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GNS and Other Matters of Role-playing Theory
by Ron Edwards

Copyright Adept Press 2001

My straightforward observation of the activity of role-playing is that many participants do not enjoy it very much. Most role-players I encounter are tired, bitter, and frustrated. My goal in this writing is to provide vocabulary and perspective that enable people to articulate what they want and like out of the activity, and to understand what to look for both in other people and in game design to achieve their goals. The person who is entirely satisfied with his or her role-playing experiences is not my target audience.

Everything in this document is nothing more nor less than "What Ron Thinks." It is not an official Dogma for the Forge. It is not a consensus view of members of the Forge, nor is it a committee effort of any kind. It is most especially not an expectation for what you're supposed to think or believe.

However, it does stand as the single coherent body of theory about role-playing at the Forge, and its lexicon is definitive for purposes of discussion there. I am satisfied with it, but I'm not unreasonable either, so it is not immutable. Please deal with it in one of the following ways: identify an inconsistency, ask for clarification and examples, or otherwise address its content critically. I am perfectly willing to amend any content, if I'm given a substantive reason to do so, and to give credit for the insight.

I request that all discussion of this material be based on careful consideration. Snap judgments, unsupported value judgments, neophobia, taking offense, and other juvenile reactions are not welcome. Furthermore, I am well aware that my GNS notions vary greatly from the original Threefold Model (or GDS), and that my categories of Stance differs from those originally proposed. Identifying these differences does not constitute a criticism.

I have been extensively influenced by the work of others and have incorporated it in ways which make sense to me. Concepts that were originated and developed by others are credited in the acknowledgments at the end.

  1. Exploration
  2. GNS
  3. Stance
  4. The Basics of Role-playing Design
  5. Role-playing Design and Coherence
  6. Actually Playing

Chapter 1: Exploration

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