The Forge Archives

Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Marco on January 30, 2005, 04:48:01 AM



Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
Post by: Marco on January 30, 2005, 04:48:01 AM
In the Deception Thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=149873) Chris said this:
Quote from: clehrich

If you ditch story and play WoD games Sim, you'll be happy.  And the self-deception comes in if you tell yourself that really this is storytelling.

If you hang on to story hard and play WoD games, you must either Drift into Nar (which means altering the system), or get GM-controlled stories, or get unhappiness.  Or all of the above!

All I'm saying is that this mismatch, Nar-Sim constructed this way, is I think what Ron really means by TITBB.


When I read this, speficially the second paragraph, I thought I knew what he meant--I started writing a response--and then I realized I wasn't sure. The reasons deal with the words 'story' (or 'storytelling') , Drift, and GM-Control.

Note: I'm not singling Chris out--I do think he was clear there and I'm not arguing his *point* (I think it's a bit to general and wanted some clarafication elsewhere). I'm quoting this here because the collection of words and concepts that I find problematic are all in one place.

Here's what I think was meant:

Quote

If you hang on to the idea of [Address of Premise during play] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a game where the GM mandates all important actions], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


It's possible he meant something like this:
Quote

If you hang on to the idea of [getting a tight transcript in terms of action and theme] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a Sim-game where the GM assigns and controls the "focus of play"], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


It might mean (although I'm sure this isn't it):
Quote

If you hang on to the [ludicrous and non-sensical concept of story and story-telling in an RPG] hard and play WoD Games you must either [abandon the rules, or ditch the players or something] or [have an game where the GM simply narrates everything and the players sit silently and listen], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


All of these meanings have been advanced (and others as well) for the terms in the brackets. Here's how I interpert that statement:

Quote
If you hang on to [the idea of putting thematic elements into the transcript during play] hard and play WoD games, you must either [adopt a group-wide Nar stance] or [have the GM provide situations that strongly encourage play along the lines of some external character-engaging crisis], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


I don't think Chris was, for any large measure unclear in context nor is the language "useless" by any stretch of the imagination--however, I think that a lot of the discussion is making assumptions about what Story and Story-telling and GM-Control (or similar things: Force, for example) mean in a general sense.

So I wanted to use this thread to point out that I think there are several reasonable definitions of the terms (especially in various contexts). Hopefully this could either lead to some new glossary terms or perhaps an abandonment of centering discussions around 'story' and 'storytelling' (or GM-Control-of-Story) and instead using specific instances and examples in their place.

Term 1: Storytelling
There are a lot of people with firm ideas about what 'storytelling' means in an RPG context. Some of these are:

0. Storytelling is a term simply meaning 'what happens under Nar play.' This seems to be implied in a lot of posts I've seen.

Strength: It's a circular definition. Whatever storytelling might sound like (illusionsim? Participationism? Sim-play under Theatrix?) it's now definitionally tied to Nar play and therefore resolves confusion.

Weakness: The glossary pretty firmly separates 'story' from Nar play and doesn't mention 'storytelling' at all. The Nar essay doesn't mention 'storytelling' either as a defining concept of any sort (it's in the title of one of the chapters that's referenced for a quote). I think this is an addition to, or modification of the existing theory.

1. The 'literalist' approach: there is no such thing as storytelling in a traditional RPG. Traditional storytellers don't use dice, rule-books, or have 'players.' The term, therefore, cannot apply to a standard RPG at all.

Strength: This is inarguable. If the person adops a literal definiton of storytelling then RPG's don't apply.

Weakness: I object to this on the grounds that people use storytelling as a term that distinguishes something and therefore, saying that everyone is talking crazy-moon-language when they use it seems a bit useless. We regularly use the term 'author of the story' on The Forge, but there is no agreement as to what that means in the glossary.

If storytelling is useless terminology then so is protagonist and author. The author of the story is simply "the guy who writes the transcript down." That's not very useful.

2. The glossary approach: Story is defined in the glossary as being an interpertative quality of transcript (a redaction of play). Storytelling is not defined in the transcript. If we are to assume it means something, it means putting the elements of theme into the transcript that make a transcript a story.

Strength: I think this removes Story and storytelling from the discussion all around (including removing it as an important factor of Narrativist play). If people feel it's really important and should hold a special place (i.e. distinguishing Sim from Nar) then arguing this may lead to a revision of Narrativism.

Weakness: I have seen statements that I read as saying that without Narrativst play, even a tightly run CoC scenario will not produce a story-transcript without extensive rewrites and embellishing. I have yet to see a solid reason why this must be the case, however.

3. The Story-Game vs. Hack-and-Slash Approach: I think that people distinguish certain types of games based on their precieved mode of play.  In this sense, if the characters are attending parties and politicking and making angsty-in-character statements, they are storytelling. If they are fighting a battle of one set of orks after another, it isn't a story.

This is a very vague standard--however, I'm not so sure it's as vague as to be useless. As a stated preference, for example, it could lead to a variety of useful questions that illuminate what the user is speaking about ("I like it when people talk in character because it makes the dialog be like you'd find in a book.").

Strength: I think this is how a lot of people mean it--in a fairly broad, maybe even inconsidered fashion. Making a broad or somewhat vague statement should not be considered identical to making an incorrect one. Treating broad statements as incorrect will lead to argument rather than dialog.

Weakness: It makes it useless to use here.

Term 2: Drift
In this case, we know what Drift means since we have a glossary entry. However, historically changes to system (which is how the term was used early on) mostly meant changes to rules. Under the glossary defintion, however, it can mean simply having an agreement at the Social Contract level to do things a certain way.

With many games (TRoS) there will need to be some shared agreement about how the game is to be run amongst the players to get Narrativist play (although this is no big deal).

So when using drift in a sentence it is not clear if one means:
1. Changing the rules.
2. Merely haivng a shared Nar agenda at the table?

In the case of (1) there is clearly some additional effort invovled. In the case of (2), however, depending on one's concept of Nar-faclilitation this effort may a given for play (i.e. in order to sit down and play a Narrativist game of Over The Edge everyone must come to the table with a Nar agenda).

So it's not clear where a given speaker who employs the term stands on a given rule-set.

Term 3: GM-Control
Our other option is that the GM controls the story. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people.

1. Railroading. If people assume that GM Control of the story means railroading then it's definitionally dysfunctional.

Strength: It's clear. Railroaded games are clearly "GM controlled." You know this because the PC's ran into GM control and had an issue with it.

Weakness: It's a synonym and there is at least the theory that games can be controlled by the GM in some sense and not be dysfunctional. If that's the case, the term is highly misleading.

2. The GM sets up an active situation which must be addressed by the PC's or there will be dire consequences. In this case, the PC's may be said to be in the "GM's story" in some sense as he has set up a situation for them to interact with and it's hard for them to avoid that. If the GM's situation has a signifcant hand in driving the pacing of the game then it can be said to be "controlled" in some way by him.

Strength: The GM who creates the situation and sets it on the PC's is certianly generating a 'controlling force in the game' (i.e. if Sauron is marching, Frodo's wish to throw the One Ring in a river and open a bagel shop with Sam doesn't make a lot of sense under the context of the characters being real guys living in that world).

Weakness: This doesn't preclude an CA. Any CA, Sim, Gam, or Nar can be handled from a GM-driven external crisis. If the term is to be used to preclude Narrativist play it won't work.

3. The Right Idea. The GM has a right idea and if you don't guess it, he'll be hurt (this was the example in Chris' former post).

Strength: A GM who is dictating things on the basis that he has an emotional state in the direction of play is certainly 'controlling.'

Weakness: It isn't the status or power of being the 'GM' that is controling the story--if this person was a player with the same attitude (things had better turn out my way or I'll be hurt) the issue would be identical.

4.Sim-Where-the-GM-Assigns-The-Point: The GM says "this is what we'll be reinforcing" and the players agree.

Strength: A GM assigning the "point" of Sim play and acting as the gatekeeper sounds like an exercise of control.

Weakness: The GM has to play by the same rules. This can also be seen as a group agreement (the GM decides where to go) but once play is started the element of 'choosing where to go' applies to him as well.

So what's the statement really mean?
I'm going to modify Chris's statement for purposes of this article. I am
Quote

If you hang on to [storytelling] hard and play WoD games, you must either Drift into Nar (which means altering the system), or get GM-controlled stories, or get unhappiness.  Or all of the above!


My readings of the words without specific context are:
Storytelling (2).
Drift (2).
GM-Controlled (2).

From, were I to state Chris's sentence myself, I would mean:
Quote
If you hang on to [the idea of putting thematic elements into the transcript during play] hard and play WoD games, you must either [adopt a group-wide Nar stance] or [have the GM provide situations that strongly encourage play along the lines of some external character-engaging crisis], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


This is actually a statement I completely agree with--it's something I'd tell someone who was complaining that under the Forge definition they were having a hard time getting story (under the glossary definition) out of their games.

However, it's also, I'm pretty sure NOT what Chris meant--since he associates it with TITBB. The point of this isn't that Chris was unclear--just that the terms used are not defined. Even in context, I'm not exactly sure what is meant by Drifting WoD (does giving the characters easy access to a blood supply, as I did in my game, count? Or not?)

-Marco


Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
Post by: John Kim on February 01, 2005, 06:02:50 PM
I thought I should put a brief comment on this.  I think you're tackling several diverse topics here, which makes it hard to answer.  

1) What Chris Lehrich meant to say in the statement you quote.  That's a pretty specific question which should really be up to Chris to answer.

2) General use of the term "storytelling"

3) General use of the term "Drift"

4) General use of the term "GM control"

I think each of these could stand to be a topic unto itself.  I'm thinking of taking on #2, but it'll go in a new thread.


Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
Post by: Marco on February 01, 2005, 06:30:46 PM
Right--the thread wasn't supposed to be about what Chris meant. It was meant to point out that we're using a lot of language that isn't defined anywhere and could mean a lot of similar but subtly and importantly different things.

-Marco


Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
Post by: clehrich on February 01, 2005, 06:58:36 PM
Ye gods!  Um, ok.

First of all, Marco, you do know that what I meant by "charitable reading" didn't go to quite such extremes, right?  :->

Quote from: So I
If you hang on to story hard and play WoD games, you must either Drift into Nar (which means altering the system), or get GM-controlled stories, or get unhappiness.  Or all of the above!

Quote from: And then Marco
Option 1
If you hang on to the idea of [Address of Premise during play] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a game where the GM mandates all important actions], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!

Option 2
If you hang on to the idea of [getting a tight transcript in terms of action and theme] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a Sim-game where the GM assigns and controls the "focus of play"], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!
I think I meant something in between.  You're right -- this terminology is imprecise, and does need focus.  Just to clear up the initial (and basically not very important) question, I think I basically meant:
    If the crew playing a WoD game is really insistent that
what they're going to do is tell stories, and they're really going mandate that that has to happen, then either they're going to have to change the rules or hand over all control of important actions to the GM; otherwise, they're not going to end up telling stories, since that's not usually what happens with Sim games, and that's going to lead to unhappiness all around.[/list:u]On to what matters -- Marco's careful terminological analyses.

Please note: while the above clarifies what I meant (more or less) about Drift and GM-control, it does not answer Marco's question about Story and my point, nor does it answer Marco's real question, which is what we all ought to mean by these terms.

But as John is dead right that this post is structured more intricately than is usual around here, I'm going to do that next post.  This one is just to get me off the hook!

Oh -- and thanks, Marco!


Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
Post by: clehrich on February 01, 2005, 07:46:42 PM
Quote from: Marco
So I wanted to use this thread to point out that I think there are several reasonable definitions of the terms (especially in various contexts). Hopefully this could either lead to some new glossary terms or perhaps an abandonment of centering discussions around 'story' and 'storytelling' (or GM-Control-of-Story) and instead using specific instances and examples in their place.
First, let me say that I agree fully with Marco.  These terms are not all sufficiently precise or specific.  It remains to be seen whether on the whole they need to be terribly precise, but the question is certainly essential.

Let's start with Story, since this is the painful one.  I'm not going to discuss the others in this post.

[Marco's definitions]
Term 1: Storytelling

0. Storytelling is a term simply meaning 'what happens under Nar play.' This seems to be implied in a lot of posts I've seen.

1. The 'literalist' approach: there is no such thing as storytelling in a traditional RPG. Traditional storytellers don't use dice, rule-books, or have 'players.' The term, therefore, cannot apply to a standard RPG at all.

2. The glossary approach: Story is defined in the glossary as being an interpretative quality of transcript (a redaction of play). Storytelling is not defined in the transcript. If we are to assume it means something, it means putting the elements of theme into the transcript that make a transcript a story.

3. The Story-Game vs. Hack-and-Slash Approach: I think that people distinguish certain types of games based on their precieved mode of play.  In this sense, if the characters are attending parties and politicking and making angsty-in-character statements, they are storytelling. If they are fighting a battle of one set of orks after another, it isn't a story.

---
Okay, so let me add to Marco's analyses.

0.  This definition would fall squarely into the old wheeze of "Forge jargon."  By removing "story" from all usage except that specific to one Forge-defined CA (another Forge concept), we make it increasingly difficult for anyone else to make any sense of what we're talking about.  Practically speaking, I also doubt very much that everyone could reasonably adhere to this anyway, because "story" just seems so chunky and useful so often.

1. Again, I think it's unreasonable to remove the term from the lexicon entirely, on any grounds.  In addition, Actual Play discussions, and common perception, show that a lot of games do indeed produce something that "feels like" a story -- they have at least a "family resemblance" thereto.  To eliminate the term is to define it more narrowly than is at all usual: in normal English usage, "Story" does not refer only to what story-tellers do, but to a much wider range of (usually literary) objects.  So to discard it is both impractical and narrow-minded.

2. This definition is in fact not a definition of story, but a description of the circumstances under which story is produced.  It assumes, in fact, that we know what story is.  Thus it is a circular definition.  In effect, it says that story (and we all know what that is) only appears in certain kinds of transcripts under certain circumstances; this is at best a negative definition, intended to block the term's use in other contexts.  This last has had practical value around here, which is why it's formulated this way.  But it is not a definition of story itself, and thus at the least it requires expansion.

3. As Marco says, this definition is much too vague for precise use, and will naturally lead to confusion and disagreement.  It does reflect common use in gaming circles, to some degree: WoD games are "storytelling" games by this definition (so long as you forget about all that fighting and whatnot that happens there).  Once again, it's really a negative definition: story isn't hack-and-slash, which doesn't say what it actually is.

I would suggest that we forget about 0 and 1, as they are simply impractical and I see no way of fixing that.

------------
So what do we mean by story?

Let's note that the "Story Now" essay does provide a gloss:
Quote
All role-playing necessarily produces a sequence of imaginary events. Go ahead and role-play, and write down what happened to the characters, where they went, and what they did. I'll call that event-summary the "transcript." But some transcripts have, as Pooh might put it, a "little something," specifically a theme: a judgmental point, perceivable as a certain charge they generate for the listener or reader. If a transcript has one (or rather, if it does that), I'll call it a story.
Later in that essay, Ron uses a few concepts apparently derived from Lajos Egri; he says that
Quote
at least one engaging issue or problematic feature of human existence [must] be addressed
and he provides an extensive gloss on "address."

Ultimately, however, Ron does preface all this discussion with the remark that
Quote
Long ago, I concluded that "story" as a role-playing term was standing in for several different processes and goals, some of which were incompatible.
By my reading, nothing has really changed.  Ron has proposed definitions that work for Story Now, a particular mode of play, but are not intended to work more broadly.  Certainly Marco's analysis indicates, and I'd agree with him, that these definitions should not be applied generally.  So we're stuck.

------------
My own inclination is to fall back on narrative terms: exposition, development, climax, denouement -- or their many variants.  It seems to me that what we usually mean by "story" has these qualities.  The problem is that even these are sufficiently general that we could say the same thing of a fight scene, as in fact is often done in film; that is, film people do often analyze a scene or sequence in these same terms.  This means that the obvious distinction between "hack and slash" and "story" is not well formulated on this basis, since a fight-scene is normally a sequence (in film terms) that fits a narrative model.

But here's where I want to throw a wrench in the works.

I think that the difference which the "storytelling games" folks have in mind is not that between fight scene and story, but between "hack and slash" and story.  I think Marco is remarkably precise there.

Consider The Princess Bride, looking at the sequence in which the disguised hero meets Inigo Montoya at the top of the cliff.  This is simply a fight sequence, nothing more.  But it does tell one sort of story:
    Exposition: the hero is panting for breath (having climbed a cliff), but he's ready to fight.  Inigo doesn't want to just yet, because he doesn't want it to be unfair.  This tells us that Inigo is basically a decent guy, and the fact that they have a little banter here as well sets up the general feel of the sequence.  Eventually, Inigo is getting impatient, because now the hero has decided to sit on his butt, so they've switched.  Then they finally get their act together and draw swords.
    Development: they fight for a bit.  Cool swordplay, lots of fun is had.  Eventually they come to the clinch.  Inigo admits that the hero is a fabulous swordsman -- but that he himself is not left-handed.
    Development 2 (used to heighten tension): they fight some more.  More cool swordplay.  Eventually they clinch again.  The hero reveals that he too is not left-handed.
    Climax: the hero wins.  Inigo begs to be killed.  The hero bonks him on the head instead, because he rather likes him and he's not a rotten guy -- he's the hero, right?
    Denouement: the Sicilian sees that Inigo has been beaten.  "Inconceivable!"  He sends the Giant to stop the hero.[/list:u]That is a story, isn't it?  But it isn't hack-and-slash.  Sure, some fighting happened, but it happened in a manner structured to say something.  The point, from a "storytelling games" perspective, is that this could not be experienced by the players through mere die-rolling.  In other words, this is "storytelling" and not "hack-and-slash."

    The problem that Ron has been pointing to for some years now is that even if you discard the "just roll some dice" approach associated (not entirely fairly) with D&D et al., you're not going to get this sequence without doing something more.  In fact, you're going to have to enforce, somewhere, at some level, that dramatic structure.  You're going to have to prevent a bad roll from killing a character, which would suck for the story.  And so on.  In fact, you're going to have to impose constraints from a meta-level that will ensure that story happens.

    Now apparently (according to Xiombarg, for example), this is not at all popular as a conclusion among WoD players.  This means that one of the following things is happening:[list=1]
    • They're not getting story
    • They're secretly doing meta-work, but don't know or admit it
    • The GM is doing meta-work, and they feel this doesn't count as a problem
    • The hand of God regularly reaches down into WoD games[/list:o]I for one doubt 1 and 4.  I suspect (as you know from another thread) that 2 is happening, to some degree, but I think the main point is that 3 is happening.

      So apparently story, for these players, requires not only this structure, but also that it happen to them rather than being constructed by them.

      But the nice thing about looking at it this way is that story is happening regardless, by a fairly traditional definition, which is to say some version of a classic narrative structure.  Which we can then debate, in other threads, without running too far off from what non-Forge posters are familiar with.

      The trick is, this does entail one big change: the definition cannot be formulated in terms of process.  Story is product.

      This means (getting back to Marco's definitions) that #2 is a poor definition, because it tells us how story is made.  It also means that #3 is poor only insofar as it is negative and not positive.  That has the advantage, practically speaking, that we can hang on to all that stuff people sometimes like to talk about: narrative, form, structure, and whatnot.  Lit-crit stuff, or drama-class stuff, or whatever.  I don't know much about this sort of thing, but a lot of folks do.  I think that a definition that permits all of that material to be applicable is a wise thing to shoot for, as it opens up new avenues of analysis.

      But the shift from process to product does have one BIG implication:
        The Big Model is about process, not product[/list:u]Which means that "Story Now" suddenly changes its valence.  Every form of "story" within the Big Model except Story Now must be eliminated, because it's totally irrelevant: only Story Now is about process -- and it's not exactly about story, either, although it's very much about something like story.  Whenever we talk about story and CA, then, we're necessarily talking about Narrativism.  If we say that a Sim game can produce stories, that says nothing at all: it's like saying that the baker makes both bread and cookies -- they aren't connected.

        All of which leads me in a vast circle around to saying that I don't love the usage "Story Now," but it's been pretty well accepted, so I'll buy it.  But otherwise, Story has nothing whatsoever to do with process-analysis, and thus nothing to do with GNS or Big Model or anything like that.  It's a piece of a model not yet built, a product-model of gaming.  That's a necessary and overdue complement to the Big Model, but it's not the same beast at all.

        Enough yammering.  Sorry!


      Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
      Post by: John Kim on February 01, 2005, 09:33:12 PM
      Quote from: clehrich
      The trick is, this does entail one big change: the definition cannot be formulated in terms of process.  Story is product.
      ...
      But the shift from process to product does have one BIG implication:
        The Big Model is about process, not product[/list:u]Which means that "Story Now" suddenly changes its valence.  Every form of "story" within the Big Model except Story Now must be eliminated, because it's totally irrelevant: only Story Now is about process -- and it's not exactly about story, either, although it's very much about something like story.

        Right.  This is exactly the point that Marco was driving at in his recent GNS thread, Retroactive Story.  Narrativism as defined is about one process (or one class of processes) for generating story.  It's not about story itself.  On the other hand, Marco met with some stiff resistance to the idea in that thread.


        Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
        Post by: Marco on February 01, 2005, 09:35:49 PM
        Chris,

        I agree with your arguments and not with your conclusions! You are right that Storytelling is process--but Story is still product and it isn't only CA's that define Process. Techniques do too.

        Storytelling, IMO, is a collection of techniques. I put it like this:

        I think:
        Product: Story is a potential product of any CA (as per the glossary)
        Process: Storytelling is a collection of techniques. also available under any CA.

        If, on the other hand, we say Storytelling is Story Now and don't change the glossary then we get this:

        Process: Storytelling -> Story Now = Narrativist only
        Product: Story -> Story Techniques / Pure Chance = Any CA

        This doesn't make sense to me.

        The Nar essay is not fixated on either structure (the Lit 101 stuff people talk about) nor even story itself. There's a reason for that. I think the reason is that if you associate Nar play with structure then you are linking it to lower level entities (techniques) in a way that violates the model. Look at the glossary entry for Story Now:

        Quote
        Story Now
        The epiphenomenal outcome for the Transcript from such play is almost always a story.

        (emphasis added)
        Story is secondary to Address of Premise. It's very common for Nar play--but it's not essential.

        How do I know Storytelling is a pan-CA technique? Because I can clearly see how it can be done regardless of CA.

        Look at your four possibilities:
        Quote

           1. They're not getting story
           2. They're secretly doing meta-work, but don't know or admit it
           3. The GM is doing meta-work, and they feel this doesn't count as a problem
           4. The hand of God regularly reaches down into WoD games


        I agree with you: (2) and (3) are the likely ones. The (1) is good for self-deception but that puts us in the case of judging everyone as lying to themselves. Maybe it's (4) but, you know, I kinda doubt it too.

        However: your (2) and (3) are dead on. However, they don't need to be Nar. They're techniques of play.

        Here are two examples of techniques that fall into those categories (but do not define them).

        Example of Your (2) Case: Structure-is-the-point-Sim.
        Blood Brothers (a collection of excellent movie-style CoC adventures) makes each adventure like a film. There's a "preview" the players can read, pre-gen characters with notes on how to play them. There are posters done in the film style historically. There is discussion of the genre. There are words of advice to tell the players they are 'in a movie' and should behave appropriately.

        I think it's possible, even with this, to play Blood Brothers straight and be Narrativist. But if you play it straight Sim you are still going to get a story. Just about the same story, in fact. It'll have theme and everything. It'll have all the structure your Lit 101 teacher wanted. It's just like a movie.

        The game provides the structure--the players, acting like characters in a movie, will keep the action tight and focused on doing movie-like things in a movie-like structure.

        In this case, story is generate with intent from the players. It just isn't (doesn't have to be) Narrativist intent. If someone thinks all intent-to-generate-story-structure is Narrativist, I think that's provably not true. The Nar essay says many, many times that Address of Premise means the Player is engaged with the moral/ethical challenge.

        Someone deciding it's time to move to the climax because that's what would happen in a movie is not doing that.

        Your (3) Case: Premise Rich Situation. In my Nazi adventure from several threads, it's quite possible to present a fairly controlled situation (but not 'railroaded') that has an implicit structure and embeded premise.

        In this case the GM is doing some work at the start of the game (makin' an adventure) and, yes, it's perfectly fine. In fact, I wouldn't think (some) Narrativist would object to this either. All that's required is for the GM and the Players to connect for Nar play.

        And if that doesn't happen, it might be Gamist. It might be Sim. Hell, some of it might be Narrativist and some might not--but it'll reliably be a story.

        -Marco


        Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
        Post by: clehrich on February 02, 2005, 07:52:45 AM
        Quote from: John Kim
        Quote from: clehrich
        The trick is, this does entail one big change: the definition cannot be formulated in terms of process.  Story is product.
        ...
        But the shift from process to product does have one BIG implication:
          The Big Model is about process, not product[/list:u]Which means that "Story Now" suddenly changes its valence.  Every form of "story" within the Big Model except Story Now must be eliminated, because it's totally irrelevant: only Story Now is about process -- and it's not exactly about story, either, although it's very much about something like story.

          Right.  This is exactly the point that Marco was driving at in his recent GNS thread, Retroactive Story.  Narrativism as defined is about one process (or one class of processes) for generating story.  It's not about story itself.  On the other hand, Marco met with some stiff resistance to the idea in that thread.
          As you know, and I admitted, I had some trouble following that thread.  I'm not sure why, but a little more on that next post (in response to Marco).  Here's something I said in that thread, since it's one of the few things I'm sure I understand.
          Quote from: In that thread, I
          All of which, I'm sorry to say, seems to me to make this whole retroactive business a matter of deep confusion -- unless it is intended as a sharp challenge to the Big Model. Retroactive examination is founded on a product focus, which the Big Model is emphatically not. It's perfectly plausible to generate a good analytical theory of gaming that is founded on product -- although I'd suggest that an extensive transcript (T-L) would be more effective for the purpose -- but such a theory has little to do with the Big Model.
          I don't think I've changed my mind in this thread from that one.  If we grant that Story is a kind of product, appearing wherever (back to transcripts etc.), then Story has nothing to do with the Big Model, and cannot be used for CA-diagnosis at all.  Apparently we agree about this, yes?

          Now that also means that, as you say, Nar is a way of generating story.  I would like to be a bit more precise, though: I think that it would be better to say that Nar is a way of generating something that in many cases, even most, looks like story.  This is perhaps over-precise for practical purposes, but for the moment it may be worthwhile: my point is that the only level at which we can say that Nar produces story is in the aim and intent.  That is, whether story is or is not generated does not in any way alter whether the game is/was Nar, nor whether it was successful.

          That is, a fully successful, functional, happy, true Narrativist game may not generate story at all.  This is because one simply cannot connect the processual categories of the Big Model to product categories like story (or myth).

          A follow-up, for another thread, would be whether we can understand CA's as having intended products, as for example Nar intends to produce story, which might be a useful way of examining the aesthetics of CA processes.  But we'd have to be very firm about not examining success in this, since that would re-confused process and product.

          Assuming we're on the same page here, let me say that the "stiff resistance" didn't come from me -- that was just flat-out confusion.  I still don't know why, exactly.  I think maybe I should sit down and re-read that whole thread very slowly and see if I can figure it out, eh?


          Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
          Post by: Marco on February 02, 2005, 08:05:27 AM
          I think what John is saying--what I'm saying, anyway--is that Nar play usually contains techniques that are some of the of many methods that reliably generate Story.

          I think Ron's use of the term 'epiphenomenal' in the Story Now definition is very key here. Story is seen as a 'symptom' of Nar play--but not the focus (and perhaps even unrelated in some cases--such as when you get Story without Nar play).

          [ Yes. A lot of people who self-identify as Nar say Story is important to them. That's true. Looking at why that is is probably very profitable and might result in some surprising revelations--but Sim players say Story is important to them too. Maybe an honest desire for Story crosses both CA's. ]

          -Marco


          Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
          Post by: clehrich on February 02, 2005, 08:22:58 AM
          Marco,

          We seem to have a continual low-level miscommunication going on.  Last thread, I couldn't seem to follow you.  This one, I think you're misreading me.  Let's try to clear this up, since actually I think we think we're on the same page -- if we are, that's great; if we aren't, let's pinpoint why.
          Quote from: Marco
          I agree with your arguments and not with your conclusions! You are right that Storytelling is process--but Story is still product and it isn't only CA's that define Process. Techniques do too.
          I suppose Storytelling is process, but I'm not convinced that it's a useful term, having been largely appropriated by a specific set of games.  I didn't intend to make the claim about that term, particularly.  As to "Story is only product and it isn't only CA's that define Process," I'd totally agree with this.  In fact, I would go rather farther than adding Techniques to Process -- to my mind, it's the entire Big Model, from Social Contract down.  None of this -- none -- has anything to do with story, because story is product, and the entire Big Model is process.
          Quote
          Product: Story is a potential product of any CA (as per the glossary)
          Process: Storytelling is a collection of techniques. also available under any CA.
          I'd expand that slightly, but I think we agree entirely.  I'd just say that Story is a potential product of any gaming whatsoever.  If you want to include Storytelling as a technique-cluster, I think we do get into a bunch of narrow details about techniques common to a range of play-modes that desire to generate particular ends; the problem is that Storytelling cannot be defined in relation to Story, except in terms of intent, as in "we intend to generate X results so we do Y thing that seems sort of like it would produce X."  We can't say anything about whether it works, or even whether it could work, except insofar as it is by definition possible that the techniques could generate story because any play could generate story.
          Quote
          If, on the other hand, we say Storytelling is Story Now and don't change the glossary ...
          I don't like that any more than you do.  If nothing else, it strikes me as a big mistake to take up a catchphrase from some games explicitly read by Ron as CA-incoherent and use it to replace a Ron term for a specific mode of CA-coherence.  We've got enough terminological problems without that!
          Quote
          Look at your four possibilities:
          Quote

             1. They're not getting story
             2. They're secretly doing meta-work, but don't know or admit it
             3. The GM is doing meta-work, and they feel this doesn't count as a problem
             4. The hand of God regularly reaches down into WoD games
          I agree with you: (2) and (3) are the likely ones. The (1) is good for self-deception but that puts us in the case of judging everyone as lying to themselves. Maybe it's (4) but, you know, I kinda doubt it too.
          Actually for me, #1 isn't really an issue of self-deception.  It's one thing to conceal or mystify structures, processes, and methods that one doesn't want to recognize.  It's another thing simply to assert that something is absolutely true when it absolutely isn't.  (Incidentally, this might be why you and "self-deception" aren't getting along -- if this is what that term means to you, then you're absolutely right to reject it.)  So example 1 basically means something like this:
            WoD player: We're having a blast, and what we're generating is story, according to some very loose definition.  We know we're getting story, because we're getting what we want out of play, and what we want is story.  (Note that this is a circular definition -- that's intentional.)
            Analyst: You aren't having fun.  You're not getting story.  You're not getting what you want out of play.  Actually, you hate everything about your play.  What you're getting out of play doesn't fit my definition of story, which is narrow and specific (unlike yours), so therefore you hate your game.[/list:u]That's ridiculous.  The only thing debatable about the WoD player's statement is the circular definition of story: if he's having fun, he says, he must ipso facto be getting story.  The only way to figure out what he means by story is to analyze what he's getting out of play, and try to figure out why he calls that story.  But by some definition, anyway, he must be getting story.  I was just trying to suggest that the definition in question is a pretty informal narrative structure (Lit 101 stuff, as Marco nicely calls it).

            #2 is what I would call ordinary self-deception: the players want to conceal from themselves a mode of activity and thinking -- meta-play -- that they consider externally (consciously, etc.) is a bad thing.  The problem is that to get what they want out of play, they have to do some of this.  Since they think it's a bad thing, for reasons having nothing to do with play itself, they conceal from themselves the means by which they do these things.  And then they get what they want, and do not as far as they know violate the aesthetic principle that says they can't do meta-play, and so they have happy gaming.

            #3, conversely, is presumably what they tell themselves.  They don't mind the GM doing meta-work, because after all the GM's job is to be the meta-guy.  At the least, he's the guy who knows the stats on the NPCs and such, which is meta-information.  And unquestionably the GM is doing meta-work, so we presume that at least some of #3 is going on in such a game.
            Quote
            However: your (2) and (3) are dead on. However, they don't need to be Nar. They're techniques of play.
            Agreed.  The only thing processual here is the concealment or mystification, and that is not, so far as I can see, currently part of the Big Model structure.  It would be interesting to incorporate it into a kind of Social Contract technique, but at the moment that's not part of the model.

            Your examples seem perfectly plausible to me.  I do think that there's some of #2 going on in the Premise Rich Situation, because the players' "connecting" with the GM is partly a deliberate decision, made before and continuously during play, to stick to the meta-constructed Premise Rich Situation.


            So far as I can see, we don't disagree at all.  You started the post, however, by saying that you disagreed with my conclusions.  Did I miss that somewhere?


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: clehrich on February 02, 2005, 08:25:42 AM
            Quote from: Marco
            I think what John is saying--what I'm saying, anyway--is that Nar play usually contains techniques that are some of the of many methods that reliably generate Story.

            I think Ron's use of the term 'epiphenomenal' in the Story Now definition is very key here. Story is seen as a 'symptom' of Nar play--but not the focus (and perhaps even unrelated in some cases--such as when you get Story without Nar play).

            [ Yes. A lot of people who self-identify as Nar say Story is important to them. That's true. Looking at why that is is probably very profitable and might result in some surprising revelations--but Sim players say Story is important to them too. Maybe an honest desire for Story crosses both CA's. ]
            See, I'm getting lost again.  Is there something here that you think I'd disagree with?  Can you pinpoint that for me? -- because I don't see anything here remotely objectionable.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 02, 2005, 08:54:19 AM
            I think we're in agreement. I was clarifying that when you said "Nar is a way of generating story" it was meant that it was 'one of many.'

            Edited to add: What I thought you were saying (and I misread) was that Story Now, by virtue of being accepted in general usage, should be used to define the term 'storytelling.'

            I was wrong about that. I think we are on the same page.

            Here is the only other thing I'd like to clarify (I think we're in almost complete agreement otherwise and maybe including this):
            Quote

            #2 is what I would call ordinary self-deception: the players want to conceal from themselves a mode of activity and thinking -- meta-play -- that they consider externally (consciously, etc.) is a bad thing. The problem is that to get what they want out of play, they have to do some of this. Since they think it's a bad thing, for reasons having nothing to do with play itself, they conceal from themselves the means by which they do these things. And then they get what they want, and do not as far as they know violate the aesthetic principle that says they can't do meta-play, and so they have happy gaming.

            I think my example of Blood Brothers is a case of players doing the meta work themselves (agreeing to behave as movie-characters), admitting it, and the play still not (necessiarily) being Narrativist.

            There might be self-deception in some instances of players doing the meta-work. But there might not. If the player in a V:tM game is going "what are the social dictates that surround a Vampire? Hmm? I think, analyzing them, I'll have my character do 'X'" then this may still be very thematic in the transcript--Vampires lead a pretty thematic life. But it isn't Nar since the player himself is not connecting to the premise.

            Quote

            #3, conversely, is presumably what they tell themselves. They don't mind the GM doing meta-work, because after all the GM's job is to be the meta-guy. At the least, he's the guy who knows the stats on the NPCs and such, which is meta-information. And unquestionably the GM is doing meta-work, so we presume that at least some of #3 is going on in such a game.

            I agree with this--I'm just thinkin' it's like a stock-standard mode of being a GM in any game from Morrow Project to GURPS to Sorcerer. I mean, having NPC's and hidden knowledge about the situation is, IMO, pretty much a given.

            I guess I'm just saying "yeah--that's a common technique." I was wondering if you thought it was associated with Force or railroading or anything.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: clehrich on February 02, 2005, 09:27:02 AM
            Quote from: Marco
            I think we're in agreement.
            So do I.
            Quote
            I think my example of Blood Brothers is a case of players doing the meta work themselves (agreeing to behave as movie-characters), admitting it, and the play still not (necessiarily) being Narrativist.
            Agreed.  Meta-play has nothing to do with Narrativism, although it is commonly used there.

            As to V:tM and the like, see my big honking post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=150347#150347) over in the Deception thread.
            Quote
            I agree with this [about type #3] --I'm just thinkin' it's like a stock-standard mode of being a GM in any game from Morrow Project to GURPS to Sorcerer. I mean, having NPC's and hidden knowledge about the situation is, IMO, pretty much a given.

            I guess I'm just saying "yeah--that's a common technique." I was wondering if you thought it was associated with Force or railroading or anything.
            Nope, I think it's bog-standard.  It is interesting to speculate about why it is so, since it isn't actually necessary as such, but 99% of discussions about "how to GM" assume that this is what's going on.


            Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: M. J. Young on February 02, 2005, 06:11:41 PM
            Quote from: clehrich
            That is, whether story is or is not generated does not in any way alter whether the game is/was Nar, nor whether it was successful.

            That is, a fully successful, functional, happy, true Narrativist game may not generate story at all.  This is because one simply cannot connect the processual categories of the Big Model to product categories like story (or myth).

            Absolutely.

            Is this something new? I thought this was central to the definition--that the agendum was about how you play, not what you get from how you play, and that narrativism was about addressing premise which is likely to produce story (but not guaranteed to do so).

            --M. J. Young


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 02, 2005, 06:27:53 PM
            No--it's not new--but it is contraversial.

            Some people will tell you that Sim-generating-story is incredibly unreliable regardless of how play is set up. If that's true (and I don't think it is) then you can make a strong evidence-based case for Storytelling = Nar play.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: clehrich on February 02, 2005, 07:24:48 PM
            I know "me too" posts are verboten, but since M.J. replied to my post, I'm going to say "me too" on Marco's post.  Exactly.  It shouldn't be controversial, but it is.

            Maybe it won't be any more?


            Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 03, 2005, 01:15:23 AM
            Quote from: John Kim

            Right.  This is exactly the point that Marco was driving at in his recent GNS thread, Retroactive Story (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13935).  Narrativism as defined is about one process (or one class of processes) for generating story.  It's not about story itself.  On the other hand, Marco met with some stiff resistance to the idea in that thread.


            Yes he did, because his conclusion was that therefore "story" can be meaningfully said to appear in any CA.  I dispute this, and did so on the basis  that G and S are explicitly about something other than "story", whatever that may mean.  IMO the term is largely valueless, and the only place it CAN have relevance is in Narr.

            I fully agree that we should discuss story in terms of rising tension, denoument at al.  That is, we should talk about really existing story as a thing, rather than deploying the overly-broad and overly-general term "story" which is so prone to being misunderstood or meaning different things to different people.


            Title: Re: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 03, 2005, 05:07:59 AM
            Quote from: contracycle

            Yes he did, because his conclusion was that therefore "story" can be meaningfully said to appear in any CA.


            Well, firstly:

            1. I said that the theory indicates that Story can appear in any CA. You can supply the "meaningfully." Ron uses specific (scientific) wording in the Story Now definition that might indicate that theory finds Story-as-structure secondary to Nar.

            2. Under the theory, Story-as-structure might be primary to Sim. If you take an action because "it's what a guy in a movie would take" and it disassociates you as a player from Premise then you get story and you don't get Nar.

            It's situations like this that make the story-def in the glossary valuable, even necessary.

            3. We don't know what 'Storytelling' or 'story-gaming' is under the theory (save for general agreement in this thread). I suspect that at least sometimes it's a bunch of highly immersed guys playing vampire who are thrown a seires of Narrativist Bangs at them by the GM and if the situation mutates out of the GM's control the GM will do whatever he or she can to get the game back to where they can handle it (sometimes it's the GM being a bully too or some kind of shared attempt at uncovering the GM's situation)

            Is this Sim or Nar? Under the theory it could be either and if there's a really low tolerance for GM-intradiction, the GM isn't all that competent, and the players are really dramatic and wild in their reactions to the Bangs then maybe you get dysfunction and the players are pissed off.

            On the other hand, if the GM is skillful at keeping interesting things happening no matter what the players do and the players don't have to break Actor Stance, then you either get Sim or Nar (at different times) depending on what the analyist (who could be a player or might not be) thinks of the action at that time.

            I don't think "hard core" Story-gaming is expressed under GNS as a CA. I think it's a collection of techniques and they'll varry greatly depending on how well the GM thinks on his feet, how well he knows the players, how much the players are willing to sacrafice in terms of immersion or story-control when things reach a crisis point, etc.

            4. We can say challenge doesn't appear meaningfully in Nar games (or genre) but that doesn't make any sense. All stories have conflict (challenge) and tension derived from that. Many stories benefit from being within a genere without being slaved to it.

            I think that "meaningfully" is in the eye of the beholder.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 03, 2005, 05:12:34 AM
            Is such "story gaming" an actually observed phenomenon?  The case of a group of immersed players girrving on Narr bangs but with a GM who feels this is escaping their "control" seems like a classis Sim/Nar agenda split.

            So as far as I am concerned, until such time as a functional "story mode" can be claimed in some way, the situation is already described in GNS as an agenda conflict, whether skillfully managed or otherwise.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Storn on February 03, 2005, 05:20:28 AM
            Quote
            I think I meant something in between. You're right -- this terminology is imprecise, and does need focus. Just to clear up the initial (and basically not very important) question, I think I basically meant:



            Quote
            That is, we should talk about really existing story as a thing, rather than deploying the overly-broad and overly-general term "story" which is so prone to being misunderstood or meaning different things to different people.


            No it doesn't.

            "Story" works fine as a definition precisely because it is imprecise.  It has for literature, movies, even interpertive dance or music.  The song "Papa was a rolling stone" has a story.  So does War & Peace.  Just because one is music, the other a huge novel doesn't make either story invalid or a non-story.  Just because one is small and the other huge doesn't make a difference.  Game groups devoting time to lots of character flavor and day to day activity or groups that have tons of dice rolling and combat and no flavor... makes NO difference.  Both are stories.

            Who cares if you have a different interpertation of what is story than I do?  Good!  That exploration of what is different makes for an interesting conversation.  And story is not always a thing... it can be a Process, especially in gaming, where there may be multiple co-authors...  In my opinion, it is precisely this *negotiation* of what the story is going to be within the group that creates that evening's session and thereby, that story.

            I agree with Marco and Chris... Hack and Slash will generate story, through player actions and reactions, the interpertation of the dice and the group effort WILL LEAD TO A STORY.  Probalby bore the pants off of me, but it is still a story.

            When it comes to RPG, story will happen.  The DEGREE it will happen will vary from session to session, group to group, game system to game system.

            But it doesn't matter, IMO, if you are Gamist, Narr, or Sim, Story will happen to your RPGing.

            Sure, it is a broad definition.  But I think this continual parsing of terms is not healthy for discussion.  There is a real chance of missing the forest for all the trees.

            Remember something very key about the World of Darkness and Vampire in the beginning.... the term "storytelling system" was as much MARKETING as it was labeling.  Really not all that high falutin'... it really just came down to some good, smart marketing.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 03, 2005, 05:27:21 AM
            Yes, Storn, you are making my argument for me.  I have been suggesting that any sequence of events can be seen as a story for about 2 years now.  Furthermore, it is precisely on this basis that I claim the term is virtually useless: if it does not matter what your agenda is, and any sequence of events will do, then it is impossible to have a disucssion about GOOD story, and it is impossible to have a serious discussion about structuring events in G and S without that analysis being polluted by the story model.

            Thats why it should be limited to Narr IMO, or discussed only in the context of structured story with the usual technical features.  You say above that story works perfectly well for other mdeia but in fact your are mistaken - all those media have their own technical jargon.  The loose usage of story is preempting that level of procedural analysis on our part.  When constructing a play to be performed, you must discuss it in terms of the techniques of play performance, not discuss the elements of your story.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Storn on February 03, 2005, 06:06:46 AM
            Quote
            you must discuss it in terms of the techniques of play performance, not discuss the elements of your story.


            bulpucky.  "must" is a strong word.

            You can certainly discuss a play in precisely the same terms as any other media.  

            The ebb and flow of the story.  The opening, the middle, the end.  Main characters, supporting characters, environment.  Conflict.  Color (yes, music and written words can have color) Resolution.  Subplot.  Theme.  

            Doesn't matter right now if I'm talking about a play, a comic, a roleplaying session, a movie, a song or even *gasp* an illustration.

            Certainly, each media has its own technical jargon.  Because each media has its own challenges that are different.  The demands of Swan Lake are different than teh demands of Death of a Salesman.

            Your procedral analysis has to take BOTH into account, the common terms for ALL stories... as well as the technical jargon of that particular media... or you don't have much of an analysis.  You just ignored the things that are common.


            Bringing it back to role playing.  Player X leans on a novel approach/model and wants long, liesurely epics.  Player Y thinks of comic book pacing model and wants stacatto, flurries of action and angle.  Player Z thinks TV and Movies and wants framing, visuals described.  None of them are wrong.  Each of them can frame their Role Playing with  any of those influences.  All of those approaches can be really useful in RPG situations.


            AS for talking about GOOD story, you are really talking about good CRAFT... again, IMO, this doesn't preempt talking with loose terms.  Good movies, tv, comics, books, illustration and role playing game sessions have many things in common.  We need to acknowledge when they work and when they don't.  And a lot it is personal preference... and that has to be acknowledged too.

            But Craft is particular to that media.  The Craft of dance is quite different than the Craft of movies.  The Craft of Role Playing seems similar to novels, comics, tv, movies... but that wee "interaction" thing really makes it considerably different.  

            I can tell you if a peice of artwork is *crafted* well, regardless of whether I like it or not.  I can tell you if a game session was crafted well, regardless if I liked it or not.  Novels?  Not so good at telling... I"m not much of a writer and I don't dwell on the craft of writing.  But in artwork, you can have GREAT artwork with lousy craft, sometimes deliberately so.

            And great Craft doesn't necessarily mean great Art.  But it is a good way to bet.

            So lets talk about the Craft of Role Playing on this forum.  Here's the thing about Craft... it rests on Rules of Thumb... not hard, fast rules.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 03, 2005, 06:29:51 AM
            Quote from: Storn

            bulpucky.  "must" is a strong word.


            Indeed

            Quote

            You can certainly discuss a play in precisely the same terms as any other media.  The ebb and flow of the story.  The opening, the middle, the end.  Main characters, supporting characters, environment.  Conflict.  Color (yes, music and written words can have color) Resolution.  Subplot.  Theme.


            Lets assume its a play.  Which characters are on the stage when the curtain rises?  What is the last scene before the intermission that closes the first act?  Does character A enter stage left or stage right?

            Quote

            Your procedral analysis has to take BOTH into account, the common terms for ALL stories... as well as the technical jargon of that particular media... or you don't have much of an analysis.  You just ignored the things that are common.


            No, the things that are common to all stories should be discussed in terms of inversal story charcterisitics and features.  But the actual production of a work, in this case a game, must be able to discuss its own process and aims and methods.  We cannot use terms suitable for sim if the sim model contorts to make itself story-like, thius concealing the very specifics we need to discuss.

            Quote

            But Craft is particular to that media.  The Craft of dance is quite different than the Craft of movies.  The Craft of Role Playing seems similar to novels, comics, tv, movies... but that wee "interaction" thing really makes it considerably different.  


            Fine - I accept craft as a suitable term here.  But how then are we to discuss the Craft of Sim, if we do so in terms of story?  I'm well aware that the interaction thing is very very different and indeed that is one of the main things that the term "story" obscures.

            Knowing the story of a given piece is only a tiny chunk of the activity of actually producing it as a live work.  Now you also have to figure out how to communicate it.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Storn on February 03, 2005, 06:54:20 AM
            Quote
            you must discuss it in terms of the techniques of play performance, not discuss the elements of your story.



            the Craft of Sim, the way I see it, still has to take Story into consideration... and yes, I'm talking about my loose, messy, universal term.

            Why?

            Because Sim is a Rule of Thumb, a predilection, a "want" to have a world that is detailed and has internal logic and the exploration of that world... not an all-encasing mindset of a gamer.  

            I've rejected the GNS model for some time, because I think every roleplayer is G and N and S simutaneosly.  You cannot do all of them at the same time and be roleplaying.  Ever.  That is my theory.

            I'll reiterate that theory.

            You cannot play a game without rules.  5 people can tell a story around a table without rules... but it ain't a game.  So everyone has a little Gamist in them.

            You cannot have a game session w/o Narrative (an order of events)... even if it is random roll on a wandering monster chart, that imposes a Narrative on the group story.  "We fought a demon, then some gnolls" is a narrative.  So everyone has a little Narr in them.

            You cannot have a Narrative without a structure, an environment.  Some degree of simulation for the group to agree upon is needed.  So everyone has a little Sim in them.

            Now, folks fall more heavily into one of the GNS camps and I think GNS is great as vocabulary.  But since I believe that nobody can be ONLY G or ONLY N or S... then GNS terms are RULES OF THUMB.

            Since we are then talking about Rules of Thumb and Role Playing Game sessions... a Simulationist still needs STORY.  Therefore, we can still talk about the craft of Story, both universal and media specific, and still impact the Sim leaning person.


            Now.  How to Craft a good session for a Sim?  That is a different question but very important.  

            I'm a good GM.  I have a predominately Sim player.  My suggestion is to let them have a lot of input on the world.  Let them flesh out details, subject to GM review, of course, sometimes the details could derail a plotline or introduce an element that is not needed.  Come up with things to explore for that character, whether it is the next valley in fantasy, or the next cool hacking program in Cyberpunk.  We can discuss game mechanics, does the Hacking rules support that desire for Player Sim to explore, be surprised, and have input?  Or does it stifle such by being too cut and dry.

            There.  Now I'm talking about the Craft of being a GM.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 03, 2005, 07:14:00 AM
            Quote from: Storn

            Now, folks fall more heavily into one of the GNS camps and I think GNS is great as vocabulary.  But since I believe that nobody can be ONLY G or ONLY N or S... then GNS terms are RULES OF THUMB.


            Well I sympathise with that position; I don;t think individuals hold to one CA relentlessly, and can even switch in or out.  But that is not in fact relevant to this point.

            Quote

            Since we are then talking about Rules of Thumb and Role Playing Game sessions... a Simulationist still needs STORY.  Therefore, we can still talk about the craft of Story, both universal and media specific, and still impact the Sim leaning person.


            Fine.  I've already acknowleged that story is nearly universal to any sequence of events; and that the Craft of Story can indeed be discussed.  Byt my question is this: when do we get into disucssing the Craft of sim?  

            Quote

             Come up with things to explore for that character, whether it is the next valley in fantasy, or the next cool hacking program in Cyberpunk.  We can discuss game mechanics, does the Hacking rules support that desire for Player Sim to explore, be surprised, and have input?  Or does it stifle such by being too cut and dry.


            Fine.  Now where is Story in any of this stuff?  Sim is not story.  Sim does not look like story or behave like story.  If you told a narrative in which a character entered a valley and looked around and then entered another valley, it would be a BAD story even in the most charitable view.

            And, would all these techniques be appropriate to a Narr group?  Probably not - thus what you are describing are Sim concerns, not GMing concerns, generally speaking.  Which is exactly why it is innapropriate to discuss sim in terms of story, becuase it prioduces the wrong impression of what should work and what not.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 03, 2005, 07:38:13 AM
            I think the problem here is this:

            Sim-A: Story is very unlikely (I go from one valley to another)
            Sim-B: Story is very likely (we are committed to playing a game that will come together as though it was a movie--even though we do not connect with the premise as players)

            Gareth: am I right in that you don't believe Sim-B exists or is "sim" under GNS?

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Silmenume on February 03, 2005, 08:09:28 AM
            The question once again begs what is meant by "story."

            If "story" is broad enough to mean that there is this person who bumps into a series of Situations that he deals with then yes Sim can produce this "type" of story reliably.

            If you mean "story" in a more structured sense with a clear beginning, middle, and an end with a central through line (though it need not be Theme) then the answer is Sim-B does not exist.

            Sim is "about" manipulating structures from within the SIS and reacting to those very same structural manipulations, story is one type of meta-structure.  They are not one in the same and the first in not geared towards producing the second without much potential player deprotagonization.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 03, 2005, 08:16:49 AM
            Quote from: Marco

            Gareth: am I right in that you don't believe Sim-B exists or is "sim" under GNS?


            Correct.  The only way that a group of people could about achieving Sim-B is to agree to not make any decisions for their characters, especially not sim decisions.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 03, 2005, 08:18:55 AM
            Okay, so what is happening when the PC's are playing in the Blood Brother's 2 Chainsaw massacre game and the situation is laid out in a fairly story-ish-fashion and they are making decisions to make the product of play be "like a movie" (and grooving on being scared and acting/talking in character and stuff?)

            What's the mode of play?

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: M. J. Young on February 03, 2005, 05:04:31 PM
            Quote from: Storn
            I've rejected the GNS model for some time, because I think every roleplayer is G and N and S simutaneosly.  You cannot do all of them at the same time and be roleplaying.  Ever.  That is my theory.

            I think (from your subsequent comments) that you mean "You cannot fail to do all of them at the same time and be roleplaying." That is, you appear to be saying that all three must be active for roleplaying to occur. As you continue,
            Quote from: you
            I'll reiterate that theory.

            You cannot play a game without rules.  5 people can tell a story around a table without rules... but it ain't a game.  So everyone has a little Gamist in them.

            You cannot have a game session w/o Narrative (an order of events)... even if it is random roll on a wandering monster chart, that imposes a Narrative on the group story.  "We fought a demon, then some gnolls" is a narrative.  So everyone has a little Narr in them.

            You cannot have a Narrative without a structure, an environment.  Some degree of simulation for the group to agree upon is needed.  So everyone has a little Sim in them.

            What you're saying makes sense but for one major flaw. The things you describe here are not "Creative Agenda". They are techniques used in play.

            A creative agendum is something very like a central goal or motive that drives the player's actions. It is something very like the central concept that the player thinks is "fun" about role playing games.

            Some people have great fun killing monsters and taking treasure. I think you've indicated that you would get bored with that rather quickly. I've had players who loved to do that so much I was bored just running the game. On the other hand, I've had great fun taking standardized tests, and most people find them less than enjoyable. I also like getting involved in classroom discussions, debating theory on the Internet, delving into theology--I find these things "fun". I remember hearing of a man who really enjoyed running his own business. That would not be enjoyable to me at all, and I have made every effort to avoid being elected president of Valdron Inc because I don't want to have to do that. We enjoy different kinds of things.

            Creative Agendum is that part of the model that points to why the players are enjoying the game. It connects the fact that they are exploring the shared imagined space to the way they explore it, because it directs what it is they want to build in that shared imagined space. Do they want to build challenges that show off how well they can do things? Do they want to build discussions about personally significant issues? Do they want to build fantasy castles in the air, the stuff of daydreams, a place to be and see and otherwise experience? Those are your creative agenda.

            People usually do pursue one of the three exclusively, or at least primarily. Many think that the others are "wrong", or "not roleplaying". There are a lot of us who enjoy all three--I have been arguing that it is possible to enjoy all three since System Does Matter appeared at Gaming Outpost and started all public discussion of the ideas. I do enjoy all three, and will shift between them in play.

            But it is extremely rare for anyone to be pursuing all three agenda simultaneously, because by their very definition they are The Thing you're after at a given moment.

            You've rejected a straw man, Stron. The theory does not identify gamism, narrativism, or simulationism with the caricatures you've presented.

            --M. J. Young


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 03, 2005, 06:53:55 PM
            The definition of story for purposes of this thread is the glossary def: there may be other definitions of Story and therfore "storytelling" however they would be considered modifications to the theory.

            If one thinks the theory/gloss definitions does not accurately address story and storytelling that's a good topic for another thread--I think there's some work to be done there but I cannot change either the theory or the glossary definition. What we can do is, given the existing structure, define Storytelling and see if that works for us.

            This was my question:
            Quote from: Marco
            Okay, so what is happening when the PC's are playing in the Blood Brother's 2 Chainsaw massacre game and the situation is laid out in a fairly story-ish-fashion and they are making decisions to make the product of play be "like a movie" (and grooving on being scared and acting/talking in character and stuff?)

            What's the mode of play?


            What's this mode of play if not Sim? Note that the players may be experiencing a creepy sort of fear from the visceral descriptions but they are *not* engaged with the morality of the situation or making a difficult, player-based choice.

            They are working to make the game "like a movie" (as in "what would this character I'm playing do in a movie?") That means they may go off by themselves and die. Although it is possible, IMO, to play this game Gamist or even Narrativist, if the players are committed to dying "when it is apporpriate" (making a good movie-death-scene as they go) and they are not seeing the 'mystery' as a puzzle they can get credit for solving (there isn't much of a mystery, really--you go in, you see gross stuff, you get jumped), then I don't think it can be Gamist.

            I believe Narrativist play would mean that the players focus on some moral question (the mother player decides whether she will try to save herself or her children) but we can assume that players who are grooving on 'being in a movie' aren't doing that.

            In this adventure the PC's are a family (including the family dog) out on vacation. A figure is hit by their car. They stop in the woods (their car damaged). The guy is dead and his house is nearby. He's a psychopath and his sister is in the (horriffic) upstairs chambers. There is a dangerous pig nearby.

            As the family is encouraged to go for shelter from the coming storm in the house they will see a series of grizly things and be attacked by the sister and the pig. It's a short, tight, movie-like game that is moderately leading (i.e. the PC's don't hike back to town--yes, they are in the middle of nowhere and lost--but more importantly, that's not what would happen in a movie).

            It also isn't "railroaded"--if the players come to the game and reject the premise (decked out with trailer text and a faux-movie poster and tips on playing their pre-gen characters) then the game would be a non-starter.

            We presume that they are playing to the intended effect: making the game like a movie and enjoying it partly as actors and partly as audience members.

            What is the mode of play?

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: clehrich on February 03, 2005, 08:47:13 PM
            Quote from: Marco
            The definition of story for purposes of this thread is the glossary def: there may be other definitions of Story and therfore "storytelling" however they would be considered modifications to the theory.

            If one thinks the theory/gloss definitions does not accurately address story and storytelling that's a good topic for another thread--I think there's some work to be done there but I cannot change either the theory or the glossary definition. What we can do is, given the existing structure, define Storytelling and see if that works for us.
            Well, but I thought we had agreed that the glossary definition isn't actually a definition of story; it's a definition that's really all about a process that can lead to something that has "a little something extra" in it.  So I think we can only go backwards by going backwards, if you take my meaning.
            Quote
            This was my question:
            Quote from: Marco
            Okay, so what is happening when the PC's are playing in the Blood Brother's 2 Chainsaw massacre game and the situation is laid out in a fairly story-ish-fashion and they are making decisions to make the product of play be "like a movie" (and grooving on being scared and acting/talking in character and stuff?)

            What's the mode of play?
            What's this mode of play if not Sim? Note that the players may be experiencing a creepy sort of fear from the visceral descriptions but they are *not* engaged with the morality of the situation or making a difficult, player-based choice.
            No, I don't think there's enough information to assess this.  But actually I think we agree (Marco and I).  The point you're making, as I read you anyway, is that this isn't necessarily Nar.  It could be any gaming mode, and probably Sim is mostly likely but we really don't know.  For me, the point is that this group is committed to a product; we know very little about their process.  Since the Big Model is a process model, we cannot assess what their CA was.  I buy the argument that gamism is unlikely, but we don't know what they consider Challenge or "winning," so it's always possible that for them making this kind of story in this way is actually the "win" condition.  Just as a hypothetical.

            It seems to me that Marco and I (assuming we're still on the same page) are squarely between Storn and Gareth (contracycle).  Storn thinks it's all story, Gareth thinks nothing is (except in relation to the specific processes of Nar).  Marco and I think that story has nothing whatever to do with GNS.

            Have I got that wrong?

            To repeat, I think the answer to Marco's question is: who the hell knows?


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Silmenume on February 04, 2005, 12:29:07 AM
            Hey Marco,

            Quote from: Marco
            What's this mode of play if not Sim? Note that the players may be experiencing a creepy sort of fear from the visceral descriptions but they are *not* engaged with the morality of the situation or making a difficult, player-based choice.



            What is the mode of play?

            underline added


            Part of the problem of not getting the answer you are seeking is that the question cannot be answered within the confines of the Model.  The problems lies in the underlined part – making a difficult, player-based choice.  ALL CA’s have the ability to present the players with difficult choices.  If the player’s are not facing difficult choices then in all likelihood the players are engaged in Zilchplay – which is provisionally outside the model.  Conversely difficult decisions are not the sole domain of any single CA, thus the implication that your example must be Sim because the players are not making difficult decisions denies the Model’s basic tenet that in order for play to be described as the expression of any CA the players must be making difficult decisions.  (If not difficult – the players must at least be making decisions about Situation; difficult or otherwise)

            Given the Model, the question as phrased, is unanswerable.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 04, 2005, 04:38:27 AM
            By player-based (and difficult) I meant player-is-impacted-by-the-morality. I was trying to point out that people deciding what a character in a movie would do are not struggling with a human-experience question. They aren't be impacted by it in the way Nar implies.

            I'm pretty sure under Ron's formulation, this is a simple description of Sim, Sim-type-B does exist, and this is it.

            This is what Ron referred to in his most recent set of posts on Sim-play.

            I'm judging this from posts like this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=140282&highlight=sim#140282), this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=140277&highlight=sim#140277), and most importantly this:

            Quote

            Simulationist play is defined by confirming one's input, via the output.

            You're a Star Trek fan? OK, then, let's play Star Trek. Whatever the agreed-upon important input is, its effect during play is supposed to get us Star Trek.

            That input might be the funny-physics of the show. Fine - we work out what those are (or read them in the sourcebook, whatever) and put them into action via System.

            Or that input might be the distinctive character interactions or political tropes of the show. Fine - we dedicate ourselves to depicting and reinforcing those issues through what our characters do, which is also System.

            Or ... and so on. Whatever angle you choose as the motor for input, i.e. processing through System, the output should confirm that this is, indeed, Star Trek. To play in this fashion is a celebration of Star Trek.

            It is absolutely irrelevant to the general concept of Simulationism whether a story is produced or not. It is, however, very important in terms of an applied instance of Simulationism whether a story is taken as one of our going-in constraints.

            For instance, one group might be more interested in "being kitty-people fighting with ray-guns" than in "doing Star Trek." Their play-experience and attention to "doing the story right" will be very different from that of the Star Trek fans. However, the guiding aesthetic is the same: agreed-upon input, processing, confirmatory output.

            Narrativist play, like Gamist play, is not confirmatory of anything that "goes in." In Gamist play, play itself determines who wins or does best in terms of personal strategy and guts. Similarly, Narrativist play is that in which only play itself determines how Premise is transformed into Theme.

            To clarify about Narrativist play, think in terms of any story created by any person or group in some familiar medium like movies or novels. It is absolutely irrefutable that at some point in time, there was no story of this particular sort (medium, presentation, details, etc). But at some point in the creative process, a story did indeed appear.

            Whatever happens at that transition is what happens during Narrativist play. It cannot be agreed-upon beforehand, nor can it be imposed by a single person in an "ah-ha" sense upon the others during the process.

            (Emphasis added)

            Funny physics are not a social-structure. They aren't a genre. They're just something the group has decided to confirm.

            Now, is this "What Sim Is?"--I don't know--I'm going from what Ron says in a number posts.

            Here's the thing: if players are trying to act like they are "characters in a TV show" and are not engaged with permise, it can't be Nar. It isn't Gamist--so, it's gotta be Sim.

            Ron? If yer reading this, it'd be good to hear from you.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 04, 2005, 04:54:12 AM
            As for Story: I think 'Story' in a literate sense has to do with writing something the reader connects with on a human-experience level. This means what Egri calls premise (in plays). Not what Ron calls Premise in Nar-play because although they're derivative, they aren't the same.

            In Ron's formulation the "reader" is "the Player" since the Premise is impacting the player (he's real explicit about this in the Nar essay).

            In the case of the Transcript, the reader is, well, whoever reads it (guys on The Forge reading Actual Play).

            And, yes, it's interpertative. Some players will find nothing to see there. Some people will find this aspect in a write-up of a dungeon crawl. There are no standard procedures for producing a Transcript but even with this (large) gray area, if the transcript contains a narrative that I read and connect to and go *man* ::sniff:: that's really *powerful* (this is dramatic to make the point)--then, for me it is a story.

            I think, therefore, that the gloss-definiton is pretty good. Being based on Transcript, as it is, it does not get us especially close to answering 'what the ethic and appeal of "story gaming"' is since that, under the theory, can cross the boundaries of Sim and Nar (and even Gamist play)--and maybe that's a problem.

            But it's an issue for GNS to work out, not the gloss-story-def. That, IMO, has to stay, since it's internally consistent to the rest of the theory.

            If we define Sim as something like Virtuality (or GDS Sim) where the initial set-up and characters are not created in such a way as to apply strongly to a situation-with-premise, which is what Contra (seems to me) wants to do then, yes, Nar becomes the only reliable way to produce story.

            And I'm cool with that. We can do that.

            Thing is, this (pretty much) was done back in the days of GDS (not exactly--but there's game-gaming, story-gaming, and real-life-gaming). One of the defining aspects of GDS-Sim, to my understanding, is that it does not regularly produce story-structured-transcripts (because, for instance, the GM is committed to not implementing dramaitc timing for events). The GM might let a bunch of time pass real quick--but the GM doesn't "keep the pace going" in in-game-time for asthetic reasons.

            [ This ignores the fact that people with a Virtualist ethic can play in specific situations where there is a high-tempo and things naturally build to a climax/showdown rather quickly and reliably--but if we assume that situations were not chosen for those qualities then we'll get something that I think is what Gareth is describing. ]

            So, yeah, under present theory we do have Story. Therefore we have Storytelling--and if we don't like Storytelling so much then I think it's back to the base theory--not back to the glossary. I think the glossary is consistent.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: M. J. Young on February 06, 2005, 11:09:03 PM
            Quote from: Marco
            Here's the thing: if players are trying to act like they are "characters in a TV show" and are not engaged with permise, it can't be Nar. It isn't Gamist--so, it's gotta be Sim.

            I very much dislike that sort of "process of elimination analysis" that is so often done concerning simulationism. I would probably be less antagonistic if people did it to derive the other two agenda as well, but that's probably more difficult.

            In this case, the players are attempting to experience what it would be like to be those people in that kind of world. It's an exploration of identity and experience (that is, character, setting, and situation), and thus simulationist. The players what to learn what it's like to be that, and prove that they know what it's like by producing a product that matches their expectations of what comes from the lives and situations of such characters. The product in this case (something like the TV show) evidences that it was simulationism in the same way that the product in narrativist play (a story with a distinguishable theme evidences narrativism--neither being proof, and neither being a certain outcome of the process, but both being likely given that agendum.

            --M. J. Young


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 07, 2005, 05:24:32 AM
            Quote from: M. J. Young

            I very much dislike that sort of "process of elimination analysis" that is so often done concerning simulationism. I would probably be less antagonistic if people did it to derive the other two agenda as well, but that's probably more difficult.

            I understand what you're saying. I even agree with it. But I think that given my present understanding of those quotes, I can't come up with a better way to distinguish play than the negative example.

            Quote

            In this case, the players are attempting to experience what it would be like to be those people in that kind of world. It's an exploration of identity and experience (that is, character, setting, and situation), and thus simulationist. The players what to learn what it's like to be that, and prove that they know what it's like by producing a product that matches their expectations of what comes from the lives and situations of such characters. The product in this case (something like the TV show) evidences that it was simulationism in the same way that the product in narrativist play (a story with a distinguishable theme evidences narrativism--neither being proof, and neither being a certain outcome of the process, but both being likely given that agendum.

            --M. J. Young

            (Emphasis added)
            Are they? I don't know about that. To me that sentence implies immersion. That is: I play the game and by trying the exercise of identifying with my character, I get a sense of what it is like to be in that world. In my example the players need not be "immersed." They can be fully playing in Author Stance--it's just that the 'story they are creating' (in a loose sense of the word) is meant to be that of a screenplay.

            I think, the way Sim is formulated (given the above quotes) it is most easily defined by expectations rather than experience.

            They are experiencing sitting around a table thinking about what they'd expect to see on a movie screen by these characters.

            I mean, they may find the descriptions the GM reads out creepy or funny-creepy but unless (IMO) they are feeling *deep fear* they are not "learning what it is like to be in that world."

            In my example they are looking at their charcter sheets and going "Hmm... I think if Joe was a movie character, Joe would do *this*."

            For me, that's not "finding out what it'd be like to be in a house with psychotic killers."

            Note: I am not claiming that this is 'all that Sim is/should be'--however, this is how I understand the given quotes. They're (IMO) pretty clear. If the players are fixed on making something structurally like a movie then they aren't playing to win and they aren't (by use of the term structurally) player-involved in the ethics of the imaginary situation. While it's a negative definition, it seems to me that it's either:

            (a) A subset of Gamist or Nar play (which does not seem all that likely to me)
            (b) A 4th CA
            (c) Sim

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: M. J. Young on February 07, 2005, 04:21:01 PM
            Quote from: Quoting me, Marco
            Quote

            In this case, the players are attempting to experience what it would be like to be those people in that kind of world.....

            (Emphasis added)
            Are they? I don't know about that. To me that sentence implies immersion. That is: I play the game and by trying the exercise of identifying with my character, I get a sense of what it is like to be in that world.

            I'll admit that I phrased it badly, particularly in using the word "experience", by which I did not mean a necessarily immersive or subjective experience. I think there is a place for objective experience in simulationism--the idea of getting to know what it's like to be these people by figuring out what they would do and sort of watching them do it from the outside, despite the fact that you are making their decisions. This is what it's like to be someone in the Star Trek universe; this is how they act, what they do. If we get it right, we create a Star Trek episode from being Star Trek characters, and that proves we understand how these characters think and act. It doesn't have to be subjective or immersive to be experiential.

            --M. J. Young


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 07, 2005, 07:22:56 PM
            I agree. I believe that under the theory, the guys crafting a Star Trek episode are, indeed, Sim players. They are:

            1. Not immersed.
            2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
            3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.
            4. Creating a story that will have structural elements in the same way that a Lit101 story has structural elements (rising action to climax, conclusion, etc.)

            I agree: that's Sim play. I also think that it's clearly got to be Storytelling since they're involved in making a story by either The Forge's glossary definition or a more general one (4).

            Maybe we can get to GM-Control next :)

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Walt Freitag on February 07, 2005, 07:47:09 PM
            I came to similar conclusions about play with priority on replicating "story structure" being Sim a long time ago -- I might perhaps be able to dig up some old threads, if anyone's interested.

            However, I'll also point out (as I did in some of those old discussions) that play such as Marco just described is more likely to be facilitated by Techniques that we generally have found to be good for facilitating Narrativist play than by Techniques that we generally think of as facilitating Sim play.

            Which makes me wonder why it's so important to get the Sim vs. Narr classification "correct" at this fine a level of distinction. It's like pointing out that a tomato is really a fruit rather than a vegetable... does that matter, when treating tomato as a fruit in practical application -- e.g. stirring it into yogurt or including it in a fruit salad -- is likely to end up tasting terrible, while treating it as a vegetable will give generally better results?

            - Walt


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 07, 2005, 07:59:50 PM
            Quote from: Walt Freitag

            Which makes me wonder why it's so important to get the Sim vs. Narr classification "correct" at this fine a level of distinction. It's like pointing out that a tomato is really a fruit rather than a vegetable... does that matter, when treating tomato as a fruit in practical application -- e.g. stirring it into yogurt or including it in a fruit salad -- is likely to end up tasting terrible, while treating it as a vegetable will give generally better results?

            - Walt


            I can think of two very important reasons:

            1. People treat games that talk about Storytelling as though they were talking the Nar-talk but walking the Sim-walk. When a game discusses storytelling, whatever it is talking about, it could be either Sim or Nar--the idea that it is simply promising Nar and delivering Sim is innacurate by our measures, much less someone else's.

            2. There is a big, important, storytelling movement in RPG's. If the promises of that movement are (a) popular and far-reaching and (b) hard to concretely describe in GNS CA terms then I think that's worth looking at with whatever theoritical tools we can bring to bear. Certainly on the N/S scale we don't learn much about it as a type of game.

            But if you look at techniques, I think there's probably a lot of analysis that could be done. We might learn something.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Silmenume on February 07, 2005, 08:07:57 PM
            Hey Marco,

            Quote from: Marco
            2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
            3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.


            How is this possible?  How can a car steer itself to a very specific destination without someone putting their hands on the wheel?

            I suppose one could have theme pre-established in the source material, but then everyone would be walking on egg shells to make sure they didn't something that violated the Theme.  However, someone's making those meta-decisions to get the story structure.  Those decisions that create that Story Structure are not Bricolage based decisions, as the objects employed by the bricoleur in Exploration do not lend themselves to self-assembly into story.

            I suppose it sounds possible, possible in the way that a player could make very deliberate decisions about Premise to make it impossible to summarize a theme at the end of play, but the question becomes - why?


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Mark Woodhouse on February 08, 2005, 10:15:27 AM
            Quote from: Silmenume
            Hey Marco,

            Quote from: Marco
            2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
            3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.


            How is this possible?  How can a car steer itself to a very specific destination without someone putting their hands on the wheel?


            Jay just put his finger right on what's bugging me about this. Is there anything meaningfully called story without any Premise? No through-line, no thing that some player cares how it turns out? It seems to me that one of two things ends up happening...

            1. The players 'go through the motions', filling the structure in with detail and color out of their store of symbols, but all meaningful character choices are highly constrained. They produce a story, but do not have freedom to make their OWN story, just to perform a ritualized version of an agreed-on story.

            2. The players attempt to make meaningful choices, but the story becomes incoherent or diverges from the intended structural model as a result of those choices - leading to 'bad Sim' experience.

            Now, if there's a genuine commitment to a Premise (and it can be a rather banal one, as long as it is meaningful to the player), you might be able to thread that needle. The Premise provides the guiding principle that structure alone can't and avoids incoherence, while the structure prevents excessive discursion.

            Just seems to me that without some degree of committment to Premise, at best you get Ouija-board play.

            Best,

            Mark


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 08, 2005, 10:59:07 AM
            Quote from: Mark Woodhouse

            1. The players 'go through the motions', filling the structure in with detail and color out of their store of symbols, but all meaningful character choices are highly constrained. They produce a story, but do not have freedom to make their OWN story, just to perform a ritualized version of an agreed-on story.

            My understanding is that the transcript will have theme (premise) although that element was not the primary driving element of play.

            However, you do use two terms that I think are very important to the discussion of storytelling:

            The idea that someone can make the "story of an RPG" their "OWN" story is an important one. What does it mean, exactly?

            Firstly, under the gloss definiton of story there is no "owner"--the author is simply the guy who writes the transcript. Now: that literal definition doesn't get us far with the concept--but it's important to note that the concept of being the "author of the story" in an RPG no longer makes a lot of sense with respect to the present formulation (I think this is a step in the right direction).

            But the idea of making a story "my own" means something. What?

            I think, clearly, to me, anyway, it means that I, as a player, feel I had some 'imporant' input into the story--but most posters here don't, for example, usually consider player dialog "important" in the sense of granting ownership to the story in some fashion.

            What if two people disagree: packaged CoC games are seen as being pre-determined theme--but what if the players decide to make their journey-to-crazy-ville a *commedy* and play their doomed characters as buffoons or as darkly humorous bad people who deserve what they get? This makes Cthulhu in a way noble (if humanity is this bad we deserve to all get eaten).

            Have they made it their story then? Even if they went from plot-point A to plot-point Z without a hitch?

            I don't think there's an easy answer to that: I think it's a matter of individual interpertation. I also think it's not clear if the play will be seen as Sim or Nar in cases where players have a variety of different kinds of inputs into a story. One analyist may judge that the players didn't have any significant effect on the story. Another may judge that they did.

            Secondly there's the issue of constraint. What are "tight constraints?" If we all came to the table to make a Star Trek episode then we all agreed to the same conditions (assuming there are words in the english language that could clearly set expectations in this sense). Does that constitute a constraint?

            I don't think so--any more than the structure of a Sonnet constrains the poetry (it does--in some sense--but not what is usually regarded to be the important sense).

            Quote

            2. The players attempt to make meaningful choices, but the story becomes incoherent or diverges from the intended structural model as a result of those choices - leading to 'bad Sim' experience.

            Now, if there's a genuine commitment to a Premise (and it can be a rather banal one, as long as it is meaningful to the player), you might be able to thread that needle. The Premise provides the guiding principle that structure alone can't and avoids incoherence, while the structure prevents excessive discursion.

            Just seems to me that without some degree of committment to Premise, at best you get Ouija-board play.

            Best,

            Mark


            Well, if this is true then play that reliably produces story is Nar and play that doesn't is Sim or Gamist. If that's true then it's a change to the model. Several people think it is true (Gareth). I think the present form of the essays are pretty clear that it's not though.

            I think that if there's a really tight association between Story and Nar or Not-Story and Sim then the essays need some revision and the terms as well.

            Consider that MLWM will structurally produce a story in a reliable fashion with theme in the transcript even if players are totally not concerned with the premise of it and are, instead, focused on gaining cred by manipulating the situation using the rules: what is usually considered Gamist play.

            It'll do the same if they are using the rules to play-out being in a "Frankenstein movie." What the players relate to (CA) and how the game developes (technique) are unrelated under the Big Model.

            -Marco


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: M. J. Young on February 08, 2005, 08:48:12 PM
            Quote from: Jay
            Quote from: Marco
            2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
            3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.


            How is this possible?  How can a car steer itself to a very specific destination without someone putting their hands on the wheel?

            I still haven't wrapped my head around whatever it is that "bricolage" is supposed to mean, so I won't comment on that. However, I think that what Marco proposes here is quite plausible.

            I've never played Squeam 3. However, from what I understand in that game, what the players care about is getting their characters killed in the way the game dictates, and so producing something that strongly resembles a low budget teen slasher movie.

            In the Star Trek example, one of the players could say, "We need to bring up the Prime Directive here"--not because the player cares one bit about the implications of whether it's right or wrong to interfere with the natural development and free choice of individual societies, but because that's something that comes up in Star Trek episodes when stuff like this happens. We, the players, don't care about the premise at all. We care about producing the feel of the thing, getting the universe right.

            --M. J. Young


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Ian Charvill on February 09, 2005, 10:29:13 AM
            If you refer to Ron's narrativism essay, the section headed "The other way: pastiche".  I've never been able to get round Ron's tendentious use of the term 'pastiche' here but the first paragraph is key to what's being discussed here.

            The essay is fairly clear that roleplaying can reliably generate story with thematic content without being considered narrativist.

            In the Star Trek example, people wouldn't be commited to producing a theme but a Star-Trek-like theme.  Generating a story with thematic content that was not sufficiently similar to Star Trek would be considered a failure.

            [MJ -- bricollage can be understood on a basic level as follows: collage is making a picture out of other elements (bits of other pictures, bits of cloth, coloured paper, whatever); bricollage is just that with ideas]


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: clehrich on February 09, 2005, 11:01:52 AM
            Quote from: Ian Charvill
            [MJ -- bricollage can be understood on a basic level as follows: collage is making a picture out of other elements (bits of other pictures, bits of cloth, coloured paper, whatever); bricollage is just that with ideas]
            No, this isn't correct, Ian.  I mean, I see what you're saying, but it's not the same.

            Very rapidly (so as not to derail the thread):

            Bricolage (note spelling) is a hobby in which you make things out of stuff you have in your basement or shed or whatever.  You've got lots of crap in there, of all sorts, and you have some tools, and you're very smart.  You have one absolute rule: you may not ever buy anything new.  The only way you acquire new things for the basement is to find them on your neighbor's tree-strip waiting to be collected for the garbage.

            So if your project requires that you have something that generates a lot of local heat, you have to look for something in the basement that does this.  An old hair-dryer might work.  Or a toaster.  Or an iron.  But each of these has constraints, because they don't work the same way.  Once you pick one, that changes the way your finished project is going to look and work, because you've chosen the toaster and not the iron.

            In order to make the toaster work for this purpose right now, you cut it in half so as to expose the heating elements.  That changes the toaster.  Next time you want to build something that requires a heating-element, the toaster might be ideal, because it's already cut open and you know just how to use it because you already did once.  But maybe now it doesn't fit as well as an uncut toaster would have, but you're stuck with that because you cut open the toaster.

            That's all bricolage is.

            What Claude Levi-Strauss suggests is that this kind of thinking happens in myth and ritual as well, and I've suggested that it also happens in gaming, especially perhaps Sim gaming.  The only difference is that you're not using physical objects but conceptual ones.

            I'll give a fast example and then shut up.

            Suppose in my Victorian London game, which uses Tarot cards for mechanics (see weblink below), Lord Haversham is caught by a policeman while picking a front door lock.  He plays a card, let's say The Emperor, in order to assert his authority over the bobby: he claims that his authority as a Peer of the Realm means that the bobby should defer to him.

            Now first of all, this is bricolage because the player has applied the conceptual structure of The Emperor to an actual situation.  In the process, he has also cut open the toaster: he has made The Emperor more effective for future uses of this kind, and less effective for its other potential uses.

            So now suppose Jonathan Harker, a London barrister (he's come up in the world), wants to assert his authority as a member of the bar to push some other policeman to tell him things about an ongoing case.  So the player plays The Emperor.  Once again, the Emperor is being used to assert authority, and increasingly its other possible meanings are declining.  In particular, the Emperor is coming to be associated with legal authority, which is not necessarily part of the card as traditionally interpreted: the toaster has been cut open, and you can't undo that.

            Now, finally, suppose Philip Wickman, a wealthy socialite, wants the Opera House to give him a nice box and evict whoever is already in it.  The player plays The Emperor.  Now the group has to decide.  This is asserting dominance, but actually Wickman has no proper authority in this matter.  So let's say the group decides this doesn't work -- is an improper use of the card.

            But if this were the first time the card were used, he could very well have succeeded.  Now he can't, because the uses have bent the meaning to be much more specific: it's about asserting some sort of legal authority.  To revert to the toaster, Wickman's player is trying to make toast, but the toaster can't be used that way any more because it's been cut in half; it sort of works, but you can only toast one side at a time.

            This is a rather simplistic but I think accurate example of bricolage.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Doctor Xero on February 09, 2005, 11:14:31 AM
            Quote from: clehrich
            lotsa stuff about bricolage.

            Side note: This is the best explanation of the mapping of bricolage over to conceptual or notional space, such as mythology/folklore, I have yet encountered in my time.

            I don't completely agree with its mapping to mythology (it fails to include innovation/epiphanic vision and the unpredictable influences of art as well as the common myth tendency of theft from your neighbor's garage after he tries to buy your mortgage out from under you), but  it is clean and clear and therefore makes it easier to utilize bricolage as a theoretical tool.

            I guess the proper response, then, is "yay!"  ^_^

            Doctor Xero


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: contracycle on February 10, 2005, 12:56:43 AM
            My approach to bricolage at present is actually to ionvestogate it as art technique; I'm going to be chacking ou the book shop at the Tate Modern in that regard.  Unfortunately everything I find on the web is in French.


            The question of "how can the car be steered without anyone driving" is exactly the point.  Marcos model of players duplicating a known story without paying attention to it - i.e. playing sim in a mechanically sttructured story - is at best a kind of passion play, a form of participationism.

            Once again this discussion is almost entirely about semantic subtelties and not about actual things.

            MJ wrote:
            Quote
            I've never played Squeam 3. However, from what I understand in that game, what the players care about is getting their characters killed in the way the game dictates, and so producing something that strongly resembles a low budget teen slasher movie.


            Yes I agree this is possible.  Its also basically participationism - the players cannot make any meaningful decisiopn, because there fate is being systematically determined.  The fact that this transcript will look much like a slasher flick screenplay is utterly trivial - it is a sim of a slasher flick, not a story.  To call it a story only seves to obfuscate the sim natiure of the game, and leads to confused conversations exactly like this one, and railroading.


            Title: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift
            Post by: Marco on February 10, 2005, 07:59:44 AM
            Quote from: contracycle

            Yes I agree this is possible.  Its also basically participationism - the players cannot make any meaningful decisiopn, because there fate is being systematically determined.  The fact that this transcript will look much like a slasher flick screenplay is utterly trivial - it is a sim of a slasher flick, not a story.  To call it a story only seves to obfuscate the sim natiure of the game, and leads to confused conversations exactly like this one, and railroading.


            I think I agree with this--I have questions concering:
            (a) the assertation that 'story' is the problematic factor. I think that 'Sim' is the confusing agency (specifically 'participationism' seen as a subset of Sim by some people)
            (b) the term participationism itself. It's not that I don't sort of think that it's correct, maybe--but that we had the big participationism thread and didn't really conclude what it was. I think it's sort of a dead term right now.

            Here's what I'm thinking:
            One of the general laws of the slasher flick is that "if you have sex you die."

            Let's say that a player is playing "The Teen Horror Movie Game" and it has this mechanic as a hard and fast incontravertable rule (sex=death).

            A player is presented with a love/lust interest and he decides what to do (have sex and die or continue playing).

            If the guy decides that his character *would* have sex--but does not want his character to die--then I think we have a decison that, under the rules, leads to dysfunction ("I wanted to 'play my character'--but I was punished for doing so")

            If the guy decides that his character would have sex and die because that's what would happen to "the jock" in a slasher flick then we have a decision based on genre and most people call that Sim.

            If the guy decides to have his character have sex based on whether he thinks the character is noble (and deserves to maybe live) or dispicable (and deserves to die) then, well, maybe it's Narrativist--I don't really know--but that's my take on the theory at a guess.

            If the guy decides that getting thrown out of the game means no cred for being the last man standing then he won't have sex and that's, IMO, gamist.

            I think the first case is the interesting one. It's the clash between a technique (immersive play, Actor Stance) and goals (to keep playing in the game). In this case the mechanics are posing a problem for this guy--but not for any of the others.

            Therefore:
            1. I'm not sure what "meaningful" decisions means in these examples--it seems to me that depending on what the player is like there indded can be meaninful decisions made under the structure of a Teen Slasher Game.
            2. In the first case I'm not sure if the dysfunction is caused by "rebelling against participationism" and I don't think you can say it's "CA Incoherence."
            3. In none of these cases is "Story" of interest. There may be other decision making modes where the character is really concerned with the flow of story (and you can claim that the noble/ignoble guy is concerned with Story--but I think that's a missuse of the glossary term).

            -Marco