[Werewolf] Simulationism: Dreaming is cool, but what's with "The Right"?

Started by David Berg, January 02, 2008, 01:16:04 AM

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David Berg

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 04, 2008, 08:16:52 PM(as well as the original constructive denial threads, which I just reviewed)
Would you mind providing links to these?  The only one I know of is "ignoring the subjective" (previously linked in this thread).
Thanks,  David
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

David Berg

I PMed Ron this:
QuoteOkay, cool, I'll try to stay focused on "The Right" in the thread, and not get sidetracked by other Simulationism issues.  I have this idea brewing, though, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on it
and, to my surprise, he said my idea would be appropriate to add to this thread.  So, here it is:

It seems to me like many players have a disconnect, where they say, "If my game is Sim, and that other guy's game is Sim, then 'Sim' is meaningless, because my group's Creative Agenda doesn't resemble his group's."  And I think they are quite right in that there is a key "point of play" that is different; it's just that the difference may not be quite of the CA level.

My idea is that the difference lies between the "inviolable packages", specifically because these packages tell you the point of play.  Not just the genre, or the setting, but what we're gonna do that'll be fun.  So there are as many different versions of "the basic thing that is fun" as there are "packages".

The only thing these different fun activities have in common is the most basic, fundamental platform of why they're fun.  And that "why" is the Right to Dream.

So it's correct to say that "this game is fun cuz it emulates X" or "that game is fun cuz it simulates A+B", but that isn't the whole picture.  The whole picture is that "this game is fun cuz we have the Right to Dream an emulation of X" and "that game is fun cuz we have the Right to Dream a simulation of A+B."

I don't know what Narrativists tell each other about why they prefer one functional Nar game over another functional Nar game.  But this fomulation of mine would seem to give Simulationists a way to talk about their preferences.  "That package just ain't my kinda package," like I said w.r.t. Dead of Night, would be a totally valid statement of incompatibility, without having to include, "that CA ain't my CA."

What do you think?


P.S. It would also make sense to me to take "Right to Dream" + "the 'inviolable package' statement of purpose" and talk about them jointly as an individual game's Creative Agenda.  This would then render Simulationism a type of CA; there would be as many distinct Simulationist CAs as there would be "packages".  Just throwin' it out there; clearly, my understanding of CA in pure abstraction is fuzzy.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Ron Edwards

Hi David,

The logistics of posting are starting to conflict with real life, so I'll reserve my answer to the last post for later. Here are the links you asked for:

Simulationism aside - This is the parent thread which begins wonderfully, and then demonstrates a whole bunch of people with "Simulationism" written on their dicks, swinging them about. It's pretty much a "state of the art" thread that represents the painful defined-but-not-yet status of the term that persisted from about 2002 through 2006.
Ignoring the subjective - This is the one you linked to already, where the term arose for the first time.
Constructive denial? - This one begins with a terminological question, and then gets into some really great "say it for myself" posts from a lot of different people. It's where the idea really matured. I composed my replies in this thread in the mistaken assumption that you'd read this, which might explain a bit of the confusion so far.

It's not a lot more, but it's helpful to see it all in context, and that last thread is pretty important, I think.

Here are some applications of the term in the Actual Play forum, in chronological order, not including threads you started:

[Transhuman Space] First attempts at Sim play
[Middle Earth - home-brew] - A first, another group with the same play style!
[D&D-like system] Analyzing play styles
[Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of evil and of Simulationism
Play prep and NPCs
The players' role in Participatory play

I'll be back when I can.

Best, Ron

David Berg

Take as much time as you need, it won't blunt my enthusiasm.  I could probably stand to do more reading and less writing for a bit anyway.  (Plus less time overall staring at the goddamn computer.)
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


Quote from: David Berg on January 04, 2008, 10:53:45 PMP.S. It would also make sense to me to take "Right to Dream" + "the 'inviolable package' statement of purpose" and talk about them jointly as an individual game's Creative Agenda.  This would then render Simulationism a type of CA; there would be as many distinct Simulationist CAs as there would be "packages".  Just throwin' it out there; clearly, my understanding of CA in pure abstraction is fuzzy.

This idea sounds very similar to the idea of skewers that I think is pretty much canon. 

Here's a link that should help.  It's not a huge discussion but the first few posts should help  or at least show that you arent out on a limb by yourself. :)

Ron Edwards

Hi David,

Caldis is right.

All of this means you're simply catching up to the existing state of the art. In 2000-2001, I argued very strongly that any CA can only be discussed meaningfully in the context of a given group playing a given game; you can see that in my big GNS and Other Matters essay. A bit later, we arrived at the notion that no CA can be exemplified in its full range by a given instance of play, and indeed, the conformation of Social Contract, organization of the starting SIS, and Techniques gives rise to as many "they're not like us" comparisons within a given CA as among CAs. The robustness of CA as a concept even in the face of this internal diversity (and often separatism) has impressed everyone involved in the discussions, just as you say, because "The Right to Dream" (for instance) does remain consistent among its range. I strongly recommend checking out the "diversity within CA" sections in each of my three specific-CA essays. A lot of this was further nailed down at the community-dialogue level in the Infamous Five threads, the ones conducted in Actual Play (links in the Site Discussion sticky).

Looking over the thread, we've dealt with three topics, actually. Each led nicely into the next, which is why I recommended staying with it for each shift, but this last transition has caused one problem for me. My post about the rights (bottom of the first page) was pretty hard core and intended to be meaty enough for a reflective break. You haven't provided any acknowledgment of those points and whether they answered your concerns, which at the time seemed pretty urgent. You asked for links and got them, and you asked new questions. So now I think it's a really good time to examine both that post and this last bit about diversity within CA, and to take some time - probably a lot of time - for digesting them.

Best, Ron

David Berg

Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 04, 2008, 08:16:52 PMI suggest that rights are always recognized, exerted, and preserved in the context of a set of historical agreements which everyone pretends don't exist, instead referencing things like "natural" or "inalienable" or "human."

So let's look at rights in action: they can be invoked to permit someone to do something without being blocked, to provide force and convincing power to something that is being done at the moment, and to seek redress for someone who tried to do something but was prevented or punished for it. In all cases, in order for the concept of "right" to function in any of these ways, the set of agreements I just wrote about must be operating among the members of the larger society. Otherwise the talk of rights will be squashed, and the actions prevented, disrupted, or punished – the right by itself has no actual power; the agreements within which they operate is where the power is.

As we are talking about Simulationist play, the constructive denial is the context that applies at any stage of dealing with the SIS, in whatever way works for that particular stage.

All this makes sense to me.  I see that my attempts to shove this process into small, manageable compartments have been somewhat missing its scope.  I'll think on how this formulation relates to my actual play experiences, and I'll post once I've come to an understanding that I can illustrate via play accounts.

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

David Berg

Damn it!  I've been trying to whittle out for myself something that Ron already stated here
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

David Berg

Okay, after reading all the threads inked above, plus others, there are tons of issues I'm still not clear on.  But I feel pretty good about my understanding of the identity of the Right in "The Right to Dream".  (Means?  Function in context?  Not so much.  That'll follow in another post.)

Before I give my take on "the Right", I'd like to clear up some dangling issues:

Quote from: Ron EdwardsI hope you can see that your Werewolf game was already unable to be played as safely as you describe.

Absolutely.  I was just hypothesizing to test the limits.  I agree with your description of how no-challenge play would suck, whether it's Simulationist or not.

Quote from: Ron EdwardsWhat you're really talking about is the Black Curtain as I've defined it, with the interesting twist that the GM told you that her decision was not as fraught with risk as he wanted her to believe.

Er, no, he told HER as well.  The "no risk" reassurance was extended to all.  I just mention this in case this example comes up again.

Quote from: Ron EdwardsI was trying to counterweight your stated emphasis on initiating scenes . . . I'll say it this way: "Don't forget that within-scene stuff and outcome-of-scene stuff are also subject to consideration from the perspective of the constructive denial going on for that group."

Does that help?
(emphasis mine)

Yes it does help.  I dig it.

Okay, on to the Right.  Here's some more Actual Play:

Okay, let me label three characters here:
John's character is Shimmer
Meg's character is Elantrine
My character is Robert

Elantrine gets brainwashed by the Black Spiral Dancers and rejoins the party as a chaos-loving nutjob.  Meg charges into the portrayal and succeeds in fascinating all of us with the depth of Elantrine's transformation.

Shimmer finds her creepy, and becomes distrustful of both her and Robert.

Robert and the Black Spiral Dancers form a plan to get the Vampires pissed off at the Werewolves, and then to release the Werewolves' whereabouts to the Vampires.  We know the Vampires have allies in the U.S. government, and we hope they'll use their clout to wipe out the Werewolves.  Elantrine goes along happily, Shimmer reluctantly.

The plan works.  We successfully piss off the Vampires and implicate the Werewolves.  We hide in our cave, anticipating some sort of attack on the Werewolf haven in Staten Island.  Shimmer has some trepidations, but Robert manages to convince him that getting rid of the Werewolves will be good for the various changing breeds of the area and make it easier for us to build them into one happy family.

I look at Matt, raise an eyebrow hesitantly, and say, "Now might be a good time for Robert to fulfill his oath and save a few lives for Great Bear?"

Matt gives me a cautioning stare, "Would Robert really risk being away from the cave when shit might go down any second?"

So Robert stays put.

Then the U.S. government (which is in a sort of cold war vs. New York City) nukes Staten Island.

Matt describes the monumental carnage and we all go bug-eyed.  John's reaction is instantaneous: he's devastated.  Meg says, "Whoa!" 

I start to smile, and Matt sees my look, and launches into a diatribe about how nuclear detonation is not considered "appropriate" destruction by anyone; it's a violation of every definition of Gaia and nature, and fucks up the spirit world.  I wrinkle my nose.  Matt continues to say that Death By Nuke floods the realms of the dead with dangerous spirits and souls that can't pass on.  Graceful, proper death is Robert's thing, so now I join in John's horror.

Shimmer turns into his giant dragon combat form and starts screaming about how we were responsible for this atrocity.  Robert backs off and says he's just as pissed, but this wasn't out fault, it was those goddamn Vampires and the goddamn U.S. govt.  Shimmer rants about the damage done to the earth mother, while Robert winces and nods sympathetically.

"Oh, come on," says Elantrine, "you gotta admit it was kinda cool."

John throws up his hands and looks at Matt helplessly.  "I bite her head off."

Meg looks a little surprised.  She turns to John and goes, "Hey!"

John looks at me and Matt, mouth open and hands up.  With utter desperation in his voice, as if he's expecting anger and criticism to be rained down upon him, he yells, "What was I supposed to do?!" 

Matt and I both nod sheepishly, and then look at Meg with shrugs, as if to say, "What did you expect?"

John lets out a huge sigh of relief.

Meg giggles and then pouts.  Matt breaks out the dice, John rolls a hit, rolls a shitload of damage; Elantrine soaks a paltry amount of it and is dead.  This is exactly what we would have expected given the characters' stats.  Matt describes Elantrine's head coming clean off in Shimmer's mouth.

So, John's decision is allowed to enter into the realm of the played, and in the process, all the rights Ron referred to are exercised:

1) John is permitted to perform the action that he feels is "correct" without being blocked.

2) The shared sense of priorities amongst John, Matt and myself provides convincing power to John's statement, "I bite her head off."  Collectively, we say, "You are indeed correct in exercising your right to do that.  This murder accords well with our sense of game propriety.  Let the head be severed!"

3) Meg's attempt to punish John's declaration of action ("Hey!" being said in a quite accusatory tone) was quickly overridden (Matt being the entrenched arbiter of such issues in this game) and John's right reinstated.

The initial right that Ron mentioned in this thread, the right to tweak the shared material "very strongly", is on display as well.  One PC decapitating another is a pretty strong tweak to a package that includes X-Men and teamwork.

Is this kind of exercise of rights regarding creative contribution an appealing reason to roleplay, every bit as much as Step On Up or Story Now?  Well, it sure is for me.  I like coming up with ideas and seeing my fellow players interact with them.  My idea that "Robert gets Elantrine brainwashed!" vastly contorted the SIS and I got a huge kick out of that.

So, I think I get "The Right to Dream."

Do I get how that Right is allowed to flourish as anything other than a lucky accident?  No.  I'll write more on that soon, referring to this same example of play (in a new thread if Ron wants, otherwise in this one).  First, though, I'd like to give Ron a chance to respond to this post and tell me if he feels my analysis is on track so far.

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


I think your reading of the situation sounds about right David.  I do have a few questions if you dont mind.

What affect did this event have on the game?  Was this a dramatic conclusion to the whole game or did it continue on afterwords?  If the game continued what was Meg's invovlement afterwords?  Did you sense any difference in how her new character reacted to the other characters, or maybe in the type of character she chose?  How about the relationship between Robert and Shimmer, was it affected by these events?

David Berg

Answering these questions in detail will incline me toward some of the other topics I wanna discuss beyond "The Right".  So for now, I'll just give the short answers:
- The game continued for many more sessions, until Matt's metaplot had been resolved and the PCs had helped save the world from the Main Evil Threat.
- Elantrine came back as a wraith and haunted Shimmer.  This mainly consisted of Meg saying annoying things to John at comedically-timed moments.  Meg had already been wanting to go to sleep earlier, and took Elantrine's new condition as an excuse to be a part-time player.
- Shimmer was distrustful of Robertt for a little while.  I think John sought out some private time between Shimmer and like-minded NPCs, but Matt didn't give him much to work with.  Shimmer got over his distrust when Robert decided the Spiral Dancers actually were evil and had to go.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Ron Edwards

Hi David,

Well, here's my thinking.

You've nailed down an excellent understanding of Simulationist play and other aspects of the Big Model relative to your experiences. That's a key goal of this forum and I hope it's fun to do.

Your experiences as you've related them are, as I see them, based on a fairly thin and unreliable connection between Social Contract and Creative Agenda, which means the CA itself is fairly feeble. That's not an indictment! (i) One of the reasons that I spend a lot of time working with your threads is that what you report parallels my own experiences 1985-1990.  (ii) You and the others did in fact keep a CA alive for your game, which is a hell of a lot more than a lot of people in your position do or did.

What I'm saying is, I think you (reasonably, based on what you've done and seen) associate CA with the work it took to keep CA alive in a relatively unfavorable environment. I could baldly state that coherent play is, or can be, so effortless that no one would even imagine going through the sort of negotiation of "is it all right? is it all right" that you describe for that crucial scene in the Werewolf game. But why or how could you believe me? There's no point to making such a claim in the sense of an argument, although there is a point to letting you know that it's where I'm coming from.

What is this difficulty that I see in the Social Contract / Creative Agenda connection, in your game? Hell, I saw it every damned week I played during that five-year period I talked about, so it's not hard. It's the idea that "the point" of play is owned by a GM, and that everyone else, "players," are literally incapable of supporting it without constant corralling and supervision. The typical way this is accomplished is for the characters - no matter how much bad-assery they represent - to be unable to affect anything without approval, whether immediate (doing enough damage to kill someone) or scenario/story based (accomplishing a given goal). This leads to a particular non-productive tension between the mechanics, which are often dedicated to affecting things ("effectiveness") and the basic goals of play - which is why that misbegotten Golden Rule exists, stated as it is.

Anyway, I would prefer not to let this post turn into the basis for yet another long screed (I did a couple of those in the last two weeks, while developing a fever, a cold, and pneumonia simultaneously, and I'm tired!). I think I'd like this post to sit on its own and get processed over the very long term, rather than generate new questions at this point.

I really appreciate that you've begun this thread and followed up so beautifully on the discussion of a year ago. It's been a pleasure.

Best, Ron

David Berg

Hi Ron,

Gack!  Don't fuck around with pneumonia.  I've been unpleasantly surprised by how hard it can be to shake that.  Best of luck!

I think your summary of my play experiences is quite accurate, so abiding by your "no long screed based on this post!" request will be a piece of cake for me.  Letting the implications simmer on the mental back-burner sounds about right.

I do, however, have a few vexing questions (re: terms definitions and design role) that relate to subjects covered earlier in this thread.  Would you prefer that I start new threads to address those?  Or do you think this thread is a fine place, but you'd like to bow out for the time being?

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

David Berg

Okay, after sitting on this for a while, I've decided to pursue my related design questions later, after some more revisions and playtests of my Lendrhald game.  As for my terminology confusion, I've started a new thread on constructive denial here.  I hope it'll be short and sweet, but we'll see.

Ron, thanks for your time and insights.  Despite some "I want to understand faster!" frustrations on my end, this thread has been fun for me as well.

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development