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Author Topic: Example Games to help me learn GNS  (Read 4810 times)
Ayyavazi
Member

Posts: 128


« on: August 11, 2009, 06:57:35 AM »

Hello all,

I have been trying to understand GNS for some time now, and am looking to read games that support different agendas (whether explicitly, or simply by coincidence). So, I want to know what games are good examples of the different agendas.

I already understand that there are different ways to play different agendas. Gamism has its dials, Sim has its different explorations, and Nar has its different approaches to Premise. So, if anyone would be so kind as to give me some games they think are a good example of a system supporting a specific play agenda (and its specific styles if possible), that would be great.

Thanks again,
--Norm
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2009, 07:15:10 AM »

Hi Norm!

Something I learned in these last years, is that the "teaching text" has to be tailored to the reader. For example, the game that made me realize, at last, what all these people were talking about when they talked about "narrativism" was Dogs in the Vineyard. For a player/GM with my past experiences in gaming, it really seemed like the author did know me personally and said what I needed to read. So, for a long time, I always pushed Dogs in the Vineyard as the text of choice for this. But, after I began to get some feedback from people I gave this advice, I discovered that there is a rather big category of people who simply "don't get dogs", that get stuck into trying to do "what the GM want" o that can't get his/her head about what they should do in the game, or that get stuck in a big pool of murk about some strange interpretations of simple phrases like "say yes or roll the dice" or "your conscience is your own".

So, I don't think that a single title would be good for everybody. We could write a list of "good" titles, for the people who will have the patience and perseverance to try every one of them when the first one wasn't enough, or we could try to get a more precise advice if you talk about your groups experiences and what is the parts of GNS you have more difficulty at this moment.
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Ayyavazi
Member

Posts: 128


« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2009, 08:27:25 AM »

I think getting a good list together would be a good starting point, since I enjoy reading game texts immensely, and often buy them just to read and own them, even though I will most likely never have a chance to play them.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2009, 08:32:57 AM »

The best way to understand GNS is to PLAY some games. Go play some of the games that classically represent certain schools of thought. Play them more than once. Play them exactly by the rules. Do not drift the rules.

Reading games isn't going to help you understand GNS/creative agenda that much. It's hard to understand how a game plays by reading it, especially if you haven't experienced the use of certain techniques, or certain combinations of techniques. Much of this stuff is an emergent effect. Ron and Vincent and Mike and Ralph might have finely honed skills for predicting how a set of rules might play out, but they'll be the first to go for Actual Play.

Here are some recommendations:

Gamist: D&D 4E*
Narrativist: Dogs in the Vineyard, Sorcerer*
Simulationist: Universalis, GURPS*, Dread

Just categorizing games is a path fraught with danger. These games /strongly support/ those creative agendas. They don't force them. Also, I might have chosen games poorly, especially in the Sim arena. Let's not start a flame war over GNS categories for games, people. If there is any debate over a game's CA-support classification, let's just remove it from the recommendation list and suggest another.

There are free quickstart rules for the *starred games available on John Kim's Free RPGs site.

Realize that by saying you'll never have a chance to play these games, you're admitting a certain "armchair theorist" nature. Keep that in mind as you debate with people who have actually played lots of games you haven't. I'm not saying your ideas aren't valued here. Just that you have strong opinions about stuff  you have likely never experienced. If you want to try some games out and cannot because of access to other players, there are games run online via Skype and other means. We can probably hook you up.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ayyavazi
Member

Posts: 128


« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2009, 09:47:10 AM »

Thanks Adam,

I agree with you about playing actual games. If I had the luxury of time and a group, I would play every game I own, and often. Given the circumstances, I live vicariously through the actual play threads. Lol. Anyhow, as for what you have on your list, I have read some GURPS (there's way too much there for me to read all of it right away), and have not read anything from Universalis and Dread. I'll have to look into those. The rest I have copies of and have read. Dogs seems a remarkable game I would love to play, I just haven't had the chance.

Thanks again and lets expand this so other people can use it. Maybe we could even clean up the topic by remaking it and have it stickied somewhere.

Cheers,
-Norm
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Vladius
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2009, 10:03:04 AM »

I would actually recommend that you ignore the GNS model, because it forces people into arbitrary categories. It's pretentious silliness that ignores the fact that most people who play RPGs play D&D, and that they enjoy doing it and probably won't switch to anything too dissimilar.
"Gamist" is supposed to mean that everyone is a min-maxing Munchkin who enjoys violence too much.
"Simulationist" is too vaguely defined to mean anything, seeing as simulating an environment is a natural byproduct of roleplaying anyway.
"Narrativist" is portrayed as the most pure, holy, and chaste form of roleplaying, when really it refers to a game that you could easily just play over the phone or around a campfire, and doesn't really have that many rules.

If you were to actually develop a roleplaying game without too much focus on just the setting, you would discover that these three elements come in naturally - "Gamism" is required to have any form of rules, "Simulationism" is required to have any playable characters, and "Narrativism" is required to have something to play through, or a GM.

Nobody, save the people who are rabid "Narrativists," actually endorse an "agenda" like one would politically and push for fundamental change toward their preferred type. They just play what is fun, which, more than often, is either "Gamist," or can't be categorized altogether because it depends on the GM.
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Adam Dray
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Posts: 743


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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2009, 10:23:33 AM »

Hey there, Vladius.

In fact, the Big Model in its current form does not at all use GNS (creative agenda) to categorize players. Your premise for why people should ignore GNS, therefore, is founded upon false "facts."

Creative agenda is a property of a group of players over a specific period of play. You get Bob and Chan and Dinesh together and you play for a couple evenings, and then you can look back at that play and say, "That was Gamist play" or "That was Narrativist play" or "That was Simulationist play." The theory says nothing at all about player motivation or categories, or personal "agendas." You're really, really wrong there.

Certainly players might enjoy a specific kind of play, but The Big Model doesn't really go there. I personally have enjoyed Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist play in my gaming past.

Further, I find your portrayals of the GNS types totally off the mark, even if I try to make sense of them by abstracting them to types of group play. Gamism is about enjoying challenge, not about being a violent min-maxer. Narrativism is about addressing human issues during play, not about "pure, holy, and chaste," rules-light play. Simulationism is about celebration of exploration (source material, system, characters, etc.) and getting it "Right," and it's pretty well understood here, I think, though there are disagreements about bits and pieces of it.

There are people who, like you, get it wrong and misrepresent the Big Model as it's accepted and understood around these parts. Some of them might have an Internet politics agenda. You seem to. If you don't like the theory, how about posting some actual play and discussing your ideas that way? What purpose does nay-saying serve in a conversation among people who want to understand each other better? Other than thread-crapping, I mean.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ayyavazi
Member

Posts: 128


« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2009, 10:28:46 AM »

Thanks for your comments Adam,
I am in agreement with you that oversimplification causes a lot of distress with GNS.

Vlad,

I appreciate your opinions and thank you for your input. However, being that your post does not actually address the topic, I kindly ask that you refrain from espousing further in this one. I have my own problems with the GNS, but I hardly think it is a crackpot theory that facilitates people feeling elite or superior or holier than thou. Some people might use it that way, but I am not planning to. I do agree that all of GNS is present in every game, which many of my topics are attempting to argue.

If you want, feel free to contribute meaningfully in those. They can be found in the actual play forum. Thanks again, and cheers!

--Norm
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Selene Tan
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Posts: 167


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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2009, 10:31:52 AM »

Norm,

Another Sim-focused game you can look at is Geiger Counter. The game's stated purpose is to give you the experience of both watching and starring in a survival-horror movie.
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Vladius
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2009, 12:21:02 PM »

Hey there, Vladius.

In fact, the Big Model in its current form does not at all use GNS (creative agenda) to categorize players. Your premise for why people should ignore GNS, therefore, is founded upon false "facts."

Creative agenda is a property of a group of players over a specific period of play. You get Bob and Chan and Dinesh together and you play for a couple evenings, and then you can look back at that play and say, "That was Gamist play" or "That was Narrativist play" or "That was Simulationist play." The theory says nothing at all about player motivation or categories, or personal "agendas." You're really, really wrong there.

Certainly players might enjoy a specific kind of play, but The Big Model doesn't really go there. I personally have enjoyed Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist play in my gaming past.

Further, I find your portrayals of the GNS types totally off the mark, even if I try to make sense of them by abstracting them to types of group play. Gamism is about enjoying challenge, not about being a violent min-maxer. Narrativism is about addressing human issues during play, not about "pure, holy, and chaste," rules-light play. Simulationism is about celebration of exploration (source material, system, characters, etc.) and getting it "Right," and it's pretty well understood here, I think, though there are disagreements about bits and pieces of it.

There are people who, like you, get it wrong and misrepresent the Big Model as it's accepted and understood around these parts. Some of them might have an Internet politics agenda. You seem to. If you don't like the theory, how about posting some actual play and discussing your ideas that way? What purpose does nay-saying serve in a conversation among people who want to understand each other better? Other than thread-crapping, I mean.

I was merely suggesting that he ignore the GNS theory. The burden of proof is on you as to why he should go through various games trying to understand something made up on the internet that doesn't make sense to certain people in the first place.

Yes, I have an "internet politics agenda" because I disagree with trying to form a psychological profile of roleplayers and roleplaying games.

What I was saying in terms of "agendas" is that some people here refer to certain games as having a creative agenda for one of the three types, and this certainly isn't true unless it's someone who has actually heard of the theory and has decided to act upon it (or you came up with the theory in the first place, and made Sorcerer.)

You cannot say "That was Gamist play," or "That was Simulationist play," or "That was Narrativist play," because it will always be all three. You cannot separate one from the other. There might be some games that are more rules-heavy than others, but that should be the theory in itself, not merely an axis on GNS. As it stands, I sense a lot of condescension towards "Gamist" people from those who support the theory.

Say I play a "Simulationist" game. (Or "S" game.) While playing an S game, I want to experience being an ultra powerful wizard type, and this is possible within the rules. Does this make me a G person, or does this mean that the game is split between G and S since magic is unrealistic? Or is it split in its "creative agenda" because I can actually talk to people as said wizard in a very N fashion? GM (or player contract or whatever it is these days) willing, I can do pretty much anything I want inside the rules of the game, so I can be a roleplaying thespian, a swashbuckling min-maxer, and an economized survivalist all at once.
A game focusing on combat is still a game simulating combat, challenging players to win the combat, and a story about the combat.
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Vladius
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2009, 12:27:02 PM »

Thanks for your comments Adam,
I am in agreement with you that oversimplification causes a lot of distress with GNS.

Vlad,

I appreciate your opinions and thank you for your input. However, being that your post does not actually address the topic, I kindly ask that you refrain from espousing further in this one. I have my own problems with the GNS, but I hardly think it is a crackpot theory that facilitates people feeling elite or superior or holier than thou. Some people might use it that way, but I am not planning to. I do agree that all of GNS is present in every game, which many of my topics are attempting to argue.

If you want, feel free to contribute meaningfully in those. They can be found in the actual play forum. Thanks again, and cheers!

--Norm

I'm not saying that, I just think that taken to its logical extreme, it's a bunch of people who came up with the theory thinking they can psychologically pander to particular groups of players by focusing on combat, having lots of rules, or having not very many rules (and replacing them) with lots of talking. (G-N-S respectively.)

I thank you for being polite, and I apologize if I offended anyone.

What I'm trying to say is that maybe Norm doesn't really need to have anything to do with GNS theory, and that he would probably have a lot more fun without it and just playing whatever he thinks is the most fun.

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Adam Dray
Member

Posts: 743


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« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2009, 12:38:40 PM »

I'm pretty sure Norm is interested in understanding GNS as a thing all on its own. He can correct me. I've been working under that impression. Really, I'm not here to evangelize anyone. If they don't want to talk about GNS, that's fine. I'd rather people post interesting stuff in Actual Play, or post cool new ideas in First Thoughts. ;)

Say I play a "Simulationist" game. (Or "S" game.) While playing an S game, I want to experience being an ultra powerful wizard type, and this is possible within the rules. Does this make me a G person, or does this mean that the game is split between G and S since magic is unrealistic? Or is it split in its "creative agenda" because I can actually talk to people as said wizard in a very N fashion? GM (or player contract or whatever it is these days) willing, I can do pretty much anything I want inside the rules of the game, so I can be a roleplaying thespian, a swashbuckling min-maxer, and an economized survivalist all at once.
A game focusing on combat is still a game simulating combat, challenging players to win the combat, and a story about the combat.

Since G, N, and S are not terms that apply to people, under the current Big Model theory as accepted by people here, asking if it makes you a "G person" is /meaningless/. That's what I tried to explain above.

The things you're talking about are Techniques and Ephemera, which exist at a low level of the Model, and they have little to do with creative agenda, which is a thing that nails all the Model's layers together. Creative agenda is best understood as concerted group behavior that starts with a shared (but often unstated) goal in the Social Contract ("let's play this game together in this way"), the Exploration that makes up their play, the Techniques they use to explore, and the Ephemera or moment-to-moment interactions that comprise those Techniques or represent them "in actuality." If you can see how Creative Agenda connects all those things together (as defined in the Model), then I think our other points make more sense.

A "game focusing on combat" doesn't say anything about creative agenda. Combat is probably a Situation (part of the Exploration layer) and possibly you also mean System (rules for combat) and maybe some specific Techniques (roll initiative, roll to hit, roll damage, did the enemy die?). Those components can be arranged in different ways using a host of different Techniques to help players accomplish different kinds of play. When everything lines up right, it can produce Gamist play, Narrativist play, or Simulationist play. If the main point of play is challenging the players and it's realized through all of the layers of the Model as described above, you can call that Gamist (Step On Up) play. The main point of play might be addressing a premise though, and if that address of premise is realized through all the layers of play, you can call that Narrativist (Story Now) play. If the main point of play is celebration of source material through "constructive denial" (affirming among the group what is "right" and what isn't), and if that constructive denial is realized through all the layers of play, you can call that Simulationist (Right To Dream) play.

Does that help you understand The Big Model?
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Vladius
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2009, 02:16:10 PM »

I'm pretty sure Norm is interested in understanding GNS as a thing all on its own. He can correct me. I've been working under that impression. Really, I'm not here to evangelize anyone. If they don't want to talk about GNS, that's fine. I'd rather people post interesting stuff in Actual Play, or post cool new ideas in First Thoughts. ;)

Say I play a "Simulationist" game. (Or "S" game.) While playing an S game, I want to experience being an ultra powerful wizard type, and this is possible within the rules. Does this make me a G person, or does this mean that the game is split between G and S since magic is unrealistic? Or is it split in its "creative agenda" because I can actually talk to people as said wizard in a very N fashion? GM (or player contract or whatever it is these days) willing, I can do pretty much anything I want inside the rules of the game, so I can be a roleplaying thespian, a swashbuckling min-maxer, and an economized survivalist all at once.
A game focusing on combat is still a game simulating combat, challenging players to win the combat, and a story about the combat.

Since G, N, and S are not terms that apply to people, under the current Big Model theory as accepted by people here, asking if it makes you a "G person" is /meaningless/. That's what I tried to explain above.

The things you're talking about are Techniques and Ephemera, which exist at a low level of the Model, and they have little to do with creative agenda, which is a thing that nails all the Model's layers together. Creative agenda is best understood as concerted group behavior that starts with a shared (but often unstated) goal in the Social Contract ("let's play this game together in this way"), the Exploration that makes up their play, the Techniques they use to explore, and the Ephemera or moment-to-moment interactions that comprise those Techniques or represent them "in actuality." If you can see how Creative Agenda connects all those things together (as defined in the Model), then I think our other points make more sense.

A "game focusing on combat" doesn't say anything about creative agenda. Combat is probably a Situation (part of the Exploration layer) and possibly you also mean System (rules for combat) and maybe some specific Techniques (roll initiative, roll to hit, roll damage, did the enemy die?). Those components can be arranged in different ways using a host of different Techniques to help players accomplish different kinds of play. When everything lines up right, it can produce Gamist play, Narrativist play, or Simulationist play. If the main point of play is challenging the players and it's realized through all of the layers of the Model as described above, you can call that Gamist (Step On Up) play. The main point of play might be addressing a premise though, and if that address of premise is realized through all the layers of play, you can call that Narrativist (Story Now) play. If the main point of play is celebration of source material through "constructive denial" (affirming among the group what is "right" and what isn't), and if that constructive denial is realized through all the layers of play, you can call that Simulationist (Right To Dream) play.

Does that help you understand The Big Model?


While it may not talk about people directly, it makes constant reference to the "creative agenda" of both the creators of the game, and the players, as far as the way they enjoy the game. It talks about how you should not "waste" your time trying to pursue all three, but one or two instead.

Direct quote from the essay "System Does Matter," the source of your system:
"    *

      Gamist. This player is satisfied if the system includes a contest which he or she has a chance to win. Usually this means the character vs. NPC opponents, but Gamists also include the System Breaker and the dominator-type roleplayer. RPGs well suited to Gamists include Rifts and Shadowrun.
    *

      Narrativist. This player is satisfied if a roleplaying session results in a good story. RPGs for Narrativists include Over the Edge, Prince Valiant, The Whispering Vault, and Everway.
    *

      Simulationist. This player is satisfied if the system "creates" a little pocket universe without fudging. Simulationists include the well-known subtype of the Realist. Good games for Simulationists include GURPS and Pendragon.

Here I suggest that RPG system design cannot meet all three outlooks at once. For example, how long does it take to resolve a game action in real time? The simulationist accepts delay as long as it enhances accuracy; the narrativist hates delay; the gamist only accepts delay or complex methods if they can be exploited. Or, what constitutes success? The narrativist demands a resolution be dramatic, but the gamist wants to know who came out better off than the next guy. Or, how should player-character effectiveness be "balanced"? The narrativist doesn't care, the simulationist wants it to reflect the game-world's social system, and the gamist simply demands a fair playing field.

One of the biggest problems I observe in RPG systems is that they often try to satisfy all three outlooks at once. The result, sadly, is a guarantee that almost any player will be irritated by some aspect of the system during play. GMs' time is then devoted, as in the Herbie example, to throwing out the aspects that don't accord for a particular group. A "good" GM becomes defined as someone who can do this well - but why not eliminate this laborious step and permit a (for example) Gamist GM to use a Gamist game, getting straight to the point? I suggest that building the system specifically to accord with one of these outlooks is the first priority of RPG design. "

I didn't take the time to go through and bold all of the references to players being narrativists, simulationists, and gamists, but I think you see my point.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2009, 02:31:58 PM »

All the articles are a snapshot of the theory at a certain time. The theory has changed and grown since then. I know it sucks, but you can't just read those articles and know the theory /as it stands today/. It's a good representation of where it was 4-6 years ago though.

The Big Model is a work in progress. The articles are not a Bible that we can use to support religious wars. =)
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2009, 03:00:22 PM »

Enough!

This is why this kind of thread topic is no longer supported at this site.

Norm: to learn more about the ideas, post about play experiences in Actual Play and focus on specific questions. There is no other option. Please do not use Site Discussion as a way to get around the forum topic boundaries.

Adam: thanks for conducting a rational dialogue. However, you're being trolled.

Vladius: if you're genuinely interested in critiquing the ideas in my essays, you're welcome to post in Actual Play as well, and your challenges will be taken seriously there. Leaping into another person's topic which has nothing to do with what you may like or not like, is trolling.

This thread's closed to further posting.

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