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Author Topic: Confused about Bangs...  (Read 7894 times)
Andrew Cooper
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« on: March 24, 2004, 11:56:08 AM »

In a recent thread, a debate occurred on the proper usage of the term Bang.  Like the person I was disagreeing with, I like for my terms in these types of forums to be well-defined so that reasonable discussion can take place without a lot of misunderstanding.  The definition given for a Bang was from Ron's essay on Narrativism.

Quote
Bangs

Introducing events into the game which make a thematically-significant or at least evocative choice necessary for a player. The term is taken from the rules of Sorcerer.


I have some problems with the definition.  As a disclaimer, I just want to say that I'm not starting this thread in order to continue an argument just for argument's sake nor do I just feel like I have to be right.  I genuinely want to know what it is I'm talking about when I use the term "bang" for the sake of clarity.

First, does a Bang have to address Premise or Theme? In the definition, as I read it, a bang is an event that forces the player to make a choice that is either thematically-significant or is evocative.  The argument has been raised that evocative in this definition is implicitly tied to theme.  I don't think that is necessarily supported by the definition itself.  The hyphenated term "thematically-significant" is a single term and separate from the phrase "at least evocative" as the two parts of an either-or statement.  If evocative was tied specifically to Theme then the phrasing would have been "a thematically significant or evocative choice".  I read evocative to simply mean thought provoking or emotionally charged. Perhaps other discussions that have gone on before this have tied Bang to Theme but I've only been on the Forums for a week and  only have the one definition in the essay to go on.

Second, are Bangs inextricably tied to a Narrativist mode of play?  I look at Bangs as a technique and would argue that it does not necessarily imply any specific Creative Agenda.  There's plenty of room in Sim and Gamist play for thought-provoking choices forced upon players.  If Bangs do map 1:1 to Narrativist play styles, I question the necessity of having a the term that narrowly defined.  There's not a significant difference in the same technique used with another CA... at least that I can see.

I want to be clear when using the term Bang, just like any other term used in these Forums.  I'm not trying to be obtuse here either.  Opinions are welcome even dissenting ones.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2004, 12:41:54 PM »

Hello,

You are correct about two things, and I can see how that might lead to confusion. I'll start by naming the two things and then move on to clarifying the confusing part.

Thing 1: Delivering Bangs is indeed a Technique, and as such cannot be identified strictly with any single Creative Agenda.

Thing 2: Bangs were identified, defined, and named in the context of Narrativist play, and as such, their equivalents in Simulationist or Gamist play are not well-understood.

Now to clarify.

A) Can you have non-Narrativist Bangs?

Yes, but they will not resemble the Narrativist ones, and I don't see any reason to give them names. Here's why.

Ai) The Gamist Bang-equivalents will identify moments of true Challenge, in which player strategy and guts are really under pressure. I'm sure a number of people here will recognize, in certain Gamist experiences, how annoying a non-Bangy moment is. The big difficulty for Gamist Bangs, as illustrated in a recent thread about D&D and hobgoblins attacking a town, is to make sure that everyone in play understands what scale they operate at.

Why don't I talk about Gamist Bangs? Because the whole term "Bang" in a Gamist context is already subsumed in my definition of Challenge in the Gamist essay, and therefore if it's never applied to Gamist play, we lose no information.

Aii) The Simulationist Bang-equivalent is much different from those for Narrativist and Gamist play, which are structurally equivalent to one another. One of the features of Simulationist play is that the kind of pressure to perform that you find in Narrativist and Gamist play is relaxed. So it's accurate to say the whole setup for the session is a Bang-equivalent, insofar as you are playing at all. From a primarily-Narrativist or primarily-Gamist viewpoint, such a Bang is no Bang at all. From a Simulationist one, it's perfectly sufficient.

B) I shall clarify the "evocative" phrase that seems to be frustrating you and others. Read it as:

Quote
which make a thematically-significant or at least thematically-evocative choice necessary


... which keeps it firmly in the realm of Narrativist play, in the sense that the choice is literally left open and in the hands of whoever happens to be responsible for the character in question.

To sum up:

The key issue for a Bang is precisely that it opens the door for an important choice. If that choice constitutes Addressing Premise, then you have a Narrativist Bang.

If it constitutes Stepping On Up, then you are looking at an instance of Challenge (already named).

If it constitutes making use of the Right to Dream, then you are looking at an instance of Simulationist play. Since the particular Bang, unlike the former two, may apply to the entire instance and thus be spread evenly over quite a long period of real time, it's not meaningful to distinguish it by a special name.

Does any of that help? In other words, I am validating your perfectly accurate observation that Simulationist and Gamist play clearly must include the equivalent possible techniques as Bangs, but also pointing out that the definition of the term is associated with its use in Narrativist play, historically.

Best,
Ron
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montag
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2004, 12:43:54 PM »

[edited to note that I cross-posted with Ron ;) to my embarrassment ;) ]

going from what I understand to be the general consensus, namely that techniques are not tied to particular CAs (though of course some combinations are more useful and common than others) I think it's possible to answer your first question from that.
For as I understood it in Sim oder Gam play, Premise doesn't really matter. Hence, usage of bangs in Sim and Narr play needn't be concerned with premise and thus bangs in themselves are not tied to the concept of addressing premise. (Otherwise bangs would be a Narr-only tool, see above).

Let's see what the experts say ;)
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markus
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"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
--B. F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969)
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2004, 12:46:38 PM »

Thanks Ron!  I am now clear.
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Alan
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2004, 01:08:49 PM »

I've posted suggested names for non-narrativist bangs in a new thread in GNS Theory:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10380" >Bangs, Crises, and Inciting Events
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Lisa Padol
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2004, 02:07:32 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
A) Can you have non-Narrativist Bangs?

Yes, but they will not resemble the Narrativist ones, and I don't see any reason to give them names.


Gotcha. Makes sense.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Aii) The Simulationist Bang-equivalent is much different from those for Narrativist and Gamist play, which are structurally equivalent to one another. One of the features of Simulationist play is that the kind of pressure to perform that you find in Narrativist and Gamist play is relaxed. So it's accurate to say the whole setup for the session is a Bang-equivalent, insofar as you are playing at all. From a primarily-Narrativist or primarily-Gamist viewpoint, such a Bang is no Bang at all. From a Simulationist one, it's perfectly sufficient.


Not sure I'm following this, which is only possibly a problem where I get confused later on. (Sorry for plodding through this, but when the wires get crossed, it sometimes helps to follow them to see where it happened.)

Quote
which make a thematically-significant or at least thematically-evocative choice necessary

... which keeps it firmly in the realm of Narrativist play, in the sense that the choice is literally left open and in the hands of whoever happens to be responsible for the character in question.


I thought I followed that, but reading the rest, I'm now not so sure. That is, at this point, I thought you were saying Bang=Choice. This part seems clear.

Here's where I think I get lost.

Quote
If that choice constitutes Addressing Premise, then you have a Narrativist Bang.

If it constitutes Stepping On Up, then you are looking at an instance of Challenge (already named).

If it constitutes making use of the Right to Dream, then you are looking at an instance of Simulationist play. Since the particular Bang, unlike the former two, may apply to the entire instance and thus be spread evenly over quite a long period of real time, it's not meaningful to distinguish it by a special name.


What is "Addressing Premise"?

What is "Right to Dream"?

Suppose the game has a Theme along the lines of "What will you do to get power?" and the GM uses as a bang

-- NPC says, "I'm pregnant with your child"
-- PC's dead ex-wife is waiting for him at home
-- NPC rival beaten for a promotion by the PC pulls a gun on the PC in the bathroom

Are any of these bangs? If not, what are they? If so, which kind and why?

-Lisa
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beingfrank
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2004, 08:03:03 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
To sum up:

The key issue for a Bang is precisely that it opens the door for an important choice. If that choice constitutes Addressing Premise, then you have a Narrativist Bang.


Ok, just getting this clear in my head.  So does that mean that the key element that makes something a Bang is not the event itself, but the way that it is experienced?  So the same event can be taken as leading to player choice on theme/premise making it a Bang, player challenge in a tricky situation making it a Challenge, or new detail in the player's exploration of setting, character, etc. making it Something Without A Name?

This is where I get confused, because I was under the impression that GNS theory veered away from subjective experiential elements where possible.

Delivering Bangs is a cross CA technique, but actually refers to the technique of using a certain class of events which have unique meanings, and roles in the broader game, according to CA.  Only one of those meanings/roles is a Bang, the others are not Bangs.  So maybe it would be helpful to have a name for the class of events or the Delivering Bangs technique that works across all three CA?

Ok, I think I'm clear, at least in my own head.

Claire Bickell
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Alan
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2004, 08:43:50 PM »

Claire:

I don't believe that Ron is saying that both a bang and a challenge are kinds of choices.  What he's saying is that they express the epitome of performance for a particular creative agenda.  

A bang is an event that offers a thematically-significant _choice_ - the key moment in narrativist play.  (It's important to understand that a bang is distinct from a simple inciting event.  Inciting events are common in all kinds of play, as are ordinary choices.)

A challenge is an event that offers a chance to demonstrate strategy and tactics in overcoming something.  The key moment in gamist play.

The sim equivalent is not a single event, but, I suspect, an endurance test, maintaining a exploration within certain parameters for a session.
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- Alan

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beingfrank
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« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2004, 09:33:55 PM »

Quote from: Alan
Claire:

I don't believe that Ron is saying that both a bang and a challenge are kinds of choices.  What he's saying is that they express the epitome of performance for a particular creative agenda.


I didn't mean to imply that Ron was saying that.  I was trying to understand the differences across creative agendas.  There is a class of event/situation (thought provoking choices, perhaps) that was originally called a Bang in the start of this discussion, but which is not always Bang because it's not dependent on creative agenda.  This event/situation is the result of the technique Delivering Bangs.  I'm trying to get at the particular aspects of that event/situation that interact with creative agenda to make it a Bang when it's Narrativist play, or something else, when it's not.

Quote
A bang is an event that offers a thematically-significant _choice_ - the key moment in narrativist play.  (It's important to understand that a bang is distinct from a simple inciting event.  Inciting events are common in all kinds of play, as are ordinary choices.)

A challenge is an event that offers a chance to demonstrate strategy and tactics in overcoming something.  The key moment in gamist play.

The sim equivalent is not a single event, but, I suspect, an endurance test, maintaining a exploration within certain parameters for a session.


I think this is where we're talking about different things.  I'd interpreted the original framing of the discussion as 'thought provoking choices, can they be used for non-narrativist play, and how does the use of them as such differ theoretically from a Bang?'

Thought provoking choices, as a class of event, and the technique for creating them, strikes me as useful in all kinds of play.  So I was really trying to go a step beyond and look at what aspects of that event interact with the creative agenda to produce the different results (in terms of the effect on the game).

I'm not sure if I'm making things more or less clear.  I have an overwhelming urge for a whiteboard.  Diagrams would make this much easier to explain.

Claire Bickell
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Brother Adso
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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2004, 07:02:59 PM »

I think (to some degree) the ideas of Bang and narrative Turning Point are being conflated in this discussion.  Though many events can be extremely important to a player, or to the continuation of a story, these don't neccessarrily constitute Bangs.  Nor does a traditional identity statement (All bangs are turning points but not all turning points are bangs) seem to quite capture the relationship between these.

I think that, to try to answer Claire's question, the key element of a Bang which interacts with the agenda and/or GNS type of the game is a combination of three important factors:
1) Applicability to player goal (based on GNS type)
2) Evocation of atmosphere (For Gamists/Simists) or agenda (for Narrativists).
3) Effect on game-state.

Each of these factors is important, but a great deal of one can make up for deficiencies in another, often depending on the players in question.  To clarify each one individually:

1) Applicability to player goal means that a Bang will, for narrativists, provide a crucial way in which to create a better story, for example.  Or, for a Gamist, a bang (Challenge) will provide a way for the player to attain power/wealth/show cleverness.  This goal is the most controversial and dependent on the type of game being run, but is also the crux of this debate in many ways.  People have been conflating this aspect, which is very dependent on  GNS type, with the other two, which are more or less independent of GNS type.

2)  The evocation of atmosphere means that anything qualifying as a Bang will bring to the forefront the 'essential ingredient' of playing, as opposed to peripheral concerns or agendas.  For example, a Bang in a deeply supernatural-horror game focused on survival, be it narrativist, simulationist, or gamist, will probably be directly tied in to the looming threat of the tentacled horror in the attic, or the ghostly war being fought in the front yard, not the character's marital fidelity or fencing skill.  This is independent of the GNS slant of the game -- important when compared with 1), which depends entirely on player goal.

3)  The Bang in any game will have some effect on the gamestate.  Whether this is through dramatic character growth, a plot twist, the defeat or triumph of a villian, or what-have-you.  This is the uniting aspect of all Challenges, Bangs, Moments of Truth, or what-have-you, but it is NOT their defining aspect.  Many things can rock your game world via in-game consequences without having been a Bang, they are only a bang in combination with the other two criterion.

Well, there you are.  I think I stayed somewhat true to Ron's definition, though I avoided a couple of theory issues (like Technique) which I am less than clear on, and its entirely possible my idea suffers from this omission.  Thanks for reading, I hope this helps!

-Brother Adso

Stat Roma pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus...
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Lisa Padol
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« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2004, 08:05:20 PM »

Quote from: Brother Adso
Well, there you are.  I think I stayed somewhat true to Ron's definition, though I avoided a couple of theory issues (like Technique) which I am less than clear on, and its entirely possible my idea suffers from this omission.  Thanks for reading, I hope this helps!


Could you give a few specific examples that are and are not bangs, and explain why?

-Lisa
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pete_darby
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2004, 02:16:05 AM »

well in [ur=l]this thread,[/url] I was looking for Bangs in all the wrong places. Looking back, all the proposed bangs were turning points, and most reactions would be interesting ,but they're not strictly narrativist bangs.

Now, when I ran the session, one thing happened, that was not planned that was certainly a Bang: when the players returned to the stead, having stopped the "visible men" at the borders, they found that the chief had caught the duck stealing tribal regalia. This is after they've promised the other guys that they'd turn the duck over to them...

A situation where any response will be dramatic, will contribute to theme, and force interaction with the relationship sthe PC's have with the community, the chief, the black oaks, the warband, the trickster cult... oh, and, of course, the time limit, because the chief's having duck tonight unless something happens.

Whatever happens, it will say something about the characters... Story Now.
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Pete Darby
Lisa Padol
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2004, 07:42:35 AM »

Quote from: pete_darby
well in [ur=l]this thread,[/url] I was looking for Bangs in all the wrong places.


The link didn't come through. Where is the thread?

Quote from: pete_darby
A situation where any response will be dramatic, will contribute to theme, and force interaction with the relationship sthe PC's have with the community, the chief, the black oaks, the warband, the trickster cult... oh, and, of course, the time limit, because the chief's having duck tonight unless something happens.

Whatever happens, it will say something about the characters... Story Now.


Thanks. I think I'm beginning to understand. I'm gonna let this digest for a while.

-Lisa
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pete_darby
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2004, 12:41:50 PM »

Sorry, lets link again...
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Pete Darby
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