As pointed out here
, Jesse suggested that there is an elephant in the room regarding Narrativism and what-a-story-is - - namely, Ron Edwards had a super-specific concept that involved the (in?)famous Egri term, "premise".
Here's the definition from the Forge's Provisional Glossary
Premise (adapted from Egri)
A generalizable, problematic aspect of human interactions. Early in the process of creating or experiencing a story, a Premise is best understood as a proposition or perhaps an ideological challenge to the world represented by the protagonist's passions. Later in the process, resolving the conflicts of the story transforms Premise into a theme - a judgmental statement about how to act, behave, or believe. In role-playing, "protagonist" typically indicates a character mainly controlled by one person. A defining feature of Story Now.
Clear as mud, right? Okay - so, when we say "story", or "Story Now", or whatever, that doesn't necessarily dovetail at ALL with what Ron's driving at, here. In the other thread, it was suggested that process, not end result, was a defining feature of N vs. S. I say we go one step further and say that firm player authorship of theme is where we really get a-going.
What do I mean? Two big things are happening with Narrativism (with AP examples to follow):
- PCs have a ton of power to affect and guide the direction of the plot. Exception:
incredibly tight premises are acceptable, such as that of The Mountain Witch
- The game text asks moral/ethical questions that begin the story. These questions may be implied by the setting, in such a manner that they're basically asking "Now what?" The setting itself (see: Polaris), or tools offered up by the game, will enable the question to be asked openly.
So - lots of power for everybody, AND nothing's really set in stone yet. Polaris
is a tragedy, yeah, but the point of the game is to decide what one does with the impossible scenario put forth by the text.
Genre emulation is tangential to Narrativism. The setting, for Nar, is important, but mainly insofar as it creates enjoyable Color and provides a right-feeling space for the Big Question. Or, more likely, the setting draws us in, and then the setting choice puts limits on what kinds of Big Questions we can answer. Carry
is probably not the right vehicle for discussing the interplay of family life, for example.
Just because you're using explicit tools of story-craft doesn't mean you're doing Narrativism. There needs to be a pregnant ethical dilemma at hand, one which is resolved through play. And the players need to be able to make important decisions towards that end. Without both of those things, you don't have Narrativism.