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Author Topic: Incoherence is Fun!  (Read 14669 times)
xiombarg
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« on: February 04, 2003, 01:46:03 PM »

Okay, I'm creating a lot of threads lately, ignore me if I'm annoying.

What I want to discuss is this:

I honestly enjoy all three modes of play. Seriously. I like a little competition, I like a bit of pure exploration, and sometimes I like being able to address a Premise.

So, why wouldn't I like an incoherent game? What makes incoherence bad in this case? Why can't you engage in the various modes at different times, in differing amounts, so long as you're enjoying it? Why must an incoherent game always Drift if it is to remain functional?

Let's take Vampire as an example. Why can't a group engage in a contest to see who can get the most influence through court intrigue (Gamism) while enjoying the exploration of the Color of the setting (Simulationism) and addressing the ultimate emptiness of such a life in the long term (Narrativism)? Why can't I enjoy a game on all three levels?
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2003, 02:05:32 PM »

You'd like a hybrid game. An Incoherent game is one in which the elements that are supported actaully interfere with succesful operation of the game. A game can support just one mode, and still be incoherent if it does it wrong. The point at which a game goes from Hybrid to Incoherent is neccessarily one of subjective opinion.

You want a Hybrid game. No surprise, a lot of people (myself included) do.

Mike
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2003, 02:14:36 PM »

I am not entirely certain how to answer you, Kirt, except to say that there is a difference between liking a "little bit" of competition and having Gamist priorities, etc, etc. A very big difference, I suspect. the GNS modes are about the communication happening at the table during play. It's when one person is going one way and another person is going another that things become incoherent. Look at some of the threads in Actual play to see some incoherent play in action.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2003, 03:14:46 PM »

Hi Kirt,

Here's my thought on this one ... would an Incoherent game (let's pick Vampire, not to pick on Vampire, all right?) actually help you in that shall-we-say "catholic" desire?

I like all those things too. Didn't used to, but now I do. For Gamist play I'll take Ninja Burger; for Sim I'll take Godlike or Fvlminata; for Narrativism I'll take Sorcerer or Hero Wars. (Nuance: I'm not taking these games to be definitive of the modes, but representative of some of the diversity within each one.)

It strikes me that the desire to play one game to suit all these aesthetic interests of yours is a separate issue from the most effective utility or range of a given, single game.

It also strikes me that you're leaving out an important element of the picture: everyone else. Do they know you're doing this shiftin' around? Are they OK with it? Do they shift around too? Is every possible combination of the modes among all the people a functional combination? Do people wear hats to communicate the (substantial) shifts in their aesthetic priorities for a given session?

I'd put that issue as more central than looking at the poor game and expecting it, alone, to make this desire of yours possible.

Best,
Ron
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xiombarg
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2003, 05:40:39 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'd put that issue as more central than looking at the poor game and expecting it, alone, to make this desire of yours possible.
Oh, yes, naturally. Like any game, everyone in the game has to be on appoximately the right page, tho they don't have to be exactly the same, just close and/or reasonably co-operative with regard to the priorities of others. Sorry if I didn't make that clear -- I'm sort of assuming a group of "catholics", as it were.

I guess the reason I bring this up is in reading the GNS essay, where it is heavily implied that functional hybrids of all three modes are rare and may, indeed, be impossible, sort of made my brain itch with regard to the issue. Perhaps I'm reading it wrong... But to reply to Mike, yes, I'm actually talking about a Hybrid, but one for all three modes. There seems to be an implication in the GNS essay, in its discussion of "universal" games, that satisfying all three GNS modes is impossible...

I'm wondering aloud whether it's possible to satisfy all three modes, in a certain way, as opposed to satisfying all the people all the time, which is somewhat broader.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Marco
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2003, 06:27:30 AM »

I suspect that one person's Hybrid Game is another person's Incoherent Game.

Also: at one point wasn't Incoherent a non-derrogratory term ("Like sunlight vs. laser-light"?) That appears to have changed. When?

-Marco
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2003, 06:32:14 AM »

Quote from: Marco
Also: at one point wasn't Incoherent a non-derrogratory term ("Like sunlight vs. laser-light"?) That appears to have changed. When?

I don't know what you mean by laser light, but GNS incoherency has been a bad thing for as long as I've heard of GNS way back on GO with the System Does Matter essay.
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Marco
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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2003, 06:52:03 AM »

From a post by Ralph.
Quote

I find nothing inherently negative or biased in the term Incoherent so I will continue to use it as its definition fits pretty well. After all if you focus light you get a laser. But the light we use every day is incoherent (i.e. unfocused) and its perfectly useable in that form.


http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=1627&highlight=laser+incoherence

I note that Ron took issue with it down below.

A search turned up a few others as well.

-Marco
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JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
http://www.jagsrpg.org
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland
xiombarg
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2003, 07:07:25 AM »

Uh, we're drifting topic here, a little. I tend to agree that incoherence is a prejorative term, and it certainly is in the GNS essay, which is where I'm getting it from. In an incoherent design, the elements of the design work against each other, which is bad.

Basically, I'm concerned, in this thread, as to whether it's possible to satisfy all three GNS modes in a Hybrid game, in a certain specific way in each case, as opposed to satisfying all the people all the time, which is somewhat broader, and I agree is impossible.

Also, I think Marco made an excellent point that we're missing here: "I suspect that one person's Hybrid Game is another person's Incoherent Game."

This is certainly possible, IHMO. In theory, the reason an incoherent game is bad is because the different elements work against each other. However, one might not agree that the elements work against each other. For example, I disagree with Ron that Vampire: The Masquerade is an incoherent game -- I think it's an excellent "high concept" Simulationist design, if you actually run it according to the rules (which is a big "if" in a lot of groups).

(On the other hand, my impression that Ron thinks Vampire is incoherent comes from the GNS Essay, and the mentions of Vampire in the Simulationist essay may indicate that Ron has changed his mind, or that I'm mis-reading him. Ron?)
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2003, 07:33:52 AM »

Quote from: xiombarg
This is certainly possible, IHMO. In theory, the reason an incoherent game is bad is because the different elements work against each other. However, one might not agree that the elements work against each other. For example, I disagree with Ron that Vampire: The Masquerade is an incoherent game -- I think it's an excellent "high concept" Simulationist design, if you actually run it according to the rules (which is a big "if" in a lot of groups).

(On the other hand, my impression that Ron thinks Vampire is incoherent comes from the GNS Essay, and the mentions of Vampire in the Simulationist essay may indicate that Ron has changed his mind, or that I'm mis-reading him. Ron?)

I think you may be misreading Ron, but he can answer himself. He described Vampire "a mix of Simulationism and Gamism in combat resolution, but a mix of Narrativism and Simulationism out of combat, as well as bringing in Character Exploration" in the GNS essay, so he's always thought VtM was strongly Sim, just incoherent with the other modes thrown into the mix. Part of ROn's take on VtM may be: "The so-called "Storyteller" design in White Wolf games is emphatically not Narrativist, but it is billed as such, up to and including encouraging subcultural snobbery against other Simulationist play without being much removed from it." This says to me that he takes all of the text into account. VtM sells itself as a Narrativist system, but it ain't and if you're a Narrativist player attempting to use VtM you're in for Trouble with a capital "T" trying to use a High concept Simulationist system as a Narrativist one. I really can't say if there's more to the incoherence to VtM than this. There may be, but discussion of VtM may be better left to private message since it isn't really the purpose of the Forge.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2003, 07:42:41 AM »

Hi there,

I won't address the topic of Vampire and Incoherence here because clearly the topic-drift on this thread is already way out of hand. Thanks, Kirt, for focusing it on the issues you raised.

And don't anyone take that as a challenge to set up such a thread, please, because I'd really prefer to get the Forge booth at GenCon happening as well as finish four reviews. There's a bit of a bear-pit thing starting up in this forum lately that I'd like to nip in the bud.

Kirt, I think part of the problem is that you're expecting System to Be Everything, rather than just To Matter. Incoherence as a design feature only exists insofar as it tends to give rise to Incoherent play. Therefore asking, can an Incoherent game give rise to Coherent play is something of an abomination.

One possible answer is "sure, it can," but that would presuppose (for purposes of labelling that game Incoherent in the first place) that it typically and reliably does not. Another possible answer is, "by definition, it cannot," but that is putting too much emphasis on System as a deterministic thing rather than as an influence ("matters") on the real thing, which is play.

So if I'm reading you correctly, what you'd like is one of these:

- A game that probably can't be played exactly as written, but can facilitate its own Drift in any direction. The term for this kind of Drift (which isn't really Drift, as the rules help) is Transition. Mike Holmes would like to see one too, and I suggest getting into private email with him. I also suggest that Scattershot (as conceived, not yet realized) does not do this, but is a from-Sim springboard engine to one of the other modes.

- A game that can take any of the modes as its primary focus, with the other two acting as (switching to) functional subordinates. This is distinct from, say, a solidly-Gamist game with two functional subordinates (N and S), right? You want the primary-mode to be customizable but the other two will always "slip into" subordinate facilitators. I think my Gamism essay will outline some of the reasons why this is not likely to be realized, based on my thinking that the three modes are not like three li'l fruits hanging on a branch side-by-side.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2003, 07:55:24 AM »

Try these threads:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=1733
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=3396
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=3408
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=4151


The first thread is Walt's work on Conguruence which I think is the only coherent theory that works at all to really promote multi-mode play. The later three are all about people asking the exact same question that you have.

Mike
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xiombarg
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2003, 07:57:03 AM »

I will echo Ron's desire not to go into a detailed Vampire thread. I brought it up only as it was the easiest example that came to my mind of two people disagreeing about incoherence.

Now, on with the show...

Quote from: Ron Edwards
- A game that can take any of the modes as its primary focus, with the other two acting as (switching to) functional subordinates. This is distinct from, say, a solidly-Gamist game with two functional subordinates (N and S), right? You want the primary-mode to be customizable but the other two will always "slip into" subordinate facilitators. I think my Gamism essay will outline some of the reasons why this is not likely to be realized, based on my thinking that the three modes are not like three li'l fruits hanging on a branch side-by-side.
Hmmm, kinda.

I may have to wait for the Gamism essay, but what I'm driving at is I'm not sure why it's not possible for a system to support all three GNS modes without incoherence - that is, a game where all modes are of equal priority.

Note this is not the same as a game that is something to everyone. As you point out in the Simulationism essay and in the GNS essay, there are different kinds of Simulationists, different kinds of Gamists, and different kinds of Narrativists, and just because I like one kind of Narrativist play, doesn't mean that I like all Narrativist play.

So I'm not talking about a system that supports all kinds of Simulationist, Narrativist, and Gamist play, which is impossible. I'm talking about a (Hybrid?) system that supports one particular kind of Simulationist play, one particular Narrativist Premise, and one particular form of Gamism, with none being subordinate to the other. This, to me, isn't the same as claiming there can be a "universal" game that supports ALL forms of Simulationism, Narrativism, and Gamism.

And the idea is the game can be played exactly as written, without Drift, tho Drift is certainly highly possible with such a system.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2003, 08:02:25 AM »

Kirt, we cross posted. See my above post about links to discussions on exactly this topic.

Mike
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xiombarg
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2003, 08:14:42 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Kirt, we cross posted. See my above post about links to discussions on exactly this topic.
Yes, that's exactly what I was looking for. I'll get back to you after I've had enough time to consume all those threads. Thanks! :)
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
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