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Author Topic: Dramatism, what is it.  (Read 15980 times)
Valamir
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« on: March 28, 2002, 10:36:04 AM »

Quote from: Mytholder
Quote from: Valamir

What you are describing as D, as an observable behavior and as a "fully functional" play style I believe is well explained by GNS as follows.

Dramatism:  A game in which both S decisions and N decisions are being made, but where the players are limiting themselves to S decisions and leaving the majority (or the entirety) of the N decisions to the GM.

I believe this definition addresses all of the characteristics of Dramatist play you've described, and is in direct contract to Narrativist play which requires the N decisions to be shared among all of the participants.


But the player decisions aren't Sim decisions. They're story-based. They're dramatic. They're not as strongly "narrativist" as a decision made with conscious awareness of Premise or whatever, but they're very far from the deep immersion/strict actor stance of Sim...


I apologize in advance, but this post is going to get awfully ranty.

Marco, you guys are going to have to get on the same page about what kind of behavior you're talking about as Dramatist  Earlier in this thread Gareth described Dramatism as cedeing all story authoring to the GM, hense my above definition.

Your example of jumping in front of the bullet is pure story authoring by the player.  So does Dramatism allow player story authoring or doesn't it.

It is growing increasingly hard to debate this topic because the target keeps moving.  I've started a brand new thread so we can leave the creation of a new model stuff out of it for now, and just start with a clear definition of exactly what player behavior you're talking about that you don't see modelable in GNS.  Then we can talk about how that behavior is or isn't covered.


But before we do that we need to clarify things.  The purpose here is to determine whether or not Dramatism can be described to your satisfaction using the foundation of the GNS model already in place.  In other words can we define Dramatism by applying GNS concepts at the behavioral or game style level?

If we fashion a workable definition of Dramatism and can't use applications of the theory to describe it sufficiently, then maybe there is a need for an adjustment to the model.  I think we can.  And I think doing so will open up whole new and fascinating topics to explore by building on the foundation of GNS for all manner of application.

But first we all have to be using the same definitions.  Since the goal is to see whether or not Dramatism can be described within GNS, we must use the actual definitions as they stand in GNS.

I make this point because you have not been useing these definitions in the discussion to date.  You are adding a number of limiting parameters to the definition and then declaring that the definitions are too limited.  This really has to stop.  The definition of what narrativist and simulationist mean under GNS are now well established by the latest essay.

To be clear


You say: "They're not as strongly "narrativist" as a decision made with conscious awareness of Premise or whatever"  

Once again.  Where does this "conscious awareness of Premise" stuff come from? Making a narrativist decision does not require a concious awareness by the player of some pre existing Premise and how his current decision meets that Premise.  Premise is the question that is answered by the narrativist decisions the players make.


You say:  "but they're very far from the deep immersion/strict actor stance of Sim..."  No offense.  But where on God's green earth does the essay equate Sim decisions with deep immersion or strict actor stance.  Once again: GNS is NOT stance specific.  Any stance can be used for any GNS position.  In practice some may be more common than others, but the theory does not restrict or require.  



To go back to your taking a bullet example:  

Fact:  The character jumped in front of a bullet
Fact:  The player chose to have the character jump in front of the bullet.

Question:  Why did the player choose to have his character jump in front of the bullet?

Your answer: Because he thought it would be a good story.

That's Narrativism.  Run of the mill, plain jane, basic Narrativist decision making of the sort that been talked about here for the better part of a year.

Just because it was a decision that was made that didn't involve mystical meta game resources doesn't make it any less Narrativist.

Heck, if the above example is what you mean by the term "Dramatist" then you've described nothing more than what's been being called Vanilla Narrativism for months.

Contrary to Gareth's statement about Dramatism being about cedeing story authoring to the GM, the example you've described IS an example of the player authoring the story.  The PLAYER thought having the character take the bullet would be good for the story so the PLAYER made a decision to cause it to happen.  



So please...lets use this new thread to get everyone on the same page.  What exactly is this behavior you're talking about?

I'll start:

This is what I've believed Dramatism to mean based on the contexts I've seen it used in the past.

"A story oriented game where the story direction is provided by the GM with the players following along and enjoying the experience of being inside the story...not crafting it, not beating it, but witnessing it unfold and enjoying the ride".

If thats not what you mean by Dramatism, then please elaborate.
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Mytholder
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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2002, 04:31:58 PM »

Ok. One of my long-standing issues with the current state of GNS is that a lot of "story" has been shoved into Simulationism. The old threefold division of Game/World/Story may be simplistic, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Simulation - making the primary focus of the game the creation of a living world, a believable, internally consistent, breathing, holisitic alternate reality - that's a style of play, a way of thinking, that I've experienced.

In "pure" simulationism, there is no such thing as story. The game system is tolerated only as a means for ensuring consistency and providing a common ground for the participants. Realism may be especially desired in Sim systems, to provide results which don't "break" the simulation. There should be as few intrusions of "reality" into the sim, so metagame mechanics should be kept to a minimum, and player input should be carefully controlled so it doesn't damage the sim (hence, the close association of Actor stance with Sim play.)

Now, there are certain games which are on the borderline between Sim and more "story-oriented" play. Feng Shui is the common, classic example of a game where the situation being Simmed is a story of sorts. That's the old-style rgfa-threefold situation anyway.

The old FAQ (by Logan) caused an awful lot of debate, because it appeared (to me and others) to shove these games, and indeed any game where the Premise wasn't upfront and the players empowered to address it with metagame mechanics into Simulationism. The current essay isn't as blatant about this, but it does say (on page 5):
Quote

The players of the vampire example are especially screwed if they have Narrativist leanings and try to use Vampire: the Masquerade. The so-called “Storyteller” design in White Wolf games is emphatically not Narrativist, but it is billed as such, up to and including encouraging subcultural snobbery against other Simulationist play without being much removed from it. The often-repeated distinction between “roll-playing” and “role-playing” is nothing more nor less than Exploration of System and Exploration of Character – either of which, when prioritized, is Simulationism.


Now, my contention is that a mode of play exists which isn't Simulationism, but is "Storytelling". Or Dramatism. Playing to tell a largely preplotted story, with limited player input. Calling it Simulationism makes Sim much too wide and unfocussed a category. I can get a visceral grip on creating a world.

Gamism is an extreme pole, an almost pure style of tactical play which then becomes diluted with other concerns as you move away from that extreme point. Narrativism is a similiar extreme. However, the simulationism of the essay has (in my opinion, anyway) no single extreme point, no pure style of play. It's just...stuff. The theory doesn't describe a triangle so much as a line.

Quote from: Valamir
Quote from: Mytholder
Quote from: Valamir

What you are describing as D, as an observable behavior and as a "fully functional" play style I believe is well explained by GNS as follows.

Dramatism:  A game in which both S decisions and N decisions are being made, but where the players are limiting themselves to S decisions and leaving the majority (or the entirety) of the N decisions to the GM.

I believe this definition addresses all of the characteristics of Dramatist play you've described, and is in direct contract to Narrativist play which requires the N decisions to be shared among all of the participants.


But the player decisions aren't Sim decisions. They're story-based. They're dramatic. They're not as strongly "narrativist" as a decision made with conscious awareness of Premise or whatever, but they're very far from the deep immersion/strict actor stance of Sim...


I apologize in advance, but this post is going to get awfully ranty.

Marco, you guys are going to have to get on the same page about what kind of behavior you're talking about as Dramatist  Earlier in this thread Gareth described Dramatism as cedeing all story authoring to the GM, hense my above definition.

Your example of jumping in front of the bullet is pure story authoring by the player.  So does Dramatism allow player story authoring or doesn't it.

I don't see that example of jumping in front of the bullet as story authoring. Remember, the player just said "my guy tries to jump in front of the bullet". It's up to the GM as to what happens. The one assurance the player has is that the result will be dramatic.

It's a decision for the story, as opposed to a decision based on acting/experiencing the simulation.

In your earlier definition, you say:  
Quote
Dramatism:  A game in which both S decisions and N decisions are being made, but where the players are limiting themselves to S decisions and leaving the majority (or the entirety) of the N decisions to the GM.

Jumping in front of the bullet is not a Sim decision in most cases. Jumping in front of the bullet with the assurance that your action will be brought into the story definitely isn't.

Quote

To be clear
You say: "They're not as strongly "narrativist" as a decision made with conscious awareness of Premise or whatever"  

Once again.  Where does this "conscious awareness of Premise" stuff come from? Making a narrativist decision does not require a concious awareness by the player of some pre existing Premise and how his current decision meets that Premise.  Premise is the question that is answered by the narrativist decisions the players make.

Ok...I know I'm not around the Forge as much as a lot of others, but every discussion of Narrativism mentions Premise as a key element. If Premise is that important to Narrativism, then I assume it would be something a Narrativist player would be consciously aware of, just as a Simulationist player is aware of the integrity of the Sim. That's where the "conscious awareness of premise" stuff came from.

Quote

You say:  "but they're very far from the deep immersion/strict actor stance of Sim..."  No offense.  But where on God's green earth does the essay equate Sim decisions with deep immersion or strict actor stance.  Once again: GNS is NOT stance specific.  Any stance can be used for any GNS position.  In practice some may be more common than others, but the theory does not restrict or require.  

Most Sim is going to be strict actor stance. Narrativism is going to include Author or Directory stance, right? Can you have Actor-stance Narrativism?

Quote

To go back to your taking a bullet example:  

Fact:  The character jumped in front of a bullet
Fact:  The player chose to have the character jump in front of the bullet.

Question:  Why did the player choose to have his character jump in front of the bullet?

Your answer: Because he thought it would be a good story.

That's Narrativism.  Run of the mill, plain jane, basic Narrativist decision making of the sort that been talked about here for the better part of a year.
Just because it was a decision that was made that didn't involve mystical meta game resources doesn't make it any less Narrativist.
Heck, if the above example is what you mean by the term "Dramatist" then you've described nothing more than what's been being called Vanilla Narrativism for months.

Ok. Is Storyteller - as written - Vanilla Narrativist?

Quote

This is what I've believed Dramatism to mean based on the contexts I've seen it used in the past.

"A story oriented game where the story direction is provided by the GM with the players following along and enjoying the experience of being inside the story...not crafting it, not beating it, but witnessing it unfold and enjoying the ride".

If thats not what you mean by Dramatism, then please elaborate.


I think that's a heavily railroaded version of Dramatism. Dramatist players can have input, but it's up to the GM to change the story or work their actions into the story. Dramatism is mainly distinguished from Simulationism by the presence of metagame mechanics like Script Immunity and a disregard for the internal logic of the setting in favour of "story".

(Edited to add:) Just to be clear, your definition is certainly an example of Dramatism, even a common one. (end of edit)

I think we're going to keep bouncing off this point. Ron has said that he doesn't feel that "story-oriented decision" is a coherent enough term. To quote him -
Quote from: Ron
So screw the GM and illusion and whether "story is going on around" the character or not. Either the player perceives Narrativist Premise happening and makes a Narrativist decision to address that Premise, or he doesn't, in which case he is "being the character" as the priority.


Dramatism is the third answer to that question. It's not a conscious attempt to address Premise, it's an act done because "it's a cool, dramatic thing to do".

If that's a mode of Narrativism, fine. It's a mode where the vast, vast majority of the story creation rests with the GM. This whole problem (for me, anyway) started when Story stuff got pushed into Simulationism...
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contracycle
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2002, 06:48:07 PM »

I like Mytholders analysis above, especially as regard the players perspective on the events - IMO its perfectly to correct to say that in the scenario we are discussing, the player has brought about a "dramatic event" by their intervention in an essentially GM driven storyline.

As for the proposed model, lets knock that on the head - as I said it was more of by way of illustrating the diffiuclty I have accepting GNS in toto, not a serious contender.  OTOH, I do think players adopt exploitative or experiential attitudes to elements of the game, and perhaps a seperate discussion on how one might mine the GNS from that perspective would be worthwhile.  My attempt was only to illustrate what I find difficult to see in the GNS present portrayal of dramatism.

As for motivation and behaviour - I strongly agree with Rons concerns regarding motive as an "object" of analysis - it is not observable.  But I think there is an action, a decision taken aimed primarily at dramatic concerns, and from this perspective I find that although I can make out all of the objects by casting the GNS three colours of light on the game, I can get better detail with four colours.

I think there is an explicit class of decisions, and hence behaviour, aimed at cranking the volume to 11.  The gamist simmer plays with the Foreign Legion; the gamist dramatist plays with Space Orks at the very least.  I think for example that the situation decsribed for horror gaming, of players getting in sync and firghtening each other, could be considered an example of an overtly dramatist form of play.  The players know that they are supposed to be getting scared and reinforcing this through their personal portrayals with no more thought about story than knowing the conventions and cliches of the genre - they are not co-authoring a story, they are quite literally "playing along" with The Story.  These decisions, IMO, are not influenced by the story that they are currently involved with, but by much more general concerns.  

I think lots of people wanted to turn the Matrix into an RPG becuase it was dramatic, not becuase it inspired in them a story or they found the technohorror world interesting - the draw is the cool clothes and kung fu.  Probably gamists like the manipulation potential of the time control and virtual armement, too, but the strong simmer runs into problems quite quickly.  I'm not happy with sim reduced to mere plodding internal consistency - when you do dramatist stuff according to strict sim, you end up with farce, like Spaceballs, IIRC, with the tap-dancing chest-burster?  Or perhaps Paranoia.  I think somewhat heretically that sim is concerned with realism after all, at a level of simple plausibility, and that extending it to the maintenance of the internal consistency of implausible worlds is a stretch too far for me.

From my perspective, L5R is a game with dramatist elements.  Yes, I can understand how it could be conceived as the sim realisation of a prticular world, but I think that particular synthetic world has come about through considerations for dramatic potential.  Japanese culture has a cool factor and dramatic visual resonance from TV and movies; a big landmass like china is good so you have lots of places to go and people to see.  The sim has been compromised for the sake of dramatic potential.  

Similarly, I think players and GM's can and do make decisions based on their dramatic potential.  The player leaping to take the bullet could be said to have made a contribution to the shared story by having authored an event - but if the player has explicitly forgone knowledge of climax, pacing, theme, premise and control of the outcome, I feel the player can be said to have made their decision with a consideration primarily for dramatic effect, rather than as actual story contribution.  

Anyway, for these reasons it seems to more more convenient to identify an explicit  dramatic element than to squirrel those behaviours away elsewhere.  I can see how the GNS accomodates "dramatism", but it is to me an uncomfortable accomodation.  But I cannot support the GDS in toto because I think the narrativist form of play described here is sufficiently distinct that it in turn is not adequately accomodated by the GDS.  

To usurp the band metaphor, the dramatic element is the selection of a catchy name and a snazzy look, playing the crowdpleaser which you know alsways goes down well.  I think dramatists scream on the roller coaster because the screaming is part of what makes rollercoasters fun.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2002, 07:14:55 PM »

The 'band metaphor' reference reminds me of something I wrote not that long ago, just take a quick look at The Alchemy Metaphor.

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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2002, 07:57:47 PM »

Thanks Gareth, that clarifies things a good bit for me.

And I thought that was what your initial intention in the thread was (to focus attention on an issue that had not been satisfactorally addressed) but after 4 pages alot gets lost.

It seems to me then that what you're saying is that a dramatist is primarily concerned with is what GNS would call "color".  Color is one of the 5 listed areas of Exploration: Character, System, Setting, Situation, and Color.  

What attracts you to the game is the "coolness factor".  You're not concerned so much with story in the literary sense as you are with enjoying the imagery and sensations.  Is that a fair paraphrase?

This idea of Exploration I think is one that like Stance deserves much deeper exploration (and one which while it is included in the GNS essay is more of a corollary to the decision level theory of GNS than a core part of it IMO).

In my prior example I suggested looking for different playstyles by expanding the scale of GNS decisions to look at the behaviors defined by different patterns of those decisions.  I also suggested that next step was looking at how these patterns combined with Stances, and other as yet unknown elements.

From your description of Dramatism, it would seem that one of the key additional elements is not so much unknown as underanalysed, and that is the various flavors of Exploration.

Do you think that we can find the detail you're looking for by using GNS's three colors combined with the five flavors of Exploration to identify Dramatism and other playstyles?

For example can we say:

Dramatism = Players making largely Sim decisions, Narrative decisions left mostly or entirely to the GM, plus minimal use of player author or director stances, plus strong Exploration of Color.

Similiarly, Immersion = Players making almost exclusivly Sim decisions, plus Stance restricted to Actor only, plus strong Exploration of Character, often with moderate Exploration of Setting also.


This is a rough initial concept of the direction where I see alot of value added in applying the elements of GNS and its related corollary ideas.



On the question of Sim.  I am long on the record on my opinion of the unfortuneate usurpation of the word Simulation by the model and the enormous confusion it causes for people who know what the word is supposed to mean.  But that's a battle I fought and lost long ago.

If it were up to me I'd replace the GNS decision monikers with "Game Decisions", "Story Decisions", and "Environment Decisions" (I happen to think Environment to be slightly more precise than the normal Game / Story / World division).  That would free up Narrativist and Simulationist to be defined in the same way as Dramatist and Immersion above.  It would also alleviate the confusion between "Narrativist Decisions" which don't require Author Stance or metagame resources and "Narrativist Games" which usually include them.

But, in any group which hopes to reach a consensus so progress can be made, I've compromised and stepped down off that particular soap box.  Perhaps one day I'll pick up the banner again, but for now, I'm more interested in seeing where we can get the wheel to roll to than making sure it has the right number of spokes.
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Mytholder
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2002, 02:24:42 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Thanks Gareth, that clarifies things a good bit for me.

Gah. Which one? Too many Gareths. Just call me Gar, or Mytholder, to distinguish me from Contracycle Gar.

Anyway...

Quote

And I thought that was what your initial intention in the thread was (to focus attention on an issue that had not been satisfactorally addressed) but after 4 pages alot gets lost.

It seems to me then that what you're saying is that a dramatist is primarily concerned with is what GNS would call "color".

Yeah, ish. Certainly, he's concerned with the trappings and "dramatic factor" of events in game. The Dramatist gm is mentally directing a movie. He'll accomodate requests from his actors as much as possible, but he still wants to get to the big scenes he's written in his head.

Quote

 Color is one of the 5 listed areas of Exploration: Character, System, Setting, Situation, and Color.  

Ok. The problem here is that according to the Essay, that's a form of Simulationism. If "Dramatism" (which we're using as a short-hand for not-explicitly-collabourative, story-oriented, emphasis-on-the-cool-stuff Storyteller-esque play) is classified under Simulationism, then Simulationism becomes much, much too wide a field in comparison to the other two (Narrativism and Gamism). We've got a line as opposed to a triangle. Simulationism becomes everygame, it becomes a catch-all for anything that isn't definitely and completely Narrativist and Gamist.

Quote

What attracts you to the game is the "coolness factor".  You're not concerned so much with story in the literary sense as you are with enjoying the imagery and sensations.  Is that a fair paraphrase?

Almost. However, it is still, consciously, a story. The participants are not trying to Simulate anything, they are participating in the telling of a story.

Quote

Do you think that we can find the detail you're looking for by using GNS's three colors combined with the five flavors of Exploration to identify Dramatism and other playstyles?

For example can we say:

Dramatism = Players making largely Sim decisions, Narrative decisions left mostly or entirely to the GM, plus minimal use of player author or director stances, plus strong Exploration of Color.

Under the current definition of Simulationism, though, I don't know what a Sim decision is. It's not a strong enough type.

Quote

On the question of Sim.  I am long on the record on my opinion of the unfortuneate usurpation of the word Simulation by the model and the enormous confusion it causes for people who know what the word is supposed to mean.  But that's a battle I fought and lost long ago.


Language is a mindfield in this sort of debate. I'm almost tempted to use prefixes sometimes. Simulation!=GNS.Simulation!=rgfa.Simulation...

Quote

If it were up to me I'd replace the GNS decision monikers with "Game Decisions", "Story Decisions", and "Environment Decisions" (I happen to think Environment to be slightly more precise than the normal Game / Story / World division).  That would free up Narrativist and Simulationist to be defined in the same way as Dramatist and Immersion above.  It would also alleviate the confusion between "Narrativist Decisions" which don't require Author Stance or metagame resources and "Narrativist Games" which usually include them.

Sounds right to me. However, the current definition of Sim folds some "Story Decisions" into a branch of "Environment Decisions" when they should be on the borderline.
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Valamir
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2002, 05:52:28 AM »

Quote from: Mytholder
Quote from: Valamir
Thanks Gareth, that clarifies things a good bit for me.

Gah. Which one? Too many Gareths. Just call me Gar, or Mytholder, to distinguish me from Contracycle Gar.


Heh, yeah, I did that on purpose since I was responding more or less to both of you ;-)

Funny thing is, before I started on these boards, the only Gareth I knew was a knight from Lothian.


Quote

Yeah, ish. Certainly, he's concerned with the trappings and "dramatic factor" of events in game. The Dramatist gm is mentally directing a movie. He'll accomodate requests from his actors as much as possible, but he still wants to get to the big scenes he's written in his head.


Thats pretty much what I figured.  Thats why I left the authoring story decisions, primarily to the GM.

But I would add, from your descriptions, not solely to the GM.  The Dramatist player may well be willing to cede most of the story to the GM, but examples like you as a player choosing to have a character are authoring the story (the GM didn't tell you to do that, and the character didn't tell you to do that, the player decided to do it for story reasons, and thats the definition of Author).

That the GM can then still make things happen the way he wants is a factor of him having more N decision power on his side.

Quote

Ok. The problem here is that according to the Essay, that's a form of Simulationism. If "Dramatism" (which we're using as a short-hand for not-explicitly-collabourative, story-oriented, emphasis-on-the-cool-stuff Storyteller-esque play) is classified under Simulationism, then Simulationism becomes much, much too wide a field in comparison to the other two (Narrativism and Gamism). We've got a line as opposed to a triangle. Simulationism becomes everygame, it becomes a catch-all for anything that isn't definitely and completely Narrativist and Gamist.


Well, one thing that the essay doesn't make clear enough is that Exploration is part of all roleplaying, including all GNS positions.  I think the section on Simulation confuses things a little by equating Exploration to Sim to a degree that makes them sound synonomous.

That doesn't make the GNS Theory wrong (as I said, I only consider the, GNS decision positions to be the core of the theory), but it does mean that the corollary element of Exploration and how it ties back to GNS needs more work.  Not surprising since I believe this was Ron's first attempt at articulating Exploration in that fashion.

Quote

Sounds right to me. However, the current definition of Sim folds some "Story Decisions" into a branch of "Environment Decisions" when they should be on the borderline.


Question:  Are the players in a Dramatist game really making Story Decisions most of the time?  I've said that some times, like the bullet example they are, but what about the rest of the time?  It sounds to me that its more a matter of being AWARE that the GM is telling a story, and having an appreciation for that story, then it is about making story decisions themselves.

Appreciateing that a story is being told and enjoying seeing it unfold around you and enjoying participating in the events of it, is not to my mind making a Story Decision.  Only when the player makes the decision to have his character do something in a way that is out of character (or at least not obviously encouraged by character) for the good of the story is he making a Story Decision.

In other words, in the bullet example, if you had the character jump in front of the bullet, because that is the type of character he is, (i.e. you know him well enough to know that he'd be willing to make that sacrifice at that point in time) then that is clearly a Sim decision even by our definition of the word.  It is an obvious Simulation of Character.  Even in old paper map wargames we had Simulation of Character any time a player tried to duplicate "what would Patton have done here".

But in the example as you gave it, it wasn't character concerns that caused the decision, it was the players desire to add a cool element to the story.  That decision was a Narrativist Decision.

This is why I suggest that most of the time while a Dramatist is playing they are making Sim decisions ("what would my character do in this situation" is a Sim decision).  Occassionally, at key junctures, or when a cool idea strikes them, they make a Narrativist decision, but most of the time they are content to leave the Narrativist decisions to the GM.

Thus a Dramatist Player Decision Map might look something like:

SSSSNSSGSSSSSSNSSSGSSSSSSNSSNSSNSSSSSSSSSS

as an example.  Still predominently S, but clearly a smattering of other decisions mixed in.  The danger (and a problem in earlier threads on the board) was seeing "S" as meaning a solid line of "S" with nary an "N" or "G" in sight.  I think the above is far more accurate of a behavior over time, and I believe is what the intent of GNS all along was, although that wasn't always clear.

Plus, another fascinating line of questioning that opens up is this:  "Is there any common theme behind WHEN the N decisions get made.  Is a player prone to make N decisions only during Dialog but never during Combat for example, and does that tell us anything useful.

Right now, I'd like to see Exploration put through the wringer like we did with Stance many months back, and see what drops out of it.
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Mytholder
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2002, 06:45:10 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Quote from: Mytholder

Yeah, ish. Certainly, he's concerned with the trappings and "dramatic factor" of events in game. The Dramatist gm is mentally directing a movie. He'll accomodate requests from his actors as much as possible, but he still wants to get to the big scenes he's written in his head.


Thats pretty much what I figured.  Thats why I left the authoring story decisions, primarily to the GM.

But I would add, from your descriptions, not solely to the GM.  The Dramatist player may well be willing to cede most of the story to the GM, but examples like you as a player choosing to have a character are authoring the story (the GM didn't tell you to do that, and the character didn't tell you to do that, the player decided to do it for story reasons, and thats the definition of Author).

That the GM can then still make things happen the way he wants is a factor of him having more N decision power on his side.

Ok, this kinda confuses me. At what point does the Story get Authored. In the example, the player says "my guy tries to jump in front of the bullet". It's up to the GM and the resolution system to determine what actually happens. If the GM says "you leap, but a moment too late. The bullet hits Bob", who authored the story. Does the player's contribution count as Narrativism, even if it was rejected?
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Well, one thing that the essay doesn't make clear enough is that Exploration is part of all roleplaying, including all GNS positions.  I think the section on Simulation confuses things a little by equating Exploration to Sim to a degree that makes them sound synonomous.

Enthusiatic nodding.

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That doesn't make the GNS Theory wrong (as I said, I only consider the, GNS decision positions to be the core of the theory), but it does mean that the corollary element of Exploration and how it ties back to GNS needs more work.  Not surprising since I believe this was Ron's first attempt at articulating Exploration in that fashion.

As I said earlier, though, I currently can't see how any decision can be categorised as a "S" decision, unless S is defined solely as the absence of any N or G motive.

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Sounds right to me. However, the current definition of Sim folds some "Story Decisions" into a branch of "Environment Decisions" when they should be on the borderline.


Question:  Are the players in a Dramatist game really making Story Decisions most of the time?  I've said that some times, like the bullet example they are, but what about the rest of the time?  It sounds to me that its more a matter of being AWARE that the GM is telling a story, and having an appreciation for that story, then it is about making story decisions themselves.

And that awareness is key. The intent of all the players is to participate (as audience, as actors, as authors, etc) in a STORY. That's not the intent of a Simulationist player. They're there to - yes, explore and experience something. Story is not a prime concern.

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Appreciateing that a story is being told and enjoying seeing it unfold around you and enjoying participating in the events of it, is not to my mind making a Story Decision.  Only when the player makes the decision to have his character do something in a way that is out of character (or at least not obviously encouraged by character) for the good of the story is he making a Story Decision.

The awareness of the story will influence major decisions made in the game. If the game is a story-centred, Dramatist game, you're going to play it differently.

Not every decision can - or should - be classified under GNS. The original "dividing point" discussed in rgfa was "how do you decide when one or more branches are in conflict?". If the logical integrity of the world pulls one way (bullets are dangerous, it's very unlikely your action will save anyone, you'll just end up a meaningless casualty) and the story goes another way (heroic sacrifices are always worth it, it's a dramatic act), which way do you jump?

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This is why I suggest that most of the time while a Dramatist is playing they are making Sim decisions ("what would my character do in this situation" is a Sim decision).  Occassionally, at key junctures, or when a cool idea strikes them, they make a Narrativist decision, but most of the time they are content to leave the Narrativist decisions to the GM.

Thus a Dramatist Player Decision Map might look something like:

SSSSNSSGSSSSSSNSSSGSSSSSSNSSNSSNSSSSSSSSSS

as an example.  Still predominently S, but clearly a smattering of other decisions mixed in.  The danger (and a problem in earlier threads on the board) was seeing "S" as meaning a solid line of "S" with nary an "N" or "G" in sight.  I think the above is far more accurate of a behavior over time, and I believe is what the intent of GNS all along was, although that wasn't always clear.

I think that's well, ludicrous. 95% of the decisions made by a player or a GM aren't going to be clearly classifiable, and won't provide any real insight. Me taking a shotgun as my character's weapon might be cool, logical for the setting, a good tactical choice AND pose the question "is gun control a good thing". It's only when we reach a significant decision relating to the shotgun that pulls one way or another that the shotgun becomes relevant to GNS.

Your "Decision Map" makes Sim the default. Sim lacks its own identity if you present it like that. Sim is NOT a passive style of play.

I'd draw the map as
--------------S-------NN--------GS----------N------------------------------
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2002, 07:50:47 AM »

Quote from: Mytholder
Quote from: Valamir
This is why I suggest that most of the time while a Dramatist is playing they are making Sim decisions ("what would my character do in this situation" is a Sim decision).  Occassionally, at key junctures, or when a cool idea strikes them, they make a Narrativist decision, but most of the time they are content to leave the Narrativist decisions to the GM.

Thus a Dramatist Player Decision Map might look something like:

SSSSNSSGSSSSSSNSSSGSSSSSSNSSNSSNSSSSSSSSSS

as an example.  Still predominently S, but clearly a smattering of other decisions mixed in.  The danger (and a problem in earlier threads on the board) was seeing "S" as meaning a solid line of "S" with nary an "N" or "G" in sight.  I think the above is far more accurate of a behavior over time, and I believe is what the intent of GNS all along was, although that wasn't always clear.

I think that's well, ludicrous. 95% of the decisions made by a player or a GM aren't going to be clearly classifiable, and won't provide any real insight. Me taking a shotgun as my character's weapon might be cool, logical for the setting, a good tactical choice AND pose the question "is gun control a good thing". It's only when we reach a significant decision relating to the shotgun that pulls one way or another that the shotgun becomes relevant to GNS.

Your "Decision Map" makes Sim the default. Sim lacks its own identity if you present it like that. Sim is NOT a passive style of play.

I'd draw the map as
--------------S-------NN--------GS----------N------------------------------

Taking this over to the The Alchemy Metaphor the difference here is that Valamir is looking at all the 'particles' in the 'atom' and Mytholder is looking at the 'outer shell' of 'electrons,' certainly the most important in forming 'bonds' with other gaming type 'atoms.'  (I think it can be argued that no two gamers use precisely the same gaming style looked at in the "Decision Map" fashion.)  These 'bonds' are 'what makes gaming work,' bad bounds make dysfunctional games, I would argue that some lead to 'explosions.'

One of the values of the 'Atomic/Elemental' model is that it demonstrates that gamers who aren't perfectly aligned can enjoy gaming together.  It also suggests that groups who are gaming well together may have lurking 'highly reactive bonds' that can lead to 'caustic reactions' later.  Both the GNS and any 'Elemental' theory would be created to identify and avoid these 'reactions.'  (If we can get past calling atoms, elements and calling elements, atoms.)

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contracycle
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2002, 08:08:47 AM »

I'd reiterate that I can see how the GNS accomodates rama and sim, but that I find the accomodation uncomfortable - basically I don't much like the Explosration of Colour term.  I think colour is a vital component of dramatism, perhaps its defining component, but I don't think the statement as it stands tells us anything useful.  The colour in a sim El Alamein would be the desert heat, the sand, the flies; I suggest a dramatist take would exploit panzer walkers and rocket planes as colour.  IMO these two preferences are quite distinct, and result in different play behaviour.  As I say, I can see how one might "simulate" the worlds of Gear Krieg and Furry Pirates, but I think its valid to ask why we are interested in them and how those attractive elements can be further utilised in game.

Some time ago I said I'd write something ion the dialectical metrialist analysis of RPG, but this project ran into a snag - any statment on the way an analytical tool would operate on a subject risks being normative.  In the end, I'm just talking about the conclusions I have drawn through the use of the tool, and hence my own play style.  But, it does lead me to an interest in something which is very seldom discussed here - portrayal.

From the materilist perspective, Whats Really Important is that you have a collection of physical people in a physical room.  All the game play is invisible except for the dice and the character sheets - hence my interest in them as props, essentially, or as supports for setting.  Those physical objects are the only things we can make serious intervention with.  Of course, the 2objects" include us the payers - hence my interest is largely behavioural.  I think mytholders description of the dramatist GM as movie director is correct - I explicitly think, and describe, in terms of camera angles and moving shots and the like.  The set dressing is important to me, the portrayal of NPC's.  A lot of my energy is spent on set piece scenes (perhaps erroneously, but anyway).  I feel a lot of my decisions are *about portrayal* as a distinct act, even a goal.  I aim for convincing portrayal to support a variety of player styles (and I certainly accept an overlap with sim in regards internal constency) and hence make decisions about the methodologies of -ortrayal.  Some acts will be selected becuase of the oportunity they offer to make explicit some piece of information or whatever.

For example, going back to hidden monsters: we do not necessarily have the luxury of the cutaway or the victims eye view to communicate our monsters to the audience, because they are also the players, and hence also the cast.  Conventionally, they are the SURVIVING members of the cast.  So for example, the scene in Jurassic Park in which the poison-spitting collared lizard takes down the hacker who is the catalyst of the crisis, this information would be as invisible to players as it is to their characters under default RPG conditions.  So, for reasons that have nothing to do with the content of the story I would need, if trying to run such a scenario, to contrive a way bring the monsters out of the dark without killing the PC's.  I want to give them something to think about fearfully - but they are destined to be the survivors.  To me, these are dramatic concerns - they have to do with the way I communicate the content of the story rather than being about the content itself.

I find, as a player, that I often forget the physical appearance of other characters, the physical presence of the player, the words emerging from their mouth, being highly distracting and challenging to SOD.  So, I try to employ devices which proimpt players to explicitly describe their characters to each other (not to me as GM) to make sure we are all sharing roughly the same mental picture.  Again, I feel this is a dramatic concern - not s story, gamist or sim concern (although it deals with communictaing an aspect of the sim, this need not be the case - the JP example is of the need to communicate a story element).

The player use of dramatism, as I see it, is somewhat different in manifestation.  First of all, almost all RPG's have Amazing Super Powers to which players are attracted like bees to pollen.  Yes, there is no reason that a game could not be written about the mundanities of like, but where wold be the conflict, where the drama?  Guilt-wracked vampires from the depths of time - now thats dramatic.  Either or neither could have value in story terms, but one has a clear, some would say overwhelming, dramatic presence.  Inasmuch as RPGs are fantastic wish fulfillment, the OTT worlds like SLA and the Amazing Super Powers in nearly every game make perfect sense.

So I think players are able to take a shot at interventions in the game which are chosen for dramatic reasons - all the black trenchcoats and mirrorshades there because dramatic stories don't happen to badly dressed nerds, the exception being the Nerd -> Cool transition in movies, which is really the boy -> man thing, but this dramatic convention does not transfere well to RPG becuase we follow the characters constantly.  Just as actors are cast to "look the part", I think players try to look the part, purely by reference to dramatic convention.  They are not necessarily making anything like a constructive or collaborative effort at story development - in thinking about this, I think munchkinism might be thought of as an unholy alliance of gamism and drama, excessive in both - but that they are addressing story in a very generic, conventionalised way.  So while I think that a plyare might have decided to take the bullet in an (proto)authorial way, or in a character simulationist way, I think some could also be said to have acted in a dramatic way.

Anyway, to me this is a suffiently distinct motivation and pattern of behaviour, as I see it, for me to find its partition between exploration of colour and story authorialism comfortable.  I agree there are regions of overlapping concern in terms of narrativism and story, but only to the same degre I see an interdependance between gamism and sim for the realisation of the world through mechanics.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2002, 08:15:07 AM »

I don't think that Ralph was trying to say that his map was something that you could detrmine by observation of a particular session, just that it was potentially what a series of decisions might actually be. The idea is the usefulness of having an idea of the nature of the map. If you can guess at it correctly, the theory would say, you can then see the general motive of the player playing. So, if we were to agree that the above map looked like what we thought Dramatism looked like in action, then we could say that dramatists seem to prefer making Simulationist decisions. And hence, that mechanics that support Simulationist decisions would be most enjoyable to that player.

FWIW, I agree with Ralph that his map is what Dramatism probably looks like. This is based on the assumption that the Gs, Ns, and Ss, shown represent decisions as defined in Ron's theory. So it's like:

My knight would go for a walk in the afternoon, because he does that - S
I'll go to the inn becuse that's where you get eats - S
I'll order lamb because that's what a medievel village is likely to have - S (note the subtle use of director stance)
I'll try to cut a deal with the trader in the corner booth for that necklace to get some more gold, despite the fact that knights aren't supposed to deal with merchants - G
I'll go back to the keep becuause it's where knights go - S
I'll chase that peasant that the GM had steal something from a street vendor because it'll make for a good story to do so, despite it being a little out of character for my stuffy knight - N

Anyhow, it's impossible to know looking at the player why he's making these decisions, and some of the same decisions might have been made for other reasons than the ones listed. The above is just how I, as a Dramatist player (one that wants to mostly play the character, but yet want's story) would play. So I would estimate that it might just be similar to how other Dramatists do it.

We can do more scientific study to verify the accuracy of any maps we come up with (or other statistical breakdowns), but that's not the point. We can probably do a decent job just guessing. Or close enough to be able to draw rough, though useful conclusions.

OTOH, I think there are also other factors we can consider.

IMO,
Mike
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2002, 08:16:10 AM »

Hey Ralph,

I think you're working on a potentially very productive line of inquiry with the notion that play styles are comprised of rules and habits that determine when and if participants make G or N or S decisions, and when they use various stances. I've been following it with interest. But you just talked my brain into a minor knot with this:

...in the bullet example....it wasn't character concerns that caused the decision, it was the players desire to add a cool element to the story. That decision was a Narrativist Decision.

Earlier in this thread, GarethH wrote:

Dramatism is the third answer to that question. It's not a conscious attempt to address Premise, it's an act done because "it's a cool, dramatic thing to do".

And GarethM agreed with:

I like Mytholders analysis above, especially as regard the players perspective on the events - IMO its perfectly to correct to say that in the scenario we are discussing, the player has brought about a "dramatic event" by their intervention in an essentially GM driven storyline. ....I think there is an explicit class of decisions, and hence behaviour, aimed at cranking the volume to 11.

And you responded with this assessment that exactly matched my own thoughts:

It seems to me then that what you're saying is that a dramatist is primarily concerned with is what GNS would call "color". Color is one of the 5 listed areas of Exploration: Character, System, Setting, Situation, and Color.

What attracts you to the game is the "coolness factor".


So my mental knot is, if jumping in front of the bullet is Exploration of Color, how did it become not Simulationist, but a Narrativist decision in your most recent post?

Paul
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2002, 08:31:29 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
One of the values of the 'Atomic/Elemental' model is that it demonstrates that gamers who aren't perfectly aligned can enjoy gaming together.  It also suggests that groups who are gaming well together may have lurking 'highly reactive bonds' that can lead to 'caustic reactions' later.  Both the GNS and any 'Elemental' theory would be created to identify and avoid these 'reactions.'  (If we can get past calling atoms, elements and calling elements, atoms.)

Well said, sir.

As a practical example, Max posted recently that he had a game of CoC in which everything was going along swimmingly with everyone making campatible S decisions, until at one point a player swerved hard into a G decision that "explosively decompressed" his SOD. Which shows an Incoherency in CoCs combat as he was using the rules exactly as written. A perfect example of a Lurking Bond leading to a caustic reaction.

Mike
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2002, 08:37:34 AM »

Quote from: Paul Czege

So my mental knot is, if jumping in front of the bullet is Exploration of Color, how did it become not Simulationist, but a Narrativist decision in your most recent post?

Good point. I'd say that if it was done to promote color, then it was Sim. If it was done to address a Narrativist Premis, then it was Narrativist. If the former, it also would satisfy the Gareths' definition of Dramatism. This is the Feng Shui effect in effect. Feng Shui is labeled Simulationist because such player motivated decisions are made to affect color, not any Narrativist Premise. Which also makes Feng Shui extremely Dramatist by the definition of the Gareths.

Mike

P.S. You two Gareths are never allowed to agree on anything again. ;-)
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Valamir
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2002, 08:43:50 AM »

Quote

Ok, this kinda confuses me. At what point does the Story get Authored. In the example, the player says "my guy tries to jump in front of the bullet". It's up to the GM and the resolution system to determine what actually happens. If the GM says "you leap, but a moment too late. The bullet hits Bob", who authored the story. Does the player's contribution count as Narrativism, even if it was rejected?


Well, I don't know that its ever been discussed in that way, but to my mind ABSOLUTELY.  

The player made a decision based on story.  The GM made another decision based on story.  The fact that the GM's decision in this case neutralized the player decision does not change the fact that the players decision was story based and hense Narrativist.

Now in a "Narrativist Game" (talking play style not decision level) this neutralization would probably NOT be acceptable (at least not as a standard occurance) because Narrativists have a higher expectation of shared authorship.  For a Dramatist whose willingly ceded ultimate authorship to the GM this is not as great a concern.

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And that awareness is key. The intent of all the players is to participate (as audience, as actors, as authors, etc) in a STORY. That's not the intent of a Simulationist player. They're there to - yes, explore and experience something. Story is not a prime concern.


See its clear to me that you haven't (as I hadn't for most of my Forge career) grasped that GNS is about decisions.  You are here equating making sim decisions as being a sim player.  You are saying that a sim player is not interested in story, a dramatist is interested in story, therefor a dramatist doesn't make sim decisions.

Thats just logically wrong.

A sim player who has absolutely 0 interest in ever making a story based decision will have a decision map devoid of N decisions.

A dramatist player who does have interest in making story based decisions will have a decision map which includes some number of N decisions.

In a dramatist game where players have ceded most story based decisions to the GM, the GM will have a decision map which includes a greater number of N decisions than the players.


Making a sim decision does not equal a player with no interest in story.  Making a sim decision equals that at that point in time the player's motivation was not story based.

Even a die hard narrativist will have many sim decisions in their decision map.  Sim decisions are what maintain internal consistancy and verisimilitude.  They maintain the "suspension of disbelief" factor.  

Once again, identifying a single decision as Sim cannot be extrapolated into a player who plays "Simulationist".


This again highlights the difficulty in the chosen terminology.  A "Simulationist" Player, is more than a player who makes mostly Sim decisions.  A "Simulationist" play style also includes certain stance preferences and emphasis of Exploration.

Calling the "S" decision Simulationist confounds things greatly because people (like you have here) equate "S" decisions with Simulationist playstyle and they're not the same thing.

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Not every decision can - or should - be classified under GNS. The original "dividing point" discussed in rgfa was "how do you decide when one or more branches are in conflict?". If the logical integrity of the world pulls one way (bullets are dangerous, it's very unlikely your action will save anyone, you'll just end up a meaningless casualty) and the story goes another way (heroic sacrifices are always worth it, it's a dramatic act), which way do you jump?
[\quote]

I'm not sure I follow you.  That example is the very core of GNS.  It is precisely your decision as to which way you jump that determines your GNS position.


Quote

I think that's well, ludicrous. 95% of the decisions made by a player or a GM aren't going to be clearly classifiable, and won't provide any real insight. Me taking a shotgun as my character's weapon might be cool, logical for the setting, a good tactical choice AND pose the question "is gun control a good thing". It's only when we reach a significant decision relating to the shotgun that pulls one way or another that the shotgun becomes relevant to GNS.


Ahh, see now you're hitting upon what Ron and I discussed in another thread GNS Motivations I think.  The difference between the theory and the practical observation of the theory.  

The theory leads to a decision map as I listed it.  Each decision has a GNS position.

The limits of practical observation leads to a map as you listed it where only those decisions that can be clearly observed and extrapolated can be defined.  This is why Ron defines the observation of GNS positions as occuring per "Instance of Play" meaning a sufficient period of time to observe an identifyable decision.

Quote

Your "Decision Map" makes Sim the default. Sim lacks its own identity if you present it like that. Sim is NOT a passive style of play.

I'd draw the map as
--------------S-------NN--------GS----------N------------------------------


I have to take you to task about this logical leap you just made.

Most frequent is not the same thing as default and default is not the same thing as passive.

I would say that in most games at individual decision points, Gamist and Narrativist players both commonly and routinely make S decisions.  

Any time you make a decision because thats what a character would do is a "Sim" decision.  Any time you make a decision because that is the sort of thing that would happen in the "real world" its a sim decision.

Making sim decisions does not require you to be some rabid "Simulation above all" type player.  Again you are confounding making a Sim decision with being a Simulationist player.

Is every single decision a Narrativist player makes going to be an N decision.  NO.  A good many are going to be G decisions and a good many are going to be S decisions.  The mere presence of N decisions doesn't make one a Narrativist player, and the mere presence of G and S decisions doesn't make one NOT a Narrativist player.

What sort of player a player is is not defined at the GNS level.  Its defined at the next level up (what we've been calling the Decision Map) where a pattern of GNS level decisions over time can be observed, and it is this pattern (likely combined with Stance and Exploration preferences) that determines what sort of player one is.

This is why we had so many arguements about this stuff in the past going around and around on it because we were all erroneously equating GNS decisions as behaviors and then identifying behaviors that didn't fit GNS decision definitions and declaring that there was something wrong with GNS.  But GNS isn't about behaviors, its about decisions.  Behaviors only come about as the observed pattern of GNS decisions.

As Fang has said behaviors are "elemental" and "decisions" are atomic.

We may not be able to observe every atomic instance of decision any more than one can identify the precise location of an electron in an atom, but that doesn't change the fact that they're there.
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