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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 55 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Illusionism and GNS  (Read 13478 times)
Seth L. Blumberg
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Posts: 303


« on: November 13, 2002, 11:09:59 AM »

Ron wants this taken to a separate thread; I comply. (Might could be that some splitting needs to be done on the parent thread.)

In this thread, Ralph (Valamir) said:
Quote
I think you are continueing to confound Narrativism with three fold Dramatism. They are completely different concepts. I don't think its even possible to use Illusionism in a Narrativist environment.

Based on my own Actual Play, I have to disagree. Illusionism can be a highly functional technique for a Narrativist GM to accommodate players with differing GNS priorities.

I tend toward Narrativist play, while the players in the campaign I am currently GMing are mainly Simulationist (some focused on Character, some on Situation). In order to make the play experience satisfying for all of us, I routinely employ Illusionist techniques. Thus, I manipulate the players' decisions to cause them to address a theme, while the players are comfortable in the supposed purity of their Exploration.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2002, 11:21:18 AM »

Well, I'd have to say that what you are doing isn't Narrativist (note thats not saying that what you're doing isn't good/valid/fun/etc).

Narrativism is about player decision focusing on the narrativist premise.  If the player decisions are focusing on exploration of character and you're using slieght of hand to slip in a narrativist premise on them...by definition that can't be Narrativist.  This is similiar to the case where pure simulationist play just by sheer coincidence happens in the end to address a narrativist style premise.  

Now what you're describing may be an effective technique for enhancing what Walt has called Congruence...the ability for a single decision to meet more than one GNS goal at the same time and thus be accepted as a legitimate (i.e. non disruptive) decision by players focused on different GNS modes.  

But the overall "narrativist" / "simulationist" bent of the "instance of play" is not mixed.  At some point a decision will occur that is not and cannot be made to be congruent...at at that point, somebody's preference is being realized and somebody's isn't.
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jburneko
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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2002, 11:43:01 AM »

This question interests me because I consider my own play to be a functional hybridization of Narrativism [Character-Premise] & Simulationism [Character & Situation Exploration].  So, I often think about what seperates these four cases.

1) Premise is addressed by accident.  NO ONE is conciously or actively addressing Premise but in hindsight clearly a Premise WAS adressed just not deliberately.

2) Premise is being conciously addressed but only on one side of the table.  I think if that addressing is on the Players' side, you get dysfunction.  However, if the GM, is consistently insuring that the presentation of Situation and NPC-Character interactions all essencially raise permutations of the question stated in a Premise but the players are ONLY actually addressing the Situation and Characters (not conciously acknowledging the Premise they embody) then I think this quite functional.  But what is it?  

Note: In ths style fo play the GM is only rasing questions (the Premise) via presentation of Situation and choice Character interactions.  He is NOT predetermining the PCs reactions to them.  Therefore, because the Situation/Character interactions present Premise the players MUST address the Premise because they must make a decision regarding the given state of game affairs even if they are not conciously thinking of it in terms of Premise but only as a Situation to be resolved/dealt with.

3) Partial two sidded addressing of Premise.  That is the GM and SOME of the players are adressing Premise.  I think this is where my group is.  This is effectively, a subset of #2 and is included only for completeness.

4) Full on Narrativist play.  EVERYONE at the table is conciously addressing and discussing Premise in and out of game and so on.

Just wondering.

Jesse
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2002, 01:04:30 PM »

Yes, Jesse, that's it. Number 2 is exactly the important question. The Conventional answer is that it's Simulationist play that ends up addressing a premise. Which isn't Narrativism as Narrativism requires intentional adressing of the premise.

But this is as close to the "Impossible Thing" as one can get, and the exact sort of play I espouse. Essesntially where one cannot tell if the players are intentionally or unintentionally addressing the premise, but theme is created anyhow.

#1 is not Narrativism either. This is the classic "accidental story". Surreptitious, but not satisfactory to a player looking for Narrativism per se.

In any case, I've tried to demonstrate how one can use Illusionism to promote a Narrativist response in players. One uses it to maneuver naturalistically to introduce interesting Bangs. This is very much what Ron advocates but with a slight difference. He actually advocates a much more Overt use in most cases. That is, the way that Ron leads players to Bangs is more Participationist. Narrativist players accept things like radical scene framing so that they can get to the Narrativist decision. That's the point where both he and I turn down the "Force" dial to near zero, and let the player author the plot.

Does that make sense? It's useful precisely because you can transition your Illusionist dials as quickly as a player can change Stance.

Mike
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Marco
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« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2002, 01:08:46 PM »

I think it hinges on the definition of Illusionism.

If part of the definition is "taking away power from the players" and part of the definition of Narrativism is "not taking any of the power away from the players" then, hey, what do you know? The answer's clear.

If the definition of Illusionism is the GM chaning things behind the scenes to suit his idea of a story then it isn't necessiarly in conflict (note I didn't say "forcing his idea of a story" or "changing things to remove player empowerment").

If the Narrativist player *ever* asks the GM what's in a room--and the GM decides what's there based on what s/he thinks would be good for the story rather than a) what s/he had already decided was there or b) what s/he thinks would "logically" be there--then, IMO, it's Illusionism assuming that either of the other two possibilities would have produced a different answer.

Since the player, even in a Narrativist game, can't know that the GM is doing that, then it'll work.

NOTE: I see Illusionism as a practice of creating an illusion of perfectly logical non-story driven world, when, in fact, the reality is in flux as the GM makes decisions about the reality to fit his idea of the dramatic.  I don't see Ron's "GM-Oomph" as part of the deal.

But I really see this as boiling down to battling definitions (Note, I have to agree with Valamir about one thing: if the players aren't consciously engaged in Narrativist play then I don't think you can say it's Narrativist--the whole idea of Narrativist play is that the actions taken consciously address a Premise).

-Marco
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2002, 01:28:43 PM »

Put me down as another who's played extensively this way (Number 2, that is... uh, can we get another name for it before it becomes forever known as "Number 2" by default?) and advocates such play. I've written about it extensively before, so I'm not going to add any descriptive accounts here.

Narrativism is about player decision focusing on the Narrativist premise... but I believe in this statement, the usage of "player" must include the GM, so there's at least one player doing so. And Jesse has a good point about the GM using force to set up player decisions that "force" the players to address an intended Premise, so there you have players focusing on the Narrativist premise, at least occasionally.

To that I'll add that "The Phantom Premise" often discussed in various older threads is also likely to arise in these sorts of circumstance. If a GM is using force to set up situations in which the players must face "interesting" decisions, there's a darned good chance that a closer analysis of what makes those decisions "interesting" will reveal a Premise driving them, even if not even the GM was thinking in those terms. Might this describe, perhaps, the farthest "vanilla" extreme of vanilla Narr?

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2002, 02:05:21 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
Might this describe, perhaps, the farthest "vanilla" extreme of vanilla Narr?


I'd say so, Walt.

Marco, I mostly agree; Illusionist technique ranges widely in use, IMO, and as such I can sorta see the application here. But I'd say that the question is not for what mode he made the decision to change the room, but whether he did so in a manner meant to be seen as though it were, in fact, objective fact. That is, if I say, "Hmm, you know what would be cool? If there were a magic box here. Hey, you see a magic box." That's not Illusionism particularly as it's pretty Overt. But, yes, this is an example of how Illusionist technique can be used in Narrativism.

Is anyone else feeling rather enlightened today? :-)

I'd be willing to accept as a clarification, the idea of separating the ideas of Illusionist Technique, and Illusionism. The former would indicate such techniques as used to support any sort of game, and the latter would be that form of GMing style that relies heavily on Illusionist Technique to specifically achieve the goal of creating story whilst giving the players the Illusion of freedom (Forceful, Covert, and mostly Consensual, but can be either Flexible or Inflexible). And fairly constant (oops, I think I'm trying to sneak a fifth one in).

This is a form that decidedly promotes Sim play, IMO. Illusionist Technique, however, applied here and there is not neccessarily a Sim thing.

Does that make sense?

Mike
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2002, 02:07:05 PM »

Quote from: Ralph
Narrativism is about player decision focusing on the narrativist premise. If the player decisions are focusing on exploration of character and you're using slieght of hand to slip in a narrativist premise on them...by definition that can't be Narrativist.

The GNS theory treats GMs and players equally. Everyone at the table is a "player" and has a mode of play. If I am making decisions based on the desire to address the Premise, then I am playing in a Narrativist mode. The fact that the other players are in a Simulationist mode has no bearing.

Nothing says that all the players have to be in the same mode. In this case, Illusionism (and the System-privileged position of the GM) is the only thing that keeps the clash of modes from becoming dysfunctional.

Quote from: Jesse
Premise is being conciously addressed but only on one side of the table. I think if that addressing is on the Players' side, you get dysfunction. However, if the GM, is consistently insuring that the presentation of Situation and NPC-Character interactions all essencially raise permutations of the question stated in a Premise but the players are ONLY actually addressing the Situation and Characters (not conciously acknowledging the Premise they embody) then I think this quite functional.

That's what's going on in my game.

Suggested term for this: "Narrativist GMing."

Quote from: Marco
NOTE: I see Illusionism as a practice of creating an illusion of perfectly logical non-story driven world, when, in fact, the reality is in flux as the GM makes decisions about the reality to fit his idea of the dramatic. I don't see Ron's "GM-Oomph" as part of the deal.

That's a fascinating definition of the word "Illusionism." Alas, it is not the one we are using in this discussion.

Quote from: Walt
Narrativism is about player decision focusing on the Narrativist premise... but I believe in this statement, the usage of "player" must include the GM, so there's at least one player doing so.... Jesse has a good point about the GM using force to set up player decisions that "force" the players to address an intended Premise, so there you have players focusing on the Narrativist premise, at least occasionally.

With regard to the first part, that's precisely the interpretation of the theory that motivated my statement that I am playing in a Narrativist mode when I act as an Illusionist GM.

With regard to the second part...not really. What the Forceful GM can do is set up situations where the other players' decisions make a statement about the Premise. He can't force the players to make their decisions with that in mind--that would be deeply dysfunctional.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2002, 02:37:22 PM »

I think Marco's definition works fine as a goal of Illusionism. What it doesn't do is describe how you do it. But as an end result, I agree, that's the usual ideal.

Anyhow, Seth has some excellent points. I think there has long been a problem with the theory applying to the GM. That is, there is a notion that Narrativism implies that the GM cannot in any way prevent the other players from making Narrativist decisions. That makes the positions unequal. In fact, this seems true on the face of it. As GM's and players have different prerogatives, their methods must be different.

Hence I propose that we sever GMs from GNS. That is, GMs never make Narrativist decisions, but they can be said to make decisions designed to promote Narrativist response in the players. This would mean that Illusionism is play that intends to create story, but to also promote Simulationist play from the players. We could say that Narrativist is a shorthand for this sort of decision, but then there would have to be a notion that the term meant different things when referring to eithr players or GMs.

Certainly the GM becomes a player for all intents and purposes when he manipulates the decisions of an NPC, and for purposes of this discussion. Thus, a GM can make Narrativist decisions vis a vis NPCs for which he is making decisions.

Does that hold any water?

The other option is to go with Seth's definition. That any GM decision that addresses the Premise is Narrativist. That may be easier to understand, but may be confusing in that Ron's style of play would have to be redefined as one where the GM made decisions that promotes Narrativist play, and were, not therefore neccessarily Narrativst.

BTW, I've known that this problem has existed with the theory for a long while, and have just been waiting for it to come out. I think Ron's earlier dodge was to say that all "decisions by GMs that promote Narrativist response" and "Narrativist decisions" are the same thing. But I think we can see that they are not. :-)

Mike
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2002, 03:14:02 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Hence I propose that we sever GMs from GNS.


Hear, hear! OFF WITH ITS HEAD!!!!  :-)

Oh, but wait a minute... isn't that fatal? Uh, maybe we should think about this some more.

- Walt
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2002, 10:29:22 AM »

Quote
Does that hold any water?

I think not.

As a GM, I have desires and priorities, and if the other players do not share those priorities, I may experience the game as dysfunctional. Thus, a set of play modes is needed to describe play activities carried on by the GM. Since GNS works perfectly well for this purpose, I see no reason to require a different set of modes to be invented.

Furthermore, Ron defines GNS modes in terms of player behavior, irrespective of in- or out-of-character actions. This is obviously just as applicable to the GM as to any other player.

Lastly, "degree of GM power" is a dial, not a switch. Different systems can spread the functions traditionally associated with one person labeled as "GM" to several people, or to the entire play group, in different ways. Thus, there is no obvious point at which to say "GNS stops here"--there's no neck to chop, as it were.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2002, 01:45:34 PM »

Seth is making a lot of sense.

If anybody hasn't noticed, if he's right, it contramands a lot of current theory.

Anybody want to challenge this?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2002, 01:53:57 PM »

Hi there,

Actually, I'm reading Seth's posts to confirm, support, and reinforce the (or rather, my) current theory. I'm not sure what you're talking about, Mike.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2002, 02:34:18 PM »

A GM playing Narrativist can support Sim play? That follows your current theory? Could you elaborate?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2002, 03:08:02 PM »

Hi Mike,

It's the atom thing again, as well as the Congruence thing, in a slightly different context.

Different participants in play can obviously be employing different GNS modes. As you know, I'm not especially impressed with most efforts in this direction, in terms of how well the play is sustained or enjoyed.

Illusionist techniques, it seems to me, are potentially used to increase Congruence (exactly as Walt described it), when the GM is more of a Narrativist than the other players, but must resort to keeping his metagame agenda covert to avoid annoying them.

While I think this is an observable and real group situation, I also think that it is rarely, if ever, stable. For the GM truly to play Narrativist, covertly, he or she must be making Premise-affecting decisions constantly, and coping with the input of all the other people, constantly. Very, very quickly, for simple cognitive survival, the GM begins to front-load plot events (i.e. Premise-resolving actions or events) or to assemble them post-play.

When that happens, he or she is no longer playing Narrativist either, but Exploring Situation, as far as actual play is concerned, and play has become wholly Simulationist, which, bluntly, is more reliable, and produces better stories than the Nar GM / Sim players / Congruent thing. I have observed this shift (in either direction) to occur in every instance of sustained Illusionist play I have participated in or seen, and that is one hell of a lot of play.

Best,
Ron
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