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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 06:16:06 AM



Title: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 06:16:06 AM
Hello all,

I know Ron will probably want an actual play example and to have this thread moved, but since I am lacking an example (that I know of or am willing to type out right now), I am putting it here for beginning discussion. Also, I am sure this has been discussed before, so any help finding relevant threads would be great.

I was reading the Simulationism aside thread, and had this little brainstorm: what if Hybrid play between the different agendas is not only possible but common. You can also find a discussion progressing along these lines in the Actual Play forum under Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive.

Here's my thinking. What if, instead of having one agenda as the point of play, all of them were present for a group, but set up in a hierarchy.

So, for players that prefer narrativism, Narrativism is at the top. This means that all decisions go through a kind of Nar filter, and if the decision has nothing to do with premise, it goes to the next filter down, which would be either gamism or simultionism, whichever is more important to the group (or perhaps player, in incoherent play). If it still does not apply to the next level, it moves down to the third, where it is made based on that, since no matter what, it is in accord with the other two. In this way, all decisions the players make, at any level, will always provide the maximum enjoyment for what the group wants.

Here's an example. Within the fiction, say a character has a choice. Say that this choice has three possible outcomes. One outcome (A) results in doing what the character would do under these circumstances. Option B results in a risky fight with plenty of chances to Step On Up. Option C results in a dramatic addressing of Premise. Applying the filter in the order above, the character will act in a way that is not consistent with his own, but which increases the drama, which is what the group wants more than they want character accuracy.

This way of looking at things may help to explain some splay in which the group is not happy. Lets say that one intrepid and hopeful group sets all agendas at equal priority. Now we have a problem. Given the situation above, all choices are equally valid. However, a sinister thing lurks in the darkness of the players' souls. Say the character, for lack of a better option, decides to go with option A. Maybe it was a die roll. Now, if the players agreed to the die roll, all would be fine. But, lets assume there is no roll. The player makes the decision. Now, I personally believe that whatever decision the player makes will be the one he deems most important to his individual goals at the moment. Say he takes Option A, because at the moment, he wants to play out the character more than he wants to experience gamism or narrativism (yes I know, few here believe in GNS operating at this small level, almost like physics). What happens when the other players disagree because they lean toward a different agenda. I have most commonly observed this when a player makes a decision that does not fit the character's motives in order to create drama or an oppurtunity to Step On Up. When that happens, the players diagree, and the idea of what is most important needs to be discussed in order to preserve coherent play, and enjoyable play for everyone.

The problem is that in the moment, this hierarchy can shift as well. If it is cemented and everyone agrees to it ahead of time, it is both blessing and curse. It makes decisions easier for players, but makes them frustrated when their own desires conflict with the cemented hierarchy. In essence, it all comes back to Ron's basic idea: if players are united in goal, they will have more fun. That is, if you are lucky enough to find players just like you, you will have the maximum amount of fun. To me, this means we can design games in one of two ways: Either we design games for specific agendas, and assume the group playing it  will match up perfectly (or tell them to), or we can design games that alleviate these small-level frustrations by being flexible enough to suit different styles of play and still maintain enjoyment amongst players (though even then, it would seem that the entire problem comes in at the social contract level, which to me seems impervious to adaptation unless the players themselves are willing to adapt.) I suppose that if the social contract the game requires were laid out right next to the rules, perhaps that would alleviate most of the pain, assuming the flexibility-in-contract was preserved throughout play. But then again, maybe I have just re-defined system.

Any thoughts?

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Moreno R. on August 11, 2009, 06:56:09 AM
Norm, why you are lacking an actual play example? If role-playing really worked like this, every single decision you made in your role-playing history would be an example...

Anyway, the forum for this wouldn't be "first thoughts"  in any case: this is for first thoughts about new games, not about new theories...

I am going to assume that you will post an actual play example in the next post and Ron will simply move this thread to "actual play".  In this case we could continue this discussion with examples and in more depth.  But, for starters, I think (from your post, lacking examples) that you did misread the articles about GNS.  It's ALWAYS been about priorities, not about presence. There isn't a rpg game ever played that completely lacked any step on up or any kind of thematic decision, no  matter how little. You can't define a Creative Agenda on the basis of "what is present in play", you have to see "what has the precedence in play", and considering not a single decision, but the entire game (to be more precise, you have to consider the biggest reward circle in the entire game).  So, in this part of your post you are saying nothing new.

But, in the following past, you mis-represented the three creative agenda. Probably because you still talked about single decisions, but when you said "
Quote
Here's an example. Within the fiction, say a character has a choice. Say that this choice has three possible outcomes. One outcome (A) results in doing what the character would do under these circumstances. Option B results in a risky fight with plenty of chances to Step On Up. Option C results in a dramatic addressing of Premise. Applying the filter in the order above, the character will act in a way that is not consistent with his own, but which increases the drama, which is what the group wants more than they want character accuracy."
You did not talk about Creative Agenda at all.

"Within the fiction, say a character has a choice. Say that this choice has three possible outcomes. One outcome (A) results in doing what the character would do under these circumstances. ": this is simply "playing the character". Apart from always playing in Pawn stance, like in a boardgame (something I don't even consider role-playing at all) you ALWAYS choose this, in every Creative Agenda. The creative agenda is about what THE PLAYERS do, not the character. It's the players that, choosing between the many, many things that any character "would do under these circumstances" (and doing other things in the games where you are not limited to "play your character") express the group's Creative Agenda.

"Option C results in a dramatic addressing of Premise": you don't address premise in a single scene. This is one example of why there discussions NEED actual play examples. If you would have had to make an actual play example of adressing the premise every single scene in a real game you played, you would had noticed this.

I have other things to say, but it's better to concentrate to these points at the beginning.  And in the "actual play" forum.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 07:15:26 AM
Well, you have (possibly inadvertently) cleared up some murky waters for me. As for your request, I will give a bare-bones example (as I lack the time for anything else).

When I have played D&D (3.5 and 4th) I have run into many situations where the character would likely do something that would be uninteresting, and so went against character to do the interesting thing. I was just reading about this example, so I'll adapt it. Assume a character is generally cowardly (ignore that playing such a character in anything but a drifted DnD game is pretty much a bad idea). This character should run away from a big scary monster. However, doing so removes the character from the encounter, and results in the player sitting there with his thumbs up his butt. Sure, he may be enjoying that he acted according to character, but will the enjoyment last for the hour or so it takes the party to deal with the threat and then go find his character. Hopefully, the answer is yes, but I have rarely seen that happen. So, in order to avoid boredom, have the character stay and fight. Sure, maybe you could justify it in some way so that you convince others (and yourself) that this is what the character would have done, but sometimes, I just feel like I betrayed the character in order to make sure I was still able to enjoy the situation at hand. Is this incoherence? Is it possible I was seeking one type of play, but playing in another?

The point remains that I believe that not all decisions are made based on what the character would do. In fact, the various stances seem to address this rather well, and I have seen the issue discussed in many of the foundational essays Ron has given me to read about GNS. But this only addresses things on the character level.

And what do you mean when you say you cannot address premise in a single scene. If that is the case, I have a gross misunderstanding of what Premise is and how and when it gets addressed. Possibly this clears up all of the confusion in some of my other threads, and so it is probably worth exploring, along with the rest of the calls of, "GNS is not in the small stuff!" Its kind of like physics. The theories break down when you get to the really small stuff. Buit if that were the case, either the theory is incomplete or wrong. Either way, I'm interested in your response and the other things you have to say. Also, I am wondering why I haven't seen your username as a common name in the other threads. Generally, people with a lot to say have said it before, and I would have noticed. I am only curious as to what about this post made you respond that my other posts did not. Its interesting to me.

Thanks again, and cheers!
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 11, 2009, 08:10:16 AM
If the theory is like physics, then you're trying to guess the shape of the galaxy by looking at subatomic particle interactions. It just can't be done.

You've been posting for a while now, so you're really gonna have to cough up examples of actual play that supports your ideas. Right now, it's all just discussion about what could be and what should be with no connection to anything that actually happened.

I personally welcome the discussion! I'm very interested in creative agenda and how it relates to groups of interacting techniques.

Here's a bit of actual play from one of my D&D 4e games. Tell me the game's creative agenda...

In the first game, Jody's character (a woman changeling disguising herself as a male Anglican priest in metrocalyptic Oxford 1605) encountered a raging goblin. The PC's first reaction was to scream and do nothing when Jody's turn came up because his priest wasn't used to facing monsters. The rest of the group played their characters in an "optimal" tactical manner. Discussing things after the game, Daniel asked people how he could "make other people awesome." He wanted to know what powers people had and stuff for synergy and party building for combat. Most of the rest of the players said they wanted to play out tactics from the viewpoints of their characters (actor stance, not author or director stance, essentially).


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 08:34:26 AM
Thats a great point Adam. I couldn't tell you the agenda. I could take some guesses, which I'll do for posterity's sake.

The player of the priest seemed to be pursuing a Simulationist agenda that the group did not share. The rest of the group seemed to be gamist with subservient simulationism, or Simulationism with subservient Gamism (which if I am correct is either downright improbably, or an anomaly, according to the forge). That is with the exception of the person who apparently wanted pure gamism, through only caring about tactical options.

Again, this is only a guess. But my thought here is that just because you can't guess the shape of a galaxy from only its subatomic particles, just like ascertaining creative agenda from the individual techniques, doesn't mean there is no role they play, and it also means that perhaps you can tell, if you have other parts of the equation. Perhaps parts we don't even know exist yet, and so can't look for or use to tell. Plus, for me, it seems that play agenda can morph over time within a group, switching from one to another. But I still have a lot to learn, so I don't know for sure.

Thanks again, and when I have time, I'll post some actual play, though I sure wish we could just talk theory for a little first.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 11, 2009, 08:45:22 AM
Here's the thing. I don't know the agenda of this game myself. I am trying to get people to lean towards Simmy stuff. It's a bit drifted D&D with a VERY strong Setting and Situation (in 1605, Oxford, England, gets sucked into the D&D world where jungles clog its streets and monsters eat most of its citizens; a few special citizens gain D&D races and classes and all those powers) and strong Character (who were you before the metrocalypse event? how are you reacting to the transformations you are going through?). Right there, that suggests Sim but the 4E rules reallyreallyreally want Gamist play.

Daniel enjoys the tactical combat aspects of 4E and was pushing for that stuff. The rest of the group -- especially Jody -- are really grooving on the setting+character=situation aspects. We've talked about approaching tactical combat stuff from actor stance. That is, best tactics your character can manage, not the best tactics your player can manage. Does actor stance vs. author stance make or break a creative agenda? I don't think so.

Only time will tell. We need to get through some adventures and see where the real rewards come from. Maybe drifting 4E this way will result in a horribly incoherent game. The players are having tons of fun, so I suspect it's coherent. I think they're getting their rewards from exploration of the world, but it could turn out that the real meat of the reward for them is how their character changes and transforms. That'd be more of a Narrativist CA, right?


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 09:17:14 AM
Thats good to know Adam. I would be happy to work with your play examples, especially since they would be much more recent than my own.

As for how I look at agenda, I am not the one to be asking about that. Just when I think I understand it, I get told that what I think isn't accurate for a host of reasons. I am still learning about GNS, and have a lot of ideas that rub folks the wrong way, mostly because the ideas seem to stem from my inaccurate knowledge. That said, I can answer some of your questions.

I think you have the idea right about which player wants what and what Narrativism would be, in broad strokes. The thing is, 4th edition is only good for a handful of play styles without some kind of revision.

Here's the deal. The primary reward mechanisms in 4th ed are Exp (arguable as a pacing mechanism, but a reward from player standpoint) and treasure. Both work back into character effectiveness. So, characters are good at fighting monsters, and they acquire more abilities and stuff that make them even better at fighting monsters. They get this stuff from...fighting monsters. Looking at the Exp especially, it takes about ten average encounters to level up. A big quest reward, according to the designers, is equivalent to only ONE of those encounters. which means either ten big quests (thats months of investment) or ten monster encounters (two and a half weeks for the average group). Treasure is easy. If you want to encourage a type of play, make the rewards fit the bill. So for simulationism, Award bonus experience to the tune of half an encounters worth or a full ones for playing in character even when it means choosing tactically sub-par options and getting hurt. Offer treasure more for exploration rather than as stuff the monsters were carrying.

Of course, awarding experience this way means that when the character levels up they need to have something that feeds into something they care about. If you are putting a lot of effort into rewarding sim play, they may not care how many levels they gain, since all that does is make them better at fighting, something only one player seems to crave. It would have to make them better at exploring (arguably fighting fits the bill, since it helps them survive monster encounters, but thats not all they are looking for). So, perhaps making the skills significantly more important (more skill challenges than encounters) and giving more skill bonuses at level up (say +1 to two skills every level, beyond the normal bonuses) would help. All of this helps to reinforce playing the character as the character, which can spill over into character development if they want it too, though the only reward they will get will be their own enjoyment.

Keeping the player who wants fights happy means giving them fights. Try giving him one-on-ones occasionally, which 4th ed does fairly well sometimes.  This way he can hold off the monster while the party goes exploring (or running).

But all this GM advice still shows my whole hierarchy point of view. You want Sim at the top. From there, Gamism should probably be the next priority, since all the players seem to like tactical combat, within the limits of what makes sense for their character. Then, character development and premise can occur. Others might ask for more details on the play example, which I think would make a great Actual Play thread. There you could get a lot more theory out of it. Perhaps two threads functioning off of the same play example, one that explores my hierarchy idea (which is probably not new) and one to help you understand agenda. Though now I am probably being too selfish and should give an example of my own, huh?

Thanks again, and cheers!
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 11, 2009, 10:10:11 AM
You'll also find a lot of conflicting information about GNS for a host of reasons. The articles aren't authoritative or up to date about every little detail. People misrepresent stuff about GNS here and other places. It's a tough thing to get your brain around. The best way is to post your own actual play and talk it over with some people, especially Ron or Vincent or one of the other folks who were around for lots of the discussions.

My questions are not for my own sake. They're for yours. I thought any AP example would aid this discussion and I happened to have a useful one at the ready. I have a decent grasp on creative agenda and the Big Model.

Regarding my play, consider that we are double the number of XP awarded, making use of skill challenges for non-combat fun (and XP), and leveling up ever character at the same rate (even if the player did not show up). If this campaign turns out to have a Narrativist focus, I would expect the D&D reward system to supply a means of character change as a reward. Not just getting stronger, but allowing the player new avenues to showcase the transformation. But that could be true of a Gamist campaign and a Sim campaign, too, right? So this technique/reward system isn't a "tell" for creative agenda on its own.

When you start talking about hierarchy, you're talking about primacy. Something ends up on top as the primary reason for play. That's all we're saying Creative Agenda is. Maybe you're saying something really similar to what we are?

Now to show that a secondary reason for play even makes sense, you need to figure out if G and N and S are so different /as creative priorities/ that they cannot coexist in any meaningful way.

Like Ron's analogy, eating the pig is not compatible with petting and loving the pig. You can come up with theoretical situations where pig lovers are petting and loving the pig, then eat it, but they're kind of ridiculous situations, right? That's why we need actual play--to keep this from being a discussion about ridiculous possibilities that never happen.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 11, 2009, 10:18:52 AM
I do so hate analogies, because people can get caught up in them and argue them just for the sake of breaking them. But the funny thing is, there is an elegant answer to the pig dilemma as it is commonly put.

Tribal culture often venerates the animals they eat. So, we have loving the pig and eating the pig. Domesticating it is pretty common for our culture, so you have petting the pig and eating the pig, sometimes even loving the pig. Whats so unrealistic about it? It only becomes weird when all three aspects are set to 11 and attempted at the same time. Essentially, in their full-fledged form, no agenda is compatible with another, because of the way it is structured. But at lower levels, it all works just fine. Native americans can love, eat, and pet pigs all they want.

What I am saying is that hybrids can exist, but they can't if people insist on being purists only, which makes sense. So hardcore gamists won't enjoy narrative-gamist hybrids, but thats fine, because the point of play for the hybrid is different than the point of play for gamism.

Cheers, and I hope to post more soon. Thoughts welcome!
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Alan on August 11, 2009, 10:44:48 AM
Ayyavazi, can I ask that you start using the current terms for the creative agendas? These are "the right to dream," "step on up," and "story now." You'll find they hit the meaning of creative agenda much better than the GNS terms.

Domesticating it is pretty common for our culture, so you have petting the pig and eating the pig, sometimes even loving the pig. Whats so unrealistic about it? It only becomes weird when all three aspects are set to 11 and attempted at the same time.

Here you have just stated the defining point of creative agenda. CA is not monolithic or exclusive, it includes all activities necessary to roleplaying. It is defined, however, by which choice dominates play. Ie, if we're going to eat the pig, the other elements take a back seat overall or else people get upset. Just as the goal of raising a pig to eat it means that it's not wise to pet it and play with it too often, so a particular CA means that we invest less in some techniques.

But just because you see someone treating the pig like a pet does not mean that's their final purpose. You can't tell the goal from an isolated event. You have to observe a period of time to see the frequency and importance of particular elements.



Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Alan on August 11, 2009, 10:48:44 AM
I should clarify my request to use current CA terms -- I have assumed that we're building on current CA theory. It's possible Ayyavazi means to build a parallel theory on the basis of the old GNS meanings. If that's the case, I'd like to know so I can see the discussion from that angle.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Caldis on August 11, 2009, 11:11:35 AM

I think the Hierarchy of Agenda preferences is entirely possible in a group and maybe in an individual.  It however is not an aspect of functional play rather it's incoherent play where shifting priorities are likely to create problems between the individuals at the table.  Take your example in the Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually exclusive thread.

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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.

To get that to happen you needed a GM creating situations that were full of consequence.  In return you had to react to the situations in ways that werent just attempts to "win" the situation but something that made a statement about your character.  You both had to be in sync on this which would be incredibly difficult if you had varying ideas on what the point of play was.

To put it in big model terms Creative Agenda is the arrow that goes through all levels of play.  The first level it has to go through is Social Contract, the arrow piercing the contract makes it part of play and brings it into all the lower level.  Therefore the CA has to be a contract, an agreement on the part of the players as to what the point of play is.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: jburneko on August 11, 2009, 03:30:21 PM
Norm,

I think what you might be missing are that competition, thematic dynamics and, uh, imaginative verisimilitude double as Techniques.  And has been stated that individual Techniques alone can not define a creative agenda.  If a game contains a moment of extreme fierce competative-ness that's exactly what you have, a moment of extreme fierce compative-ness.  You don't have a moment of Step On Up (formally known as Gamism).

To try another analogy (different from the Pig one), if I tell you I saw a movie in which there was a passionate kiss can you tell me with confidence that I was watching a Romance?  No.  All you can tell was that there was a romantic moment involved in whatever I was watching.  It might have been a Horror movie for all you know.

So how about an example of actual play.  II'm GMing Mouse Guard right now.  My friend Colin is a Burning Wheel expert and most of the group defers to him during conflicts because he's a master of the scripting system.  I'm not as good.  That means that Colin and I can get fiercely competitive during conflicts.  There's a lot of, "Oh, FUCK YOU!" and "HAHA!  OWNED!" being thrown around.  Does that mean we're playing Step On Up?

Actually, no.  Because if you look further you'll see the reason we're so invested in "winning" is something other than the constant one-upsmanship.  There's no sense of looking for payback.  There's no sense of escalation or "pushing" each other.  There's no social points being kept.  I don't go home after the game and consider how I get him "next time."  The social dynamic of the game AS WHOLE isn't building or revolving on those moments of competition.  Beyond the self-satisfaction of those individual victories there's no "stepping up" to the on going challenge because there isn't any.

Instead you'll see that the reason we're so fiercely competitive in those small isolated moments is because of our emotional investment in the conflict at hand.  It's my job as the GM to add pressure to the character's Beliefs.  I do that by introducing conflicts, pushing for my goals and in the event of success presenting the players with choices in the aftermath.  Colin is pushing hard because he (and his fellow players) are standing up for their Beliefs.  When they succeed it's a moment of resolution, a point at which the characters have made a thematic stand.

The dynamic of pressure and thematic stand is what the social dynamic of the group AS WHOLE revolves around and those brief competitive clashes are just a Technique to get that into play in an emotionally engaging way.

Jesse


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Callan S. on August 11, 2009, 03:46:21 PM
Hi Norm,

Just addressing this point, which isn't directly associated with CA
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but makes them frustrated when their own desires conflict with the cemented hierarchy
This just seems a childish frustration? If you include someone who can't master their frustrations on this matter, then as a group you'll never really achieve a consistant, comfortable CA, because the whole group needs to be focused on it and this guy can't manage that. CA chain is as strong as it's weakest link and all that.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Moreno R. on August 12, 2009, 03:47:18 AM
Hi Norm.

Also, I am wondering why I haven't seen your username as a common name in the other threads. Generally, people with a lot to say have said it before, and I would have noticed. I am only curious as to what about this post made you respond that my other posts did not. Its interesting to me.

Two reasons, mostly. The first one is that I write very slowly in English, and when a thread go very fast (like this one, now) I tend to avoid it because usually I am not able to keep the pace of the conversation (and if I try to, it become a very time-intensive activity). Fast threads become usually very confusing, too, because they tend to go all over the place instead of staying focused on the topic

The second is simply that this thread was much simpler that your previous ones (this, at the time I wrote my first reply...)

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When I have played D&D (3.5 and 4th) I have run into many situations where the character would likely do something that would be uninteresting, and so went against character to do the interesting thing. I was just reading about this example, so I'll adapt it. Assume a character is generally cowardly (ignore that playing such a character in anything but a drifted DnD game is pretty much a bad idea). This character should run away from a big scary monster. However, doing so removes the character from the encounter, and results in the player sitting there with his thumbs up his butt. Sure, he may be enjoying that he acted according to character, but will the enjoyment last for the hour or so it takes the party to deal with the threat and then go find his character. Hopefully, the answer is yes, but I have rarely seen that happen. So, in order to avoid boredom, have the character stay and fight. Sure, maybe you could justify it in some way so that you convince others (and yourself) that this is what the character would have done, but sometimes, I just feel like I betrayed the character in order to make sure I was still able to enjoy the situation at hand. Is this incoherence? Is it possible I was seeking one type of play, but playing in another?

Yes, it seems like incoherence. Now, as I said, Creative Agenda is about the players, not the characters, and it's at the entire game level, not about a single scene. So, in this case, the incoherence isn't in the cowardly character running away. It's at the beginning, in the player choosing a cowardly character. 

This is too little, by itself, to categorize the entire game as incoherent (maybe he had other reasons...) so I will have to suppose that this behavior is characteristic of this player in the entire game. It''s a big assumption, so please don't forget it: I am still talking about the entire game, not about a single choice. If so, what I can suppose is that this player wanted to play a very different game. He wanted a game where he could explore his character, maybe show how, little by little, he would have overcome his cowardice. Or maybe he simply thought the idea of playing a coward funny. But, if he is not someone who think that ruining games is "fun", he made a mistake. He didn't know, maybe, that the game would have been all about "stepping up" and now he can't contribute to the stepping up with this character.

What he do, if he combat with the others, is simply betraying the initial idea of his character, to be able to play the game (and not running away every time). It can be conscious (the player ask the GM to remove his cowardice trait, for example, or something happen "in the fiction" to remove it), or everybody simply "forget" that that character was coward.

But soppose that the player still want to play a cowardly character. In this game.  The player want to play ANOTHER game, with a different CA. He think that the GM should use the character's cowardice to create something for him TO DO. (maybe, running away, he meet somebody. Maybe he is captured and meet the queen of the underworld and fall madly in love with her) and should still give him his share of "screen time".. But the GM don't think so, the GM created some opposition for the party, and if someone run away instead of stepping up... he doesn't deserve "screen time".  That useless waste of ink on paper will return after the fight.

The GM and the other player thinks that that player is playing very badly and he is useless in a fight, and maybe want to ask him to stop playing with them. The player thinks that the GM is not a good GM and the orher players are only able to roll dice and don't know "what true role-playing is".

This is usual. When a group who played always with a CA see someone play with another CA (or "not in tune" with the group CA) what they think, almost always, isn't "they play a little differently", they think "this is not role-playing". Because for people who never experienced different CAs, the CA is not an agenda, is "how role-playing works".

It's not possible to play with different CA at the same time, because it would mean playing thinking that "people who don't care more about A than B, play very bad, and I don't want to play with them" and "people who don't care more about B than A, play very bad, and I don't want to play with them" at the same time, and in the mind of every single player. When people experience play in different CA they usually see this very easily, but a lot of people simply played with different techniques (immersing, not immersing, talking in character, not talking in character, etc.) but always in the same CA, they see that the techniques can cohesit, they think they are CA, and think hybrids can exist.

(after playing with true different CAs, by the way, you learn to recognize them and learn how to voluntarily "switch" them when you change game)

(I think that it's possible that, in a group who play with a CA, for example "Story Now", there could be a list of "preferences", so that the difference between the third choice for a CA and the second is noticeable. Some years ago I called that "secondary CA", meaning that it was subservient to the primary, that always "won". But I don't use that term anymore because it confuse people (and it confused me when I used it). A Ca can't be "secondary", it's a contradiction, (that give way to things like the existence of "hybrids").  It's simply the preference for some combination of techniques in service of the only CA, that resemble the techniques used for other CAs

Quote
And what do you mean when you say you cannot address premise in a single scene. If that is the case, I have a gross misunderstanding of what Premise is and how and when it gets addressed. Possibly this clears up all of the confusion in some of my other threads, and so it is probably worth exploring, along with the rest of the calls of, "GNS is not in the small stuff!" Its kind of like physics. The theories break down when you get to the really small stuff. Buit if that were the case, either the theory is incomplete or wrong. Either way, I'm interested in your response and the other things you have to say.

Maybe I was confusing there. What I meant was that you can address a premise in a scene, but you did it in the previous one, too, and in the following one, too. It's an ongoing process and HOW you address the premise will be clear only at the end.

For example, let's say that the premise is about the relative worth of life and love. In a certain scene, your character has to decide if saving himself of his loved one. He choose himself, condemning his loved one to death. Did you address premise here? Yes, but only here? How it could happen that you had to make that choice? I think that it could happen only if the entire game, from start to finish, was build to make you adress premise. The GM has to try to oppose you with "thematic" choices, not only  tactical ones, and this isn't a choice you do in a single moment. It has to be built.
More than that, THE GAME IS NOT STILL FINISHED. The story has still to run his course. If you look only to that choice, the theme of the story seems to be "life is better than love everyday". But it is? Maybe that is simply what the CHARACTER would do. But remember, "CA is about what the PLAYERS do".
Suppose that, at the end of the game, the player use some metagame resource (like fan mail in PTA or bonus dice in TSOY) AGAINST his own character, or that he choose to add to the character a trait like "remorse" that hinder him and cause him to die at the end...  at the end, the Theme of the game would have been that that choice was WRONG.

The choices of the players build one onto another. You address the premise from star to finish, with every single choice, but no single choice determine the theme (the answer to the premise). No single choice can answer the premise, only the entire game do.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 13, 2009, 05:43:06 AM
Ok, there's a lot to address here. First off, thanks for the clarification Moreno.

Now, on to the objections. Alan, I will try to use the proper terms from here on out. As for whether I am trying to add to the theory, or merely exploring a parallel one, I am unsure right now. I like to think that I am adding, which is what I am trying to do, but parallelism seems possible.

Now, lets talk about the agendas also being techniques. This is probably where a lot of my confusion lies (yes, you have all been saying this for a good long time). If the agendas are also techniques, separate from the agendas, and all of the definitions are correct as they stand, then I am wrong. But, I love checking your premises (in this case, I mean the things we assume to be true in order to build an argument). This assumes that the definitions AS THEY ARE are correct. I dispute this. To me, when you tell me the techniques and the agendas look the same in the small moment but not in the big moment, I get confused. Maybe its like squares and rectangles. Its a one-way compatibility. Or, maybe what we assume about CA is wrong.

What I mean is this. Every technique (GNS-wise) will be used in a game in varying degrees. Everyone seems to say that these individual techniques are not the agenda. There is just some overlap. But the overlap is where I think we need to focus. If the techniques are used, they must be being rewarded. Maybe not on a large scale, but on a small one for sure. People wouldn't bother putting a fictional wrapping on their game if it wasn't worth it. They would just play a miniatures game or other board game, depending on their tastes. The fact that a technique mirroring "Right to Dream" is used in Step On Up and Story Now says to me that that element of Right to Dream is rewarded, and further, it says to me that it is part of the agenda, however small. In essence, it is part of the hierarchy. I know you all keep saying that you can't observe GNS at the technique level, and so this idea is wrong, plain and simple. What I am asking to be examined is this: What if you can? You have all given me some very good analogies, and some very good examples from actual play. These examples are all very good indicators that I am wrong, as long as the premises you are using are correct. If the premises are incorrect, then though the argument may be accurate, it is still invalid. (I hope I'm not confusing anyone with these terms. If I am, let me know)

So, here is what I am trying to say. Instead of proceeding from your premises (GNS is a one-agenda only deal, Techniques cannot be show agenda on their own, one agenda operating at a time, and so forth), change a premise and explore from there. This would be an exploration of an argument, rather than a series of proofs for your premise.

Try to envision it this way. For those of you who have taken a geometry course, imagine you are doing a geometric proof. You have a list of premises, and an end result you are working toward. If you change a premise, you either invalidate the proof (it becomes impossible to solve) or you must find a different way to get to the same conclusion.

In this case, the conclusion is a question-answer combination. With your given premises (as I listed them above) they logically work their way down to the answers you continue to give me to my question. When you change the premise (because I am trying to explore whether the premise is wrong or not), you must then change the way you think about it, because the old rules no longer apply.

I hope that clears up what I am trying to do, and explains why I am not simply saying, "Ah, your answers are correct! The light has come on!" For me, you seem to still be progressing from flawed premises. And touting out all of the proofs you have gives me nothing, because they are all proof derived from the same premises I am disputing. To put it another way, imagine you are a non-believer in God and you speak to a believer about the Word of God. They say, "This Bible is the work of God." You say, "How?" "Well, he inspired people to write it." "But there is no God" "Well of course there is! Can't you see the Bible I am holding? Its proof he exists because He wrote it!"

*I am not trying to ignite a religious argument. I am trying to give an analogy for the problem I believe I am facing

So, hopefully this will work in my favor and I will be able to understand where this is all going. As for people having hierarchies and that being incompatible with long-term play, that sounds a tragic diagnoses, don't you think? The whole point is that when you identify what a person's agenda is in play, you can match up to it or find other people that share your goals and tastes, and ensure you get the most enjoyment out of the hobby. What you seemed to just say is that if a person has an agenda, they can find others like them, but if they have a hierarchy, they are screwed because there aren't enough people to play with that would have their exact hierarchy (or something similar enough to play with minimal difficulty). Is that correct?

And about childish problems, yeah, its childish in one way. Mastering the conflicting desires is an adult thing to do, but this isn't supposed to be a psychological argument about whether it is correct to do that. However, isn't being frustrated and "mastering it" as a means to continue play called dysfunctional or incoherent play? Because that is the point at which people aren't getting the maximum amount of fun they could be. Sure, they could master it, or they could find people who share their goals. Which is easier?

Thanks again for everyone's input. I am really enjoying the discussions, and learning a great deal about GNS.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Jasper Flick on August 13, 2009, 06:41:22 AM
I'd like to illuminate a possible disconnect that might be going on and which could breed hostility.

I just like to point out that the "premises" Ayyavazi proposes to discard didn't come from nowhere, badly articulated as they may be. There's a huge body of written material that preceded them. Take a look at RPG Theory (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?board=4.0), GNS Model Discussion (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?board=3.0) and a load of APs that came after that.

So some people might be assuming things are unfounded premises which are easily set aside, while others consider them conclusions derived from years of research and study. Some people might consider Ayyavazi an upstart, like someone who insists that Pi could be a rational number if you just let go of all mathematical theory that's been established, which he by the way didn't bother to extensively study himself. In turn, Ayyavazi might consider others conservative old men, stuck in their ivory tower.

I'm not saying this is the case, I just warn that it might be lurking underwater.
By all means, continue the discussion.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 13, 2009, 07:07:27 AM
Jasper, Thank you!

You have pinpointed something I have been wanting to address but not been able to due to my own lack of focus. I do not consider myself an upstart. I personally recognize that the theories involved here have been developed from years of research, and work to some extent (otherwise they wouldn't be theories that see regular use). I have read all of the articles Ron has posted, and am working through all of the many threads he has recommended. So I am studying to the capacity I am able in theory, and having a couple of discussions as well on this forum to help answer my questions and put forward my own ideas.

I'm not trying to say anyone is in an ivory tower or any of that, though I do suspect that some of these ideas are so personal to those who had a hand in making them that letting go and shifting perspectives is at best difficult. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen. Thanks again Jasper, and everyone for your input thus far. Lets make this a good discussion.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Anders Larsen on August 13, 2009, 11:18:16 AM

I think that the confusion between agendas and techniques, is probably the thing most people struggle with when it come to GNS theory, but, actually, they are two very different things. It is always hard to know what makes sense for other people, but the explanation that helped me understand this was: Techniques are how you make input into the game, agenda is what what experience you want to get out of the game.

If you think about a painter as an analogy for this (sorry, but I do not know how else to explain this). For a painter techniques are what brushes he use, what paint he use, how he make the single strokes, how he think about perspective, and other stuff he do to put something on the canvas. He may enjoy many of these thing, and he may have passionate discussion about why oil is better than acrylic, but these things are in the end not the reason for why he is an artist. The reason for why he do this is that he what to create a certain experience with his finished painting, and what experience he is after is what is equivalent to a creative agenda. Of course a painter has some favorite technique he normally use, but that is not what will determined what experience he try to create with his work.

In a rpg the canvas is the Shared Imagined Space, this is very imported to understand properly. The SIS is what the players has agreed are part of the game her and now. So the SIS is actively kept alive between the imagination of multiple people.

So this would be like you have multiple artists trying to paint on the same canvas at the same time. And not only that, they could modify what the other artist already had put on the canvas. If one of the artists wanted to paint something super realistic, an other wanted to make caricature, and one wanted to make something completely abstract, you can see that non of this would probably be satisfied with the finished painting - even thought all of them agreed on which technique it was best to use.

So you see. Techniques are used to slowly build something in the SIS (to stroke for stroke build the painting on the canvas). And over time the SIS will build to something that will create an interesting experience for the players. To build something interesting out of the SIS most be the reason why we play roleplaying game - so that is the creative agenda of playing. What techniques we use to build the SIS to get that agenda, is not so important.

I hope all this makes sense. If it don't, just ignore it

 - Anders


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: FredGarber on August 13, 2009, 01:30:41 PM
I think that there is a logical fallacy lurking under the surface here, linked around the false premise: "Why you roleplay is the same as How You Have Fun roleplaying."  I do not believe that is necessarily true.

If I am satisfying my Creative Agenda, I am having fun playing the game.  <TRUE>
If I am having fun, I am satisfying my Creative Agenda <NOT NECESSARILY TRUE>

If you are dead, you cannot move your legs. <TRUE>
If you cannot move your legs, you are dead  <FALSE>

When I look at putting Forge Theory into Practice, my goal is to design or play a game that is never NOT Fun.  I can't predict the moments of Fun that are going to occur.  I wouldn't want to. However, I can make sure that my Reward Cycle aligns with my Creative Agenda, making sure that I have a consistant baseline of Fun, even if every moment isn't a Moment of Awesome.  All I can do is present a fertile garden for Moments of Awesome and hope they grow.

-Fred


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Marshall Burns on August 13, 2009, 01:40:35 PM
Now, lets talk about the agendas also being techniques. This is probably where a lot of my confusion lies (yes, you have all been saying this for a good long time). If the agendas are also techniques, separate from the agendas, and all of the definitions are correct as they stand, then I am wrong.
Hang on here, we need a crowbar separation.

Step on Up is not a Technique. Competition is a Technique. Competition must be present (in some form, to some degree) for Step on Up to be occurring, but its presence does not mean that Step on Up is occurring. For an example, my game Super Action Now! (http://www.angelfire.com/indie/btw/SUPER_ACTION_NOW_3.htm) is built for (and works for) Right to Dream, but makes heavy use of competition. (Which, among other things, makes it quite innovative in the world of RTD design as far as its set of Techniques goes, if I may brag for a moment.)

When people say that "Techniques can't show CA on their own," what they mean is that no SINGLE Technique (e.g., competition) can indicate the Creative Agenda. However, a specific combination of Techniques in play will support a given CA, or it wonít.

For an example, SAN! again. The competition + TILT! rules + Character model + resolution combine to support Right to Dream play in which the players create, develop, and enjoy a Situation with loads of crazy-ass Color, by establishing wacky characters, juxtaposing them with each other and off-the-wall situational elements, and letting them run amok, while the players are expected and permitted to fuck with each otherís characters at every opportunity.

To say that competition is rewarded in SAN! would be true, but misleading. Competition in SAN! is rewarded only in the context of the other Techniques, all of which must be applied for the game to deliver the experience and provide the tools it promises.

Am I making sense? It's always hard for me to tell.

-Marshall


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Callan S. on August 13, 2009, 07:24:16 PM
Is there any goal being sought here? GNS is a means to an end, like a hammer or chisel - or perhaps a compass. You don't argue hammer, you don't argue chisel. You use whatever gets you to your goals. Right from the start I only considered GNS as to whether it was helpful or not. Even if it seems helpful, doesn't mean you can't discard the tool five minutes from now. Measure GNS theory by how much your getting to your goals as opposed to if you weren't using it. And even if it rates highly, that doesn't mean you have to 'agree' with it or even can agree with it - you don't agree with hammer, you don't agree with chisel. You don't agree GNS, you use it.

It seems, and I may genuinely be wildly incorrect, that GNS theory is being discussed here without any reference to trying to achieve some goal?


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 18, 2009, 05:17:31 AM
Thanks again everyone. You have all contributed meaningfully to this as far as I am concerned.

So, let me re-state some of my assumptions so that we can be clear about where I stand (and why).

1. Creative Agenda is not player based (that is, a player does not have a creative agenda or a default setting. a player can want a certain creative agenda and actively or passively pursue it, but the agenda can never be a defining characteristic of a person as person)

2. Creative Agenda is not at the beginning, middle, or end of play, it IS play. Everything within the scope of play, from start to finish (and even beyond) is Creative Agenda in action.

3. A game system cannot have a Creative Agenda any more than a person. It can support one agenda over others, and it can try to support more than one, but in doing the latter will mostly likely only promote incoherency at best, dysfunctional play at worst.

4. Techniques (of which each Creative Agenda is also an individual technique) are separate from agenda, but a group of them will point to a supported agenda. Techniques promoted by system will point to one agenda, but because agenda is realized only in play, and never from outside of it (in the sense that you cannot accurately predict how a system will perform for every group), techniques used in play will determine the agenda that is in practice.

5. (I do not personally share this assumption, but it is common enough to be involved in the discussion) Inidividual creative agendas are mutually exclusive. A game, examined in all of its wonder, will always fall under one creative agenda based on the techniques being used. This is both due to definition (the definitions of each GNS agenda are written in such a way that they are mutually exclusive) and to practical reasons (if some members pursue one agenda within a given game, and others pursue a different agenda, play will be incoherent or dysfunctional).

This is how I understand GNS so far. these are the basic assumptions I am bringing in to the discussion. Here is where the rub is for me.

Assumption #6: No group can pursue multiple creative agendas within a single game session (even if they are completely united on wanting to do so).

Now, I assume that the reason GNS works is because when a group pursues a given agenda uniformly, they maximize their fun and minimize or eliminate any incoherent or dysfunctional play. That is, they eliminate those un-fun moments where they suspect the other player(s) "just don't get it" However, it seems that because of the definitions forcing exclusivity on agenda (the point of play definitions), having a group dedicated to pursuing, say, Right to Dream and Story Now uniformly cannot achieve coherent play, even if they are all using the same techniques in the same ways. At least, this is what I have been told: Hybrid play is impossible.

Now, since no one is going to remove the exclusivity from the definitions of creative agenda, new Creative Agendas (if they are possible) need to be defined that allow for the play that I am envisioning, and which I sincerely believe is possible.

But this topic is about Hierarchy, not hybrid play or new agendas. This topic puts forth the notion that indeed, no person can be pursuing all agendas (or even two) at the same time due to the necessity of preference. When a choice is presented that calls any two agendas into conflict (which will mostly happen at the meta-game level, but not necessarily only there), the player must choose one to support and one to deny (if only temporarily, and assuming the choices themselves are mutually exclusive). I think of it a lot like the Halting Problem from Alan Turing. So, instead, each player must have a hierarchy within their mind (and it can change from session to session, or even moment to moment) of which agenda holds the most weight for them for this game for this moment. Even if all players agreed to a hierarchy ahead of time from which they would never deviate, they would still run into problems.

The problem would be that if any choice ever brought the agendas into question, like above, they would of course follow their hierarchy. But the fact would remain that most likely, they do not all share exactly the same goals moment to moment, and so may disagree with their pre-existing and predetermined hierarchy. As a result, there can exist a dis-connect within the play experience. This occurrence is extremely unlikely in single agenda play (or so it seems) because people tend to have certain preferences, and matching those preferences along one axis (the single creative agenda) is easier. Effectively think of GNS like trying to group people together. If you want to find all the men(your creative agenda of choice) in the world, you have a large section of the overall human population to draw from. If you want all the blue-eyed men in the world (a specific agenda, and certain unique aspects of it set to one value or another, such as gamist dials) you will have a smaller group. As you apply more filters and get more specific, your potential play group that will not experience this disconnect shrinks, and rapidly.

I believe that different agendas exist than these classic three. I also believe that agenda hierarchy can be used to achieve the same play experience that single agenda play strikes. But I also believe that it is (at the very least) currently impossible to find even one other person (let alone an entire group) that perfectly matches not only your preferred hierarchy, but also your exact tendencies of when to switch that hierarchy. As a result, this play is not currently possible, Its not because it can't work in theory, but because finding the people that match up as perfectly as you need them to is simply impossible at this time in history.

Now, I know some of you will argue that trying to have hybrid agendas is like asking for all participants to be both Male and Female (a strict impossibility, with certain bizarre exceptions) at the same time. You might also argue that hierarchy calls for Women at the top, followed by a filter for men, which can't happen, since all women are by definition not men, and so no individual will be both (again with certain bizarre exceptions). If this is true (which to me the verdict is still out on), then I fully understand that what I am saying is totally and completely wrong. But please refrain from saying the following: "But it is true!" It contributes nothing to the conversation. Giving a good reason or example of why it is true will contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

So, I proceed from the assumption that new agendas and agenda hierarchy are possible, but not with our current population size, or with our current toolbox (the techniques we have discovered and know how to use, such as chisels and hammers. Perhaps when we learn about and how to use laser blasters, we will have something new to talk about).

So, now to the WHY. Why is this important? What goal am I pursuing? The same goal that GNS pursues: Defining creative agendas and their application as a means to influence game design in such a way as to maximize fun for those who choose to play the game designed. Of course, with what I wrote above (that we lack the people and the tools), this seems like a fools errand. How can we try to design a game for a population that doesn't yet exist and that must possess tools we don't currently even conceive of? I like to think this is what it means to be on the cutting edge. I want to invent these tools, and I believe everyone else here does too. I want to bring about the play experience I am seeking, in which I play with individuals so matched up to what I want that I don't need to restrict myself to an agenda that doesn't do everything I want it to. And I want to have a system that promotes exactly the agenda I want so that those who play it play the same way as I do. Yeah, its selfish. But in the end, if we accomplish any of what I want to, we will have vastly improved what is available to everyone else, including generations of gamers to come.

So, any thoughts?

Thanks again,
Cheers
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 18, 2009, 07:30:12 AM
I'm trying to understand what you mean by a new creative agenda. Do you mean your prioritized hybrid, like "primary Narrativism, secondary Gamism"? Let's use the notation N>G for that, but realize it means a single, hypothetical creative agenda, not two different agendas.

Compare pure Narrativism (N) to Narrativism-with-Gamism (N>G). How are they different? Isn't this just N with "gamist" techniques tossed in? Assuming this N>G thing exists, how do players embrace it differently than pure N? Given that all the players at the table want N>G, during play, how does it affect their creative choices in the various layers of the Big Model? Given a handful of creative choices, don't they just choose the Techniques and Ephemera that point at Narrativism? Where does the "G" ever come into play? Maybe there are "gamist" techniques, but I don't see them connecting layers together the way techniques pull a Creative Agenda together.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 18, 2009, 07:39:50 AM
Thanks Adam,

This is exactly the kind of thing I want to explore. My problem is that as far as I am aware, all of the technique glossaries are outdated, so I don't have all of the terminology down pat. Either way, I need some actual play examples and for them to be dissected. The problem is I haven't played an RPG in months and my memory is just fuzzy enough that I am afraid I would be changing the memory slightly in favor of supporting my view, making it invalid as a choice of actual play. Plus, I have little memory of the moment to moment interactions, which is where techniques and ephemera are most noticeable. I only remember things in broad strokes. So, what I need first is to learn about the techniques and ephemera in up to date language, and then I can address this. Does anyone have any threads they recommend?

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Caldis on August 18, 2009, 08:56:44 AM
I think what you are missing is that the three Agendas are not monolithic things.  All Step on Up is not the same, neither is all Right to Dream or Story Now.  So when we group Creative Agendas they do entail wide differences in how you play.   Here is a discussion of skewers which may help you out with your ideas.  http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=12597.0

Beyond that I think the discussion is getting highly theoretical with little basis in reality.  I'm not sure what you are meaning by a hierarchy of GNS.  If we could bring it back to your actual play examples or any actual play examples then that might be helpful.

I'm going back to your examples from the Gamism and Narrtivism mutually exclusive thread.  From what I see you seem to be under the impression that there was gamism involved in the example you went into with Ron.  To be blunt there wasnt.  There was strategy, tactics and what Fred called competition but as Ron explained those things are not gamism.  What you are missing is the reward cycle, what pushed the game forward and moved it from one situation on to another.  The reward wasnt how well you did tactically or how smart you played leading to more tactically challenging situations it was the moral consequence of your actions leading to more moral quandries.  

I hate to say it but I think you may have glossed over what was said there because Ron made some pretty strong points that counter any idead of a Hierarchy of Agendas or multiple Agendas in play.  You might want to re-read that thread, especially once you and Ron get talking about the example of the game you enjoyed.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 18, 2009, 09:15:06 AM
Thanks Caldis,

I will be reading that thread post-haste. Until I do, I probably can't speak to your question.  But, I did at least reference that each agenda had separate "sub-agendas" in one of my most recent posts (the one before the last one). But you are right. It is getting too theoretical. I do thank you for pointing me back to my original thread, but the problem there is that I still do not understand the other reward cycles. I understand Story Now reward cycles because I had a game experience and there was a definitive "This is how it all worked together and why." discussion, which was very accurate. Like I have said plenty of times, my memory is hazy. I am not sure that my representation of that particular instance is complete and accurate. I believe that there was a lot going on there that I simply don't recall properly or at all, which makes it hard to address other possible reward cycles from that example.

So, what I need is for someone to show me, "These are Gamist reward cycles, and here is how they work in actual play. These are Simulationist reward cycles and how they work in actual play, and these are Narrativist Reward cycles and how they work." I need this breakdown for each of the different sub-agendas, such as actual play and reward cycles for Gamism at the various Dial combinations. I also need something pointing me toward common Ephemera, and groups of Ephemera that are common techniques, and then common technique groups that point to Creative Agenda. If any of that is in the Skewers discussion above, then I won't need that once I have read it.

Also, being that I am discussing several instances of Actual play as necessary to continue this discussion, it may become necessary to make each one (play instance and technique/ephemera/reward cycle analysis) a daughter thread of its own until I fully understand the terms and can address this issue in this thread (or a continuation thread).

Overall, I want to learn more before I confuse myself more. Also, I recognize that tactical combat does not equal gamist play. Nobody needs to repeat that to me any more, I get that techniques do not an agenda make. I even understand why, thanks to the countless analogies people have been so kind as to give me. Until I understand Reward cycles, ephemera and techniques more, I won't be able to have meaningful discussion about hybrids (or new agendas) or hierarchies.

Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 18, 2009, 09:17:31 AM
Working on a post describing Gamist reward cycles... =)


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 18, 2009, 09:38:55 AM
Have you played D&D 4E? It's a great game, right? It provides amazing support for Gamism.

Start at the beginning. You make characters. The rules encourage (tease?) each player to make the strongest character, the most optimal build. Further, through the use of roles, the rules encourage the group of players to make sure their characters fit together. Having a good mix of roles is the most basic group strategy, but having powers that enhance one another in symbiotic ways is the more detailed strategy.

Play is focused on exploration and challenge. These challenges are usually combat against monsters but sometimes they involve traps, hazards, and other encounters that use skills rather than combat powers. The text provides rules for generating appropriate challenges based on the level and size of the party. Combat encounters test player skill. Specifically, combat tests a player's "character build" and the player's knowledge and proper use of the character's abilities and the player's knowledge of the game rules. There are tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) choices for a player to make. If a player performs poorly, he might cause his character or another player's character to be injured or killed. 4E particularly shines where it offers character abilities that help out party members, thus promoting teamwork.

The game's main reward is experience points (XP), which are gained mainly by killing monsters, encountering traps and hazards, and by completing skill challenges.  XP allow characters to gain levels. Gaining a level is the main reward cycle because you've proven yourself as a player long enough to change the character in a meaningful way. When you gain a level, you return to the "character build" part of the game and gain new abilities (and a new chance to test your skill at character building). Moreover, you have opened new doors in play. At the very least, there are new (higher-level) monsters for you to face. At certain level increments, like 11th and 21st, you also change the entire tier of play (heroic to paragon to epic). A change in tier changes game play in a significant way, widening the scope of your character's influence in the game setting.

To look at Gamism support in 4E, you need to start at the Social Contract level and work your way down. The game assumes that the players get together to play 4E and they understand that they're gonna kick some ass and take some names. Exploration is strongly pointed at challenge. There's a particular focus on Character and System (building, planning, tuning PCs) between "play sessions," but it's also "play," in my mind (strong character building requires interaction for party tuning). Setting is hostile, full of challenges for PCs. Situation is usually focused on getting players to combat encounters that test their abilities. The Color (e.g., read the "color text" for the powers and the racial descriptions) is challenge-focused. The game's Techniques are dedicated mostly to combat, traps, hazards, and skill challenges. There's not much else to the game. Combat rules comprise the vast majority of the game text.

To categorize an actual instance of 4E play as "Gamist," you need to look at the behavior of the players over a period of time that touches all of the above-mentioned aspects. You can play 4E in a Simulationist way or in a Narrativist way. You'll be fighting against the current of character optimization, fighting monsters, and leveling up, though.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Caldis on August 18, 2009, 10:53:49 AM
Adam,

Sounds pretty good but do you have a play example that would really showcase it in action?  If not we can look to the [Rifts] GNS my session (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21684.0) thread and I can try and point out what look like reward cycles there.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 18, 2009, 11:10:33 AM
Go for it.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Caldis on August 18, 2009, 02:41:03 PM

 This (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21227.0) is the actual play account I'll be discussing.  The relevant posts are reply #1 where he talks about the first session the Laszlo experience, reply # 12 where he talks about the second session and reply 14 where he talks of the final confrontation. 

Each of the sessions is a reward cycle.  In the first they start out with the task they had to accomplish, find the mutant chimpanzee.  There are several possible encounters along the way and how they deal with them directly affects the outcome of the situation. If they dont move quickly enough bad things can happen.  Their choices, actions, tactics made the difference.  Their quick movement allowed them to catch up to the Chimp before he was captured by slavers, the gutsy move by the borg player with a little bit of luck on his side allowed them to escape the slavers and get away with the chimp.

The second group functioned in the same way.  Their actions determined how well they did.  The Lt's indecisiveness was costing them but the smart play by the others found the information they needed.  The fact the other group acted without caution allowed this group to get the information they needed however there lack of though cost them the extra support they could have had in requesting weapons.

So what we have so far is each group assigned a task, through various means they accomplish the task but how well they do affects how capable they are at future tasks.  In some of his side comments not directly in the play account the gm tells of how the game could have differed if they hadnt moved fast enough. 

Now there is a new task for the groups, the battle to control the chimp.  This is the cycle in action.  The groups Stepped Up to the tasks on the way they changed the situation and now a new one awaits, one in which once again how well they act tactically and strategically will determine what happens.

Contrast that with the game from your example where it's not how well you did but the meanings of your choices that matter.

I can also do up an example of a Sim reward cycle if you are still interested but that will have to wait for another day.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: contracycle on August 19, 2009, 05:01:50 AM
Assumption #6: No group can pursue multiple creative agendas within a single game session (even if they are completely united on wanting to do so).

As it happens, a lot of the substance of your argument has been discussed before, although I'm not having much luck locating any of those threads with search terms I can think of right now.

I held quite a similar position, but it was all resolved to my satisfaction by the 'instance of play' and reward cycle criteria.  I've picked out this point of yours as a suitable place to make the point.

I think my play rests primarily in one agenda, skirts into another regularly, and largely ignores the third.  How can this be, when only a single mode can be present?  The thing is that its not necessarily about what you do in terms of this minute, right now; what matters is what is ultimately rewarded and reinforced.

So you can indeed have a "heriarchy" in a sense that one agenda is dominant and another recessive and so forth, and see it that way if you choose.  But that actually obscures more than it illuminates.  Because ultimately, for the game to actually work and be fun, it will have to prioritise one agenda, even if it allows temporary excursions into behaviour that seems to belong in another agenda.

This is what people mean by techniques not expressing an agenda automatically and in their own right.  It is perfectly possible to have, most commonly, gamist style techniques present in a game that is really not G at all.  Does this mean the game as a while is a hybrid?  No.  Becuase, over the instance of play, it will be the other thing, whatever it is, that will get rewarded, that will be recognised as the point of play.

IF such a game rewarded the gamist things, it would be gamist overall.  But if instead its just an excursion, and the reward cycle really adressess S or N, then these excurions are just supporting elements.  The game still has one agenda, even if it borrows from some of the fun things that the others can do.

Your statement I picked out puts things to starkly.  It is indeed possible within a session (and a session may or may not be coterminus with an instance of play) to use techniques that are usually though of as being supportive of different agendas.  That is all fine and normal and not a challenge to the GNS model as such.  What you cannot do is have instances of play whose cycles actually reward more than one agenda over all.  Thus, hybrid play, that is rewarding of two or more agendas simultaneously is impossible, but play with some variation of techniques is not.  And when people do branch out into those techniques, they are not really temporarily pursuing a different agenda, because what they are doing is not rewarded and reinforced.  It may well be enjoyed and celebrated in its own right, in the moment, but ultimately it is not the point of play.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: FredGarber on August 19, 2009, 02:32:46 PM
Thanks again everyone. You have all contributed meaningfully to this as far as I am concerned.
2. Creative Agenda is not at the beginning, middle, or end of play, it IS play. Everything within the scope of play, from start to finish (and even beyond) is Creative Agenda in action.

Here I have to disagree with one of your basic assumptions.  I would phrase it as this:

2. Creative Agenda is not ONLY at the beginning, middle, or end of play.  Anything within the scope of play, from start to finish (and even beyond) might reinforce or weaken the Creative Agenda.

Actual Play:
We're playing "Switch", a PTA game.  J--------- is playing Jade, a shapeshifter who lives in hiding in Seattle. 
I Produce the show with the Theme (Premise) of "How much can you change to get your goal and still be the same person?"
We had a scene where Jade and Colby found a mysterious book on Jade's pillow.  It was fun, since Jade had to search her house for an intruder without letting Colby know what was going on.  Colby had to find out what was going on without looking like she wanted to invade Jade's privacy.
But there's no Premise payoff in that scene.  The Challenge will come when Jade decides what to do with the information in the book.  If Colby gets to read it, then I get a second Premise challenge.  It's just a scene to demonstrate the Chekov Gun on the wall in Act I.

As another example, I was Storytelling a WhiteWolf LARP.  I got some feedback on one of my fellow storytellers:
"I went out to buy a newspaper, and BB made it a whole scene, with some crazy Greek guy running the newsstand.  I just wanted a newspaper, and it took me twenty minutes."  The player didn't want a whole scene to happen: It didn't break with their CA, either.  They wanted a quick stamp on an item card, and instead they got Exploration, and even a bit of a Challenge.  That was an unfun moment, but it had nothing to do with the CA.  In fact, they were looking for the newspaper to find out the next clue to StepOnUp to the 'Werewolves in the Sewers' problem. 

Two examples where play happened, and in one case it was fun, and in another case it was not fun, but in neither case were the Techniques involved affecting the Creative Agenda of the group.


Secondly, I think you are confusing Incoherence with Unplayable.  Incoherant groups tend to short term play only and are a lot of work for a GM to manage.  But they can be fun, as long as Pete realizes Randy wants as many fight scenes as possible, and Randy knows Pete wants to focus on the characters becoming part of their village community.  If each player accepts the NotFun that comes during the other guy's part, then the game can continue long term.

-Fred


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Callan S. on August 19, 2009, 04:54:39 PM
Just a note on 4E D&D and indeed editions prior, in terms of character creation being gamist? What are you stepping up against? Nothing really - it's just spreading out stats. Can you lose during character gen? No - so it's 20 to 30 minutes of non gamist activity - activity which is probably quite stimulating for someone who has a dream of a certain character. And in terms of play being focused on challenge .... what focuses it? Does something say there has to be a challenge in the next two to five real life minutes of play? Or can someone follow the rules as much as they are and yet large amounts of RL time can pass during play without challenge being presented? 4E isn't dreadfully gamist supportive, in the same way 3E wasn't.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Adam Dray on August 19, 2009, 05:09:02 PM
Callan,

I meant that 4E's character creation system "front loads" play with a character that is ready for Step on Up. It's sorta like how all the chargen that goes on in Sorcerer "front loads" play with a character that is ready for Story Now, even though chargen is not exactly play.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 22, 2009, 04:28:31 AM
Thanks everybody for your insight.

I'll address 4e D&D first, and go from there.  I am on board with the idea that all of 4th editions rules (and even GM advice, for the most part) supports Gamist play. I've read another thread about how it actually supports Simulated Gamist play (that is, it makes you feel like you are playing gamist, when really its a sim game) call D&D 4e Balance killed my game, or something like that. Either way, It is obviously a gamist reward system at work, both in game and out of game, depending on how the sessions are structured. Some structures end up supporting simulationist play. This is why I think Ron says that systems themselves cannot have a Creative Agenda, but only support it. So, if you want to show me some gamist play, I would suggest a play example using 4th edition. But remember, the dials (taken from Ron's initial Gamism essay) have a certain setting in 4e that is not necessarily the same as other games. So what I would like to re-iterate is that I not only need play examples from different agendas, but from the different agendas and where their focus was. So each of the dial configurations for gamism, what is being explored for simulationism (on the big model), and the types of Narrativism.

As for which types I have already seen, the play example I used (according to Ron, and I think I agree with him) was some deeply Narrativist play, with some setting based premise and some character based premise. The Rifts example appears to me to be gamist play, but I have no idea where the dials were. In short, I still would like all the other blanks filled in.

As for mistaking techniques for agenda, I understand. I know that this thread and its father thread are a lot of reading, so I understand if you didn't read every word and/or only skimmed them. But I have already said that I understand that individual techniques do not create agendas, precisely because the whole instance of play needs to be examined along with the reward cycles. That's what I am trying to do now.

All in all, I am coming more and more online with the idea that agendas are separate animals, but I still don't see why they can't co-exist. With the Rifts game for example, other than the players that didn't enjoy things as they were (the Lt may have been the only one), I see a lot of Step On Up. Every challenge fed into every other challenge after it, increasing or decreasing effectiveness. There was no premise that I could see. But I don't see why there couldn't have been. What I do see is that if premise had been premise, then at the times when it was being addressed, gamist play would be taking a backseat at best. That is, if overall the challenge involves future effectiveness, it feeds into gamist play, if it feeds into more premise, its narrativist play (I don't understand Sim reward at all, so I'm really craving an example!). In this way, it looks to me like the GNS is only good for telling you what is happening overall, even though things seem be overlapping. For example, lets say that in the Rifts game there was a premise, doesn't matter what. And within a given challenge (doesn't matter which) that premise was being addressed, and even the individual actions of the players (such as the choice to use MD weapons or not because of the fallout) helped address the premise as well as determining future effectiveness. In this case, both more premise and more effectiveness can result, but its still not "hybrid" because GNS says it must be one or the other. Therefore it looks at the whole things overall and says that the premise-addressing happened within the effectiveness-ramping challenges. Therefore its Step On Up. Am I mis-understanding how this is working?

Thanks again and Cheers,
--Norm


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Callan S. on August 22, 2009, 06:46:23 PM
Hi Norm,

Take this
http://mindspace.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/youngwomanoldlady.jpg

Did you see an old lady? Or a young lady? Can you mentally switch to see the other?

Can you see both at the same time? Can both co-exist at the same time?

Basically it's hitting the hardware limits of the human mind to try and see both. Perhaps it is possible to train oneself to see both at once without slipping into one over the other. But a default human sees one or the other, not both in co-existance.

Same basically goes for GNS at the game table. Note that just like you can mentally switch from one image to the other, you could do this as a group in terms of creative agenda, at the gaming table during play. It's possible to keep switching creative 'gears' back and forth. But both in co-existance? About as much as seeing both young and old woman at the exact same time.

Or that's how I'd put it, anyway.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: contracycle on August 23, 2009, 01:19:17 AM
In this case, both more premise and more effectiveness can result, but its still not "hybrid" because GNS says it must be one or the other.

Need to bust this out.  This is not an a priori assertion, it is a conclusion[/].

Quote
Therefore it looks at the whole things overall and says that the premise-addressing happened within the effectiveness-ramping challenges. Therefore its Step On Up. Am I mis-understanding how this is working?

Yes.  Because the GNS determination is not made on the bases of which techniques were in play, but on what was rewarded.

So in order to make such an assesment, you would need to find out what the players were grooving on,  how the interpreted its meaning to them, what they particularly remembered about this event.  And it is likely then that it will be either that enjoyed and appreciated the stepping up with the moral issues as set dressing, or vice versa.

And there you find out what was rewarded, both socially and mechanically.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Caldis on August 23, 2009, 08:27:44 PM
All in all, I am coming more and more online with the idea that agendas are separate animals, but I still don't see why they can't co-exist. With the Rifts game for example, other than the players that didn't enjoy things as they were (the Lt may have been the only one), I see a lot of Step On Up. Every challenge fed into every other challenge after it, increasing or decreasing effectiveness. There was no premise that I could see. But I don't see why there couldn't have been. What I do see is that if premise had been premise, then at the times when it was being addressed, gamist play would be taking a backseat at best. That is, if overall the challenge involves future effectiveness, it feeds into gamist play, if it feeds into more premise, its narrativist play (I don't understand Sim reward at all, so I'm really craving an example!). In this way, it looks to me like the GNS is only good for telling you what is happening overall, even though things seem be overlapping. For example, lets say that in the Rifts game there was a premise, doesn't matter what. And within a given challenge (doesn't matter which) that premise was being addressed, and even the individual actions of the players (such as the choice to use MD weapons or not because of the fallout) helped address the premise as well as determining future effectiveness. In this case, both more premise and more effectiveness can result, but its still not "hybrid" because GNS says it must be one or the other. Therefore it looks at the whole things overall and says that the premise-addressing happened within the effectiveness-ramping challenges. Therefore its Step On Up. Am I mis-understanding how this is working?

I think you are pretty much getting it.  The problem with them coexisting if you look back at the example, how do you think the author and GM would react to someone deciding not to use MD weapons?  I'm guessing the same way he did with the Lt. that didnt try and get more equipment, he'd think it's poor play and a mistake.  He'd treat it as such and make it that much more likely the group would fail.  If the rest of the group is trying to succeed (stepping up to the situation) the player that is making suboptimal decisions to instead address premise is quickly going to be looked down on.   It is possible that a player could come up with an moral decision based action that didnt mess with the bigger gamist goal, didnt make it harder to achieve their objective, but it wouldnt be rewarded and influence play.  It would happen and then be pretty much ignored which isnt Story Now it's a moment of character development taking place during Step on Up.  It's exactly the same as the combat and tactical play going on in your example of Story Now play.

I have an example of a Sim play showing reward cycles but it's from awhile back so I have to think on it a bit.  I'll post it as soon as I have the time.


Title: Re: GNS and Hierarchy
Post by: Ayyavazi on August 25, 2009, 05:08:44 PM
Thanks everyone again,

Caldis, I understand the old lady thing. The primary discussion here is that I don't need analogies to understand the concept of creative agendas being exclusive. I get that. What I am ultimately questioning and discussing is that I disagree with the analogies and the concept they are explaining in the first place. That is, I fundamentally disagree (or at least I did. Now I'm on the fence) with the assumption that each agenda is exclusively executable. Therefore, all the analogies in the world do nothing to clarify the problem for me, because I already understand it and simply disagree. But there's no hostility here, I'm just clarifying the point.


I think something has slipped through the cracks. When I asked about reward cycles and play examples, I also asked about the variations within agenda. To clarify, I not only need a Step On Up play example, I need several. I need one example for each of the possible dial combinations (this will give me an increasingly clear view of Step On Up, and each other agenda). I also need the variations on Story Now to be expressed, and the variations of Right to Dream. I believe this is critically important to my understanding of GNS as a whole.

Now, on to GNS being about what was rewarded. In the example Rifts game, obviously the GM would have seen the sub-optimal Story Now choice about MD weapons as a poor tactical decision. That is because the game was very much pointed toward Step On Up. Especially when you consider that it involved two rival groups that were supposed to come head to head by design. That whole structure pointed to Step On Up so strongly that it would take a fool to try to swim against its current (or perhaps a serenely naive person such as I seem to be).

What was being rewarded was tactical thinking. In fact, there was even supposed to be a clear winner (and in my opinion there was).

Adding Story Now to such a game would have required complete separation of the initial concept: two rival groups of players.

But if Creative Agenda is only based on what is rewarded, I still have trouble understanding why the two agendas are mutually exclusive. Oddly enough, you claim that one has to be dressing and the other front and center, the exact assumption this thread made: that there can be a hierarchy of agendas. Now, if agenda is defined as being what is rewarded, and each agenda is individually defined as automatically being exclusive in execution, then no combination of the agendas can occur by definition. It is the definition of each agenda as exclusive that I am questioning, just to be clear. Therefore, analogies explaining why are useless. One good thing is that I have been made aware that techniques are not agenda. Thats why I am trying to examine reward cycles. But I feel that I must re-iterate something that seems to have been forgotten, or looked over: I need not only reward cycles, but also to know what techniques are being used, and how their specific grouping points to a creative agenda in action. That will help me to understand why everyone defines them as exclusive.

So, I'll recap where my current thinking on this idea is: Rewarding a Step On Up agenda (which must be about increasing degrees of effectiveness and harder challenges) precludes Story Now (which requires richer and richer situations in which to address premise, and actually force, in a way, the addressing of premise) because at times one will be forced to choose between adressing premise and making a sub-optimal decision (which will reduce effectiveness, a big no-no for Step On Up) or to make the optimal choice and ignore Premise (though I can't think of a single example where choosing the optimal choice would not in one way answer a premise. Instead, I can only think of examples in which it would mean acting out of character for a character, which seems more of a Sim problem than a Nar problem. Perhaps the two are closely linked?).

But, even this assumes that eventually the choice must be made. It assumes that the two agendas are so antithetical to one another that it will inevitably come down to a choice moment, and the choice (a technique or ephemera, I'm not sure which) will actually in this instance determine the agenda in action. But I still don't see why these asumptions are made. Why is it assumed that the two agendas will inevitably force a choice between optimization and increasing success and addressing of Premise? What are the key differences in techniques, ephemera, and rewards that cause this to be true?

Also, I would like to know if you all think this is an appropriate point to split the topic into this thread and a thread to compile play examples.