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Author Topic: Bangs, Crises, and Inciting Events  (Read 11266 times)
Alan
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« on: March 24, 2004, 01:01:39 PM »

Bangs, Crises, and Inciting Events

The following ideas grew out of these threads in Actual Play:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10372" >Bangs, bangs and more bangs!
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10362" >Bangs and Narrativism... I -so- need help

I've noticed some confusion about Bangs recently.  I think that the term has a lot of panache and so is getting used to mean any kind of inciting event in a role-playing game.  My concern is that the term "bang" as coined by Ron Edwards, is clearly restricted to events that address, or at least echo, narrativist premise.

---------------------
From Ron's glossary in the Narrativist Essay:

Bang: "Introducing events into the game which make a thematically-significant or at least evocative choice necessary for a player."
---------------------

I want to defend this definition of "bang" and suggest that there is a taxonomy of inciting events, only some of which are bangs. Each kind of inciting event is a technique which involves a particular creative agenda, but which may be used in any kind of play.   Of course, as I've defined them, a particular technique will best support a particular Creative Agenda.


My suggestion (in Forge pseudo-venn diagram):

[Inciting Event     [Crux     [Dare][Fork][Bang]     ]     ]

My definitions:

Inciting event: any event that demands a response from a player.

Crux: an inciting event that offers the player a choice of responses. (I think the plural of crux is crises.)

Dare: a crux where the choice involves strategy and the player's ability to face challenges.

Fork: a crux where the choice only determines what will be explored or experienced next.

Bang: a crux where the choice has thematic significance to the players.


Would this be a fair development of GNS theory and terminology?
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2004, 01:43:07 PM »

I'm willing to go with those terms, if it makes things clearer.  I'm also perfectly happy to simply term Bangs like this:

Bang-N
Bang-S
Bang-G

But that is all a matter of semantics.  I'll certainly go with whatever more experienced GNSers think appropriate.
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taalyn
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Posts: 370

Aidan Grey


« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2004, 02:10:14 PM »

Pedantry ahead:

  Plural of Crux is cruces.
  Plural of Crisis is crises.

  See my sig....
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Aidan Grey

Crux Live the Abnatural
M. J. Young
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2004, 09:08:37 PM »

Thanks, Taalyn; I was sure crises was wrong, but you got it right before I worked out the correction.

I'm good with those terms. My one quibble would be the use of "only"
Quote from: where you
Fork: a crux where the choice only determines what will be explored or experienced next.
Perhaps something more like,
    Fork: a crux where the choice determines what will and will not be explored or experienced.[/list:u]I drop the next, because although you can come back sometimes, I think at the moment of the Fork you're aware that, well, knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back, as the poem says.

    Good, though.

    --M. J. Young
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taalyn
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Aidan Grey


« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2004, 09:13:41 PM »

see, having a degree in dead languages (and the hypothetical too) is occasionally useful.

Personally, I like having separate words. Fork instead of Bang-S is so much more evocative, not to mention easier to remember. I'm looking forward to putting them into my games.
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Aidan Grey

Crux Live the Abnatural
Henri
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Posts: 88


« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2004, 07:59:50 AM »

Quote from: Alan
Bangs, Crises, and Inciting Events

My suggestion (in Forge pseudo-venn diagram):

[Inciting Event     [Crux     [Dare][Fork][Bang]     ]     ]

My definitions:

Inciting event: any event that demands a response from a player.

Crux: an inciting event that offers the player a choice of responses. (I think the plural of crux is crises.)


Hmmm... do we really need Inciting Even and Crux as seperate categories?  I'm having a hard time imagining an inciting event that is NOT a crux.  If a response is demanded, then the player always has a choice (unless the GM is using a lot of force, I suppose).  But I think the choice is always there, at least implicitly.  Even choosing not to do anything is still a choice.
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-Henri
Alan
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2004, 08:10:27 AM »

Inciting event does not necessarily require a choice, while a crux does.

Many, many, events in play are inciting events - the giant attacks you, now you must fight.  Not all are cruces.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Henri
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Posts: 88


« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2004, 08:32:53 AM »

I disagree.  The giant attacks me.  I have a choice.  I can run away.  I can fight back.  I can dodge around while talking to the giant, trying to convince it that I'm really not that tasty and that if he waits just a little bit longer, someone else is sure to come along who is much plumper and yummier.

I have noticed that sometimes players FEEL like they have no choice.  You present them with a crux and they are so used to force by the GM that they get a resigned look in their eye and make the most obvious choice.  But this is still a choice.  They just aren't thinking very hard about it.  When this happens in game, I try to remind them that there are other options.  I don't think that it is cheating (breach of social contract) to nudge them a bit and point out other options, as long as you don't give too much away.

The only situation that I can see where there really is no choice is where the GM overtly uses force to say, "No, you can't do that, your only option is to do this."  If the GM does this, then in my opinion you should get up and walk away from the table.  

I guess I should qualify that.  If you've been tied up and a monster is comming at you, and you say, "I stand up and run away," the GM can say, "No, you can't do that because you are tied up."  But I do think that the player should be free to choose between those choices that are physically possible, as above in the giant example.  A better way for the GM to phrase this would be, "you try to rise, straining against the ropes, but to no avail!  The monster comes closer..."  The elipsis here implies that the player has a choice, but that his choices are very constrained by the situation.  

Stepping back a bit, I think I actually do concede that you can have an inciting event without choice and that this is a useful category for DESCRIPTIVE purposes, which is what you are doing.  The point that I'm making is more of a normative point.  But the distinction between the two gets blurred by the whole "not choosing is an implicit choice not to make a choice" paradox.  

edit:  I just thought of another circumstance where there is an inciting event and no choice: GM "cut scenes."  I don't like cut scenes, since they "cut" the player out of the game, but can still recognize that as a personal preference.  A descriptive theory of inciting events should be able to handle something like a cut scene, and it would not be able to if you removed the outer [inciting event] bubble.

So to sum up my rather rambling post:
All inciting events should be cruces (IMO), but alas, in real life some of them are not.
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-Henri
contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2004, 11:45:04 PM »

Quote from: Henri
I disagree.  The giant attacks me.  I have a choice.  I can run away.  I can fight back.  I can dodge around while talking to the giant, trying to convince it that I'm really not that tasty and that if he waits just a little bit longer, someone else is sure to come along who is much plumper and yummier.


A fair point but I'm still with Alan.  I would say that all of these choices are responses to the question "how", not "what".  They are exemplary of the play that the advent of the giant incites, rather than a choice of what is to be explored next.

I really like the distinctions starting to emerge here.  Question: does it may how many directions there are in the fork?  Off the top of my head, it seems to me if you are posed a 2-branch choice, it is a "right or wrong" choice, while if you have as few as say 4 valid options, you feel much more like you are "choosing your own path".


I'm not sure I like Dare much though... seems it can be taken as a How question, but otherwise can only be "yes I accept" the challenge or otherwise.  Maybe Dare should instead be 'Escalate/De-escalate'?
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Silmenume
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2004, 02:30:34 AM »

I'm with Henri!

OK - I'm kidding.  Its not about sides at all.  However, I will argue against Alan's position that inciting events do not necessarily require a choice.

By definition an inciting event demands attention.  Anyone who is inciting is purposefully acting in such as way that demands some sort of response from the person who is the object of the inciter’s actions.  An individual may choose not to respond the inciting action, but that is a choice and it does reflect something about that individual’s character.  Because any response reveals something about an individual, a person or character in such a situation who is mindful of such things (that their actions reflect themselves or their character) sees many avenues open as far as response goes.  Many might be poor, but rarely is a no response a null answer in an inciting situation.  I guess it could be said that one qualifier for an inciting incident is one is which a non-answer is predetermined to be a negative action.  Frex – “You’re either with us or against us!”

While it may seem that the player has only 2 choices, nothing is farther from the truth.  The player has as many options to respond or react as he can imagine, its just that the inciter has attempted to manipulate the response of the one being incited.

Quote from: contracycle
Quote from: Henri
I disagree. The giant attacks me. I have a choice. I can run away. I can fight back. I can dodge around while talking to the giant, trying to convince it that I'm really not that tasty and that if he waits just a little bit longer, someone else is sure to come along who is much plumper and yummier.

A fair point but I'm still with Alan. I would say that all of these choices are responses to the question "how", not "what". They are exemplary of the play that the advent of the giant incites, rather than a choice of what is to be explored next.


Once in play, all inciting events are “how” questions.  “What” questions, as in “what to explore next,” are issues of narration rights or scene framing rights.  Inciting events and “what” questions seem, to me, to be fairly exclusionary.  I may be wrong, but the nature of inciting events is partly to remove certain avenues of exploration via making this particular inciting situation one that must be attended to now.

Just some thoughts.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume
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Jay
Steve Samson
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Posts: 28


« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2004, 12:52:49 PM »

All of the endless threads about defining and redefining terms and related terms and sub-terms seems like one big intellectual circle-jerk to me.  At some point you have to ask, what is the *purpose* of all of this? What practical application is there in subdividing a term into a dozen different versions? (And whether or not I am exaggerating remains to be seen.)

What I love about language is that it's the only truly democratic institution in the world. Whatever the majority decides a word means is what the word comes to mean. We can define "bangs" until we're blue in the face, but if the term catches on and the majority of the gaming population uses it, then however they end up using it will become the correct definition.

If our goal is to have a practical definition (not a technical or academic one) for bangs that we can use among ourselves and that others can use as well, then I'd vote for simplicity and accessibility. For example:

Bang: A situation that forces the character to make an immediate choice between two thematically-significant options.

Narrative Bang: A bang that addresses the premise of the story.
Simulationist Bang: A bang that addresses the premise of the character.
Gamist Bang: A bang that impacts the success of the objective.

Big Bang: A bang that has far-reaching consequences.
Little Bang: A bang that has limited (but significant) consequences.

If our goal is to have a technically correct but (in my opinion) impractical definition, then I'll respectfully leave that to those who want to pursue such a goal and satisfy myself using the term and the technique in a way that works for me.

Steve
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RDU Neil
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2004, 01:28:13 PM »

Quote
Narrative Bang: A bang that addresses the premise of the story.
Simulationist Bang: A bang that addresses the premise of the character.
Gamist Bang: A bang that impacts the success of the objective.


All I would add is

Simulationist Bang: A bang that addresses the premise of the character or world.

Other than that, I like this quite a bit.
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Life is a Game
Neil
Alan
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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2004, 02:54:27 PM »

Steve certainly has a point: that terminology can get diluted by popular use.  However, we here at the Forge are attempting to develop ways of talking about role-playing that goes beyond a hodge-podge of ambiguous terms.  

Like any endeavor to study something, the area of study must have some precise terminology.  Talking about RPGs is useless without such terminology and insisting on retaining vague meanings will also retain vague discussions.

We have an opportunity to set the trend and retain Ron's original meaning for "bang" - ie a premise relevant choice.

To revise my taxonomy (as Ron's term Challenge seems to work in place of "dare":

[Inciting Event [ Crux [Fork][Challenge][Bang]]]

Inciting Event - the technique of inserting an event into play that requires a response from a player.

Crux - the technique of inserting an event into play that requires a _choice_ from a player.

Fork - the technique of inserting an event that requires a player to decide which element of the shared fantasy they would like to explore next.

Challenge - the technique of inserting an event that requires a player to step on up with tactical or strategic choices.

Bang - the technique of inserting an event that requires a player to make a choice of  thematic significance to the players.

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

So again, I propose that "bang," "Challenge," and "Fork" each be reserved for a specific use.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Alan
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2004, 02:59:41 PM »

Quote from: RDU Neil

Simulationist Bang: A bang that addresses the premise of the character or world


This would not be simulationist as it addresses a premise.  Where the premise comes from isn't the determining factor.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Henri
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Posts: 88


« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2004, 07:52:51 PM »

Quote from: contracycle
A fair point but I'm still with Alan.  I would say that all of these choices are responses to the question "how", not "what".  They are exemplary of the play that the advent of the giant incites, rather than a choice of what is to be explored next.


This is an interesting differentiation, but it was not present in the original definition by Alan and I haven't seen anyone follow up on it.  I'm not sure that Alan's idea of a crux necesarily meant a "what" question rather than a "how" question, but perhaps Alan can answer that question.  

Regarless, since you have brought it up, perhaps we should explore this idea.  Should a crux only refer to decisions that are important for directing the course of the story?  I'm inclined to think that this differentiation might be too fuzzy to hold up under close scrutiny, but I certainly haven't made up my mind yet.  It will, of course, depend on the CA and on the specific context.

Lets continue with the example of choosing whether to fight or run from the attacking giant.  In a Nar game, if bravery/cowardice is a central theme to your character, then maybe this is an important Bang.  If not, it could be a minor annoyance that the player is not very interested in.  In a Gamist game, it is hard to imagnine a charging giant as anything but a Challenge, since it requires that you "step on up" to the danger of the attack (I'm assuming that giants are powerful enemies that present a real threat).  In a Sim game, it would depend on the consequences of defeating the giant or running from it.  If its just a "random encounter" then it isn't a Fork.  But maybe the giant is guarding a giant beanstalk.  If you had fought and killed the giant, you could have climbed the bean stalk and opened up a whole new setting for exploration.  But if you run, maybe you escape by running into a cave, and in the dark you fall down a hole which takes you to the subteranean land of the mushroom people, a completely different setting to explore.  (Beanstalks and mushroom people? This starting to sound like Super Mario.)

I feel like this last example is pretty contrived and kind of lame.  Maybe someone else can come up with some better examples.
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-Henri
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