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Author Topic: Same game, different players, different rules?  (Read 6762 times)
Walt Freitag
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« on: September 10, 2002, 01:04:22 PM »

On this thread, Ron wrote:

Quote
I suggest that when a GNS-diverse group does work well together, that there may well be compensating mechanisms going on, whether at the whole-social-group level, or at the rules-techniques level, or both.

[snip]

Third, it could be that the group has agreed, tacitly or otherwise, that the rules simply don't apply the same way to [different players with different GNS priorities]. It could be the reward mechanics, or damage mechanics, or whatever. Everyone's cool with this and probably doesn't think twice about it, to the extent that they'll even claim that the game system "supports" the two modes of play.


This is intriguing in oh so many ways...

It appears to be looking in a direction practically perpendicular to all recent discussion of focus, drift, transition, and social contract. All of which assumes that the same rules apply to all players, and that the whole group must therefore contract, focus, transition, and drift together.

To what extent does this occur, and how commonly? In my own experience, varying the type and degree of illusionist meddling with a player-character's fate, depending on my interpretation of a player's playing style, is second nature. A little goes a long way, when applied to key areas where player preferences differ the most dramatically, such as rewards, making success checks, and avoiding deprotagonization.

In fact, I wonder if "equal system for all players" isn't a shaky concept to begin with, in a GM-centric game. Almost every magic item included in a treasure horde in a fantasy game rewards one character concept (and therefore, one player) more than another. Every judgment call made by a GM about whether an intended action is permitted, or required, to be subject to a success roll is made either in agreement with or in conflict with that individual player's priorities. Most NPCs that appear in a game advance one character's priorities more than another's, even if those priorities are on the same GNS "page."

How much of the dysfunction in incoherent play is due to players objecting to each others' actual decision-making per se, as opposed to players objecting to rules that don't reward their own styles of play? If I'm a Gamist, how much of a problem is it if there's a Narrativist in the same game making Narrativist decisions, if I can play by Gamist rules and don't depend on the Narrativist playing my way in order to earn the rewards I want? What about vice versa?

It's my understanding that Gamist play doesn't require the kind of detailed and intricate dice rolling procedures (e.g. using the haggling skill when buying provisions) that Simulationists and (especially) Narrativists would tend to object to spending time on. Scene framing can cut out slow and dramatically unimportant events, without being objectionable to Simulationists. Versimilitude doesn't interfere with Challenge or Story as long as the mechanisms used to maintain it are efficient. Giving a player Narrative power doesn't have to be a slap in the face to Gamists or Simulationists, as long as plausibility and ownership are respected.

With that in mind, is there any merit in the idea of systems that permit players to agree to rules that support the style of play they most prefer, not as a group but each individually?

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2002, 01:27:08 PM »

There's merit to the idea, but you still have the problem of the player who is annoyed by the play of others in differing modes. The easy example, is the Gamist playig in Pawn stance and everyone else. Say I'm a Simmy trying to get all Immersed. Then I look over and see the guy playing the Paladin slay a villagefull of helpless dark gnomes because "they're evil, man! I'll get more EXP from this than when we slew all those baby kobolds." Or that player getting all tired wth me as I administer my estates in Immersionist detail.

The point is that some players preferences will not allow for such differences in play.  

Now, the question becomes can you make a system that has such a strong "convergence" factor that the rewards systems, the resolution mechanics, the setting, everything work to prevent just this sort of situation? I suppose just possibly. But I think it's going to be beyond difficult.

OTOH, you could just ignore the player incompatibility issue altogether, as it is likely to be a problem in any game those two players play. As such, the job becomes much easier. I've envisioned this before. I see three separate reward systems that each player can take, and other tailorable mechanics to suit the player. And then you admonish players to either switch to the rules that they think are better, or not to grouse about their decisions or those of others.

Could work. Very much what Fang is going for. Just a more in depth version.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2002, 01:45:12 PM »

Hi Walt,

Wow, what a data-dump of a post! I don't think I've seen you this pumped since the "atoms" discussion.

I'm thinking that in practical terms, it's important not to lose sight of the shared-audience aspect of role-playing. By and large, people role-play among one another as a mutual-appreciation thing. I *like* it when someone in the group is fired up about my character's crisis between faith and rage. Or if I'm playing Ninja Burger, I *like* it when I get hosed by some awful role and still pull off the wasabi maneuver - and someone in the group goes "Whoo-hoo!" (or conversely, goes "Shit!" and starts scheming on a way to trip me up).

So within certain limits, your suggestion has its merits and certainly it fits well into the available theory. But practically, I think those limits are even narrower.

Best,
Ron
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2002, 02:46:34 PM »

Is it possible that the longer a group has been playing together, the better they have built up implicit and explicit mechanisms for coping with differing styles of play?

If that's the case, maybe a game with the suggested "Chosse one of three" rule-sets could be targeted at that very thin niche of the gaming community that has been playing with a stable group for a long time.

Also, if one included in the Social Contract of the game enough information to allow all the players playing said game a preview of what's exepcted of them - particularly in terms of respect for another players choice of rule-set, then perhaps this could work.

Basically, part of the Social Contract would be "hey, your buddy chose to play with the Narrativist ruleset, so you need to respect that choice".

The main problem as I see it with this type of modular rule set is how do the three different sets interact with one another?

Seems to me that there would need to be a meta-rule set that did a couple of things:
1) allowed the other rule set to interact with one another, so that if a character using the Gamist rule set wanted to pick the pockets of a character using the Simulationist rule set - the mechanics of each would need to interact.

2) made this interaction with a minimum of fuss and interpretation on the part of the GM and the players.

3) allow players the ability to shift their character from one rule set to another - perhaps between sessions.

That does seem like a very daunting task.  You'd basically be needing to write four sets of mechanics - one for each of the modes of play, and then the meta-rules set.

Even if each ruleset was based on the meta-rules set, you could still be easily doubling the amount of work to create the game.

You'd also up the learning curve, and I think necessarily complicate character creation.

It would definitely be an interesting challenge - but it's hard to decide if its ultimately worth it (i.e. would anybody other than my loyal gaming groupies actually try the game).

Cheers.
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Jeremy Cole
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2002, 05:13:05 PM »

Character choice has always functioned as an unstated way of signalling a player's type.  The GM takes the signals and fits the campaign into the three given ways.  Perhaps rather than four rule-sets, you just have three character types, one G, one N and one S.

In my time in the trenches, often a couple of party members would focus on combat heavy munchkin type characters, while another would attempt to be as dramatic and 'grey' as possible, and a third would be 'real'. Historically archetypes and classes have encouraged this, the rogue would normally be much closer tied to the story, and may even have the story focussed around him solely, than the party's barbarian, who is crucial in combat.

Coming in two posts again...
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Jeremy Cole
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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2002, 05:15:15 PM »

GMs would reward each player with different amounts from the "XP for killing things, and bonuses for making sub-plots, and bonuses for being in character" mishmash.

But even if you're given your own reward structure, can you really immerse yourself in character when the guy next to you is playing a millipede monk, because he gets a bonus attack for each limb?  The campaign may function where a player is no more gamist than min-maxing a barbarian, but how far do you allow his character to go?

If this was to be attempted limits would definitely have to be applied, and do you think its possible to limit a G's options, such that S becomes possible, without taking away too much of G's fun?

Jeremy
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2002, 06:06:15 AM »

Jeremy,

Some people can immerse themselves despite the millipede monk (that could become a meme). Others cannot. It's a preference thing.

DPBob,

There has been a lot of opinion here that simply advocating that players play a certain way in the text, and then not backing it up with mechanics is not very effective (hence "system matters"). Take for example Vampire. This would be a very Narrativist game if players but played it as the text suggests. But the mechanics suggest otherwise, and in the end you get all sorts of different play. Little of which is actually Narrativist.

Doesn't hurt to put this text in, but it would be cool if we could come up with a mechanical way to reward players for supporting others modes of play. That could be the key to this idea right there.

So, if you are playing Sim, And I am playing Gamist, I could gain EXP or something by helping you Immerse somehow. Perhaps you have the EXP to give to me (player rewards instead of GM awards which has been proposed for a few designs). And if you support my striving against challenges, I can reward you with by giving you Detail points which you can use to force the GMto delineate any setting or NPC characteristic, thus helping you get your Sim jollies. And we can both give the Narrativist player plot points if he helps us do our thing.

How's that sound? Problems?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2002, 06:12:45 AM »

Hey Mike,

Yeesh, I don't know about that ... 'porting it into musical terms (which as you know I always do), it seems like all the effort placed into aiding-slash-tolerating one another would outweigh the ... well, basic goal of enjoying what you do and having others enjoy it in a similar fashion.

I'd have to see it in action, I guess.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2002, 06:32:36 AM »

Coincidentally, just this thing came up in my most recent Ars Magica session.  Preplay, I was trying to get a hook into Emily's secondary PC, pestering her about what is she risking and what's her relationship with her father and all sorts of stuff.  I was getting nothing back.  Finally Emily just shrugged and said that the point of the character is to explore our ideas of Fairyland and magic, not to address our what's responsible parenting/use of power premise.

So, huh.  Emily's playing a nar PC, primarily, and a sim:setting PC secondarily.  How about that.

Fortunately we're all interested in our ideas of Fairyland and magic too, so as audience we won't mind watching Siobhan -- plus, what she reveals about Fairyland and magic will probably feed into Meguey's character's statement on responsible parenting/use of power.  It's all good.

But building mechanics to make that happen, though?  You got me.

-Vincent
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2002, 08:30:19 AM »

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I certainly agree that building mechanics that would allow players with different sharply focused play styles to coexist -- the guy who's 100% sim, the girl who's 100% nar, and the (instantly canonical) "millipede gamist" playing together in happy harmony, tra la la, is a dubious prospect at best.

But in the messy, noisy, complex field of "typical" actual play, as we're all fond of reminding each other (and as Vincent just elegantly instantiated), players shift modes, shift stances, adjust their attention level, take turns in the spotlight, and make allowances for quirky friends or little brothers. Interest in any one mode is never totally exclusive, and rarely close to that. So my idea isn't so much an attempt to create GURPS InSpectres: The Tournament Version, as it is to lay out a system much like a typical incoherent PRG, but with the most troublesome points of GNS contention either filed down closer to congruence (e.g. no "intelligence" stat, so that the IC/OOC "your character isn't intelligent enough to have figured that out" issue never comes up), or bifurcated between player-selected modes (e.g. your mode choice determines whether or not your character has mental or personality stats). The modal choices would affect only specific elements of the system. I don't think a whole different set of rules for every player mode would be necessary, so the common portion of the system would be a (hopefully well designed) compromise.

Jeremy, I'm really glad you made that point about character classes sometimes reflecting tendencies toward different modes of play. I considered making the same point in my opening post, but I was afraid that I'd have trouble backing up the idea if challenged. Nonetheless, I agree with you. So another way of thinking of the mode choice mechanics would be "sort of like character classes, but bigger" -- "bigger" meaning involving deeper exceptions to the common rules than character class rules ever do. (The mode choices would also be independent of character profession or skill set, so the analogy with classes is only partial.)

In fact -- and I didn't even see this connection until today, honest -- I've discussed a specific version of just such a thing recently with Pale Fire. I proposed a fantasy game system having two fundamentally different types of characters, both drawn from fantasy archetypes: "adolescent" characters who start with low effectiveness, advance rapidly, and have destinies or at least very powerful aspirations which give direction to their advancement; and "adult" characters who start at high effectiveness, advance slowly if at all, and are more subject to fortune than to fate. This would clearly involve two entirely different advancement systems; it's a very short (and probably necessary) step to think of it as two entirely different reward systems. I also said (quoting myself):

Quote
This arrangement acknowledges right from the beginning that the adolescents' passions are going to be what sets the group's agenda, while the adults' skills are going to be what makes progress on that agenda possible.


In other words, a possible "systematic" (and toned down closer to practicality) realization of the "George and Nguyen" gamist-narrativist symbiosis Ron hypothesized in the post I quoted at the start of this thread.

Of course, as Christoffer and I discussed, there are still lots of perils in such a scheme, such as how to prevent the lower-effectiveness characters in the mix from being deprotagonized, especially (since this is a fantasy game) in combat, and how to prevent the "adults" from becoming effectively railroaded by the adolescents' stories. Associating the different types of characters more specifically with different modes of play actually helps moderate these problems. (If "adults" is actually a "gamist" character type, then a somewhat more railroady situation for these characters is more tolerable, as long as it doesn't go to extremes -- and it wouldn't, because all these distinctions smear out at the table anyhow.) There are also solutions to be found at the level of the common system design. For example, a combat system that allows lower effectiveness characters to assist the higher effectiveness ones via specific tactically interesting actions (not just "I assist Frank the Tank this round"), and have that assistance make a real difference, would help a lot. (This would make it a rather cinematic system, allowing for typical scenes where the hobbit throws crockery while the knight engages the enemy with furious swordplay.)

In any case, that's just one possible pair of mode-classes for one specific genre. In theory there should be at least three in the system, and they may or may not be so closely associated with genre character archetypes.

Anyhow, that's where my thinking is so far. Are prospects sounding any better, or have I just helped reveal how dangerous a morass such a project could be? (Perhaps both?)

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2002, 09:00:23 AM »

Quote from: wfreitag
GURPS InSpectres: The Tournament Version
Dude, don't do that! I just had to resuscitate Jared with the paddles on Max power.

I like your modal pair idea and how it might affect things. Interestingly, though, I was under the impression that the Gamists would choose the adolescents wanting the opportunity to strive for advancement (the usual Gamist reward), and the Simulationists would take the Adults and focus less on advancement and more on just "playing the character". I mean, if they Gamist takes the Adult, what in-game metric do they have to strive for? Are you assuming that the Gamist will automatically take the strongest character available so as to maximize his ability to confront the challenges of the game? Hmmm...

So, given these two first opinions, I'm not sure that it would end up mapping out correctly. Congruence will help in many cases, but I think it's a limited solution. I think there needs to be a mechanical incentive of some sort to promote acceptance of other's play. Note that rewards is just the first thing that comes to mind. One could tinker with the resolution systems as well, etc.

Thinking about it, I see Ron's objection. My point is not that the player would only get rewards from supporting the other player's modes, but that this would be in addition to the "normal" awards available to a player of that style. So, as a Gamist, I get a reward of EXP from the GM for dispatching a creature. Then I jump into a scene with Bob, wherin we act out a cool reminiscence of the time we went on that one adventure. Bob likes the Sim scene so much that he awards me ten of his pool of reward points which he gets at the start of each session and are only good to give away to other players. Once I recieve those points, I can call them anything that I want of the three types of rewards available. Since I'm interested in Gamism, they become ten EXP. If I wanted, however, they could become 10 Plot points or something.

Meanwhile Sim Bob only gets more Simmy rewards. Advancement only when it makes sense from a very in-game perspective, and, more likley metagame currency to force the world to conform to his genre expectations. Ted, playing Narrativist mode gets plot points for addressing Narrativist Premises selected or presented.

I don't ever have to support another players mode of play if I don't feel like it. But then I never get these bonus points. In any case, I am informed mechanically to respect the other players' modes of play, as not only valid, but potentially profitable to my mode.

Is that any clearer? Or is clarity not the issue, and the idea just blows?

Mike
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2002, 10:22:56 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

Is that any clearer? Or is clarity not the issue, and the idea just blows?

Mike


Mike,

I for one don't think the idea blows.  It will probably only work with a limited selection of gamers - those with more mature and tenured playing groups who are already doing at least oaky tolerating the millipede monk in their group.  (Why does everyone seem to pick on the Gamists? ;-) )

I really like the idea of allowing both players and GM's to award XP/Plot Points/Sim Points - that really helps 'pay' for each player's tolerance of others' sytles.

I also kind of like the bi-modal/tri-modal character archetype too - although I also agree that figuring out the appropriate G/N/S to Archetype map could be a sticky wicket.

Still, I think, if I understand this G/N/S model (which I freely admit that I probably don't), that the core resolution mehcanic(s) for such a game would have to differ by style as well.

Under the model, don't Narrativist style players typically prefer quick (i.e. low search and handling time) mechanics while Gamist players like lots of meta-game tactical choices (toggles and switches?), and Simulationists like lots of detailed and self-consistent rules for resolving various skill checks?

If I'm off my rock, and clearly don't understand the G/N/S relationship to mechanics, let me know and ignore my ramblings.

If I'm close to being right, it then sounds to me like we're right back at incoherence - unless there is at least some level of meta-rules that allow this systems to 'talk' to each other in the game.  Whatever this translation would be would need to be pretty slick to not dramatically increase the search and handling time.

Good discussion.  As an aside, this is by far and away the most civil internet forum I've ever been a party to - for whatever that's worth (i.e. not much, but there it is anyway :p )

Cheers.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2002, 11:17:14 AM »

As just a quick note, I and others are of the opinion that rules density (heavy vs. lite) has nothing to do with GNS. What is important is that the Rules only have the sorts of mechanics that support a particular style.

That said, then, you are correct. If you really wanted to support the differing styles of play to the greatest extent possible, you'd have to have resolution systems tailored to each. Not to mention CharGen. Which is, of course, problematic. For example, if you have one resolutoin system that takes into account all sorts of tactical modifiers, and therefore takes a particularly long time to resolve (in order to make it a good Gamist or Sim system), then it might have problems co-existing with a fast paced Narrativist system. Or, rather, the speed of the Narrativist system becomes pointless, as that player still has to wait just as long for the non-narrativists.

This is where Walt's Congruence has to come in. All such systems must have a similar length, and one that is satisfactory to all. Again, problematic.

CharGen is also a problem in that if I do like Walt suggests and have a dichotomy of character designs, then I am locked into playing that character in that particular fashion. Any set of options that is intended to produce a specific style of character is likely abusable if one can later shift. For example, in Walt's example dichotomy from PF's game, one could start with the "Adult" character, and then shift to the "adolescent" mode thus starting high and still allowing for advancement. Which breaks the system.

OTOH, if a player is willing to devote himself to a particular form for the long run, then it's not so bad. But that limits the audience which is what we're trying to expand on by making this game in the first place.

On another note, it's been postulated previously that one could make a game where it was played in phases wherin one phase was one way, and other phases another. Indeed, I believe that's the point of the whole "scale and GNS" thread. In helping somebody with a Viking fate game, I posited a situation where the Viking played Sim until he died, and then played a Narrativist afterlife. One could theorize a system where players could share time through a currency bidding system, where you purchased time using the system or rules you most prefer, and then shifting back to others when other players went that way. Or other splitting schemes. But this means that players are simply intermittently annoyed by the system.

Very problematic, all of it.

Mike
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2002, 02:15:27 PM »

Quote from: Mike
So, as a Gamist, I get a reward of EXP from the GM for dispatching a creature. Then I jump into a scene with Bob, wherin we act out a cool reminiscence of the time we went on that one adventure. Bob likes the Sim scene so much that he awards me ten of his pool of reward points which he gets at the start of each session and are only good to give away to other players. Once I recieve those points, I can call them anything that I want of the three types of rewards available. Since I'm interested in Gamism, they become ten EXP. If I wanted, however, they could become 10 Plot points or something.


I think this is a fascinating idea. But Mike, you've now created a meta-metagame. And of course, some players would prefer to use these reward points to entice other players toward more of their preferred mode of play; others would prefer to use them to even things out to make each player as happy as possible with their own mode; while yet others would prefer to simply let the rewards fall where they may. Different meta-player priorities might run into problems if mixed in the same game, and we'd probably need some kind of three-way model to keep track of it all... Can you understand why this concept scares me?

Seriously, this sounds like it would be worthwhile and effective at improving player satisfaction with cross-modal play, if such play turns out to frequently require a time-sharing or turn-taking approach (we play a little Gamist, then a little Narr...) But the necessity for doing this would be a disappointing finding if I were trying to make the different modes among the different players all work simultaneously. I would seriously consider it, though, for a more "conventional" (!!) transitional game, especially if there's the possibility of using it as a consensus-seeking mechanism, to as it were steer the transitional trend during play. (And that would indeed be a meta-metagame, I believe.)

Now, as for the "adults/adolescents" split, you're both right that as described so for, it doesn't cleave cleanly along GNS lines. Chalk that up to the fact that the adults/adolescents idea wasn't designed to do that, it was only intended to allow for a simultaneous mix of certain genre archetypes. The adult type I described is some sort of sim-nar muddle while the adolescent type is a nar-gamist muddle. But if I could come that close by accident, I believe I can come up with three more distinct types more closely aligned with GNS, perhaps in a different genre. Of course, if it were someone else telling me this, I'd say I'll believe it when I see it.

Resolution system(s), especially handling time, I believe is solveable as a compromise on the design level, with alternate procedural details for each mode. I have some wild ideas about a fortune-at-the-beginning possibility (fortune before intent declaration) which might be tunable to differnt modes (e.g. whether or not there's more fortune later in the action) if it can be adquately justified as reasonable sim (e.g. the FatB represents your "tempo" or readiness to plan and execute an effective action).

The problem with being "locked in" to one set of rules, after making your choice, is interesting from a psychological standpoint. Naturally, most other RPG out there lock you in to one set of rules, with no choice -- but that doesn't mean Mike is wrong in seeing this as a problem. Would there be constant "grass is always greener" mode envy going on between players? Quite possibly, which could make the system just plain unpleasant to play.

So... don't throw out those social contracts yet.

- Walt
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damion
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« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2002, 02:54:35 PM »

Quote

 I like your modal pair idea and how it might affect things. Interestingly, though, I was under the impression that the Gamists would choose the adolescents wanting the opportunity to strive for advancement (the usual Gamist reward), and the Simulationists would take the Adults and focus less on advancement and more on just "playing the character". I mean, if they Gamist takes the Adult, what in-game metric do they have to strive for? Are you assuming that the Gamist will automatically take the strongest character available so as to maximize his ability to confront the challenges of the game? Hmmm...


I wondered how you solved this Walt. It seems that there might be a problem
when the adoslecents caught up with the adults.

I think that since most people seem to exhibit a mix of modes, being locked into one for the entirety of long-term play would unfortunate.  Another problem is how to deal with NPC's. Obviously a type X player can be confronted by a type X NPC. But what if a Narrativist players wants to interact with PC created for a Gamist?  Heck, what if players want to interact with each other. What is the simulationist decides to help the Gamist in Combat?  If seems you would need some sort of conversion mechanism, which would probably require tracking 3 sets of stats/player. This might be annoying to the players.   Also,if you can switch modes, Gamists will chose what mode gives the best chance of success, Narrativists will do whatever seems to work best for the story, possibly even going into another mode to get random story input.

If you pull this off you might be able to give Fang a run for his money for my 'Guru of RPG theory award'. :)
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