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Author Topic: I Have Seen El Dorado! [ultra-long]  (Read 16391 times)
Le Joueur
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« on: November 17, 2002, 11:55:15 PM »

Hello,

My name is Fang Langford and I'm an intrepid explorer, this is my cat Schroedinger.  I just got back from a lengthy journey; I have some things I need to share with you.  I'm glad you could make it; I've got some simply amazing news.  I need your help, though.  There are things I have seen that I scarcely believe; worse, I don't have words to explain much of it.  That's where you come in....

Let me back up a moment and start from 'the beginning.'  As you know, many of us have been searching for El Dorado, the lost city of gold (the truly impossible thing).  When stated simply, it is clearly impossible, a city built of gold (player choice directing a gamemaster created story).  The hardest work of all regarding the legends of El Dorado has been done by Professor Ron Edwards.  It is his work, in fact, which truly enabled us to separate the myths from the clues for the first time in history.

Of late, I had been going over the writings of many of the previous explorers, pondering not so much what they said ('a Simulationist game with a Narrativist gamemaster') as what their saying of it meant.  I know a lot of Professor Edwards' work centers on the idea of not differentiating between players and gamemasters; crucial, if I may say, to the perfection of his Narrativism.  Tonight, I break with that idea completely.  This is because of what I saw earlier today, or rather, what I think I saw.

It's been a long hard road, these last few months; I've had a lot of difficulty due to the lack of popularity of my own theories and ideas.  That's why I'm appealing to you; I can't finish this work alone.  I can't even describe it; that's my problem.  If I've any hope of communicating my discovery, I must rely upon your help to make my findings communicable.  What have I found?  Why, El Dorado itself (the 'impossible thing').

I was traveling out in the fringes of explored territory.  I visited Intuitive Continuity, the realm first thought to contain El Dorado, after crossing the decrepit 'many roads to Rome.'  (I took a short detour into the area I named Dynamic Status Quo, even though that is more of a description of what is done there rather than where it is.)  I visited for a time with members of the Narrativist commune and stopped briefly at the main village of the Simulationists (I always marvel at how clearly laid out it appears when you consider it from Professor Edwards' SSSCC model).  I didn't stay there long as the language barrier often has gotten me into nearly deadly trouble with the natives.  (Had a bit of a run in recently due to the language barrier; that actually contributed to tonight's epiphany.)

We eventually set up camp near the evidence of the Gamist's migration.  (I still can't get over the fact that I've never actually seen a group of Gamists.  Oh, there are converts here and there, but I've not encountered an actual group of them.)  While I was pouring over the notes I had made here recently, I stumbled on something quite by accident.  I was looking at the map of the whole region, such as they are, and contemplating the recent survey taken by the Right Honorable Walt Freitag, specifically the copy given me by Ralph "Valamir" Mazza.  I was looking at an area he'd marked 'concentration' when the epiphany hit.

The biggest problem I've encountered with the Simulationists has to do with the word "realism."  Sometimes it bleeds out into 'simulation' or as I've attempted to call it 'emulation.'  In more diplomatic moods, I've even tried to term it 'verisimilitude.'  Somehow I'd always missed the point.  I notice you've been eying Schroedinger here, quite the specimen, isn't he?  It was when he leap out of the tree onto the table which I was considering the maps on, when everything came together.  Let's give the nice man a demonstration shall we Schroedinger?

Here, Schroedinger, get in your box; cute play on words isn't it?  Well, let me turn the box around.  See this sign?  I know it's in French, I got the idea from a painting in the Scott McCloud collection.  It translates roughly to "There is no cat."  The painting is of a pipe and says, "This is not a pipe;" and it's true, the painting isn't a pipe, it's a painting of a pipe.  The same principle applies here.  This box contains nothing; there is no cat.  There isn't even a box; it's all in your imagination.  This is the "Myth of 'reality' in gaming."

Everyone argues about how realistic it is, or how good of a simulation it is, when in fact it isn't either.  It's just frilly words about invisible concepts that have no real basis in reality.  However, all these words are used in common life to refer to things that are real.  I think the painting in McCloud's collection is 'the treachery of images' or something like that.  That's exactly what's going on here.  No matter how hard we try to believe that what happens in the game has as much causal 'follow-through' as reality (and Erwin Schroedinger pretty much disproved that one too), it doesn't.  It couldn't, all the components are fictional.  They aren't real.  Even if 'what is beyond that curtain' is predetermined by the gamemaster, it isn't any more real than my cat here; sorry about leaving you in the box so long, Schroedinger.

Mr. Mazza's example of concentration was the big clue for me.  Especially when I considered the work M. J. Young had done with it.  Sorry, I'm babbling, aren't I.  I guess I'm just too excited.  Are you following me so far?  Good; I'll need your help articulating this more clearly to the others.

Back to the jungle, so there I was clearing up after my 'chance meeting' with Schroedinger here.  I was putting my maps back in order when I set the Freitag insert back down on an unexplored (or should I say under-explored?  I believe some of our junior members say they've been there) section when a minor error resulted in my epiphany.  Y'see usually people place the bodies involved in such a way that you see a clear flow, a river if you will, leading out of the jungle to the ocean (the player/gamemaster models).  Well, the Freitag/Mazza interpretation of this particular area landed 90° out of alignment.  What I had always taken as an ox-bow lake (a common feature along twisty rivers on broad, flat floodplains) was shown to actually be a bend in a second river entirely.

Let me explain.  Up 'til now, everyone searching for El Dorado has gone up the sacred river, seeking it in some hidden tributary.  Well, looking at the map thus, I realized we needed to search for another river entirely.  We immediately decamped and began to cut our way into the brush and lo and behold, a second stream.  Not wishing to return with only such controversial evidence, we immediately placed our canoes and paddled upstream.

Sure enough, it lead right to El Dorado.  It was so obvious I could see how easily it had been missed.  The lay of the land was perfect for the 'myth of reality' to completely send everyone off its track.  Alas, in our haste to return, we became so helplessly lost that we failed to survey the route.  I know this all sounds completely unreasonable, but hear me out.  I need help mounting a second expedition.  Get that Lerno chap, I think he's been there; he's right on track with the 'effect first' stuff, I just don't think he knows it.

I know everyone will think me mad, but I've seen it with my own eyes; you've gotta help me.

More information?  Certainly.

Up 'til now everyone has looked at Professor Edwards' comments about 'player actions' and 'gamemaster defined story' as though they referred to the same thing, the 'myth of reality.'  The idea that both are somehow interacting with some entity outside of themselves that was unique and in some ways unassailable.  It wasn't until I had to take Jonathan to task over the 'unreality' of characters that I even conceived of this expedition.  Rather than use a arbitrary compass to guide us, I fell upon using Intuitive Continuity to lead us back.

Here's what I found:
    There really is a difference between players and gamemasters.  In fact, they operate in completely different fashion (except as noted in 'pervy' Narrativism).

    My practice, indulgence, wasn't so far from the oft written about 'facilitation' as I had previously thought.  In fact, it pointed more towards the differences.

    It works like this:

    Players have these concrete agents in the game, mostly called characters, but that
obscures their presence as the method players used to 'indulge' themselves.

Gamemasters are nothing like that.  Many times it's said they have 'the world,' but that is by far, the worst misleading thing that could be said.  It is clear from the Freitag/Mazza interpretation, that said world is not at all concrete, sensible, causal, or in any way consistent or real.  It quite simply doesn't exist (until it is created).  (The cards in the game of concentration 'in game' are as backless as Schroedinger's cat is alive or dead.)[/list:u]
And that's both where the confusion lays and the path to El Dorado.

Hearing people again and again contemplate gamemaster Narrativism with player Simulationism made me realize that most people sense the difference between these two parties.  The fact that they want to apply the same model differently to both underscores that each is operating in a different fashion.

Until the recent work of Professor Edwards regarding Illusionism really sank in, I had no idea why.  With it, we really do see a gamemaster who's doing one thing with players who are pretty much up to something else entirely.  What's been wrong all this time is applying a single model to both.

I, myself, make the same error with the Avatar-Swashbuckler-Joueur-Auteur Scattershot model, except someone in my naiveté manage to only talk about player behaviour.[/list:u]How does all of that relate to El Dorado?  If you realize that these are two separate and distinct rivers, you can find your way right to the door of the fabled city.
    (An El Dorado gamemaster doesn't fall for the 'myth of reality,' he plans his 'story' abstractly.  He uses Origins, Precipitating Events, Mystiques, Moving Clues, Crises, Climaxes, and Resolutions without labeling them.  A complication isn't Suzy or Bonnie or Chicken pox, it's simply a complication in complete abstraction.  He can plan out all the turns of the story, in great detail if he wants, as plain abstractions.  He then takes this 'gamemaster story' and feeds it to the players.  It is from indulging their interests, their 'labels,' and their desires - just like described in Intuitive Continuity - where the
specifics of 'his story' arise.  I unconsciously ceded some of this 'authoring' to the entire group when I created Scattershot's Genre Expectations; some of them include the archetypical 'plot' written completely abstractly.)

(What does this mean?  It means I'm going to have to create a whole 'nother model just for gamemasters.  It means that I'm going to have to create terminology of the preference of player-Approach gamemasters follow.  It means I have a lot of explaining to do.  It means I need a lot of help working out the specifics of this idea.  It means that this post has gone on far too long.  It means I need to get to bed.  It also means I'm so happy you guys helped me get this far and I appreciate however much help you can give me to get 'the rest of the way.')

(Finally, it means I'm glad you read this far; you're the greatest.)[/list:u]Fang Langford
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2002, 01:39:41 AM »

Just a thought. Although these abstract, unlabled events can be planned in advance they are mostly sketched out in chunks.

I do remember how delighted I was at reading the Dream Park RPG which had adventures explicitly divided into Climaxes, Resolutions, Developments and so on. I made a few games which only was a what that RPG referred to as a "beat chart", with these events laid out.
However, that quickly became a railroading story with some plotplots pre-loaded. Because it was all one big chunk. I do recommend flipping through Dream Park for it's insights on what plot elements you should throw in.

Efficent play of the type I think we are discussing still involves only designing "as much as you feel like" at a time, and then being ready to throw out that the instant it doesn't work with what you want to do.

For example, you were thinking that there were going to be werewolves out in the woods, but they went out too early in the game looking in the woods, so it would spoil the excitement to have them hunted now. Instead you let them come back without seeing anything special and switch to them playing with a ouija board and attracting ghosts.

It might seem that such a twist would be giant change, but if you only had worked out a story of "well they're gonna be chased by werewolves and stuff", then changing the story 90 degrees just because "it is more dramatic that way" isn't a problem.

At this point you had only really created an intro chunk "party, the find werewolves in the forest and get hunted". Since they went out before the party, you simply switched the story. The threat isn't the woods now, but something living in the house. So the story becomes "party, using oujia board to reveal the ghosts in the house". A new chunk.

Once the ouija board reveals the ghosts you might create a small chunk "ghostly effects scaring everyone, someone goes missing". And so on.

But maybe you're saying something different Fang?

Maybe you mean that the scenarios I'm switching between are really concrete implementations of a single meta-scenario: the intro-revelation-scares-first hints at the true horror-etc etc remains the same in both cases.

In that sense you could say that a typical horror story already has all of this pre-written. The pacing is this and this, the range of events are these and these.

If we zoom out, then will there always be somewhere where such a game can be considered to be made up by abstract components? I don't know for sure.
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RobMuadib
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« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2002, 02:39:16 AM »

Fang

Hey, read through your post here (you did have a bit too much fun elaborating on your mental models as generated by your perusal of the various thread, if I do say so myself.)

But, I think what you are ultimately getting at is a good idea. It mirrors just a bit of the thinking I have been doing with regards to expanding my SGR stuff.

To expand it even further. I think power/responsiblity is an all important axes which to consider. By concentrating the power  for an SGR mode in one person, you necessarily limit the power/responsibility of the other players. You create two different games, one played by the players, and one by the GM. This is fundamental to a games design as represented by it's language. I would go so far as to say the distrubition of power is the most important thing to consider in terms of GNS type stuff. It affects how an invidual player "can" prioritize his GNS decisions.

The players play to the GM's game, in the case of Story/Illusionist type play, the GM is working on directing or weaving the actions of the other players into a satisfying story. If they go along with them, things are good, where his reward is to actually achieve his S fix, and have that S fix reinforced/validated by the other players. The players are essentially trying to figure out what the GM is doing via his Show and Tell act, while doing their thing GNS thing from character perspective.

Anyway, I definitely think you have a good idea here. GNS has primarily addressed the "player" perspective and not enough attention has been considered, at least for design purposes, on the idea that reserving the power to one player, makes it a totally different game for him.

(Narrativism, as evidenced in most N games around, is kind of screwy since it covers the opposite side of the Story element, where all the players have more say in shaping and dealing with S, and are playing the game in a much more similar way. Where Dramatism/Illusionism is the more traditional method, with the Story element focused on the GM player, who effectively is playing a rather different game, or approach to the fundamental Story element entertainment.)

HTH
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C. Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2002, 03:53:11 AM »

Howdy Fang,

Quote
An El Dorado gamemaster doesn't fall for the 'myth of reality,' he plans his 'story' abstractly. He uses Origins, Precipitating Events, Mystiques, Moving Clues, Crises, Climaxes, and Resolutions without labeling them. A complication isn't Suzy or Bonnie or Chicken pox, it's simply a complication in complete abstraction. He can plan out all the turns of the story, in great detail if he wants, as plain abstractions. He then takes this 'gamemaster story' and feeds it to the players. It is from indulging their interests, their 'labels,' and their desires - just like described in Intuitive Continuity - where the specifics of 'his story' arise.


Not to poop on your epiphany but I guess I naively assumed that most people approached GMing in this manner, at least on a visceral level.  Of course I don’t see it as the GM feeding the players “his story”.  It’s the GMs story algorithm or framework, but the players’ decisions are what give meaning, in every sense, to its unfolding.  If we were to lay out Cinderella as one of these abstract story frameworks with appropriate labels on complications and dramatic climaxes, etc. would it resemble the story of Cinderella? Would it have any meaning?  The players may ONLY be supplying desires to the GM so that the specifics  may be generated, but what is that if not player empowerment?  The players interests and desires ARE the story.  They are the direct cause of events based upon a very limited (because GMs are not universal Turing machines) palette of possibilities.

So, If I’ve just described El Dorado, then yes Fang, I think you’ve found it, and here I thought it was just an old brickyard.  

Of course, game systems with a substantial amount of simulationist mechanics make running a game in this manner difficult, at least if the GM isn’t prepared to throw out a good deal of those mechanics that apply to what happens on his side of the screen.  I’m not talking about fudging dice rolls either.  I’m talking about manipulating time and space in a manner that conflicts with the understanding of “how things work” on the player side of the screen.  This is where Illusionism is born I think, different standards for different sides of the screen.  But since, in El Dorado:
Quote
said world is not at all concrete, sensible, causal, or in any way consistent or real. It quite simply doesn't exist (until it is created)
, the manipulation of time and space is a non-issue.  I think that a system that doesn’t require, or one that openly embraces, different standards for player and GM is the only way to reach El Dorado and avoid the realm of Illusionism.

My primary experience with this is d20 and AD&D.  Played by the book the game is a strategic exercise in foe smiting and power grabbing (levels/items) with, as Mr. Adkison says, “ story too, if you‘re so inclined..”  The “El Dorado Model” can’t function properly without putting the players decisions and desires at the very top of  the pyramid.  Putting player desires foremost is difficult in such systems because simulationist mechanics try to impose causal structure on an imagined construct that must remain inconsistent and flexible to accommodate those desires.

 Here is an analogy and comparison to help illustrate how I see El Dorado:
(Illusionism) A race that is decided by the voice of the announcer (GM).
(Railroading) A race that is decided by the structure of the race track (Plot).
(El Dorado) A race that is decided by the actions of the drivers (Players).

One of the reasons I appreciate the work you’re doing with Scattershot is that it lays out many of the pieces that a story framework can be built of in an understandable manner that is geared towards RPGs.

-Chris
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2002, 07:42:25 AM »

Thanks for replying Christoffer,

Quote from: Pale Fire
Just a thought, although these abstract, unlabeled events can be planned in advance they are mostly sketched out in chunks.

Ah!  But the 'size of chunk' is probably a good indicator of how far you are from El Dorado; the smaller they are and the closer together, the closer you are to the fabled city.  Conversely, and suggestive of 'other gaming,' when the 'chunks' get really big (even to the point of only having one, 'the whole game') you get away from this goal.

Quote from: Pale Fire
I do remember how delighted I was at reading the Dream Park RPG which had adventures explicitly divided into Climaxes, Resolutions, Developments and so on. I made a few games which only was a what that RPG referred to as a "beat chart", with these events laid out.

However, that quickly became a railroading story with some subplots pre-loaded. Because it was all one big chunk. I do recommend flipping through Dream Park for its insights on what plot elements you should throw in.

Yes!  That's it.  A game that focuses on 'beats' or the rhythm of the tension spiral gets right at the heart of what I'm mostly failing to describe.  These are those mysterious drum beats you hear as you cut through the trackless jungle surrounding the city.  (I worry, that you idea of subplots is completely off the mark; I'll speak to that in a later post.)

Quote from: Pale Fire
Efficient play of the type I think we are discussing still involves only designing "as much as you feel like" at a time, and then being ready to throw out that the instant it doesn't work with what you want to do.

For example, you were thinking that there were going to be werewolves out in the woods, but they went out too early in the game looking in the woods, so it would spoil the excitement to have them hunted now. Instead you let them come back without seeing anything special and switch to them playing with a ouija board and attracting ghosts.

It might seem that such a twist would be giant change, but if you only had worked out a story of "well they're gonna be chased by werewolves and stuff", then changing the story 90 degrees just because "it is more dramatic that way" isn't a problem.

At this point you had only really created an intro chunk "party, the find werewolves in the forest and get hunted". Since they went out before the party, you simply switched the story. The threat isn't the woods now, but something living in the house. So the story becomes "party, using oujia board to reveal the ghosts in the house". A new chunk.

Once the ouija board reveals the ghosts you might create a small chunk "ghostly effects scaring everyone, someone goes missing". And so on.

You're right on the mark with "efficient play."  There doesn't seem to be anything in the description of El Dorado that a 'gamemaster story' needs to be preplanned or front-loaded.  It simply is 'the work of the gamemaster.'  One of the examples that I took to be a sketch of the route into El Dorado was the suggestion that a gamemaster could take all that was played and rearranges the back-story to create significance.  I didn't see it at the time, but thinking about it in abstracted terms, it works perfectly well as El Dorado.  (That would be the gamemaster, to himself, going, "Yeah, and I'll take that guy they left to visit and change him into the 'must-see, gateway character.'")  So retro-story construction is just as suited to El Dorado as any other kind of gamemaster 'story' creation.  What makes it El Dorado is that the gamemaster is working from a 'symbolic language' perspective and letting the player's choices create the detail for those symbols.

You example is then problematic.  An El Dorado gamemaster is not thinking in terms of werewolves and forest, but perhaps as a 'supernatural threat' in a 'dangerous locale.'  You do have the "too early" part right; that would be 'listening to the drumbeats' of the game to sense when to put in the 'mysterious chase scene.'  I can see the 'myth of reality' as a ghost in your statement "come back without seeing anything special."  There isn't any 'come back,' that's just detail that gets supplied by the players.  That's why deciding "Well, they're gonna be chased by werewolves and stuff" is pretty much outside of El Dorado (unless you chose the 'chased' part and they supplied the 'werewolves' part – perhaps during character or game creation).

Quote from: Pale Fire
But maybe you're saying something different Fang?

Maybe you mean that the scenarios I'm switching between are really concrete implementations of a single meta-scenario: the intro-revelation-scares-first hints at the true horror-etc etc remains the same in both cases.

In that sense you could say that a typical horror story already has all of this pre-written. The pacing is this and this, the range of events are these and these.

If we zoom out, then will there always be somewhere where such a game can be considered to be made up by abstract components? I don't know for sure.

I think you've pretty much got it here, what you need to do to 'catch the glint of gold' is learn to shuffle the 'size of chunks' you're working with.  Is it a chase scene?  Or is it a 'chase scene that results in the deprivation of the scene's central character of something they'll desire the return of?'  Not every game will be made of such abstract concepts and choices; abstract gamemaster/detailed players is the heart of El Dorado, not every type of play.

Thank you for bringing up a useful example and introducing 'chunk' theory.  I really must give you my appreciation for reminding me of 'beat theory,' does anyone know of any other games that make use of 'beats?'  (Was it only Dream Park that used 'beats?')  I look forward to having you along on the next expedition to El Dorado; perhaps we'll bring something back to prove that it exists.

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2002, 07:54:42 AM »

Hello,

Keep talking, folks, I'm listening.

I'm also smiling in a sinister fashion, but I'm listening.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2002, 08:20:59 AM »

Welcome to the discussion Rob,

Quote from: RobMuadib
To expand it even further, I think power/responsibility is an all important axes which to consider. By concentrating the power for an SGR mode in one person, you necessarily limit the power/responsibility of the other players. You create two different games, one played by the players, and one by the GM. This is fundamental to a games design as represented by its language. I would go so far as to say the distribution of power is the most important thing to consider in terms of GNS type stuff. It affects how an individual player "can" prioritize his GNS decisions.

Well, I haven't had a chance to explore the region around El Dorado yet, but I suspect that it may be possible to 'disperse' the power of 'authorship;' it's really too soon to tell.  I've got to mount a better expedition and do a decent survey.  (And determine whether I have, indeed, found El Dorado and not simply a glinting city.)

The central point I am trying to make is that models like the GNS are of no use.  The GNS is clearly meant (and bends over backwards) to include both players and gamemasters.  To find El Dorado, that simply cannot be the case.  If anything, gamemasters must be trafficking in a 'whole different language' than the players.  People have sensed this in the past with the remarks of 'Narrativist gamemasters and Simulationist players.'

Even the seminal work on Congruence attempted to describe this condition, unfortunately in the vernacular of the GNS.  What the work on Congruence missed was if 'both sides' speak incomprehensible languages, there will be no conflict.  If the gamemaster is thinking, "Time for a major confrontation with the recurrent villain" and the players are thinking, "we'll never know when the Nazi Commander will show up next," they aren't going to conflict over mode.

This highly stresses the importance of preferential interaction.  If a gamemaster is of the Lookatmyart tribe, he isn't going to deal well with players from the Whatwecando tribe.  A model for understanding El Dorado play will need to account, not only for the mode of each 'side of the table,' but for how they interact and prefer each other.  For example, one of the best matches for players of the Whatwecando Tribe (often called Gamists) is a gamemaster from the Biggerproblemyet tribe, but he must be careful not to let the Whatwecandozers realize that 'the myth of reality' exists (even though it is inescapable).  A Lookatmyart gamemaster is probably best suited to players from the Welikestory tribe (commonly known, possibly erroneously, as Dramatists).

Quote from: RobMuadib
The players play to the GM's game, in the case of Story/Illusionist type play, the GM is working on directing or weaving the actions of the other players into a satisfying story. If they go along with them, things are good, where his reward is to actually achieve his S fix, and have that S fix reinforced/validated by the other players. The players are essentially trying to figure out what the GM is doing via his Show and Tell act, while doing their thing GNS thing from character perspective.

I'm pretty sure this is taking the meanings of the GNS completely out of the prescribed application and I'd appreciate it if you didn't mangle other people's theories like that in this thread.

However, one type of gamemaster that suits some of the relationships described in the new Illusionist model thread would be one from the Weaveastorylater tribe.  I believe these gamemasters have been hamstrung in the past by a failure to acknowledge the 'myth of reality' in the game, trying to fit some kind of background narrative to that created by the players.  It isn't until this kind of gamemaster realizes that the whole background narrative should be imagined as having any concrete presence, that they begin to approach El Dorado.

Quote from: RobMuadib
Anyway, I definitely think you have a good idea here. GNS has primarily addressed the "player" perspective and not enough attention has been considered, at least for design purposes, on the idea that reserving the power to one player, makes it a totally different game for him.

See that's a bad way of looking at the GNS.  It is most certainly designed to be applied to both players and gamemasters together.  That is why it is useless in the search of El Dorado.  (In fact, could be the primary reason it has taken this long to see any sign of that fabled city.)  If you must address players with a model, may I humbly suggest the Scattershot Model; one of its strengths is it adds an Avatar mode (similar in some ways to immersive play) which I should have realized was no way that a gamemaster could play.

I'd like to thank you for giving me an opportunity to discuss the connection between the differing approaches of the players and the gamemaster.  I hope it makes my nascent idea more clear.  I'm still looking forward to people who can sum it up much more succinctly than I to speak.  As you're working on the SGR model again I encourage you to consider addressing the potentially polar expression of game elements (commonly called story) in terms of players, who give it detail, character, and specificity, and the gamemaster who may examine things in a wholly symbolic and abstract fashion.  It is when these two reach their polar opposites and find a comfortable way to play together (by fooling each other with supposed ignorance of the other's expressions) that play quite innocently wanders into El Dorado.

Fang Langford
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2002, 09:21:18 AM »

Welcome aboard Chris, your help may prove invaluable.

Quote from: C. Edwards
Quote from: Le Joueur
An El Dorado gamemaster doesn't fall for the 'myth of reality,' he plans his 'story' abstractly. He uses Origins, Precipitating Events, Mystiques, Moving Clues, Crises, Climaxes, and Resolutions without labeling them. A complication isn't Suzy or Bonnie or Chicken pox, it's simply a complication in complete abstraction. He can plan out all the turns of the story, in great detail if he wants, as plain abstractions. He then takes this 'gamemaster story' and feeds it to the players. It is from indulging their interests, their 'labels,' and their desires - just like described in Intuitive Continuity - where the specifics of 'his story' arise.

Not to poop on your epiphany but I guess I naively assumed that most people approached GMing in this manner, at least on a visceral level.  Of course I don’t see it as the GM feeding the players "his story".

Without that 'feeding' it does not approach El Dorado.  What make El Dorado impossible is the idea that players make game directing decisions (based on the 'reality' of the game) and the gamemaster 'controls' (or "feeds," as you put it) where the game goes, exempli gratia, its 'story' (by controlling the 'reality' of it).  This is clearly impossible because (short of a coincidental desire to 'go the same way') you can't have two independent parties directing things.

What I've realized is that if the gamemaster works only in terms of abstracts and symbols (leaving the 'reality' behind), they can effect very concrete control over the game without 'getting in the way' of the players' detailed and specific choices, decisions, and control.

Quote from: C. Edwards
It’s the GMs story algorithm or framework, but the players’ decisions are what give meaning, in every sense, to its unfolding.  If we were to lay out Cinderella as one of these abstract story frameworks with appropriate labels on complications and dramatic climaxes, etc. would it resemble the story of Cinderella? Would it have any meaning?  The players may ONLY be supplying desires to the GM so that the specifics may be generated, but what is that if not player empowerment?  The players' interests and desires ARE the story.  They are the direct cause of events based upon a very limited (because GMs are not universal Turing machines) palette of possibilities.

That's a very well worded description of what I am talking about (a bit high on borrowed terminology, but not from fields I'm unfamiliar with).  However, you may have thought this has always been the practice, what has gone before immediately trips over the 'myth of reality.'  Few gamemasters who practice this are very articulate of their use of symbolic thought in place of concrete imagery.  When they speak, the clumsily discuss 'changing the world' and fall into a linguistic trap that can always be shown to be impossible.  "If you change the world, then player decisions are without value."

Until you realize that there is no world to be changed, you can avoid this linguistic trap.  Once you realize that an El Dorado gamemaster (Is that El Doradan?  I don't know enough Spanish) supplies the structure of story, and the players invest it with value and specifics, you can see how 'both can be in control.'  I know I've used similar techniques to give games the thematic unity I prefer whilst playing with effectively 'kill it and move on' Gamists.  I've found they like the 'escalating threat' ladder created by my application of Schroedinger's gaming principles (what I call playing without the 'myth of reality') and are compelled to fondly refer back to my games the more I lay on the thematic continuity; it's like they like theme without prioritizing it.

Quote from: C. Edwards
So, If I’ve just described El Dorado, then yes Fang, I think you’ve found it, and here I thought it was just an old brickyard.

That's been the other thing impeding the search; those who go there either can't describe it or don't realize it.

Quote from: C. Edwards
Of course, game systems with a substantial amount of Simulationist mechanics make running a game in this manner difficult, at least if the GM isn’t prepared to throw out a good deal of those mechanics that apply to what happens on his side of the screen.  I’m not talking about fudging dice rolls either.  I’m talking about manipulating time and space in a manner that conflict with the understanding of "how things work" on the player side of the screen.  This is where Illusionism is born I think, different standards for different sides of the screen.  But since, in El Dorado:

Quote from: Le Joueur
said world is not at all concrete, sensible, causal, or in any way consistent or real. It quite simply doesn't exist (until it is created)

The manipulation of time and space is a non-issue.  I think that a system that doesn’t require, or one that openly embraces, different standards for player and GM is the only way to reach El Dorado and avoid the realm of Illusionism.

I disagree.  First of all, you aren't really talking about Simulationist mechanics, but emulation mechanics.  Even then, it remains a non-issue so long as you don't let your gamemaster thinking be overwhelmed by the effort to emulate.

I believe that using the "different standards" language is going to go right down the same road to hell as has been traveled so many times before seeking El Dorado.  What I'm really describing would be an emulation mechanical game with the addition of a symbolic gamemastering layer.  They aren't different, not unless you free the gamemaster from the traditional role of adjudicating the emulation.  The gamemaster will be playing the 'emulation game' as much as the players, what happens is when he considers 'what to add to the mixture' or 'what direction things must appear to go,' he relies upon an additional symbolic language to 'control the game' while depending on the players to personify that 'control.'

Quote from: C. Edwards
My primary experience with this is d20 and AD&D.  Played by the book the game is a strategic exercise in foe smiting and power grabbing (levels/items) with, as Mr. Adkison says, "story too, if you‘re so inclined..."  The 'El Dorado Model' can’t function properly without putting the players' decisions and desires at the very top of the pyramid.  Putting player desires foremost is difficult in such systems because Simulationist mechanics try to impose causal structure on an imagined construct that must remain inconsistent and flexible to accommodate those desires.

Again, I'm not making this very clear.  The players' decisions must occur at the 'foundation of the pyramid.'  Without that firm, concrete foundation, the basis of 'player control' will seem contrived.  Everything that actually occurs in the game must be built upon this foundation or the manner of player control won't exist.  Likewise the pinnacle must be the representation of the gamemaster; a pyramid has no shape if it is merely a foundation, it is the apex that gives it the identity as a pyramid.  (And again the problem you're highlighting is the emulation mechanics, beyond those - if I am understanding correctly - is Gamist supporting mechanics.)  Unlike Egyptian pyramids, those in El Dorado are formed out of any kind of material (instead of uniform, consistent stone).  The gamemaster is not 'in control' of what makes up the structure, only that it adheres to a geometric form (using a 'why not put that here' approach).

Quote from: C. Edwards
Here is an analogy and comparison to help illustrate how I see El Dorado:
    (Illusionism) A race that is decided by the voice of the announcer (GM).
    (Railroading) A race that is decided by the structure of the race track (Plot).
    (El Dorado) A race that is decided by the actions of the drivers (Players).[/list:u]

I'm not sure if that makes any useful example.  Let me try:
    Illusionism
      The race is decided in advance and exploited though use of GM-oomph to have a gamemaster chosen ending.  Or the race is decided by emulation mechanics and the outcome is given gamemaster selected meaning, after the fact.[/list:u]
    Railroading
      By hook or by crook, the gamemaster causes whatever ending meets with his desires; player ignorance of this is accidental at worst and acceptable at best.[/list:u]
    El Dorado
      Players exit the 'short term conflict' (the race) with whatever details they generate (the decision) and the next scene accentuates the variables that are best used by the next component of the 'story' (if they win someone approaches 'the winners,' otherwise someone approaches 'the up and comers').[/list:u][/list:u]Not that that makes it any clearer.

    Quote from: C. Edwards
    One of the reasons I appreciate the work you’re doing with Scattershot is that it lays out many of the pieces that a story framework can be built of in an understandable manner that is geared towards RPGs.

    Thank you, I guess I have been groping around for a way that the whole group could 'take control' of this 'symbolic language' in order to create the games they desire.  This whole discussion gives me a much better grounding in how to present the 'lesser shared' version of Scattershot.

    Thank you for offering your experience, you are an invaluable resource for the next expedition due to your familiarity with the territory.  Hopefully, we can get past our linguistic complications and reveal the fabled city to all.

    Fang Langford
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    Sylus Thane
    Guest
    « Reply #8 on: November 18, 2002, 09:58:41 AM »

    Telegram

    Dear Fang,
    Been living in El Dorado for awhile now. (stop) The weather is great and the natives are lovely. (stop) I've gotten to speak the language rather fluently. (stop) Hope you find your way here. Hint; The way isn't all by river, hope you brought your hiking boots and a machete. (stop) Beware the simulationists, they look friendly but I wouldn't turn your back on them.(stop)

    Don't follow the beaten path,
    Sylus (stop)

    End Telegram
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    Le Joueur
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    « Reply #9 on: November 18, 2002, 10:15:41 AM »

    Sylus! (stop)
    Expected to here of such.  (stop)  Send guide immediately.  (stop)  If guide cannot speak GNS, come yourself.  (stop)

    Oh, and I love the humor, don't  (stop).

    Fang Langford
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    Mike Holmes
    Acts of Evil Playtesters
    Member

    Posts: 10459


    « Reply #10 on: November 18, 2002, 11:20:36 AM »

    I strongly suspect that you are in an Iron Pyrite version of the lost city of gold, Sylus. Partly that's because I thnk we've still not seen it as such. But perhaps I am mistaken. That said, it's almost a certainty that if it's ever found, that it will be inhabited; I mean if you found a city of gold, would you leave?

    Fang, I think we are doomed to walk about in the jungle outside of El Dorado. Let me explain. As we proceed up your river, it becomes entangeld with the GNS river in the swamps just outside the city....

    Sorry, I have to drop the metaphor here. Or rather adopt some new ones.

    It has to do with the chunk theory that you have. As the chunks get smaller, we get closer and closer to El Dorado. But you'll also find that the effort level increases and increases in order that each does not just become a Simulationist result individually (the GM has to constantly consider the potential thematic impact of each). As this happens, the GM drops out more and more cases replacing them with Sim play, until he has no story left, and is playing Sim again. It's like the speed of light. As you get closer and closer it becomes asymptotically more difficult to go faster. As the chunks of play get smaller, the effort of keeping them all Nar neccessarily increases as well. To a point where the GM is just not going to be able to function.

    But not all is lost. This jungle just outside of the city is pretty interesting (hence my recent suggestion that we just call it El Dorado, and camp there comfortably). That is, as long as one plays in this format for at least part of the game, a continuing sense of a story can be maintained. Let's call this the Marco Sense after it's most ardent supporter. I propose that this sense of a story is, for many, many players, even players who claim to like Narrativism, sufficient to make good play.

    So, I propose that El Dorado is, in fact, a fiction, as are all perfect things. And instead, I suggest that you join me in the jungle where El Dorado is supposed to exist, and pick up the gold bricks that do indeed exist. We can take turns throwing them at the Narrativists that have gone over the edge of the precipice into the land of metagame.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that this jungle isn't a place that hasn't been tracked before. I hear of this man named Skarka who's theories about the place seem identical upon close reading...And then there's Professor Edwards' "Vanilla Narrativism" which is a part of the jungle that hangs out over the precipice. It's also not far away, and perhaps overlaps at times.

    Mike
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    joe_llama
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    « Reply #11 on: November 18, 2002, 11:32:17 AM »

    Sure, chunks. Most of my ideas for games are built around chunks. My current game concept is strictly composed of a finite number of scenes.

    In addition, my game design theory revolves around game elements. Here is where it all started for me. Progress has been made but have come to a stop lately (new job). It seems to me more and more that this universe reveales itself to be discrete rather than continuous.

    Fang, I think it's time you also check Dramatica again.

    Best regards,

    Joe Llama

    Edited in: oops. just noticed someone put a new thread about the subject. anyway, i still think it's a good and unused resource.
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    Sylus Thane
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    « Reply #12 on: November 18, 2002, 12:27:28 PM »

    Message sent by secure messenger. Do not attempt to interrogate as messenger does not speak GNS

    Dear Fang,
    I am unable to come myself as I am currently exploring some ruins outside the city that may lead me to a better understanding of a time known as the Dawn of the Magi.

    After consulting with the locals, a culture known as Players, and their spiritual class known by a strange ancient word pronounced Gee'Em, it was decided after much negotiation that you would be allowed to visit. Unfotunately for now you will not be allowed to know the way, but led in secret, until such time as you can discover the path for yourself.

    Some words of advice before you arrive. One, you will need to remember that Players do not speak GNS, but an old tongue known as Straightforward. This speach allows them to talk in a simple manner that is easily understood by any Gee'Em so that they may translate it to the higher powers that be. And two, do not expect to be given the answers, but instead shown the way to finding them yourself. Don't worry, I'll be here to help. I've discovered that I've been speaking Straightforward for so long now that I find GNS somewhat baffling anymore. No offense is meant towards the illustrious Professor Edwards, his research in cracking that ancient code has been invaluable, but I feel that finding the Rosetta Stone that will enable to truly crack Straightforward is just around the corner.

    Please follow the guide as he will lead you here, but do not try and mark your way as it constantly changes, you would just invariably lose yourself later when trying to retrace your steps. Hope you arrive soon and eagerly await in hearing of your adventure here.

    Sylus Thane Esq.
    Explorer on the Rim

    P.S. Please tell Professor Holmes that it definitly isn't pyrite that I look upon. Though it may not be gold in his eyes either. Treasure is in the eye of the beholder. If you have open eyes you will see it sparkle all around you. Of course it is inhabited, but you will find the natives friendly and understanding, and they smile at our ill understanding ways while gently prodding us towards the right path.
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    Walt Freitag
    Member

    Posts: 1039


    « Reply #13 on: November 18, 2002, 12:45:40 PM »

    Well, well, well.

    Shall I point out, my dear esteemed Professor Fang, that my very first post on The Forge amounted to shouting "hey guys, El Dorado's over here!"?

    No, I shall not, because you make some excellent points concerning the inadequacy of the directions to same that I've attempted to provide. In particular, I'm willing to entertain the theory that attempting to give those directions in GNS terms is and has been doomed to failure. That initial post asserted that GNS doesn't describe my play; for a long while I was convinced that I was wrong; recently I've come to suspect that I was partly right (though still wrong in many of the original particulars).

    You've also raised an issue that I hadn't begun to examine yet: though the techniques in question have been discussed many times before, most recently under the general heading of "reality-in-flux" and within the context of Illusionism, the issue of what is actually done with those techniques has barely been touched. Examples, necessarily kept simple, have focused on avoiding specific turns of events that suck or of forcing a specific desired event. The idea of the story-in-the-abstract being decided separately from the specifics offers the potential for a more detailed model.

    Quote from: My new theory of why and how GNS misses El Dorado

    As was recently clarified in a recent discussion of some misleading wording in the GNS definition of Narrativism, all GNS modes are about "some priority NOW." GNS does not examine the outcome of play (that is, the fictional sequence of events actually generated by means of play), either as a consequence of GNS mode decisions (because any mode can lead to infinite different types of outcome) or as a motivation affecting GNS mode decisions (because GNS does not address motivation at all).

    Outcome-based decision-making is the other river.

    In El Dorado the GM's priority is not anything NOW. The GM's top priorities relate to the outcome. El Dorado GMs (and perhaps most GMs overall) prioritize the generation of outcomes with particular qualities, including, in many cases, narrative structurual qualities. A GM who decides to introduce a "complication" is making a narrative structural decision. Whether or not the players or the GM want a complication right now is irrelevant; the GM is acting on the perception that the narrative outcome needs a complication to happen. Just about any complication will serve the basic structural purpose, whether the specifics originate from the GM or from the players, so the GM has the option of deciding on the specifics based on a secondary priority (such as what's the most probable or what best invokes a theme) -- which is intCon play -- or allowing the players' desires to dictate them -- which is your El Dorado play.

    Here's where my past directions to El Dorado always got sidetracked: trying to pinpoint which GNS mode the GM behavior resulting from the decision to "add a complication" falls under. Is it Sim because complications are an expected part of the nature of the genre-world being explored? Is it Narr because complications can lead to addressing Premise? Is it Gamist because complications add challenge? The new hypothesis is: we usually can't tell, and it's irrelevant anyway. Sure, whatever decisions the GM makes in play can be shown ultimately to be most consistent with one of the GNS modes. But that tells us no more about how the GM is making such decisions than pointing out that the observable behavior of a novelist at a typewriter can be categorized into typing letters, typing punctuation and spaces, and hitting the carriage return tells us how a novel is written.

    Because it limits its domain to observable behavior, GNS lacks the resolution to usefully describe GM decision-making when the top decision-making priority is creating specific qualities in the outcome -- because the apparent GNS mode of such decisions is undeterminable, accidental, or the result of secondary considerations. Which is why on the GNS map El Dorado is somewhere in a big murky gray area in one corner of Simulationism where the only marking on the map is, "here be dragons."


    However, keep in mind that the specifics have to interface with abstract structure somewhere. The specifics of the outcome might arise from the players, but at some point their in-play decisions either will or will not be consistent with the abstract plan. Some sort of force must be applied to rule out inconsistent outcomes, or else the plan must change (in which case it's really not a plan at all).

    I've occasionally talked about tools to facilitate reality-in-flux play. One example, I recall, was tables of encounters organized by the purpose the encounter is expected to serve in the narrative rather than (or in addition to) the usual divisions by locale. "Complications" would be one possible table heading. Looking back on the ideas I've considered, they fall into two main categories: scripts for instantiating a particular chunk of abstract story, and rules for piecing the abstract story together on the fly (specifically, assembling smaller abstract pieces into larger ones) that facilitate coherent narrative structure in the whole. The encounter tables would fall into the first category. (In your El Dorado play, these wouldn't be used by GMs because the players' would be control of that process).

    So, count me in on your expedition. A few things I'm loading on my pack mule:

    - A field guide to fractals. This will come in handy should it turn out that abstract story structure is best conceptualized using self-similar chunks of different scales organized hierarchically, rather than by attempting to break it down into a chain of any particular size of chronologically-contiguous chunks (which leads to, or at least aggravates, the problem Mike Homles describes). A single "complication" chunk can be a one minute scene ("Going somwhere, Solo?"), or half of the movie ("That's no moon, it's a space station!"), the latter scale containing myriad complications of its own.

    - A copy of the book "Strong Magic" by Darwin Ortiz. A book about stage magic that doesn't contain a single trick. It's all about performance, and applicable to any type of performance. The running theme: everything that's important about a performance exists only in the mind of the audience.

    - A laptop PC with satellite Internet access and a browser set to the Jan Murray (Hamlet on the Holodeck) Web site. The jungles around El Dorado is where one is apt to come face to face with the Interactive Storytelling Problem, a dangerous beast that's particularly voracious when feeding on time or money. Links from the site may provide some clues to its nature.

    - Some food for your cat, since you never bring any; you just put him in the box and claim that he doesn't exist so he doesn't need to be fed, which I think is just cruel. The food, being sealed inside tin cans, doesn't exist either, so it's perfect for Schroedinger.

    Walt
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    Le Joueur
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    « Reply #14 on: November 18, 2002, 01:53:28 PM »

    Hi Mike,

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    It has to do with the chunk theory that you have. As the chunks get smaller, we get closer and closer to El Dorado. But you'll also find that the effort level increases and increases in order that each does not just become a Simulationist result individually (the GM has to constantly consider the potential thematic impact of each). As this happens, the GM drops out more and more cases replacing them with Sim play, until he has no story left, and is playing Sim again. It's like the speed of light. As you get closer and closer it becomes asymptotically more difficult to go faster. As the chunks of play get smaller, the effort of keeping them all Nar necessarily increases as well. To a point where the GM is just not going to be able to function.

    Actually, I've been receiving a few PM remarks.  My above presentation over-stresses the Sim-Nar thing.  I think the gamemaster-abstraction/player-specificity thing works to support any kind of player priority in El Dorado.  (It doesn't fit the GNS because the GNS talks about individual "instances of play" - even when those are long - they don't include 'the whole game' which when the 'chunks' are purposefully collected into.)

    And you are right, when you get closer to the speed of light, the vision of El Dorado disappears.  However, I don't think we need to break the 'chunks' down to syntactic elements.  (Ultimately the abstract symbolic parsing would get to "subject section: article, noun, preposition, article, adjective, predicate section: verb, adverb, direct object, indirect object.)  I think the whole point of El Dorado is similar to "number 2" play style over in the companion Illusionism thread; players are, well...playing and the gamemaster is 'making it cool.'  The whole 'chunks' thing is the 'compass' for finding El Dorado, not the location itself; there are other necessary ingredients (none of which is an absolute solution unto itself, avoid excesses of any kind).

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    But not all is lost. This jungle just outside of the city is pretty interesting (hence my recent suggestion that we just call it El Dorado, and camp there comfortably). That is, as long as one plays in this format for at least part of the game, a continuing sense of a story can be maintained. Let's call this the Marco Sense after it's most ardent supporter. I propose that this sense of a story is, for many, many players, even players who claim to like Narrativism, sufficient to make good play.

    So, I propose that El Dorado is, in fact, a fiction, as are all perfect things. And instead, I suggest that you join me in the jungle where El Dorado is supposed to exist, and pick up the gold bricks that do indeed exist. We can take turns throwing them at the Narrativists that have gone over the edge of the precipice into the land of metagame.

    In the suburbs of El Dorado?  I'll buy that for a dollar.  It still would be doing the impossible and I try to think of six impossible things before breakfast every day.

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that this jungle isn't a place that hasn't been tracked before. I hear of this man named Skarka who's theories about the place seem identical upon close reading...And then there's Professor Edwards' "Vanilla Narrativism" which is a part of the jungle that hangs out over the precipice. It's also not far away, and perhaps overlaps at times.

    Sorry, I haven't had the opportunity to read the works of esteemed college Skarka.  I believe that I did see something like the Vanilla Narrativist encampment to one side (chanting "it's impossible, it's impossible"), but I only saw the backs of their heads.

    Good points all, Mr. Holmes; my regards to Watson.  Glad to have you aboard.

    Fang Langford
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