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Author Topic: Addition to GNS Model  (Read 3365 times)
Nexus6
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Posts: 4


« on: July 06, 2009, 11:57:19 AM »

Hi, this is my first post to the Forge forums.

I'm a relative role-playing neophyte, but am vastly interested in the theory of it and the like.  While reading through the articles on GNS theory, I was surprised to not recognize myself in any of the three reasons for role-playing.  Some Simulationist ideas are close, but the reason I role-play is fundamentally different at the core.  I considered writing a full article, but thought I would post a preliminary post to see what the community thinks, in case this has been covered somewhere already.  So, for that reason, I will keep it brief.

I present, for consideration, the idea of Emergentism.  I role-play to discover what emergent content will arise from the combination of a set of rules, player ideas and reactions, and GM ideas and reactions.  This sort of play shuns the idea of the GM as storyteller, and lets events occur organically.  The real reward of this type of play is the true surprise.  The events and story of the game are unpredictable (even by the GM), and therefore strive towards a kind of ephemeral state, working similarly to many other decentralized systems, such as evolution or ant colonies.  I would love to take it further than this if anyone has any interest.

Ron Edwards touched on this a bit in his Simulationism article, but it seems to me that it is a different subject altogether, not relying on any sort of Simulationist play.

I hope this post is in the right forum; I would have posted it in GNS Theory if it was still open.  Thanks, and I anticipate any and all feedback!

-Morgan

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Caldis
Member

Posts: 392


« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2009, 02:24:37 PM »


I'm not a moderator but I'd say this is probably in the wrong forum.  Your best bet is to try and showcase your idea of Emergentism through an example of play you've had.  Try and show how all the participants, players and gm alike were trying to persue this goal of emergentism.  Tell us what you mean by a 'set of rules'; is this a physics engine, a way to moderate player input, or what specifically?  What types of ideas do the players bring to the game, how does that compare to the ideas the gm brings?

If you can do this I believe the discussion can be fruitful and will likely be moved to the Actual Play forum.  My initial reaction to the idea is that you are confusing Exploration, the base activity of all roleplaying, for Creative Agenda (GNS).  You may want to look over the glossary in the articles section and see if you can highlight how your version is more related to a CA.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 03:48:38 PM »

Hi there, and welcome.

I'm happy to discuss your idea, but it will have to be positioned differently to be an eligible topic at the Forge. As Caldis said, you should demonstrate what you mean by describing play. It can be at any scope or scale, it can be from long ago in the past or yesterday, it can be anything, as long as it really happened and you can explain it to us.

That's absolutely required for this topic to be continued. If you like, state that you'd like to do that, and I'll move this thread to the Actual Play forum.

Best, Ron
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Nexus6
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2009, 05:00:25 PM »

Great, thanks for the guidance.  Here is an actual play example of how I view what I am calling Emergentism:

(The game is D&D, and I was GMing)

Two players are being held in a castle.  The King leads them to a room that contains a portal (to a location unknown by the players) and two centaur guards.  As the players are being pushed towards the portal, they decide that they are going to do everything in their power not to go through the portal.  So when they get close, they grab one of the centaur guards.  After a series of strength and grapple checks, they end up pulling the centaur through the portal with them.  They end up in a place they know nothing about, and through a tense conversation, the players and the NPC centaur decide to work together to get out of their predicament.  The centaur ended up becoming a major NPC in the campaign.

As the GM of this campaign, I had no idea that the centaur I haphazardly placed into the room would become such a major NPC, with a back story and stats to boot.  It was the emergent result of the situation I presented, the players motivations, and a few dice rolls.  A different GM more concerned with the story as he had it laid out might have neutralized the centaur by making him aggressive and necessary to be killed by the players, hence bringing the campaign back to how the GM intended it to go.  This isn't a bad thing, but it isn't as interesting to me.

I'm sure these sort of events happen all the time in different games, but it's things like this that make role-playing fun and interesting to me, and I see it as different than Gamism, Narritavism, or Simulationism.

Does that make any sense?
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JoyWriter
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Posts: 500

also known as Josh W


« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2009, 06:51:50 PM »

Totally, to me anyway. It's been suggested that that angle corresponds to "let's see", when compared to "step on up", "story now" and "right to dream". It's also one of my favourite things. Seeing the difference between that and right to dream has helped me understand why when plot events totally shift a character, my brother gets a little sad at the loss of his concepted character, and I go "cool, I wonder where this will lead?". An exaggeration, but one of the dividing lines in how we play.

In the past few weeks I've been trying out the definition and it seems pretty legit as a fourth agenda, but one that conventionally shares a lot of mechanical elements with right to dream. If you want things to go "the right way" then you need to specify what changes keep it within "the right way". If you want to have it go off somewhere unexpected but reasonable based on the current situation, then you need rules that can respond flexibly to players decisions and to lots of elements in them. Now both of these can work well off of detailed cause and effect based systems (very crunchy systems), sometimes even the same system, depending on whether the GM feels compelled to add in extra story elements to get things "back on track". But they can go in very different ways; for example, a GM who doesn't try to restore the "original" path will need new advice relating to how to respond flexibly to players and keep giving them surprises of their own, and games can presumably be focused into charting out a particular area of possibility, by being more sensitive certain elements of what the players decide.

Now I may be wrong and this may just slide streight into "story now", but as I've currently understood it that doesn't have the same chaotic experimental feel as what I'm talking about; where one player makes an off hand comment and we expand on it to produce a larger plot or take previous elements out of context and reintroduce them elsewhere provoking new and interesting interactions, like long lost magic items turning up in the modern day.

I've heard Shock does this a bit, by twisting the world we know and exploring the ripples, but if I remember it focuses on asking specific questions, rather than just going off into that place and seeing what it turns into, by focusing on how things can change.
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Caldis
Member

Posts: 392


« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2009, 09:54:37 PM »


Yeah that makes sense to me and it is different than GNS.  I dont see it as an agenda that is guiding your entire groups play however rather it is a momentary reward that has come about because your group had a smoothly functioning agenda.

Let me give you a quote from Ron's Narrativism:Story Now essay. "Creative Agenda is the blanket term for people's demonstrated goals and desired feedback during play. In the past, I called it "GNS." Since all of this is enclosed in Social Contract, GNS-stuff is not only "what I want" but also "what I want from role-playing with this group of people."

So when we're looking for an agenda we're not just looking for that "Emergent" moment you described in your example but how with this group of people you are able to get to that moment.  I believe there are a lot of different ways to get to those moments and you can get to them, though they may look different, with each CA.   You've mentioned a few things that helped you get to this moment, things like grapple and strength checks but really those are only small parts of the whole.  There's a king and centaur guards and a situation where the characters being pushed towards a portal.  What decisions or actions did you as GM or the players involved take to get you to that point?

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Jasper Flick
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2009, 07:55:20 AM »

To me, your centaur is a fun example of going with the flow and responding to player input. Personally, I do all that all the time, regardless whichever CA might be at work.

I guess this is Emphemera and Technique stuff. They might facilitate a certain CA well, but they aren't CA themselves.

So either this thread will become "What is CA anyway?" all over again. Or it might deal with the presence of "Emergentism", not as a CA, but as a Technique, versus the lack thereof. Or I failed to grasp the issue.

Gamism and Narrativism: Mutually Exclusive is the latest topic with the ubiquitous CA troubles, where Ron gives a nice pig-lover example and links to the Frostfolk threads. Higly recommended!
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Ayyavazi
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Posts: 128


« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2009, 09:12:05 AM »

I can't recommend the Frostfolk threads enough. They helped me to understand Narrativism extremely well(at least I think they did).

Also, the aha moment you are referring to with the centaurs seems to parallel the frostfolk thread very well.

I just have one question for you about this idea that the story emerges without people being aware of how it will go ahead of time: You were the GM, and you obviously knew what was beyond the portal. You weren't in the dark at all about what challenges were upcoming, the only thing you didn't expect was that the players would co-opt one of your NPCs for not just the session, but the rest of the campaign. Surely you had knowledge (at the very least a glimmer of an outline) of the vague directions you wanted the story to progress in. Unless you are speaking of everyone not knowing where the story is going, it seems like what you did would be better termed Intergrationism, by which players integrate each other's ideas constantly, never knowing the end result. But it sounds to me very narrativist. Then again, I'm new to all of this, so take it with a BIG grain of salt.

Cheers,

--Norm
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Marshall Burns
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2009, 03:19:47 PM »

This is touchy. All roleplaying is about "let's see what happens." The distinction between Creative Agendas is why we care what happens.

But there's a little more to it than that, because sometimes the reason we care what happens is just because it's fascinating (or funny or cool or whatever) in itself. We just celebrate the happening, for itself, because it's neat. Kinda like model trains. For example, look at this (fairly brief and funny) playtest report: [Super Action Now!] Bubba Bad's bad day. Is this the sort of thing you're getting at, Morgan?

I'd like to say more, but I need the answer to that question first, otherwise I'll just be going off on something irrelevant.

-Marshall
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Alan
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2009, 08:28:53 PM »

Hi Nexus,

Check out Ron's post to another recent thread
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28247.msg265990#msg265990 where describes Exploration as the platform that supports a second construction of Creative Agenda.

I think your example of the centaur NPC being promoted by events from spearcarrier to companion is an example of imagination at play, which is essentially Exploration. What do you think?
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
rgrassi
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Posts: 69


« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2009, 01:58:40 AM »

Hi,

This is touchy. All roleplaying is about "let's see what happens."

I think that roleplaying (especially tabletop with human players) is "let's decide what happens."
The way how things to happen are decided vary according to system used.
Getting back in my corner... ;)
Rob
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JoyWriter
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Posts: 500

also known as Josh W


« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2009, 07:15:33 AM »

I think the fact that something can exist fleetingly in another CA doesn't stop it having it's own "place" where it gets centre stage. I remember playing this game with a friend of mine in primary school, which was basically setting up random sentence generators and having a chat to them. Really funny, and so much easier now we have easily available computing. We didn't decide anything, we just enjoyed poking things and seeing what happened.

The randomness sounds pretty like your example Marshal, (which is really funny in an absurdist kind of way) only I'm a bit older now and I want to upscale the principle to bigger, more adult things. I like guessing and being proved wrong, in a way that turns red herrings into the main plot and obvious next steps into nothing at all, but in a way that makes sense with hindsight.

So what's the bit that gets centre stage? Well Ron posted this before:

Quote
For a given instance of play, the three modes are exclusive in application. When someone tells me that their role-playing is "all three," what I see from them is this: features of (say) two of the goals appear in concert with, or in service to, the main one, but two or more fully-prioritized goals are not present at the same time. So in the course of Narrativist or Simulationist play, moments or aspects of competition that contribute to the main goal are not Gamism. In the course of Gamist or Simulationist play, moments of thematic commentary that contribute to the main goal are not Narrativism. In the course of Narrativist or Gamist play, moments of attention to plausibility that contribute to the main goal are not Simulationism. The primary and not to be compromised goal is what it is for a given instance of play.

What if the main goal is surprise? Surprise that expands the predictive imagination? It can be absurd, but it doesn't have to be.

Now what do I mean about expanding predictive imagination? Well when we look ahead in a game and try to work out what happens next, we may only see so many paths. The fact that "anything could happen" because we are making it up is not strictly true; despite the fact that we could in theory say anything, we can get stuck and not be able to think of any, or maybe only three or four. So what if the game encourages you to look in more different directions, and subverts and expands your expectation? Well if your anything like me, then you get this wonderful feeling of the world opening up, of freedom, because now there are more ways to go than there were before. Now with that I can laugh or go ooh or aha or all kinds of other responses, but that's why for me it hits home; it expresses the openness of the future, and gets you more creative and open to meet it.

Maybe people can pack that into another creative agenda in a smooth and harmonious way, but beware of the temptation to say, "we just do that as a side effect, therefore it is always a side effect".
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Nexus6
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Posts: 4


« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2009, 10:04:28 AM »

Hey all!  Thanks for the thoughtful responses.  I've been sifting through all the various forums and trying to figure out how to respond to everyone.  That being said, I don't think this will respond to everyone, but there are a few important things I want to respond to:

-I think JoyWriter understands what I'm getting at, and their last post is a spot on.  These sort of moments can exist within any CA, just as an overwhelmingly Gamist event can occur in a primarily Narritavist campaign and so on.  But why can't the idea of events forming themselves inform the entire campaign?
What if the main goal is surprise? Surprise that expands the predictive imagination? It can be absurd, but it doesn't have to be.

Now what do I mean about expanding predictive imagination? Well when we look ahead in a game and try to work out what happens next, we may only see so many paths. The fact that "anything could happen" because we are making it up is not strictly true; despite the fact that we could in theory say anything, we can get stuck and not be able to think of any, or maybe only three or four. So what if the game encourages you to look in more different directions, and subverts and expands your expectation? Well if your anything like me, then you get this wonderful feeling of the world opening up, of freedom, because now there are more ways to go than there were before. Now with that I can laugh or go ooh or aha or all kinds of other responses, but that's why for me it hits home; it expresses the openness of the future, and gets you more creative and open to meet it.
Nail on the head.  Surprise is the real key to this idea.  And not just for the players, for the GM as well.

-rgrassi said something that I really like.  Most roleplaying does seem to be, "let's decide what happens."  "Let's SEE what happens" just brings a whole new sense of wonder and possibility to the idea.

-Marshall Burns posted a (very funny) example of some actual play he thought was relevant to this topic.  I'm not sure it is, but I can't tell by the description.  Marshall, how did those events arise?  Did the GM know the temple of rats was there?  Was there anything surprising to all parties?  A random element is key in the idea of Emergentism that I'm talking about.  But random in the sense of a dice roll, not "I just thought of this random thing" so much.  But that's a sticky area, because too many random rolls and you take away all choice.  There has to be a balance.

Anyway, I still think that this idea is worthy of constituting a different CA, though I can see how people are relating it to Exploration and such.  Maybe I'll clear my head a bit and post something else on that, but for the time being, like I said, JoyWriter seems to be spot on.

-Morgan
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Rustin
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Posts: 95


« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2009, 10:49:36 AM »

Perhaps it's the Fruitful Void of that groups' particular Story Now agenda.
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Caldis
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Posts: 392


« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2009, 02:16:34 PM »

I think the fact that something can exist fleetingly in another CA doesn't stop it having it's own "place" where it gets centre stage. I remember playing this game with a friend of mine in primary school, which was basically setting up random sentence generators and having a chat to them. Really funny, and so much easier now we have easily available computing. We didn't decide anything, we just enjoyed poking things and seeing what happened.

This little example may or may not meet the criteria for a seperate agenda but I dont see how it matches the op's example.  His game didnt contain randomly created nonsense that you try and jumble together to create something interesting.  Instead there was a specific setting, situation and characters whose interaction brought about new and unexpected results.  I think this is the heart of exploration or shared imagined space and why we play with other people rather than just sit around imaging things on our own.  We dont necessarily know how things will turn out or what others will do, which is both a challenge and an opportunity.  When you can take that opportunity and run with it it's a pretty amazing thing but it can also be tough when someone comes up with something totally unexpected.

Take this thread as an example. http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=12467.0

The players are suprising or maybe emergent content is coming about from each participants input but it's clearly not just surprise they are playing for or rather they have a focus to how they are bringing about those surprises.   There isnt enough in your example to say what the focus was for your game but I dont see any action taken on the part of the participants to bring about those surprises.  I do see a commitment to the situation, setting and system used and that combination brought about the surprise.



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