GNS and and making meaningful choices

edited September 2011 in Story Games
This is an offshoot from this thread GNS thread

As far as GNS goes, I think its more worthwhile to consider what is common to all types of RPGs and discuss the various flavours of those commonalities, than it is to come up with categories such as GNS, and look at all games through that lense. I think that approach is going to be limiting and kind of arbitrary, being based on the perception of whoever comes up with categories. But you do get to have all the fun arguing about which is the best category and where a particular game falls in the schema I suppose...

Anyway, one essential commonality for all games, RPGs included, is the players must be making meaningful decisions. By meaningful I mean simply that if/when the player makes a decision, it matters to the game. Take a slot machine - you pull the handle, stuff happens, you might win or lose. Rinse and repeat. It doesnt matter when or how you pull the handle - it has no bearing on the outcome. Whereas playing an automated poker game - you get to decide to hold or fold cards, bet big or small, etc... You are given choices, and your decisions matter.

I think in most cases where I have emphatically not enjoyed a game is when my participation amounts to basically just 'pulling the handle' when required.

Id like to see if we can make a list of the various types of meaningful decisions players can make in RPGs, Ill start:

Character design choices concering effectiveness. In tactical RPGs you are given a list of design constraints and your initial task is to design a character that will be effective in the context of the party and the challenges the party will face. You have to consider various tradeoffs, allocate design resources -- in order to create the character that will best fit the role you want to play and strategies you want to employ. This is where I think min-maxing gets a bad rap. min-maxing is just a design choice. Its just as valid as creating a jack-of-all trades character for instance. If it results in a broken game, its the design constraints that are to blame, not the player for finding the flaw.

strategy and tactics: These decisions are a natural extention of character design decisions. Having designed your character, you now employ its capabilities to try to maximise its effectiveness in overcoming challenges set by the GM. Its part validation of design and part on-your-feet adapting to circmstances as you make chocies about husbanding resouces, select and time the use of your characters capabilities and cooperate with other players.

If you want to talk GNS, games that prioritize this type of player choice are associated with the gamist category. But of course games can include these kinds of choices without them being the top priority. What other kinds of meaningful choices can you think of and how do they work? Associate them with a GNS category if you like.

~~
I think poor RPGs dont conciously offer the player any type of meaningful choices. Players get a bunch of choices, sure, but they arent real choices. Whatever they decide simply amounts to 'pulling the handle' -- stuff happens, you pull the handle occasionally, but nothing the players do essentially matters. These types of games are really unsatisfying and boring. As an example, they often have combat that amounts to a repetitive battle of attrition with a randomizer thrown in. Support for meaningful choice in the game of any kind has to brought to the table by the GM, because there is no system support for it.

Phew, thats enough rambling for now. sorry about the unstructured post. Too late in the day...
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Comments

  • edited September 2011
    So I guess the point of this exercise is a tool to help designing or conveying the essence of a particular game in a more effective and granular way than GNS.

    You might say, for instance, that a particular game "strongly supports character effectiveness design choices and tactical execution choices and only weakly supports any other kinds of choices", and you will have very effectively conveyed the essence of that game.

    So if we had a list of, say, a dozen different types of choices that were clearly and efficiently defined, you categorize any game by what it stongly/moderately/weakly supports.

    Ill have a crack at another type of choice:

    Problem solving: Fairly self-explanatory. A game might support/emphasise puzzle solving and mystery cracking choices.

    Actually I just realized something - often games revolve around, or strongly emphasize particular player choices, such as problem solving, but may not actually provide correspondingly strong support for those choices - leaving it up to the players to provide their own level of support, if they can. Id put the original CoC in this basket, for instance.

    By way of example, Ill have try to describe the original CoC in these terms:

    Moderately emphasizes, but weakly supports character effectiveness design and tactical execution choices.
    Strongly emphasizes, and moderately supports problem-solving choices.
  • Im not sure that nar play has any meaningful choices for players to make, its more like story-boarding, isnt it?
  • Posted By: stefoidIm not sure that nar play has any meaningful choices for players to make, its more like story-boarding, isnt it?
    What the fuck? Where have you been for the last... ever? Seriously. I realize I'm not reading you charitably, but idiotic statements like that don't deserve charity. The definition of Nar play is the players making meaningful choices to address the game's premise. No one credible who's ever talked about it has ever made that less than clear.

    If a game is boring and you're not getting to make meaningful choices of *any* type, in contrast, that's zilchplay.

    Matt
  • LOL - nice try of trolling, Steve
  • Posted By: DeliveratorPosted By: stefoidIm not sure that nar play has any meaningful choices for players to make, its more like story-boarding, isnt it?
    What the fuck? Where have you been for the last... ever? Seriously. I realize I'm not reading you charitably, but idiotic statements like that don't deserve charity. Thedefinitionof Nar play is the players making meaningful choices to address the game's premise. No one credible who's ever talked about it has ever made that less than clear.

    Matt

    How is a choice that addresses premise different from a choice that doesnt? Premise isnt explicitly discussed, is it?
  • Well if the main thrust of the choices made in the game aren't about addressing premise, but the game is working well, then it's probably not Nar play.

    Premise isn't necessarily discussed in-fiction, although it can be, but for a game engine to reliably provide Nar play it has to somehow set up situations that are premise-ful.

    This is all 101 stuff. Seriously, where the hell have you been? And what games have you played? Read?
  • I'm a bit scandalized myself, Matt.
    Basically, here's an explanation of Premise:
    you're reading a game, and you think, "Wow, that looks like an interesting moral dimension or tough ethical dilemma facing [potential PCs]."
    and then you're all, "It'd be awesome to build my character so as to address some of that stuff in play!"
    and then you play, and when that stuff comes up, the game helps you do it.

    Example:Polaris:
    if you act unchivalrous, you risk taking a step closer to your own destruction.
    THUS - PREMISE: is it ever useful or wise to act ungallantly? Could it be so useful that it balances out, or overthrows, the personal, spiritual risk involved? Boom. Premise.
  • Matt is simply fucking around. Matt, yes?
  • No. Both my answers and my scorn are serious. Look, if Stefoid were new around here, I'd be much, much more willing to cut him some slack. But he's not. So he's either being willfully obtuse or has ignored the content of many many threads in which he himself has posted.

    Matt
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: DeliveratorWell if the main thrust of the choices made in the game aren't about addressing premise, but the game is working well, then it's probably not Nar play.

    Premise isn't necessarily discussed in-fiction, although it can be, but for a game engine to reliably provide Nar play it has to somehow set up situations that are premise-ful.

    This is all 101 stuff. Seriously, where the hell have you been? And what games have you played? Read?
    I am trying to get to the heart of 'choices that address premise'. That phrase doesnt convey much in itself. The premise of D&D, near enough, is "players explore dungeons, kill monsters and take their stuff". When you play D&D your are frequently making choices that relate to that, but thats not what your talking about.

    Rons essay uses the Egri-style premise which is about some kind of moral platitude. My own assumption is that to address this kind of premise, you have to do it consistantly? Because in many games, you might encounter situations where a character is forced to make a moral choice based on a transient situation and then just move on.

    So is consistancy the key? If so, I agree that the game might have to set up situations that lead to that consistancy, otherwise how would it be possible?

    I guess one other way I can think of is that the egri-style premise is associated with a particular character rather than the general situation. Could you theoretically have each player at the table addressing a different premise, based on their own character's personality/motivations rather than the general situation?

    (edit: OK, Zak posted just exacvtly that last bit while I was typing)
  • Okay, so, having me come in and explain Narr to someone is like having a modern day doctor say "here's how you interpret this phrenological chart", I reject GNS and consider that level of the Big Model malformed junk, but I'll do my best, because I'm here to help, feel free to ignore me:
    Posted By: stefoidMy own assumption is that to address this kind of premise, you have to do it consistantly? Because in many games, you might encounter situations where a character is forced to make a moral choice based on a transient situation and then just move on.
    This is a question about over what time frame a game is determined to be Nar. This depends on the group, the game and the situation, and really, the purpose for which you are doing the evaluation.

    But yes, sometimes the response to a transient situation might reveal a "Story Now" agenda of play. What that means in terms of what you're trying to do is the question. Like, if you're trying to evaluate this whole group's year-long play, probably that single situation won't tell you much. If you're trying to figure out what happened last week and why it worked so well/was so disastrous, then maybe it might be important.
    Posted By: stefoidI guess one other way I can think of is that the egri-style premise is associated with a particular character rather than the general situation. Could you theoretically have each player at the table addressing a different premise, based on their own character's personality/motivations rather than the general situation?
    This is the normal way that multi-character Narr play happens. In Dogs in the Vineyard, everyone has their own Initiation and Coat that they bring to every situation they come to.
  • OK, so maybe this is what Im after: (as an example, for a nar priority game, chose one or more...)

    In this game you make meaningful choices about:

    A theme inherent in your character - your character has a belief/issue/desire/etc... that affects their decisions
    A theme inherent in the situation - the characters will have to confront to resolve a specific situation.
    A theme inherent in the setting - (I stole this one from Rons essay after re-reading). the characters will have to confront about the world they live in.

    I think it has to be inherent, otherwise how do you get the consistancy requried to define soemthing as nar play?

    Where do these inherent themes come from? possibly the game provides hands them down on high, or possible provides the plaeyrs with more choices, i.e.:

    In this game you make meaningful choices about:

    what theme(s) are inherent in your character
    What theme(s) are inherent in the situation
    What theme(s) are inherent in the setting
  • Back to story boarding - (kind of).

    This is relevent to 'stance' - what kinds of choice you can make outside of your own characters POV.

    Games like Fiasco and Micoscope do this kind of thing, right? (am aware of them without having read them)
  • I think you're going to have to define "storyboarding" before I can understand what you're saying/asking.

    Or is "choice you can make outside of your own characters POV" what you mean by "storyboarding?

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Posted By: JoelI think you're going to have to define "storyboarding" before I can understand what you're saying/asking.

    Or is"choice you can make outside of your own characters POV"what you mean by "storyboarding?

    Peace,
    -Joel
    Kind of. My definition of story boarding is where the players collarborate like "this happens and then that happens" narrating outside of their characters POV as a priority of play, if they even have a 1:1 relationship with a character that is. Maybe stance is not right, maybe its authority Im searching for. Or a mixture of the two?
  • It's pretty much just an historical accident that so many of the key indie games have so much non-Actor-stance play baked into them. Narrativism is perfectly possible without breaking character POV.

    Matt
  • Regardless of GNS, stance/authority affects the types of choices available to the player.
  • edited September 2011
    First, I don't think Fiasco works the way you think it does.

    Second, if people would only talk on the Internet about games they have played -- or at least read -- I swear to god, world peace would be, like, only 30 days away.

    And, no, this is all wrong an nonsensical. If I'm playing Dungeons & Dragons 4e, and I say, "My guy goes to confront my father," I'm speaking in Director stance, and then back into Actor stance, and then the GM plays the Father and we go from there.

    I'll say it again for clarity: D&D 4e.

    So, in Fiasco, I might say, "My guy goes to confront my father." And one of the Players takes on the role of the Father and we go from there.

    I'm not sure if that helps. But short of typing out the rules to Fiasco, do you really think that asking for examples to a game for which you have no context really makes sense?
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: Christopher KubasikAnd, no, this is all wrong an nonsensical. If I'm playingDungeons & Dragons 4e, and I say, "My guy goes to confront my father," I'm speaking in Director stance, and then back into Actor stance, and then the GM plays the Father and we go from there.
    Ill nitpick a bit and quote Ron (below)

    If you were in director stance, you could say something like - "my guy (or "I") goes to confront his Father, and when he arrives, he finds him in bed with his ex-wife"

    So a game that supports this stance is giving the player different choices than one that supports only actor stance. Or more authority if thats a better way of putting it than stance-ology.

    In Actor stance, a person determines a character's decisions and actions using only knowledge and perceptions that the character would have.
    In Author stance, a person determines a character's decisions and actions based on the real person's priorities, then retroactively "motivates" the character to perform them. (Without that second, retroactive step, this is fairly called Pawn stance.)
    In Director stance, a person determines aspects of the environment relative to the character in some fashion, entirely separately from the character's knowledge or ability to influence events. Therefore the player has not only determined the character's actions, but the context, timing, and spatial circumstances of those actions, or even features of the world separate from the characters.
  • I'll nitpick back, but the volley is already becoming boring:

    "Therefore the player has not only determined the character's actions, but the context, timing, and spatial circumstances" -- so, when I say, "My guy confronts his father," and now I'm there at my father's home, I've done exactly that. The GM might say, "Okay, he's in his study when you walk in..." But I still clearly left the "knowledge and perceptions of my character" to zip over in time and space to a whole new location.

    Please note that the last phrase, "or even features of the world separate from the characters," has the clause, "or even" -- which means one might have added all the detail you're assuming one needs to do to make it Director stance... or not.

    "I'm there," is one of the most commonly spoken phrases used by Players during an RPG game -- and it is pure Director stance.


    Anyway, as far as I can tell (and I'm not sure, because your questions all seem very strange and obscure) you're barking up the wrong tree.

    The point isn't about Stances, if you're really curious about meaningful choices in GNS.

    First, you have to get rid of your abominable notion about premise being about "moral platitudes."

    What matters is that the Player has some sort of thematic material he wants to address. The Character, as in the other stances, matters... but it is the actual people at the table who matter more because they are, you know, real.

    So, if we're playing Sorcerer, and Humanity is defined at "Loyalty" and I find out in one scene that my guy's father is cheating on my guy's mother, I might say, "I got to confront my father." I do this because I want to play toward the premise "Loyalty" and find out what happens in the scene as my Character is driven by my decisions that will produce actions and outcomes. In Sorcerer, the Game Master will frame the scene.

    In Fiasco, the Player can start a scene of one two ways. One of them is to "Establish" -- "by framing it up, deciding who is involved, what it is about and where it is going down."

    The point is this, however: The "meaningful choice" is not the framing of the scene nor has anything to do with the stance the player is in.

    The meaningful choices that matter to Story Now play is what the Player's Character does when confronting his father. That's what a Player in the Story Now CA cares about. That's what is meaningful. Getting to the father is just something you have to do to get to chance to make the meaningful decisions about loyalty or whatever other thematic/emotional/moral choices are compelling to the Player.
  • edited September 2011
    @stefoid But, why does a game need to support directors stance to address premise with consistency? For example, Sorcerer only allows a player director stance when authoring the kicker. After that, it's still adddressing premise but the player is completely in the character's POV.

    It's consistent. Multiple characters address different premises. Meaningful choices are required.

    @Christopher, while I think your correct that saying you're at your father's house is director stance. There's not a lot of support for that kind of play in D&D. It's an emergent behavior that happens all the time, but there's nothing in the book that says here's when the player gets narrative control and decides where the character is. Many games do support that behavior explicitly, Fiasco being a good example.

    And I agree with you about "moral platitudes." Egri doesn't say anything about moral plattitudes. He says premise is essentially the same as theme, or root idea of a play. He says it is "a proposition assumed to lead to a conclusion." And he says a good premise is a clear premise.

    Edit: and none of this gets me any closer to understanding how anyone could suggest there are no meaningful choices in nar games, when I think they are chock full of meaningful choices.
  • I'd quickly suggest that in Sorcerer a Player will spend the vast majority of his time in Actor stance -- but will probably shift into the other two stances throughout the game.

    On the other hand, I think Players in many games who think they spend all their time in Actor stand slip into the other two stances more than they're aware.
  • That's probably true.
  • I realized that 'meaningful' choice is a bad term. Consequential choice is much better.
    Posted By: Christopher KubasikAnyway, as far as I can tell (and I'm not sure, because your questions all seem very strange and obscure) you're barking up the wrong tree.
    They make sense to me, although the end result might not end up being fruitful, as in a useful tool for designing and describing games. We'll see. Im using GNS as a reference point because Im somewhat familliar with it and I know that most SGers are familliar with it. But my aim is to come up with an alternate way of categorizing games, based on which consequential chocies they offer the player and how well they support them, thats all.
    Posted By: Christopher KubasikThe point is this, however: The "meaningful choice" is not the framing of the scene nor has anything to do with the stance the player is in.
    Certainly you must agree that the authority (lets drop stance) to frame a scene in the way that Fiasco allows is offering the player a type of consequential choice that many other games dont allow. Im not sure of the best way to describe it.
    Posted By: Christopher KubasikThe meaningful choices that matter to Story Now play is what the Player's Character does when confronting his father. That's what a Player in the Story Now CA cares about. That's what is meaningful. Getting to the father is just something you have to do to get to chanceto make the meaningful decisions about loyaltyor whatever other thematic/emotional/moral choices are compelling to the Player.
    which would be covered by one or more of the following types of choice, wouldnt it?

    A theme inherent in your character - your character has a belief/issue/desire/etc... that affects their decisions
    A theme inherent in the situation - the characters will have to confront to resolve a specific situation.
    A theme inherent in the setting - the characters will have to confront about the world they live in.
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: noclue@stefoid But, why does a game need to support directors stance to address premise with consistency? .
    Whoah, the discussion is morphing from referencing GNS to zeroing in on nar-play, which is my fault.

    I would really like to hear from people about the kinds of consequential choices available to sim-play experts, although I guess there might not be that many here, and Im probably hammering the lid shut on this thread by asking.
  • Posted By: stefoidwhich would be covered by one or more of the following types of choice, wouldnt it?

    A theme inherent in your character - your character has a belief/issue/desire/etc... that affects their decisions
    A theme inherent in the situation - the characters will have to confront to resolve a specific situation.
    A theme inherent in the setting - the characters will have to confront about the world they live in.
    Oh, yes. Absolutely!

    It's your use of meaningful (or consequential) choices that's throwing me. The use of Stance or Framing is a tool used to get to those choices. In the same way certain games have tools to help the other two CAs.

    The point is this, as an example: Both Sorcerer and HeroQuest 2 allow a GM to stat out opposition to the PCs in very, very simple ways. (They are very different ways, by the way.) This is important, since in Story Now games you simply have no idea which way the Players are going lead the narrative. The Players make choices and then -- bam, we're here, confronting this guy the GM might never have thought much about. The fact that the GM can stat the opposition quickly and elegantly means that the freedom of the Players to go after the meaningful choices about themes/emotions/morals and discover what statement they make about them is never hindered.

    This ability for the GM to do this is simply a tool to make this easier, in my view. In the exact same way, the Player asking for a scene ("I want to confront my father") is a tool to allow this as well.

    When thinking about game design it isn't always a matter of what will make the meaningful choices happen, but what tools will allow the meaningful choices of different CAs happen more efficiently or easily that matters.

    I'm tying to point out that if, in Fiasco, I say, "I go to my father's house," it isn't a consequential choice. It's a tool to getting to the choices that matter for Story Now play. It matters, as a technique, of course. But it is merely a means to an end.
  • Posted By: Christopher KubasikIt's your use of meaningful (or consequential) choices that's throwing me. The use of Stance or Framing is atoolused to get to those choices. In the same way certain games have tools to help the other two CAs.
    In your mind, consequential choice and nar-priority are welded. But Im using consequential in a pure nuts and bolts way, to be taken at face value. As in if the player makes the choice, it affects the game. Having the authority to frame a scene in a game is hugely consequential. The player is dictating what the game will focus on next. Regardless of the CA of the players involved.
  • edited September 2011
    OK, now that you all apparently have the stance/authority thing cleared up, I'd like to know where you're coming from with this statement:
    Posted By: stefoidIm not sure that nar play has any meaningful choices for players to make, its more like story-boarding, isnt it?
    Adjusting Meaningful choices --> Consequential choices, and defining this as "if the player makes the choice, it affects the game"...why do you suspect that Story Now play doesn't have meaningful choices for players?

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: JoelOK, now that you all apparently have the stance/authority thing cleared up, I'd like to know where you're coming from with this statement:

    Posted By: stefoidIm not sure that nar play has any meaningful choices for players to make, its more like story-boarding, isnt it?
    Adjusting Meaningful choices --> Consequential choices, and defining this as"if the player makes the choice, it affects the game"...why do you suspect that Story Now play doesn't have meaningful choices for players?

    Peace,
    -Joel

    I have to admit to being somewhat disingenuous in an attempt to foster discussion from those with more nar experience than myself.
  • Oh, I see.

    Well, congratulations! You got us all to talk about nar, a bit!

    To be honest, I feel like I've wasted my time. I thought I might aid your understanding of something I have some experience with, but instead ended up dancing around trying to make sense of a statement you didn't actually mean.

    Lesson learned, I guess.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • My aiding of understanding has been improved tremendously by peoples contributions, so dont sweat it.

    Im kind of bummed that my third post seems the only one worthy of consideration! Fortuantely my ego doesnt permit me to consider that my 'insights' arent useful to the SG community, and that it must be a communciation failure that gives the impression of incomphrensible gibberish on my part.
  • Posted By: stefoidI would really like to hear from people about the kinds of consequential choices available to sim-play experts, although I guess there might not be that many here, and Im probably hammering the lid shut on this thread by asking.
    At times, I tend to be a voice for Simulationism - but really I don't feel like the GNS categories are consistent. I've played and written a bunch about Threefold Simulationism - but my examples of this used to often be categorized as "vanilla Narrativism". I do play many Forge-inspired games, but I don't strongly favor them over my favorite other tabletop games or various LARPs.

    Anyway, what you consider to be "consequential choices" is largely a product of what you consider a significant consequence. The curious thing that I find is how easily players can shift the focus, given a will to - even in a strictly railroaded game - say in a Deadlands game where following the style of the modules, the GM has Acts and Scenes planned in advance. The players can approach this by spending a lot of talk on dialogue among themselves - bantering, exchanging views on issues of the time, perhaps flirting. I would tend to call these choices consequential, though perhaps others wouldn't. They didn't change the sequence of scenes that the GM gave, but they definitely changed the content of the game.
  • Posted By: jhkimAnyway, what you consider to be "consequential choices" is largely a product of what you consider a significant consequence.
    Yep. You make a list or a bunch of categories and you are coloring what you categorize automatically. Everything must fit in one of these boxes...
    Posted By: jhkimThe curious thing that I find is how easily players can shift the focus, given a will to - even in a strictly railroaded game - say in a Deadlands game where following the style of the modules, the GM has Acts and Scenes planned in advance. The players can approach this by spending a lot of talk on dialogue among themselves - bantering, exchanging views on issues of the time, perhaps flirting. I would tend to call these choices consequential, though perhaps others wouldn't. They didn't change the sequence of scenes that the GM gave, but they definitely changed the content of the game.
    At first blush, personally, I wouldnt call them consequential. Can you give some specific examples? what chocies did the paleyrs make and how was the game chnaged as a result?
  • Posted By: stefoidIm kind of bummed that my third post seems the only one worthy of consideration!
    Maybe because it took a lot of effort to suss out what you meant, or as it turns out, didn't mean?

    In any case, for the rest I was like, yup, that sounds like what the consequential choices in "Step on Up" play would be, etc.
  • Posted By: stefoidPosted By: Christopher KubasikIt's your use of meaningful (or consequential) choices that's throwing me. The use of Stance or Framing is atoolused to get to those choices. In the same way certain games have tools to help the other two CAs.
    In your mind, consequential choice and nar-priority are welded. But Im usingconsequentialin a pure nuts and bolts way, to be taken at face value. As in if the player makes the choice, it affects the game. Having the authority to frame a scene in a game is hugely consequential. The player is dictating what the game will focus on next. Regardless of the CA of the players involved.

    If that's how you're using the words, then I agree with you.
  • Posted By: stefoidPosted By: jhkimThe curious thing that I find is how easily players can shift the focus, given a will to - even in a strictly railroaded game - say in a Deadlands game where following the style of the modules, the GM has Acts and Scenes planned in advance. The players can approach this by spending a lot of talk on dialogue among themselves - bantering, exchanging views on issues of the time, perhaps flirting. I would tend to call these choices consequential, though perhaps others wouldn't. They didn't change the sequence of scenes that the GM gave, but they definitely changed the content of the game.
    At first blush, personally, I wouldnt call them consequential. Can you give some specific examples? what chocies did the paleyrs make and how was the game chnaged as a result?
    If we say that the focus of a Sim game is about exploring the color, setting, situation, genre etc., then when the characters spend time, for example, bantering about "important issues of the day" then they are directly addressing the point of the game, yes?

    So their choice to spend time doing that is a meaningful choice.

    This is especially true if the game is a Sim-focused game but one where the GM is not the sole creator of canon. If the players are creating canon through their banter, then the time they spend doing so is, essentially, the most meaninful thing they can be doing. Everything they are saying is a consequential choice.

    And even if it's not a Sim-focused game, the content of a roleplaying game is the shared act of creation through a combination of character dialog, player dialog, and system interaction. So the player's act of chosing to focus on anything related to play is inherently a consequential choice because it's determining what the content of the game will be.
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: RobMcDiarmidIf we say that the focus of a Sim game is about exploring the color, setting, situation, genre etc., then when the characters spend time, for example, bantering about "important issues of the day" then they are directly addressing the point of the game, yes?
    I honestly dont know. I assume that for any rpg to be fun, there must be challenge and adversity, and that the players must be frequently making consequential choices in relation to those challenges. any game at all actually, not just rpgs. Just 'hanging out' cant be consistently fun, can it?
    Posted By: RobMcDiarmidThis is especially true if the game is a Sim-focused game but one where the GM is not the sole creator of canon. If the players are creating canon through their banter, then the time they spend doing so is, essentially, the most meaninful thing they can be doing. Everything they are saying is a consequential choice.

    And even if it's not a Sim-focused game, the content of a roleplaying game is the shared act of creation through a combination of character dialog, player dialog, and system interaction. So the player's act of chosing to focus on anything related to play is inherently a consequential choice because it's determining what the content of the game will be.
    Sure consequential authoring/creativity can be consistant source of fun. Scene framing, setting construction, authoring-empowered narration, character construction, playing NPCs..all comes under this group of consequential choices.

    However, I can also see inconsequential authoring/creativity. I describe what my character is wearing today, or other such details that have no bearing on the nature of, or the characters response to, challenge and adversity.

    I can see how it might be random, transient fun, but personally not a source of consistent fun -- a feature of a decent game or a significant focus for players. Agree / disagree?
  • If what your character is wearing today has no possible meaning, but you're choosing to spend time on it anyway, then I have to wonder why that is happening.

    If you're playing Houses of the Blooded, then describing what your character is wearing today is super important. In that game, the characters very much wear their hearts on their sleeves, mostly literally - the colors you wear are an expression of your desires and mood and such.

    But in most games, describing your dress is a form of Sim play - you're showing how you fit into the established game world fiction through your dress.

    Or if your just doing your own thing and ignoring the established fiction, then it's most likely a form of dysfunctional play.
    I can see how it might be random, transient fun, but personally not a source of consistent fun -- a feature of a decent game or a significant focus for players. Agree / disagree?
    The fact that you can't see how something might be fun for people is one of the reasons GNS was written out in the first place, wasn't it?

    There are things that take place in some other people's games that I can't really see how they are fun. I just accept it on faith that when they tell me they have fun with that, that they're telling me the truth.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidBut in most games, describing your dress is a form of Sim play - you're showing how you fit into the established game world fiction through your dress.
    This is something that all roleplaying involves to some degree or other.

    But even if I take it on faith that this is the main source of someones enjoyment while roleplaying, Im struggling to see how it can be actively supported by a game.

    Seems like as long as you enjoy the setting/the characters in a particular game you are playing, it doesnt really matter what the system is doing, unless it is actively preventing you from spending time doing what you like, in which case you can basically ignore those parts of the system.
  • Posted By: stefoidBut even if I take it on faith that this is the main source of someones enjoyment while roleplaying, Im struggling to see how it can be actively supported by a game.

    Seems like as long as you enjoy the setting/the characters in a particular game you are playing, it doesnt really matter what the system is doing, unless it is actively preventing you from spending time doing what you like, in which case you can basically ignore those parts of the system.
    But see, now you're doing the "and we didn't even touch the dice" thing. But the system can actively support focusing on the setting, if it wants to.

    One way Houses of the Blooded does it is by making clothes a thing. Because clothes are a thing, what you are wearing matters, and describing what you are wearing matters. So color, and Color, matter.

    Apocalypse World does it by telling the GM to ask the players what they are doing on a typical day, and to use that as a starting point for things happening. It also does it by telling to GM to focus on scarcity and drive conflict from there. Scarcity is a major element of the setting. (Of course "what do you do about scarcity" starts to get into premise territory and Narrativism-land, but that's not really a problem, because the creative agendas aren't pick-one-and-only-one-ever buckets.)

    One way the D&D community does it is by giving you a book full of tables about what you find in a city or a town or a church or whatever. If you roll on those tables, you'll get choices from a certain limited list of possibilities. If someone else created the list, it would be different and the results would be different. So you have these setting elements being introduced, through dice, and they're putting content into the game.

    So, system can actively reinforce setting exploration, if you make it do so.
  • Posted By: stefoidPosted By: RobMcDiarmidBut in most games, describing your dress is a form of Sim play - you're showing how you fit into the established game world fiction through your dress.
    This is something that all roleplaying involves to some degree or other.
    When I say it's Sim play, I'm not saying it can only take place in games that are primarily Sim. I only mean that that particular player action is generally driven by Sim priority at that moment.

    Sim games have elements of Gam and Narr. Narr games have elements of Gam and Sim. Gam games have elements of Sim and Nar.
  • Posted By: RobMcDiarmidPosted By: stefoidBut even if I take it on faith that this is the main source of someones enjoyment while roleplaying, Im struggling to see how it can be actively supported by a game.

    Seems like as long as you enjoy the setting/the characters in a particular game you are playing, it doesnt really matter what the system is doing, unless it is actively preventing you from spending time doing what you like, in which case you can basically ignore those parts of the system.
    But see, now you're doing the "and we didn't even touch the dice" thing. But the system can actively support focusing on the setting, if it wants to.

    One way Houses of the Blooded does it is by making clothes a thing. Because clothes are a thing, what you are wearing matters, and describing what you are wearing matters. So color, and Color, matter.

    Apocalypse World does it by telling the GM to ask the players what they are doing on a typical day, and to use that as a starting point for things happening. It also does it by telling to GM to focus on scarcity and drive conflict from there. Scarcity is a major element of the setting. (Of course "what do you do about scarcity" starts to get into premise territory and Narrativism-land, but that's not really a problem, because the creative agendas aren't pick-one-and-only-one-ever buckets.)

    One way the D&D community does it is by giving you a book full of tables about what you find in a city or a town or a church or whatever. If you roll on those tables, you'll get choices from a certain limited list of possibilities. If someone else created the list, it would be different and the results would be different. So you have these setting elements being introduced, through dice, and they're putting content into the game.

    So, system can actively reinforce setting exploration, if you make it do so.

    OK, from your examples I can see where my disconnect lies. Im an engineer - my instinct is to break up something opaque or complex into underlying generic patterns. My natural instinct is to design an RPG that is setting and situation agnostic - generic.

    But of course you can easilly support a particular situation or setting exclusively.

    Welcome to my my blindspot.
  • Posted By: stefoidMy natural instinct is to design an RPG that is setting and situation agnostic - generic.

    But of course you can easilly support a particular situation or settingexclusively.

    Welcome to my my blindspot.
    Makes sense. Yes, it's much harder for the system to reingforce the setting if the system wasn't designed for the setting.

    I'm playing a Savage Worlds game right now. One of the things I did in setting it up was to hack the generic system so that it had more to do with the setting. I changed the skills into a stat+job matrix (similar to Leverage) and made jobs that would reflect the fairy tale setting - Woodsman, Scoundrel, Soldier, Witch, Servant, Noble. Making the system more strongly tied to the setting has helped the game be stronger.
  • edited September 2011
    I am a lazy bastard and have not read the thread, but Steve asked me what constitutes a meaningful contribution in Sim play, i.e., what does a player do that is appreciated and why is it appreciated.

    It is really hard for me to get more specific than "whatever your group is into, man" without quickly going into a small subset of Sim play. The best I can do is to list a few subsets. I'll try to go from broadest to narrowest.

    The thrill ride crews appreciate emotion and energy, acting skills, getting in character, moving around, loud and quiet, emotional range and dynamic performance.

    The celebration crews appreciate able mimicry, clever extension (oh yeah, it does make sense that Lothlorien would have that!), and creative tweaks to the reference material that make it new and different and bigger without making it unrecognizable (and if Lothlorien has that, then maybe there's a fallen Ranger cult trying to steal it!).

    The tac team crews appreciate situation engineering, showing off character capabilities, cinematic action moves, and colorful problem-solving (e.g. synergistic physics effects like dropping the live wire into the Water Elemental and use the steam to melt the ice bridge).

    The immersive crews appreciate sensory detail, consistent setting logic, in-character (often willfully ignorant) decision-making, and expression of character development.

    The experiment crews appreciate insightful reasoning, logical induction, and stringent adherence to the rules of the experiment (what would actually have happened if the Nazis had nukes?).

    The gonzo crews appreciate novelty in extremes.

    The world-builder crews appreciate reincorporation, pattern-forming, creative fecundity, real-world knowledge of geography/history/anthropology/economics/politics, and facility with names.

    The mood crews appreciate anything from the thrill ride set that instills the desired mood.

    The intrigue crews appreciate linguistic artistry, perceptiveness, and manipulation.

    Most play is probably a blend that appreciates at least one element from many of these.
  • Levi Kornelsen's made a good list too, here.

    In big model terms, David's crews and Levi's what-I-likes aren't indicative of any particular creative agenda. They're evidence that a creative agenda is being fulfilled by play, but don't provide any hints which.

    -Vincent
  • Vincent, can you make any broader statement about "what players do in Right to Dream play that is valued"? The only ones I've heard equate to "functional roleplaying". To look any closer than that, the answer seems to split off in a billion different directions instantly. Thus my examples.

    If I say, "those things on my list are examples of Right to Dream in action if they equate directly to shared creative endeavor without having to pass through any tackling of challenge or addressing of premise," does that help?
  • In right to dream play, what players do that's valued is: demonstrate the wholeness of the source material in the face of conceptual challenges to its wholeness. This includes posing those conceptual challenges in the first place, of course.

    I know only one right to dream-provoking game well enough to discuss it, and that's kill puppies for satan, so if you want examples, look out! That's what you're getting into.

    But, like, this is some arcane shit. I don't know why anyone would care about this at all. Better to talk about what you all want to talk about and leave poor old GNS out of it.
  • edited September 2011
    Ugh. So not a fan of the emphasis on relating to source material via "wholeness".
    But, like, this is some arcane shit. I don't know why anyone would care about this at all.
    Hahahahaha! Okay, now I'm with you. :) I really don't know why I keep getting suckered into these...

    Trying to recoup investment in all the time I spent trying to learn G/N/S in the first place, probably...
  • edited September 2011
    I can help with that if you want. It's pretty easy.

    You've never played right to dream. You've played many kinds of story now. You're looking inside your own experience to find the diversity of the CAs, but it isn't in there. Same with everybody! In particular, I'd be surprised if 10 people here on SG had ever played right to dream. This isn't really the crowd for it, and it's rarer than we think even so.

    The CAs' whole purpose is to help you see, not the diversity of your own play, but the diversity of possible play, including, most importantly, play that makes you go "ugh, so not a fan." Or, "but ... how is that even fun?" Or, "sure, but that's not roleplaying."

    You see a continuum between story now and right to dream play because you're looking at a breadth of story now play, and misidentifying one side of it as right to dream.

    I recommend that you do what a whole bunch of us have already done, which is to reclaim "simulationist" as the name for an approach to the techniques of play. That way you can be like, "check it out! At this end of the range, simulationist story now! At the other end, I dunno, dramatist story now! Spectrum!"
  • Well, GNS is useful in that it's a good simplified answer as to why system matters. Because playing with a creative agenda that is not well reinforced by the system results in, for example, those "and we didn't even touch the dice" statements that come from Nar pupae who haven't broken their cocoons and become butterflies yet.

    But, at best, it's a simplified answer.

    Just like knowing that US politics are dominated by the Republican and Democrat party, plus some sort of thing (or things) that's sometimes called Independants and sometimes called other things. But just because you can categorize people into 3 buckets doesn't mean you can use that to explain how government works (or doesn't). Political parties are part of, for example, how a bill becomes a law. (Arguably an excessivly important part.) But there's lots of processes and procedures that have nothing to do with parties, but have to occur in order for it to happen.

    Political parties tell you some stuff. And some of it is even important. But picking a party doesn't tell you how to run a government.

    Likewise picking a creative agenda doesn't tell you how to run an RPG.
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