Creating My Character an Interesting Situation - Director Stance in Sim?

Started by ODDin, January 10, 2008, 12:57:00 PM

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This issue arised while I was talking with a friend of mine about the GNS and our prefernces. At first, she said she was likely a Simulationist who enjoys a focus on character. But then she said she often does this thing in games which wasn't Simulationist. To simplify the example, she would often "GM" herself a small situation (out of character, that is), so as to create a situation that was interesting for her to play (while then playing strictly in Actor stance). For instance, her character went into another character's tent and began looking through his personal belongings. While that other character passed by, she (as a player) would say, "you notice my character doing this and that", or more elaborately adjust the situation so that the other character would actually notice that her character is doing what she isn't supposed to be doing. And then, when the other character noticed that, she would move on to play her own character.
She told me that this behaviour was a metagame behaviour that moved the storyline forward, and thus narrativist. I, however, claimed that since the main reason for her to do this was to create a situation that she enjoyed playing "in character" (and she doesn't change her own character's actions based on story demands and priorities), this was, in fact, a use of a director stance in Simulationism.
What would you people say?

Ron Edwards


So, this is a definitions thing. It's true that back when we were discussing GNS stuff originally, people tended to associate Director and Author Stances with Narrativist play, and Actor Stance with Simulationist play. However. pretty swiftly, the discussions revealed that such talk was all mistaken. Any Stance is compatible with any Creative Agenda.

That's why, in the current construction of the Big Model, Stance is actually a minor experiential and tactical detail, not a major feature of the Model at all. It's in the Ephemera category, meaning some facet of a Technique which appears and disappears, or in the case of Stance, shifts around ad lib, during play.

I also suggest that both you and your friend are committing a couple of minor intellectual errors about the ideas here. One is that no single Technique can be assigned a Creative Agenda identity. "This is a Narrativist behavior," is not a valid statement. On the other hand, one might very well say, "I prefer Narrativist play, and this is a Technique I use to reinforce it." That makes fine sense, but the use of the Technique does not in and of itself define the agenda.

Based on what you've described, I wouldn't be surprised if your friend were accustomed to being a kind of lieutenant GM, using a lot of Author and Director Stance to get conflicts into play, as well as solutions to conflicts. I've done that myself quite a few times. In and of itself, it's not necessarily Narrativist play, but I certainly did it with Narrativist goals in mind, and she may be doing the same.

I also suggest that pegging one another with GNS labels is not necessarily a constructive thing to do. It depends on stepping back and considering the group as a whole. For one thing, we (in the discussion) have no idea whether you're participating in coherent play at all, at the group level. If so, then you'll be able to see much more powerful and convincing evidence of the CA than nitpicking about individual tactics. If not, then your preferences are a minor part of play at most, and possibly exist only as private ideals, and as such, aren't really CAs at all, or yet.

Best, Ron


When I said "narrativist behaviour" I meant "a behaviour that indicates narrativist desires" - that is, when you're doing that, it suggests that you prefer narrativist play (or any other, for that matter).
So, as I see it, the question here lies in "what is her point in doing that" - if she does that in order to explore her character, wanting to create a situation interesting for her character and her character's development, then it's an indication of Simulationist play, but if she's doing that with the intention to make the story more interesting, then it's an indication of Narrativist play. Something like that?

Also, we weren't really trying to "label" each other - I just asked her what her general preferences were.

As a side note, I didn't play with her at the game from which she took that example. When she once played in a game I GMed, though, she used to simply approach me and ask whether I could include a certain episode in the game at one point or another - which is, essentially, the same thing as above, just executed differently.
So, unfortunately, I can't truly judge to what extent it was coherent, much less what the other players truly want of the game.

However, when I read your post, another question arises. You said, "[If your play isn't coherent], then your preferences are a minor part of play at most, and possibly exist only as private ideals, and as such, aren't really CAs at all, or yet". I thought that in an incoherent play everyone has a certain CA, and the whole point is that they clash - one comes with a Gamist CA and another comes with a Simulationst CA, for instance. But you're implying that if the play isn't coherent, the players haven't even got a CA? What then?

Ron Edwards

Hi Michael,

I'll answer your last question first. Incoherence can arise for lots of reasons. One is certainly a clash of CA expectations across a group. In the early discussions at the Gaming Outpost and the Forge, it's probably not surprising that we focused on clashes of strong CA expectations as a problem, because that matched the experiences of people like me, Mike Holmes, Paul, and others.

However, over the years of discussion here and an exposure to a much broader range of actual play, I've realized that it's more common to see a group without much CA going on at all. Walt Freitag called this "Zilchplay," which usually results from people being so accustomed to their goals-of-play being irrelevant to play, that they have pretty much given up. They might have minor or fleeting bits of their desired agendas expressed, once in a while, but not much.

I'm not suggesting that the group being described in this case is engaging in Zilchplay, but I am saying that if this or any other incoherent situation is going on, then talking about a given individual's goals is a little abstract. It's talking about an ideal or a desired but brief moment of satisfaction, rather than talking about an ongoing successful activity.

Now for what you stated first. You're talking about a given Technique ("behavior," "doing that") as an indicator of CA preferences. I really do not recommend this approach to the question, unless we can learn a lot more about that group, and about how that particular Technique relates to the rest of the session. Once it's in context, then sure, it can be useful. But in isolation, the way you've presented it here so far, there's nothing to be concluded. She does X. OK, she does X, and that's all we can say.

Now for the hard part ...

You wrote,

Quotethe question here lies in "what is her point in doing that" - if she does that in order to explore her character, wanting to create a situation interesting for her character and her character's development, then it's an indication of Simulationist play, but if she's doing that with the intention to make the story more interesting, then it's an indication of Narrativist play. Something like that?

The trouble is, both of those can be the same thing. If a character faces interesting situations and develops in that context, then the result is often a more interesting story.

Many people, myself included, who prefer Narrativist play often do so from a character-centric approach which doesn't look forward much, but merely concerns itself with interesting situations which will promote character development. (And this is only a small part of the diverse Narrativist approaches that are possible.)

Conversely, and as a little more way-out idea to reinforce my point, many people who prefer Simulationist play often do so from a systems-centric approach which doesn't care much about the characters, but more about the logistics of the encounters and their outcomes. (Again, this is only a small part of the diverse Simulationist approaches that are possible.)

Don't get me wrong. I think you and your friend's discussion is a good thing. What I'd like to see is an account of play which really nails down how her actions (of this kind) related to the rest of the group and the way they all played, her included, most of the time. Can you do that for the game that you GMed with her in it? I think that account would be a great foundation for talking about CA preferences and Techniques which indicate or express them.

Best, Ron


Hey, sorry I was overdue with the reply. My math courses at the uni took an attack of opportunity against me. :)

Anyway, I'll only talk about the game I GMed, since I can't really get her to write down an account of what's going on at her game (I'm working on that, though).

I'm not sure what will come out of it, though, since it was a horrible game, which had more or less every trouble a game can have.

The story begins with me. It all happened about 2 years ago, maybe a bit less. I was invited to play D&D for the first time in my life, and we had 3 sessions, and then it ended because peopl were busy and stuff. I had loads of fun, and was constantly thinking, "damn, I wanna do more of that!". Yet time passed, and nothing came. I had no real connection with the community of role-players in Israel, and barely knew how the whole thing worked (I didn't even know what a con is...). So after sitting around doing nothing, I thought, "well, if nobody's doing anything, I might as well. How hard could it be?"
That was problem number one - me GMing a game with practically zero playing experience.

Problem number two was the fact that I decided to do a horror campaign. Why I truly can't remember, but I did. And, of course, using D&D, since back int he day I didn't know there were other systems.

Other problems included inner soap operas within the group that had nothing to do with the game at hand, a player that was concerned making jokes and another player playing along half of the time, with me being too much of an introvert to do anything about it (and some out-of-game tensions between us didn't help). The player who did the jokes later admitted that he can't think of himself actually immersing in a horro campaign to a level of getting himself into the atmosphere required, but wanted to play and it was the only game available...

The game had a few highlights, but on the whole it was very poor, and it can be considered a mediocre- ordinary fantasy RPG, or a terrible-- horror RPG, which eventually dwindled into nothingness with overall annoyance and boredom, although it took it over a year to do so (!).

So, in your words, there wasn't any coherence to begin with, and it was pretty much just people pushing into their own directions every now and then. Thus, I'm not sure how much useful information can be taken from this. But I'll try. So as for my aforementioned friend - and since she also happens to be my girlfriend and has a name, Inna, I guess I'll call her that from now on. :)
So, she's the sort of player that takes her character very seriously - she spends a lot of time thinking it thoroughly, writing down a full biogrpahy and things like that. And I think that's great. On top of that, she specifically asked me to insert elements about her character into the plotline of the game, and every liberty I allowed her to take about the setting, she joyfully took - now that I think of it, "lieutenant GM" is really a perfect term here. At that point, she didn't actually use the Director stance during play itself - she would play strictly using the Actor stance. She would only ask me, as the GM, to insert this and that into the game.
However, I think it's something more akin to "simulationist-by-habit", although the term is bad here; it's more of an "actor-by-habit", since using the director stance directly in-game isn't non-simulationist (to the extent that one can talk about CA in a completely incoherent situation, of course).
As I understand it, in the game she's playing now she actually uses the director stance in-game, but I'll wait for her to better confirm that.

P.S. So yes, I've been (and still am) doing a lot of catching-up work to complement my meager 2 years in the field. :)