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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Ayyavazi on July 01, 2009, 11:35:50 AM



Title: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 01, 2009, 11:35:50 AM
So, I started a thread in the Site Discussion, and Ron said I needed an actual play example. Here we go.

When: I'll use a game I played around march of this year.

What: D&D 4e. This was one of my first forays into the system, but the game itself had been going on since the game came out in june or july.

Who: Me, a player (though I wish I was the DM), Paul (player and munchkin wannabe), Gourdo (reluctant DM who doesn't really put as much effort in as he thinks he does, and not half as much as he should, in my not so humble opinion), and Richie (player, good at role-playing, simple).

We played a game set in modern times with all the D&D elements, so a modern magic kind of setting. Every character had to have a religion (whether they were devout or not) and history was more or less unchanged, though there were some changes that DM thought particularly important, (and which I thought ludicrous), including the Japanese controlling a sizeable portion of North america after World War II, and the gold standard and economy resulting in un-realistic prices and rewards.  For example, we were offered 1000 GP for our first mission, a a group, which is basically 200 dollars in equivalence in the 1920s. This is a fair sum, but not the kind of thing I expect people to risk life and limb for against zombies and other supernatural terrors (which is what we were asked to do).

There were several issues of breakdown in the game, most of them my own opinion. What I wanted was more control of the story. I had what I thought to be several great ideas (the other players agreed in private, but were oddly silent during the game. methinks they feared DM. He and I butted heads constantly). The DM remained firmly rooted to "his" story (even though the whole game was designed specifically by him for me [without my input] as a gesture to heal a group fission we had suffered months earlier), and would listen patiently to other ideas, "take them under consideration" and then proceed to ignore and not use them.

D&D 4e has an obviously strong gamist element, and we all enjoyed that part of it, no matter how many social issues amongst ourselves there were. The idea of narrativism as I understand it is story now, or story first in my words.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy this game nearly as much as I could have. I believe it is because the story is not what I wanted it to be, and that our characters could not influence it. Sure, wiping out this group of zombies saved the city and made us heroes, but if we wanted to do things differently, we could not influence the story along another path. It was one line railroading all the way.

So, is gamism mutually exclusive to narrativism? I could not have envisioned these questions at the time I played the game, nor do I see a direct correlation, but I suppose we need an example to work off of.

I wish I had an example game of capes to work with. I recently read the text and believe it easily supports both narrativist and gamist agendas (unless narrativism requires the players working together to craft the story equally, in which case my question is ultimately moot).

It seems to me that in a game such as D&D, (or many other systems and games for that matter) there could be gamist elements that keep the players interested on one level, while allowing them to work together to craft interesting stories. This way the challenge is there within the game world, and the story is shaped outside of it. Or is such a system one bitter gamer's pipe dream?

Thanks,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 12:16:11 PM
Just a few things for the moment, because this discussion is key to some of my recent ideas as well. First of all, I see no connection between railroading and Gamism. Even in Gamism, railroading is a poor design. I remember Gygax's introduction to Castle Zagyg 2 : The Upper Works for C&C (which obviously is NOT a Narrativist attempt) stating his scorn for railroading. As far as I am concerned, I've experienced a lot more of railroading and GM-illusionism in Simulationist games than in Gamist ones, I've even read a few weeks ago a player writing (on another message board) "when I play I do my best to understand the implied railroading and to comply with it in order to respect the social contract". I you ever read a player of Gamist games writing that, he's not a player of Gamist games.

What strike me is that you will find, if you read it, a lot of examples about the way to GM a session and to take the other players' version of the game into account in the D&D4 Dungeon Master Guide. Most players I know have simply discarded it as "fluff" and I suspect a tendancy in older D&D players to overlook this kind of content with a "you know, we know what's D&D like" sort of motto. Because if you read it, you'll find whole sections telling you to say yes to the player's ideas, whatever they might be, and to allow them to use whatever pops in their mind in order to face the challenges the game sets for them. I consider these sections as an attempt to empower the players with the course of the story. Meanwhile, the entire game is just a set of resolution systems, challenges and step on up mechanics. I think that what these sections are meant for is to destroy the old fake Simulationist sin of D&D, which is actually great, but not to generate a story now system. You maybe would have much more enjoyed playing the game with a DM having read that.

On the other hand, I don't want to answer directly the theorical question underlying your actual play example but I suspect, having just read Vincent Baker's Storming the Wizard's Tower 1st part that the direction is worth exploring. It gives me hints to a new version of Gamism in which the challenges could possibly be co-designed on the spot by the players together, who would then face them, step on up and use all the crunch made available to them in order to face them. Is that Narrativism? I'm not really sure. Makes me almost think of a web 2.0 version of Gamism actually. If you extend the co-design to the crunch available to face the challenges, the story now element of this Gamist game would lay in its permanent co-designing. I'm REALLY pushing Storming the Wizard's Tower to an extreme here and apologies to Vicent Baker if he feels I'm twisting his game a bit too far. One thing is that if that would allow you to design challenges, adventures and why not, settings and characters, that doesn't give you a story as such because the mechanics aren't at all intended for that purpose. That's why I wouldn't call that Narrativism but it's sure an interesting thing.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Adam Dray on July 01, 2009, 12:28:06 PM
D&D 4e has an obviously strong gamist element, and we all enjoyed that part of it, no matter how many social issues amongst ourselves there were.

Hey, Norm!

What makes you think you all enjoyed the gamist element of the game? Can you give some actual play examples? Not just examples of "gamist" stuff, but examples of people's reactions of enjoyment of them.

And I think that you're saying that you were mad about your character being deprotagonized, right? This isn't just having control over "the story," but having your input and choices be meaningful in a certain kind of way.

When the group was engaged in those "gamist" things, did the DM make your choices meaningless then? I'll bet he didn't (as far as you know), or you wouldn't be saying it was fun. That's my theory, anyway.

In general, be careful with the GNS terms. It's possible your issues with the game don't even get into GNS / creative agenda clash issues. It just sounds like your DM is railroading you guys, but you didn't give much in the way of examples of why you think that. Maybe that will help us understand.

Narrativism, or "Story Now," isn't about controlling the story exactly. It's about each player having the opportunity to dig into meaty, human issues that mean something to the players at the table ("address of premise"), and having the entire group affirm and reward that kind of play. Is that what you're missing? Do the other players want more than the kick-ass Gamism that D&D 4E delivers so well?


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Callan S. on July 01, 2009, 03:27:59 PM
Hello Norm,

With capes, it doesn't have some sort of 'gamist' mini game in it. There is skill involved in working it's mechanics to affect the story - this results in the story going in unexpected directions. Unexpected for everyone, rather than some GM knowing in advance. The skill used in mechanical play in capes is like the skill used in writing the prose of a book or in handling a brush when painting - it's a skill, but it's not gamist. It's like someone dribbling a basketball with paint on it, to make a painting - just because it appears to be a basketball, something used in so many sports, doesn't mean it's gamist.

In terms of the GM being rooted in 'his' story - what is the set up? I'm thinking 4E has the traditional bit of crappy text that says the GM can do anything. If you've agreed he has, then your handing him authority over the story (and 'anything' else) - you've made it 'his' story - then you resent him treating it as if it's his?


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 01, 2009, 04:06:51 PM
Hi Norm,

Thanks for posting this. Everyone, let's not dogpile him too, too much, OK?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Patrice on July 01, 2009, 05:01:31 PM
I'm thinking 4E has the traditional bit of crappy text that says the GM can do anything. If you've agreed he has, then your handing him authority over the story (and 'anything' else) - you've made it 'his' story - then you resent him treating it as if it's his?

It actually doesn't Callan! D&D4 is the very first edition to make a break in these old time standards. The Dungeon Master's Guide saying that the DM should let go of his authority whenever possible, I consider a DM trying to enforce his version of the story as a very bad example of D&D4 DM. That doesn't make D&D4 a Gamist-Narrativist game, of course, but the direction's worth exploring.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Callan S. on July 01, 2009, 07:32:11 PM
So he still has the authority? And who determines whenever it's possible to 'give it up'? The GM? For myself, I'd feel if I handed that to the GM it's absolutely no different from me handing him 'the GM can do anything' - the only countermeasure to his power, I've placed within his power. May as well say he can only use the authority when he wears a black hat - atleast then a well aimed dicebag or just plain grabbing it off his head and keeping it away, could happen! But I'll stop for now - as yet, I don't know if this helps Norm at all.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: JMendes on July 02, 2009, 03:32:03 AM
Ahey, :)

is gamism mutually exclusive to narrativism?

There's an answer for this, but it depends exactly on how you are tackling the problem.

Between diverse people sitting at the same RPG table, every so often, they can coexist with great success. I wrote up an example of it (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14427.0), a few years back, using Legend of the Five Rings.

On the other hand, they can also clash hideously. I remember one particular HeroQuest where the guy with the Gamist priorities was visibly angry at the guy with the Narrativist priorities having spent his points "wrong", to invest on things which "aren't helping us beat the monster, now, and if it weren't for me saving mine, we would all be dead".

In my experience, extreme moments like either of those two are few and far between. Over the long haul, if there's people with clearly divergent priorities sitting at the table, the game will suffer.

As for having them coexist within a single system, there are designs out there where one can be used in support of the other, interchangeably even. I've played highly successful Capes sessions where that's happened. The thing is, I find it much, much easier for the session to be successful when all the players are aligned as to which one is central and which one is supporting.

Lastly, within any one role-player's mind, they can most certainly coexist. Speaking for myself, whenever I play TSoY or Solar System, for instance, I'm all about making choices and seeing the consequences pile on. (Naturally, the GM forcing me into any particular conflict is likely to be railroady.) But when I play 3.x/4e, I will throw myself with wild abandon at whatever challenges the GM wants to throw at me. (And here, it's not a matter of railroading, it's simple framing.)

Right. The stated question being out of the way, I'd like to take a crack at an assumptions that seems to be behing your post.

"Working together to craft interesting stories" is the staple of all successful role-playing, regardless of agenda. The only difference lies in what people find interesting about the stories. If everyone at the table is on board as to what is interesting, then everyone is likely to have an equal say on the decisions that actually matter, while everything else can be left in the hands of whoever has authority to frame stuff, which is usually the Game Master.

So, you've told us about a session that you found problematic. For contrast, I'd love to read about a session in your RPG past that you really loved. Tell us what happened there, and why you loved it.

Here's hoping to have helped, without having dogpiled it. :)

Cheers,
J.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 02, 2009, 06:58:11 AM
Everyone, please hold up on posting for a bit. I know this is pushing the limits of moderator authority, but as I'm the one who asked Norm to do this, it seems right to give him the reply I promised before things get too focused on details. My post is almost ready and after it's up, the free-for-all starts up again. Thanks!

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 02, 2009, 07:15:35 AM
Hi Norm,

I'm going to re-state what you wrote about your play-experience in Big Model terms, because only with that stuff in place can Creative Agenda be addressed. I have not lost sight of your basic questions and point, and will get to them in the end.

The first thing I see are a lot of judgments. I say this not to criticize you or say you shouldn't judge, but rather the opposite. Clearly you brought strong expectations or standards to what should be happening at the table, as you saw it, and they were met only marginally.

I'll try to paraphrase them and put them at the right level of the Big Model. (1) Social contract: put in effort, especially if you're the DM; be real if you want something, no "try" or expect to be treated as such if you aren't doing it. To summarize, as you saw it, the Social Contract should include genuine commitment from the person's best effort, and failure to do so should be called out. And also, these expectations were not being met.

(2) Exploration, specifically setting. You expected Setting not to be stupid, with stupid meaning "fantastic is OK, but not violating basic principles of human behavior or certain historical outcomes without at least some attempt at an explanation." This also reaches deeply into the Shared part of "Shared Imagined Space," because here was the DM, imposing X and Y and Z, and your judgment as a participant (i.e. you had to be imagining it too) was clearly not being valued. Whereas according to you, that judgment should necessarily be valued.

I started with these two not only because they are the outermost and next-most layers of the model, but also because they are linked by a very powerful point: if the group does not have "Let's play this game!" as part of the Social Contract, then there is no real door or connector between these two levels.

Many aspects of the breakdown you describe are rooted in these levels. Creative Agenda isn't a level, but rather a connector going through the levels, holding them together. Sometimes problems during play are based on clashing desires for the CA; sometimes they are due to problems with the levels themselves. I am pretty certain based on what you wrote that the Gamist CA was in at least workable, potentially strong shape for your group. The issue lies more with what content the CA was supposed to be working with, and the particular details of how that content was imposed onto play.

That claim of mine will not make sense unless I clarify a number of thing about Creative Agenda.

First, it is abundantly clear to me that you are completely at sea regarding the term Narrativism. It is definitely not "Story First." In fact, a great deal of the first part of my Narrativism: Story Now (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/narr_essay.html) essay is built to clarify that point. For present purposes, in the play-account you're talking about, neither the story that was either mandated by the DM (as it happened) or generated more through player-character action (as you'd prefer) has anything to do with Narrativist play. It is simply and clearly best described as "the events which fictionally occurred" - the product of play in terms of fiction.

This doesn't invalidate your question, but I think it's absolutely necessary to re-frame your question into meaningful terms. You aren't asking about Gamist and Narrativist play at all. You're asking whether Gamist play can persist or occur when attention to story (as stated above in the simple/clear form) is occurring as well. The answer is yes, which I presume is good news. And also good news, that the attention in question is more enjoyable to you when you get to be involved rather than merely to watch someone impose it, is also compatible with this aim.

Quote
It seems to me that in a game such as D&D, (or many other systems and games for that matter) there could be gamist elements that keep the players interested on one level, while allowing them to work together to craft interesting stories. This way the challenge is there within the game world, and the story is shaped outside of it. Or is such a system one bitter gamer's pipe dream?

I think that one version of it is indeed a pipe dream, or worse, a delusion (pipe dreams are at least useful in many cases). See discussions of Exalted in particular (e.g., (http://)). The fault of that version is that one person is "story man" and the others are "butt-kick kids," and neither has to pay attention to or respect what the other is doing.

However, that is not to say that Gamist play cannot happily occur upon a bed or foundation of a nifty story happening too. (Again, the presence or production of a "nifty story" does not connote or require Narrativist play.) You might find the thread [Rifts] GNS my session (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21684.0) interesting, because although it is more about Simulationism and Gamism, the discussion was illuminated mainly by my distinction between Exploration-platform, or SIS, and Creative Agenda. I think that distinction will be useful to you as well.

So a more functional version of your idea is simply to have story events occur as part of the SIS, without the central thematic crisis elements of Narrativist play being involved to any great extent,* and with player decisions (about what characters do) being instrumental in what happens next, as things go along. That works fine!

Let's hold off on discussing Capes for a number of reasons. The main one is that I think you aren't firing on all (or possibly any) cylinders about Narrativism in the first place, and another is that we'll need some real play to talk about. I have not managed yet to play Capes in any context that I can call "actually playing." If someone has done this, as opposed to simply screwing around with click-and-lock and Drifted freeform, and wants to start a thread to address Gamist/Narrativist issues, then I'd like to see that.

Best, Ron

* If you would like to learn more about what Narrativist play is or looks like, then I recommend Frostfolk and GNS aggravation (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20679.0) and [Frostfolk, ] Carrying on (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21546.0).


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 02, 2009, 07:53:09 AM
The DM remained firmly rooted to "his" story (even though the whole game was designed specifically by him for me [without my input] as a gesture to heal a group fission we had suffered months earlier),

Just wanted to point this out, because it really does not sound as a functional basis for any kind of play. Whether it's fact or only your interpretation of the situation doesn't matter. So either I'm reading way too much in it, or you've some issues to work out before you can get any kind of healthy play in this context.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: chance.thirteen on July 02, 2009, 11:10:49 AM
This may help Ayyavazi, and it will certainly help me.

Could one say that  a strong gamist design could support narrativist play, as long as one saw the gamist elements as strong constraints on the possible paths of the story resolutions could include? In a way the system and its outcomes are like the expectations and physics of a genre?


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 02, 2009, 11:30:56 AM
Hiya,

Strategy, tactics, gutsy decision-making with mechanical consequences, and all related items may be present in the game - but it's not Gamist unless personal esteem among the real people is actually gained as the point of play by doing these things well.

So to answer your question directly, no, Gamist play cannot serve as support for (e.g.) Narrativist play, or for that matter, any other Creative Agenda. However, strategy, tactics, et cetera can certainly be present as a feature of Narrativist (or any other non-Gamist Agenda) play, to fuel and reinforce the Agenda in question.

Have you checked out the links I provided? Levi in particular, in the first Frostfolk thread, really illustrates what it's like for someone who actually grasps what I mean by "Creative Agenda" for the first time, even though he thought he knew what it meant at the outset (but was wrong). Once you see what I'm talking about, the very idea of pursuing more than one at once becomes immediately and obviously absurd.

Best, Ron
edited to remove redundant sign-off


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 03, 2009, 12:00:06 PM
Thanks everyone.

First, I do feel overwhelmed, but that is not unexpected. I knew going in I would not be able to respond for a few days, so this is only four or five more posts than I expected. I'll try to address everyone's points as they were made, but if I skipped it, let me know. Also, it will take time for me to read the threads Ron has recommended, so I may not be fully on board exactly what creative agenda and narrativism are. I've read all the essays, but I obviously missed something along the way.

For Patrice, I have most certainly read all of that text in the DMG. I was a big proponent of saying yes (many of my players beg me to move back to the area and run their games), and of letting the characters make useful choices outside of their combat tactics. Addressing interesting social dilemmas was always a big part of our games, as well as all of the tactics (at least for our male players).  This Wizard's Tower intrigues me. I will have to look into it.

For Adam,

I hesitate to include examples where I enjoyed the play, because of how Ron clarified what is gamist and what is narrativist. Essentially, the "gamist" things I enjoyed (and still enjoy) are making characters able to totally wreck anything thrown at them, whether skill wise or combat wise. I enjoyed the tactical dance that was D&D combat.

And Ron,

I appreciate your candor. And of course I am not taking the advice personally. I love the concept of RPG theory. And I love learning about exactly what it is I enjoy, because it will hopefully increase my enjoyment. For now, I will try to go through what I understand of your reply.

First, if gamism is about the social esteem, and not the tactics and strategy, then it seems to be gamism I did not understand. As such, I could not say it was the gamist element I enjoy at all. Sure, I love a pat on the back for a good idea as much as the next guy, but I don't play D&D only so I can win and be given props for it, I play any RPG with the intent first and foremost of winning (and losing) in such a way that my victory means something. Its that meaning that I always desire in gameplay, which is why I was so frustrated with the endless filler battles my DMs always gave me. A battle against a bunch of common enemies who are only there to drain my resources/give me new or more resources/fill game time, bore me no matter how badly I trash them (note: a close fight that is tactically difficult does a great deal to lessen the blow, but I tend to find the harder fights are normally the ones that meant more in the first place Or is this just retroactive memory alteration? Maybe I think the battle is more important if it is hard because I enjoy hard, and anything I enjoy must have been important somehow. hmm...)

I will be reading the topics you gave me as I have time, but for now the idea that Narrativism is about digging deep into certain issues seems to be exactly what I want, with a healthy dose of tactical application, the ability to earn an occasional pat on the back, and a deep and engaging fiction that all players can effect equally.

Thanks again, I would still like to explore a hybrid gamist/narrativist model, but I obviously have to study up on the terms some more.

And lastly, Jasper (since Ron handled the last poster's question fairly well).

The issues you speak of are real. The group fission was caused by a lie by the DM in question, which when called on split the group. His feelings were hurt, and he refused to play in any game with me from that point on. The group went on without him for some time, but his best friend was becoming tense because of the seperation, so I bowed out to let the normal group resume play. Months later, DM and came to the agreement that he would not lie so much and I would cut him more slack when he did. And that he would run a game (since I no longer had the time) that I could play in, rather than forcing me into a pre-made adventure, which I tended to hate. Imagine my surprise when the "custom" campaign he had designed was just as rigid as any pre-made! Turns out his style of DMing was very by-the-book. Once an element was decided by him, there was zero flexibility. Sure, our in combat actions determined winning or losing for that fight, but other than that, there was no choice.  Ultimately, when I moved away, it was not a big loss since I wasn't getting the type of gameplay I wanted.

Thanks again all. Lets see where this all goes.
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: chance.thirteen on July 03, 2009, 04:03:29 PM
Okay, now that Ayyavazi has had a chance to read all that and respond, I can reply in the thread to Ron and not be muddling things horridly.



The crux of my point lay in strong gamist design and narrativist play.

Not mixing two play agendas in one player in an instance of play.

Much as people playing Kagematsu would not violate the setting constraints (Japan, era, village in peril, the kind of movies that inspired this game), I am asking if you could try to achieve your narrativist goals of play while abiding by the systemic constraints on what could happen.

A poor example might be that if in D&D you must strive to harm a high level person for many rounds (whittle the hit points) before anything dramatic could happen, the nod to this in even the most non conflict resolution based game that was suposed to be set in a D&D universe might say that a fight to the last will be long, no one one shot one kill type narrations. Something as simple as "after much flashing of blades and manuevering for position, one combatant fell."

Another poor example would be "phrase all tales in terms of how D&D would resolve it while playing Once Upon a Time."

My ongoing feeling is that many narrativist agendas are not positive or even neutral with regards to other styles of play, especially gamist play. Why do I think that? Because if you want to experience and enjoy the creation of a story, elements like rules, which sim and gamist play rely upon as almost unbendable agreements, can only be in the way. I could be very wrong and I keep trying to find an idea of how much can a rules set be used to establish the constraints of fiction that the story must follow.

Likewise, I have have to agree with Ayyavazis take on gamism, I've met no one who wants acclaim for doing well at a game really, but plenty who want an involved tactical experience with challenging situations, be it a board game, or any variety of roleplaying game.



Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 03, 2009, 04:39:45 PM
Hi Norm,

Two major points. (Also, my apologies in advance for the terseness. I'm definitely at the end of a toddler-heavy day.)

1. When I say esteem, it's not isolated. It's esteem about strategy and guts. So play which involves strategy and guts as a minor component but doesn't have the esteem about it; that's not Gamist. It might have esteem about something else, maybe. But if you have (i) esteem (ii) about (iii) strategy and guts, as the point-purpose-agenda of play, then you have Gamist play. All three, in that causal relationship.

2. Agenda should not be confused with motive, which I think both of you a're doing. I am not saying motives are uninvolved, but I am saying that consulting them causes problems. There are some pretty agonzing discussions back in the history of the Forge about that. Here, I'll say that in order to discuss Creative Agenda, we need to look at what is done around the table, socially and creatively, which is the clear and completely normal (i.e. not arcane or zen-like) reinforcement of one another's fun. Instead of saying, "H'm, why do I play, gee, I feel this, I feel that," look at what you and others actually did and do during a particular session or sequence of sessions. I think I demonstrated the utility of this approach in the Frostfolk and Rifts threads that I linked to in my earlier post, so those are probably the best references.

We've been through this "challenge" discussion about fifty times at the Forge, and it always goes 'round and 'round until the person understands that we're not talking about motive, and therefore nothing about "but I do it for X!" means anything to the discussion.

Best, Ron

P.S. I realized that I forgot to include the code for the relevant Exalted threads: Bumpy Exalted game (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=8928.0), [More Abyssals] CA Clashes and holes in gamist systems (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17859.0).


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: chance.thirteen on July 03, 2009, 06:36:08 PM
What an incredibly disapppointing answer. Why would you ask me to post my personal message to you just to give this answer? No, I don't actually need an answer.



Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 03, 2009, 07:28:10 PM
I'm answering Norm and your support to his post, and I'll get to your specific points when I can. Your previous post is not trivial and this thread is a fine place to work with it.

Please bear in mind that disappointing you or not disappointing you isn't my concern.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 06, 2009, 08:59:53 AM
The following should mark a transition in this thread. Norm, we need to start this thing for real. I'll post in a bit to say how.

----

Here are the issues that go into chance.thirteen's point about strong Gamist design and Narrativist play. To summarize, we're talking about using a rules-set which does X really well but people may play it with priority Y. In fact, Once Upon a Time was an excellent example game, as anyone who's played it knows - you have to decide whether X or Y is really the point of play for a particular group and instance of play.

1. When I say "play agenda," it's not a "style." Style is trivial. It's like hats two different people might wear while doing the same basic thing, even if they can't stand each other's hats. This guy talks in character, that guy never does. This guy uses a gas grill, this guy only uses charcoal. They may claim to be profoundly different from one another but no one observing them could say that. Whether they could ever be compatible in some group activity is not fundamental to what they're doing, but simply individually up to them.

Agenda is seriously different. This guy raises hogs to put bows on them and to keep them as pets, and sell them as pets. This guy grills them and sells books about the recipes. They get together on the basis of being "big hog fans" and there is nothing they can do to reconcile what they want from pigs as a shared activity.*

2. Any rules set can be used for any Creative Agenda. So if you're talking about using, say, Rune as the rules set and you and I and a couple other people play it in some way which is aggressively Narrativist and non-problematic as such among us - yeah. Not only "can happen," but "does happen" all the time, all over the place.

In practice, certain rules in the set tend to get de-emphasized and even ignored, which is Drift. I played Rifts a long time ago, and personally Drifted it basically by ignoring danger to my character and the various point-reward systems. When Andreas (Settembrini) interviewed me about that, because he was surprised I'd played Rifts at all, he reacted essentially that I didn't understand Rifts and played it wrong. Whether that's "wrong," I can't say (and have never said so) - what it was, was Drifted-Risk for purposes of a Creative Agenda that I daresay was not only not well-supported by the textual rules, but possibly as far from the way Andreas plays it as one can get (which is well-supported by the rules).**

For a much more deliberate example, see my series of four threads about playing D&D 3.0/3.5 with a dedicated Narrativist Agenda; they're pretty long and elaborate. A search in Actual Play using my name and the terms "Christopher" and possibly "orc" will do the job. We Drifted the rules significantly and precisely, but I think it's also clear that we did indeed play D&D well within the rules margins that permit that label to say stuck on.

These points combine to say that Agendas are incompatible, and also that no rules-set prevents a given Agenda from being used/done (although many rules sets do not fully survive contact with certain Agendas).

This phrase of yours confuses me though.

Quote
My ongoing feeling is that many narrativist agendas are not positive or even neutral with regards to other styles of play, especially gamist play. Why do I think that? Because if you want to experience and enjoy the creation of a story, elements like rules, which sim and gamist play rely upon as almost unbendable agreements, can only be in the way.

I hardly know where to start with this, because read in one way, it's predicated on an absurd claim: that anyone who plays Gamist or Simulationist can't be making a story. That's silly; they do it all the time and have been doing so since the beginning of the hobby. Read in another way, it's a very solid statement that "experience and enjoy the creation of a story" as a highly specific priority (so specific that "address Premise" is the only defining feature) is not compatible with other agendas, and I agree with that. But the trouble with that second way is that its supportive clause - that prioritizing story creation of that kind is divorced from "rules." And that's even sillier than the first version of the whole statement. That's like going back to "roll vs. role" which is utter nonsense. No role-playing occurs without rules; free-form, for instance, relies entirely upon rules that pertain to speaking, narrating, and authorities of those things. Precise and powerful rules-sets which promote addressing Premise are thick on the ground at this late date. I can't imagine that anyone familiar with even the most general range of role-playing systems can say that "rules get in the way of making stories" with a straight face.

Chance, your first point about prioritizing one Agenda when using rules that primarily (and well) support another is a fascinating topic, and that's why I wanted you to post it publicly. But this last set of statements is like Martian talk. It can't possibly be correct as a whole, and the part which, when isolated and specified, can be correct is undermined by supportive text which itself can't be correct.

Best, Ron

* A potential problem with reading this analogy: I am not saying preferences in agenda are permanent descriptions of personality. In regarding to role-playing, I get all Gamist with one group and game, and get all Narrativist with another and another, and so on. The pig example leaves that issue out in order to focus on the activity itself.

** As a related point, Andreas assumed wrongly that I didn't understand that I was playing "off" Rifts. Of course I understood what I was doing. Playing Rifts in the way best supported by the rules was, in that particular instance of play, the last thing I wanted to do with my time.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 06, 2009, 09:48:54 AM
Whew. OK, with that done.

Norm, it's your thread. I went over your posts and I'm not sure whether you want to pursue it. For the record, I'd like to continue, based on a series of questions we can go through regarding that particular game. It'd be a lot like the Rifts and Frostfolk threads. Are you interested?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 07, 2009, 03:35:49 AM
Hey Ron, thanks again for your replies.

I apologize I am not able to post as often as I would like, but my internet access is not regular, to say the least. I'll be on for the next five hours or so, but that may mean nothing.

Ok, so do I want to continue this? Of course. Even your terse post shows me a few things I could afford to examine a little more closely, in order to understand some underlying issues of game design.

Now, about motive. I can understand why motive only has a partial role, but only through a mirror darkly. To me, the majority of frustration comes from having motive x and point-purpose-agenda y. I want to play a game for certain reasons. Others want to play a game for certain reasons. It seems ridiculous to me that a group, united in agenda (motive wise), would play a game and follow a different agenda (whether consciously or sub-consciously).

That would make no logical sense. Therefore, there must be another reason (lets not get into eastern thinking and all the contradiction talk here).

I propose two potential reasons why this disconnect from motive might occur:

1. The group is not united in motive. Whether they think they are or not is irrelevant. If some members want x, but others want y, then the one with the most force behind it (whether from number of supporters, or simple style takeover, as in gamist-simulationist) will win out, and that agenda will be pursued in play. Note that if this is not consciously recognized by the players, it will almost certainly end up causing some form of frustration.

2. The group is united in motive, but the system is so strong that it steers the group away from their motive and into the agenda the system encourages. This will most likely only happen with a group of lazy or weak-willed individuals who for one reason or another refuse to change the rules (drift) in order to suit their original motive.

So, I agree, what is done at the table certainly causes my frustration, but I suspect that it is because I am not achieving my motive when playing. This is not to say I cannot have fun, just that it is frustrated fun, and certainly not the maximum amount of enjoyment I could be getting from the hobby. And my points above seem to support one of the most basic tenets of GNS theory, which is that differing creative agendas cause incompatibility, whether to a minor or major degree.

That said, I am not sure that I have properly divested Motive and Creative Agenda. I know it will be frustrating for you, but do you mind walking me through it? Or do I have most of right?

Now, as for what was done at the table. I am not sure exactly what agenda was being pursued as a group. I know what people said, but what they said by GNS rules is incoherent nonsense. We all said we wanted the following things: Tactical challenge (we certainly rewarded savvy thinking here, along with whoops for every critical hit), a good story (we awarded the GM with congratulations for each element we liked, though some of it was lies, and said things like "Cool!" when a character or player did or proposed cool things in the fiction, and to get "in" character and really try to act and think like our characters, which was hardly ever rewarded, but if we went in the wrong direction (such as acting "out of character" or meta-gaming) there were boos, ridicule, argument, and sometimes GM frustration. Then again, when meta-gaming was almost required by the game (that is, assuming every adventurer is somehow extremely experienced and tactically sound with a group they have only just met), it was glossed over and given flimsy foundation reasons, such as, "Adventurers are head and shoulders above normal people. They are extraordinary." When contemplating how that could be possible with so many prominent NPCs, the profusion of adventurers and magic, the proper response was...blank out.

So, in one way or another, each agenda seems to have been encouraged, but I suspect Gamism was primary because that was the way the GM ran the game primarily (getting extremely angry when we won "too quickly" or "too easily."

Thanks again,

--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 07, 2009, 06:26:22 AM
This post is in addition to the one I just wrote.

I just finished the Frostfolk threads (I had read the rifts one some time before but found it cumbersome and confusing, perhaps because I did not read the included play threads and know little to nothing about Rifts).

The Frostfolk thread was great. If that is what this thread can turn into, then I am ll for it. I just wish I had the genuinely great experience these players had as opposed to my fumblings in the dark that resulted in more frustration than fun.

As a side note, the link to The Exchange is broken, or perhaps the creator took it down so that he could publish something and make money. I don't know, but I want this game! Where can I find it? Likewise, the Geek Hierarchy link works, but not the other Geek link (the name alludes me and I must press on).

I think I really have a feeling for Narrativism now, and the concept of Emergent Story that Levi worded so well is definitely one of the things I want to experience in play. Esteem for emergent story would be a great thing for me (perhaps I should just write a good book). I don't really care if there is competition to create the story, with other players trying to make different better stories or not, though placed in such a situation, I would certainly want to win! I care more about the emergent story, which is probably why I was so frustrated by the the DMs style.  The story was his story, therefore, our attempts to change and interact with it (other than just playing our roles) were ultimately futile.

It probably does not help that the D&D 4th system seems to support extremely gamist play (whether the text admits it or not). The system focuses almost no control on story forming in anyone's hands. The fiction becomes a vehicle through which we beat challenges.

This is probably where the heart of my original question came from. In a system that is completely silent on how to craft the fiction, but very loud and explicit on how to manage events within the fiction, any fiction building tips and rules can work. Therefore, the DM could easily spread around story creation and react on the fly, allowing players to create story and focus on issues of character and such like in the Frostfolk thread, or they can craft a rigid fiction in which we all play our parts (minor Sim?) in order to try our hand at the challenges embedded in the fiction (gamist?) I believe Gamism was the agenda because of the excessive esteem placed on success in combat.

Here is why: If our players won a combat or a skill challenge (rarely as they existed) too easily or quickly, the DM would become extremely frustrated. If the DM pressed us until the point where he actually had to fudge rolls in order for us to survive (which he always did, and many times blatantly, almost as if he were gloating), he was very happy. We as players never felt that we had failed in such circumstances however, because many times he won because other than extreme luck, we didn't have a chance in the first place. This is also because excessive preparation in one direction can specialize characters to face certain threats but leave them unable to face others. Even specializing for balance can be exploited by a specialized threat. Therefore, winning some conflicts is the purview of fortune, not skill.

Likewise, we all ran into frustrations because of the incoherence of the system. On one hand, it explains the entire process is cooperative, and the DM has to work to foster good story and play as much as the players. On the other, it encourages players and the DM alike to work as hard as they can to make characters and encounters that are challenging and threatening. But if an encounter actually does threaten a group (at least at low level) there is no recourse for the dead character. Thus, the DM must pull punches, but feel frustrated if he pulled the punch too early (in the encounter design, as opposed to during the encounter). And if he regularly makes encounters that are too hard only to pull punches, a number of bad things happen, including players realizing their characters are in no real danger from the DM threats, and players feeling like they have a bad DM, because he can't get the difficulty right.

And sure, the game does have plenty of "resurrection" rituals to handle character death, but in terms of "in-game" time, they are not feasible for certain story plots that the genre tries to enforce. For example, I once ran a game (3.5, has similar problems with resurrection, was a premade), where the characters were investigating children being kidnapped. I worked hard to evoke a sense of rush and a need to move forward as much as possible since the players knew the children were being sold at a slave market. They rushed headlong into the dungeon, running from threats too dangerous to confront, and working their way as best they could to the conclusion. One character got into a situation where they either had to die, or I had to spare them and ruin the belief that encounters were dangerous. I chose to let the character die, which de-railed the idea that there was a rush, since they now had to either pay for a resurrection (which they couldn't afford and would lose precious time fund-raising), or find a new recruit and get through the tough stuff all over again, which would also take too much time.

Had I been a better DM, I might have removed unnecessary threats altogether, or found a way not to kill the character, or perhaps just changed the outcome a little, forcing an extra couple of encounters into the adventure, where the characters chase the slave drivers and the children into the underdark, frantically trying to catch up. I would have had to create some new material on the fly, but it would have been possible. My frustration comes from the fact that the system is rarely conducive to this free-form thinking process on a regular basis.

I hope that gives us something more to discuss, and doesn't come across as rambling. I'm just trying to home in on the kinds of things I see in my games, and the kinds of things I want to see in my games.

Did we play for esteem as the point of play? I think we must have, but only because it was the only venue through which the strong willed DM would approve. Even when I Dmed for him, he was easily the strongest personality of the players, and drove the story significantly more than the others. Of all my players, he was the only to take me aside outside of games, to lunch or what have you, to discuss what he wanted to see in the story. I almost always did what I could to give him these elements because I loved the collaboration of story telling. I was endlessly frustrated that he did not return the favor. Perhaps it is both our faults. The other players were content to play second fiddle, because no matter how much I tried to eke out a response to, "What do you want to see happen?" They never gave me as much as Gourdo did, and only grudgingly gave me as much as they did. Sometimes they genuinely wanted things from the story, and I accommodated them at those times. Perhaps they were passive players, or perhaps their desire for story was a much further removed motive than for Gourdo and I.

Let me know what you think, and thanks again,

--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 07, 2009, 10:48:47 AM
Hi Norm,

Your slow-ish rate of reply is ideal for me. I find the quick pace of most internet discourse to be exhausting and generally counterproductive. Please don't feel any pressure to speed up.

I'm replying in an essay-type fashion rather than going through your points one by one. I think it's a better way in general, but one thing I don't want to do is accidentally miss any questions or points of yours. If I do, please let me know.

Let’s wait until later to address the issues of death, losing, participation, and return of “dead” characters into play. This has been intensively discussed at the Forge, and it could easily take over the thread.

Part one

Here's a concept which comes right out of my 2001 essay, but has often been missed: the platform. I explained it most clearly in the Rifts thread, and will quote it here in order not to bring all the details from that thread into the discussion. I've mildly revised the quote to clarify an ambiguous pronoun.

Quote
Imagine a little platform made of green-painted wood, standing a few inches high off the ground on its little legs. That's Exploration, the necessary imaginative communication for role-playing to occur at all. Perhaps it's a very pretty shade of green or particularly well-crafted in terms of pegs and glue. Doesn't matter. It's not the Creative Agenda.

Now imagine a secondary wooden structure built on top of it, reaching a whole foot off the ground at its tip. That's your game in action. Whatever shared goal or priority puts it there, or (in the analogy) whatever shape or material it is, that's your Creative Agenda. It's what you and the group do with the platform.

A Simulationist CA happens to be made of wood and happens to be painted green. That's why people are always mistaking Exploration for Simulationism, when it's not. Simulationist play is still a secondary structure on top of the platform. It also so happens that Gamist and Narrativist CAs are always brutally, recognizably distinct from the platform that supports them - made of plastic or aluminum, and always painted a different color or not painted at all. That's why people are always forgetting that no matter what, those agendas need the platform too.

I want to stress that in many role-playing contexts, "the story" is, and is only a key aspect of the platform.* Much Gamist and much Simulationist play relies on that platform, and when present its "story-ness," to be strong and fascinating - otherwise, how can the secondary structure be any good? (Well, to be clear, plenty of play doesn't need that "story-ness" either, but we aren't talking about those applications here.)

Part two

One thing I'm missing in this discussion is a stronger understanding of the actual play. I'd like to see an account of both (i) in-fiction content, such as who the characters were, what the situations were like, what they did, and what happened, limited to whatever subset of the overall material that you think is best; and (ii) of-system content, such as what the real people did and how using particular rules or practices played a role in generating the fictional events.

I’m not looking for an account of the entire game, but rather whatever subset, combination of sessions, or within-session, that you think will help me understand your points the best.

Part three

From what you've written (and until the part two material gets posted, it's provisional), I see Gamist play. But …!!

… but with a problematic relationship between the Creative Agenda and the platform. Therefore the Agenda is itself diminished, because it literally lacks foundation. That’s probably why the general social reinforcement of the CA sometimes had a forced or insincere quality.

What is the problem with the platform and its relationship to the Agenda? There are actually two: (i) "the story" and (ii) "play right." You and the GM had very different views of both of these things. You, for instance, wanted “the story” to come about at least in part through your character’s actual decisions, and he did not. As well, he had a very clear idea of how you as a player were supposed to feel and decide things during play, and you did not share that idea.

Now, all of that combines with further difficulties at the higher, Social Contract level. The most obvious issue is that the GM as you depict him was far less interested in playing a  game with others than in having others play (be in) his game. Another is that you may not have been especially into the Gamist CA itself.

I want to focus on (i), “the story” part. Again, keeping in mind that we are talking about story as part of the platform (i.e. not Narrativist at all), there are two ways to do it.

First, it can simply be imposed. This may sound aggravating, but in a way of playing called “Participationist” here, the players simply enjoy being in the GM’s story and don’t bother themselves with authorship, even though major character decisions. The problems with this idea include when (a) someone doesn’t want to do it, (b) the GM pretends he’s not really doing it when he bloody well is, or (c) the GM bullies people into obeying rather than them participating.

Second, it can be emergent from game events. This may sound a bit like Narrativism, but it’s not being addressing Premise isn’t the core point. It simply means that the group is willing to let the larger story-circumstances of play (another way to put this is “the wave-front source of further scenarios) be contingent upon whatever happens in play itself. It’s basically the GM taking a more flexible and reactive approach to prep, session after session.

If I’m understanding you correctly, then what you’re describing seems to be Imposed Story marred by Bullying, which is to say, again, a flawed platform (Exploration), and hence a limping and halting Creative Agenda – which is, nevertheless, managed to be Gamist enough to be kind of fun.

Does any of that sound like a reasonable description?

Part four

For the most part, I think you’ve described the issues of motive, individually-desired CA, and in-action CA (if there is one) well enough for us to understand one another. You might find Group vs. individual CA (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16180.0) interesting.

Best, Ron

* As you might imagine, this is one of the key confusions in encountering the Big Model: people think Narrativism must mean "Above all else, get 'story' into the platform," and in doing so, they are profoundly wrong. Narravist play is only possible when 'story' is not foundational, yet some of the necessary core components of making a story, whatever combination may bring Premise forward, are centrally present. Thus the Premise is addressed via play itself. If you’re interested in this topic, then we should discuss it in another thread.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 11, 2009, 04:56:24 AM
Hey Ron,

Thanks again.

I'll try to go over your points individually.

1. What is Exploration exactly? I understand that story is part of the structure, and thus it can (or cannot, depending on play) emerge from the exploration. Here's what I am thinking. Exploration is the agreed means by which a group plans to interact with the fiction and rules to produce and support a story. This would explain its foundational placement. In effect, the group agrees (whether consciously or not) [and perhaps at a social contract level] what kinds of fiction they are working with, and a whole set of acceptable tactics, such as character choice, what characters do in the fiction. From there, the story itself can grow and be supported. If this part is off, what I say next probably will be garbled and useless.

2. i am not sure that play examples will be necessary at this point, and it is because your third point hit the nail on the head. That sounds almost exactly like what was going on. The frustration on my part at least did not come necessarily from the tactics employed by the GM, but from the fact that there were conflicting expectations, possibly because of the impossible thing before breakfast.

Essentially, I expected that I had freedoms, as you described. The GM encouraged these verbally, but then went ahead and tried to do HIS story. Thus, I ended up frustrated that his actions did not match his words. If it had been made clear at the beginning that he was expecting me to participate in his story passively, I would have not been frustrated (it would not have been ideal for me, and ultimately, freedom makes me happier than not, but at least I wouldn't have been so confused). Ultimately, I think points 2 and 3 are the same in this respect. If things are made clear at the beginning (and then supported by the groups actions) GNS (and all of its smaller implications) can actually be conducive to fun play for no better reason that it makes certain everyone is playing the same way. No expectations are crushed or strained, and thus the group, constrained by their choices and concession, is free to have actual fun.

4. I will check it out, but have limited time at the moment.

Thanks again Ron. As for starting a new topic about Narrativism and its placement as platform or structure, I think that may be warranted, unless I have already gone and messed it up (or understood it) with my above points.

The thing I am worried about is that though I am more aware of what Gamism and Narrativism look like, I am still shaky on the idea that they are mutually exclusive. If the group as a whole were aware of what they were doing (esteem as a point and premise as a point) I think it could co-exist. This could be more because I am passive enough to not let gamism take control of my actions as it does for others (or so it seems).

The play would look different though. Perhaps the game would have to encourage competition to create a story between the players, with rules encouraging the players to simultaneously confront some issue or premise (perhaps this would be gamist play with narrativist support, effectively making the address of premise as a means to win narration rights for the story?)

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Danny2050 on July 13, 2009, 12:12:50 AM
Hi Norm and Ron,

this thread really calls to me right now. I am uncertain if my contribution really fits the discussion so I will try and present just enough to test if this belongs here.

I have played D&D since its first incarnation, even had Chainmail. Recently I have been trialling 4e by playing in a friends "living" Forgotten Realms campaign. I have some observations about the experience that I think is germane here.

The new D&D has complex, interlocking mechanisms. They are presented in such a way that, in order to play your character at optimal (Gamist style) the GM must provide suitably detailed world data when encountering things. This imposes some burdens that never existed in the earlier games: The GM has to do some mighty prep and is going to be inclined to go for linear plot lines, a string of "encounters" tailored to the detail of the player's characters. The GM may, with some effort, pull together a matrix based scenario giving players varying order of encounter. In those circumstances the GM is going to dislike having any elements of the matrix missed, after all the hard work that went into preparing it.

During the course of play the focus is going to be much on the numbers and exploits and how they hang together. Frankly this all comes off more like a game of Quake on the PC than an "Adventure", its holds back any Creative Agenda.

The "Living" campaign scenarios reinforce this by having the player's characters just teleport from adventure to adventure as if they were puppets on strings. "Hang on, last game we defeated this creature, earnt the support of these guys and found this map. Why are we now in Greyhawk looking for a job?". Even players who like being taken from scenario to scenario find this "move out of context" jarring.

Looking at the rules and my experience of play I know I could work up a more flexible campaign. One that has "actors" within it that react to the changing world situation and give players actions meaning and allowing them to make choices that can alter outcomes. It would be very hard work because of the need of such detail work up of potential encounter situations but there are ways to do it. Once you have that elbow grease in there then you can support any of the Creative Agenda needs of your players and its actually not hard to integrate all the different types. In fact Gamist and Narrativist can support one another, especially if you take the time to learn how much of each agenda each player emphasises.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 13, 2009, 03:37:28 AM
Hi everyone, and Danny, welcome to the Forge. It's nice to see another long-toothed dog.

I request a little bit of time to work up a necessary post. I'm not inclined to shut down all posting except for just me and Norm, as I did with the Frostfolk one, but at the moment, each post is actually adding complexity rather than resolving it. I'm going to have to focus on Norm's needs for a bit, and then collect various other things that have cropped up.

In order for that to work, please let me get my next post up without further posts here. After that, and after Norm's response to it, then we'll open it up again.

Many thanks, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 13, 2009, 05:58:28 PM
I completed this post 12 hours ago. Then we lost the internet. Then I screamed.

----
Hi Norm,

Looking over your posts, I am unsure "when" you are standing in regard to the ideas discussed here. Have you read The Provisional Forge Glossary (http://indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html), specifically the first two pages with a diagram - i.e., my presentation of what I call The Big Model? Because if you're working with what people called "GNS" before that article was written (2004), then you're kind of in a swamp of past debate. It may even be that you haven't read Gamism: Step On Up (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/21/), given some of what you've written here. Let me know.

You wrote,

Quote
1. What is Exploration exactly? I understand that story is part of the structure, and thus it can (or cannot, depending on play) emerge from the exploration. Here's what I am thinking. Exploration is the agreed means by which a group plans to interact with the fiction and rules to produce and support a story. This would explain its foundational placement. In effect, the group agrees (whether consciously or not) [and perhaps at a social contract level] what kinds of fiction they are working with, and a whole set of acceptable tactics, such as character choice, what characters do in the fiction. From there, the story itself can grow and be supported. If this part is off, what I say next probably will be garbled and useless.

You are very close and perhaps dead on, but since we are dealing with a text medium here on this forum, I have to do some tuning. Your phrase "the agreed means by which a group plans to interact with the fiction and rules to produce and support a story" is definitely related to the term Exploration in the Big Model. However, I think it's only part of it. Up to the word "rules," what you're saying is picture-perfect exactly what I mean by the term "System." Second, "to produce and support a story" will work only insofar as "story" means its most absolutely broadest definition, which is to say, a series of fictional events. I call tell you, with battle-scars to illustrate each point, that using the word "story" to mean that will generate astonishing amounts of confusion and pain.

All right, that said, let's move on to what exactly Exploration is. It is literally a description of what imagined components are going into play. There are characters in (or "plus") a setting, which given a little focus on them and the immediation location, gives us Situation. Let's start there. No characters are moving or talking. Nothing is happening. We have sheets, notes, prep, some pre-play discussion, and stuff like that, but at this second, characters are in the setting with enough immediate context for anyone to say, "Oh! So then ..."

As soon as that concept is introduced, then we're hitting the whole thing with System. Exactly what you said: whatever is said and done at the table which makes the imagined situation actually change and transform into fictional events. "Rules," whether stated or textual, are only Techniques within System. Exploration includes System, meaning that instead of staying with the snapshot, we're talking about a dynamic and quite likely cyclical process of everyone contributing, responding, deciding, and imagining.

I want to emphasize that the concept of Color acts as a multiplier upon this entire framework; the whole thing is Colored at any and maybe all points. Also, despite the order in which I'm presenting the components here, Color is not an afterthought and may well be the primary experiential component.

That's Exploration: Color all this - System hitting Situation - with Situation being composed of Characters in a Setting. If the group of people can get through this without degenerating into confusion ("murk"), wrangling over details to serve personal beefs (Social Contract breakdown), or wrangling or being stifled over the aesthetic purpose at hand (Creative Agenda clash, or incoherence), then the Exploration stays "up" and play continues through many events.

Does that help? You will notice that I did not use the word "story" in any part of this. You can substitute it for anything in there (or all of it) if  you like. I also want to stress that I'm not talking about the fictional product at all. This is a pure process model. Creative Agenda is best understood as a shared aesthetic preference for doing the Exploration together, and continuing to do it together, just as I explained to Levi in the Frostfolk thread.

This is actually why I will continue to insist on that play example! I want to understand fully what characters in your game were, where they were, what they did, how you guys made them do it, and how things moved along. I also want to know a bit more about the social and creative circumstances in which it all occurred. With that information, I can very clearly point out to you: "This was the Exploration."

Narrativism

I am pretty convinced at this point that not only was there no imaginable shred of Narrativist priorities in the game you're describing, there isn't any in what you're talking about, either. You keep saying "the story." I would like to add to my request for actual play accounts: what is the single best and most enjoyable example of "the story" in role-playing you've experienced? Who was playing, what system was being used, who were the characters, what did they do, and how did all of you make that happen?

I need this to understand what in the world you mean by this term. Abstract descriptions will simply not help me understand.

Exclusivity

(also applies to Danny's post, although it's not a full answer)

Quote
The thing I am worried about is that though I am more aware of what Gamism and Narrativism look like, I am still shaky on the idea that they are mutually exclusive. If the group as a whole were aware of what they were doing (esteem as a point and premise as a point) I think it could co-exist. This could be more because I am passive enough to not let gamism take control of my actions as it does for others (or so it seems).

Whoa - if I don't "let gamism take control of my actions," then I'm not playing Gamist. Gamist play is in fact letting the Gamist "point of play" be why I play and therefore it's the enthusiastic linchpin for what I do. That doesn't necessarily mean jumping wholly into what I call The Hard Core. It does mean that Exploration is being conducted for the point of playing Gamist.

That said, then I think what you've written provides its own refutation of your desired or at least proposed goal. You've literally written that you want "story" to happen, with anything that might become Gamist being kept on a short leash so that it isn't the point of play. If I take "story" at its broadest definition, a series of fictional events, then what you've written is actually a powerful "anything but Gamist" proposal.

Please note that I said "what you've written." It, or how I'm reading it, may not be what you are saying, so if it seems to you that I've caricatured and ripped the spine out of what you are saying, try a re-phrase and see if I get it this time.

For instance, you might be saying the opposite: that you want the Gamism in there no matter what, but not in a way which "ruins things" for you, which you haven't specified. If so, there are two relevant sections in Gamism: Step On Up. One part talks about what Gamist play is like without the escalation I call The Hard Core. A lot of people confuse that subset with Gamism itself. Another part is called "The bitterest gamer in the world." It describes people who do want to play Gamist but want its manifestation to be very, very muted and never openly acknowledged, letting the vast majority of attention in play to be involved in the details of the Exploration, and why I think they often have a terrible time getting this sort of play into actual experience.

Quote
... Perhaps the game would have to encourage competition to create a story between the players, with rules encouraging the players to simultaneously confront some issue or premise (perhaps this would be gamist play with narrativist support, effectively making the address of premise as a means to win narration rights for the story?)

All I can say here is, design as you see fit toward this goal, and enjoy ... but you might examine some tries from the past. I do not mean commercial failure, but the observed and easily-understood failure to see the ideal occur. One good example is the card game Once Upon a Time, which is wonderful in many ways, but in practice must become either "about winning" or "about a Premise-addressing conclusion," among everyone, or the final phase of play is a rather bumbling and anti-climactic experience. What I'm saying is that you might be describing a cruel trap for people who do want Narrativist play, when they discover that they can get a little tease about what they want to be the real point of play, and then end up having to fight about (or over) it instead.

I am still interested in someone posting about Capes in these terms, because as far as I can tell, Capes does not promote Narrativist play at all regardless of a certain amount of promotional rhetoric suggesting it does. It is simply and flatly competing for story control, which seems a little bit like what you are talking about here. "Story control" is actually the last imaginable, and quite likely the most disruptive technique possible for Narrativist goals; it's basically railroading, and a game which competes for railroading privileges is just as un-designed for Narrativist goals as a game which grants them to one person throughout play.

Best, Ron
edited to fix paragraph spacing - RE


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 17, 2009, 12:30:18 PM
Hi Ron,

I have read all of your essays. I think I have read all of the essays posted on this site. The thing is, your essays run around 20+ pages each. Though I certainly read them carefully (and in the case of narrativism and gamism, twice) keeping all of the information in my head and understanding it is proving challenging, especially since many of the terms are charged with meaning for me that is apparently not the same meaning they have in the essay. Short of investing several consecutive hours pulling apart the glossary and individual articles, and making sure everything matches up with everything in a coherent way, I fear I may be unable to grasp the full thrust of everything you have written for quite some time, and only then with several discussions, of which this one is surely a big part.

That said, I did mean a series of fictional events when I used the word story initially, when discussing exploration. And your description of exploration really cleared up a good deal of confusion for me. Namely, the confusion of system and techniques. If rules are a technique, but the actual taking of action by player and character (whether interacting with mechanical rules or not) is considered system as well as the mechanics, then I understand fully why you say "System matters" Ultimately, I was equating system with mechanics, and to me, almost any mechanics I have encountered can be fit into any of the creative agendas (though admittedly, certain ones fit certain agendas better than others).

As for narrativist priorities being present or not, I can understand why you would say there was no shred of it. What I mean by story in this context is probably better described as premise.  Each of us wanted a different level of importance for premise. (I am using premise here as sort of a confrontation with moral quandary, like in dust devil's can a cowboy give up the gun, kind of way. I don't really know how to put it into words, which is frustrating for all involved, but if you get what I mean, then I won't have to articulate as much. If not, I'll try harder at a future time).

I, for one, wanted a healthy level of premise. I wanted to explore more than just the fiction (encompassing all the lovely bits of color and such) and I wanted more than just social esteem (though I certainly wanted to get those pats on the back for all of my contributions, whether it was winning a fight, contributing something cool to the series of fictional events, or what have you), I wanted to ask hard questions of the characters and ultimately the players. The thing was, in play, these hard questions could never come up, because they simply weren't present in the story the GM had designed. If we tried to interject them, it would inevitably run the plot off the rails, which would infuriate the gm, stress him out (and thus everyone at the table) and potentially end in a group time-out (which has happened several times). So, instead of addressing the hard questions, we would give up, little by little, not even noticing we were, until we were playing in an obviously gamist fashion and not understanding fully just why we were so frustrated with how things were going.

I don't have time for a play example right now (I know its pissing you off, but I promise I'll provide one soon), but I will get one up as soon as I have time to write it. I want to make sure I pick a good couple of sessions to demonstrate what I believe I am saying and also to answer your question about my most enjoyable game.

As for narrativism and Gamism co-existing, I think that what you described is spot-on. I don't want esteem to be the only point of play. I want esteem to be an important factor, in addition to the addressing of what I call the hard questions, and what I suspect is premise. When I have time, I will re-read the glossary, looking for all links to premise.

For now, it seems I want Narrativist play with subservient Gamism and a dash of Simulationism (Which I probably have as much understanding of as I do of rocket science, which is to say, Rockets go up, most of the time, and there's this fuel propulsion thing going on).

Also, I fear I may be on of the bitterest gamers in the world, since that sounds like a great way to play to me, as long as the hard questions are present.

Thanks again, and I will work on an actual play example post-haste,

Cheers,
--Norm

P.S. I am deeply sorry you had to go through the classic re-typing due to internet loss event. I hate those. Thanks for sticking with it.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 21, 2009, 09:10:39 AM
Hi Norm,

I hope to make a series of points in the form of editing some of your phrases in significant ways. With any luck this can serve to tune your understanding, but I am not entirely sure it works, so let me know what you think.

1. I want to distinguish between the desire for a given Creative Agenda vs. its expression and realization in play itself. A given desire, such as you describe, is perfectly capable of being present and unrealized, which is to say, it cannot be said to be "your CA." It's not a Creative Agenda unless it actually happens; what you're describing is a frustrated desire.

Quote
As for narrativist priorities being present or not, I can understand why you would say there was no shred of it. What I mean by story in this context is probably better described as premise. Each of us wanted a different level of importance for premise. (I am using premise here as sort of a confrontation with moral quandary, like in dust devil's can a cowboy give up the gun, kind of way. I don't really know how to put it into words, which is frustrating for all involved, but if you get what I mean, then I won't have to articulate as much. If not, I'll try harder at a future time).

I do get what you mean; you are talking about your desire for Narrativist play, for which your phrases "healthy level of premise" defined as "sort of confrontation with moral quandary, like in dust devil's can a cowboy give up the gun kind of way" are an absolute synonym - even a definition. (Note: I had not worked through this point very well in my "GNS and other matters" essay; it didn't get rigorously articulated until "Story Now.")

2. Techniques and Creative Agenda. Here, what you're saying is a central feature of the Big Model.

Quote
... to me, almost any mechanics I have encountered can be fit into any of the creative agendas (though admittedly, certain ones fit certain agendas better than others).

A better way to put it, though, is that no single mechanic (technique) can be equated with a CA. However, a set of techniques in combination may well facilitate a given CA. Sometimes this effect is so unequivocal that it's easy to forget that no single one of them is "doing it," especially since one of those techniques is often extremely obvious and experientially powerful.

This concept raises a couple of nuances.

i) Such phenomena lead to the common short-hand in my writings of identifying a given game (rules-set, text-set) with a CA. This isn't really identifying the game as such in a definitional sense, nor saying that anyone/everyone who's played it did so with a given CA, nor in any way is it talking about the motivations of the author. It is, however, a defensible position about what the mechanics of the game can be "led toward" by people inclined toward a particular CA, and more importantly, how difficult it might be to play other CAs using that rules/text set without modification.

ii) When thinking in these terms, I recommend considering mechanics which change characters to be central. This includes damage, death, so-called "advancement," social positions, behavioral rules, and others.

3. I suggest giving up all talk about combined Creative Agendas and one being subservient to another. I worked hard in my essays to accomodate such possibilities, but the years of discussion and debate, plus the remarkable clarification of Simulationism as a CA, have shown me that CA is a "one or none" proposition. Either the group has a single CA in action (rocket-firing, haltingly, or anywhere in between), or it jumbles about with clashing desires regarding CA, or it can't even get the basic Exploration or SIS together in the first place in order to sustain a CA anyway.

Quote
For now, it seems I want Narrativist play with subservient Gamism and a dash of Simulationism

I don't think you do. I think you want Narrativist play with strong tactical considerations in the nitty-gritty moments of play, including real consequences, and that you don't want the Explorative chassis/platform to be stupid. You don't have to wrack your brain and try to fit multiple CAs together in order to talk about what you want. You say those hard questions are most important to you. OK - at this point, your desire is Narrativist, and you're done!

That also leads me toward specific rules and texts as discussed in #1, about twenty games which could serve those purposes right off the top of my head, including a slightly-Drifted form of The Riddle of Steel, Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, The Whispering Vault, and many more. But probably not The Pool, Primetime Adventures, Universalis, Polaris, or a bunch of others often (wrongly) tagged as the uber-ultimate Narrativist games.

4. Bitterest - not.

Quote
Also, I fear I may be on of the bitterest gamers in the world, since that sounds like a great way to play to me, as long as the hard questions are present.

Boy, do you twist and turn on the impaling spike of desiring tactics with consequences. Again: enjoying and desiring those techniques is not a Creative Agenda issue. Your qualifier, "as long as the hard questions [as specified by you, kind-of moral quandaries] are present," instantly removes any possibility of being one of those bitterest guys I described. For them, by definition and without fail, the qualifier would be, "... as long as the hard decisions of play require genuine competence at the tactics and strategy, genuinely tested in the eyes of everyone present." That's not what you qualified. You're not in that zone. I think the only reason you found my description attractive is that you are so hungry for a decent Explorative/SIS platform of some kind.

Frustration at the Creative Agenda level is a blinding thing. It makes a person seize at any aspect of functional play, at all levels (Social Contract, solid and compelling Exploration components, specific resolution methods), and mistake those aspects for the Creative Agenda itself, perhaps based on associations from past history. That is, I think, at the core of every semi-desperate cry for combined Creative Agendas that I've seen since I first posted System Does Matter in early 1999.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 22, 2009, 05:18:48 AM
Hey Ron,

Thanks for your replies. I appreciate that you recognize what's going on in my head, even if I can't.

The only thing I look at skeptically (this is an understatement. I am an eternal skeptic sometimes), is the idea that I'm narrativist and done. What about wanting esteem for success in conflict or for coming up with good story ideas? I definitely want that too, just not as much as I want those hard questions. Simulationism only ever appeals to me when I am playing within a constrained setting in which I have no control, such as many published adventures for DnD or the campaign settings they publish. I like them well enough, but I like them more as sping-boards for my own imagination than as creative constraints.

So if I seek this esteem, is that a shred of gamism creeping into my narrativist desires, or is it just the general human need for appreciation and recognition?

Also, I don't believe you told me where I can get a copy of the Exchange. It seems like an interesting system, and I would love to have a look at it and maybe play a few sessions, once I get a group together.

And now, my actual play example. I decided to give you this because you asked a very good question that has been congealing within me for a short time now. I wanted to evaluate my most fun play experience. The problem is that since all of my DnD play experiences are firmly rooted in the past (at least four months ago, many of them years), I fear I may have retroactively changed the memory to accord with my new views, even though they may not have been before. Either way, I find that out of all the DMs I have had, none have satisfied me as much as I would have liked, but one did so better than the others. Oddly, I had more fun in his game than I did running my own, though I blame the players (and my bad DMing) for that.

So, the system is D&D 3.5. The DM is named Dave. He has his own world-setting he has created loosely, but encouraged us to make things up to help flesh it out. To sum up, its the colonial expansion, DnD style. The Orcs (and goblins and kobolds) are the native americans, the elves are the canadians, dwarves are mexicans (rumored to exist, but nobody knows for sure) and Humans are the colonists from a far off land. The humans follow a national deity (Serin) who mandates Divine Expansion, telling humans it is their duty to rule this new land for the betterment of all races. The deity is Lawful Evil, but everyone believes he is Lawful Good.

He wanted a low-magic setting (in the sense that he wanted to control certain aspects of the campaign), so he flat out denied flight magic of any sort, along with resurrection magic. People could theoretically still be ressurrected, but it was extremely tough, and definitely high level stuff. Since we all started at level 1 (and never got higher than 5 or 6) we knew that if we died, it was time to introduce a new character. Also, any magic item technically belonged to the human government (as far as they were concerned), but they only pursued things with a bonus of +3 or higher.

So, I played a human War-Mage (an arcane character based around extremely damaging spells in combat, but almost no subtlety. this helped him since it removed the chance that I would do all those annoying wizard things like scrying and such) His name was Ptolemy, and other than being min-maxed for damage, he was a racist. He was a devout follower of Serin (in his lawful good side, heavy emphasis on the Lawful) and believed Humans deserved to rule over all of the races. His family was killed by a plague, and their (large) life savings were used to buy him a comfortable life at the war-mage academy. He was out adventuring as a way to gain recognition and recruit people for the war-mage academy.

Gerald played Luthor, a human ranger with a dog for a pet (and future animal companion). He was impulsive, and paid lip-service to Serin and the government, but mostly just went his own way. I don't remember much about his family or life before adventuring.

Jenn played Valenathia, an Elven Paladin of Law. She was very stern and disdained the human ways, but it was her duty to inspect and ascertain our threat to the elven nation, and determine whether we humans were good or bad on the whole.

Mike played Thamior, a Human Druid. Mike didn't care much for the fictional elements of D&D, and only played a druid because we all bugged him not to play an elven ranger like he always did, min-maxed for damage. (in retrospect, I think we should have embraced his love of the class, and encouraged him to play whatever he liked so long as it enhanced everyone's enjoyment of the game. But, we were too selfish).

I don't honestly remember how we met. I know Luthor and I were traveling together already, and Thamior and Valenathia were traveling together. Our first adventure was a cattle theft. We investigated and found out a corrupt sheriff had killed the old sheriff and "sold" the land to a bunch of goblins nearby. They were just taking what was rightfully theirs. After raiding the goblin lair only to discover this fact (we left them with no warriors), we went in search of said corrupt sheriff. We ran the bastard out of town, and made a deal between the goblins and ranchers so that they could share resources and work to each other's benefit. I took one of the goblins (Kra) under my wing. Maybe I was trying to make up for what I had done to his tribe, maybe I just wanted to prove Serin could impact the other races. At the time, I had no idea, I just thought it would be cool to teach a goblin all about the human way of life. A growing dislike began between Ptolemy and Valenathia. The two world-views were just too different.

As for what was going on at the table, there was plenty. My war-mage was being nerfed so that I didn't do too much damage, and thus kill Dave's monsters too quickly. Everyone in the party loved my character's damage output and ability to control situations (especially since Luthor and Thamior weren't big damage dealers, and Jenn had horrible luck with her dice). He kept on saying it was going to make the other players feel inadequate and ruin their fun, but it was obvious that it really ruined the challenge from his point of view. He wasn't trying to win (though at the time I thought he was) he was just trying to make sure things were difficult for us. This was becoming frustrated because I was making mince-meat of most of his encounters.

The next adventure saw us investigating a plague in a nearby town at the behest of the local government. This was a fairly charged adventure,emotionally speaking, for my character, and I played it that way. Consequently, the other characters did not much like my constant reports to the government about our doings. Either way, we took the job and investigated. Through stupidity, I got Luthor killed. He and I got trapped on the side of a pit trap (he had jumped over to save me) and we got ambushed by some kobolds. Valenathia and Thamior weren't able to get to us very quickly, but they ran the kobolds off and retrieved our unconscious bodies. By the time we got back to town, Luthor was too plague-ridden to survive, and died. At this point Gerald introduced Aiden, a Cleric of Serin (very mild-mannered, focusing much more on the good than the lawful), but just as impulsive as Luthor. As a result, throughout the campaign, this character would run off alone to investigate things. It got us into a fair amount of trouble. He also had a bad philosophy on healing, only using it once we fell unconscious, which would inevitably make it easier for us to fall unconscious again due to the attacks of opportunity involved with standing up. We always had to brow-beat him into healing us before that point.

Either way, we found out the plague was caused by an orc trying to bring vengeance on us because humans ran his tribe out. We killed him and stopped the plague. During this whole little adventure Thamior also died. He and I decided we wanted to investigate a crypt in the dungeon, across another spiked pit. Aiden and Valenathia wanted nothing to do with it, so they stayed on the other side. Well, there was an undead monstrosity in the crypt. Aiden and Valenathia provided archery support (yeah, clerics and paladins do great with archery), and Thamior got knocked out. This beast was fairly evil, so instead of coming after me, it just ripped him in half. This caused Valenathia to blame me for two deaths, her best friend Thamior, and her friend Luthor (because she was befriending him). Things never really got better between the two. So, Mike started making a new character, Sir Richard of the order of the Rose, a Knight. He didn't finish making the character until our next adventure. By the time we saw daylight again, Kra had run away, and I thought I had lost him for good. So much for the teachings of Serin. All around it wasn't a total loss though, because the kobolds that killed Luthor had died, except for a pair of very young ones (due to plague, not us). Aiden adopted these as his sons, and they were a source of endless entertainment for the group, with Aiden trying to shield them from my harsh teachings and my military training, and me always trying to rip the soft velvety illusion Aiden spun about the world and Serin.

I don't remember much to do with the next adventure, but it involved rival kobold tribes and a kobold I now know to be very popular in D&D called Meepo, and a very young white dragon. We got the dragon back to its rightful owners, and discovered Sir Richard. We freed him by agreeing to solve their problem, and so we did. Mike didn't like it too much when Dave told him to erase all of his possessions when we found him. Dave thought this rather funny, but Dave and Mike never really got along, so it only made things worse between them. After some whining on Mike's part, (and some support from Gerald and I) Dave agreed to return some of the possessions when we found them in the dungeon. This amounted to a sword and shield, but hey, I guess you can't have it all.

This all leads up to the next adventure, which is the one I had the most fun with, and where I suspect we hit the premise, at least for my character.

In the next adventure we were exploring a cult. (Dave had been gradually ramping up the otherworldy horror in the world, so things were becoming more desperate from a charactr standpoint. Also, the government seemed to have mixed feelings about our little group). That, and a Goblin threat had been investigated by the government, and they were going to move to wipe it out. As it turns out, Kra had gathered up his old tribe and taught them everything I taught him, which turned out to be a very peaceful message that caused the community to prosper together. The government saw it as a threat, so my character lied to the government to protect his friend, even if his friend wasn't firing on all cylinders about Serin. In the process of eliminating the cult, I had the chance to use a couple of action points (Dave gave us some as the campaign got harder, and they could be used to "cool story things we normally couldn't" in addition to the standard 1d6 added to a d20 roll. I brought down the mine by turning my fists to stone with one of my spells (normally you can only turn one fist) and knocking out support structures as we ran from a blob monster that we could not kill. This trapped it beneath the city, but made the government declare us fugitives, even though they knew we had eradicated a cult. Turns out some agents of the government were in cults too! My character had to run from the government, and come to grips with the fact that everything he thought was stable was not, including the divine rule of his god. This is where we took a break from the campaign, but it sadly never restarted.

What did people enjoy the most? I know Mike and I enjoyed killing things left and right. We loved giving each other high fives for the critical hits and marveling at the sheer destruction we could wreak. Jenn, myself and Gerald loved the depth of the fiction and the world Dave had created, and I think (key word) that Everyone enjoyed watching me grapple with personal loyalty and my loyalty to the state. The damage-dealing is fun I can have in any campaign. What made this one stick in my mind is that it was so customized to the characters that I actually felt like my decisions had more consequences than just success or failure. Killing something wasn't always a path to victory, and it always complicated things. And between the plague-ridden town, accidentally getting Luthor killed, and maybe even Thamior, not to mention the big BANG at the end of being forced to choose between myself and the government, made this stick in my mind as the most fun I had ever had in D&D.

So, what do you think?

P.S. for those who care, we ended the campaign around level 5 after maybe 6 months of playing. Only mike really cared that it was so slow, and it just made me anticipate the levels more, waiting on the edge of my seat for the chance to get new ways to kill things and make things ever more complicated.



Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 22, 2009, 07:33:54 AM
Hi Norm,

Quote
The only thing I look at skeptically (this is an understatement. I am an eternal skeptic sometimes), is the idea that I'm narrativist and done. What about wanting esteem for success in conflict or for coming up with good story ideas? I definitely want that too, just not as much as I want those hard questions. Simulationism only ever appeals to me when I am playing within a constrained setting in which I have no control, such as many published adventures for DnD or the campaign settings they publish. I like them well enough, but I like them more as sping-boards for my own imagination than as creative constraints.

So if I seek this esteem, is that a shred of gamism creeping into my narrativist desires, or is it just the general human need for appreciation and recognition?

You should look at that idea skeptically, because I didn't say that. There are several points in there that need some refining.

First, the whole GNS concept is not a Briggs-Meyer personality test. We're only talking about that play experience and where you and the group were at with it.

Second, one of the most important early dialogues about these ideas back at the Gaming Outpost was between me and Mark J. Young, who was at that time totally committed to the idea of percentages: 20% Gamist, et cetera. The conversation was resolved when I suggested that he consider those moments when push comes to shove, if for instance esteem for strategy and guts were to be set aside in favor of addressing Premise, would that be a joyous moment, or an annoying one? Mark then articulated the key issue: it's not about whether a person "is" Narrativist, it's about that he or she cannot play more than one CA at once.

Now, there are some hassles inherent in that point, specifically that Creative Agenda is not about moments but whole cycles of play, but the point is valid insofar as it talks about priorities.We've actually already seen all the necessary information about this in your thread, especially with the actual play staring us in the face. Keeping in mind that we're not talking about you as a personality but your desires during this particular game, you have already stated that the addressing-Premise content was your hard-line, can't-lose, must-be-there boundary. That's why I'm saying that you have described Narrativism-alone in these posts. I'm not claiming to read your mind; I'm telling you how what you're saying directly translates into jargon terms.

Third, I think you may be missing something I said a few posts back, that Gamist play isn't about esteem for just anything. It's about esteem specifically for strategy and guts. When you say "esteem for coming up with a good story idea," that has nothing, zilch, to do with Gamism anyway. Yes, obviously esteem plays a role in all enjoyment-based socializing.

Great play summary! I'll return to its details in a bit, especially the part about killing things easily and drastically.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Callan S. on July 22, 2009, 06:23:51 PM
Heh, it reminds me of those comics where the villain threatens two things the hero cares about, and he can only save one. Which one would he save? Here, if gamism and nar (and even perhaps sim) were being threatened by a super villain(lol), which one would you save? "But, like spider man, I'd figure out some way of saving them all!!!1!". And if you couldn't and were going to lose them all? Which one would your group put ahead of the rest and save?

I'm probably not adding anything new, but it's a fun way of thinking about it :)


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 23, 2009, 09:13:18 AM
Hi Norm,

As a minor point, if you were using D&D 3.5, we are definitely not talking about "far in the past" play, from my perspective.

Now for the fun of talking about actual play in Big Model terms. I have to say that you've provided a remarkably easy and fun one for those purposes. So let's start at the biggest and all-encompassing layer or sphere, and work our way inwards.

I might need a little more light shed on the Social Contract, which is to say, my understanding of who was playing and in what circumstances. Was it a college group, or old pals get-together, a one-time-thing, or what? age range? Had the group played together before, and for how long? On a more personal level, who invited whom to play, and who if anyone got shoehorned in? Did any person deal with any serious travel or inconvenience in getting to play? And this is an optional topic, so ignore if you prefer: were there any romantic ties or history among any persons involved?

All right, leaving some of the perspective on Social Contract for later, let's look at Exploration, specifically its five components.

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... its the colonial expansion, DnD style. The Orcs (and goblins and kobolds) are the native americans, the elves are the canadians, dwarves are mexicans (rumored to exist, but nobody knows for sure) and Humans are the colonists from a far off land. The humans follow a national deity (Serin) who mandates Divine Expansion, telling humans it is their duty to rule this new land for the betterment of all races. The deity is Lawful Evil, but everyone believes he is Lawful Good.


Whoa. This is hard core Setting-based Premise. We barely started talking about Setting and already CA is leaping off the page. In addition, I also see a focused punch on a key rules-issue in all play of D&D, alignment - and it's Drifted. Apparent alignment is drastically contrasted with actual alignment. If you think in Model terms, that's an Exploration component (Setting) connected to a System element and Character element (i.e. character alignment), then all three of those (or their point of juncture) being the start of a skewering line deeper into the Model, drilling into specific Techniques.

OK, Setting and Character are present, united through a key System feature, and the combination absolutely screams "Situation" to the extent that prepping powerful, fruitful scenarios will be easy (as demonstrated soon). But we're not really talking about real Situation (and hence the full Exploration) until we get into play.

How about Color, at this prep stage? So far, it's a little light on Color. Perhaps the whole "we're playing D&D!" with its attendant illustrations and subcultural cachet was serving as a kind of substitute for Color; as the very phrases "the elves are the canadians" and similar suggest.

Again, unlike the vast majority of prep for a game, when Dave set up for play, he wasn't talking just about levels of the Model in isolation, but rather about the skewers that unite the Model for a given group in play. This is rare and masterful. One looks at the other well-known aspects of D&D 3.5 and gets a bit worried, and then Dave instantly rides to the rescue:

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He wanted a low-magic setting (in the sense that he wanted to control certain aspects of the campaign), so he flat out denied flight magic of any sort, along with resurrection magic. People could theoretically still be ressurrected, but it was extremely tough, and definitely high level stuff. Since we all started at level 1 (and never got higher than 5 or 6) we knew that if we died, it was time to introduce a new character. Also, any magic item technically belonged to the human government (as far as they were concerned), but they only pursued things with a bonus of +3 or higher.

Right on cue, here's more Technique Drift, reinforcing the same line and and linking Character (higher level) to the reward mechanics aspect of Technique. OK, maybe that's a little abstract sounding. How "character death" happens in a given game is part and parcel of the reward mechanics. What I'm saying is that in all text-based D&D play, and 3.5 is no exception, character death is a problematic issue especially at low level. Different groups cope with it differently: making death less likely in a variety of ways, making resurrection easily available, having healing spells and potions readily available, starting at higher level in the first place, and who knows what-all.

I'm also looking at a well-known higher-level feature of all historical D&D text-based play: once past a certain point, magic capabilities give players remarkable authority over situational and other elements of Exploration that until then only the DM has enjoyed. Dave basically said, "That's not a feature for us, and even lower-level stuff which hints at it is getting ramped down." The flying aspect is interesting, as it seems like a tactical expression of the same thing, as well as a powerful visual reinforcement of the idea that your characters are not superheroes (and here I speak in terms of genre rather than effectiveness).

All right, to summarize, when I think of this just-before-play visually, I see the Big Model like a beach ball with smaller beach balls inside it. The second ball in, well, it's a complicated one; it needs a more elaborate interlinked structure on its own level in order to function. In this case, it's a rather wonderfully interlinked set of parts, almost a skeletal or otherwise-jointed structure rather than a membranous ball. One really "glowy" spot on it, for me, is the System component, which itself sprouts a connecting strut straight down/in to the next beach ball, Techniques. That ball is also quite nuanced and pretty, with arrows or pathways pointing outwards from the point of contact with the strut, and then coming back to it. Although granted, a lot of it is left unconstructed, with signs that say "like D&D 3.5 says" posted on blank spots.

The Exploration ball isn't done yet because we haven't talked about its most powerful property or component, Situation. Also, to talk about the innermost ball, Ephemera, we have to see the rest of the thing in action first.

Now bring more humans to the table in terms of concrete contribution:

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So, I played a human War-Mage ... et cetera

In your description of the players and characters, I see a lot of Social Contract and CA here, expressed through the Exploration component of Character. You and Jenn were most obviously the Premise-y players in terms of prep. I suggest that your "real" group began as Dave and the two of you, with the others being left more or less as social reinforcement of play itself; stay tuned, though, because that's a crack in the foundation. In terms of the Model, the outermost Social Contract ball looks a little fragmented or flaccid, not as "beautiful" as the inner layers, and I suppose one might imagine this means that the interior structures are going to roam and wobble a bit.

So much for prep; on to the show itself.

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... Our first adventure was a cattle theft. We investigated and found out a corrupt sheriff had killed the old sheriff and "sold" the land to a bunch of goblins nearby. They were just taking what was rightfully theirs. After raiding the goblin lair only to discover this fact (we left them with no warriors), we went in search of said corrupt sheriff. We ran the bastard out of town, and made a deal between the goblins and ranchers so that they could share resources and work to each other's benefit. I took one of the goblins (Kra) under my wing. Maybe I was trying to make up for what I had done to his tribe, maybe I just wanted to prove Serin could impact the other races. At the time, I had no idea, I just thought it would be cool to teach a goblin all about the human way of life. A growing dislike began between Ptolemy and Valenathia. The two world-views were just too different.

The first adventure immediately demonstrates that Situation is a local expression of the overall tensions and problems of the Setting. Colonialism, check; property rights, check; exploitation, check. The neatest thing I see about it is that as the scenario resolved, (i) certain mistakes were in fact made and a lot of goblins unfairly died, and (ii) the two most relevant characters (i.e. Premise-rich one) saw the beginnings of a values-based conflict between them. Perfect. This is a reward cycle.

What I mean by that is that the events of play changed the local setting, meaning a different relationship among the various communities, and changed the characters themselves, such that going to a new situation, next time, has more meat to work with. A new conflict in that situation may well be handled very differently by your two characters based strictly on the consequences of the first situation.

I see the whole issue with nerfing your character's damage as another Drift issue. If the adversity were not adverse, then your characters' actions would have reduced consequences for them, and as I see it, the whole vision of play that Dave had offered, and that you and Jenn especially had accepted, relied on consequences. I think it's interesting that at the time, you were only able to process this entirely-understandable Drift in terms of "Dave wants to win more."

And in the second adventure, boy, talk about consequences and having to live with them! The first application is to note exactly the previous-to-this adventure effect I mentioned above regarding yet more tension between the two surviving characters, and the second is the lethality. Despite the mechanical ease of killing low-level D&D characters, it takes a lot of Social Contract guts to follow through with a stated willingness to do so. Two out of four! (Although I do note they were for the non-Premise-y characters.).

If I'm reading right, Gerald now got into the groove after all with his cleric character. It doesn't surprise me that the three characters represented three different ethical takes on the contradiction between perceived Lawful Good and actual Lawful Evil, and what would under some other circumstances be the dreaded "oh no! inter-party conflict!" is here an expression of the most desirable aspect of play (for you in this case). In my weird little imagery, the Social Contract ball just got more pumped up, because now four out of five people are explicitly saying, and expressing through real play, the key phrase "let's play this game this way."

Also, that's a very interesting cleric who won't heal on demand. How did that arise, as a thing suggested in dialogue before it happened in play, or was it a surprise during play, or was it something everyone was comfy with based on previous play history?

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So much for the teachings of Serin.

Wham. Premise answered. Creative Agenda reward cycle complete. "This is what it's about."

As you recall, did Jenn enjoy the characters' ethical disagreements? When your character's actions led to the death of her character's best friend, did it seem to you to "work" for her?

Plus, all that interesting business about adopting goblins and kobolds. It reminds me of how in many westerns, even as Indians are getting villainized, there're all these sidekick and borderline and halfbreed characters that seem to be central in some way.

Your account of the third adventure is more telling than it might seem. Let's look at Mike's situation.

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Mike didn't like it too much when Dave told him to erase all of his possessions when we found him. Dave thought this rather funny, but Dave and Mike never really got along, so it only made things worse between them. After some whining on Mike's part, (and some support from Gerald and I) Dave agreed to return some of the possessions when we found them in the dungeon. This amounted to a sword and shield, but hey, I guess you can't have it all.

OK, people say "Blah blah blah" about how they plan to play, especially any stripe of D&D, and most of the time it's all bullshit and the group plays in the same fashion (whatever it may be) that's familiar to all of them anyway. It would really help to know more about the Social Contract details I asked about above, but even without them, clearly Mike's the odd man out here. He was all set to play D&D his way, no matter what blahdy-blah he had to listen to at first. He made up a character that had no Premise-y meat at all, who got killed in the second adventure. Now he gets to make up a new character, and guess what? He doesn't get to keep the stuff that by right (as he sees it) he gets to have as a player. These aren't Sir Richard's things we're talking about; they're Mike's! He has to "start over," and he "gets screwed." None of this makes sense if he were in tune with the CA and the way that all the aspects of play tied into it ... but since he's not, the only way to interpret this is that you guys are simply being dicks.

Plus then he gets ganged up on, with all three of the other guys (h'm - not the woman? interesting) saying "Yeah, give it up," and he has Hobson's choice: play even though he's getting screwed, or don't play.

Don't mistake me: I'm not adopting or agreeing with my hypothetical version of Mike's point of view. I'm saying what that point of view may well have been, assuming that Dave had not bought into the obvious CA orientation. And I also suggest that it took two strong reward cycles (in terms of situations) and one strong reward cycle (character death, i.e., "Dave means what he said") encompassing those, before he realized that the agenda in question was real and the pack of you would instantly back it up. You were immune to the implicit blackmail: "Oh yeah? Then I won't play."

Again, to be clear, I'm not saying that I absolutely or magically know that we're looking at an instance of clashing Creative Agendas, but I am saying that in the presence of such a clash, this is the sort of thing which happens. And if that's the case, then the days of either Mike's presence in the group or the group's survival itself are numbered.

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This all leads up to the next adventure, which is the one I had the most fun with, and where I suspect we hit the premise, at least for my character.

Oh, Premise is firing very hard already, no question about it. I think you had the most fun because after two or so cycles, you believed that it was really going to happen, that the "reverberations" I talk about in one of the threads referenced below were actually happening, and so could throw yourself right into it. Therefore what you collectively "hit" was the climax of your character's initially-stated tensions in Premise terms - which in Narrativist terms, is the largest and most significant reward cycle.

(more in next post)
 


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 23, 2009, 09:13:44 AM

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In the next adventure we were exploring a cult. ... the government seemed to have mixed feelings about our little group). That, and a Goblin threat had been investigated by the government, and they were going to move to wipe it out. As it turns out, Kra had gathered up his old tribe and taught them everything I taught him, which turned out to be a very peaceful message that caused the community to prosper together. The government saw it as a threat, so my character lied to the government to protect his friend, even if his friend wasn't firing on all cylinders about Serin. In the process of eliminating the cult, I had the chance to use a couple of action points (Dave gave us some as the campaign got harder, and they could be used to "cool story things we normally couldn't" in addition to the standard 1d6 added to a d20 roll. I brought down the mine by turning my fists to stone with one of my spells (normally you can only turn one fist) and knocking out support structures as we ran from a blob monster that we could not kill. This trapped it beneath the city, but made the government declare us fugitives, even though they knew we had eradicated a cult. Turns out some agents of the government were in cults too! My character had to run from the government, and come to grips with the fact that everything he thought was stable was not, including the divine rule of his god. This is where we took a break from the campaign, but it sadly never restarted.

Oh, for this adventure, there is so much to talk about. First, it's a fantastic example of Premise-heavy scenario generation, with the government and the cult and Kra and all the rest of it; Dave gets a high five from me, and you were absolutely right to identify the content as a Bang for your character. Second, the action point things: another example of beautiful, classic Drift. Third, the ultimate consequence: the starting assumptions of your character were invalidated, and that raises the wonderful new question of who will he become?

Question: did Jenn and Gerald really get into this one? It seems that Gerald did. What kind of character interaction among the three of you highlighted - or better, transformed - the tensions going into the scenario? Were the elf and warmage reconciled at all? And correct me if I'm wrong: was Mike pretty peripheral to play during this adventure?

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I know Mike and I enjoyed killing things left and right. We loved giving each other high fives for the critical hits and marveling at the sheer destruction we could wreak.


Effectiveness, or the potential for it, is a key part of protagonism. That's what I think you were aiming toward, especially given this part of your post:

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I think (key word) that Everyone enjoyed watching me grapple with personal loyalty and my loyalty to the state. The damage-dealing is fun I can have in any campaign. What made this one stick in my mind is that it was so customized to the characters that I actually felt like my decisions had more consequences than just success or failure. Killing something wasn't always a path to victory, and it always complicated things.

Dave apparently had the good sense to damp it down a bit to keep it from becoming "I do anything" (he was hampered a bit by working in the constraints of fighty-damage-death focus of the system) and also to think in terms of consequences just as you describe.

Again, I wasn't there and don't know Mike. It could be that the raw "kill'em" power of his character was the only thing really keeping him engaged. If that's so, then sure, it can work for a while, but enjoyment of a Technique only lasts so long before the CA-frustration overwhelms it.

Thinking more about why you said you enjoyed it so much, I suggest that the phrase "enjoy the most" can be tricky. If what you enjoy most deeply is reliably happening, then the obvious enjoyment may be expressed more about the secondary material, or about something that hadn't worked in the past much (and effectiveness in low-level D&D would be a prime candidate), or about some detail which facilitates the primary enjoyment.

Norm, I see red-meat Narrativism. Honed Exploration. Focused Drift. Social Contract (well, not bad anyway). Reward cycle feeding into the fiction. I couldn't have invented a better example of the Big Model.

I'm interested in your account and reflections upon why the game didn't continue. There are tons of possibilities: the raw work for the DM/GM in this kind of play/Drift is brutal; play had reached a chapter-level ending, itself rare in many groups' experience; one player may not have had any Agenda-based satisfaction, which may have been compounded by the social fallacy that "we all have to stick together;" any number of things which had nothing to do with play like schedules or whatever.

Best, Ron

Here are some crucial references that serve as the foundation for this post:
The Sim Nar Blur (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18387.0) (Anna labors under some of the same CA confusion you displayed earlier in this thread)
Narrativist games and "winning" (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16108.0) and
Beating a dead horse (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25417.0)
(these two threads were parts 1 and 3, with part 2 being a long conversation between Frank and me when we met in Berlin)


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 23, 2009, 01:45:49 PM
Hey Ron,

Thanks for the very in-depth answer. I'll try to clear up your questions about social contract first.

Gerald and Jenn were together in a relationship, (and Gerald's first character, Luthor, had very much the same outlook as Aiden, just less faith, more pragmatism). Gerald and I were 21, Jenn was 26, and mike was 17 or 18. Here's the short and long of how our little group formed.

Gerald comes to me with the Eberron Campaign setting for 3.5 and I read it and love it and buy it. He promises to get a game going. Then a month or so later he purchases the World of Darkness from White Wolf, and wants to play that. We don't get a game started (what would have been our first published game played) until I take the reigns and get Eberron started a year later. The initial group is Gerald, his girlfriend Jenn, Me, BIf (an aging fat-beard, as he calls it), Danielle (a co-worker of mine), and Morgan, my girlfriend. Over time Danielle flakes out and we keep her character around until there is a good dramatic way for me to do away with her. When I introduce Mike to the game (whom Bif did not get along with), Bif refused to play. Initially, I had intended to give mike a trial run (convinced he would hate D&D because of its complexity), and then when he didn't like it, boot him and bring Bif back. Bif refused, and good thing too (he was an asshole, though very respectable for other traits) because Mike loved the game. Dave was a friend of the group, but never dealt very well with Mike's immaturity. He was brought in on the same night Mike was. Morgan and Jenn didn't get along, everyone accused me of favoring her, and eventually she left the group and the game ceased.

From there we had this nucleus of players that enjoyed playing together and knew how the game worked. Dave had this cool idea for a campaign (and I was begging to be able to play, not just DM all the time).

What has to be understood is that at first is that I was very much into all the crunchy bits of D&D. I loved fiddling with modifiers and min-maxing characters so I could cause maximum punishment. As a fledgling DM I had not done much of anything with premise (but my players loved the game, begging me for years now to get it going again and be their DM) at least to my knowledge. Mike loved my games because it offered plenty of combat and chances to show off how cool his character was in battle. He was pretty much silent when it came to non-combat encounters. Getting him to actually "role-play" was about as pleasant as pulling teeth.

As for Aiden, the reluctant Cleric, nobody liked it except Gerald. I still don't know his full reasons for doing what he did, but his rationalization at the time was that using his turn to heal was a waste of a turn, even if it would keep us from falling unconcious. As a player in other games, he had a tendency to de-rail the group, acting against group wishes, both story wise and encounter wise. By splitting away from the group occasionally, we would be forced to follow him, or else risk losing our cleric, which was all that was keeping us barely alive in Dave's gritty world. Mike and I were the most vocal about wanting healing, and Jenn was rarely upset as her paladin was fairly self- sufficient in the first place. Plus, Dave didn't attack her nearly as much as he did Mike's characters. I think.

The only times Aiden healed us when we needed it was when we whined and begged and cursed enough to make him do it, and even then sometimes he would change his mind and do his own things. We very nearly lost several fights because of his way of doing things, and never with anything to show for it other than more healing magic wasted altogether than would have been wasted if he had done it our way.

Why didn't the game continue?. There was growing tension between Dave and I due to his "nerfing" of my character. Were I in the situation now, I would look at it very differently, thanks to you. Anyway, that pissed me off. It also aggravated me that he took the colonial aspect of the setting and started introducing Lovecraftian horror, even though the group had expressed an "it might be interesting, but we like things as they are," attitude. That tension was draining Dave. Secondly, coming up with the creative content was draining him, and he wanted time off to be able to do something else. (we ended up playing a premade string of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventurers, heavily retooled by Dave to fit our characters, and it was another one of the most fun campaigns of my life). After that break, our schedules never synched up again, though Dave was pretty clear that he wanted to find a way to not include Mike in the re-start if it ever happened.

As for color, I don't think I understand what you mean. But if I do, there was plenty of color in Dave's head, just not that we could see immediately. So, we assumed things worked like in standard D&D until he told us differently. If you could give me an example of something you would see colored in the campaign so I could work from there, that would be great.

Jen most certainly enjoyed the dynamic in play between her character and mine. She was so into it, I sometimes thought she was upset with me!

As for Mike getting ganged up on, I think you mis-read what I wrote, or I mis-wrote it. Gerald and I were on Mike's side. We could only see through our previously established D&D rose-colored glasses that Dave was hurting Mike's rights as a player, not that what he was doing was making sense. To be sure, Gerald and I understood it made sense in the story, we would have just preferred Dave find a different way to introduce Sir Richard without taking his stuff. So, we wanted Mike to continue enjoying the game, and so we argued that he should have some of his stuff back. Plus, an unequipped knight does almost nothing for the party in a fight, so we were helping ourselves too.

Thats about everything I saw, though with the exception of the definition of Color, I now have a very good vision of exactly what you mean by System (not rules or mechanics, but those plus the entire social contract rules-set and the application of it all together, much of it that is probably not explained explicitly in the game text), and most importantly, what a reward system looks like in a Narrative game (and in a non-mechanical way!).

Also, I'll ask again, what happened to the Exchange? How do I get a copy. I just can't find it anywhere.

Thanks again,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 27, 2009, 09:41:57 AM
Hi Norm,
The social information helps a lot, including the Bif/Mike issue and the Morgan/Jenn issue. The whole thing reminds me very greatly of my college gaming (~1985) and seems to me now to be very fraught. The "group which works" seems to have coalesced around certain specific relationships, including one which might be described as "who the rest of us can all tolerate not enjoying entirely."

At the time, it seems to me as if you equated character effectiveness with competitiveness (or Step On Up more accurately), and perhaps equated "nerfing my character" with "story." That latter may be reaching a little, but even if it is, I can see how this second play account also suits the thread topic nicely.

Correction accepted regarding equipping the knightly character. I misunderstood you.

Color is not all that important to the discussion at the moment, but it is actually quite important - even key - to play. [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk post-mortem (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27126.0) illustrates a pretty good application of my current thinking. For this thread, well, I dunno where you want to go with the Color discussion. As a very basic distinction:

System: using dice to represent (or better as part of representing) a physical attack on another character, rolling a certain value, applying agreed-upon effects of that value to the target character's values, integrating the result with imagined events (i.e. effects).

Color: someone saying, "Your edge cleaves right down to his nose!", you shouting "Gunch!" for a sound effect, someone else saying, "Stopped him in his tracks!" Or any kind of description above and beyond the most literal translation of the System effects alone.

About reward systems, well, they're a lot like Color. They happen at the entirely emotional, social, and imaginative level of human action. Numbers, points, tokens, and specific rules applications are all ways of enjoying them. Such ways are fine things for game design, and woefully under-utilized in historical RPG design, but they are not, themselves, the reward or the Color in action.

Regarding The Exchange, that was Levi's project at the time, and I have no idea whether he pursued it. It's too bad if he didn't; the ideas were quite excellent.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on July 28, 2009, 04:42:05 AM
So, I've read some of the threads you posted (2 of the four I think), and I have some good ideas firing around in my head.

First, as for color and reward, and how it all relates to GNS, I think what I am hearing is that how you play, and what rewards you get, all wrapped in the fiction packaging (which can reinforce/reward play type) determines your GNS. Therefore, even if there are lots of crunchy tactical encounters that are very risky, you can still be playing narrativist because all of your color and rewards are Narrativist based. Likewise, you could play in reverse, just happening to address premise, but actually stepping on up. Perhaps this is why the modes are so easily confused. Essentially, each mode can happen within the other, or so it seems. Because of this appearance of one mode within another, we assume they are both active, when really one is and one isn't.

However, if that is true, then why can't both be active at the same time after all? What if a reward system (both social and mechanical) could be set up in such a way that both Step On Up and Narrativism were rewarded? (Notice I avoid simulationism entirely. I thought I understood it, but I don't). So, in my actual play, there was ample social reward for my character actions. The fiction was reinforced, and the story progressed as our group addressed premise. By social reward I mean the "fun" which is to say all of the smiles, cries of, "That was awesome!" and such. But mechanically, I couldn't say how we were rewarded. We received Experience in big clumps, not immediately after each fight. And there was at least one instance where the GM explained that just because we chose to fight an optional encounter that was hard did not mean we would get experience. We got treasure, but experience was reserved only for fights which moved the story forward. For Mike, this meant that he got experience for fighting the right fights, and letting us do our thing. So he did. There was no bonus EXP to speak of, because all of the mechanical rewards were Narrativist, but Mike probably felt like it was gamist. Fights did produce social reward for stepping on up.

But what if the game had played out differently? Lets say there were mechanical rewards of EXP for every fight. In addition, lets say additional EXP is given for fights that move the story forward and address premise. This would still promote Narrativism, even if Social reward were equal for both, simply because you get more for Narrativist play than you do for gamist play. Is this where the incoherence/dysfuntional play comes in? If Mike wanted more gamism from the game under this model, he would fight everything he could, which would drag us into fights that we didn't care about so he could get his EXP. As is, the treasure awarded regardless of whether we did things that promoted premise was an indiscriminate mechanical award just big enough to get Mike and I to want to kill everything, or eventually, to explore everything and find all the loot we could. Only in later gameplay did I start trusting Dave to make sure we got enough of everything and stop trying to get every piece of loot I could.

So, in a system that attempts to equally reward more than one style of play, it can successfully reward them. But by doing so, groups will be split based on their basic desires of play. Gamists will ruin it for Narrativists and vice-versa. The only way a group could enjoy such a game is if everyone was on the same page, essentially making one whole set of reward-cycles useless and ignored.

So, in a game like mine (the DnD game I mean), players can't pursue both agendas at the same time, because to pursue gamism mars the pursuit of premise driven play, and vice versa. Any game that hybridized the two would need to somehow string its conflicts together so that both styles were rewarded in such a way that they complimented each other, with the Step On Up always reinforcing the Story Now, and the Story Now always providing a means to Step On Up. I dare say such a game has not been designed thus far, and whatever system is developed to do such a thing would be rightly called revolutionary.

But in the end, I think it means that for the moment, until such a game is designed, I understand and agree that the GNS agendas are mutually exclusive.

Thanks for your time Ron. I don't know if this thread needs to go any further or not. It will if I got things wrong, but if I got things right, then I need to start a first thoughts thread on developing a game like what I mentioned above. In the meantime, I want to understand simulationism more, and I want to ask a question about your essays as a whole.

If the ideas you have developed in the course of writing your essays and through threads here at the forge have evolved and matured, why haven't you re-written the essays so as to avoid some (certainly not all) of the confusion. For example, only by your third essay had certain ideas really gelled for you, and as such the previous two can confuse people who aren't fully understanding you on your terms. Its just a thought.

I really appreciate you spending time clearing this stuff up for me. Did I get everything right, or am I still shaky on some things.

Cheers,
--Norm

P.S. I didn't remember to include what I think color is, but to me it is essentially the fictional wrapping around everything you do that makes the game more than just crunching numbers and rolling dice. Does that sound about right?


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 28, 2009, 11:23:15 AM
Hi Norm,

This reply takes your last post and responds to it as a series of points rather out of order, for purposes of maximum clarity, I hope. Let me know if I failed to answer anything important.

Most general first: I strongly recommend not perceiving my essays as theses or dissertations, and certainly not as textbooks or primary texts for "the Forge." They are signposts in an ongoing debate, and serve only as a snapshot of what I was thinking at that time in the debate. The dialogue at the Forge is the real text. If you want a revised version of the essays, you start a thread exactly like the one you started here, and the thread itself becomes the revised essay. That's how it works. If someone gets confused because they think I'm a guru and have posted some kind of Essays of Trooth for people to absorb and quote, well, I can't help them, until they grab a clue and join the discussion as an equal among equals, like you did.

You describe Color as:

Quote
... to me it is essentially the fictional wrapping around everything you do that makes the game more than just crunching numbers and rolling dice. Does that sound about right?

Very technically, it's too general; what you're describing is essentially the SIS. But you're not too far off the mark - if you were to take the number crunching and dice rolling and translate it into the SIS in the most literal and unadorned way, you'd have an SIS with little or no Color, but I have hardly ever observed such a thing to characterize play for long. In practice, Color goes hand in hand with "moving things along" in terms of fictional events and imagery.

Quote
First, as for color and reward, and how it all relates to GNS, I think what I am hearing is that how you play, and what rewards you get, all wrapped in the fiction packaging (which can reinforce/reward play type) determines your GNS. Therefore, even if there are lots of crunchy tactical encounters that are very risky, you can still be playing narrativist because all of your color and rewards are Narrativist based. Likewise, you could play in reverse, just happening to address premise, but actually stepping on up. Perhaps this is why the modes are so easily confused. Essentially, each mode can happen within the other, or so it seems. Because of this appearance of one mode within another, we assume they are both active, when really one is and one isn't.

I'll start by rephrasing you a little bit: how you play and what rewards you get, all wrapped up in the fiction, determines what Creative Agenda is present, if any. A person doesn't "have a GNS."

To clarify your larger point, you are a bit off. One mode does not happen "within the other." When I choose a particular effectiveness-increasing option in my available rules at the moment, it is not a little atom of Gamism within some larger mode. It is merely strategizing as a Technique. The whole point of the Big Model structure is to get away from this notion you're falling into. The Creative Agenda is not a level (something I didn't work out until finishing the three essays); it is a connecting principle that enables the levels to function together.

When a person understands that, then there is no more confusion about an Agenda within another one, or one Agenda supporting another one.

Regarding the Gamism + Narrativism sittin' in a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G., issue, you did a great job of staying with the thread topic, and it seems to me that you ended up answering the question yourself after you posed it:

Quote
... why can't both be active at the same time after all? What if a reward system (both social and mechanical) could be set up in such a way that both Step On Up and Narrativism were rewarded?
...
So, in a system that attempts to equally reward more than one style of play, it can successfully reward them. But by doing so, groups will be split based on their basic desires of play. Gamists will ruin it for Narrativists and vice-versa. The only way a group could enjoy such a game is if everyone was on the same page, essentially making one whole set of reward-cycles useless and ignored.

So, in a game like mine (the DnD game I mean), players can't pursue both agendas at the same time, because to pursue gamism mars the pursuit of premise driven play, and vice versa.

Quote
Any game that hybridized the two would need to somehow string its conflicts together so that both styles were rewarded in such a way that they complimented each other, with the Step On Up always reinforcing the Story Now, and the Story Now always providing a means to Step On Up. I dare say such a game has not been designed thus far, and whatever system is developed to do such a thing would be rightly called revolutionary.

Regarding that last bit, a better way to put it is whether play of this sort is functional or sustainable in the first place, and then the issue of effective game design and presentation that reinforced it could be raised. It probably won't surprise you that we've been here before, at the Forge. GNS and "Congruency" (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=1733.0) began a whole sub-chapter of theory discussion here.

(I could murdalize Walt for butchering the language with this thread, by the way. There wasn't any reason not to use "congruence" and "coherence." God knows why people tacked "-cy" onto the latter, which probably was his impetus for doing it to the former. The one favorable result of this repulsive neologism, though, is that it makes searches easy. Run a Forge search on "coherency," just with the general search option, and about ten threads will appear. Reading them in chronological order will provide a lot of perspective.)

The topic was quite thoroughly discussed and applied, and I think basically, was resolved in favor of abandoning "congruence" as meaningful. (1) Ultimately, we arrived at the conclusion that Creative Agenda is not atomic; i.e., Gamist play is not constructed of specifically and identifiably Gamist techniques and moment-level decisions. That conclusion is what led me toward investigating reward cycles (as opposed to Stances and resolution rules) and expanding my concept of "instance of play" much farther upward/outward than most people had read my earliest essay to mean. So the whole idea of playing N-N-S-N-N-G-N, so it "adds up" to N overall, is obsolete (and as I see it was a mis-reading in the first place), much for the reasons you just outlined in your own post.

(2) I think we need to distinguish between two sorts of "can happen," both of which are in the hypothetical sense, but are radically different issues. (i) One kind might be thought of as, oh, a carnivoran* mammal with horns. It's never been observed for a living or extinct carnivoran species. "Can" it happen? Developmentally and evolutionarily, on the face of things, nothing jumps up to dictate specifically why not, aside from the common carnivoran ancestor not having any, and nothing having happened to instigate horns' origins in that group. I.e., the phenomenon of no-horns-here may be purely historical. (ii) The other kind might be thought of as, oh, a carnivoran mammal with six locomotory limbs (banths, oh banths!). Here, instead, we're running into what appears to be a radical developmental constraint. Long before the origin of carnivorans or indeed of mammals, a group of animals lost most of the capacity to develop limbs along all of its body segments. Either that capacity was stripped out or suppressed so profoundly that messing with it would bollix up the critters' function beyond, well, functioning. Mammals evolved as a subset within this group, and carnivorans within the mammals. Four limbs, baby, that's what we're working with, and you can lose'em, but you aren't getting those other segments' limb-making capacity back.**

I'm distinguishing between "could if we got around to doing it," vs. "could if particular operative principles of reality-right-now happened to vanish." The question is, when we talk about Congruent play, which "can" or "can't" do we mean? If it's (i), then sure, design the game, or any Congruent game, and off we go now that the instructions are around to help us get it in play. If it's (ii), though, then all I can say is, you're up against the constraint that humans seem to want to play together together, and not in a way in which you, me, or anyone can switch around between eating pigs vs. hugging pet pigs individually when we all got together to "love pigs." I happen to think it's (ii), but I don't claim to be infallible.

And (3), simple observation played its role in the discussion as time passed. Forge discussion participants' strong interest in hybrids was founded in an over-stated concept of Simulationism, and better understanding of that agenda plus a lot of attention to games like The Riddle of Steel led to the conclusion that hybrids were more of an ideal and not particularly functional as such in play. People very strikingly played TROS either radically Narrativist or radically Simulationist, and in each case tending to junk or downplay specific pieces of the written rules in doing so. I think the current Capes discussion suggets that the same thing happens a lot with that game, with S instead of G, although that thread is marred a bit by some emotional content. Basically, whether hybrid (dominant/subordinate CAs) or congruent (both at once), we simply don't see it happening.

Luke and I discussed this recently in regard to Burning Empires, in which he explained to me that the occasional Gamist-like language in the rules (which is indeed occasional and a bit jarring) is not particularly serious, whereas the Narrativist instructions (which are present throughout and very consistent) are straightforwardly the point of play as he sees it. The strategizing and even boardgamey elements of the "larger scope" of play in that game are intended to be pure setup for the real point, occurring at the personal level.

If I'm not mistaken, this thread has reached an endpoint for your topic, but I don't want to close it because others may well chime in. So, anyone, please feel free.

Norm, I suggest addressing any questions you have about Simulationist play later in a new thread. Plus, make sure to read Simulationism aside (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17274.0), ignoring the subjective (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.0), and Constructive denial? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17792.0) in order. As far as I'm concerned, these threads settled the "what is Sim" hassle entirely and without pain.

Best, Ron
* I'm using "carnivoran" in the taxonomic sense, rather than "carnivorous" in the behavioral and ecological sense. In other words, the Order of mammals which includes doggies, kitties, sealies, mongoosies, hyena-ies, bearsies, weaselies, and a number of others, without reference to what they do or do not eat.
** Geeking out: this is called Dollo's Principle and is a topic of some weight and debate in the field. I promise to shut up now.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 05, 2009, 10:38:29 AM
Hey Ron,

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. This is the first instance of internet access I have had in awhile. That said, I have not and will not have time to read the threads you recommended (which is quite a bunch)  for quite some time.

Now, I am not much of a person to abandon logic and say, "I feel," but here I just feel like something is missing. I like to think it is my subconscious putting pieces together but only showing me the result of its findings, not the work that got it there. It is entirely possible that those threads will clear it up for me and solve the issue, which I think is this: I don't agree that creative agenda is separated from the techniques that seem to go into it. I understand that some techniques are used more often in certain agendas than others, but are use-able in all agendas. I also understand that play doesn't "add up" to one agenda or another. But perhaps in making agenda such an all-encompassing standby the forge (I would say we, but I don't feel right taking any real credit for all the theory discussion that has gone on before) has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

What about moment-to-moment play? For example, lets go back to my play examples, which were broad-stroked a bit too much for you to see ( I think) the following: All of the surroundings were Narrativist play. Granted. Every battle was gamist. Was it setup for the narrative agenda? Sure. But each battle was hard enough that we had to decide what to do with it, whether to Step On Up (and no, I don't think I'm overusing that phrase-as-simplification) or not. And for each battle, the fun came not from premise, which normally fired only on small levels throughout some (not all) of the battles, but primarily from the thrill of winning and losing the combat, both of which happened occasionally. The fun in-the-moment came from that aspect AND the small-fire premise of some decisions.

Now, I get that overall, we were playing Narrativist. I know that it isn't because it added up that way, but because all of the play and the fun (much of which was only ascertained in the moments at which we realized premise had been addressed at all, which in some cases was weeks after the event) pointed to narrativist. What this means to me is that if you want to figure out creative agenda (as the hydra it seems to be to me), you have to look at the fun, but not just at any one level, and especially not at the overall level alone.

Essentially, look at the source of the fun at each point in play. This would mean moment-moment play (where the immediate fun might come from gamist goals, as it did in my example) and session-by-session play (where the fun was not even at the end of the session, but in the remembering of the session, and thus the recognition of all the premise that was addressed), and then in the overall entire-game sense (which again happens after the fact).

Looking at agenda this way paints a different picture, at least as I see it. Looked at this way, agenda fires on multiple moments and at individual points as well as on the after-the-fact remembering, which for me is often more fun than the actual game was itself. Is this an anomaly in me, or perhaps does it mean I should be doing something that can generate such memories without the game (such as simply day-dreaming)? I don't think so. My friends feel similarly from what I have observed. They always seem to have more fun after the fact than in the actual throes of the game. Maybe that means we are changing our memories, trying to justify an un-fun activity. But even accounting for that, it doesn't change the real enjoyment of the memory itself, which in such an overall-view as the GNS seems to require, seems to fit in perfectly. Essentially, if it is ok to look at the play experience as a whole in order to determine the GNS, why cannot we define the play experience as the before-during-after of the game in question?

Seen this way, I believe that not only is hybridized play possible, it is present in most games already. In these games the overall goal (if there even is one for a given group, and for many there isn't, at least not explicitly expressed and understood) might be narrativst, and the active agenda overall might be narrativist, but in the moment to moment, it is part Narrativist (the small-firing Nar moments), part Gamist (The Step-On-Up of accepting a battle or not, and applying risky tactics), and part Simulationist (from the actual imagining of play as these individuals in these situations, and the attempt to "get in-character").

So, did that make any sense?

Thanks again Ron. I don't think this thread is exhausted yet. It may just be my stubbornness, or just a general inability to accept things. It might even be lack of information on my part. But something in what I have written rings true. It wraps up everything very elegantly, at least for me. It makes everything make sense without further discussion. I also sense that what I have written may be counter intuitive to how you view the whole matter. That being said, I would love to see you pick apart what I have just suggested, and then give me a play example broken down at all of the levels to show me where I am wrong, or misunderstanding things. Maybe it would even be helpful for me to craft a play example (since I don't have one that I think fits) in order to demonstrate what I am saying. Maybe in that you would be able to help me understand where my assumptions are incorrect and thus leading me to incorrect conclusions.

Thanks again,

--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Caldis on August 07, 2009, 07:54:56 AM

Norm.

I think looking at those moment to moment things is a fascinating topic.  It is however a different topic than Creative Agenda.  I know some of Ron's earliest writings on GNS talked about what is the most fun for your group and that can often be a good tool to help determine GNS but I think often it can muddy the waters when certain instants are remembered and the fun of being in the moment and is recalled but how you got there and what made it important is forgotten. 

On Hybrids I dont think they are possible, but when I say that I'm talking about in a full CA sense where it's the big driving force for your game.  It's impossible to serve two masters.  So what you are describing when you talk of moment to moment gamism is what Ron calls tatical play in support of narrativism.  It may just seem a matter of different way of saying the same thing but I think that it's valid.  It's often hard to pick out any CA at a moment to moment level, it's often just exploration, Simulationism to me doesnt really make sense as a moment to moment thing because then it is just exploration.



Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 07, 2009, 12:13:07 PM
Thanks for responding Caldis.

I understand that as GNS is defined, the moment-to-moment play does not count as GNS. What I am talking about is re-defining it. I think that the idea of Creative Agenda (maybe I have loaded those words too much for myself) can and should be applied at all levels. Essentially, think of the big model. The CA is the arrow, right? It encompasses everything and passes through everything. Essentially it is the forest, with each layer being a tree. I am saying the the fun of a given game is much the same, it is a complicated forest, and should be examined as such. Instead of saying that point of play is applicable only at the forest level, I say it should be applied at the tree-by-tree level.

Also, it is essential for me to understand what the nature of roles is here in this discussion. Is this a meeting of equals, with Ron being first among equals? Or is this more of a lecture or dissertation on GNS. If it is the former, then the consideration that terms as they are defined may be incorrect or lacking in scope (yes, I realize this is an extremely arrogant assumption on my part, that I could actually come here with only months of understanding what Ron has worked on for years, and expect to be able to shed light and change such sacred cows. I am arrogant, or at least confident). If it is the latter, then I can understand why the constant form of these threads is more to to teach and less to change. However, it seems that Ron alludes to these individual threads as the ongoing discussion, in which he refines and updates his views on GNS. If that is the case, then even as pupil, I may have something to add. However, I can see that it might be a huge pill to swallow, since to me my outlook seems like a completely different way of looking at things. To me, it feels like I have been led out of Plato's cave and now see the light, but my companions cal me crazy and point to definitions of the "dark" as examples of why light cannot exist.

Like I said, I know it sounds arrogant. I hope it doesn't put anyone off and cause them to ignore me. And I hope I'm right, because if I am wrong, I am about to be humbled in a very serious way. Then again, I just may be ill-informed. Once I read the threads Ron recommended, I may find that everything Ron was saying makes sense, and my earlier thoughts were just so much delirium.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Alan on August 07, 2009, 12:46:41 PM
Hi Norm,

Like you said CA encompasses moment to moment play. What you're missing is that the parts cannot be examples of the whole. Imagine learning that someone kicked a ball and then concluding the game must be soccer. There's lots of other games that involve kicking balls. (Let's ignore for now the fact that the kind of ball will identify most games.) We might think of CA as the goal of the play-experience generated by the accumulation of rules, boundaries, content, and specific actions of play. You only get a whole when the parts synergize, becoming more than their sum.

The CA arrow is the selection of rules, boundaries, content, and specific actions that create the experience.

At the player level, I think you can say that players make moment-to-moment conceptualizations and decisions about how to use the rules to further what they see as the CA of the game. Players may have a bias towards aiming at a particular CA for reasons of past personal experience and preference. Good game design includes clear definition of the intended CA of the game and perhaps disabusing expectations you can anticipate.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Caldis on August 07, 2009, 02:09:06 PM
For your question about the forums check out the site discussion section of the forums, funny since now that I look at it that's where you started out this thread.  Specifically this thread deals with the general rules of the forums. http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=1604.0   That thread is fairly old and things have evolved somewhat in the meantime.  The way I'd put it is that discussion is open as long as we respect one another and also respect that you may not change someone elses mind.  At some point we may just have to agree to disagree and let it slide.  If your willing to discuss your ideas and try and show what you mean through actual play discussions then we may be able to get somewhere.

On to the meat of the discussion.  I have to confess I have (or at least had) some sympathy for considering GNS even in the moment to moment sense of play (for awhile there was some talk with the term atomic GNS bandied about).  Here's the problem I see with redefining CA in such a fashion.   In your play experience you showed that big picture your CA was Narrativist but there were moments where tactical combat was very important even if they werent driving what the game was about.   The problem I see is that if you discuss those individual moments as if they were a creative agenda how can you use the same term to discuss the bigger scale without causing confusion?   Another problem is that the definitions of CA are working on the larger scale and may not apply exactly on a smaller scale.  Strong tactical play can be just that and not meet the requirements of step on up.  





Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: contracycle on August 08, 2009, 11:02:48 AM
Historically, the attempt to define forms of play arose from the fact that when the internet brought groups of players together, it became reapidly clear that many of them viewed RP in radically different lights to each other, with a lot of back and forth about who is or is not "doing it right".  If it were easy or normal to hybridise a game such that it featured all of the identified components, that sort of dispute should not have arisen.  Further, claiming to play in a way that does can be just another form of claiming to be uniquely right, and refusing to see that your game is actually an identifiable type.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: chance.thirteen on August 08, 2009, 11:14:21 AM
If Creative Agenda is defined as being met only if everyone is trying to achieve it, and only it, that's fine. It is easy to say "No, you cannot design a game to meet more than one CA simultaneously, because that is by definition impossible."

That's said, using Rons term "style" may yield something applicable. Personally, the vocabulary is limiting, it doesn't describe something I wish to achieve, and it can't describe the elements I do want to achieve in a distinctive fashion. It mainly gets in the way because I can't use terms like Narrative(-ist/-ism) or Game(-ist/-ism)without the baggage.

I need a term for a game aiming to have enjoyable fiddly bits, rules that themselves are fun to use, be it a guessing mechanic, evocative maneuvers for social and physical conflict and action, resource management or whatever. It can probably find something in common with the goal of having many weapons with "accurate" details described or even encoded in game mechanics. I have friends that enjoy this a great deal, and I do as well, however non of us are motivated by praise or the desire to "win". 

Maybe mechanicist is the term I'll have to use.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Jasper Flick on August 08, 2009, 01:49:58 PM
chance.thirteen, having enjoyable fiddly bits and rules that are fun to use doesn't really mean anything for CA, unless they are the whole point of play. If those things are why you play, if that's where you get your reward from, then I think you're gunning for exploration of system. It's Simulationism primarily focused at exploring the rules of the game and how the group applies them. The right to dream the meta-game, if you will.

Notice that I said exploring the rules of the game and how the group applies them. Just reading the book isn't enough, it needs to be used in play. Anathema to this kind of play would be ignoring the rules, regardless whether that's done to facilitate Step on Up, for Story Now, or for the Right to Dream focused on another aspect than System.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: chance.thirteen on August 08, 2009, 04:50:27 PM
Yes, I wish to ignore CA. It has done nothing for me save make me spend a great deal of time arguing that something isn't a valid part of a CA. So what? I have no use for the purity achievement that a CA requires. My players will never come to an agreement on such a thing, their interests, and what they enjoy are always a mixed bag by person, by game, by group, by session. So whatever it is that a CA achieves, I'm not going to get there, so I discard it as a topic.

So I want terms that are below the CA category in organizational terms. Words that will let me discuss the techniques, the goals, and the possible mixing of design aims without being pointed at the absolute of a CA and how it cannot be achieved by said pursuits.

If I ask "How many elements associated with the exploratory or mechanical elements of a system can be present before it really stops the narrativist style of play?", the answer should not come back to Creative Agenda. If using those terms confuses the discussion, then I need new ones.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Jasper Flick on August 10, 2009, 09:04:44 AM
I'm not sure you got my message. I proposed a CA that might fit what you called "mechanicist". You respond by saying you want to renounce the whole idea of CA, because you're convinced you'll never achieve any. I don't get it, and neither do I get your hypothetical question at the end. Your issue is probably an interesting and useful topic, which deserves its own thread and AP report.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 10, 2009, 09:37:52 AM
Hey everyone.

I haven't been able to address Norm's latest post due to GenCon prep. That's no big deal; pacing of discussions here is better slow anyway.

Norm, there is one thing I do want to clarify. There is a crucial distinction to be drawn between single Techniques vs. combinations of Techniques. The former are not associated with specific Creative Agendas. The latter are definitely and profoundly associated either with Creative Agendas or with distinctive forms of Incoherence. Your post seems to me to confound these distinctions, and to ascribe to me that "Techniques aren't Agenda." As I've built my entire body of writings on the idea that Techniques are relevant to Agenda, this makes it difficult to reply. With my distinction in mind - that I'm talking about combinations of Techniques, not single ones - perhaps what I'm saying can make more sense.

My discussion of your combat scenes and the issues of one Agenda for fights (or whatever, smaller) inside a larger one for the story (or whatever, bigger) will have to wait until after GenCon.

Jasper, Marek (chance.thirteen) - it's time to let your assertions and counter-points stand as they are, to be assessed by readers. You cannot be debaters and judges at the same time. You've made your points here. Let them stand.

I do suggest starting daughter threads to raise issues of the mechanicist notion. I am, after all, the author of an essay called System Does Matter, and frankly I'm starved for discussion of rules-combinations and how they do or don't yield fun play. But it's time to get that topic away from this thread.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: chance.thirteen on August 10, 2009, 10:18:24 AM
People should address Jaspers ideas, I was just making a comment then answering a direct question. So no need to broaden or derail the thread on my account.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 04:49:00 AM
Hello all,

Thanks for the responses. It feels good (in an odd sort of way) to know that I have a thread that is interesting for people and sparks new and creative thought (at least I hope its doing that, rather than simply giving people a chance to espouse their deeply held convictions).

That said, I am sad that Ron will not be able to answer my questions until after GenCon. All in all, I suppose it can wait. The situation is hardly life or death.

But, as for techniques not applying to Creative Agenda, I am surprised that you thought I meant that at all. Perhaps I wrote something that sounded like that (an example would be great). But, my intention is to show that because of the close nature of techniques (and groups of techniques) to Creative Agenda, and the given definitions of creative agenda, no hybrid play is allowed. What I mean is this: Each agenda is defined by being THE point of play. It automatically excludes any notion of hybrid play because then it would not be the only point of play, it would be one of two or one of three. Therefore, if everyone insists on keeping the agendas as they are, then new agendas need to be explicitly created and termed so that we can begin to discuss them. Sadly, I am not sure if such a path is worth treading until Ron is able to respond to my earlier post.

And for those of you who have repeatedly focused on the strong tactical play, please read this carefully. Our enjoyment did not come ONLY from the tactical play. It came from taking the risks and coming out on top. It also came from whatever (if any) small narrative moments were occurring in the fiction. For example, one time my character threatened a group of goblins that I would kill their children (whom I was keeping hostage at my magical fingertips) if they didn't throw down their weapons. Their response (calling my bluff, or even, just sheer desperation) forced me to address just how far my character would go to accomplish his God's and the State's will. The point was, he was beginning to care about the Goblins, even though he shouldn't have.

Either way, the point is that we weren't getting fun from just a combo of tactics and narrative. Some of the fun came from the backslapping on good choices. Essentially, within those moments, we had a dual purpose at the table. We wanted to address premise (assuming it was there) and we wanted to be esteemed for our tactical choices.

Ron had previously addressed this by saying that by being able to fully enjoy the addressing of premise, we were now open to enjoy other aspects of the system that were not necessarily narrativist in design. I think that though this has some truth in it (being that overall, we played narrativist), I also believe that in our geeky gamer hearts, we enjoy the backslapping just as much, and perhaps more, at least in the moment.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ralek on August 11, 2009, 09:00:30 AM
Hi Norm,

The struggle you are going through in understanding what the Creative Agendas mean and how they apply is something I've stuggled with a few years back and you seem to be stuck roughly on the same points I was. It makes no sense to analyze Creative Agenda moment to moment. It can only become apparent after a full reward cycle, an instance of play.

Also, CA is entirely personal, there is no such thing as a group CA, although when everyone in the group shares the same CA during the same instance of play, play is considered coherent and, generally speaking, more fun.

Should also be noted that your own point of play can vary from one instance of play to another even with the same group and using the same system. Your "point of play" can vary between instances of play, but it is prevalent throughout a single one.

Explaining why you can only analyze CA after a full reward cycle is something entirely non-trivial and I'm going to try using an analogy. Let's talk about TV series and more specifically the TV drama ER. If you look at an individual episode of the series as a whole, its genre is pretty easy to identify. If you dissect that same episode into its individual scenes, you'll have some action moments, some comic relief moments and some dramatic moments. In fact all those elements are pretty much necessary for the episode to work and deliver its full dramatic impact, but you won't call it a comedy or an action show. You can enjoy the comic bits or the action bits tremendously, but that's not why you watch the show. By the same token, someone who likes comedies or action shows but dislikes soapy dramas, will not like an ER episode even if its a particulary comic or action oriented one.

Hope I made some sense.

Cheers,
--Rogerio


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 09:31:42 AM
You made plenty of sense. Its just the sense you are making that I have a problem with. :-)

Here's the thing. Ron has said that a person does not have a GNS specifically. That agenda is a group thing that pierces all aspects of the model. To me, this means it should be observable at all points, like in your scene to scene description. The biggest punch is at the end of the whole show, slightly less so per season, per episode and so forth. But if people can play any agenda and enjoy it, which seems to be what is being said by saying that people don't possess an agenda, they play it, then that means that the definition you give of agenda doesn't serve to address hybridization at all. All it says is that there may exist a play agenda that is hybridized Narrativism-Gamism, but Narrativism by itself can never be combined with Gamism. That sounds like we are just arguing the terms.

I am not trying to come off harsh or angry, because I am neither. I am just trying to understand. If I have to stop using Gamism and Narrativism in order to get my point across, I will. But this whole definition gripe is starting to be a little annoying. How are we supposed to discuss hybridized play if everyone keeps saying that by definition it can't happen? And every time I have seen an actual play post dissected, it seems like someone calls the CA, and there there may be some back and forth before it settles on one. If someone argues that there were two, it gets argued down to one, and the other was just exploration of other techniques that happened to generate lots of fun, rather than the possibility that there were two agendas present simultaneously, one more prominent than another. But I am probably ranting.

I do thank you for your input, especially if you think that we have similar problems, or at least you identify with my struggle. I would like to know more of your thoughts on this issue.
Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ralek on August 11, 2009, 10:21:11 AM
To me, this means it should be observable at all points, like in your scene to scene description. The biggest punch is at the end of the whole show, slightly less so per season, per episode and so forth. But if people can play any agenda and enjoy it, which seems to be what is being said by saying that people don't possess an agenda, they play it, then that means that the definition you give of agenda doesn't serve to address hybridization at all. All it says is that there may exist a play agenda that is hybridized Narrativism-Gamism, but Narrativism by itself can never be combined with Gamism. That sounds like we are just arguing the terms.

I believe you missed my point related to dissecting a full episode scene to scene. When someone is watching an ER episode and they utterly enjoy a comic relief moment, that doesn't mean they enjoy comedies (altough they may), it means they enjoyed that scene as it relates to the whole episode. The same way if you see someone utterly enjoying crunchy tactical combat in D&D it doesn't necessarily mean they are playing a Gamist agenda (although they may), it just means they enjoyed that tactical combat as it relates to the whole instance of play. To begin to garner what that person's priorities during play are, you have to take into consideration the whole instance, from start to end of the reward cycle. You can't determine or classify a single moment in play as belonging to one agenda the same way you can't determine a TV series genre from a single scene.

I think the thing you are stuggling with comes from the fact that you are trying to connect single moments in play to agenda where this itself contradicts the agenda definition. You are looking at someone who seems to be enjoying a crunchy tactical combat in D&D and labelling that as gamist which is grossly incorrect. You have to look at why he is enjoying it, what else did he enjoy, was he more worried about the consequences of said combat? Would he still enjoy that combat if there were no consequences?

In your own play, would you enjoy the tactical elements if there were no moral choices to be made and no thematic material to address? If not, then you (probably) don't like the tactical combat. You like the tactical combat when it serves as a tool to determine the consequences or causal effects of the choices you made when addressing the thematic material. Just because you really want to win and make every effort to make sure you do win, that doesn't mean you are stepping on up, it just means you are invested in the combat and the potential consequences.

Just because agenda pierces all aspects of the model, it doesn't mean it should be observable at all points. It IS present at all points, but you can't observe it without looking at the whole. Going back to my analogy, you can't also determine genre from a single scene. A scene doesn't have a genre. To understand the point of a scene, you have to look at the whole thing.

--Rogerio


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Caldis on August 11, 2009, 10:45:02 AM

Norm, I looked back over the thread and I have to ask what has changed in your thoughts since you wrote this?

So, in a system that attempts to equally reward more than one style of play, it can successfully reward them. But by doing so, groups will be split based on their basic desires of play. Gamists will ruin it for Narrativists and vice-versa. The only way a group could enjoy such a game is if everyone was on the same page, essentially making one whole set of reward-cycles useless and ignored.

So, in a game like mine (the DnD game I mean), players can't pursue both agendas at the same time, because to pursue gamism mars the pursuit of premise driven play, and vice versa. Any game that hybridized the two would need to somehow string its conflicts together so that both styles were rewarded in such a way that they complimented each other, with the Step On Up always reinforcing the Story Now, and the Story Now always providing a means to Step On Up. I dare say such a game has not been designed thus far, and whatever system is developed to do such a thing would be rightly called revolutionary.

But in the end, I think it means that for the moment, until such a game is designed, I understand and agree that the GNS agendas are mutually exclusive.

I think this is an excellent example of why Hybrids dont work in action.  Ron picked it out in his followup and I think this post and his reply pretty much answer all your questions.   Do you see something that remains unanswered? 


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Vladius on August 11, 2009, 03:43:21 PM
GNS theory is bunk altogether in my opinion, so I think you should just attempt a player revolt and have yourself made DM, because that seems to be the crux of the problem. Some people are good at it, and some others aren't. It's certainly possible to do good story with D&D 4e, and you shouldn't restrict yourselves just because you think it's "Gamist," which shouldn't be a derogatory term in the first place.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 13, 2009, 05:10:10 AM
Thanks for your input guys.

Rogerio, I do understand what you are saying. Essentially, we have to examine a full cycle of the game to get its agenda. But here's what I was wondering.

In a game like DnD, the reward cycle for combat is quicker than the reward cycle for premise driven play. You can get experience and treasure every single fight (yes, I know it can be argued that EXP is a pacing mechanism), but you only get that explosive moment of narrativism every session or two (at least thats how it happened in my example). As a result, you have one reward cycle happening within another.

Now, you asked if I would still enjoy the tactical combat if there were no story around it. If I say no, you say, "Well, then its narrativist play." If I say yes, you say, "Its gamist play." So, here's the rub: I can and do enjoy tactical combat on its own, as long as it is understood (consciously or subconsciously) that there is reward for that play, that is the social backslapping, the risk of looking stupid, and the in-game exp and treasure rewards. However, to be honest, that will lose its luster eventually (after several fun sessions). So, my answer is yes and no. Short term, sure, I would enjoy it. Long term, I wouldn't. Now, I probably completely messed up what your  hypothetical response would be, but I think that now the problem is made clear: You can have one reward cycle (the combat) within the greater scope reward cycle of narrativism and addressing premise. As such, I believe the game was a not-so-well-functioning hybrid. That is, not everyone was on board for the hybrid play. Dave (the DM) obviously was gunning for narrativism, full stop. Gerald and I were looking for a hybrid, Jenn was going for Narrativism, and Mike was going for Gamism. I know players can't have an agenda, but they can have play types they enjoy more, and my analysis (however flawed) is that those were the goals in our group, and what we actively worked to achieve.

So, for you and caldis, I think the reason the thread isn't done is because it has moved on to the discussion of reward cycles and their ability to fall within one another. Does that merit its own thread?

Thanks again for your input guys,
Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ralek on August 13, 2009, 06:27:58 AM
Hi,

I want to address this first and get it out of the way:

Quote from: Ayyavazi
Now, you asked if I would still enjoy the tactical combat if there were no story around it. If I say no, you say, "Well, then its narrativist play." If I say yes, you say, "Its gamist play."

Ugh... Don't put words in my mouth. First, I didn't say tactical combat with no story... I didn't even use story at all. I said tactical combat without addressing premise. Story can be there or not, but if there are no thematic choices with consequences for those choices then there's no premise addressing. I also made no mention whatsoever about using that question to determining agenda. Again, you can't look at a moment of play to determine agenda. The reason I asked that question was exactly to defuse that idea since you previously said that since you enjoy the tactical elements of play, you have a gamist preference, which is non sequitur. The question was meant to illustrate that there may be a varied number of reasons of why you enjoy the tactical elements, some of which are not even agenda related.

As an aside, just as a strong tactical element can be essential to reinforce fun while addressing premise, the other side is also true. A strong premise may be essential to reinforce fun while stepping on up, whether you address the premise or not. As an actual play example, in my current D&D3.5 campaign, which is as tactically centered as it gets (all we do is make tactical choices for our characters), but there is a lingering premise around, which will never get addressed because addressing it falls outside of our point of play, but it's mere presence serves to reinforce my fun while stepping on up to the challenges provided by the gm. The fact that these elements that seemingly fall outside the point of play can be essential to reinforce it maybe what is causing your attempts at understanding agenda to get sidetracked.

Quote from: Ayyavazi
You can have one reward cycle (the combat) within the greater scope reward cycle of narrativism and addressing premise.

Sheesh, what a confusing statement. You are confusing mechanical rewards with reward cycle. Just because the GM awarded xp doesn't mean you reached the end of a reward cycle. An instance of play is an instance of play, there's no larger instance for this and smaller for that. A combat is definitely not an instance of play. Everything leading to it, including decisions on who to fight and why, the combat itself, the aftermath and all consequences of said combat is an instance of play, along with all decisions (and their consequences) made by the players during that time. That is the reward cycle.

Finally, you called your game hybrid and I agree (and I always have) that a game can be an hybrid (as in it tries to support multiple agendas), but an agenda itself is not hybrid and more importantly, player priorities themselves during a single instance of play are not hybrid. What you are calling hybrid play (different players following different agendas during the same instance of play) is incoherent play and it can be fun for all involved, but it is rather hard to be fun in practice, especially in games which deposit high authority in the GM (which has his own priorities). Incoherent play is less fun than coherent play (since time has to be lost on stuff that doesn't matter) and a lot of times finally derails into disfunctional play, when agendas finally clash.

--Rogerio


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 13, 2009, 07:12:02 AM
Thanks Rogerio,

I guess as long as everyone else agrees with you about hybrid play being incoherent but incoherent play being fun, then that would settle it. I don't care if my play is considered coherent or not. I care that it is hybrid and fun. I do think that function hybrid play (and the maximum fun of coherent play) is possible as well, so long as everyone's goals match, and they pursue the hybrid agenda uniformly. But I do not know if that is a separate discussion or not. Anyone care to shed some light on that?

Thanks again and Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ralek on August 13, 2009, 07:51:34 AM
Hi Norm,

Sheesh what a leap you made...

Quote
I guess as long as everyone else agrees with you about hybrid play being incoherent but incoherent play being fun, then that would settle it

I said incoherent play can be fun but it is rather difficult to attain in practice. The moment the incoherence is revealed, it will stop being fun for someone. Here's an AP report quote from this thread (http://):

Quote
The in-game situation has our party tracking the NPC Gerard's group through the woods. We didn't really roll to find the tracks so much, because that would lead to uselessness. As we were preparing to frame the scene forward after some tracking, the GM said he would be calling for a roll. He meant for us to make a Woodcraft roll to see if we would catch up with Gerard under circumstances favorable to us or to him.

Godinho, however, interrupted him and stated that he wanted to pay special attention to see if anyone was following us. The GM pondered this for a minute, then announced he'd be calling for two rolls instead. He then proceeded to have us roll against someone who was indeed following us, which we managed to spot, then corner.

Here's the thing: this third party really didn't exist at all until Godinho said what he said. And here's the disconnect: Godinho, as a player, said what he said because he saw it as a "good move". Rogerio, on the other hand, chose to interpret it as an expression of interest on the player's part for the concept of having someone else following us. So, he created the follower on the spot.

A bit of further disconnect: when we did find and corner the guy, Rogerio was satisfied that he was done his job as GM by responding to the player's interest. Godinho was satisfied as a player to have had his good move pay off and be successful.

If this sort of incoherent play continues, eventually Godinho will catch up on the incoherence and his and the GM's (which is me, btw) play will clash and play will stop being fun for him. At that point, you turn incoherent into disfunctional.

Also, you have the big contradiction:
Quote
I do think that function hybrid play (and the maximum fun of coherent play) is possible as well, so long as everyone's goals match, and they pursue the hybrid agenda uniformly.
If everyone's goals match, it's not hybrid... everyone's pursuing the same agenda. There is no hybrid agenda.

As to why it is difficult to have functional hybrid play, the matter is really quite simple. Incoherence only works if one side is either unware of the incoherence, or he is aware but the incoherence doesn't interfere with his point of play. Sooner or later, everyone one becomes aware of the incoherence, so it really becomes a matter of whether being aware of that incoherence interferes with your point of play or not. In the example above it clearly does.

Also, it is possible for some players to have fun while others do not. That is my definition of disfunctional play. Disfunctional play is bad even for the players having fun, as the game would be better if the other players either aligned their goals or stopped playing.

--Rogerio


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 13, 2009, 08:20:56 AM
Thanks again Rogerio

Yeah, I'm making a huge leap. I'm ok with that for the moment. What I want to discuss is that there is NO hybrid agenda.

Ok, Gamism and Narrativism cannot coexist, by definition.  Since redefining these terms seems to be impossible at this point, lets for the sake of argument create a new agenda: GammoNarrativism. If this is too similar to Gamism and Narrativism in terms of word usage, we can call it Storcompism, or Step On Up Into Story Now. In this agenda, here is the point of play: Esteem for gutsy actions and their consequences in story terms and challenge terms. Players are seeking to have lots of gutsy choices that they will earn esteem for, and those choices will also have consequences in the fictionl story. They aren't looking just for interesting consequences, and they aren't looking for just gutsy decisions. They are looking for both and are rewarded for both, not independent from one another, but fused together.

So, if a group has players pursuing Gamist goals, players with Narrativist Goals, and players with GammoNarrativist goals, it will still become dysfunctional. Only a group full of players with GammoNarrativist goals would have coherent ply (maybe) and non-dysfunctional play.

So, is GammoNarrativism possible?

Thanks again, and I hope Ron doesn't kill me for all of this stuff which he will see when he gets back from GenCon. Maybe he'll request a daughter thread for just him and me, I have no idea. But for now, lets continue.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ralek on August 13, 2009, 08:51:05 AM
This pace of posting is generally unhealthy for productive discussion so I'm going to let this brew here for a while. I do have an answer which I am not going to post at this time, to allow for others to present their point of view and possibly to allow Ron to answer as well.

As a side note, I think some of our conflicting views are at the definition level, especially by what we mean by point of play. I will expand on this as well when (and if) I reply.


Title: Re: Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 13, 2009, 10:33:02 AM
I want everyone to know that if I weren't in a public place, I'd be laughing my ass off right now. I just finished reading the three SIM threads Ron recommended to me on page three of this discussion, and realized that yeah, he was right pages ago. This conversation is cleared up. I agree completely that Hybrid play must be impossible. Each of the Three agendas is an elegant construction in its own right, and must by necessity be mutually exclusive to each other agenda. This is all based on Point of Play. You cannot have two Points of Play at once. It is not humanly possible (unless maybe you have that split-the-brain surgery). Therefore, though agenda may switch back and forth from one session to the next, generally speaking, one agenda will be the primary agenda, and all others are relegated to techniques.

From here, I think the topic needs to move into my http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28490.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28490.0)   GNS and hierarchy thread. There, my ideas (which split off at one point) are now merging. I now think that all agendas can be present at once, but one agenda will reign king from cycle to cycle, and switching can only be easily accomplished with constant system drift, or with a purely flexible system and flexible reward structure within it. I apologize for wasting everyone's time. It seems everyone kept telling me the truth, but I was too caught up in one way of thinking to consider it. Perhaps my other thread suffers the same problem, though I cannot know for sure.

As is, I suppose the play example I used in this thread can be ported to that thread so that the discussion can continue. As is, I think this one is all set. Thanks again everyone,
Cheers,
--Norm