensively through adversity, weaving, situation, etc. -but he or she doesn't have the final say on emotionally significant turning points within events.

Once you have that story, Simulationism takes care of the details, and Gamism provides mechanical interest, reminding the players that the game world exists, and is different from the narrative and real worlds.
I'm a little unclear as to what you mean here. Presumably, you don't have 'that story' until play is complete- How would you fill in the details retrospectively?

Arakune
2009-09-06, 06:35 PM
"Fear and Brutality is the most useful tool for bending others to your will." In Narrativist play, that assumptions going to be actively challenged. You'll be put in situations where fear and butality actively hinder your goals to a lesser or greater degree, over and over, until you either change the belief, or suffer for not doing so. Once that happens, in the former case, you now have a skill that contradicts your character's belief, and in the latter case, it's literally doing you more harm than good! The Gamist/Simulationist approach here is being actively eroded by Narrativist demands.

Why a character must behave like a shallow mad vilian where his answer for everything is "mind control"? Why a character can't have a more flexible mindset that adapts at external imput? Not everyone have some strong belief to die for.

I always thought narrativism were screw the rulles, I have plot!, simulationists cared more for internal consistency and breaking the rules (however they are) just "for the sake of drama" are disliked and gamist just wanted some chalenges (hack&slash, personal dilema, etc) to be passed and neither had a strong inclination to or not to bend the rules where the "plot" where just to provide the necessary chalenge.

Probably I'm wrong, but from what I can see that's what it looked like.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 06:42 PM
Then, you don't like that particular survey's exact questions. That is wildly different than "measuring heat with a stethescope". Why do none of the GNS proponents bother to make a better survey, then?

I'm not a big fan of GURPS, but I've seen it used in a wild variety of campaigns and styles. The participants appeared to enjoy using it, and it has a decently sized userbase that appears to be quite fond of it. I really don't know how you can simply slot it into one category.

If you consider the categories sufficiently broad to lump something like GURPS into one of them, then they are broad enough that the basic premise that RPGs should be designed to cater to one category is utterly meaningless.

Following a trail of clues, while a part of Cthulu, sure...is certainly not all of it. Following a trail of clues could also describe a great number of D&D games I've played. It's a basic trope that gets tossed in adventures everywhere. And Trail of Cthulu has combat. Plenty of combat. Depending on which variations of rules you use(the core book has alternatives for players to choose between. This is pretty much the opposite of what GNS proposes), it's quite possible to kill your way out, even more so than in call of cthulu. In any event, encounters can certainly be won, even if it's in the sense of escaping with your life. It's also still a story, just in the horror genre.

If your definition of "quality" is something other than what gamers like, GNS is a failure. Yes, popular games are more likely to also win awards(Im certainly not shocked that D&D 4.0 was considered), but awards without popularity means little. If gamers do not flock to the games your model says they should like, your model is wrong.

Kalirren
2009-09-06, 06:43 PM
Narrativism is GNS's strong suit, quite understandably because Edwards was himself a very Narrativist player in his own sense. I get a feeling from reading Edwards that his own baseline conception of the term was "If you play like I play, you play Narrativist." I'm glad this is the first one we're trying to address.

I still don't understand how GNS mode conflicts...how should I put it...are substantiated. There are plenty of dysfunctional RP group dynamics that don't fall under a GNS mode conflict umbrella, and the GNS mode conflict model predicts inevitable conflicts that don't arise in practice with more flexible players. You give here many examples of hypothetical GNS mode conflicts, and I agree, these are some common ways that groups fail to provide a pleasurable gaming experience for all the participants.

There are ways to play Simulationist that don't involve lots of points of contact and lots of little annoying rules. I consider myself a Simulationist first and foremost, and I care about world integrity. I hate systems with lots of points of contact like D&D. What I care about is largely that the game explores a setting in an intellectually meaningful manner, using player character agency to highlight meaningful themes that naturally emerge out of setting and world background. Usually these games end up addressing narrative premise anyway.

On a related note, you yourself bring up the example of Stealth Narrativism; I view that as an example of a way in which the NS modes are compatible. Just because you're addressing narrative premise to give meaning to your game doesn't mean you have to break world coherence and give up Simulationism. Most of the groups I have played with have played in this fashion.

The following is what I find to be the single most perplexing comment in your entire essay:



Stories have a premise - an underlying dilemma or conflict that runs through the transcript of events and gives it an underlying aesthetic structure. The central characters- the protagonists- are recognisable as such because their choices reflect upon that dilemma and define themselves accordingly in response.

I'm interested, why do you think this? I would say it's clearly not true. Many classics don't really have protagonists so much as they have central characters. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is most salient to me for having not protagonists, but a protagonist nation that was in no way different from the other two nations. The Odyssey arguably doesn't have any premise other than coming home and pwning your own house. The Kalevala has hardly any underlying dilemma at all - there are quests, but they aren't looked upon in the context of conflict between representatives of principles, or protagonists/antagonists.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-06, 06:54 PM
Why a character must behave like a shallow mad vilian where his answer for everything is "mind control"? Why a character can't have a more flexible mindset that adapts at external imput? Not everyone have some strong belief to die for.
True, but those don't make very good protagonists. Even anti-heroes have some strong conviction that they're willing to go to the wall for.

I always thought narrativism were screw the rulles, I have plot!, simulationists cared more for internal consistency and breaking the rules (however they are) just "for the sake of drama" are disliked and gamist just wanted some chalenges (hack&slash, personal dilema, etc) to be passed and neither had a strong inclination to or not to bend the rules where the "plot" where just to provide the necessary chalenge.

Probably I'm wrong, but from what I can see that's what it looked like.
Narrativist players are often impatient with elaborate rules, but "I have plot" is, I think, a misunderstanding. The point is to construct a plot as you go- it doesn't fully exist until play is finished.

Get just one Story Now player into an Illusionist group, and the game becomes a battlefield for control and story creation. I consider this to be one of the worst instances of high-level GNS incompatibility, because it typically doesn't resolve itself through a clean parting of the ways. As long as the people involved buy into the false notion that Narrativist play is a subset of the Simulationist aesthetic, then the war will not end, as they wave their "integrity of the story" flags at one another in the mistaken belief that they share aesthetic goals.

Arakune
2009-09-06, 07:53 PM
Narrativist players are often impatient with elaborate rules, but "I have plot" is, I think, a misunderstanding. The point is to construct a plot as you go- it doesn't fully exist until play is finished.

However rules are bend for the sake of whatever "plot" it have. It doesn't need to be "droping the the one ring to mount doom" but can be something else, even if vage. By my understanding of the narrativist vision you drop any rules you don't like at that point and just say what happen, a fenomeon my gaming group called "cutscene mode". One exemple of that was a goblin hating barbarian dragonborn that killed in a more cinematographic way around 800~ minions in the spam of minutes (my wizard got second place with 300, ranger and rogue got 3 place with 68 tied)!.. mostly because the GM didn't wanted to roll the dice.

This kind of play can happen in any game table, but I just thought in narrativism these kind of things happened a lot of times.

elliott20
2009-09-06, 09:10 PM
I always thought the GNS theory is just meant to denote the strong suit of a particular game and the tendency of the players, rather than outright pigeon hole them into playing categories.

Arakune
2009-09-06, 09:12 PM
I always thought the GNS theory is just meant to denote the strong suit of a particular game and the tendency of the players, rather than outright pigeon hole them into playing categories.

Thought so too.

elliott20
2009-09-06, 09:19 PM
I disagree with your assessment that narrativism is about bending the rules though. but rather, I don't think GNS actually focuses too much on the compliance of rules but rather on how the rules are created and applied.

In that, for example, dropping the one ring into Morder. The choice to do so, being a plot significant event and one that is core to a character conflict at hand, would still need some kind of rule governing it.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-06, 09:53 PM
Well crafted rules should allow for a good deal of player creativity, IMO. In the case of the ring, no doubt permanently giving up the ring has some sort of will save or other equivalent with it, at a minimum.

Of course, if we only said "Frodo failed his will save", it'd be a terrible end to the tale. Obviously, though, that's not quite the end. And, as it stands, the end of the ring is much more interesting than if no save were involved and he opted to just toss the ring in.

IMO, a great many of the gaming components described as incompatible are actually complimentary.

Arakune
2009-09-06, 10:16 PM
I disagree with your assessment that narrativism is about bending the rules though. but rather, I don't think GNS actually focuses too much on the compliance of rules but rather on how the rules are created and applied.

In that, for example, dropping the one ring into Morder. The choice to do so, being a plot significant event and one that is core to a character conflict at hand, would still need some kind of rule governing it.

I wasn't refering to the "dropping" itself, but the quest to do it as an exemple of "plot".

Aik
2009-09-06, 11:11 PM
I think Samurai Jill is going about explaining this in the wrong way. I don't think she's said anything that's seriously wrong about the theory, but I think it's a bit of a missing the forest for the trees thing. Bringing those techniques into it is seriously just confusing the matter.

I know that if I try and explain GNS, I'll fail horribly - and really, I don't have enough time for that discussion. But for those that are seriously interested in what GNS/The Big Model actually says, I'd like to recommend this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20679.0) on The Forge. The nice thing is that it's based around an actual play example, rather than all this floaty waffly theory that no one can see a way to apply.

The important thing to note though is that GNS is not actually 'the' theory anymore - it's been subsumed into the Big Model, which seeks to catagorise the rest of the stuff beyond creative agenda and see how it all fits together.

I know this is going to sound wanky and arrogant - but I don't think most people here who disagree with the theory understand it at all - and it's very hard to have a discussion on its merits if most people don't understand what it really says.

So - here are two more links: roleplaying theory, hardcore (http://www.lumpley.com/hardcore.html) (Aside: GNS) and What GNS Theory Claims (http://isabout.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/what-gns-theory-claims/). The first link has a very concise explanation. Actually, I'll just quote it here:


So you have some people sitting around and talking. Some of the things they say are about fictional characters in a fictional world. During the conversation the characters and their world aren't static: the people don't simply describe them in increasing detail, they (also) have them do things and interact. They create situations - dynamic arrangements of characters and setting elements - and resolve them into new situations.

They may or may not have formal procedures for this part of the conversation, but the simple fact that it consistently happens reveals some sort of structure. If they didn't have an effective way to negotiate the evolution of situation to situation, their conversation would stall or crash.

Why are they doing this? What do they get out of it? For now, let's limit ourselves to three possibilities: they want to Say Something (in a lit 101 sense), they want to Prove Themselves, or they want to Be There. What they want to say, in what way they want to prove themselves, or where precisely they want to be varies to the particular person in the particular moment. Are there other possibilities? Maybe. Certainly these three cover an enormous variety, especially as their nuanced particulars combine in an actual group of people in actual play.

Over time, that is, over many many in-game situations, play will either fulfill the players' creative agendas or fail to fulfill them. Do they have that discussion? Do they prove themselves or let themselves down? Are they "there"? As in pretty much any kind of emergent pattern thingy, whether the game fulfills the players' creative agendas depends on but isn't predictable from the specific structure they've got for negotiating situations. No individual situation's evolution or resolution can reveal a) what the players' creative agendas are or b) whether they're being fulfilled. Especially, limiting your observation to the in-game contents of individual situations will certainly blind you to what the players are actually getting out of the game.

That's GNS in a page.

I don't think I've said anything here that Ron Edwards hasn't been saying. I do think that I've said it in mostly my own words.

I think the main thing to get across here is that your creative agenda isn't an instance-by-instance thing. Just because you had a hardcore tactical scene doesn't mean you're playing gamist if overall what you're doing is 'Saying Something'. It's about priority of play - not the blow-by-blow nitty gritty. I think that's where most people get tripped up - 'Yeah, but we planned out this battle here - that was gamist then right? But in the next scene John's character killed some guy in an emotional scene because he murdered his family - so we're narrativist here?' - That's not how it works.

Anyway - I'll leave it at that. Hopefully my linkdumping can clear up some misconceptions, because I'm really all for discussing the merits of narrativism and GNS and such - but atm I don't think there's much point because we'd mostly be talking about different things.

CarpeGuitarrem
2009-09-07, 12:10 AM
I'm a little unclear as to what you mean here. Presumably, you don't have 'that story' until play is complete- How would you fill in the details retrospectively?
Well, I don't see the story as only being present until the campaign is complete, I see the story as constantly coming into existence as the game plays out. I see the story as an interweaving of game mechanics and roleplay, combined with the plots of the DM.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-07, 12:35 AM
Honestly, I don't see the reason for this much game theory anyhow. Understanding it is no trouble...the trouble is that they(whoever is responsible for all this theory mess) don't bother to use words as they are commonly understood in standard english, have a great love of random capitalization, and use ridiculously lengthy statements where a short sentence would do.

What does all this actually accomplish anyhow?

Kalirren
2009-09-07, 12:41 AM
Wow. Thanks for posting the link to the actual play analysis thread. It really helped me to understand where Ron Edwards comes from.

I can now say with honest certainty that at the point of the writing of the thread Ron Edwards did not understand exactly what I thought he did not understand: exploration itself can be a valid, workable creative agenda. That's Levi Kornelsen's point for most of the first page, and Kornelsen pretty much gives up on truly resolving the disconnect on the beginning of the second page, deferring to Edwards' authority. Intuitively it makes sense to me; our group used to play like Kornelsen's group plays. Our most consistent joy lay in worldbuilding as we went. As Kornelsen himself stated it,


"Anything that creates new situations in the fiction which speak to both the characters and the setting, creating further opportunities to explore both, is awesome (so long as it isn't overdone). The actual exploration of those things is good - the meat and potatoes of the game. Things that do neither are neutral or dull."

Edwards misses this point. In his replies to Kornelsen he keeps trying to shoehorn a CA that consists of exploring the relationships between characters and the world they live in into the three buckets of G, N, and S, none of which it will neatly fit into.

The reason why the GNS trichotomy can't handle this type of play is quite simple; GNS was initially conceived as classes of Techniques, not as play modes. I actually think it's valid for this purpose. My play experience certainly bears that out, and I have used this idea to enrich the games I have played. When our DM was getting caught up with Gamist techniques and ephemera (he just loves rolling the dice), we the players would counterbalance the shift by emphasizing Narration (through description of character motivation, emotion, etc.) and world-Simulation (world-building and circumstance determination). When he was overemphasizing Narration and driving story by fiat, we as players balanced both through recourse to system (Gamist) and reacting to changing circumstance (Simulationist). And when our GM would go into worldbuilding frenzy and plonk down elements and details left and right (Simulationism) we would come up with ways they could be described in the system (Gamism) and ways our characters could relate and attach to those elements (Narrativism). In my experience the different kinds of techniques don't exclude each other, they balance each other, and using techniques from all three classes helps maintain the integrity of the OOC group balance as well by providing players with natural checks on GM powers.

I guess my antithesis to Ron Edward's GNS-BigModel costruction all boils down to this, and I thank the participants of this thread for making me crystallize it: The GNS trichotomy is valid for techniques and stances in that every individual decision is made on the basis of one of the three. That same trichotomy is -not- valid for Creative Agendas, and "GNS play modes" don't really exist because play modes are based upon CA. Instead, CA's are explorative in nature, and a group probably -does- have to make up its collective mind regarding whether they choose to explore character, or setting, or situation at any given time (or risk possibly dysfunctional incoherence). That's a important prediction, and I'd like to know if you guys think that bears out.

Fhaolan
2009-09-07, 03:10 AM
I guess my antithesis to Ron Edward's GNS-BigModel costruction all boils down to this, and I thank the participants of this thread for making me crystallize it: The GNS trichotomy is valid for techniques and stances in that every individual decision is made on the basis of one of the three. That same trichotomy is -not- valid for Creative Agendas, and "GNS play modes" don't really exist because play modes are based upon CA. Instead, CA's are explorative in nature, and a group probably -does- have to make up its collective mind regarding whether they choose to explore character, or setting, or situation at any given time (or risk possibly dysfunctional incoherence). That's a important prediction, and I'd like to know if you guys think that bears out.

Well done. I believe I agree with this.

Perhaps not all RPG gaming groups shift and balance between the three modes to create a rich experience, but I find that 'mature' groups do. By mature I'm not referring to age as such, but as groups whose individuals have played through all three modes and the others that GNS doesn't address, or lumps together despite fundamental differences in play style. For example: The Curious, who wish to explore aspects of a game system 'just to see' have fundamentally different motivations from Optimizationalists who want that complete knowledge to give them an advantage in the game, yet I believe both are Gamists by GNS classification. And for reasons I can't quite figure out GNS doesn't seem to cover casual gamers; the ones that simply want to play a game to spend social time with peers and are willing to enjoy whatever the game throws at them because the game, as such, isn't as relevant as the people playing.

The real problem I see with Threefold, GNS, and BigModel is that they are amateur exercises in psychology that are often portrayed as game theory, but do not have the rigerous formation to properly qualify. While moderately useful on a limited basis for discussion as long as all involved agree upon terms, in the broader sense it's about as useful as using a EMF meter to hunt for ghosts. If you've found an electromagnetic field with an EMF meter, all you have found is an electromagnetic field. There is no actual evidence that EMFs are ghosts, and there is no actual evidence that GNS theory holds any water either. It's an interesting posit for discussion purposes, and that's it.

Yora
2009-09-07, 04:49 AM
So - here are two more links: roleplaying theory, hardcore (http://www.lumpley.com/hardcore.html) (Aside: GNS) and What GNS Theory Claims (http://isabout.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/what-gns-theory-claims/). The first link has a very concise explanation. Actually, I'll just quote it here:

So you have some people sitting around and talking. Some of the things they say are about fictional characters in a fictional world. During the conversation the characters and their world aren't static: the people don't simply describe them in increasing detail, they (also) have them do things and interact. They create situations - dynamic arrangements of characters and setting elements - and resolve them into new situations.

They may or may not have formal procedures for this part of the conversation, but the simple fact that it consistently happens reveals some sort of structure. If they didn't have an effective way to negotiate the evolution of situation to situation, their conversation would stall or crash.

Why are they doing this? What do they get out of it? For now, let's limit ourselves to three possibilities: they want to Say Something (in a lit 101 sense), they want to Prove Themselves, or they want to Be There. What they want to say, in what way they want to prove themselves, or where precisely they want to be varies to the particular person in the particular moment. Are there other possibilities? Maybe. Certainly these three cover an enormous variety, especially as their nuanced particulars combine in an actual group of people in actual play.

Over time, that is, over many many in-game situations, play will either fulfill the players' creative agendas or fail to fulfill them. Do they have that discussion? Do they prove themselves or let themselves down? Are they "there"? As in pretty much any kind of emergent pattern thingy, whether the game fulfills the players' creative agendas depends on but isn't predictable from the specific structure they've got for negotiating situations. No individual situation's evolution or resolution can reveal a) what the players' creative agendas are or b) whether they're being fulfilled. Especially, limiting your observation to the in-game contents of individual situations will certainly blind you to what the players are actually getting out of the game.

That's GNS in a page.

I don't think I've said anything here that Ron Edwards hasn't been saying. I do think that I've said it in mostly my own words.
Okay, I can follow this. But how is this a theory? It's a very basic hypothesis, but it seems to have no practical value at all. How does it allow to improve communication or resolve conflict?

Saph
2009-09-07, 05:01 AM
I know this is going to sound wanky and arrogant - but I don't think most people here who disagree with the theory understand it at all - and it's very hard to have a discussion on its merits if most people don't understand what it really says.

If a bunch of reasonably intelligent and literate readers, after reading ten pages worth of theory exposition, still don't "understand" the theory that you're trying to convince them of, then it probably means one of two things:

a) The theory's badly presented.
b) They do understand the theory, and just think you're wrong.

GNS essays are boring, filled with unncessary jargon, and about ten times as long as they need to be. Worst of all, even if you do all the work to understand them, there's hardly anything there.

Chrono22
2009-09-07, 05:24 AM
If a bunch of reasonably intelligent and literate readers, after reading ten pages worth of theory exposition, still don't "understand" the theory that you're trying to convince them of, then it probably means one of two things:

a) The theory's badly presented.
b) They do understand the theory, and just think you're wrong.

GNS essays are boring, filled with unncessary jargon, and about ten times as long as they need to be. Worst of all, even if you do all the work to understand them, there's hardly anything there.
{Scrubbed}

kamikasei
2009-09-07, 05:45 AM
{Scrubbed}

Aik is trying to dismiss criticism by saying the critics don't understand the theory. Saph's response is entirely appropriate to that. If she was directing it at the OP, it might be less topical.

As to the rest of your post, I will only note that no one asked your opinion of Saph's post, either. This being a discussion forum, we generally don't wait to be asked to speak.

Yora
2009-09-07, 05:45 AM
I disagree. From everything I've seen, GNS theory is claimed to be a scientific theory based on study of the subject and evaluation of the findings.
And if it is, then it's adherers have to face that other people, who feel like they are familiar with the subject, examine the theory, show the faults they find, and possibly refute it.

If discused on a public internet forum, it's quite possible that a lot of people will reply, who are not "experts" on the subject. But there's usually also a considerable number of people who qualify as experts for a wide range of knowledge and education they have.

And from almost all GNS discussion I've seen so far, there are a lot of people who apparently know the subject very well. And if almost all of these people either don't understand what the theory wants to prove, or think they understand it and claim it's nonsense, then I see this as strong evidence that the theory was either badly presented or simply false to begin with.

And as I see it, adherers of the theory have been given plenty of opportunity to refine their arguments and the presentation of the theory. But apparently it never convinves anyone that it's better than it has before.

Of course, there's a slight chance that a theory is just very hard and complicated, so that very few people understand it. But the common scientific consensus by the scientific community of the western world is, that if a vast majority of examiners is not convinced, than the theory is most likely wrong.

As to the rest of your post, I will only note that no one asked your opinion of Saph's post, either. This being a discussion forum, we generally don't wait to be asked to speak.
These threads made me notice how very much forum discussions are similar to our scientific discussions at university. (We're often just about a dozen people with rarely more than 4 to 6 contributing.)

Fishy
2009-09-07, 06:14 AM
Backtracking a bit, but something caught my eye that threw me off.


However, think about this for a second from the standpoint of Protagonism. Your character, by investing in Intimidate, is making a statement to the effect that:

"Fear and Brutality is the most useful tool for bending others to your will."
In Narrativist play, that assumptions going to be actively challenged. You'll be put in situations where fear and butality actively hinder your goals to a lesser or greater degree, over and over, until you either change the belief, or suffer for not doing so. Once that happens, in the former case, you now have a skill that contradicts your character's belief, and in the latter case, it's literally doing you more harm than good! The Gamist/Simulationist approach here is being actively eroded by Narrativist demands.

How and why is this the standard of Narrative we're 'supposed to be' aiming for? The villain throws the love interest and the bus full of orphans off a building, and one of them dies? The harrowed man who lost everything hunting the Conspiracy wakes up one morning and says 'Eh, nevermind'? One of the ragtag band of rebels betrays the others and the whole lot are put up against the wall and shot?

This seems like actively bad storytelling. Of course you want to put your characters in bad situations- to see them take the third option and triumph over them. Torturing them specifically and endlessly until they break seems beside the point to me.

But then I'm not Gary Gygax.

warrl
2009-09-07, 11:13 AM
And from almost all GNS discussion I've seen so far, there are a lot of people who apparently know the subject very well. And if almost all of these people either don't understand what the theory wants to prove, or think they understand it and claim it's nonsense, then I see this as strong evidence that the theory was either badly presented or simply false to begin with.

Without comment on the possible truth of the theory, I will go with badly presented.

Consider that in what is apparently the original source of the theory (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/), GNS stands for "Gameism, Simulationism, Narrativism". Does anyone else spot the problem?

And in my opinion, the clarity of the essay decreased substantially after that point.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-07, 12:26 PM
I still don't understand how GNS mode conflicts...how should I put it...are substantiated. There are plenty of dysfunctional RP group dynamics that don't fall under a GNS mode conflict umbrella, and the GNS mode conflict model predicts inevitable conflicts that don't arise in practice with more flexible players.
Perhaps, but that doesn't invalidate the idea that you should minimise the potential for interplayer conflicts arising from the rules wherever possible.

There are ways to play Simulationist that don't involve lots of points of contact and lots of little annoying rules. I consider myself a Simulationist first and foremost, and I care about world integrity. I hate systems with lots of points of contact like D&D. What I care about is largely that the game explores a setting in an intellectually meaningful manner, using player character agency to highlight meaningful themes that naturally emerge out of setting and world background. Usually these games end up addressing narrative premise anyway.

On a related note, you yourself bring up the example of Stealth Narrativism; I view that as an example of a way in which the NS modes are compatible. Just because you're addressing narrative premise to give meaning to your game doesn't mean you have to break world coherence and give up Simulationism. Most of the groups I have played with have played in this fashion.
It's not breaking the world that's the problem, it's breaking the notion that 'internal cause is king'- the address of premise, and the production of theme, is by it's very nature a metagame concern dependant on OOC information. For Narrativism to work, you can't make PC decisions based solely on IC information and predefined character profiles.

You do raise an interesting question with regard to Simulationism, Exploration, and it's possible role in 'hybridisation', though, which I'll try to respond to in more depth later.

The following is what I find to be the single most perplexing comment in your entire essay:
"...using player character agency to highlight meaningful themes that naturally emerge out of setting and world background."

If you have a theme, it logically follows you had a premise. The protagonists made significant choices, but those choices clustered around a common axis- that's what theme means. Again, you need not explicitly articulate that premise, but it clearly emerged over the course of play, even without consciously realising it.

The Odyssey arguably doesn't have any premise other than coming home and pwning your own house.
I'm not familiar with the other two examples you give, but that's actually a perfectly serviceable premise, as long as it has the potential to invite emotional conflict and significant decision-making on the part of the protagonist. Which it does- Odysseus repeatedly arrives at safe harbours (e.g, Calypso,) where he has the choice of going on, or staying, and every time he goes on, he pays a heavier price- gradually losing his crew, his ship, and coming within an inch of death. Penelope and Telemachus also make tough choices- I mean, what really struck me about the Odyssey is how similar to a modern novel it is. It's quite uncanny. (Perhaps the theme here would be loyalty, and the premise loyalty vs. survival?)

I'd suggest taking a look at the Art of Dramatic Writing (http://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/egri.htm) for some idea of where Edwards' is getting his terminology from- the chief difference being he's phrasing the premise as a question that the players address, not as a statement by a single author.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-07, 12:30 PM
Without comment on the possible truth of the theory, I will go with badly presented.
Oh, no arguments there- Edwards' three big essays on the subject are a nightmare to read through in places (mostly because of a near-total lack of interest in proper formatting.) But there are some real gems of insight to be found if you dig through 'em.

Consider that in what is apparently the original source of the theory (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/), GNS stands for "Gameism, Simulationism, Narrativism". Does anyone else spot the problem?
No, not really. What is it? Also, the first real mention of GNS was in System Does Matter (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/11/).

Samurai Jill
2009-09-07, 12:42 PM
How and why is this the standard of Narrative we're 'supposed to be' aiming for?
Oh, cripes. Again, there is nothing wrong with using standard Illusionist techniques, or just letting the players meander about, if you're not dealing with genuine Narrativists as players. Illusionism is a perfectly viable method of producing 'a narrative' this way- it's just not Narrativism, where the focus of creative expression is to produce a narrative.

The villain throws the love interest and the bus full of orphans off a building, and one of them dies? The harrowed man who lost everything hunting the Conspiracy wakes up one morning and says 'Eh, nevermind'? One of the ragtag band of rebels betrays the others and the whole lot are put up against the wall and shot?

This seems like actively bad storytelling.
Have you actually watched movies? Read books? Paid attention to any stories worth telling?- Look at the Dark Knight. Look at what happens when Harvey loses Rachel, when Fox is asked to snoop on the entire city, when Batman takes the blame for the murders- Pushing characters to the brink is the very essence of drama and character development. It is the opposite of bad storytelling. (I would also point audiences are generally willing to overlook some fairly glaring logical inconsistencies in the process.) Seriously- take any story with serious elements of drama and that's what you'll find at it's very heart.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-07, 01:20 PM
I can now say with honest certainty that at the point of the writing of the thread Ron Edwards did not understand exactly what I thought he did not understand: exploration itself can be a valid, workable creative agenda. That's Levi Kornelsen's point for most of the first page, and Kornelsen pretty much gives up on truly resolving the disconnect on the beginning of the second page, deferring to Edwards' authority. Intuitively it makes sense to me; our group used to play like Kornelsen's group plays.
For my own part, I have observed that games with don't emphasis Gamist or Narrativist priorities tend to get labelled as 'Simulationist-by default' by Edwards, and I don't see the functional distinction between what Edwards calls 'Exploration' and 'Lite' Simulationism- they both reinforce the same priorities (maintaining plausibility/consistency of experience.) Simulationism seems to be defined, in effect, as Exploration to the exclusion of other concerns- but if Exploration is essential to all role-play (with the possible exception of Hard Core Gamism,) wouldn't that make nearly ALL RPGs 'Simulationist hybrids'?

To be honest, though, this is mainly a point of terminology from my POV, and I don't think invalidates the key predictions of the theory: relabel 'Exploration' Simulation and 'Simulationism' Heavyweight Simulation and you get exactly the same ramifications all across the board. You can still call play Gamist/Simulationist/Narrativist depending on what concerns primarily dominate play, and each mode still invites mutual conflicts in ways that make establishing clear priorities among the three, I reckon, a damn good idea.

...we would come up with ways they could be described in the system (Gamism)
There is nothing inherently Gamist about this. Gamism would be using rules-layering to try to model those things in a way that brought personal advantage, but what you're describing sounds more Simulationist to me- trying to capture the salient mechanical aspects of a thing in an accurate fashion.

...the shift by emphasizing Narration (through description of character motivation, emotion, etc.) ...and ways our characters could relate and attach to those elements...
This is not inherently Narrativist. It could be either Simulationist or Narrativist, depending on whether those motivations are expected to shift in ways that complement premise, or purely based on IC information, formal mechanics, and existing character profiles.

...and world-Simulation (world-building and circumstance determination).
Our most consistent joy lay in worldbuilding as we went... And when our GM would go into worldbuilding frenzy and plonk down elements and details left and right...
Strictly speaking, this isn't Simulationist at all- the Simulationist approach would be to have the world and setting established in advance, so that internal cause and effect can reign unchallenged. Making up the world on demand is inherently a metagame process, and what you're describing is probably straightforward Narrativism.

Kalirren
2009-09-07, 01:55 PM
If you have a theme, it logically follows you had a premise. The protagonists made significant choices, but those choices clustered around a common axis- that's what theme means. Again, you need not explicitly articulate that premise, but it clearly emerged over the course of play, even without consciously realising it.


Again, here I disagree. To borrow terms from literary criticism, not all themes have underlying premises in exactly the same way as not all motifs have symbolic meaning. Just as an element can recur throughout a narration and evoke sentiments without representing anything in particular, so can a theme recur throughout roleplay, and characters can act within its context, without necessarily inducing those characters to define themselves in relation to any premise. Perhaps I think of a premise in stronger terms than you do, but it was also my impression that Edward's notion of Premise was at least as strong as mine?


That's actually a perfectly serviceable premise, as long as it has the potential to invite emotional conflict and significant decision-making on the part of the protagonist. Which it does- Odysseus repeatedly arrives at safe harbours (e.g, Calypso,) where he has the choice of going on, or staying, and every time he goes on, he pays a heavier price- gradually losing his crew, his ship, and coming within an inch of death. Penelope and Telemachus also make tough choices- I mean, what really struck me about the Odyssey is how similar to a modern novel it is. It's quite uncanny.

If Odysseus has a premise, it's that he wants to go home, go back to Penelope, see his son as a grown man, be at his father's funeral games. The Odyssey shows how home is meaningful enough for him to give up immortality with Calypso, persist in maintaining his own identity even though he himself is the last that's left of it as far as he himself can help it. I can buy that.

I have to agree with you, it's uncanny how the Odyssey really almost stands alone in terms of protagonism in comparison to most pre-Christian literature. Yet we can compare it to the other giant Greek classic, The Iliad, which doesn't have that - Achilles has the spotlight, but has very little of the protagonist light shone upon him, and he isn't very sympathetic as far as the characters go. The most sympathetic character there is probably either Thetis or King Priam.

So my core drive here is that stories don't need protagonists or premises. What they need is conflicting interests. It's very natural for us to understand interest from a single character's perspective, which is why protagonism is common in literature. It's also easy for us to understand interest in terms of self-definition and principle, wich is why premise is also a common pattern in literature. But the core of making an engaging story is the rubbernecking response to (impending) conflict, and I think that one of the most unique advantages of roleplaying as a storytelling mechanism is that it is well suited to portraying the collisions of interests without recourse to protagonists and narrative premises, unlike many single-author forms of artistic expression.

Diamondeye
2009-09-07, 02:26 PM
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Illusionism as a technique for facilitating Simulationist play with players that enjoy stories as a finished product rather than as an active process. There is absolutely nothing dysfunctional about playing in this fashion, and it can absolutely be highly enjoyable for everyone concerned- if they're not 'hard' Narrativists.

Just don't pretend that the players are meaningfully involved in story creation when they clearly aren't.

If the players are playing the game at all, they are meaningfully involved, jsut by virtue of the fact that the DM is trying to make a story for their enjoyment, and what he can add to the story later is heavily influenced by what they do before. Whether the players are "involved in story creation" has nothing to do with whether the game is "narritivist".


This is manifestly false. Call of Cthulhu and GURPs lean stongly toward Simulationist play. Kobolds ate my Baby, Rune and 4E D&D lean heavily toward Gamism. Dogs in the Vineyard and Mouse Guard heavily lean toward Narrativism. Any other GNS mode is either strictly subordinate or downright rudimentary in such games, and play is generally the better for it.

There is absolutely no reason to think that a game is improved by favoring one of these elements.

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-09-07, 02:56 PM
Could someone explain GNS in a clear and concise manner for those of us who are curious about it but really can't be bothered to spend several hours trudging through excessively wordy and rather pedantic essays?

Because as far as I do understand it, it works out to something like this:

G: I want to be a kickass <whatever>!
N: I want to make a cool story!
S: I want a world that is consistent with the game's rules!

What I'm unable to understand is why these three focuses are in any way mutually exclusive or interfere with each other.

Kalirren
2009-09-07, 02:57 PM
For my own part, I have observed that games with don't emphasis Gamist or Narrativist priorities tend to get labelled as 'Simulationist-by default' by Edwards, and I don't see the functional distinction between what Edwards calls 'Exploration' and 'Lite' Simulationism- they both reinforce the same priorities (maintaining plausibility/consistency of experience.) Simulationism seems to be defined, in effect, as Exploration to the exclusion of other concerns- but if Exploration is essential to all role-play (with the possible exception of Hard Core Gamism,) wouldn't that make nearly ALL RPGs 'Simulationist hybrids'?

This is, in fact, one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people think the GNS trichotomy is bunk.



To be honest, though, this is mainly a point of terminology from my POV, and I don't think invalidates the key predictions of the theory: relabel 'Exploration' Simulation and 'Simulationism' Heavyweight Simulation and you get exactly the same ramifications all across the board. You can still call play Gamist/Simulationist/Narrativist depending on what concerns primarily dominate play, and each mode still invites mutual conflicts in ways that make establishing clear priorities among the three, I reckon, a damn good idea.


Sure, I'll run with that terminological change. I find it less intuitively misleading. And for the same reasons as before, I don't think you get the mutually exclusive modes that the model claims exists. The fact that any given technique is G, N, or S doesn't mean that Creative Agenda is necessarily G, N, or S. I do admit that to restrict Creative Agenda to G, N, and S and use only those Techniques that match the Agenda is -a- solution to the social problem inherent to multiplayer roleplaying, but it's certainly not the only one, and to feel like those are the only ones smacks to me of an inflexibility in group dynamic that Fhaolan agrees comes from immature RP groups. I would further venture a guess that the missing ingredient is a lack of awareness of how balancing G, N, and S techniques naturally creates a systems of checks and balances between player and GM power.

Roleplaying is inherently explorative. It's common for the overarching creative agenda to be to explore everything - explore setting, explore character, explore situation, explore system. Just not all at the same time. And use techniques from all three GNS branches to do it.



There is nothing inherently Gamist about this. Gamism would be using rules-layering to try to model those things in a way that brought personal advantage, but what you're describing sounds more Simulationist to me- trying to capture the salient mechanical aspects of a thing in an accurate fashion.

There always -is- interest involved, though, especially when I'm reacting to the GM throwing events at me. When I framing those events within system language, I'm checking the power of the DM to influence events that also lie within my character's domain of influence. I use the system to guarantee myself a say in the outcome. That's a Gamist technique that makes use of implicit Simulationism in our gaming social contract.


This is not inherently Narrativist. It could be either Simulationist or Narrativist, depending on whether those motivations are expected to shift in ways that complement premise, or purely based on IC information, formal mechanics, and existing character profiles.

I agree, it could be either. In my case, it isn't Narrativism, as in the CA, given that I don't always believe in Premise. Yet it -is- unambiguously a Narrative Technique, in that its aim is to have my characters react, to make things important to them. Sometimes my character does take on a premise, but even then in terms of Creative Agenda I feel it's more character-Simulationism than it is Narrativism.



Strictly speaking, this isn't Simulationist at all- the Simulationist approach would be to have the world and setting established in advance, so that internal cause and effect can reign unchallenged. Making up the world on demand is inherently a metagame process, and what you're describing is probably straightforward Narrativism.


Metagame world-Simulationism is exactly what Edward's doesn't understand! Don't fall on his mental stumblng block! Just because it's metagame doesn't mean it's not Simulationist. This is where the confusion between the GNS trichotomy as applied validly to techniques and as applied invalidly to Creative Agenda gets thrown into high relief. Yes, it's not heavyweight Simulationism, technical simulationism. It's not high-points-of-contact system grittiness. I myself am strongly world-Simulationist by Creative Agenda, and I detest heavyweight-Simulationist techniques and systems. In my view they often don't simulate what I find most important to simulate: the feasability bounds of character agency. Those bounds can't be established beforehand as you suggest by delineating world in great detail so that internal cause and effect can reign.

In-world circumstances change. Character standing changes. When the DM throws events at us, we use Gamist and Narrativist techniques to bounce off of them. We use them to our advantage in pursuing interests and managing conflict, and our characters react to them in ways that add new and meaningful layers to their identity. In doing so, we explore and eventually achieve the integration of our characters into the fabric of the world we have constructed without necessary recourse to premise. That's why I call our creative agenda world-Simulationist, and it uses techniques from all three GNS classes. I consider this a counterexample to the GNS model.

Tiki Snakes
2009-09-07, 03:25 PM
Could someone explain GNS in a clear and concise manner for those of us who are curious about it but really can't be bothered to spend several hours trudging through excessively wordy and rather pedantic essays?

Because as far as I do understand it, it works out to something like this:

G: I want to be a kickass <whatever>!
N: I want to make a cool story!
S: I want a world that is consistent with the game's rules!

What I'm unable to understand is why these three focuses are in any way mutually exclusive or interfere with each other.

You've pretty much got it from what I can see,though perhaps just a little off on Narrativism.

N:I want to participate in my own discrete character arc, throughout which my moral identity is put to the test.

Any other part of 'storytelling is apparently little to do with Narrativism, because it seems to be concerned with a narrow slice of such a subject, specifically relating to a certain kind of Protagonist.

Kalirren
2009-09-07, 05:18 PM
EvenHuman:

The orthodox GNS argument goes that gamism, narrativism, and simulationism are three different creative agendas, as you have basically grasped, and that it takes the combined effort of the entire gaming group using a well-designed and suitable system to effectively pursue any creative agenda. The high commitment required to pursue any of them supposedly makes them all exclusive of each other, and play thus naturally ought to collapse into one of those three modes, or so the argument goes. When those high commitments aren't met, when the group is wishy-washy about which of the three modes to support, you get what's called GNS mode conflict, where the group just can't get the show to be engaging because it doesn't have its priorities straigtened out internally, and usually results in one or more players being dissatisfied with the general gaming experience.

Problem is, it just doesn't pan out that way. Honestly, I think the reason why it's difficult to explain GNS theory simply is that it's wrong.

Agrippa
2009-09-07, 05:19 PM
Backtracking a bit, but something caught my eye that threw me off.



How and why is this the standard of Narrative we're 'supposed to be' aiming for? The villain throws the love interest and the bus full of orphans off a building, and one of them dies? The harrowed man who lost everything hunting the Conspiracy wakes up one morning and says 'Eh, nevermind'? One of the ragtag band of rebels betrays the others and the whole lot are put up against the wall and shot?

This seems like actively bad storytelling. Of course you want to put your characters in bad situations- to see them take the third option and triumph over them. Torturing them specifically and endlessly until they break seems beside the point to me.

But then I'm not Gary Gygax.

Actually Gary Gygax would be more along your line of thinking than Samurai Jill's. He was all for giving his players a third option. Whether or not they took it was their choice alone.

Random832
2009-09-07, 05:57 PM
What is GNS?

Kylarra
2009-09-07, 06:04 PM
What is GNS?

Gamism, Narrativism, and Simulationism

unless you're trying to be witty and I woefully missed it. :(

Aik
2009-09-07, 08:41 PM
Kalirren:
Well, I think you're falling into the same thing that Levi was falling into at the beginning of the thread. What you relate of your own experiences sounds very much like confusing techniques with creative agendas. Techniques are creative agenda neutral - sure, if you apply them in certain ways it may help facilitate a certain result - but you can't have a 'Gamist technique'.

I don't feel that Ron was trying to shoehorn anything, and I'm not really sure where you got that from his posts. It seemed to me that he took a step back from the nitty gritty of the game and tried to get the big picture of it, and was then able to see what creative agenda it was working with.

Hmm, maybe I'm just not quite understanding what you're getting at. All roleplaying is explorative in nature - that's laid out in the Big Model. Creative Agenda is what you do with that exploration. To quote probably the key thing Ron said in that thread:


Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color are your materials, your medium. Iím talking about what you, this group, is doing with the medium.

And with that in mind, this:


I can now say with honest certainty that at the point of the writing of the thread Ron Edwards did not understand exactly what I thought he did not understand: exploration itself can be a valid, workable creative agenda.

It is - that's what simulationism is - when the purpose of exploration (of character, setting, situation, system, and/or colour) is exploration for its own sake - as opposed to doing it to Say Something or Prove Yourself.

Fhaolan:
I must disagree with this:

The real problem I see with Threefold, GNS, and BigModel is that they are amateur exercises in psychology that are often portrayed as game theory, but do not have the rigerous formation to properly qualify.

Specifically - the 'psychology' bit - there is no psychology in GNS/Big Model. It's simply looking at an activity - it makes no judgements based on what the people involved are thinking or intending to do - just what's done 'at the table'.

Although I'll happily concede that it's not rigerous - I consider it more a useful way of looking at things than something to be tested (there was a great deal of threads on how you'd go about testing the theory not so long ago - there were some interesting suggestions, but nothing than anyone is actually going to do, unless you've got a pretty large budget for it...)

Yora:

Okay, I can follow this. But how is this a theory? It's a very basic hypothesis, but it seems to have no practical value at all. How does it allow to improve communication or resolve conflict?

The practical value can be seen in what's been produced using it. The idea of creating systems that facilitate a certain creative agenda has let to a lot of very good systems. You can also use it to diagnose why a group isn't having fun (although that's a more hairy endeavour).

I think it has a lot of value in just giving a way to talk about RPGs - it (and the rest of The Forge's jargon/theory) gives a shared language where you can talk about them in technical terms and thus delve deeper into them than where we're stuck with mostly imprecise and waffly language.

Basically: I'd say it's mostly useful as a tool for designers, rather than players.

Saph:
{Scrubbed}
The theory is badly presented. I'm trying to present it in a clearer way (and judging by people's response to my post - have succeeded at least somewhat). The GNS theories are long and boring - you'll note I didn't link to them. Vincent Baker's explanation is succinct, and Eero Tuovinen's gets to the point without all the waffling Ron Edward's does while still being thorough.

kamikasei:
I'm not trying to do anything of the sort. Criticise GNS to your heart's content - but actually criticise GNS rather than this horrible misconception that most people have about it. Most people in this thread (and the last one moreso) aren't able to do that because it's been poorly explained - and especially, I think, by the OP.

Even Human:
Well, please see what I quoted in my post. I don't think it gets simpler or more concise than that.

As for why they're mutually exclusive: GNS is about the main thread of fun in a game - what everyone is synching into and going 'hey, this is awesome!' (edit: Actually, even more than that - it's why they're there in the first place, doing this activity rather than, say, watching a movie together - it's what they're getting out of the creative element of the game). If they're not synching into any particular thing - but are all trying to pull different ways without one way of fun prioritised (edit: and again - one way of how they creatively relate to what they're doing) - it doesn't work. There are good examples given in that thread I thinked - but here's the analogy used.


Let's say you have three guys, all of whom love pigs. One loves to eat them, one loves to race them against one another for prizes in the annual Pigathon, one loves to name them and pet them and scratch their chins. They don't know each other, but then they find one another in a chatroom or something and establish that they all "love pig." They get together on a Friday evening to all love pigs together, and the first one says to the other two, "hey, so here's my favorite recipe, what's yours?"

That's a group with an incoherent creative agenda.

Or here's (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20679.msg215302#msg215302) a link to the post that has an example of an incoherent creative agenda at work.

(eh - more edit: I'm not entirely satisfied with that explanation - Kalirren is also right, if that helps (although I disagree with her conclusion :p ). Hopefully the analogy/example will clear up my messy explanation)


A general note:
The theory doesn't claim that the GNS modes are the only ones - but they're the only ones that have been identified and generally agreed on. If you take exception to the whole 'why those three?' thing - well, if you can think of and demonstrate the existence of more, I'm sure there are plenty who'd like to hear about it.

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-09-07, 09:21 PM
Even Human:
Well, please see what I quoted in my post. I don't think it gets simpler or more concise than that.

As for why they're mutually exclusive: GNS is about the main thread of fun in a game - what everyone is synching into and going 'hey, this is awesome!' (edit: Actually, even more than that - it's why they're there in the first place, doing this activity rather than, say, watching a movie together - it's what they're getting out of the creative element of the game). If they're not synching into any particular thing - but are all trying to pull different ways without one way of fun prioritised (edit: and again - one way of how they creatively relate to what they're doing) - it doesn't work. There are good examples given in that thread I thinked - but here's the analogy used.

But... why mutually exclusive? How does wanting a kickass story with character development and tough decisions stop you from having a detailed and well-thought world, and how do either of those stop someone from playing as Pwn, the Badassest Barbarian of the Land?

Because if it's the fact that developing Story leaves no time for Buttkicking... I am going to laugh.

Another thing that confuses me is why it is supposed to be a good idea to make systems that cater to only one mode of play? What about people who, for instance, mostly enjoy simulationism but only if it has some gameism in it?

quick_comment
2009-09-07, 09:24 PM
Specifically - the 'psychology' bit - there is no psychology in GNS/Big Model. It's simply looking at an activity - it makes no judgements based on what the people involved are thinking or intending to do - just what's done 'at the table'.


Yeah, thats psychology.

Aik
2009-09-07, 10:07 PM
But... why mutually exclusive? How does wanting a kickass story with character development and tough decisions stop you from having a detailed and well-thought world, and how do either of those stop someone from playing as Pwn, the Badassest Barbarian of the Land?

It doesn't! :)

If GNS actually did say that then yes - it would be totally out of touch with reality - but it doesn't.

How can I explain this better...?

Let's see ... you can have all of those things in a coherent game. But GNS is what the game is about. So we have this kickass story with tough decisions while playing Pwn - GNS is about what the player (actually, the group - see below) is primarily getting out of the game. The 'creative payoff', or something.

And it's the big picture - not the scene-by-scene play - that we're talking about. Pwn can slay and his player can show off his badassery in one scene and then in the next have to make tough choices - but that doesn't mean you've changed from playing gamism to narrativism.

And furthermore - it's about what the group is doing it for, rather than what an individual player in the group is doing it for. Incoherence is what happens when they're doing it for different reasons, rather than one (basically) unified reason.

Hopefully that makes sense.

As for why it's bad for the group to not be doing it for one unified reason - well - 'incoherence' is actually a really good word for it. We're pulling in different directions - what you're prioritising as the most interesting thing is not what drives me to be here playing this game with you - and that's crap. I'll be sitting through scenes where you're getting some of your big creative payoff and be bored by it. When I try and inject (say) theme into the game - it will feel tacked on because you're not with me helping me make it awesome.

Creative agenda is what ties the scenes together and makes them interesting. A scene that doesn't tie in with the group's creative agenda (i.e. why they're playing) isn't interesting. If individual players are shooting for different creative agendas - someone isn't going to be interested when the other's is prominent and vice versa.

Please have a look at the example I linked - something grounded in actual play is always going to be clearer than this up-in-the-air theory stuff. I'll just go on record saying I'm not entirely satisfied with that explanation - I'm fairly sure it's right but I don't think it gets it across - so yeah, check out the example.


Another thing that confuses me is why it is supposed to be a good idea to make systems that cater to only one mode of play? What about people who, for instance, mostly enjoy simulationism but only if it has some gameism in it?

If any of what I just said makes sense, this should be fairly self evident. If your system pushes you towards having two different creative agendas - and you go along with that - you'll end up with incoherent play. In most cases though the players would 'drift' the system towards a specific creative agenda (I'm getting more and more temped to say 'the creative reason why we are playing' instead of creative agenda - the term is probably confusing...). It shouldn't be necessary to hack a system, ignore rules, downplay certain stuff, etc. in order to have your game be good.

The game isn't going to be well served by catering to both the simulationist-prefering-player and the gamist-prefering-player, for the general reasons above. The best option is just to have everyone on board for one of the creative agendas/reasons why we're playing this and if it's gamism this time - perhaps they can play simulationist next time. But if you try and please everyone at once, no one will be satisfied.

Edit:
quick comment:
Eh, well - maybe you're right. My dictionary seems to agree with you, at any rate. I'm not terribly concerned though - until someone with some proper psychology credentials picks up RPGs and does some proper study on the matter I'll be content with the amateur theories that have quite a good track record (and to anyone sneering at that one: yes, they do) rather than just ... nothing.

Which I guess is what Fhaolan was saying anyway. So that's fine then.

I tend to view RPG theories as useful ways at looking at games anyway, rather than as actual truth The Big Model is just the one that's been the most useful, so I'm more apt to defend it.

Kalirren
2009-09-07, 10:27 PM
Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color are your materials, your medium. Iím talking about what you, this group, is doing with the medium.

I think Edwards has this completely backwards. The purpose of most intellectually meaningful RP is to explore, and we explore character, setting, and situation using a variety of techniques. (I'm not sure I understand what Color is, so I refrain from using the term.) For me, Character, Setting, and Situation are the result and the payoff, not the medium.



Well, I think you're falling into the same thing that Levi was falling into at the beginning of the thread. What you relate of your own experiences sounds very much like confusing techniques with creative agendas. Techniques are creative agenda neutral - sure, if you apply them in certain ways it may help facilitate a certain result - but you can't have a 'Gamist technique'.


Funny, I think Edwards is the one who is conflating technique with agenda. I think we ought to look at this closer. To me, a technique is either an action or a reaction, communicated to the rest of the group. It comprises a decision, communication of that decision to the group, and the associated action. And a technique can be Gamist if the primary reason for the decision is Gamist, Dramatist if Dramatist, etc.

I believe that every moderating decision that is made in an RP either clarifies system and balance (G) or helps build character (D) or builds world integrity (S). (In fact, in my gaming group's social contract, it's a faux pas for any single participant to decide more than one of these at once, and the responsibility to make these decisions when no one else feels qualified to do so together with the fact that the moderator is the final word on system matters defines the role of moderator.) I had thought this was Edward's idea, and I'm trying to find it; apparently, it's older than Edwards, going back to the Threefold model, and I can't find it right now but will do my best. I think the old words for this under the threefold model were Gamist, Dramatist, and Simulationist, but I'm not completely positive.

I think (and this may be novel) that it's natural for the players, when presented with a moderating decision from the GM or the group as a whole that was made on one of the GDS bases, to contextualize it in terms of the others. When players contextualize moderation, they both help determine and control/mitigate the effects of that decision upon their characters' integrity. For example, if the GM decides to start a war as a big plot point (Dramatist action) the players will respond by negotiating qualitative mechanistic descriptions of the political/economic fallout with the GM (Simulationist reaction) and capitalizing on the way the war breaks down into the system to obtain advantages for their characters (Gamist reaction). In my group, GDS aren't modes, they're faces; any event has all three faces, and they are all inseparable from each other and must be dealt with simultaneously. (Otherwise we feel like we're either playing lazily or cheating.)

This, as I understand it, is not compatible with the Big Model.


It is - that's what simulationism is - when the purpose of exploration (of character, setting, situation, system, and/or colour) is exploration for its own sake...

On a final note, you say this is Simulationism? Really? Because I identify with Kornelsen's CA, and Edwards said that Kornelsen's CA was Narrativism. (top of the 9th post, second page, Kornelsen thread. Korelsen wasn't happy about the synthesis of perspective (or lack thereof) he and Edwards had reached, either.) So either you're wrong, or he is, or the model is wrong in positing the exclusivity of the modes.

warrl
2009-09-07, 11:58 PM
Consider that in what is apparently the original source of the theory, GNS stands for "Gameism, Simulationism, Narrativism". Does anyone else spot the problem?
No, not really. What is it?
Check the order of items versus the acronym.

Fhaolan
2009-09-08, 12:50 AM
quick comment:
Eh, well - maybe you're right. My dictionary seems to agree with you, at any rate. I'm not terribly concerned though - until someone with some proper psychology credentials picks up RPGs and does some proper study on the matter I'll be content with the amateur theories that have quite a good track record (and to anyone sneering at that one: yes, they do) rather than just ... nothing.

Which I guess is what Fhaolan was saying anyway. So that's fine then.

I tend to view RPG theories as useful ways at looking at games anyway, rather than as actual truth The Big Model is just the one that's been the most useful, so I'm more apt to defend it.

Yep. As long as it's used simply as a point of discussion for comparison and contrast, I'm fine with it. When it's presented as 'The Big Truth', I have a problem. And unfortunately, a lot of Threefold/GNS/Big Model supporters do get a bit strident when someone disagrees with them. For that matter many of the detractors of the theories do the same. Which leaves the majority sitting outside the discussion wondering what the screaming is all about. :smallbiggrin:

To tell you the truth, I would be very surprised if this *hasn't* been a topic of research in the psychology and psychiatric fields. I'm just not connected well enough with the fields to know where to look for current research on the topic. Due to that, I'm going to stop now because I don't really have anything further to contribute to the discussion. Everything else I would have to say would be based on antidotal evidence which in the end solves nothing.

Ta ta. :smallcool:

Yukitsu
2009-09-08, 12:57 AM
Yeah, thats psychology.

Look up APA and read some summaries of journal articles. Unfortunately, that's psychology. Very little of the observation without follow up statistical analysis, very little practice without use of methodologies that have been put to rigour. The irony being, approximately 60% of psychology's efficacy comes from sources outside the techniques used.

Much less fun than it was in the 60s, where one could just watch people, make up a theory, and say that it's right simply because it matches what you see, but cest la vie. (Or however you spell it. My French is atrocious.)

On the above, this is probably more a soci question, since it's a question of group behavior.

Aik
2009-09-08, 06:49 AM
Kalirren:
Hmm, well - I'm not dismissing you as wrong - but I think what your personal preferences might be getting in the way of the bigger picture. What you said in the first paragraph - to me - seems to fit perfectly under the Big Model's simulationism. By definition simulationism is getting your creative payoff from exploring the setting, system, character, etc. You do these things with every other agenda as well, but they're not the main thing that we're getting out of the game.

I can see how there being 'Gamist actions' and such makes a lot of sense though - and it's even a good deal more intuitive than Big Model creative agendas. It's not the Big Model, but it's a quite valid way of looking at things. I'm not sure if it's a useful way of looking at things though. With the Big Model is useful - assuming we accept the premise that having one driving reason/payoff for playing the game is a good idea - then we can start looking for ways to unify play towards that goal (techniques that together will facilitate that sort of play, and such).

So - while what you say might be interesting as classification of the various ephemera/techniques in play - can you tell me what that's helpful for?


On a final note, you say this is Simulationism? Really? Because I identify with Kornelsen's CA, and Edwards said that Kornelsen's CA was Narrativism. (top of the 9th post, second page, Kornelsen thread. Korelsen wasn't happy about the synthesis of perspective (or lack thereof) he and Edwards had reached, either.) So either you're wrong, or he is, or the model is wrong in positing the exclusivity of the modes.

Well, I can't speak for your play experiences, obviously - but I can definately see the reasoning that let to that game being classified as narrativist. In isolation the various scenes look like variously gamism, narrativism, and simulationism - but when you look at what the players were really getting out of it (the reward cycle) - it seems that it was theme/'emergent story' (in Kornelsen's words - and it's called Story Now for a reason).

I'm not entirely sure which post you're refering to - the ninth post is this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20679.msg215850#msg215850). But it seems to me that when he saw what Ron was driving at he agreed with his assessment. Sure - his perspective has to take a backflip to do so - but I think that's more due to misconceptions about what the Big Model actually says rather than any real disagreement.

Fhaolan:
This thread (http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=10024) was started by someone doing that sort of research, and he talks about the state it's at. It doesn't sound like anyone's done much into standard tabletop games, but it's interesting all the same.

quick_comment
2009-09-08, 08:30 AM
Look up APA and read some summaries of journal articles. Unfortunately, that's psychology. Very little of the observation without follow up statistical analysis, very little practice without use of methodologies that have been put to rigour. The irony being, approximately 60% of psychology's efficacy comes from sources outside the techniques used..

I have read psych journals. And pyschology is the study of human behavior, in groups or not.

GNS would be at home in Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice or the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

kjones
2009-09-08, 08:59 AM
If a bunch of reasonably intelligent and literate readers, after reading ten pages worth of theory exposition, still don't "understand" the theory that you're trying to convince them of, then it probably means one of two things:

a) The theory's badly presented.
b) They do understand the theory, and just think you're wrong.

GNS essays are boring, filled with unncessary jargon, and about ten times as long as they need to be. Worst of all, even if you do all the work to understand them, there's hardly anything there.

this. Categories are only useful if putting things into them tells you something. Figuring out where your "play mode" falls in GNS tells you... exactly that, and nothing more.

(Saph, is it possible for you to say something that I don't agree with? I'm trying hard to find counterexamples, but so far I've got nothing...)

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 09:28 AM
Perhaps I think of a premise in stronger terms than you do, but it was also my impression that Edward's notion of Premise was at least as strong as mine?
Well, strictly speaking this is a weaker definition of Premise, since it requires only that the element be recognisable and recurrent, rather than also emotionally challenging, but I'm pretty sure Edwards would go with the latter interpretation.

So my core drive here is that stories don't need protagonists or premises. What they need is conflicting interests...
In essence, one could define premise as 'a recurring motif that highlights conflicting interests among the characters- in which case, protagonism becomes very difficult to avoid. They go hand in hand. Even the Iliad does have a (setting-based) premise in this sense- the Trojan war, an impending large-scale conflict which the characters cannot avoid getting sucked into. That's what puts them under pressure.

If Odysseus has a premise, it's that he wants to go home, go back to Penelope, see his son as a grown man, be at his father's funeral games. The Odyssey shows how home is meaningful enough for him to give up immortality with Calypso, persist in maintaining his own identity even though he himself is the last that's left of it as far as he himself can help it. I can buy that.
Agreed.

Yet we can compare it to the other giant Greek classic, The Iliad, which doesn't have that - Achilles has the spotlight, but has very little of the protagonist light shone upon him, and he isn't very sympathetic as far as the characters go. The most sympathetic character there is probably either Thetis or King Priam.
Yes- but then, I don't consider the Iliad to work particularly well as a story, except when emotional conflicts are showcased- Priam begging for his son's body, Achille's rage over Petroclus' death, the fall-out between Achilles and Agamemnon, etc. That's when you get a sudden 'oomph' in narrative terms, where the train of events invites emotional friction between the characters, or within characters. Apart from those, the characters aren't especially developed or relatable- it's basically like a pumped-up action flick.


I

Put in mind of his own father and moved to tears

Achilles took him by the hand and pushed the old king

Gently away, but Priam curled up at his feet and

Wept with him until their sadness filled the building.

II

Taking Hector's corpse into his own hands Achilles

made sure it was washed and, for the old king's sake,

Laid out in uniform, ready for Priam to carry

Wrapped like a present home to Troy at daybreak.

III

When they had eaten together, it pleased them both

To stare at each other's beauty as lovers might,

Achilles built like a god, Priam good-looking still

And full of conversation, who earlier had sighed:

IV

I get down on my knees and do what must be done

And kiss Achilles' hand, the killer of my son.


-Michael Longley, "Ceasefire"

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 10:13 AM
Sure, I'll run with that terminological change. I find it less intuitively misleading. And for the same reasons as before, I don't think you get the mutually exclusive modes that the model claims exists.
Bear in mind that the theory does predict Simulationism can hybridise functionally with either Gamism or Narrativism, provided it is present in a strictly subordinate, supportive capacity- so this observation isn't something new in practical terms. (The revelation would be that Simulationist ybrids actually account for the great majority of role-play- but again, this isn't canon, just a personal theory.)

Metagame world-Simulationism is exactly what Edward's doesn't understand! Don't fall on his mental stumblng block! Just because it's metagame doesn't mean it's not Simulationist.
I'm sorry, but I fear you are fundamentally confused on this point- Simulation, by definition, is based on internal causes. You have a current state of the world, and a successor state of the world, and the former exactly determines the latter- including the characters! Metagame, by definition, is the intrusion of external cause. Internal =/= External. It's as simple as that.

Now, Simulationist concerns might still involved in ensuring that new additions to the setting remain more-or-less plausible and consistent, but new political factions, significant NPCs or cities entire just don't spring up overnight, ex nihilo, 'in the natural order of things.' If you felt compelled to add them in an improvised fashion at all, then You Broke Sim to at least some degree. The question is- why? What was the agenda that prompted you to do so? I suggest it's a Narrativist agenda in your case, and you don't disagree on that point.

What you're describing might be called a primarily-Narrativist-secondarily-Simulationist hybrid (particularly if we take the stance that Exploration == 'Lite' Simulationism.) There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't magically turn metagame into the absence of metagame.


I would further venture a guess that the missing ingredient is a lack of awareness of how balancing G, N, and S techniques naturally creates a systems of checks and balances between player and GM power.

There always -is- interest involved, though, especially when I'm reacting to the GM throwing events at me. When I framing those events within system language, I'm checking the power of the DM to influence events that also lie within my character's domain of influence. I use the system to guarantee myself a say in the outcome. That's a Gamist technique that makes use of implicit Simulationism in our gaming social contract.
If what you're saying is really true, that I fear what you're describing is basically a nugget of dysfunction embedded in your play experience- a fundamental point of GNS friction between you and the GM. More specifically, it's a nearly-always-dysfunctional Hard Core Gamist technique: Calvinball.

So far I haven't mentioned any negative connotations to Gamist play, despite my hints in the beginning of the essay. The time has come to explain why many people hate and fear any sign of Step On Up, let alone competition, in and among the adversity-situations of their role-playing. It's due to a possible application of Gamist principles to their "perviest" extreme, which is to say, the highest degree of person-to-System contact during play. When you sacrifice Exploration to get to this degree of contact in Gamist play, you have entered the Hard Core...

Calvinball
This is the famous "rules-lawyering" approach, which is misnamed because it claims textual support when in reality it simply invents it. Calvinball is a better term: making up the rules as you go along, usually in terms of on-the-spot interpretations disguised as "obvious" well-established interpretations. It basically combines glibness and bullying to achieve moment-to-moment advantages for one's character. A Calvinballer may also be adept at bugging the GM about some rules-detail often enough that a goodly percentage of the time yields a reward for it, but not often enough to tip everyone else off to what's going on.

The big trick of Calvinball is pretending to be still committed to the Exploration. That makes it especially well-suited to disrupting Simulationist play from the older traditions, because the other players' commitment to the integrity of the Dream can be co-opted into one's Calvinball strategy, exploiting the others' willingness to enter into the rules-debate in hopes of a compromise, which of course is not forthcoming. Calvinball then quickly transforms into a struggle for control over what is and is not happening in the imaginative situation.

One mistaken solution to this tactic is to hide the rules from the players in some kind of laughably-secure "GM book" or "GM section," as well as to enforce the ideal of Transparency. The other, more common solution is simply to continue adding rules forever and ever, amen, in order to account unambiguously for any and all imaginable events during play.

Yet it -is- unambiguously a Narrative Technique, in that its aim is to have my characters react, to make things important to them.
This, again, could be either a Nar or Sim technique- Simulationists are often just as committed to believable patterns of stimulus and response among their characters, if not more so.

jseah
2009-09-08, 11:22 AM
I feel like I'm stepping into a swamp by posting here but I'm trying to understand the theory here and why (apparently) so many people think it's wrong.

I'll attempt to explain what I think the theory is about and why I think there's quite some misunderstanding.
If I differ from the theory then the people who know more than me can correct me.

The theory postulates that conflict is necessary for the game to advance.

1) A person who favours Gamism is interested in a problem and finding it's solution.

2) A Simulationist is interested in the setting, the why and hows of events. Problems and conflict are part of how you explore them.

3) A Narrativist views conflict as a way to explore a character's motivations and goals.


The theory also proposes that conflicts between the three gaming styles arise due to the way the three work differently.
<Since this part is about Narrativism, I've only read about conflicts of the G & S with Narrativism. >

- The Simulationist isn't touched by the conflict at a character level. He/she stands aside and observes. It becomes impossible to engage them in personal conflict since the character they play is a Foil. (literary term)

- The Gamist views the conflict as a problem to be solved. A hard choice is a problem and if there is nothing else but one of the two (equally) bad choices, the Gamist feels that they "lost".


Now of course, these are extremes. People aren't just one of the three types. But the theory posits that people have a type they favour.

- This indicates that each person has a certain style they default to, a way of thinking that they prefer. And thus the conflict is generated between different types.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

What the people who disagree say:

1) Conflict doesn't always drive a game.
I've run a game where the solo player was a tavern keeper who served ale and listened to rumours and tales. Zero conflict. No problems to solve. Never stepped out his town to explore.
Some people also play just to be there. I played the last few sessions of a 4E campaign simply because the people were interesting.
- This basically means that there are styles of play that aren't encompassed by the three sets.

2) People blend far more than having just one preference.
I regularly switch between Gamism and Sim. Arena battle one post and world-building the next.
- If people have far less tendencies than the GNS theory assumes, then the distinction and conflict is little.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Personally, I observe on RpoL that there are mainly two types of games.

Gamist/Simulationist (it's hard to distinguish them)
Narrativist


Given that I'm quite firmly Gamist/Simulationist, I certainly won't see eye-to-eye with some of you here in what makes a game fun but here's what I see as the conflict the theory purports.

Example conflict in a game:
An apprentice druid is the servant of a baron and is tasked with tending the baron's personal fruit plantation.

The plantation wastes lots of fruit and there country is in a famine. He gives some to the poor who come to ask for the leftovers and gets caught. The baron lets him go without punishment with a stern reprimand not to do it again.

The conflict here is between his duty to the baron vs his sympathy for the poor folk.

The narrativist (as I understand it) enjoys making this choice, and exploring the character's motivations.

The simulationist, if forced with the choice, will choose one or the other depending on where his interest lies.
- If he wants to continue exploring the 'high-life' and politics of the baron, he will obey.
- If he thinks the slums and poor people are more interesting, he disobeys, gets fired and goes join the ranks of the poor

The gamist takes a step back and thinks "this is a bad situation, how did I get here?"
- Given the foresight, he will have seen the conflict coming and taken steps to avoid it. Hiding his activities, keeping one step ahead of the baron's suspicion is a puzzle that the gamist can enjoy
- If failed and forced into the choice, he might take a 'third option' and say... "Hey, I have plant growth on my list. I can make a plantation for the poor!"... and completely sidestep the problem
- If that's not allowed, the Gamist is dissatisfied at not having a solution to the conflict itself.


This is where I see the misunderstandings arise. The conflict IS there.
There are freeform games on RpoL that I wouldn't touch with an 11-ft pole. I know some people on RpoL that dislike arena games with a passion far surpassing mine (which is just a vague 'I can't be bothered').
Similarly, anyone looking for a conflict of character values in games I run will have to make their own. And I find it silly if I can't play a character that minimizes conflict with a touch of strategic planning.

The gap between the groups is also fuzzy.

You can't draw a line in the sand and say, 'here are the three groups'. Some people are distinctly in the middle, who won't touch games that are purely at either end. Or people who play everything.

If you throw hardcore "one-side-only" people into the same game, you will get a bad game. But there's nothing to demonstrate in doing so. Some people just don't get along.
You don't need to design a ruleset that works for only one type. Just one that works reasonably well and can handle conflict resolution. People find their own meaning in things.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 12:02 PM
Check the order of items versus the acronym.
Hah! Gotcha. Good catch!

G: I want to be a kickass <whatever>!
N: I want to make a cool story!
S: I want a world that is consistent with the game's rules!

What I'm unable to understand is why these three focuses are in any way mutually exclusive or interfere with each other.
You've got the definitions more-or-less right, but I'm afraid that explaining how they come into mutual conflict is not a concise task- there are some quite subtle distinctions involved, or indirect cascades of cause and effect. In the (4th?) section of the OP, I've discussed in some detail exactly how Narrativism conflicts with typical Gamist and Simulationist play. I hope to cover the other two modes in other essays.

Well, I don't see the story as only being present until the campaign is complete, I see the story as constantly coming into existence as the game plays out. I see the story as an interweaving of game mechanics and roleplay, combined with the plots of the DM.
Well, that's sounds perfectly Narrativist, it's the idea that 'game mechanics' are inherently Gamist, or that detail is inherently Simulationist, that struck me as odd. Again, I hope to clarify those modes later...

I think Samurai Jill is going about explaining this in the wrong way. I don't think she's said anything that's seriously wrong about the theory, but I think it's a bit of a missing the forest for the trees thing. Bringing those techniques into it is seriously just confusing the matter.
Fair enough. I'll try to give a better general overview in future, but I did try to insert brief examples now and then.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 12:11 PM
If the players are playing the game at all, they are meaningfully involved, just by virtue of the fact that the DM is trying to make a story for their enjoyment...
But they're not neccesarily meaningfully involved in the creation of the story itself, as distinct from the small-scale, blow-by-blow, nitty-gritty details. Which means that their real attention is, by and large, on things other than story- e.g, immersion in role-play, or tactical conflict. A game, by it's very nature, involves interaction and derives enjoyment from that- you can't productively 'interact' with something that doesn't change.

...and what he can add to the story later is heavily influenced by what they do before.
Yes, but the GM may actually have constrained what the players 'did before,' by either subtle methods or obvious ones, to avoid tampering with the predefined plot. That's either railroading or Illusionism. That's not dysfunctional, but it's not Narrativism, because the players' attention is mostly not on 'the Story'. How can it be? They got no say in it!

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 12:30 PM
Hmm, maybe I'm just not quite understanding what you're getting at. All roleplaying is explorative in nature - that's laid out in the Big Model. Creative Agenda is what you do with that exploration.
Yes, but the thing is that games which entirely lack typical Gamist or Narrativist metagame agenda, yet exhibit none of the typical techniques of traditional Simulationist play, tend to get lumped in as 'Simulationist' by Edwards. I'm willing to accept that, but logically, this would imply nearly all RPGs are 'Simulationist hybrids.' Simulationism would be the 'base or core of role-playing'- something Edwards has expressly denied elsewhere. It's a relatively minor inconsistency, since it's mainly a point of terminology, but he cannot have his cake and eat it here.

Specifically - the 'psychology' bit - there is no psychology in GNS/Big Model. It's simply looking at an activity - it makes no judgements based on what the people involved are thinking or intending to do - just what's done 'at the table'.
I find it highly implausible that GNS preferences don't reflect on players' psychology in a meaningful fashion.

Most people in this thread (and the last one moreso) aren't able to do that because it's been poorly explained - and especially, I think, by the OP.
Well, I would welcome an example of a more helpful introductory passage to be incorporated in future- I can always edit the OP to include that, and I would appreciate any advice on that front. I do have a certain tendency to sort of gloss over intermediate details because they strike me as obvious, and I'm sorry if this has led to unnecessary confusion.

Well, please see what I quoted in my post. I don't think it gets simpler or more concise than that.
I think it's essentially more complex. GNS theory just ain't simple enough for a concise explanation that provides a useful guide on how to avoid conflicts between each mode. It's possible, like you've said, that I've been too focused on the specific low-level mechanics and definitions, and not enough on the overarching goals, but Narrativism has probably been the toughest agenda for me to understand, and if so, I apologise.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 12:44 PM
...And it's the big picture - not the scene-by-scene play - that we're talking about. Pwn can slay and his player can show off his badassery in one scene and then in the next have to make tough choices - but that doesn't mean you've changed from playing gamism to narrativism.

And furthermore - it's about what the group is doing it for, rather than what an individual player in the group is doing it for. Incoherence is what happens when they're doing it for different reasons, rather than one (basically) unified reason.

Hopefully that makes sense.
I'm fully agreed with you here. I mean, Narrativists might be engaged in a thrilling fight scene because it proves their dedication to some belief, and Simulationists because it seems a logical consequence of earlier events. But for them, getting into that fight is a means, rather than the end.

As for why it's bad for the group to not be doing it for one unified reason - well - 'incoherence' is actually a really good word for it. We're pulling in different directions - what you're prioritising as the most interesting thing is not what drives me to be here playing this game with you - and that's crap. I'll be sitting through scenes where you're getting some of your big creative payoff and [I'll] be bored by it. When I try and inject (say) theme into the game - it will feel tacked on because you're not with me helping me make it awesome.
Again, I'm absolutely in agreement with you here, but in my experience, you still need to dissect the individual techniques to clearly explain how those specific conflicts arise as a general principle.

Kalirren
2009-09-08, 12:56 PM
So - while what you say might be interesting as classification of the various ephemera/techniques in play - can you tell me what that's helpful for?

Certainly.

Picture the Big Model: Exploration and Creative Agenda come up right near the beginning, and the CA arrow goes through a layer containing Character, Setting, Situation, etc. But then Edwards has it continuing on to skewer Techniques and Ephemera. That's the step I really don't understand, and I think the reason why he was so eager to do it was that his original purpose was to make statements about system and game design. I understand that desire, and I share it. If RPG theory doesn't lead to playing and designing better RPGs, then it's useless. But I think his haste to make the theory applicable led him to draw a convenient diagram which didn't really end up corresponding with reality.

The way I see it, Exploration and Techniques both come out directly from the social contract. The former concerns itself with the "what" and "why" of roleplaying as a whole. The latter concerns itself with "how". So imagine not an arrow, but a pincer - one arm of the pincer is Exploration, something that any substantive Creative Agenda naturally possesses, and exploration differentiates into exploration of character, setting, situation, etc., i.e., the various elements that are created. That part is classical Big Model, and I won't dwell on it too hard.

The other arm of the pincer is Techniques, and in my view that also comes out of the social contract. The social contract determines what techniques are "allowed" in the game; what actions can be taken, and what reactions are legitimate to the results of those actions. For example, it is not admissible in many D&D circles to do what is called "Story Lawyering," i.e., arguing that something should happen a certain way because it would make for crap narrative if it didn't happen that way, and attempting to find a way to extend the system to allow a roll for it. Example: I want to get something useful out of a mage, but I have no ranks in Diplomacy. I roll Diplomacy and fail. I ask the DM, "Can I roll Knowledge(arcana) to try to impress the mage into cooperating? Or at least give me a second chance to make my case?" Different groups have different social contracts, and they will give different answers to that question.

So if we look at it this way, then there is one thing that we can predict immediately in terms of system design. Different groups will have different social contracts, we know. It's impossible to predict their creative agenda, nor is it a system designer's place to dictate or promote any such agenda. But what can be predicted are the techniques which the group uses to explore whatever it is they want to explore, and different groups will be Gamist, Dramatist, and Simulationist to different extents.

A system that wants to appeal to a range of groups that use Gamist techniques to different extents has to be balanced, yet afford meaningful choice. The system language ought to be robust to alteration and easy to homebrew with, and it ought to be easily extendable to cover a large variety of situations.

A system that wants to appeal to a range of groups that are Dramatist to different extents has to offer tunable mechanical advantages to dramatic elements.

A system that wants to appeal to a range of groups that are Simulationist to different extents have to describe the world, powers, and actions in ways that match our intuitive qualitative understanding of them.

And finally, zooming out a level, a system that wants to appeal to a wide range of social contracts must be workable on different scales - that is to say, the system language must be adaptable to both coarse and fine use. The same descriptors can be used on multiple levels as inputs to different rules.

That's how breaking it down this way could be at least putatively useful. These are ill-fleshed-out ideas, but the framework is much more directly useful from the perspective of system design than the Big Model is, at least for me. What do you think?



Now, Simulationist concerns might still involved in ensuring that new additions to the setting remain more-or-less plausible and consistent, but new political factions, significant NPCs or cities entire just don't spring up overnight, ex nihilo, 'in the natural order of things.' If you felt compelled to add them in an improvised fashion at all, then You Broke Sim to at least some degree. The question is- why? What was the agenda that prompted you to do so? I suggest it's a Narrativist agenda in your case, and you don't disagree on that point.

What you're describing might be called a primarily-Narrativist-secondarily-Simulationist hybrid (particularly if we take the stance that Exploration == 'Lite' Simulationism.) There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't magically turn metagame into the absence of metagame.

This is exactly why I think that the NS modes are not exclusive. I don't know why you insist that Simulationism necessitates a automaton-like state evolution of the world. Pure Simulationism is impractical except for a computer in charge of maintaining a virtual world. The fact is that the player characters are doing some limited set of things at any given time, and sometimes new things become relevant. All that a Simulationist moderator need do is make sure that as new details are added into the naturally growing scope of player concern, they are world-coherent. Exactly what world-coherent means ends up being decided by the play group anyway, which means it's a fundamentally a metagame phenomenon. That's why I call it metagame world-Simulationism. Adding details and changing their emphasis in a world-coherent manner does not "break" a Simulationist creative agenda in any dysfunctional manner.


The big trick of Calvinball is pretending to be still committed to the Exploration. That makes it especially well-suited to disrupting Simulationist play from the older traditions, because the other players' commitment to the integrity of the Dream can be co-opted into one's Calvinball strategy, exploiting the others' willingness to enter into the rules-debate in hopes of a compromise, which of course is not forthcoming. Calvinball then quickly transforms into a struggle for control over what is and is not happening in the imaginative situation.

I'm just going to bite the bullet here; we -know- the potential failure mode of Calvinball, so we -avoid- it. It's that simple. The quote above describes a situation where a player who dishonestly represents himself at the table, essentially gaming the social contract, could easily turn the game into a shouting match of "Yes I did/No you didn't." We all -know- this, so we just make sure it doesn't end up there. Anyone who starts the positive feedback cycle that would end us up in dysfunctional Calvinball would get a few disapproving looks and a rather quick reversal from the moderator. And then business would continue.

I understand that not every group is comfortable with operating with no failsafe but their social contract, nor would every player be comfortable with abiding by the collective social and intellectual judgment of the group centralized behind the chosen moderator. We use a thoroughly hybridized mixture of GDS checks and balances under metagame control to keep the game as a whole in balance. I could have told you a long time ago that our group exhibits the patterns of Calvinball, Ouija-board roleplaying, and Illusionism, yet we don't seem to have a dysfunctional play experience. No one ever leaves a session angry, or fundamentally dissatisfied with the game.

The only way that we can really support this dynamic is upon the trust we place in each others' judgments. We have a very strong social contract that supports a creative agenda of general exploration, and that is something we all agree on. And as we go along and build character and setting and situation, a disconnected narrative coalesces from those elements. It's not what Edwards would call Story with a capital S by any means. I'm well aware of that. But it is the kind of narrative that we believe is most natural, least contrived, and ultimately most meaningful to us. That's why I consider my group a narrativist group, even though we're not Narrativists in the Edwardsian sense - we don't believe in going out of our way to address a Premise. Themes fall together in hindsight, but can't actively be pursued without compromising the authenticity of the narrative.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-08, 12:57 PM
Yes, but the GM may actually have constrained what the players 'did before,' by either subtle methods or obvious ones, to avoid tampering with the predefined plot. That's either railroading or Illusionism. That's not dysfunctional, but it's not Narrativism, because the players' attention is mostly not on 'the Story'. How can it be? They got no say in it!

There are always constraints. Some explicit(no machine guns in D&D), some implicit(The DM cannot possibly prepare for every possible player decision). So long as the players still have meaningful choices, they are involved in the story. If they do not have any meaningful choices, they aren't roleplaying, they are listening to a guy tell a story.

There is a ridiculous amount of grey area between railroading and "not being limited".

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 12:58 PM
I think Edwards has this completely backwards. The purpose of most intellectually meaningful RP is to explore, and we explore character, setting, and situation using a variety of techniques. (I'm not sure I understand what Color is, so I refrain from using the term.) For me, Character, Setting, and Situation are the result and the payoff, not the medium.
Then... you may actually just be a pure Simulationist. I don't think that's the case, though. Your play sounds more like Stealth Narrativism to me (but I could be wrong.)

'Colour' means specific, detailed description of local environment or appearances- moment-by-moment narration of the flash of sunlight on steel, the gurgle of a spring, the stench of decay, the crest on a coat of arms, etc.


...Dramatist if Dramatist...
"Dramatist!" That's a much better term than Narrativism! Unfortunately, 'Drama' in the current glossary refers to event resolution simply by player decisions, without consulting rules and stats or rolling dice... Still, you'd have my vote.

I believe that every moderating decision that is made in an RP either clarifies system and balance (G)...
Clarifying System is not inherently Gamist at all. Explicit, mechanical rules can reinforce any creative agenda- it depends on what techniques they represent. Balance has a lot of different meanings, depending on what you want to distribute equally among participants- is it character effectiveness, screen time, parity of starting points, etc.?

...or helps build character (D)...
Again, not inherently Narrativist. Lots of Simulationist play revolves around strong character definition.

...or builds world integrity (S).
This certainly Simulationist, but not all of Simulationism. Characters are part of the world, and just as much subject to internal cause and consequence as any other part of it.

For example, if the GM decides to start a war as a big plot point (Dramatist action)
This is not neccesarily Narrativist. He could be starting one simply because he felt it was inevitable, based on the social, economic and political inputs prevailing at the time (S), or because you needed a challenge (G or N, depending on how he's challenging you.)

...the players will respond by negotiating qualitative mechanistic descriptions of the political/economic fallout with the GM (Simulationist reaction)
Again, not inherently Simulationist. You may be looking at Calvinball, which is basically dysfunctional.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 01:08 PM
There are always constraints. Some explicit(no machine guns in D&D), some implicit(The DM cannot possibly prepare for every possible player decision). So long as the players still have meaningful choices, they are involved in the story. If they do not have any meaningful choices, they aren't roleplaying, they are listening to a guy tell a story.
Simulationist play isn't primarily about significant choices at all, except insofar as arbitrary constraints on what the PCs could do 'aren't realistic', but about ensuring that the PCs react to events based solely on IC environmental data. For the Gamist player, meaningful choices are purely tactical in nature- their true relationship with the story is tenuous at best. You choose how to fight, but not who to, or, in many cases, why.

Illusionist play is exactly that- maintaining the illusion of participation with the story when you don't have any. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, and Illusionist groups generally have a strong 'agreement to be deceived' at work. It doesn't violate Sim for the players, because their characters are reacting based solely on IC data presented to them by the GM- a fact that allows them to be gently corralled in the first place. But it ain't authorship of the story.

Yukitsu
2009-09-08, 01:08 PM
I have read psych journals. And pyschology is the study of human behavior, in groups or not.

GNS would be at home in Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice or the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Group dynamics is a sociology course where I am. :smallconfused: Psychology can cover an individual's actions and reactions in a group, but it's sociologists that study the reasons for behaviors of groups as a whole.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 01:17 PM
On a final note, you say this is Simulationism? Really? Because I identify with Kornelsen's CA, and Edwards said that Kornelsen's CA was Narrativism.
It is Narrativism, because you've got lots of metagame decision-making going on, and that is the opposite of Sim. You have clearly relegated Sim to a secondary and supportive capacity here, whilst you go about producing Theme. That is a fine and dandy pastime, but it is not, and never can be, both modes simultaneously firing on all cylinders. You are looking for El Dorado- the mystical fusion of 100% Nar and 100% Sim which cannot and does not exist.

I don't know why you insist that Simulationism necessitates a automaton-like state evolution of the world.
Because that's what Simulationism is. The idea that the world is an independant entity which goes about it's own business without external perturbation- a 'pocket universe', so to speak. If that seems bizarre to you, you're hardly alone, but that's because you're a Narrativist!

I'm going to save further response for tomorrow, and hopefully incorporate some of this discussion back into the original post, so I'll leave it there for now.

Yukitsu
2009-09-08, 01:19 PM
That argument is like the ones used by people who don't believe in free will. Just because there is a defined set of choices laid out before an individual, that doesn't mean there is only the capacity for a singular choice of those options, even given the constraints of the world and the character.

Saph
2009-09-08, 01:35 PM
G: I want to be a kickass <whatever>!
N: I want to make a cool story!
S: I want a world that is consistent with the game's rules!

What I'm unable to understand is why these three focuses are in any way mutually exclusive or interfere with each other.

They're not. In fact, I'd say that the most successful RPGs are usually the ones which have space for all three - because they appeal to the broadest range of people.

Not to mention the fact that it's practically impossible to completely exclude any of the three types without creating something that isn't really a role-playing game anymore.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-08, 02:01 PM
That argument is like the ones used by people who don't believe in free will. Just because there is a defined set of choices laid out before an individual, that doesn't mean there is only the capacity for a singular choice of those options, even given the constraints of the world and the character.

Exactly. It doesn't matter how simulationist you are, the characters still have choices, and thus, their players do. If it was a simple "one possible outcome", we could skip the bother of pretending to game and state it.

Yes, most characters are only comfortable within a certain range of options...but almost invariably, the range is larger than a single acceptible option in any circumstance.

Saph
2009-09-08, 02:45 PM
It's impossible to make a RPG purely a simulation and still have it be an RPG. In fact, the same applies to all three of the types. As soon as you cut out one of the three elements, you don't really have an RPG anymore.

A pure game has no consistent world and no story or identification with the characters. This gives you something like chess, Warhammer, or an FPS deathmatch, where there's nothing but conflict - players go from one fight to the next with nothing in between. With no world and no story, you don't have an RPG.

A pure simulation is something like SimCity or The Sims or a multiplayer game with all the players being run by AI bots. Since there's no strategy and no motivation, there's really no need to even have players anymore (since you don't require any external input). With no game and no story, you don't have an RPG.

A pure story has no room for strategy and chance in the conflicts, and doesn't need a consistent world either. What happens is whatever the writer says happens. At this point there's no way you can call it a game; what you've got is a collaborative novel, or a book of short stories. With no world and no game, you don't have an RPG.

Most gamers play RPGs specifically because they want something with all three of these elements. They don't want something which only features one and cuts out the others.

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-09-08, 06:01 PM
I'm fully agreed with you here. I mean, Narrativists might be engaged in a thrilling fight scene because it proves their dedication to some belief, and Simulationists because it seems a logical consequence of earlier events. But for them, getting into that fight is a means, rather than the end.

But from that it follows that 3 players with preference for the 3 different modes can enjoy the same game for different reasons. And as, such, you can side-step the whole conflict issue. Honestly, I only see conflict arising when a player is unwilling to make allowances for other modes and tries to lock the game into his or her preferred mode and exclude the others. If everyone plays nice and is willing to enjoy the game their way, and not let the fact that other people enjoy the same game for different reasons, why should you necessarily have conflict? :smallconfused: Especially when most players will in fact derive a good deal of enjoyment out of all modes of play, albeit with a preference for one or two of them.

Dixieboy
2009-09-08, 08:07 PM
@Saph:
You have obviously never been playing with geeky enough people.
There are people who roleplay chess.
But they are a definite minority.
Bad jokes aside, Warhammer has quite a bit of story, even if you are talking about the games themselves you are still using pieces that represents definite roles in their universe.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-08, 09:01 PM
And warhammer players routinely invent their own fluff. GW encourages it, and deliberately leaves huge areas open to interpretation. And of course, they sell the roleplaying game Inquisitor set in the same universe.

Saph is entirely correct. Even if people are clowning around with chess pieces, it's not really an RPG. You cannot have a pure representation of just one of those aspects and still have an RPG.

I see no particular reason to try to get rid of traditional RPGs in favor of limited versions only approaching a specific angle. If you want a story, go buy or write a book.

Thinker
2009-09-08, 09:27 PM
I agree...

Aik
2009-09-08, 10:59 PM
Samurai Jill:
Heh, sorry for dumping all over your initial post - but yeah - an overview rather than jumping into the nitty gritty straight off works best, I think. It's impossible to talk about the nitty gritty if no one understands what that's all being applied towards - and I think Vincent Baker's explanation of GNS is the least confusing overview around. It really isn't more complex than that, and sometimes I'm really unsure why there's so much confusion (even though I spent a long time confused about all this myself...).


Simulation, by definition, is based on internal causes. You have a current state of the world, and a successor state of the world, and the former exactly determines the latter- including the characters! Metagame, by definition, is the intrusion of external cause. Internal =/= External. It's as simple as that.
and;

Simulationist play isn't primarily about significant choices at all, except insofar as arbitrary constraints on what the PCs could do 'aren't realistic', but about ensuring that the PCs react to events based solely on IC environmental data.
and;

It is Narrativism, because you've got lots of metagame decision-making going on, and that is the opposite of Sim. You have clearly relegated Sim to a secondary and supportive capacity here, whilst you go about producing Theme.

I think you're taking a very narrow view of simulationism that isn't - well - correct. Simulationism is about exploration of the character, system, setting, situation, and/or colour. The idea that it has to all be done in actor stance making no metagame decisions and such isn't right - those are techniques which certainly aren't exclusive to sim.

Quick actual play example: We were playing a genre emulation of those hilariously cheesy fantasy stories on Fictionpress - the entire payoff of the game was exploration of character, setting, and colour (especially colour). Our decisions were very much 'metagame' and not based on realism or what our characters would know - they were based primarily on what was appropriate for the genre, or, occassionally, just what was awesome. Fun game - definately sim - the point was exploration (well, I guess I should be throwing those random capitals around for this one, so - Exploration).

I'm curious - have you ever played a coherent and at least semi-intentional sim game? Until looking back at that game and realising 'oh hey - that was simulationism' - it never really clicked for me.

Even Human:
I'm seriously not sure how I can explain it further without some feedback from you on my posts. I'm not entirely happy with the explanation I gave, but, well ... it's not that unclear. There should be enough there that you can point at certains parts and go 'I don't agree with this, specifically' now. I'm fairly sure I've addressed what you're asking there - and I'm happy to clarify if it doesn't make sense - but there's not much more I can say about it in general.

Kalirren:
I'll definately respond, but not right now. This thread is eating far too much time, and any response to that deserves some thought put into it :)

jseah:
I think you've got the gist of it, but I disagree with a lot of the specifics and with your general conclusion. Again, I'll respond later - probably tomorrow some time.

Saph:
Right, but GNS doesn't actually say that. If it did I would happily agree with you that's all a lot of rubbish - but it doesn't. It's about a unifying fun creative thing that the group is doing in a particular game - not about 'pure' anything.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 11:34 PM
I think you're taking a very narrow view of simulationism that isn't - well - correct. Simulationism is about exploration of the character, system, setting, situation, and/or colour. The idea that it has to all be done in actor stance making no metagame decisions and such isn't right - those are techniques which certainly aren't exclusive to sim.
I really don't think that's the sense I've gotten from Edwards' own essays on the subject. To quote from Simulationism: The Right To Dream-

Internal Cause is King
Consider Character, Setting, and Situation - and now consider what happens to them, over time. In Simulationist play, cause is the key, the imagined cosmos in action. The way these elements tie together, as well as how they're Colored, are intended to produce "genre" in the general sense of the term, especially since the meaning or point is supposed to emerge without extra attention. It's a tall order: the relationship is supposed to turn out a certain way or set of ways, since what goes on "ought" to go on, based on internal logic instead of intrusive agenda. Since real people decide when to roll, as well as any number of other contextual details, they can take this spec a certain distance. However, the right sort of meaning or point then is expected to emerge from System outcomes...

...Metagame mechanics
The term "metagame" is problematic throughout this essay for Simulationist play and rules design. Metagame mechanics, by definition, entail the interjection of real-people priorities into the system-operation. Now, it is foolish to speak of Simulationist play as lacking metagame; that would only apply if the people at the table were themselves rules-constructs as well as the rules, and that's silly. But compared to Gamist and Narrativist play, Simulationist play may be spoken of as lacking metagame interpersonal agenda, like "winning" or "doing well" in Gamism, or addressing a Premise in Narrativism. Its metagame, although fully social, is self-referential, to stay in-game.

...One confounding factor is that metagame mechanics are often present as "fixes" of otherwise-Simulationist systems that proved to be mildly broken in play. The trouble with such a thing is that it can lead to serious Drift of the sort that breaks Social Contracts or renders systems incoherent.
Based on this description- which I've found to accord well with my own instinctive preferences in play- I can only conclude that the point of Simulationism is really to pare extraneous metagame down to the absolute minimum.

Sure, Actor stance isn't exclusive to Sim play, but I do think it's essential to it. That's not, to my understanding, the case with other modes.

Quick actual play example: We were playing a genre emulation of those hilariously cheesy fantasy stories on Fictionpress - the entire payoff of the game was exploration of character, setting, and colour (especially colour). Our decisions were very much 'metagame' and not based on realism or what our characters would know - they were based primarily on what was appropriate for the genre...
...But that is 'internal cause'- reference to a specific genre. I would reckon that was your System in action, even if it wasn't verbalised as such.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-08, 11:50 PM
Saph is entirely correct. Even if people are clowning around with chess pieces, it's not really an RPG. You cannot have a pure representation of just one of those aspects and still have an RPG.

It's impossible to make a RPG purely a simulation and still have it be an RPG. In fact, the same applies to all three of the types. As soon as you cut out one of the three elements, you don't really have an RPG anymore.
As I've said before, coherent design means establishing a clear preference for one of these modes of play, and consigning the others to be either purely supportive or downright rudimentary. Which is perfectly possible.

But from that it follows that 3 players with preference for the 3 different modes can enjoy the same game for different reasons...
Not really. Although the 3 modes can, on occasion, demand superficially similar things, the fact remains that much of the time they won't. Sure- there will be occasions when the internal logic of the world and character motivations mean that imminent violence 'makes sense'- but a lot of the time, it won't, and this is going to bore the 'hard' Gamist. (Not that Gamism is necessarily limited to physical combat, but anyways-) Even within a fight scene, the Simulationist is going to be looking for fundamentally different things- s/he'll want the weapons, first and foremost, to deal damage and handle in a way that's consistent with the genre, and/or realistic, even if that's not especially balanced or even safe to play. Particularly in the latter case of the Realist-Simulationist, things like 'Hit Points', 'Classes', 'XP' and 'Levels' will probably go right out the window as being "too abstract. What do they even mean anyway?" Everything you do to please one, beyond a certain point, risks alienating the others.

There are many, many, potential points of conflict here. Again, I've listed those involving just Narrativism in the 4th section of the original post, so I don't know how I can make those much clearer.

GoufCustom
2009-09-09, 02:27 AM
The conflict really only seems to come into major happenings if you apply a game to a group consisting of a "hard Simulationist", a "hard Gamist", and a "hard Narrativist." Three people who merely have a preference can still enjoy the same game.

I also would disagree with the simulationist lack of metagame, even if it's on a simple level. From what I have gleaned from this, I would classify myself as prefering Simulationist. I very much enjoy taking the "Actor Stance", likely because I have an acting background. I also love stories and games with fully fleshed-out, functional systems of government, of magic, whatever. (Aside: I feel the need to plug relatively new author Brandon Sanderson. Read his stuff, it's awesome)

Anyway. So I'm in a game, and I assume the actor stance. The games my friends and I play tend to have a rather generous helping of silly. A character will do something that makes sense for them, but is specifically winking at, say, something a character in a previous campaign did that we all found funny. We poke, prod, and occassionally break the fourth wall. How can that not be meta? It's not gamist certainly, and it's not really narrativist. It doesn't move along the plot, or provide any kind of emotional tension or conflict to examine a capital Premise. But it does explore the admittedly silly setting we have, the characters therein, and it's connection points to the real world.

Though considering my newness to GNS theory, and the late hour, it's also possible I'm spouting gibberish.

Okay, that's completely possible no matter when I wrote this.

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-09-09, 05:06 AM
The conflict really only seems to come into major happenings if you apply a game to a group consisting of a "hard Simulationist", a "hard Gamist", and a "hard Narrativist." Three people who merely have a preference can still enjoy the same game.


That is exactly what I was trying (and apparently failing) to get at:


Honestly, I only see conflict arising when a player is unwilling to make allowances for other modes and tries to lock the game into his or her preferred mode and exclude the others.

Saph
2009-09-09, 05:57 AM
As I've said before, coherent design means establishing a clear preference for one of these modes of play, and consigning the others to be either purely supportive or downright rudimentary.

And as I've said before, I don't want to play a game with what you call "coherent design". I want a game that has deep strategy and tactics AND has a consistent world AND has significant choices made by the characters. Your attitude is that this is impossible; I know this is wrong, because I've seen it done.

All of the best RPG campaigns that I've played in were the ones which had strong emphasis on game, simulation, and story all together. The campaigns which only focused on one of the three were the least interesting.

In short, my experience is that following GNS theory and making two out of the three modes rudimentary doesn't make games better, it actively makes them worse.

Tiki Snakes
2009-09-09, 10:08 AM
And as I've said before, I don't want to play a game with what you call "coherent design". I want a game that has deep strategy and tactics AND has a consistent world AND has significant choices made by the characters. Your attitude is that this is impossible; I know this is wrong, because I've seen it done.

All of the best RPG campaigns that I've played in were the ones which had strong emphasis on game, simulation, and story all together. The campaigns which only focused on one of the three were the least interesting.

In short, my experience is that following GNS theory and making two out of the three modes rudimentary doesn't make games better, it actively makes them worse.

I think this sums up my own position better than I'm likely to manage. I agree entirely, Saph.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-09, 01:06 PM
The conflict really only seems to come into major happenings if you apply a game to a group consisting of a "hard Simulationist", a "hard Gamist", and a "hard Narrativist." Three people who merely have a preference can still enjoy the same game.
They can- but only if the rule-set is itself coherent. What happens otherwise is that each participant is going to latch on to whatever aspect of the rules appeals to them most, and quietly assume that this is what the game is "really about".

Let me give you an example. Burning Wheel is, first and foremost, Narrativist. It talks about establishing motivation, negotiating the stakes of conflict, and has explicit metagame mechanics to reward protagonism (i.e, Artha.) It also employs a lot of Simulationist techniques that actually take up the bulk of the text- but they're strictly supportive, because the metagame effects of Artha are substantially more powerful in play. And yes, in the middle of conflicts (either physical, arcane, or social) there are a lot of different tactics you can try, with varied strategic options in terms of starting races and lifepaths, which might appeal to Gamists- but these, in turn, are subordinate to the Simulationist aesthetic of accuracy, e.g, Orcs are not 'balanced' with Elves, and Hit Points don't even exist (in fact, combat is so deadly that you really need metagame to survive it.) The designer has established a clear hierarchy of priorities, so that the group can operate without frictions. If you wanted, you might call it 55% N, 35% S, and 10% G (or something similar.) D&D 3E, on the other hand, might be called 65% G, 20% S and 15% N- but when you inspect the actual rules, there's no consistency on what bits are 'more important' than the others- you've got alignment feeding into class restrictions feeding into niche protection feeding into encounter guidelines feeding into 'Always Chaotic Evil' descriptors in in some kind of Escheresque staircase ensemble (http://designingquests.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/escher-relativity.jpg) with no discernible foundation. It's insane.

The games my friends and I play tend to have a rather generous helping of silly. A character will do something that makes sense for them, but is specifically winking at, say, something a character in a previous campaign did that we all found funny. We poke, prod, and occassionally break the fourth wall. How can that not be meta?
I dunno- I guess I can only say that, the more committed the Sim, the less appropriate this becomes. I'm not seeing how this has much impact on the underlying direction of play, though, so this might just qualify as 'messing around.' Nothing wrong with that, but it falls a little outside the discussion.

I want a game that has deep strategy and tactics AND has a consistent world AND has significant choices made by the characters. Your attitude is that this is impossible...
My attitude is that, during functional play, 2 of these things will have been established as less requiring of active attention than the others. The demand for coherence still makes allowance for very significant variety in design. E.g, if the GM is furnishing plot through Illusionism, you can have 'a story' without the players needing to pay much attention to it. They can still be making decisions that seem significant to them based on IC information, and that's absolutely fine, (though not protagonism.)

You cannot simultaneously make sacrifices for the sake of a higher conviction AND pursue tactical or strategic victory with maximum efficiency. That is a contradiction in terms. Beliefs are beliefs only if you stick to them when inconvenient. You cannot act solely on the basis of in-world (or in-genre) information AND counterbalance the GM's influence on story. That is a contradiction in terms. Whoever dictates the stimulus will ultimately dictate the response. There are fundamental incompatabilities here that cannot be resolved. I know it's impossible, because you can't make 2+2=5.

Kalirren
2009-09-09, 01:09 PM
The term "metagame" is problematic throughout this essay for Simulationist play and rules design. Metagame mechanics, by definition, entail the interjection of real-people priorities into the system-operation. Now, it is foolish to speak of Simulationist play as lacking metagame; that would only apply if the people at the table were themselves rules-constructs as well as the rules, and that's silly. But compared to Gamist and Narrativist play, Simulationist play may be spoken of as lacking metagame interpersonal agenda, like "winning" or "doing well" in Gamism, or addressing a Premise in Narrativism. Its metagame, although fully social, is self-referential, to stay in-game.

Edwards has a point here that when taken in conjunction with mine, reveals something. Since the IC world is part of the game, the word "metagame" doesn't differentiate very well between what's outside the game and what's outside the IC world. Since simulationism as a CA is so closely connected with exploring the IC world, it really does stride the in-game/metagame line.

I'd like to propose a new term, "metaworld." Metaworld differentiates from in-world in an obvious manner. But metaworld differentiates from meta-game in that we recognize certain world-delineating activity as natural and perhaps unavoidable over the course of RP. There's a point at which you add detail not because it belongs there, (after all, everything that belongs there could potentially be described,) but because you -want- it to be there because it's just important for an ultimately OOC reason (which can range from simple expedience and/or salience all the way to the addressment of Premise), and that is meta-world but not necessarily metagame.

The process of adding world detail as things become relevant to the players would thus be in-game but metaworld. This is a solidly Dramatist technique in that details are being added in response to the players' growth and for the potential purpose of being there for the players to bounce off of them, react to them.

If you're willing to run with this terminological shift, then I can now fully agree with you that



Based on this description- which I've found to accord well with my own instinctive preferences in play- I can only conclude that the point of Simulationism is really to pare extraneous metagame (in the revised sense) down to the absolute minimum.

I would venture to suggest that the confusion between metagame and metaworld is what leads GNS to the faulty conclusion that NS play modes are not easily hybridized - to wit:


It is Narrativism, because you've got lots of metagame decision-making going on, and that is the opposite of Sim. ...You are looking for El Dorado- the mystical fusion of 100% Nar and 100% Sim which cannot and does not exist.

We actually don't have much metagame decision making. You know we don't operate on the assumption of looking for Premise, for example. That -would- be a metagame decision. What we do have is a lot of metaworld decision making (for example, plenty of decisions are made unilaterally by the moderator who has no in-world identity, let alone in-world authority.) But no one is making metagame decisions - decisions made for reasons that lie outside the bounds of exploring character, setting, situation, and color. (Now that I know what that word means, I -can- use it. Thank you.) You're left with saying that we make metaworld decisions, but metaworld isn't the opposite of a Simulationist creative agenda. If you maintain that it is, then I respond, "no wonder people don't like (your interpretation of) GNS, because S is a caricature of what it actually turns out to be in practice."

Of course, under my proposed model, this pattern of in-game yet meta-world Simulationism has a succinct description in that we use DS techniques to explore setting and situation. (In reality we use Gamist techniques to facilitate the resolution of the relevant events and details as well, but that's a little beside the point.)

More later today. I have to study. This thread -does- take up a lot of time. :p

Diamondeye
2009-09-09, 01:14 PM
You cannot simultaneously make sacrifices for the sake of a higher conviction AND pursue tactical or strategic victory with maximum efficiency. That is a contradiction in terms. Beliefs are beliefs only if you stick to them when inconvenient. You cannot act solely on the basis of in-world (or in-genre) information AND counterbalance the GM's influence on story. That is a contradiction in terms. Whoever dictates the stimulus will ultimately dictate the response. There are fundamental incompatabilities here that cannot be resolved. I know it's impossible, because you can't make 2+2=5.

Actually, yes you can. The point of tactical victory is to achieve a certain end, which would presumably conform to, or support one's beliefs, or at the very least not contradict them. That's like saying in the real world that if you employ large amounts of precision weapons to defeat the enemy on the battlefield you're somehow violating the principles that made you go to war in the first place.

You keep whipping out this "2+2=5" thing, but it's simply a false analogy. You haven't established that the styles of play are incompatible except by appealing to the theory. You can't use the theory to support itself.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-09, 01:23 PM
Actually, yes you can. The point of tactical victory is to achieve a certain end, which would presumably conform to, or support one's beliefs, or at the very least not contradict them.
If you're not choosing whom to fight in the first place, as would be the case with Illusionism or railroading, then this is a non-consideration. And if you are choosing whom to fight, if the characters have genuine freedom- the Gamist is going to pick either the route of least resistance, or maximum profit- possibly both. That's not the stuff of drama.

That's like saying in the real world that if you employ large amounts of precision weapons to defeat the enemy on the battlefield you're somehow violating the principles that made you go to war in the first place.
There is no way to respond to what question without getting mired in politics, so I won't.

Yukitsu
2009-09-09, 01:30 PM
The more and more this theory is explained, the more I believe it can be entirely replaced with a ven diagram, and a complete reworking of the phraseology, as at it's core, a large degree of the problems stems from a lack of clarity, and an incredible degree of false dichotomisation.

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-09-09, 01:57 PM
The more and more this theory is explained, the more I believe it can be entirely replaced with a ven diagram, and a complete reworking of the phraseology, as at it's core, a large degree of the problems stems from a lack of clarity, and an incredible degree of false dichotomisation.

*looks up Venn Diagram on Wikipedia*

Actually yeah, that does look like it would do a better job. Maybe a Ternary Plot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ternary_plot) would work too.

jseah
2009-09-09, 01:58 PM
And if you are choosing whom to fight, if the characters have genuine freedom- the Gamist is going to pick either the route of least resistance, or maximum profit- possibly both. That's not the stuff of drama.
What happens if you fight a climatic battle and the wizard in the party decides to try out his new spell and accidentally destroys the encounter utterly?

Or you lose, badly. You know it happens all the time. The BBEG gets a lucky crit with near max damage, or the rogue's backpack got dropped into the chasm way back and no one noticed he was carrying the Mc Guffin?

If you lose due to tactical concerns, like the BBEG is on top of the cliff and your GM didn't factor in that the wizard didn't prepare Fly today.
Or win, a flying party is generally considered far more dangerous than one that doesn't, and if your nemesis is a melee focused build, you can arrow him to death.

There's any number of ways that a choice/circumstance not on the part of the player concerned that will destroy drama.
How does Narrativist play handle these things? Those same techniques (whatever they are) can be applied to tactical decisions.

------------------------------------------------------------------

At the same time, you can have epic battles and struggles full of drama despite employing sound military strategy. Not all the time, but you can't have a physical conflict that never goes out-of-script.
As they say, "no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy".

Still, depending on how the battle is engaged, the contestants need not even face each other. Sniper and counter-sniper, or even a duel of wits between chessmasters. If both sides of the conflict can believably use the tactics involved and the outcome of the battle greatly matters to either side, why can't there be "plot" and character development driven by that employment of tactics?

Diamondeye
2009-09-09, 03:54 PM
If you're not choosing whom to fight in the first place, as would be the case with Illusionism or railroading, then this is a non-consideration. And if you are choosing whom to fight, if the characters have genuine freedom- the Gamist is going to pick either the route of least resistance, or maximum profit- possibly both. That's not the stuff of drama.

There is no such thing as illusionism. Railroading occurs when the DM blatantly ignores the players such as in:

PC1: "We decide to leave the duchy for now and go elsewhere in search of adventure."
DM: "Ok well you can't do that. You arrive at the Duke's castle for the final confrontation..."

The DM laying out a campaign plan beforehand is not illusionism.

Furthermore, the tactical choice to fight in the most effectie way possible has nothing to do with the dramatic aspects of the story. There's nothing that prevents characters in drama from taking the path of least resistance - it's just a matter of canking the resistance of that path up higher. least =/= none.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-09, 03:58 PM
Imagine the drama from "Gee, I bet we could find a harder way into mordor".

Well, yes....you could. However, it would be tactically, IC, stupid to do so. And there's nothing wrong or unrealistic about that.

Fhaolan
2009-09-09, 05:55 PM
Imagine the drama from "Gee, I bet we could find a harder way into mordor".

Well, yes....you could. However, it would be tactically, IC, stupid to do so. And there's nothing wrong or unrealistic about that.

I have no proof of this, but I get the feeling that LotR would be viewed as a Simulationist story by the GNS theory. Mainly because it was written by a linguist and historian as part of a thought experiment, developing a fictional world from which to generate fictional languages. GM is railroading *so* hard in some places. :smalltongue:

I kid, I kid. Don't mind me, I'm avoiding work right now.

Saph
2009-09-09, 06:38 PM
My attitude is that, during functional play, 2 of these things will have been established as less requiring of active attention than the others.

You've shown no good evidence of this. All that you've shown is that your theory doesn't accept the existence of any other way of playing.


You cannot simultaneously make sacrifices for the sake of a higher conviction AND pursue tactical or strategic victory with maximum efficiency. That is a contradiction in terms.

. . .

You cannot act solely on the basis of in-world (or in-genre) information AND counterbalance the GM's influence on story. That is a contradiction in terms.

The logical fallacy you're committing here is the false dilemma, a.k.a. the "either-or fallacy" or the "false dichotomy". Either you have to be one extreme, or you have to be the other.

There is absolutely nothing stopping you from playing a character who has a strong moral code who also wants to achieve victory against his enemies. If the two come into conflict, then he'll have to decide whether to choose one over the other, or find some kind of compromise. This is not a bad thing. It's a good thing, because it leads to interesting roleplaying. In fact, I'd say that if there isn't any potential conflict between your character's motivations, then you probably don't have a very interesting character.

In all of the most successful campaigns I've played, players juggled game, simulation, and story constantly. They tried to make an interesting story AND tried to act in-character within the confines of the world AND participated in the tactical contests all in the same session. They might make one decision for tactical reasons, then make another decision because it seemed the in-character thing to do, then do something else because they knew out-of-character it would lead to an entertaining result. And it worked. Including lots of "incoherent" elements made the campaign better, not worse.


Whoever dictates the stimulus will ultimately dictate the response. There are fundamental incompatabilities here that cannot be resolved. I know it's impossible, because you can't make 2+2=5.

You have failed to show this. You've set up a false dilemma - "You can't be 100% focused on one thing and 100% focused on another!" and from that you've concluded that it's impossible to include a strong game element and a strong simulation element and a strong story element in the same RPG. Your conclusions don't follow from your premises.

Raum
2009-09-09, 08:03 PM
As written, GNS describes a zero-sum game. It's mildly interesting as a pure thought exercise but hasn't gone through a rigorous objective analysis. When it's tested against data, it fails to show the three types as the definitive 'creative agenda' of gamers...much less any signs of gaming being a zero-sum activity.

For anyone interested in ludology, I recommend browsing through some of the following sites: Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA) (http://www.digra.org/dl/search_results?general_search_index=ludology)
Richard Bartle's academic papers (http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/papers.htm)
John Kim's system design page (http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/systemdesign/) and his RPG theory page (http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/theory/). (John Kim has a lot of worthwhile stuff, including a fairly comprehensive list of games.)
International Journal of Role-Playing (http://journalofroleplaying.org/) (Also posted in another thread.)
Some of the Whitehall Paraindustries' (http://whitehall-paraindustries.blogspot.com/) blogs are worth a read. (Some posts were mentioned in another thread on GNS.)
As are many from ars ludi (http://arsludi.lamemage.com/).
Mu's ramblings on design theory (http://mu.ranter.net/design-theory).
Some of Greg Costikyan's (http://www.costik.com/home.html) essays.
Lumpley's gatherings (http://www.lumpley.com/anycomment.php?entry=166).
Some of Greg Stolze's (http://www.gregstolze.com/) writings.
Perhaps Ray Winninger's Dungeoncraft Essays (http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/dnd/dungeoncraft/).
Forge articles (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/) by Edwards and others.
And, for completeness, WotC's research Breakdown of RPG Players (http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/gaming/BreakdownOfRPGPlayers.html) and Market Research Summary (http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/gaming/WotCMarketResearchSummary.html) (Both posted earlier in this thread.)
Some of the pages and articles linked advocate GNS in one form or another, some debunk GNS, and others don't even mention it.

kjones
2009-09-09, 09:12 PM
Here's the problem with GNS. Edwards took the kinds of things he liked in RPGs (stories, characterization) and called them "Narrativist". Then he took the kinds of things he didn't like in RPGs (rules, munchkins, fun) and called them "Gamist". He then realized that there was some other stuff that he left out, but didn't really know what do do about it, so he lumped it all in under "Simulationist".

I suggest that we relabel Gamism, Narrativism, and Simulationism to "Things Ron Edwards Dislikes", "Things Ron Edwards Likes", and "Things To Which Ron Edwards Is Indifferent".

Samurai Jill
2009-09-10, 08:12 AM
There is absolutely nothing stopping you from playing a character who has a strong moral code who also wants to achieve victory against his enemies. If the two come into conflict, then he'll have to decide whether to choose one over the other, or find some kind of compromise. This is not a bad thing.
Of course it's not a bad thing! It can be a wonderful, great, fun thing! But it's inherently a choice between 2 (maybe 3?) different modes of play. When that moment comes, you cannot simultaneously serve both! You'll either have gone in the Gamist direction (pure convenience,) or the Nar/Sim direction (NOT pure convenience.) By your actions, you will have established that one or the other is fundamentally more important to you. You cannot be 100% focused on both. GNS is a basic recognition of that iron fact.

There is also nothing wrong with the Gamist approach here. That, too, can be a wonderful thing! But it will be much better complemented by different techniques.

You have failed to show this...
I have shown exactly this. When the GM controls the world- and the characters are expected to respond based solely on information available within the world, and to play their role in events in a consistent fashion- then there is no way for players to escape being gently herded about in a fixed direction by the GM. That's Illusionism in a nutshell- and many players are perfectly happy with it! But it is not, and never will be, meaningful creative input to the story. The players' primary attentions are elsewhere- They have to be, or they'd be bored stiff!

The DM laying out a campaign plan beforehand is not illusionism.
Of course it is. The "campaign plan" implies that the plan doesn't change. You can't provide input into things that don't change. You're providing the illusion of creative participation when none exists. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is definitionally not colloboration on story!

PC1: "We decide to leave the duchy for now and go elsewhere in search of adventure."
DM: "Sure. You encounter a migration of Tarrasques. They form a long line all along the western plain. To the south is an impassable chasm. To the north are mountains. Better head back to the Duke's castle, hmm?"

This is the obvious example, but no matter how gently you go about it it's the same thing- you're gradually funnelling the players towards predetermined thematic conclusions. They hows and the wherefores are just details as far as the overall "message" of events is concerned- you're making true protagonism impossible.

Imagine the drama from "Gee, I bet we could find a harder way into mordor".
Well, strictly speaking... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yqVD0swvWU)


"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. ...can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement, fearing for your own safety, for even the very wise cannot see all ends."

"Sam -slit his throat, would you? He's, like, obviously evil."

Samurai Jill
2009-09-10, 08:29 AM
There's any number of ways that a choice/circumstance not on the part of the player concerned that will destroy drama.
How does Narrativist play handle these things?...
Often, by not bothering so much with these little nitty-gritty details in the first place. (Also, McGuffins are notably uncommon, and BBEGs are sort of thematically boring.) Again, conflict resolution is often used here- you state, up front, what you went to get out of this adversity-situation, negotiate over the stakes a bit, and then resolve who comes out on top, and with what degree of compromise. The details are not, in story terms, terribly important- so you simply don't allow the former to jeopardise the latter. What you have described is a very important GNS conflict, which is why rule-sets need to be specialised for each mode.

As they say, "no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy".
Yes, but the exact details of the conflict aren't as important, in story terms, as what you were fighting over in the first place. Beliefs and scruples and convictions actively interfere with tactical flexibility (just ask the Paladin.)

Samurai Jill
2009-09-10, 08:32 AM
Here's the problem with GNS. Edwards took the kinds of things he liked in RPGs (stories, characterization) and called them "Narrativist". Then he took the kinds of things he didn't like in RPGs (rules, munchkins, fun) and called them "Gamist". He then realized that there was some other stuff that he left out, but didn't really know what do do about it, so he lumped it all in under "Simulationist".

I suggest that we relabel Gamism, Narrativism, and Simulationism to "Things Ron Edwards Dislikes", "Things Ron Edwards Likes", and "Things To Which Ron Edwards Is Indifferent".
Actually, to hear his detractors tell it, Edwards was mainly averse to Simulationism, and respects Gamism even if he doesn't actually groove with it. An early discussion on GNS called "The Beeg Horseshoe Theory" had him actually positing that Sim play was a kind of craven retreat from the responsibilities of G/N metagame, an idea that I would find laughable. However, I can only say that his views since then must have mellowed considerably- from what I can see, he bends over backwards to give Sim a fair shake in subsequent essays.

Much of this ire apparently stems from Simulationists' domination of discussion of the early Threefold model- and indeed of much RPG design, which resulted in a great deal of messy incoherence. (RPG designers are apparently much more heavily inclined toward Sim than actual players, who typically, left to their own devices, drift toward the N or G corners of the map.)

Edwards is also of the opinion that while G or N design represent an appeal to instinctive human urges that can be observed in many facets of everyday life, that Sim play is largely a social construct reinforced through peer pressure. Personally, I disagree. I reckon the existence of Sim video games that are played with no fixed objectives, no detectable story, and no external social pressure whatsoever is strong evidence that Sim play also evokes some primal human instinct. (I'd guess it's best manifested in the scientific method, and maybe certain forms of journalism or law.)

Saph
2009-09-10, 08:46 AM
You'll either have gone in the Gamist direction (pure convenience,) or the Nar/Sim direction (NOT pure convenience.) By your actions, you will have established that one or the other is fundamentally more important to you. You cannot be 100% focused on both.

False dilemma fallacy again. You don't need to be 100% focused on either.

Your reasoning is bad because you insist on only seeing this in terms of absolutes: you say that either you have to be absolutely focused on game or you have to be absolutely focused on story or you have to be absolutely focused on simulation. This is false. You can spend some time focusing on one, some time focusing on another, and some time focusing on the third. I can make one decision based on tactics and the next based on in-character motivations and the next based on what would make for a fun story, and I can combine them, too.

One time, I might choose game over story.
Another time, I might choose story over simulation.
Another time, I might choose simulation over game.

Let's take your example of choosing between convenience and ethics. Let's say that one day, I choose convenience.

The next day, I get a different problem which also forces a choice between convenience and ethics, and I choose ethics.

So which direction have I picked, Jill? Have I picked Game over everything? No. Have I picked Story over everything? No. The correct answer is "none of the above". And that's something GNS theory can't handle.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-10, 09:27 AM
I can make one decision based on tactics and the next based on in-character motivations and the next based on what would make for a fun story, and I can combine them, too.
So... one day you're going to say, through your actions, that "I will suffer X degree of inconvenience for belief Y", and the next day you'll say "Actually, belief Y isn't worth the inconvenience of X"? ...Really? Is that what you do? What's your character-concept here: "indecisive two-faced fence-sitter"?

I find that unlikely.

Let's take your example of choosing between convenience and ethics. Let's say that one day, I choose convenience. ...The next day, I get a different problem which also forces a choice between convenience and ethics, and I choose ethics.
Which 'ethics' are you talking about in each situation? You could be referring to totally different hangups that don't have any essential correlation at all- (e.g, "never using poison" as distinct from "never lying".)

All I can say is that if you really manage to play in this wishy-washy fashion, and manage to find an entire group of such players, then you have had substantially better luck than the rest of us.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-10, 09:41 AM
So... one day you're going to say, through your actions, that "I will suffer X degree of inconvenience for belief Y", and the next day you'll say "Actually, belief Y isn't worth the inconvenience of X"? ...Really? Is that what you do? What's your character-concept here: "indecisive two-faced fence-sitter"?

How did you get that from what he said?

Your character concept is not the same as what aspect of the game you are focusing on at the time.

Kalirren
2009-09-10, 10:02 AM
So... one day you're going to say, through your actions, that "I will suffer X degree of inconvenience for belief Y", and the next day you'll say "Actually, belief Y isn't worth the inconvenience of X"? ...Really? Is that what you do? What's your character-concept here: "indecisive two-faced fence-sitter"?

I find that unlikely.


Your character concept is not the same as what aspect of the game you are focusing on at the time.

I second this response. Sometimes when my current group makes decisions on what to focus on, it's based on what we need to do, or what we can do, rather than what we want to do. For example, to have enough details for us to react to when we're exploring character, we may need to switch gears and spend an hour or two exploring setting. That's a high-level trade-off. Sometimes we just can't afford to spend two hours of gameplay figuring out exactly how alliance structures shifted over a two-year period from 1512 to 1514, so we just posit that the vampire side of things, which we are more directly concerned about, is rather static, writing the discrepancy off to delays in communication between disparate social circles. That's a low-level trade off.

These sorts of OOC decisions are very common in any gaming group, indeed in any individual gaming experience. And they certainly don't lead our -characters- to get all wishy-washy, changing their stances and switching allegiances every hour or so of real play. I agree, that would be ridiculous, unless it was an integral part of the character concept(s) in question. But I really can't comprehend the confusion that would lead you to assume that one would lead to the other.

As I understand it, Saph's point was that over the course of a game that she(? don't tell me if you don't want to) would play and consider meaningful, one emphasizes all three aspects of game, story, and setting. One chooses what to emphasize at any given time, but there's a lot of time in a session, and a lot of sessions in a campaign. The choice you make at any given time does not exclude future choices from being made differently.

Besides, if you have an inherent problem with wishy-washy characters, then you have a very narrow view of narrative as a whole. I can understand not finding them sympathetic, but one encounters people like that so often that they're inherently interesting to play.

Saph
2009-09-10, 10:39 AM
What's your character-concept here: "indecisive two-faced fence-sitter"? . . .

All I can say is that if you really manage to play in this wishy-washy fashion . . .

And this is why I have no respect for your presentation of GNS theory. When confronted with a situation that your theory can't handle (a game without an exclusive 100% focus) your response is to start throwing insults.

If your theory is so insightful, why can't it handle such a simple method of play? And what does it say about you that the best response you can manage to this method of play is to dismiss it as "wishy-washy"?

Samurai Jill
2009-09-10, 10:50 AM
...And what does it say about you that the best response you can manage to this method of play is to dismiss it as "wishy-washy"?
It IS wishy-washy! You're describing a character with no spine, and then somehow claiming that one can role-play AND minmax AND protagonise without significant compromise. Which is nonsense.

Besides, if you have an inherent problem with wishy-washy characters, then you have a very narrow view of narrative as a whole. I can understand not finding them sympathetic...
But you can't make a protagonist out of them! Protagonists take a stand on something- even if there are limits to how far they'll take that belief, they don't just double-back for no apparent reason. You can't have a cohesive theme when the "message" is self-contradictory!

Tiki Snakes
2009-09-10, 11:05 AM
It IS wishy-washy! You're describing a character with no spine, and then somehow claiming that one can role-play AND minmax AND protagonise without significant compromise. Which is nonsense.

But you can't make a protagonist out of them! Protagonists take a stand on something- even if there are limits to how far they'll take that belief, they don't just double-back for no apparent reason. You can't have a cohesive theme when the "message" is self-contradictory!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protagonist

also;


n.

1. The main character in a drama or other literary work.
2. In ancient Greek drama, the first actor to engage in dialogue with the chorus, in later dramas playing the main character and some minor characters as well.
3.
a. A leading or principal figure
b. The leader of a cause; a champion.
4. Usage Problem. A proponent; an advocate.

Kalirren
2009-09-10, 11:08 AM
But you can't make a protagonist out of them!

Did it ever occur to you that you don't -have- to make a protagonist? Sometimes the point of an RP isn't to follow a protagonist along the arc of a story, it's just to explore the character. And if you do make a protagonist, sometimes the protagonist's crucial flaw -is- wishy-washiness. This goes back to what I was saying earlier, that the multi-author structure of RP is well-suited to exploring things that single-author structure finds difficult. One of these things is protagonist-less narrative.

Next thing you'll be telling me is that the protagonist either wins or loses.


It IS wishy-washy! You're describing a character with no spine, and then somehow claiming that one can role-play AND minmax AND protagonise without significant compromise. Which is nonsense.

So you say. I've played D&D from levels 1-3, made a decently min-maxed ranger for the game, and she's the oldest PbP character in my book, with 1 and a half years of RP to speak for it. She had complex relationships, grudges, love interests, everything that makes a dramatic character interesting, and she shared the protagonist's spotlight with three other PCs. I have -done- exactly what you -claim- to be nonsense. For the record, she had plenty of spine, too much for her own good.

Perhaps it would be good for you to set aside your theoretical mindset and play more. There are a lot of exclusive choices you claim exist which really don't, which can ultimately only be put up to either dishonesty in the form of a overly avid adherence to the Ron Edwards canon or a simple lack of experience. Either way, I'm sure you'll come around.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-10, 11:14 AM
Did it ever occur to you that you don't -have- to make a protagonist? Sometimes the point of an RP isn't to follow a protagonist along the arc of a story, it's just to explore the character.
You're absolutely right. But this isn't Narrativism, because it won't produce strong story. It's Simulationism. To get the former, you have to hit the characters with emotional conflicts, and they have to rise to the occasion, not just flip-flop from stance to stance.

And if you do make a protagonist, sometimes the protagonist's crucial flaw -is- wishy-washiness...
Show me a single example of strong drama where the central character's defining feature was 'never making up their mind'. It doesn't exist.

Tyndmyr
2009-09-10, 11:23 AM
Story is about more than just characters, though it includes them of course. And it's quite possible to have a strong story including characters that are flexible.

But, more importantly, flexibility of the player is not flexibility of the character. The focus of the player does not always impact the character.

Saph
2009-09-10, 11:26 AM
It IS wishy-washy! You're describing a character with no spine, and then somehow claiming that one can role-play AND minmax AND protagonise without significant compromise. Which is nonsense.

*laughs* You don't have the first clue whether the character's wishy-washy or not. There are more choices when making a character other than "Monomaniac" or "Spineless wimp". A well thought-out character will care about outcomes and will also have moral principles. You keep viewing games and characters through the lens of the same false dilemma - one extreme or the other, nothing in between.

Agrippa
2009-09-10, 11:28 AM
Yes, but the exact details of the conflict aren't as important, in story terms, as what you were fighting over in the first place. Beliefs and scruples and convictions actively interfere with tactical flexibility (just ask the Paladin.)

So you're saying that paladins have to be reckless idiots who spend their own troops like water for "honor" and "glory"? But wouldn't such tactical and strategic stupidity conflict with if not utterly contradict with supporting and believing in your cause? So shouldn't the ultimate measure of devotion to a cause include pursuing that cause intelligently as well as willingness to sacrifice for that cause if needed?

Kalirren
2009-09-10, 11:40 AM
You're absolutely right. But this isn't Narrativism, because it won't produce strong story. It's Simulationism. To get the former, you have to hit the characters with emotional conflicts, and they have to rise to the occasion, not just flip-flop from stance to stance.

What's your point? It's not as if Narrativism is the only valid way to play, but your argument that one would never play a wishy-washy character seems to be reliant on that premise. The argument, as I understand it, goes, "all games with cohesive themes are Narrativist, Narrativist games are composed entirely of Narrativist players, no Narrativist would ever play a wishy-washy character because they make crappy protagonists, (a questionable premise in itself, but you don't seem to see a problem with it), therefore no game with a cohesive theme would contain a wishy-washy character."

Am I misrepresenting your position, and if so, how?

And now to take apart that shoddy premise. (Not that the others aren't also shoddy, but...)


Show me a single example of strong drama where the central character's defining feature was 'never making up their mind'.

Ever heard of the game "Smoke Girls?" It's a game where the players play teenage girls who are addicted to smoking. They also have other, horrible things in their life that in general just keep them down, like other, worse drug addictions, abusive relationships, debt, you name it. It was a very socially controversial game premise for its time.

Now there are two big things in both life and system - Hope and Fear. These are modeled using two independent traits. Either can be rolled to aid in conflict, when it happens (and boy, it happens.). Fear is strong, and can increase without bound, but in the end doesn't help the girls achieve their dreams. Hope, on the other hand, starts out small, and can only grow if it isn't broken. The Hope stat increases only when it was successfully used and suffered no failures in a session.

In addition, a player can "Smoke", that is to say, hang out with one of the other players and ask for advice from that players' character about a problem they have. If they take the advice they receive a bonus on the contested roll to resolve that problem, if they ignore it they get a minus.

The Endgame is very simple. At any time, the player may request to make the Endgame roll. The player rolls Hope against a DC. Success means their character broke the cycle of poverty and oppression and went on to achieve their dreams. Failure means she's stuck.

That's the system. That's all of it, minus the numerical DCs and modifiers.

Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of wishy-washy characters in this game. It's a central character of the setting and a big element of the game's Premise that poverty and oppression cause people to not know what they want, to vacillate between rocks and hard places, and to end up doing things largely out of Fear, and never end up breaking that cycle. But occasionally you get glimmers of Hope, and sometimes people break out of it and end up empowered, able to strive for things they truly want.

This is a Narrativist game by design if I ever saw one.

kamikasei
2009-09-10, 11:43 AM
You're absolutely right. But this isn't Narrativism, because it won't produce strong story. It's Simulationism. To get the former, you have to hit the characters with emotional conflicts, and they have to rise to the occasion, not just flip-flop from stance to stance.

Do you ever think that hijacking a term like "Narrativism" and equating it to "Protagonism" is more than a little misleading? Why isn't it "Gamism, Simulationism, Protagonism"?

I mean, I've read plenty of stories that don't fall under your definition here. I just recently read a collection of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories, for example. Now, over the course of these stories the characters changed and developed, but pretty much every single story was just two well-defined characters finding themselves in situations and dealing with them. Are you going to tell me that those hugely entertaining yarns weren't really "strong story" because they weren't about the deep inner turmoil of the characters?

Tiki Snakes
2009-09-10, 11:47 AM
Do you ever think that hijacking a term like "Narrativism" and equating it to "Protagonism" is more than a little misleading? Why isn't it "Gamism, Simulationism, Protagonism"?

I mean, I've read plenty of stories that don't fall under your definition here. I just recently read a collection of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories, for example. Now, over the course of these stories the characters changed and developed, but pretty much every single story was just two well-defined characters finding themselves in situations and dealing with them. Are you going to tell me that those hugely entertaining yarns weren't really "strong story" because they weren't about the deep inner turmoil of the characters?

See above for definiton of and info on the concept of a 'protagonist'. Note, to my mind, that it doesn't seem to bare any relation to the offered concept of 'protagonism'.

Simply put, if you are a PC, you are by definition a protagonist. Job done.

Diamondeye
2009-09-10, 12:31 PM
Of course it is. The "campaign plan" implies that the plan doesn't change. You can't provide input into things that don't change. You're providing the illusion of creative participation when none exists. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is definitionally not colloboration on story!

Having a plan in no way implies that the plan doesn't change; in fact it will almost certainly change unless the DM engages in very clear railroading


DM: "Sure. You encounter a migration of Tarrasques. They form a long line all along the western plain. To the south is an impassable chasm. To the north are mountains. Better head back to the Duke's castle, hmm?"

This is really no different than saying "you can't do that". However, if the players decide to head out and the DM decides that the Duke will ambush them on the road in order to still have his climatic battle, that's NOT railroading. The players have changed the story without having to be "collaborating on the story" simply by making a strategic decision to go elsewhere: in addition to the tactical battlefield no being an outdoor road insted of the Duke's Hall, now rather than being the aggressors the players are the defenders which could change future social interactions, since now no one can claim they broke the Duke's door down and kicked his butt.


This is the obvious example, but no matter how gently you go about it it's the same thing- you're gradually funnelling the players towards predetermined thematic conclusions. They hows and the wherefores are just details as far as the overall "message" of events is concerned- you're making true protagonism impossible.

There is no such thing as "true protagonism". That's just a fancy way of saying "the type of story development Edwards happens to like". He uses it to shove the kinds he doesn't like under the label of "simulationism" by using the pejorative "illusionism" (unless that term is your addition, in which case it's you doing it) even though the elements he's trying to shove over have nothing to do with simulation andd everything to do with storyline and plot.

In fact we can see this is absurd just from other media; protagonists in fiction stories don't "collaborate" on their own plotlines; they're fictitious and do whatever the author says. A story where the DM comes up with most of the story and fits it around the details is still just as much a story/narrative as one where everyone collaborates.

This is why the theory is unworkable: It adds this unnecessary baggage in violation of parsimony, and to reinforce his ideas about the right/best way to play. There's no reason that the players need too collaborate on the story for them to either affect it, enjoy it, or have it as a major play focus. The only thing telling us it's necessary is the theory, and the theory's assertions cannot be evidence for themselves.

Fiery Diamond
2009-09-10, 01:37 PM
Ah, my long-awaited re-entry to this thread. (ok, not really, no one cares about me, but whatever)

First, just let me say "Yes, and thank you" to people such as Saph, Diamondeye, Tiki Snakes, and Kalirren, and the others who have posted similar things. Especially Saph, Diamondeye, and Kalirren.

Next, I think I will try to provide an example of the following (the bolded part, although the rest of the post is so good I'll keep it too):


False dilemma fallacy again. You don't need to be 100% focused on either.

Your reasoning is bad because you insist on only seeing this in terms of absolutes: you say that either you have to be absolutely focused on game or you have to be absolutely focused on story or you have to be absolutely focused on simulation. This is false. You can spend some time focusing on one, some time focusing on another, and some time focusing on the third. I can make one decision based on tactics and the next based on in-character motivations and the next based on what would make for a fun story, and I can combine them, too.

One time, I might choose game over story.
Another time, I might choose story over simulation.
Another time, I might choose simulation over game.

Let's take your example of choosing between convenience and ethics. Let's say that one day, I choose convenience.

The next day, I get a different problem which also forces a choice between convenience and ethics, and I choose ethics.

So which direction have I picked, Jill? Have I picked Game over everything? No. Have I picked Story over everything? No. The correct answer is "none of the above". And that's something GNS theory can't handle.

Let's say I'm a low-level fighter named Fiery. On Monday, I'm walking around town, trying to get to the blacksmith's shop to place an order for a new sword because my sword broke. Along the way, I encounter a gang of thugs armed with deadly weapons robbing someone. They aren't directly in my path the the blacksmith, but on a side street. Now I am an upright kind of guy and really want to help the victim out. I want to lay the smackdown on the bad guys and save the other guy. My blood boils to see such injustice. However, I hold myself back from attacking them or trying to get their attention away from him. Why? Those guys have deadly weapons, outnumber me, and look tough, while I am unarmed. I know that I'll be killed if I try to interfere, as I can't move as fast as they can (I'm wearing breastplate armor) so if I tried to draw their attention away and escape, they'd catch up, and if I went head to head, I'd lose. So, despite the horrible feeling it leaves me with, I continue onward. Because I've been in this town before, I know that telling the law-keepers won't do any good since they are all either super lazy or super old fighter types. I inform them anyway, though, because I want to do something. Then I place my order for the sword.

A few days later, I'm walking out of the blacksmith's with my new sword. On my way back to the inn to meet with the rest of my group, I encounter those thugs again, robbing yet another victim. The situation is slightly different than before - They: have deadly weapons, outnumber me, and look tough. I: have a deadly weapon, am outnumbered, and might be weaker than they are. This time, I still am likely to kick the bucket, but at least I have a weapon (a really good one) so I can dish out some hurt to the evil dudes. And maybe they'll run off if I finish one of them (which I'm fairly sure I can do, but I don't think I'm likely to survive it). My drive for justice takes a hold of me and I bravely go to interfere to save the victim.

There. Day One: Chose convenience over ethics - survival was valued over valiant death. Day Two: Chose ethics over convenience - very likely valiant death chosen over survival.

In this situation, I presented everything from the character's perspective - no metagame activity, and nothing from the "game" perspective.

Would it change anything, however, if I were to add something to the scenario? Like, say...

As Diamond, the player of Fiery, I know that mechanically speaking, I stink at unarmed combat. The slowed movement from wearing medium armor means I can't run away once I initiate confrontation. I also know that my DM will kill characters if the player is acting like an idiot, but he appreciates heroics. My character also has weapon proficiency, weapon focus, and weapon specialization with the bastard sword, and the sword he just obtained was a +1 Keen Bastard Sword houseruled to be non-magical (My character just knows that it is a really sharp and really good bastard sword).

Think on that for a moment - how do you know whether my decision was based on the mechanics and knowledge of the DM or on the way the character views the situation? The end result is the same - a non-stupid, but extremely heroic and risk-taking character who first chooses convenience on one day, and then chooses ethics on another. Not wishy-washy at all.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-12, 07:09 PM
...Furthermore, D&D already had a pre-packaged premise. The notion of awarding XP, gaining levels, gold and even XP for getting gold plays into the premise that the players are about personal advancement. They're supposed to be mercenary, even morally gray ladder climbers.
Yes, but those don't make particularly good protagonists. It also means that everybody has to play essentially the same character, over and over again, or be punished for it. Also, I would contend that a premise isn't a fixed set of answers, but rather, a provocative question. What your describing is a set of behavioural incentives that allow for only one correct answer in thematic terms.

All this suggests the premise that your character is a candidate for a rags-to-riches story. Not an epic hero. But a "pulp fantasy" protagonist.
To be honest, I think that's a bit of a disservice to pulp fantasy in it's original conception.

We know Conan's a badass, but the point in "People of the Black Circle" is that he's going to decide about this woman he's atrracted to- help her regain her political power or keep her as a partner? Because accomplishing both is impossible. We know Elric has this amazing demonic sword, but the point in Stormbringer is why he would defy the demon Arioch, who not only makes such power available but also, arguably, loves him. But that form of power and that form of love constitute slavery.
Sword-and-sorcery heroes are all about decisions.

If your quest is about destroying the One Ring and selfless heroism, it strikes me that a rules set that rewards looting gold off your enemies and gaining XP does not support that premise.
You're absolutely right. No question.

It's a deadly notion that the "epic" fantasy is somehow more narrativistic than the "low" fantasy. They merely work from different premises and should be treated accordingly. The current D&D has fans that more heavily favors the "epic fantasy" approach, where mere mortal concerns such as food supplies, torches and rope are unimportant.
Again, I don't think rigorous logistics played a particularly important role in sword-and-sorcery either. (Heck, I reckon LotR played more attention to the characters' inventories.) But I take your point.

There's a difference between writing down mathematical laws and creating a abstracted resolution for certain events that can't simply be refereed by the DM with impartiality, hence the luck of the dice. The mechanics should only help suspend disbelief. They're not there to outline the details of some virtual reality down to an exact science.
Well, that depends on your priorities in play. Some Simulationist players get an active pleasure out of this sort of thing, but I certainly agree it doesn't complement Narrativist play especially well.

Holding onto notions of "leveling" and "getting loot" becomes merely a matter of form and tradition, without regard to a change in premise. Then the "new simulationism" demanded "good" and "evil" in the alignment axis, creating a subtle thematic shift. And in 3e mechanics, simulationism means that the rules are baroque and detailed but lack coherence.

No wonder that the balance of GNS approaches are out of whack! Current D&D systems holds elements of those considerations, but have no overall design philosophy that lends coherency.
I personally think that 4E D&D is a pretty coherent Gmist system, but I absolutely agree that 2E and 3E suffered badly from expressing mixed priorities in exactly the fashion you describe.

Anyways, sorry for taking so long to reply, but I do have something of a backlog already... I think you have an excellent take on the overall subject here.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-12, 09:24 PM
Ever heard of the game "Smoke Girls?" It's a game where the players play teenage girls who are addicted to smoking...
The whole point to Nicotine Girls IS to make up your mind! That's what the entire game revolves around. Sooner or later, you have to swallow your fear and go for your dreams- without any hard guarantee that you'll get them. It's one of the rawest, most harrowing forms of Narrativist play out there, but it is absolutely and expressly about committing yourself to a higher aspiration.


So you're saying that paladins have to be reckless idiots who spend their own troops like water for "honor" and "glory"? But wouldn't such tactical and strategic stupidity conflict with if not utterly contradict with supporting and believing in your cause? So shouldn't the ultimate measure of devotion to a cause include pursuing that cause intelligently as well as willingness to sacrifice for that cause if needed?
Paladins are not allowed to use poison. They are not allowed to lie. They are not allowed to willingly associated with Evil characters. They are, as a general thing, expected to give due quarter, not attack without fair warning, never strike an unarmed or defenceless opponent, etc. etc. etc. There is nothing inherently Evil about any of these things- certainly no more inherently evil than repeatedly impaling people on bits of exquisitely pointy metal. It all depends on the circumstances.

The whole point to the Paladin- the central crux of the concept- is to employ awful, blood-soaked, adrenaline-pumping violence in pursuit of a higher good. That's why they're not called (for example) "missionaries". But I digress!

-All of this adds up to a fairly substantial operating disadvantage in a wide variety of situations. It's also an example of how Gamist concerns are almost impossible to balance with Sim or Nar concerns, because precisely how inconvenient these will be depends almost entirely on the whims of the GM. If the player is presented with lots of clearly irredeemable opponents who attack from the front, never surrender, and are largely immune to poison, then these ethical restrictions are complete non-issues. If the player is confronted with an ideal opportunity to slip arsenic unnoticed into the BBEG's cup, that's a different matter. Whether a particular degree of divine 'character-compensation' for these hangups (in terms of raw combat ability, spells, etc.) is enough, too much, or too little, is impossible to judge with certainty from a design standpoint. It can't be done.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-12, 09:29 PM
Here's the problem with GNS. Edwards took the kinds of things he liked in RPGs (stories, characterization) and called them "Narrativist". Then he took the kinds of things he didn't like in RPGs (rules, munchkins, fun) and called them "Gamist"...
Oh- one other thing. "Fun" is not restricted to Gamist play by any means. The big observation here is that different people have different instinctive definitions of "fun" in the first place. Narrativism IS fun, for Narrativists! Simulationism IS fun, for Simulationists! And yes, Gamism IS fun, for Gamists!


...Are you going to tell me that those hugely entertaining yarns weren't really "strong story" because they weren't about the deep inner turmoil of the characters?
Well, let me see:
http://www.stormbringer.net/mouser.html

...Where we learn of the humble beginnings of Fafhrd, the northern barbarian and see some of his motivations and peculiar spirit that make him such an interesting character...

...In which our two heroes finally meet and how a firm friendship begins and is sorely tested...

...In which we find that time indeed heals all wounds and the grievous loss of their first loves is properly mourned...

...A journey across barren lands leads to the discovery of a distant howling and Fafhrd's disappearance. A sprint towards a lone tower takes Mouser to the rescue...

...Upon reaching Rime isle they find a mystery and discover aide from two long lost gods from another time and place. A battle for freedom turns to a battle against suicide as the gods, wizards, and invisible folk join the fray with their own agenda for the folk of Rime Isle. And at last a home is discovered and the chance for a peaceful productive life is taken.
Right. No emotional conflict. No significant commitments made. ...Sure.

Jesse: I'm just still a little confused between Narrativism and Simulationism where the Situation has a lot of ethical/moral problems embedded in it and the GM uses no Force techniques to produce a specific outcome. I don't understand how Premise-expressing elements can be included and players not be considered addressing a Premise when they can't resolve the Situation without doing so.

Me: There is no such Simulationism. You're confused between Narrativism and Narrativism, looking for a difference when there isn't any.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-12, 09:45 PM
...Simply put, if you are a PC, you are by definition a protagonist. Job done.

This is really no different than saying "you can't do that". However, if the players decide to head out and the DM decides that the Duke will ambush them on the road in order to still have his climatic battle, that's NOT railroading.
Of course not- it's Illusionism. You have robbed the players of thematic decision-making. Their decisions are simply not allowed to have any larger significance within the story. As far as the address of premise is concerned, choosing whether to fight the duke or not was the whole point- the key emotional crux to events- and you've robbed them of that. You have dictated right and wrong to the players and overridden their ethical autonomy.

And, having said all that, there is nothing inherently bad about that if ethical autonomy, moral exploration, and wrenching emotional decisions weren't what the players were primarily interested by in the first place. This is perfectly possible. But it precludes all possibility of player protagonism.

*laughs* You don't have the first clue whether the character's wishy-washy or not. There are more choices when making a character other than "Monomaniac" or "Spineless wimp".
Protagonists are certainly allowed to change their beliefs- but they do so under specific circumstances, when subjected to an emotional challenge on that specific front. What you are describing makes that impossible, because your character would never commit to a viewpoint long enough for it to really be a viewpoint. You'd have no discernible thematic input.

I'm not saying you can't have fun this way. What I object to is this idea that the approach doesn't involve significant compromise: that you can have your Game and have your Sim and have your Narrative and eat them too. You're getting- at most- one-and-a-half out of 3.
What's been described is a compromise- of sorts- between Gamism and Simulationism that has killed Narrativism, stone-dead. The character you're describing might allow you to passably role-play and, at the same time, passably address tactical efficiency, but this idea of switching back-and-forth on key emotional issues for no compelling reason makes protagonism flatly impossible. There's no drama there.

Aik
2009-09-12, 10:22 PM
Apologies to anyone I said I was going to respond to, but I think I need to bow out of these threads for now. I've just been clobbered by assignments and my Windows installation basically decided that BSoD was the way to go forever. Until these things are sorted out I definitely don't have the time to pontificate about RPG theory :p

Serenity
2009-09-13, 12:02 AM
Of course not- it's Illusionism. You have robbed the players of thematic decision-making. Their decisions are simply not allowed to have any larger significance within the story. As far as the address of premise is concerned, choosing whether to fight the duke or not was the whole point- the key emotional crux to events- and you've robbed them of that. You have dictated right and wrong to the players and overridden their ethical autonomy.

And, having said all that, there is nothing inherently bad about that if ethical autonomy, moral exploration, and wrenching emotional decisions weren't what the players were primarily interested by in the first place. This is perfectly possible. But it precludes all possibility of player protagonism.

This is quite frankly, a disingenous statement. I notice you did not quote his statement that, by not attacking the Duke, and instead being ambushed, they might, for example, change the public perception of the event. The manner in which the PCs work to achieve the goals that have been set for them is as important as the goals themselves in exploring the premise of the character. In fact, I would argue it's infinitely more important. That a character wishes to take down a local crime lord tells you nothing more than that he doesn't like that person. That he chooses to do so by guile versus immediate force of arms tells you much more, as would whether he makes every attempt to keep the villain alive to be tried, or gives no quarter. And these are exactly the sort of decisions that so-called 'Illusionism' can accommodate. The events that happen are, on the whole, irrelevant to exploring the characters. It is how the characters behave and react in response to those events that defines who they are.

And it would bear pointing out again: Frodo never actually made any choices, nor did the cast of Firefly. They were not involved in the creation of their stories, by your definition of the terms. Their every word and action was predetermined by Tolkien and Whedon. In that sense, a player in an 'Illusionist' D&D game has more freedom to explore his character than Nathan Fillion had to explore Mal Reynolds.

Fhaolan
2009-09-13, 01:11 AM
In that sense, a player in an 'Illusionist' D&D game has more freedom to explore his character than Nathan Fillion had to explore Mal Reynolds.

Amusingly, the only time I'm aware of Nathan playing an RPG (it was at a con), he played River in a Serenity game.

I really wish I had been a fly on the wall for that one.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-13, 09:30 AM
...Seconded.


...That a character wishes to take down a local crime lord tells you nothing more than that he doesn't like that person. That he chooses to do so by guile versus immediate force of arms tells you much more, as would whether he makes every attempt to keep the villain alive to be tried, or gives no quarter.
That comparison might be valid, except that the PCs didn't make any such decision here- the ambush was imposed upon them without any deliberation or consent. It was a non-choice. The players sent a clear message here- killing the Duke would not be the right thing to do here. And that was ignored.

And not liking an NPC can be a hugely important form of thematic input- depending on what the factors were that made the NPC unlikeable, compared with those which would arguably make him/her sympathetic. That's sending a clear message about which qualities are more ethically significant from the PC's perspective.

...It is how the characters behave and react in response to those events that defines who they are.
Right. And their reaction was 'don't kill the Duke'.

GM: BZZZT! Wrong answer!

...Their every word and action was predetermined by Tolkien and Whedon. In that sense, a player in an 'Illusionist' D&D game has more freedom to explore his character than Nathan Fillion had to explore Mal Reynolds.
Oh, absolutely. But unless the Impossible Thing is exorcised completely, players are just improvising their lines within a predetermined story. And again, either option can be a perfectly functional, enjoyable, fun mode of play- but the techniques which complement each are, in practice, drastically different.

ATTENTION PLEASE:
*coughs nervously*
Umm... I rewrote the initial post a bit for better clarity, with some more excerpts for illustrative purposes. Hope that helps. ...I'm done now.
*sits down again*

Zombimode
2009-09-13, 10:29 AM
...Seconded.
That comparison might be valid, except that the PCs didn't make any such decision here- the ambush was imposed upon them without any deliberation or consent. It was a non-choice. The players sent a clear message here- killing the Duke would not be the right thing to do here. And that was ignored.

The PCs made a decision not to attack the duke. This decision they made, or would you contest that?

I guess not.

NOW, the World reacts to this decision.
The only meaningful measurment relevant for the story is how plausibel this reaction is. I dont know why the motives of the DM should enter the picture at all.

Lovecraft worte his stories probaly because he had quiet a lot of issues if you get my drift. But when evaluating his stories this becomes utterly meaningless.

I get the impression that the only form of contributing to a story you accept is the way of player having control not only over their characters but over parts of the world as well.

You haven't provided any argument why (or, if I missed it, could you point out, where you did?) player who control is limited on their characters can't contribute to a stroy.

Serenity
2009-09-13, 02:59 PM
That comparison might be valid, except that the PCs didn't make any such decision here- the ambush was imposed upon them without any deliberation or consent. It was a non-choice. The players sent a clear message here- killing the Duke would not be the right thing to do here. And that was ignored.

They made a decision not to attack the Duke--whether because they feared for their lives in doing so, or thought the cause would be better/more justly served by presenting evidence of his misdeeds to the King, or whatever. An event was presented, and they made a choice, which, inherently tells us something about the characters. Now, as they travel to their new destination, a new event is presented, as they discover that the Duke is unwilling to let them escape his domain. How do they react to this information? Do they try to disable their opponents without killing them and continue their flight? Do they slay the Duke? If they try the former, and accidentally accomplish the latter, how does this accident make them feel? They continue to explore their characters, react truthfully, and indeed, their actions have changed the story.

Put another way...imagine Firefly played out as a roleplaying game. Imagine the episode Ariel. Jayne has made secret plans to sell out Simon and Rver to the Alliance, intending to lead them into an ambush after the hospital job. Now we know he does just this in the actual episode. Imagine, then, that in the RPG version, Adam, the player of Jayne, decides that seeing River's brain scan, and realizing the horror what the Alliance had done to her, inspires remorse in him, and he has Jayne lead Simon and River out of a different door than he had told the Alliance about. We have just witnessed a major character shift, the mere attempt telling us something new about Jayne. The story is suddenly different. And that revelation, that shift, has happened regardless of whether Joss, the DM, lets him get away with it, or decrees that the Alliance had the whole hospital surrounded.


And not liking an NPC can be a hugely important form of thematic input- depending on what the factors were that made the NPC unlikeable, compared with those which would arguably make him/her sympathetic. That's sending a clear message about which qualities are more ethically significant from the PC's perspective.

That's still my point, in a way. The character's dislike, in and of itself, is meaningless. If I say 'I'm creating a character who hates this crime lord', that could fit any number of concepts: the tireless crusader for good, a former victim out for revenge, or even an equally despicable man who wants what the crime lord has. It is in the nature of the dislike, in the whys and hows, that tell the story. Likewise, it is not the outcome of the events the players face that define them, but in what they try to achieve, why they try, and how they try.


Oh, absolutely. But unless the Impossible Thing is exorcised completely, players are just improvising their lines within a predetermined story. And again, either option can be a perfectly functional, enjoyable, fun mode of play- but the techniques which complement each are, in practice, drastically different.

That dances around my point; even if we accept such a premise as the Impossible Thing as truth, players limited by the Impossible Thing are still inherently exploring their characters and premise more than if they were in a TV show, let alone a book. Remember the Firefly example I mentioned above? In an RPG, Adam can make that choice. In Firefly the TV show, Adam Baldwin cannot decide that Jayne has a change of heart; only Joss can.And it is in those very choices that story unfolds.

I can run a a dozen different games, all of which feature the same evil queen to be overthrown, the same set of monsters, the same items. But since the players define their characters and how they react to the unfolding events, the story will be different every time.

kamikasei
2009-09-13, 03:25 PM
Right. No emotional conflict. No significant commitments made. ...Sure.

Have you read the stories in question? I get the impression the answer is no, but if so it seems very strange for you to look up a plot summary in order to tell me what the stories I read were like. I want to confirm what you're basing your position on before I go any deeper in to the matter.

Diamondeye
2009-09-13, 07:40 PM
Of course not- it's Illusionism. You have robbed the players of thematic decision-making. Their decisions are simply not allowed to have any larger significance within the story. As far as the address of premise is concerned, choosing whether to fight the duke or not was the whole point- the key emotional crux to events- and you've robbed them of that. You have dictated right and wrong to the players and overridden their ethical autonomy.

Aside from the fact that I said the Duke ambushed the PCs, thus preserving their decision, it doesn't matter who does the thematic decision-making for the game to be story-oriented. That's an unnecessary extra qualification in the N part of GNS that robs it of parsimony,


And, having said all that, there is nothing inherently bad about that if ethical autonomy, moral exploration, and wrenching emotional decisions weren't what the players were primarily interested by in the first place. This is perfectly possible. But it precludes all possibility of player protagonism.

No it doesn't. That has nothing to do with "protagonism", nor is it a necessary qualification for the theory.


Protagonists are certainly allowed to change their beliefs- but they do so under specific circumstances, when subjected to an emotional challenge on that specific front. What you are describing makes that impossible, because your character would never commit to a viewpoint long enough for it to really be a viewpoint. You'd have no discernible thematic input.

This statement is not only irrelevant, but pretty much incomprehensible. It certainly has nothing to do with anything I'm talking about.


I'm not saying you can't have fun this way. What I object to is this idea that the approach doesn't involve significant compromise: that you can have your Game and have your Sim and have your Narrative and eat them too. You're getting- at most- one-and-a-half out of 3.
What's been described is a compromise- of sorts- between Gamism and Simulationism that has killed Narrativism, stone-dead. The character you're describing might allow you to passably role-play and, at the same time, passably address tactical efficiency, but this idea of switching back-and-forth on key emotional issues for no compelling reason makes protagonism flatly impossible. There's no drama there.

That's silly. All you're doing is describing narritivism in such a narrow and convoluted way as to make it "killed of" by imposing baggage on it totally unnecessary to describe gamer behavior. In fact, it actually impedes this goal becuase it ships some story-oriented behavior elsewhere for... no reason.

Diamondeye
2009-09-13, 07:45 PM
That comparison might be valid, except that the PCs didn't make any such decision here- the ambush was imposed upon them without any deliberation or consent. It was a non-choice. The players sent a clear message here- killing the Duke would not be the right thing to do here. And that was ignored.

You do realize that, by definition, ambushes are conducted without consent? Can villians in what you define as "narritivist" worlds never ambush anyone for fear of damaging the protagonism of the players they aren't aware of?

That sounds pretty silly, but it appears to be the case. Moreover, no one ever said the players decided not to attack the duke because it's wrong; they just decided not to. Maybe they thought his throne room was too well-defended and the ill-performed ambush gave them the opportunity?

This is why the theory is not parsimonious and not useful. It artificially constricts one third of its description down to a very narrow field of play, and does so for no discernable reason other than to differentiate "what Edwards likes" from everything else.

Samurai Jill
2009-09-13, 08:27 PM
Aside from the fact that I said the Duke ambushed the PCs, thus preserving their decision...
This is like saying that a guy in a 10x10-foot-cell is 'free', because he can always decide to move to another corner of the room, and not being able to move more than 10 feet doesn't mean he couldn't head north.

...it doesn't matter who does the thematic decision-making for the game to be story-oriented...
A game is, first and foremost, an interactive thing. Your story is non-interactive. Ergo, it is not the game's primary focus. Period.

I've just had an epiphany- this discussion is not worth continuing. I am going to move on to essays for Gamism and a general summary of GNS, and then you can deny the terms and definitions here all you please. But I honestly have better things to do than argue the subject indefinitely with people with a vested emotional interest in not understanding the issue.

The New Bruceski
2009-09-13, 08:35 PM
I've just had an epiphany- this discussion is not worth continuing. I am going to move on to essays for Gamism and a general summary of GNS, and then you can deny the terms and definitions here all you please. But I honestly have better things to do than argue the subject indefinitely with people with a vested emotional interest in not understanding the issue.

As opposed to someone with a vested emotional interest in not admitting defeat?

Samurai Jill
2009-09-13, 08:50 PM
As opposed to someone with a vested emotional interest in not admitting defeat?
Oh, no- hey, consider it admitted. Please. Go on. Pretend I'm not even here.

Yukitsu
2009-09-13, 08:54 PM
This is like saying that a guy in a 10x10-foot-cell is 'free', because he can always decide to move to another corner of the room, and not being able to move more than 10 feet doesn't mean he couldn't head north.

More accurately, it's like how we're "free" despite things like laws, gravity keeping us fairly earth bound, and how we're stuck in puny flesh sacks that can't even survive a few night's carousing.

Diamondeye
2009-09-13, 08:57 PM
This is like saying that a guy in a 10x10-foot-cell is 'free', because he can always decide to move to another corner of the room, and not being able to move more than 10 feet doesn't mean he couldn't head north.

By the same token, the players in one of your "narritivist" games set in the Old West aren't free because they can't choose to fly an X-Wing fighter. Being "free to choose" doesn't mean that the rest of the universe has to accomadate your choice.


A game is, first and foremost, an interactive thing. Your story is non-interactive. Ergo, it is not the game's primary focus. Period.

This is absurd. Aside from the fact that the players clearly ARE interacting with the DM (hence the ambush on the raod vs the deliberate attack on the castle), none of this in any way means the story is not the primary focus. You have shown no reason WHY the story must be dictated by the players to be the focus. Ergo, nothing, period, nothing. The theory fails.


I've just had an epiphany- this discussion is not worth continuing. I am going to move on to essays for Gamism and a general summary of GNS, and then you can deny the terms and definitions here all you please. But I honestly have better things to do than argue the subject indefinitely with people with a vested emotional interest in not understanding the issue.

I think there's a reason for that. You've picked out just a few fragments of my points to respond to. You completely ignored the one about how your assertion of "player choice" means things like ambushes can never happen. You've also not addressed one thing about why these convolutions are necessary to this theory.

I really don't think there is an answer other than that this theory is, in reality, not accurate, useful, or worthwhile. I really don't see how people can have a vested emotional interest in not understanding the issue - in fact, it's really not even clear what issue you're referring to.

Fiery Diamond
2009-09-13, 09:58 PM
Samurai also completely ignored my post, but since he left and the only ones in this thread are the ones who think the theory is bunk (myself included), there really isn't much point in discussing it.

Kalirren
2009-09-13, 11:09 PM
A game is, first and foremost, an interactive thing. Your story is non-interactive. Ergo, it is not the game's primary focus. Period.

That's just rhetoric. In the group I played where we were actig out characters inside the DM's story, there was still plenty of interactivity going on between our characters and the events unfolding around us. And the story, as viewed through our characters' perspective, was pretty much the -only- focus of the game. OOC we would have walked away from a session pretty unhappy if the DM hadn't put significant effort into writing that episode of the story.

It's one thing to argue about theory, but it's another to completely disregard peoples' play experiences when they're offered in reponse to theory. Who's got a vested emotional interest here, me in my game, which is over and done with, or you in your theory?