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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Walt Freitag on March 11, 2002, 10:11:44 PM



Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Walt Freitag on March 11, 2002, 10:11:44 PM
Disclaimer: Presumptuous of me, I realize, to attempt a new thead with my very first post. Furthermore, I am new to this terminology and, while I believe I've absorbed the key concepts, I'm still in the process of fitting them into my cognitive map of interactive-storytelling-related concepts. (Terminology's a bitch. IF, Erasmatron, Dramaton, Dramatica, SIL/ILF, adventure LARPing, Oz/HAP, academic AI, Agent Stories, and miscellaneous Media Lab stuff, as well as conventional RPGs: each has its own specialized terminology mostly using all the same superset of words with specialized meanings just similar enough to lure one into confusion.) So I'm almost certain to misuse the local terminology. My apologies; I'll try my best. I've followed some of The Forge's members home from RPGnet, to set forth a Concept, and ask: where, if anywhere, does it fit within your current theories?

When I began gamemastering RPGs in the late 70s, I quickly converged on an Intuitive Continuity approach to play. This was partly due to circumstances: as a student I had little time in my schedule to develop elaborate plots or settings in advance of the game or even in advance of each session, and not much was available at the time in pre-generated form. Consequently, I winged it. I continued winging it even when I didn't have to, because it appeared to me (for reasons inexplicable at the time) that the less advance preparation I did, the better my sessions went. Furthermore, I found I had little interest in using pre-generated campaign material when it did start to become more available. While I thought at the time I was just being picky (nothing published seemed quite "good enough,") what was really happening was that I was almost subconsciously regarding all pre-generated settings as "dead," simply by virtue of their being pre-generated. More on that later.

What surprised me was that the results of my approach in terms of player satisfaction were far better than I had any right to expect. And it was fun. Though it usually meant I entered each session feeling like a fourth grader walking into class without having done his homework, by the end of the sessions I was usually immensely pleased with how the game had progressed.

And the story too. My goals were primarily narrativist at a time when few had more than a dim inkling that D&D had anything to do with storytelling. My job as the GM was to turn the players' unfettered decisions about what their characters would do into story (and story in the proper sense, not just a chronology of causally linked events). I used no overtly narrativist game mechanisms to do so. I did fudge GM die rolls but never obviously, and I always allowed player decisions and player die rolls to stand.

Now, I understand that under GNS theory what I was doing was not possible. I was, with my players, building interactive story without the use of consensual narrativist game mechanisms and without railroading or otherwise restricting my players' explorative freedom. When I began reading of GNS and related theories, I naturally questioned the theory because it contradicted my experience. But I've realized that there's nothing really wrong with the theory. It just rests on assumptions that are probably perfectly valid 99.9% of the time. For example, it appears to assume that a GM who's "winging it" is winging just the story, not the setting and background too.

I'm the 0.1% who wings the setting. Here's what I believe are the key ingredients in how I make it work:

1. The PCs know little about the world at the outset.

So, this rules out certain types of PCs, but it permits the most typical types: the inexperienced on a quest; explorers in a strange land; deep space voyagers.

2. The PCs experience with the world is relatively low bandwidth. Besides their limited starting knowledge about the world, they know only what they experience directly, or observe indirectly through history books they find, stories told by NPCs, visions, and unreliable supernatural or technological means (including knowledge of the future such as clairvoyance, precognition and prophecies).

So, this rules out pretty much any setting with mass media or large accessible libraries/databases. But this still leaves a great variety of genres, including most of the most popular ones.

3. There is a strong element of mystery. The characters know they don't, and won't, know everything that's going on.

4. Nothing is "real" in the setting except that which the player-characters have certain knowledge of. As GM I might make plans, I might even draw maps, but until a player experiences them I can throw them away if the players take the story in a direction that makes them no longer fit.

5. Plot elements are introduced without an ultimate purpose in mind, for opportunistic future use. For example, if all the player-characters are captured, and the story requires their rescue, I would not suddenly produce a rescuer out of nowhere. (The deus ex machina is a failure mode in this style, as I'm sure it is for others.) I would take an element that already exists and refine it into a rescuer (or into some other cause of rescue). For example, there is a mysterious stalker who has been shadowing the player-characters for several weeks. The players know he's there but they don't know what he wants. They also don't know that I don't know either! I introduced him, as I constantly introduce other unbound plot threads, on spec. If the situation calls for it, he'll become a rescuer. (He can't be just that, though; he'll also acquire, at that point, background and motivations consistent with his wanting to rescue the PCs and with any of his past actions the players know about. Those background and motivations can even change again later, if the players haven't learned of them yet, as long as they remain consistent with his known past actions.) Under different circumstances, he'd have turned out to be a spy or an attacker or a messenger or a love interest. He doesn't have a gender, after all, until a player-character knows what it is.

Thus the whole world (as Christopher Kubasik put it in an RPGnet post that appeared to suggest a similar approach as abstract theory) "radiates from the player-characters" according to the structure and needs of their story. Not just the present state of the world and course of events, but also its history, are all created on the fly. Any cat in a sealed box is both alive and dead; not only that, it's also a snake, a bomb, a treasure, a will, the Maltese Falcon, and a PC's spouse's head, until someone opens the box.

The players have complete control over the characters' actions. The game mechanics can have control over success or failure of those actions. I can live with that, because I have the entire rest of the world as degrees of freedom for shaping the story. I can and will move heaven and earth to do it, literally, if necessary.

My contention is that the players in this situation can retain fully immersed in Simulationist goals and outlooks. My manipulation of the setting does not break the Simulationist model because no inconsistency is being created (assuming I don't screw up). The fact that what the players don't see isn't really there, or is constantly changing, cannot possibly be relevant. Meanwhile, my play as GM is Narrativist in goal. It cannot be called Narrativist under GNS because no Narrativist mechanisms are used. Nonetheless, the result is a good story, sometimes a great story, and it is a story that is truly determined by the players' choices and truly authored by me. The impossible is done, though more usually after dinner than before breakfast.

Overall, the process begins with a small bit of setting (what the player-characters know at the outset... a bit of Shire and a few legends and ballads will do). The end product is a story, and as a by-product (a waste product, really, since it can't be reused in this mode of play) a setting is generated. Thus, I view the past few decades of RPG evolution with less enthusiasm than most, since one of the most consistent trends has been increasingly detailed and elaborate built-in settings and scenarios and metaplots. To me this is already-used-up material, GM output rather than GM input. If the setting and metaplot are already worked out, and even worse, already known to the players, then my approach doesn't work and I'm stuck back on the horns of the GNS trilemma with the rest of ya, having to sacrifice verisimilitude for narrative or vice versa.

----------

Let's imagine someone reading this accepts it at face value. (I realize I've given no proof. Please feel free to toss a few "what-would-you-do-if" challenges my way. Or if you prefer, take everything I said above as a hypothetical possibility.) The question is, what kind of game mechanisms or setting-related tools could enhance this style of play, or make it more accessible to other GMs? What I'm thinking about is mechanisms that would be to this particular form of para-Narrativism what Narrativist game mechanisms are to GNS-defined Narrativism.

Once upon a time, some players and GMs learned that certain activities outside the bounds of conventional RPG rules (such as fudging die rolls, or deciding outcomes without rolling) made Narrativist play possible. To make that style of play more accessible, Narrativist game mechanisms were explicitly incorporated into new systems.

What sort of game mechanisms or resource materials could be incorporated into a new system that would analogously help GMs grasp and use the concept of para-Narrativist on-the-fly world/story building? Could Intuitive Continuity be made less purely intuitive, more accessible, with the right tools? I'm thinking along the lines of mechanisms that could regulate the introduction of unbound story elements (the mysterious stalker, the distant distress signal) based somehow on PC conflict maps; or meta-settings that embody a genre and premise(s) and provide flexible libraries of basic story elements appropriate to them. Resolution mechanisms don't appear to be an issue, since a variety of conventional mechanisms appear quite adequate. But mechanisms would be needed (or at least useful) for aspects of play that have never needed game mechanics before, such as for learning (that is, equivalently, creating) historical information about the world.

If you've read this far, thank you for your patience. Is this already being done somewhere? Does it look plausible? Am I delusional? Any thoughts?

- Walt


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 11, 2002, 11:08:41 PM
Walt (and everybody),

Exactly.

And when I posted on RPG.net that it was time for a "new dance,"  I was speaking to an, apparently, newer generation of RPGers who grew up during the meta-plot-module-wait-for-the-next-book-with-the-map-of-over-the next-hill publishing era.  They seems utterly confused as to why their games are no fun, and are making mistakes that you cleverly avoided.  Yes, the new dance I proposed is an old dance, but one forgotten and never heard of by the youngsters -- so it's new to them.  (And isn't that always the way these things go.)

****

I echo your questions.  (I had planned posting something here as well along the same lines.)  After reading lots and lots of posts over at RPG.net I started getting confused about what I thought I understood.

If the GNS model is based on the intention of play, at what point do the rules get in the way -- if at all?

If I take V:tM, and gut the Humanity rules so that the players retain control of their characters at all times (clearly a Narrativist no-no for thematic and narrative action to be dictated by a die roll) -- then open up the world to let the protagonists drive the story and the world, if we *mean* to be playing narrativist, and we're willing to accept getting bogged down in rules that don't move things along as swiftly as we'd like but accept them nonetheless, are we playing Narrativist?

Does intent trump rules?  Do the rules only help or hinder the intent?

Can any set of game rules be played Narrativist, as long as one is willing to accept clumsey access and search times for the resolutions of events?  (Anyone interested: check out Rules Do Matter in the Articles section for definition of these terms.)  Is it simply a matter of a sliding scale of encouragement of G, N or S?

Finally, Fudging die rolls.  Many people assume that fudging rolls is typical for Narrativists.  I'm under the impression that once you've stripped down the rules to serve Narrativist goals as mean and lean as possible, you *don't* fudge the rolls anymore, because (as suggested above), the rules are no longer working at a cross-purpose to the Narrativsits intention, so you no longer have to fudge.  Has this been the experience of other players in Narrativist designed games?

****

Walt, a couple of responses to issues you raise:

1) Gamist and Narrativist games also concern themselves with no "inconsistency being created."  

In Aliens, each new element that we didn't know about before builds on what came before, but doesn't contradict it.  The Queen Alien is unprecedented in the two movies until she arrives, but her arrival is consistent with what we've learned already.  That's Narrativism neutral.  What makes it Narrativism Ripley's caught up in a battle of self-preservation vs. preservation of the species -- taking on the role of a Mom and facing the worst thing in the universe -- instead of skulking around back on Earth where the worst thing in the world isn't.  And what's the opponet she faces?  A creature with the same dilema, reinforcing the story's Premise.

Simulationsist means putting absolute priority on "experiencing" whatever is being modelled -- though, again, it should be consistent.  (We could play three hours of what does it "feel like" to be a bored space marine en route to a world that might have aliens -- bad story, but it might be full of great little bits of simulation.)  

Sounds like you put the priority on story, which brings us back to rules, which is why I'm jumping on your this thread.  

2) The only place I can see where there's a disconnect between what you do and Narrativist in terms of gaming "style" (as opposed to rules), is the matter of the PCs knowing little about the world at the outset.

According the GNS article, Narrativism depends a great deal on Author stance, which requires the players be completely engaged with their charcters, while being removed from their characters for the purpose of making a better story.

(Example of extreme failure of this double logic from real life for parties who think this is just nutso: the actor playing Claudius, driven to win his battle with Hamlet, refuses the actor playing Hamlet to get in the death stroke, and instead circles him around the stage looking for his chances to jab his fake rapier into "Hamlet."  The actor's job is to play the part with utter passion, immediate spontinaity, *and* repsect the needs of the story  Some folks think this dumps the actor playing Claudius is no more than a "pawn."  I think an actor playing a part with the three qualifications listed is simply a good actor doing his job well.)

Thus, the players often know much more about the setting than their characters could -- but choose not to act on it.  It sounds  like your games worked great -- but, as you said, it limits genre a bit.  This, I think, is a major difference between the style of play you've created and the style suggested by the GNS model.

Thanks for getting this thread started.

Christopher

(PS, guys, I know you all probably debated this all for eight four years at GO.  Forgive us.)


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Noble on March 12, 2002, 12:31:39 AM
Goddamn it.

Goddamn it!!

Walt - you have it exactly.  Your points are beautifully scripted -- this is exactly how I run 100% of my campaigns and 95% of my one-shot adventures.  It all works wonderfully.

I've been running a long Vampire:TM game for several years and each of your points has been applied; my players are narrativist dilletantes at heart and, god bless their hearts, went along graciously with my GMing style.  Here are you points and how I dealt with them:

#1 - I reinvented the World of Darkness to a big degree by introducing terrible events that drastically altered the status quo; all the vamps were suddenly on the same playing field - what they knew wasn't the case anymore. (for me, the WoD exists only with vamps -- the other supernaturals don't really exist)

#2 I threw out most of the WoD mythology and provided means for the players to learn My Version of stuff through a parallel storyline played with plain old human characters investigating the unknown.  This was, by metaphor, a "low bandwith" manner for the players to discover this new world/landscape.  "Player" knowledge crossed over to their vampire characters; it informed their roleplaying without hijacking the supernaturals.

#3  Conspiracy wrapped in enigma wrapped in mystery.  The characters do their best to get their minds around the various layers of subtrefuge around them; it all resulted in a deep, mysterious atmosphere.

#4  Liked Ron advocates in Sorcerer and Sword, I've embraced this philosphy utterly.  I'm never bound by any fleshed out location or direction.  The players may go anywhere, do anything...

#5  Arguably my favorite bit -- and you really nailed the description well.  Personally, I call elements in the game that "fit" the player's actions, "polymorph plotting".  NPCs, items, locations -- they're like switches I can move on and off depending on situations.  I use them extensively and, as long as I maintain consistency, I'm able to do with them what I need to do to support, deter, contrast or conflict with player actions.

Sorry for the lengthy post; I'm sure I've bored most everyone still reading.  My point is, I used your "key ingredients" in a modern setting by using my player's expectations of the established mythology *against* them.  It's worked beautifully.  I can only hope my players never read this post; their simulationist dreams might be shattered forever.  :)

 - Ian Noble


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: contracycle on March 12, 2002, 01:44:57 AM
I think the GNS analysis of this style of play, although I do not speak for the GNS in any capacity, is that it is "effective illusionism".  I think the distinction with narrativist play is that the players are directly, and consciously, engaged in the construction of the story.  Although there is much player-to-gm feedback in the above structure, the players are, as described, still immersed in the sim *experiencing* the story rather than proactively engaged in *creating* the story.  I would expect, in GNS terms, it would be described as "semi-drifted sim".


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: GB Steve on March 12, 2002, 03:37:00 AM
Rambling repsonse.

Well I don't like GNS* and I'd not really registered the term Intuitive Continuity before but that's pretty much how I've been running my games ever since I stopped doing Dunjon Krawls about 20 years ago. The method has become refined and I think perhaps that I'm also more aware that I'm making a concious effort in this direction. It's harder to apply in the case of a convention game but I think the conventions, or at least, the expectations of such a game are different anyway.

That's not to say that I don't work on preparing games but that the prep is very different. Nowadays it's mostly a matter of situating the PCs and creating the initial situation.

Situating the PCs covers:
- guidance on PC creation, they need to be suitable for the game I have in mind, or at the very least for each other
- public background details, what the PCs' situation is, what kind of power they have, who they know
- private background details, things that will affect what will happen that the PCs don't know, don't yet know or might never know like who is pulling the strings, what state of mind of an NPC caused the whole scenario to start in the first place etc. This is blends into,

The Initial Situation
- description of the tension, to create interest, there needs to be some tension, either internal to a character (PC or NPC) or some external factor.

I might go so far as to jot down a few possible set pieces, events that I think are likely to occur such as a Raid on the Mage's House, or Staking The Vampire, or The Lightsabre Duel but these will not necessarily be used.

What happens subsequently is very much as described in the first mail in this thread. I strive to create a balance between player expectations and surprise. Mostly I go with player expectations but you need to throw in something else to the mix, to keep them on their toes, to stop things going stale. After all if the players realise they are running the show then they might start to second guess things, to play metagaming roles instead of gaming roles and that is not what *I* want.

If I'm running a murder mystery I won't decide whodunnit until such time as is appropriate. This depends on player suspicions, how much time they have spent exploring different leads etc. I don't want the players to miss important clues so I let them decide, through their PCs actions what is important. I judge the mood of the game as to when I should reveal important information or create my own events, that is one's that are NPC rather than PC driven.

I find this style of gaming much more rewarding but it is hard. You need to be on your toes, you need to evaluate events very quickly. You can also make mistakes. I've found players don't mind though if you own up, revise the situation and just get on with things.

I have found though that the real key to this style of gaming is player involvement. That is, allow players to invent. They are far more forgiving of your invention if they can play too! If players can IC then the game is even more I and even more C, what more could you ask for?

Cheers,
GB Steve

* A GNS aside.
I'm still working through this but I was wondering what the extremes of GNS mean (call it sensitivity analysis or asymptotic behaviour, hey! I am a mathematician) and it seems that they are either not RPGs or meaningless.
G taken to the extreme leads to Monopoly - not an RPG
N taken to the extreme leads to Baron Munchausen - not a (trad) RPG
S taken to the extreme leads to ... nothing. S is always there but is never the prime concern.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Valamir on March 12, 2002, 05:19:23 AM
Great thread!

I just have a couple quick comments.

I believe, as I noted in a thread in GNS theory, that there is no such thing as  Narrativist Game or a Simulationist Player.  There is only the type of decision being made.  A Narrativist Game then is nothing more than a game which provides specific mechanics for encouraging Narrativist Decision making, etc.  Thus, I would contend (and I'm pretty sure Ron would agree with this) that Narrativist play does not *require* Narrativist mechanics as the initial post suggests, its just greatly assisted by it.

Thus, any game could be played Narrativistly, as long as 1) there are no rules that actively prohibit Narrativist decision making, or 2) those rules are ignored.  

In this case it appears that the player's themselves are making Simulationist decisions based on facts they believe to be true.  Although I must say I do find it hard to believe that after a couple of game sessions the players won't get wise to the technique (or at least suspicious), and either grow disatisfied with it or willingly decide to go along with it.


[Plug Mode]
With that said, I'll throw in a little plug for a game Mike Holmes and I are designing called Universalis.  It relies almost exclusively on shared power mechanics, BUT requires exactly the sort of mind set being described above.  The entire world starts from a blank piece of paper and is described and defined only in play and only by the players.  It is the standard mode of play for 1 player to Create a locked box, and for nobody (including the Creator) to have any idea whats inside until its opened.  The only parts of the world that exist are those parts that the players bother to visit or describe.

We are currently looking for serious playtesters (we are passed the "I'll read it over and make a few comments" stage).  I bring it up because mention has been made about mechanics that encourage and promote this style of play, and Universalis does that.  Send me a PM and we'll get you set up on the Universalis forum and get you a copy of the latest rules.  Only requirement is actual play, a thorough report of the game(s), and that it be done in the next month or two at the latest.
[/Plug Mode]


Title: Not 'The New Thing'
Post by: Le Joueur on March 12, 2002, 06:31:56 AM
Quote from: contracycle
It is "effective illusionism".  I think the distinction with narrativist play is that the players are directly, and consciously, engaged in the construction of the story.
Quote from: contracycle
I would expect, in GNS terms, it would be described as "semi-drifted sim".

Actually, for the record, I think what has been a described, counts as almost the poster child for 'abashedly Narrativist.'  According to my sources, 'Illusionism' requires something of a gamemaster created plot that the players 'explore.'  Since this is likened to Intuitive Continuity with the players mostly sticking to character PoV and the gamemaster actively working on 'literary' story-intent (as opposed to story-result) it pretty much defines 'abashed Narrativism.'

As far as drift is concerned, I don't see any other way of handling this style of play.  I pretty sure that no 'abashedly Narrativist' systems have been created as such, so anything they might use would have to be 'drifted.'

As far as better game systems go, I'd have to say that Universalis (as great as the writers see it) would be a poor fit exactly because of the 'abashed' quality.  Universalis (or the Pool, or whatever) require player 'buy in' on the Narrativist goals.  That sounds like it would be a huge jump (and potentially a fatal shock) for this gaming group.

I can't say that there are any 'system' solutions to satisfying the original poster, nor whether one is necessary.  His style of play is intriguingly 'Schrödinger's box'ish, and I too have experimented with the beginnings of it.  However, I do not see it as not fitting in the whole GNS theory (especially if you include vanilla and abashed modes), so I don't know that there is much new commentary that can be added.

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Valamir on March 12, 2002, 07:08:17 AM
Good points Fang.  GNS certainly has room for "stealth Narrativism" as I call it.

Whether or not Universalis would be a good fit would depend on whether the players are aware of points 1-5 in Walt's initial post.  If not then having a look at the man behind the curtain would probably be a shock as you say.  

However, I find it hard to accept that players are actually fooled for long by this style of play.  At some point they certainly become aware of it and make a decision to go along with it.   I have trouble imagining a GM who is so incredibly good at gaming slieght of hand that players never realize that all that stuff isn't already created in advance.

So for players that are aware of things like the world not being real until they interact with it and plot objects being amorphous until called upon, and they'd like to get a chance to do this sort of thing for themselves, then it would probably work well.  Other wise you're right, the appeal would be limited to the GM's who do this sort of thing.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 12, 2002, 07:24:07 AM
Fang,

I can add one little thing, an extension off some comments made so far and a clarrification of something I mentioned in my own post:

GNS doesn't suggest you only *add* rules to tighten up a game design  and focus it to one of the three nodes.  You also cut rules to focus the G, N or S -- working to only use rules that strengthen the purpose of play.

Here's a scene from Pulp Fiction

INT. APARTMENT - DAY

The bathroom door BURSTS OPEN and the Fourth Man CHARGES out, silver Magnum raised, FIRING SIX BOOMING SHOTS from his hand cannon.

                                FOURTH MAN
               Die...die...die...die...!

DOLLY INTO Fourth Man, same as before.

He SCREAM until he's dry firing.  Then a look of confusion crosses his face.

TWO SHOT - JULES AND VINCENT

standing next to each other, unharmed.  Amazing as it seems, none of the Fourth Man's shots appear to have hit anybody.
Jules and Vincent exchange looks like, "Are we hit?"  They're as confused at the shooter.  After looking at each other, they bring their looks up to the Fourth Man.

                              FOURTH MAN
         I don't understand --

The Fourth Man is taken out of the scenario by the two men's bullets who, unlike his, HIT their marks.  He drops DEAD.

The two men lower their guns.  Jules, obviously shaken, sits down in a chair.  Vincent, after a moment of respect, shrugs it off.  Then heads toward Marvin in the corner.

                               VINCENT
             Why the fuck didn't you tell us
             about that guy in the bathroom?
             Slip your mind?  Forget he was in
             there with a goddamn hand cannon?

                               JULES
                            (to himself)
            We should be fuckin' dead right
            now.
                            (pause)
            Did you see that gun he fired at
            us?  It was bigger than him.

                               VINCENT
            .357.

                                JULES
             We should be fuckin' dead!

                              VINCENT
            Yeah, we were lucky.

Jules rises, moving toward Vincent.

                               JULES
             That shit wasn't luck.  That shit
             was somethin' else.

Vincent prepares to leave.

                             VINCENT
            Yeah, maybe.

                               JULES
            That was...divine intervention.
            You know what divine intervention
            is?

                             VINCENT
            Yeah, I think so.  That means God
            came down from Heaven and stopped
            the bullets.

                               JULES
             Yeah, man, that's what is means.
             That's exactly what it means!  God
             came down from Heaven and stopped
             the bullets.

                              VINCENT
             I think we should be going now.

                                JULES
             Don't do that!  Don't you fuckin'
             do that!  Don't blow this shit off!
             What just happened was a fuckin'
             miracle!

                              VINCENT
            Chill the fuck out, Jules, this
            shit happens.

                               JULES
            Wrong, wrong, this shit doesn't
            just happen.

                             VINCENT
            Do you wanna continue this
            theological discussion in the car,
            or at the jailhouse with the cops?

JULES
We should be fuckin' dead now, my
friend!  We just witnessed a
miracle, and I want you to fuckin'
acknowledge it!

VINCENT
Okay man, it was a miracle, can we
leave now?

****

The point is for Narrativist play, the scene isn't about the actual mechanics of the gun -- it's about the moral awakening of a hit man.  His partner will actually do everything he can to distract himself from being aware of what going on -- doing everything from drugs to reading books while guns are being drawn nearby to distract himself from "waking up."  The arguement between these two characters will provide part of the arguement of the Narravist Premise.

You can, of course, *do the same thing with an S or G design.*  Tactical decisions and rules to simulate the difference bewteen a .45 and .357 are fine.  But they will slow down, for the Narrativist, getting to the meat of the scene, which is the character's reactions to and choices about stressful incidents.  Mechanics for actually showing the difference between the three guns in the scene don't add anything -- and would be jettisoned in an N design.

Removing rules, as well as adding them, is part of a GNS game design choice.

Christopher


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on March 12, 2002, 07:34:34 AM
I think I kind of see where this thread is going.  It's sort of about preparation and how much a typical RPG requires and how much a typical group does.

Typically, there is a lot of preparation involve.  You need to create a character with (almost) every conceivable detail pre-determined.  The GM builds a world ahead of time and sets up a plot.

I've been sort of wondering if all of this prep-time would be better spent washing the car.  I mean, how much of that information ever really gets used?

A friend of mine love the Central Casting books.  At least he likes the fantasy one.  I hate it because it takes a couple hours, especially when he does the entire group at once and basically all you get from it are A) a chance at spiffy skills of magic items, but and equal chance of negative stuff like being a quadraplegic(sp?) B) stuff that does not matter one whit during play.

Now, I can understand that you might need something ahead of time.  That's understandable.  But it's not always true that it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. SOmetimes, when you need it is when you start having it.

I'm also looking at consistency a little different.  Robinson Crusoe (I haven't read it, but I've often heard this part mentioned) strips down naked and swims out to his ship for supplies and then proceeds to fill his pockets. Consistency doesn't matter unless it would interfere with someone's enjoyment of the game.  Too often players are doggedly consistent thinking that it will enhance theirs and other's enjoyment.  This is not necessarily so.

I've been kind of thinking of this the other way, having little if anything prepared ahead of time and letting everything come about as you play.I susect that if I'm lucky, this will become some kind of movement for a while (if not, it'll be just me.  Hi.) and then someone else will swing the pendulum back

"RPGs don't have anything prepared ahead of time.  How much better it would be to have things preapred before you sit down to play."

But, we'll have to see about that.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on March 12, 2002, 07:56:09 AM
Quote from: Christopher Kubasik

I can add one little thing, an extension off some comments made so far and a clarrification of something I mentioned in my own post:

GNS doesn't suggest you only *add* rules to tighten up a game design  and focus it to one of the three nodes.  You also cut rules to focus the G, N or S -- working to only use rules that strengthen the purpose of play.


Yup. That's pretty much my philosophy -- pare everything down to just the essentials. Which is why I dislike "optional rules" so intensely.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 12, 2002, 07:59:40 AM
Pblock,

I don't know if I'm disagreeing with you, but I'll point out that on the Art Deco Melodrama threads over on the Sorcerer board, Ron did a lot of preperation for a Narrativist game.  It's just a different kind of preperation

I think Walt was asking about mechanics and in play decision making.  He also mentioned issues of stance -- and GB Steve and Ian added to that as well.

I still think we're mostly talking about how, exactly, in the moment of play, do you play to best bring out different results.

Christopher


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on March 12, 2002, 08:26:37 AM
Christopher,

First of all, call me Jack.  I'm sick of being pblock.  I've changed my handle to my real name on most of the forums I frequent.  We'll see if I did it right here with this post (fingers crossed)

I get the idea of producing different results via different means.  Isn't there a line in 28 Days to that effect?  I forget the actually line but it was when they were undergoing the horse therapy "The definition of (blank) is doing the same thing expecting different results."  I wish I could remember the blank.  I think it was insanity, but it was probably futility.

This is why I find most game design forums/list/what have you to be depressing.  Some chump has a RPG design and they say things like "It will bring new people into the hobby" or "It will revolutionize RPGs" or some similar bit of shameless self-promotion. ("It will bring women into gaming." I rather like that one) Then you look at their game, and it may actually be a very good design original it concept and execution, but fundamentally, it is no different from D&D.  They are doing the same thing expecting different results.

Looking back, it's funny how many people I've seen make the comment that the new edition of D&D will bring new people into the hobby.  Poppycock. 3e didn't bring new people into the hobby.  Not enough to resister on the meter, anyway. It sold so well because all of the old hand at D&D, especially those who had given up on D&D decided to take a look.

But I'm getting off topic here.

Narrativist games, as you say, cut out certain rules that are not necesary.  My question is, if you can cut out this, this, this and this, why are you leaving in that and that? (if you're following me)

The answer is that these rules help.  And I'm not denying that.  Help is always good to have, but it is not necessary. Taken to the extreme, I guess I'm looking at pure freeform.  WHich does produce very differnet results.

I'm sure I had a point there somewhere but I lost it.  Oh well.  Did my handle change?

Edit: well, it's changed now.  Thanks, Clinton.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 12, 2002, 08:57:57 AM
For anyone who's interested, Ron's started a new thread replying t to "GNS Misconecptions" over on the GNS board.  It addresses some of the matter here, and a lot of the matters from the RPG.net thread.

Here's a link for you!

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1578


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on March 12, 2002, 09:03:41 AM
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr

Narrativist games, as you say, cut out certain rules that are not necesary.  My question is, if you can cut out this, this, this and this, why are you leaving in that and that? (if you're following me)

The answer is that these rules help.  And I'm not denying that.  Help is always good to have, but it is not necessary. Taken to the extreme, I guess I'm looking at pure freeform.  WHich does produce very differnet results.

I'm sure I had a point there somewhere but I lost it.  Oh well.  Did my handle change?


Well-designed games cut out unnecessary rules, not Narrativist games (we shouldn't equal "Narrativist" with "good").

You know that old line about "if the rules get in the way, ignore them."? I hate that.

Regarding your earlier point, I think that failed innovation is far better than successful imitation. Which (frankly) most games seem to be. Imitation of an existing game and/or play style. I can never understand how people can talk about a game being good or bad and not talking about the underlying design -- what they're usually saying is, "Wow. Game X is a great [copy of D&D or GURPS or whatever]."


Title: Not 'The New Thing'
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 12, 2002, 09:04:33 AM
Quote from: Le Joueur

Quote from: contracycle
It is "effective illusionism".  I think the distinction with narrativist play is that the players are directly, and consciously, engaged in the construction of the story.
Quote from: contracycle
I would expect, in GNS terms, it would be described as "semi-drifted sim".

Actually, for the record, I think what has been a described, counts as almost the poster child for 'abashedly Narrativist.'  

Nope. If you must classify it, it was in fact just what the poster claimed. Intuitive Continuity, just as described by the creator of the method, Gareth Michael Skarka in underworld (whether or not this is a valid classification is another entire argument). The poster did mention that he also "fudged rolls" and other stuff in an unnoticable way. That portion would be Illusionism.

Abashed Narrativism refers to systems that only support narrativism in that they do not actively block it. I think the poster was playing D&D. So, again, if we must classify, What I see here is a drift from playing a gamist game to playing it in a Simulationist fashion (as Gareth suggests; nothing to imply that the players were in anything but actor mode, or that the GM was trying to promote such) with the GM using Intuitive Continuity and Illusionism to achieve a Story (in the stronger, usually associated with Narrativism, sense).

This is far from the "Impossible Thing", and is really a well noted and not uncommon play style. I, myself, play in a very similar fashion, as do most of the GMs I play with. Ron played this way for quite a while, if I'm not mistaken.

So what we really have here is a non-issue. This is not an exception to any theory of which I am aware. But, I do support the style, FWIW, despite possibly not being as cutting edge as other newer methods. I think it is one appreciated very much by most Simulationist players.

Mike


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 12, 2002, 09:33:06 AM
Okay,

Now that Ron's dragged the GNS element of this thread over to the GNS board, and Mike has, correctly, tabled the need to determine whether Intuitive Continuity is "really" one or another of the GNS nodes, let's get back to Walt's question:

"What sort of game mechanisms or resource materials could be incorporated into a new system that would analogously help GMs grasp and use the concept of para-Narrativist on-the-fly world/story building? Could Intuitive Continuity be made less purely intuitive, more accessible, with the right tools? I'm thinking along the lines of mechanisms that could regulate the introduction of unbound story elements (the mysterious stalker, the distant distress signal) based somehow on PC conflict maps; or meta-settings that embody a genre and premise(s) and provide flexible libraries of basic story elements appropriate to them. Resolution mechanisms don't appear to be an issue, since a variety of conventional mechanisms appear quite adequate. But mechanisms would be needed (or at least useful) for aspects of play that have never needed game mechanics before, such as for learning (that is, equivalently, creating) historical information about the world."

Off the top of my head, I'd offer up the Relationship Map found in the Sorcerer's Soul.  While some people aren't crazy about it, others find it of great help.  (And for those of you who are familiar with other Character Maps (under various names), just know this one is different in nature.)  You can find discussions, if not highly spirited debates, about the R-Map all over the Sorcerer board.)

I also think Ron's essay in chapter 7 of Sorcerer and Sword will spark lots of possibilities for people.  It's about Author stance for the players -- which isn't for everybody.  But it jostles the brain out of a lot of presumed RPG habits.

Christopher


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 12, 2002, 11:46:22 AM
Hello,

Walt, welcome!

I am very interested to know what your thoughts are, following the discussion so far. I invite you to check out the "Seven Misconceptions" thread in the GNS forum as well, as I think I won't be able to address your points directly until we've hammered out some of those.

My only initial point is that Intuitive Continuity, as a form of scenario preparation and running, is not necessarily linked to any particular form of GNS. I have noted in my experience that it tends to become "Roads to Rome" in application.

To everyone, I should like to point out that at least three distinctive modes of GMing and playing have been described so far as "agreements" with Walt's described mode. I'm not talking about the labels, but about the examples of play. I suggest that people review the posts so far - we are not seeing the same thing described over and over, although many of the posters seem to think so.

Best,
Ron


Title: Whoops!
Post by: Le Joueur on March 12, 2002, 12:19:46 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Le Joueur
Quote from: contracycle
It is "effective illusionism".  I think the distinction with narrativist play is that the players are directly, and consciously, engaged in the construction of the story.
Quote from: contracycle
I would expect, in GNS terms, it would be described as "semi-drifted sim".

Actually, for the record, I think what has been a described, counts as almost the poster child for 'abashedly Narrativist.'  

Nope. If you must classify it

Whoops!  Terminology dropped.  You are completely correct.  The word I should have typed was not "abashed," it was "vanilla."  My bad.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
would be Illusionism.

Not so!  The original poster never intimated the necessary 'lie' implicit in 'Illusionism.'  'Illusionism' as I remember it, requires a static storyline 'presented' by the gamemaster under the 'lie' that players have freedom of choice.  What I meant to compare it to, was 'vanilla Narrativism,' where only the gamemaster seems to be practicing Narrativism.  (Where I got "abashed" from, I'll never know.)

Sorry for the mix up.

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 12, 2002, 12:43:09 PM
Yes, the GM was using vanilla Narrativist decisions which is pretty close to the definition of Intuitive Continuity. But the players I don't believe were doing so.

Quote
My job as the GM was to turn the players' unfettered decisions about what their characters would do into story (and story in the proper sense, not just a chronology of causally linked events). I used no overtly narrativist game mechanisms to do so. I did fudge GM die rolls but never obviously, and I always allowed player decisions and player die rolls to stand.


Sounds like "unfettered decisions about what their character would do" indicates actor mode to me, but I could be wrong. Fudging rolls in an inobvious way, and turning players decisions into story (via hidden railroading like "All roads lead to Rome" as Ron suggested, or the aformentioned Intuitive Continuity) has Illusionism written all over it. The players actions seem to be creating story, but in reality it is the GM secretly manipulating things to make the plot come together. Note, I am a fan of Illusionism, and it is one of my preferred methods of GMing. Again, though, it will require confirmation from the poster to determine this for certain. My quote might be out of context, or it might just sound like something it was not.

Anyhow, despite the GM making decisions in such a manner, the experience for the players sounds pretty Simulationist.

Mike


Title: I say Illusionism!
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 12, 2002, 12:46:24 PM
Quote

Not so! The original poster never intimated the necessary 'lie' implicit in 'Illusionism.' 'Illusionism' as I remember it, requires a static storyline 'presented' by the gamemaster under the 'lie' that players have freedom of choice.


Au contraire, mon fraire! (whatever that means)

I say that sessions where the GM concocts a narrative to steer the PCs is illusionism, not matter when or where he/she does it; either on the fly or the week before.

That's currently my best game -- one I'm hoping to give that last tip over into Narrativism with the Pool. Let me break down how I see it (hallaluyah, brother!...halleluegha?...helohemoglobin?):

The major difference I see is who at the gaming table is reacting to whom. For example, in my game I as GM: set the scenes, provide the NPCs, provide plot, setting, whatever. My players just follow my lead. Doesn't matter if I'm making it up then and there, or if I've got this detailed scenario with a scene by scene breakout. My players (very good players I might add but still...) are stuck in the dominant RPG paradigm: GM supplies us with leads, we follow them. If we don't there's no game. It's the unwritten rule of roleplaying games.

Now imagine how I want my game to play instead: I want to react to the players, who play characters with fully-defined passions. Those passions drive play. Instead of me sitting down and saying, "Ok, you're all in a bar, and some ugly mug crashes in with a clue in his pocket," I want to see the players start off by saying, "Hmmm. I've got a score to settle with uber-badass Mafai Boss. I'm gonna go break into his hideout and rough him up."

I want to see players drive the action with fully formed protagonists who are proactive, instead of me dragging them there (time and time again, oh god, I'm so bored it's gonna make my eyes bleed). That's my RPing holy grail.

Sure, there's a fine line being crossed here, but I say it exists. It's there, I can feel it. And I think the ticket is more interactive players, not on-the-fly GMs.

I say, if you're players are reacting to you tell your story, it's illusionism.

Steve Dustin


Title: And I say 'vanilla Narrativism!'
Post by: Le Joueur on March 12, 2002, 01:38:26 PM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote from: Le Joueur
Not so! The original poster never intimated the necessary 'lie' implicit in 'Illusionism.' 'Illusionism' as I remember it, requires a static storyline 'presented' by the gamemaster under the 'lie' that players have freedom of choice.

I say that sessions where the GM concocts a narrative to steer the PCs is illusionism, not matter when or where he/she does it; either on the fly or the week before.

It's that "steer" part that's vital.  Whether this 'steering' is covert or accepted is highly important.  Nay, it could be the only difference between some kinds of 'vanilla Narrativism' and Illusionism (which, as it was defined, contained railroading).  Covert 'steering' is 'Illusionism;' group-accepted 'steering' is 'vanilla Narrativism' as far as I can tell.

Saying to the players that their actions determine the outcome of the game and then 'steering' it behind their backs, to me, is lying (and railroading and 'Illusionism').

Quote from: Steve Dustin
The major difference I see is who at the gaming table is reacting to whom. For example, in my game I as GM: set the scenes, provide the NPCs, provide plot, setting, whatever. My players just follow my lead. Doesn't matter if I'm making it up then and there, or if I've got this detailed scenario with a scene-by-scene breakout. My players (very good players I might add but still...) are stuck in the dominant RPG paradigm: GM supplies us with leads; we follow them. If we don't there's no game. It's the unwritten rule of role-playing games.

But are you lying to them about the "leading?"

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Now imagine how I want my game to play instead: I want to react to the players, who play characters with fully-defined passions. Those passions drive play. Instead of me sitting down and saying, "Ok, you're all in a bar, and some ugly mug crashes in with a clue in his pocket," I want to see the players start off by saying, "Hmmm. I've got a score to settle with uber-badass Mafai Boss. I'm gonna go break into his hideout and rough him up."

I want to see players drive the action with fully formed protagonists who are proactive, instead of me dragging them there (time and time again, oh god, I'm so bored it's gonna make my eyes bleed). That's my RPing holy grail.

Well, in light of this thread, you could probably move towards 'vanilla Narrativism' and maybe wean they players onto 'Director Stance.'  Just dropping them into the Pool (on the deep end I might add), sounds like a recipe for disaster.  (Or are they 'pumped?')

Whatever you do, I suggest not 'springing it upon them.'  A lot of people really like 'vanilla Narrativism.'  (Just a warning from experience.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Sure, there's a fine line being crossed here, but I say it exists. It's there; I can feel it. And I think the ticket is [having] more interactive players, not on-the-fly GMs.

It’s not a "fine line" between 'vanilla Narrativism,' and "more interactive players," it's a huge gulf.  The fine line is between 'Illusionism' and 'vanilla Narrativism.'

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I say, if you're players are reacting to you telling your story; it's illusionism.

That's what I have been trying to say.

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 12, 2002, 02:24:50 PM
Quote

But are you lying to them about the "leading?"


I don't see how that's relevant. I suspect they know I'm making it up (they're bright guys) and I've never tried to deceive them. But whether they are going willingly or not at all, seems totally irrelevant. If it looks like a monkey, it's a monkey.

No matter when or how I'm making it up, I'm making it up. Faking it. I, as a GM, have nothing to hold me back, or to react to. I hold all the cards. And therefore, the PCs are living my story. It's pathetically easy to steer players to where you want to steer them, as long as they adhere to the idea they are a character in a roleplaying game, not a story. It's a different kind of logic.

When does it cease to be the GM's story? I say, when the driving force are the players acting out their protagonists' passions. When I as a GM have to react to the players. When it's not me presenting the options, but the players coming up with their own.  And it must come from a re-definition of the players' approach to their roleplaying. Majority of play I've encountered is wrapped up in two models: DnD or CoC. I've never really seen anything different. And I think its expected.

As for the Pool, they're smart people. They aren't the average RPer. I think they can handle it. It helps that the game is pretty defined as to what is expected from everyone, and what is makes the game good.

Steve


Title: A dangerous path
Post by: Le Joueur on March 12, 2002, 03:24:29 PM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote from: Le Joueur
But are you lying to them about the "leading?"

I don't see how that's relevant.

I do.  I feel quite disheartened if I am told what I do matters, and I find out it doesn't.  (That no matter what I did, to any extreme, things would turn out the same way.  This is railroading and 'Illusionism' has been defined as railroading.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I suspect they know I'm making it up (they're bright guys) and I've never tried to deceive them. But whether they are going willingly or not at all, seems totally irrelevant. If it looks like a monkey, it's a monkey.

Then you're making a monkey out of your players if you 'take them for a ride' and tell them they're driving (when in fact they're not).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
No matter when or how I'm making it up, I'm making it up. Faking it. I, as a GM, have nothing to hold me back, or to react to. I hold all the cards. And therefore, the PCs are living my story.

If that's how you see it, then yes you practice 'Illusionism.'  'Vanilla Narrativism' is when what the players do, does define how the story comes out.   If you decide how they get to the ending, it's 'Illusionism.'  If their actions decide how they get to an ending, then it's 'vanilla Narrativism.'

In 'Illusionism,' you have total control; it's 'your story.'  In 'vanilla Narrativism,' you have no idea how the story will go, you merely facilitate the rise in tension, the crisis, climax, and resolution (if you will); you don't decide who they'll face off against, or who they'll save (mind you, as story facilitator - not owner - you won't be terribly surprised, it's just that it wasn't your decision).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
It's pathetically easy to steer players to where you want to steer them, as long as they adhere to the idea they are a character in a roleplaying game, not a story. It's a different kind of logic.

If you can bring off the 'Illusion' of free will for your players, you are a good 'Illusionist.'  However, if 'the sheep' ever 'catch on,' they're gonna wonder what the point in playing is (the ending is predetermined and no matter how much they fail, they'll 'win' - this really takes the value out of any game like this I've been a player in).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
When does it cease to be the GM's story? I say, when the driving force are the players acting out their protagonists' passions.

Judging by what you have written so far, you group has a long way to go before you get to that.  The fact that the players 'let' you lead them around so sheepishly means they will have a lot of 'gamemaster is in control' habits that'll have to be broken.  (And I suspect you may find a few 'my story' habits hard to let go of).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
When I as a GM have to react to the players. When it's not me presenting the options, but the players coming up with their own.

This is not required for their "passions" to drive the story.  Player-created "options" is not required in 'vanilla Narrativism,' but a lack of 'gamemaster story' is.  Can you see the difference?

1) Your story, you make up all the details, they have only the 'Illusion' of choice.

2) Their story, you only work to 'keep it interesting,' facilitating the hallmarks of 'good story' without choosing the elements presented in it.

3) Their story, they make up the "options" and other details as they see fit; they know that they're creating a story and act accordingly.

As far as I understand 1 is 'Illusionism,' 2 is 'vanilla Narrativism,' and 3 is Narrativism.  (Personally, I can't stand to play in a game like number 1 where the story moves towards its ending absolutely regardless of my character's actions.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
And it must come from a re-definition of the players' approach to their roleplaying.

I'm hesistant to agree, because it sounds like you need your approach radically changed to.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
As for the Pool, they're smart people. They aren't the average RPer. I think they can handle it.

Intelligence has nothing to do with taste.  I'm telling you, if they like 'Illusionism' or 'vanilla Narrativism,' their tastes aren't simply going to change just because of your faith in their intelligence.  Please, don't force this upon them and assume they'll like it because "they're smart people."  You'll be asking for a huge paradigm shift from them and if it's not to their tastes, you're setting your sights on trouble.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
It helps that the game is pretty defined as to what is expected from everyone, and what is makes the game good.

That would be the 'terrible stereotype' siren going off.  I realize the Pool looks really cool right now (it is really cool), but you're making a huge mistake if you assume that your players are going to simply go along with the change in game as easily as they go along with the stories you 'force' upon them.  (In fact, I'm inclined to believe that one almost precludes the other.)  If you can't first 'get them pumped' by the possibilities, don't expect that you can 'talk them into it.'

Free will doesn't work that way.

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 12, 2002, 03:51:35 PM
Quote

Free will doesn't work that way.


Hmm. We'll find out. We play tomorrow.

Just to give some more background: I've had roleplaying theory discussions with these people before. They've known that we'd be using the Pool for the last three weeks or so, since last session (I've been busy). We currently use Fudge, I'm apparently the only person with any concept of the rules beyond the basic Fudge ladder. And finally, some of these guy's favorite games are OTE and Castle Falkenstein. One guy GMs Hero Wars, although he switched to OTE-Fudge variant because he didn't like how the action points felt in game (and his Fudge game is more rules-light than mine, so you're probably on to something about my "bad habits.")

We're not talking about my Tuesday night crew slogging their way through Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Besides, if it goes poorly, I told them we'd switch back to Fudge.

Thanks for caring though,
Steve


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Walt Freitag on March 12, 2002, 09:19:06 PM
Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful responses. Sorry about the 24-hour absence; I had no idea responses would come so quickly.

Christopher,

I should have explicitly credited you for being first to bring up your own take on this idea back on an RPGnet thread. (The thread was on "bad gamemastering;" how's that for irony?) Since you're mostly asking questions, there's not too much to comment on with regard to agreement or disagreement on my part.

You may be right about not needing to fudge die rolls once the rules are Narrativist designed. But keep in mind that I'm pretending to play by the same rules as my players, and my players are not using overtly Narrativist mechanics, so the rules I'm pretending to play by are not designed for Narrativism. (I've been looking over my system tweaks and realizing there is a method to their madness; that is to say, certain elements that have evolved to suit the style. For example, my combat rule modifications tend in the direction of allowing characters more control over their level of risk [traded off vs. their chance of decisive victory] in battle. But there's just as strong a case for that mechanism promoting Gamist or Simulationist play as Narrativist. That's a whole other topic.) Stance-wise, my players are far more Actor than Author.

I like your Aliens example. Perhaps it would be useful to others if you were to re-post your RPGnet "new dance" post here?

Ian,

Thanks for the great reaction. :) And it's interesting to see another perspective from someone who uses a similar approach.

Subsequent reactions from others were more along the lines of "yeah, sure, we do this; it's no big deal." Which I'm really glad to hear. But that leaves me with one of the same questions as Christopher: If this practice (or range of conceptually related practices) is fairly widespread, why isn't it talked about more? Has a generation of gamers perhaps missed out, as Christopher believes? How many people out there buy setting sourcebooks and feel they have to disassemble them to make them useful? Is there a hidden demand for a different type of product, perhaps even for existing systems?

Ian's comments reminded me of a few more fine points:

You're correct that the setting is not as restricted as I might have made it sound in point #2. A world in which mass media exist is fine provided that the mass media don't know anything about the real subject matter of the campaign. In that case, for all practical purposes the real setting is that hidden part of the world, and what I meant was that setting cannot have mass media etc. that's accessible to player-characters.

Your point #4 mentioning Sorceror and Sword speaks to one of my key questions: who else is using this or similar approaches? I'll have to look at it in more detail, but in the meantime could anyone briefly summarize for me where Sorceror and Sword overlaps with the approach I described and where it diverges? Or point me to a source of that information on this site?

And I agree that Point #5 about polymorph plotting is where rubber meets the road, in terms of making this particular flavor of Intuitive Continuity/Vanilla Narrativism work smoothly. When I think about potential tools and mechanisms, this is the area where I think they'd be most helpful.

Jack and GB Steve,

We seem to be mostly in agreement, though as Ron subsequently pointed out, the technical details we're describing do vary some.

Guidance on PC creation is important. As with any approach, some types of characters and conflicts will be better served than others. I should have mentioned initial situation along with the initial setting. I prefer to focus on the character's personality and flaws at the outset, and leave most specific conflicts to develop later. Luke Skywalker doesn't start out with a passion to avenge his father and destroy large pieces of hardware; he starts out with curiosity, thirst for adventure, a strong romantic streak, and a thing for holographic images of women, and the rest develops in time.

Valamir,

Yes, the players do become aware that this style of play is going on. But being aware of it is not the same as being constantly reminded of it; I accept the former and try very hard to avoid the latter.

One thing that helps is that not everything is unplanned. Any plan made is subject to change, but sometimes the players decide to do something that is close to (or dead on) a possibility I planned for. (One could argue, I suppose, that any instance in which players do something I expected they might do indicates that I'm really just leading them. I don't think this is the case -- even in the real world when you presumably have no influence over another person's decisions, you can often predict what that person will do. I have no say over what President Bush would do in the event of another terrorist attack, but I bet I can practically write the speech he'd give word for word in advance. I'll leave to the philosophers the question: If you could reliably predict what your players would choose to do, could you still say they had a choice?)

Also, the use of what Ian called polymorph plotting conveys a strong counter illusion against perceiving the world as being in flux. In a movie, if a character just showed up and attacked the hero out of nowhere, you'd be likely to perceive the attack as a pure plot device that could have been something else if the plot had needed something different to occur. But if you see a character stalking the hero throughout the movie, and then attacking him later on, it's completely natural to assume that attacking was his intention all along, and completely unnatural to imagine that had the plot progressed differently he might have turned out to be an ally instead. Innate perceptions of how the world works, adapted for survival in the real world over millions of years, are being engaged.

Mike,

In your first post you state that what I describe is far from the "impossible thing." But you do so purely on the basis of terminological categorization: what I'm describing is actually drift from whatchamacallit to thingamajiggie and ergo it's not "the impossible thing." I'd like to hear your argument in terms of what's actually going on in the game play I've described. The Impossible Thing is this: "that the GM may be defined as the author of the ongoing story, and, simultaneously, the players may determine the actions of the characters as the storyís protagonists." (Edwards) In what way are the players' decisions not determining the actions of the characters as the story's protagonists? and/or In what way is the GM not the author of the ongoing story?

Actually, I agree with just about everything in your second and subsequent posts. In my variety of VN at least, the GM has narrativist goals, the players usually not. Something I didn't emphasize before (due to my erroneous focus on Simulationism) is that the players can make their decisions however they prefer. If they want to do something inconsistent with the character's personality or motivations because it would make a better story, I won't try to stop them. Usually they just want to play their characters in Simulationist fashion.

Ron,

I've read the misconceptions thread. I appreciate it, and can only say in my defense that my biggest misconceptions were drawn from pro-GNS posts by people referencing this board.

The corrected misperception that I don't understand the basis for is ONE. If VN is the correct term for what I'm doing, and GNS mode is all about goals and decisions during play, then most of my players most of the time are clearly not using narrativist decision-making criteria or pursuing narrativist goals.

from ONE: "It [VN] has nothing to do with Simulationist play in any way; the participants are indeed playing Narrativist, but not talking or thinking much about doing so." (emphasis added)

It escapes me what the players could be doing other than talking or thinking that establishes their overall play as Narrativist even though they're talking and thinking mostly in Simulationist or Gamist terms. They do seem to take pleasure in the resulting narrative, but on what basis can we assume that that's of more importance to them than the pleasure they take in exploration, or for that matter in beating the bad guys and taking their loot? I suppose I could ask them, but it never occurred to me to do so.

I believe the following about what my players want:

A. They want a good story. Who doesn't? Even people who play video games want them to have a good story. (This doesn't imply that they want to create story. When you read a novel you want it to be a good story, but you don't want or expect to participate in its creation.)

B. They want free will inside the game. They want not to be railroaded. (They do sometimes want to be led, that's another whole topic).

(Providing A and B simultaneously is known as the Interactive Storytelling Problem.)

The way I've learned to satisfy both of those conditions in an RPG is to shape the story around their characters and actions in the ways that I've described. As a result, as in inevitable by-product of that, the players contribute greatly to the creation of the story. They may or may not even realize that, and if they do they may or may not care. And I don't care whether or not they care. So, what is it about the players' behavior here that makes it Narrativist?

Steve and Fang,

You're correct that a narrative to steer the PCs is undesirable whether it's done on the fly or done the week before. But I'm not doing that. I'm improvising on the fly after the fact; that is, I'm adapting to the players' decisions after the players have acted upon them. Therefore, I reject the "illusionism" label because it seems to imply, to most people here, the existence of a pre-planned story.

Not to strain the quantum mechanics analogy too far, but there's a running skeptical theme here that reminds me of my own initial gut reaction to quantum theory: "There's gotta be a hidden variable." In other words, I can see that I'm going to have a hard time convincing some people that just because a story materializes at the end, that doesn't mean I must have had it hidden up one sleeve or another the whole time. There must be a Rome that all roads lead to; some narrative plan must be "steering" or perhaps even "railroading" the players.

Nope. Why would I want to do that? It doesn't work.

- Walt


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 12, 2002, 11:17:08 PM
Walt,

Excellent responses in general.

First, let me define what I refer to as Illusionism (and I was there at the argument on GO that created the term). Illusionism does not require a pre-planned goal. It requires that the GM contrive events in play such that two conditions are met. First that the events lead to a story, perhaps any story. And second that the players remain unaware of any obvious manipulation. This does not mean that the players are unaware that the GM does this in general, just that they are unaware of when it happens specifically. Yes this means that they are aware that they are probably not in any substantive way "creating story", but they do control their characters and may get some satisfaction out of that. They at least have the Illusion of control.

Fang has insulted my players who require this method of me. Apparently they want to be made monkeys. Their refusal to exit actor stance, yet demand for story make only this or similar tactics possible. Yet somehow, they seem to enjoy themselves. All those post-graduate degrees must have adled their brains.

Use of the term railroading is probably not useful in defining illusionism as railroading is a traditional term and itself not well defined. But, essentially, if what I describe above is railroading, then, in that circumstance, railroading is a good thing which my players expect from me.

The idea behind Intuitive Continuity is that you can just work with events as they come and as they relate to player actions, and somehow work them into a story. Again there is a lot of debate about how possible this is, and whether the results lead to story as defined in terms of protagonism, etc. I do not want to rehash that debate here.

But again, all this is really moot. I don't really care what definition one uses for Illusionism. If you want Illusionism to be something else, Fang, that's fine with me. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused. I'm more interested in, say, the particular techniques that Walt uses to achieve gaming success playing in this vein.

"The Impossible Thing"

The problem with your look at Ron's definition is that you are probably unaware of all of the implications behind the word Protagonist. Without going to deep into it, what is beng referred to is the players ability to specifically address the premise of the game. So the impossible thing is really a tautology sorta, more or less a defining line. To paraphrase: players cannot both address a premise thematically by considering the ongoing plot, and simultaneously not do so (which is required in order to prioritize verisimilitude). We can argue on and on about this but it's not at all important. BTW, this is similar to the "Interactive Storytelling problem", and also relates to the problem of believability over plot action in movies and fiction.  

The proper response to "The Impossible Thing", IMO, is "Oh well, who cares?". That's cheeky, but my point is that it does not matter that you are not performing "The Impossible Thing", you are succeeding in making your players happy and in a way that is so similar to "The Impossible Thing" as to make the difference  unimportant. The only importance of "The Impossible Thing" is in arguments that revolve around whether or not people can be doing Simulationism and Narrativism simultaneously (which would  be problematic for the theory as a whole). We could go off in that direction, but it's not really all that interesting, and has been done to death.

You have stated your players' desires very clearly, and they seem to be much like mine in that they want both to be able to employ actor mode, at least part of the time, and still achieve story. I should ammend my earlier statement in that I think that play is probably predominantly Simulationist for the players, and that they probably use some Vanilla Narrativism (plain old shifting to author stance). Probably some Gamism as well. I think that play that is purely one way or another is relatively rare. So, what you do to provide for them seems like excellent technique.

The only real GNS issue that I can think of is whether or not the system that you are using supports the style indicated. Are you Walt, in fact, using D&D (3E?). If so, you do realize that this is usually considered a serious drift to either Simulationism or Narrativism, do you not? Or do you see D&D as supporting this style?

BTW, regarding Ron's misconceptions number one. GNS is about making decisions. What the players are doing in Vanilla Narrativism is making decisions based on story priorities without talking about it or even really thinking about it much. Most players just make decisions that seem right at the time without any consideration of their (the player's) own motives. Vanilla Narrativism is when they just happen to be making decisions based on story priorities.

Another misconception is that Author stance requires players to ignore character motivations. Not true. Motivations are still important. It's just the oder of priority. This means that motivations either have to be retrofitted (figure out why the character is going to do the thing that's good for the plot) or that one must be selected from many (the one that works best for the plot), or any of a number of other ways to link the character motivation to the best possible action plot-wise. Completely ignoring motivation is known a Pawn mode, and is mostly only good for Gamist play, IMHO.  

Mike

edited due to speling probims


Title: That's not the Illusionism I read.
Post by: Le Joueur on March 13, 2002, 07:35:57 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
First, let me define what I refer to as Illusionism (and I was there at the argument on GO that created the term). Illusionism does not require a pre-planned goal. It requires that the GM contrive events in play such that two conditions are met. First that the events lead to a story, perhaps any story. And second that the players remain unaware of any obvious manipulation. This does not mean that the players are unaware that the GM does this in general, just that they are unaware of when it happens specifically. Yes this means that they are aware that they are probably not in any substantive way "creating story", but they do control their characters and may get some satisfaction out of that. They at least have the Illusion of control.

That's a bit different from what I use (or have read); here's what I found in the GNS essay about Illusionism:

"The play drifts toward an application of Simulationism in which the GM dominates the characters’ significant actions, and the players contribute only to characterization. This is called Illusionism, in which the players are unaware of or complicit with the extent to which they are manipulated."
and
"However, it is not and can never be 'story creation' on the part of all participants," -- Ron Edwards.

Recently, I read:
"(GM preps story prior to play [Illusionism]; GM assembles story afterwards)" -- Ron Edwards.

To me, that suggests that 'story prior to play' is inherent in Illusionism.

I also found:
"Drift from Simulationism (sub-class Illusionism) to Narrativism (sub-class character-Premise, sub-class vanilla).

The transition occurs when (1) the players' Author or Director stance statements become more important to the GM than a pre-planned plot, and (2) the statements are so common as to be relied upon" -- Ron Edwards, emphasis mine.

From the man who brought us the term Illusionism, I take this as my definition.  Since your personal definition contains, "Illusionism does not require a pre-planned goal," it has nothing to do with the Illusionism I was talking about.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Fang has insulted my players who require this method of me. Apparently they want to be made monkeys. Their refusal to exit actor stance, yet demand for story make only this or similar tactics possible. Yet somehow, they seem to enjoy themselves. All those post-graduate degrees must have addled their brains.

Considering the above, I have obviously made no statement or insult to your players because by your definition, I was talking about 'Illusionism with preplanned stories.'  You don't preplan, therefore your players are not being made monkey of.  (It is the preplanning which makes the monkey, to me.)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
The idea behind Intuitive Continuity is that you can just work with events as they come and as they relate to player actions, and somehow work them into a story.

If you want, I could pull the definitions of this too, but as far as I remember, 'story' has absolutely nothing to do with Intuitive Continuity.  If you add story-intent priority to Intuitive Continuity without the preplanning, then poof it turns into 'vanilla Narrativism.'

Quote from: Mike Holmes
But again, all this is really moot. I don't really care what definition one uses for Illusionism. If you want Illusionism to be something else, Fang, that's fine with me. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused. I'm more interested in, say, the particular techniques that Walt uses to achieve gaming success playing in this vein.

If you're going to say that I have insulted someone, don't expect me to 'back off' simply because you say it's moot.

Likewise, I too am highly interested in the techniques Walt uses, largely because they sound very much like mine.  (This is something I want to explore more in Scattershot's design.)  The problem I have using the overall GNS theory (despite my fluency with it), is that as can be seen above, this kind of play (and techniques thereon) are relegated to 'sub-class' status (especially compared to big 'N' Narrativism).

I find this somewhat inhibiting when trying to hold a conversation about them in a realm suffused with this model (not that I mind its presence, but talking about a person's techniques becomes laborious when everyone quickly - and quite innocently - jumps in with a discussion of how the GNS analyzes it).  That's why I have suggested in the past that the GNS might be barred from RPG Theory and vice versa, but I can't see how that'd be overly useful.

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 13, 2002, 08:16:13 AM
Hey,

I think Fang has nailed it. It all comes down to this: Intuitive Continuity is a technique, and it has utility for either Simulationist retroactive "story creation" (by the GM) or Illusionism, as well as for some forms of Narrativist play.

Illusionism is not the same as that "retroactive story creation," although they are very similar in that one person (the GM) is all about a story being created, with the players being participants but not co-authors as such. Thus a lot of Mike's points are valid, as they are referring to that common ground between Illusionism and the "retroactive story creation" thing (which currently has no name). So I'm happy with the confluence of Mike's and Fang's posts throughout the thread, and it's had some impact on me. Expect to see some reflections on that, later.

In practice, and I speak as a long-time practitioner of both of these types of GM-heavy story creation, the "retroactive" thing tends to become Illusionism over time. That transition usually hits after the player-characters have passed through a "hump" of development, such that they now satisfy most of the initial aesthetic goals of the players.

Example: my character Nocturne in a Champions game in the late 1980s was begun at 250 points, and I had a little wish list of stuff he needed in order to be "the guy" I wanted to play. Much later, with 100 points added on, he was quite nicely rounded out as desired, which of course was not quite exactly as originally intended, but suited me fine.

After that, playing Nocturne became more and more troublesome - now that he was "like I wanted," the primary question became "what to do," and (in retrospect) much of that seemed determined by when the GM decided to give us enough clues (or a sudden attack) to generate the climax of the heretofore inaccessible Plot Behind the Scenes.

Up until that point, the GM had had a fine time generating story retroactively from all of our run-around do-stuff character actions. After that point, a minor tug-of-war ensued - I wanted character decisions to be powering things in a major way (at least in terms of climactic moments, if not before then), and the GM probably wondered why I was becoming such a fractious player all of a sudden.

Simultaneously, I was going through the exact same thing with GMing my own Champions group. Being a slow learner, I had to go through it again with yet another Champions group a couple of years later. I found myself confronted with a verbalization of exactly my own frustrations with Nocturne, and here I was on the GM side! How could that have happened??

The issue for me is that both the "retroactive" mode and the Illusionist mode tend to frustrate players who have Narrativist leanings. The latter does more than the former, but the former tends to evolve into the latter.

Now I also want to emphasize that Intuitive Continuity is a powerful tool for all three modes! (Note that the third would be some forms of Narrativism, not "Narrativism" as a whole.) Damned interesting.

In my experience, Intuitive Continuity has been a common technique in role-playing ever since the beginning, but it has rarely been mentioned in rules texts until fairly recently. Thus it might be fair to state that Gareth-Michael Skarka did not invent the technique, but did identify it and encourage it, and deserves credit for that insight.

Best,
Ron


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 13, 2002, 08:41:15 AM
FWIW, and in the name of clarity, I looked it up on GO and it was the mighty, mighty Paul Elliot (AKA Mithras) that coined the term Illusionist, which led to Illusionism. The thread is here: http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?fuseaction=ShowThread&threadID=28594&messageID=28594&forumID=7&CustomSS=0&login=

Paul should get full credit for identifying the phenomenon. Then Ron, myself and others banged away at it for a while, and eventually it got mired in discussions of railroading (which always seems to happen). Anyhow, perhaps we should "officially" decide if Illusionism includes only "pre-planning" situations or is wider. Ron goes a long way to that above, I think. Paul in his initial post indicated that he only prepared "the bare bones" but that may be enough to narrow it to saying "some pre-preparation". That should get everyone nicely on the same page.

Mike


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 13, 2002, 08:51:50 AM
Arrgh! Before that previous post I had posted a long reply to Fang in which I claimed that I may have coined Illusionism. Anyhow, there was only one really important point that I wanted to make in it.

I do pre-plan my games. Not every one, but the majority (in game I thihn stick with the plan maybe fifty percent of the time, which is itself an effective Illusionist tool). And, again, my players accept, expect, and, yes, require this from me. It is their prefered mode of play. I am certain about this after trying to get them to play narrativist games (and failing miserably), and querying them very closely on the subject. So, while I can understand that you might not like this style, Fang, there is nothing in my players preference for it that makes them unintelligent, animalistic, or otherwise monkey-like.

I did expect you to respond to the insult, I am not so concerned with the definitions.

Mike


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 13, 2002, 08:56:46 AM
Mike,

I'll be damned. I remembered that thread as being Jesse's, not Paul's. Paul, my apologies - chalk up another attribution correction to my essay now.

Looking back on it all, I now think that Paul was describing both the  "retroactive" mode and Illusionism as I ended up conceiving it (and describe above). Looks like some review and terms-clarification is necessary.

I leave it to him: Paul, do you think that the term should include both, so that we have Illusionism (forward) and Illusionism (backward)? Or should it apply to one of them, and which?

Boy, it's terminology day again.

Best,
Ron


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 13, 2002, 09:05:35 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Mike,

I'll be damned. I remembered that thread as being Jesse's, not Paul's.


Hey, it was a long time ago, and I thought that it might have even been mine. And it took some work to dig it up as the search engine over on GO seems to be broke (should mail Nathan on that).

I like the Forward/Backward thing, sorta, as long as backward includes "on the spot" and not only "after play is over".

Mike


Title: You Missed a Crucial Point on the 'Monkey' Issue.
Post by: Le Joueur on March 13, 2002, 09:28:40 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I do pre-plan my games. Not every one, but the majority (in game I thihn stick with the plan maybe fifty percent of the time, which is itself an effective Illusionist tool). And, again, my players accept, expect, and, yes, require this from me. It is their prefered mode of play. I am certain about this after trying to get them to play narrativist games (and failing miserably), and querying them very closely on the subject. So, while I can understand that you might not like this style, Fang, there is nothing in my players preference for it that makes them unintelligent, animalistic, or otherwise monkey-like.

I think there is an important point about 'making monkeys' I didn't realize you missed from when I said it.  Let me quote:

Quote from: Le Joueur
Then you're making a monkey out of your players if you 'take them for a ride' and tell them they're driving (when in fact they're not).

If you were "querying them very closely" and they "accept, expect, and, yes, require this," then you do not "tell them they're driving" while you "take them for a ride."  That is the lie that makes the monkeys.

Quote
'Oh, yeah.  I don't really have any plan for the adventure.' [snicker, snicker]

That would be lying, and only from there are monkeys created.  If, as Ron puts it, the players are complicit, then no monkeys are present.

Now tell me; do you lie to your players?

Fang Langford
(Sorry for the tone, but I am just a little tired of people reading an insult about lying into their own honest playing styles.)


Title: Monkeys and Illusionism
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 13, 2002, 11:59:06 AM
Since Fang seems interested in monkeys, and I first said, "If it looks like a monkey, it's a monkey," thought I'd clarify what I meant.

When I said the "monkey" quote I wasn't calling my players monkeys. I was calling the, apparently my, definition of Illusionism "a monkey." A better cliched sentence would have been, "calling a spade a spade."

Let me re-throw it out as a question: Why does it matter to the definition of Illusionism if the players know that the GM is the one driving the story? If you know you are a cog in the GM's wheel vs not knowing you are a cog in the GM's wheel, how does that differ significantly from each other? Everyone is basically going to be using the same techniques of roleplaying.

I suspect someone should probably point me to an Illusionism thread here.

I think it's not intent that needs to be spelled out. It's the "ownership" of what's going on. If the GM "owns" the flow and direction of the game, then how does that change if that "ownership" is explicit or implicit?

Maybe an explicit example of my group's playing style would help. For the record, when I read Intuitive Continuity, I read it as exactly as what I'm doing.

We're playing a Pulp action '30s game. First session, we brainstormed an general idea (occult archeology) and they created characters with a common thread of knowing someone who disappeared mysteriously in Tibet.

Now, in the meantime, I've created an intricate backstory involving a vast amount of NPCs with a core good guys vs bad guys problem. I know my bad guy's plan to rule the world.

Then we play. Here's an example of play:

Me: "You get a telegram from an old friend in Bangkok, says he's onto some gold."

Player: "I go to Bangkok."

Me: "Friend is missing, signs point to a spider cult."

Player: "I go rescue friend from spider cult."

Me: "Friend is dying from spider cult poison, you have to go to London for the cure."

Player: "I go to London for the cure."

Etc, ad nauseum. Sure, there's a certain amount of fun in it, the player likes all the craziness, but rarely am I not the final arbiter in pushing the action. The players are reacting to me. Whether they know if they are sheeple or not, I know it, and I'm bored with it.

Now, I think I come a little negative on my group, but that's because they are the example I currently have. They are definitely not monkeys.

Thanks, Steve


Title: When an Infinite number of Monkeys Post to a Forum...
Post by: Le Joueur on March 13, 2002, 01:09:21 PM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
Why does it matter to the definition of Illusionism if the players know that the GM is the one driving the story? If you know you are a cog in the GM's wheel vs not knowing you are a cog in the GM's wheel, how does that differ significantly from each other? Everyone is basically going to be using the same techniques of roleplaying.

Except I don't like being lied to.  If I'm a cog, it's gonna go a lot better if I know it.  Tell me my character's actions dictate the story and prove it wrong, I say quit.  I can handle being 'in' someone else's story, it can be very fun, but if you tell me it's mine and you're lying, why should I play with you?

Quote from: Steve Dustin
We're playing a Pulp action '30s game. First session, we brainstormed an general idea (occult archeology) and they created characters with a common thread of knowing someone who disappeared mysteriously in Tibet.

Now, in the meantime, I've created an intricate backstory involving a vast amount of NPCs with a core good guys vs bad guys problem. I know my bad guy's plan to rule the world.

Then we play. Here's an example of play:

Me: "You get a telegram from an old friend in Bangkok, says he's onto some gold."

Player: "I go to Bangkok."

Me: "Friend is missing, signs point to a spider cult."

Player (me): "I decide the friend (and the gold) isn't worth it and head back to Paris to seek my nemesis."

...an hour later, I find myself in London with a cure for spider cult poison.  I have to ask why I bothered to come and play, if you told me my decisions were the driving concern of the story and this is how it ends up.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Etc, ad nauseum. Sure, there's a certain amount of fun in it, the player likes all the craziness, but rarely am I not the final arbiter in pushing the action. The players are reacting to me. Whether they know if they are sheeple or not, I know it, and I'm bored with it.

So there is a problem in paradise?

This is basic to why I say Illusionism (radio announcer voice: "Now with Railroading") is one of the hardest forms to make work.  When you boil it all down, they're 'going through the motions' and you're on 'a power trip.'  I bet you got bored because you're not an egomaniac (I played what I later identified as Illusionism under one; he's still running it, not with me around).

The only point I have been trying to make is that the one and only way I have ever seen Illusionism work is with honesty.  (His other players caught on after I left, he just doesn't know it.)  If you don't know that you are a "cog" in the gamemaster's wheel, sooner or later it'll smack you upside the head (like not making it to Paris, non?).  When that realization hits, it's hard to not see the gamemaster in an abusive light (in my book).  All that time you thought you were calling the shots only to find out otherwise (and the gamemaster didn't even respect you enough to 'let you in on it'); It sounds pretty disrespectful to me, but then I believe honesty is the best practice.

"Norman, dear boy...I'm lying." -- Harry Mudd (It's an old Star Trek episode.)

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 13, 2002, 02:11:56 PM
Still sounds like a personal preference to me with all those "I feel" and "I believe". Other people can't feel otherwise? And is it a problematic mode? Yes, in fact it is and doesn't often work at full efficiency. But for some players its the only game in town. I think Marco would agree that he has players like this as well (based on his descriptions). Not to mention Steve.

Ron only says that this sort of thing didn't work for him because he had Narrativist players. Which makes sense. Sure you're not just a Narrativist?

Mike


Title: boldly jumping into the fray
Post by: Seth L. Blumberg on March 13, 2002, 02:26:03 PM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
Why does it matter to the definition of Illusionism if the players know that the GM is the one driving the story? If you know you are a cog in the GM's wheel vs not knowing you are a cog in the GM's wheel, how does that differ significantly from each other?

Speaking as a happy Illusionist GM with happy players, I think that the difference does not necessarily lie in whether the players know the score, but rather in whether they accept that they are not in charge of the story.

If the players know (at some level) that they are not running things, and still play, then they must accept it, nicht wahr? If they don't know that they are not in charge, and they find out, they may do what Fang did. Explicitly stating that the players are not in control of the overall plot is one way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Also, lying to your players about metagame issues is really ethically questionable. If they ask "Who's in charge here?" and you say "Why, you are, of course," you are letting yourself in for a heap of trouble.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 13, 2002, 02:35:08 PM
Quote


Except I don't like being lied to.



And that has what to do with Illusionism? That's my question. I feel like we are talking at cross-purposes here. That somehow we're not connecting.

I'll paraphrase what I think you are saying:

Illusionism is when the players are in a GM-constructed story and don't know it. Bad GM for lying to his players.

I do not contradict you about this. I'd hate it too.

I'm saying that Illusionism is when the players are in a GM-constructed story, regardless of what people think about it. Let me use an example:
Code:

Situation A:

GM: We are playing an Illusionist game tonight. Now, to
       save your friend you have to go to London and
       find the cure for the spider cult poison.

Player: Ok. I go to London.

Situation B:

GM: Now, to save your friend you have to go to London
       and find the cure for the spider cult poison.

Player: Ok. I go to London.


How are these different, if when its all said and done, the player's character still does exactly what the GM tells him too? I say, if the in-game result is the same, why isn't it the same thing? Why is it that not both Situation A & Situation B is called Illusionism? Because some people chaff at the idea their game is Illusionist, so they can say, if I'm being lied to its Illusionist, if not, its XXX Narrativism (which ever variant applies)?

Why not just call a monkey a monkey and say both Situation A & B are Illusionist?

Quote

 Player (me): "I decide the friend (and the gold) isn't worth it and head back to Paris to seek my nemesis."


...an hour later, I find myself in London with a cure for spider cult poison. I have to ask why I bothered to come and play, if you told me my decisions were the driving concern of the story and this is how it ends up.


Somehow, you get my point and then you don't. My players never say, "I want to do this..." They say, "So what happens?" I'd relish the day where I sit down and the players blow my contingency plans completely out-of-the water, and I have to react, instead of perform all the set-up. I would love to have a player who says, "I want to tell this story," instead of waiting for his GM-proscribed clue to the action.

The reason why I never presented your option, is because it never comes up in my game. I wouldn't tell the player, "No, sorry, you have to go to London to cure spider cult poison." I have GM'ed those games (with prepublished scenarios I might add), and I know how badly they go. I'd say, "You're nemesis is up to such-and-such," and run with it.

Quote

So there is a problem in paradise?


Is it something I said? Why all the hostility? Have you been reading my posts? Yes, goddamn it, and its not the players who are bored, its me, me, the fucking GM. Why do I show up, if its gonna be me just telling a story? I can do that at home.

I do not purposely railroad my players. They are just stuck in the predominant roleplaying paradigm of waiting for the GM to supply the story that they are reacting to. They are not pro-active. I've never met a pro-active player.

Anyway, to re-interate:

I say it doesn't matter if players are being lied to, to make a game session Illusionist.

I say it doesn't matter when the GM creates the story to make a game session Illusionist.

And I say, the majority of game players I've met, either consciously or unconsciously expect "Illusionist play" to keep the game session coherent and focused.

I don't think I can make myself more clear. Now, if I have the definition of Illusionism wrong because, by definition Illusionism means the players must be being lied to, I say, why does that matter, if the in-game results are to be the same?

Steve Dustin


Title: What You Have There is a 'Personal Definition'
Post by: Le Joueur on March 13, 2002, 04:12:19 PM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote from: Le Joueur

Except I don't like being lied to.


And that has what to do with Illusionism?

I'll paraphrase what I think you are saying:

Illusionism is when the players are in a GM-constructed story and don't know it. Bad GM for lying to his players.

That's what I was saying (and for the record, any hostility was never aimed at you; if any was present it was the fatigue over Mike thinking I was insulting his players.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I'm saying that Illusionism is when the players are in a GM-constructed story, regardless of what people think about it. Let me use an example:
Quote
Situation A:

GM: We are playing an Illusionist game tonight. Now, to
       save your friend you have to go to London and
       find the cure for the spider cult poison.

Player: Ok. I go to London.

Situation B:

GM: Now, to save your friend you have to go to London
       and find the cure for the spider cult poison.

Player: Ok. I go to London.

How are these different, if when its all said and done, the player's character still does exactly what the GM tells him too?

You're experience with gaming is too narrow for me to illustrate the difference.  I already did it and you don't seem to get it (see below).  Basically, it's not Illusionism, if you tell them what you are doing.  Technically, you can't tell someone that your running an Illusionist game and then do it, that makes it (by benefit of the definition) 'vanilla Narrativism.'

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I say, if the in-game result is the same, why isn't it the same thing? Why is it that not both Situation A & Situation B is called Illusionism? Because some people chaff at the idea their game is Illusionist, so they can say, if I'm being lied to its Illusionist, if not, its [vanilla] Narrativism?

Because eventually in an Illusionist game the result won't be "the same."  Sooner or later (and this apparently hasn't happened to you yet), the player won't simply "go to London," in an Illusionist game, they will want to do something else and you won't let them!  An Illusionist game goes where the gamemaster predefines, player action not withstanding.

I admire you for never encountering this (provided that you actually play Illusionism), because this is where all the work comes from in the form.  Say the player decides to not "go to London," in Illusionism you can't just say 'no, you go to London.'  You have to create an illusion that deposits them in "London" anyway, without them realizing they didn't get what they wanted.  That's why it's Illusionism, you replace freedom of choice with its illusion.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Why not just call a monkey a monkey and say both Situation A & B are Illusionist?

Because Situation A is almost exactly what I was alluding to with that parting quote in my last article.  You see in the Star Trek episode, the crew was trapped on a planet of totally logical androids.  In order to escape, they told the head android that everything that Harry said was a lie; the Harry walked up to him and said, "I'm lying."

It's a paradox, you can't tell the players that you're going to be lying to them, because if they know it's not true that's fiction.  (Fiction happens when the speaker and the listener both know it's false; a lie is when the listener thinks the falsehood is true.)  In Situation A, you're Harry Mudd telling Norman you're lying.  If the players know they're "only a cog" then it's 'vanilla Narrativism."  (Please either realize you are using a different definition of Illusionism, or stop calling a spade a monkey.)

Situation B is only Illusionism if you struggle to have the player think it's all their perogative.  The closer they come to 'figuring out' who's in charge, the more illusions you'll find yourself casting.  Do not mistake your players' complicity with fooling them; you are only fooling them when they do something other than you have planned, and you go ahead with the plan anyway.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote from: Le Joueur

 Player (me): "I decide the friend (and the gold) isn't worth it and head back to Paris to seek my nemesis."

...an hour later, I find myself in London with a cure for spider cult poison. I have to ask why I bothered to come and play, if you told me my decisions were the driving concern of the story and this is how it ends up.

My players never say, "I want to do this..." They say, "So what happens?" I'd relish the day where I sit down and the players blow my contingency plans completely out-of-the water, and I have to react, instead of perform all the set-up.

Then you, sir, are no Illusionist.  An Illusionist, by definition, sticks to the contingency plan no matter what.  If you would even consider letting them go beyond your "set-up," rather than using illusions to 'get them back on track,' you are most definitely not an Illusionist.  (You are in fact practicing no illusions at all.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
The reason why I never presented your option, is because it never comes up in my game. I wouldn't tell the player, "No, sorry, you have to go to London to cure spider cult poison." I have GM'ed those games (with prepublished scenarios I might add), and I know how badly they go. I'd say, "You're nemesis is up to such-and-such," and run with it.

That's because you're not an Illusionist, you just have very pliable players.  That's not what makes Illusionism, it is the practice of using illusion to control them that makes it Illusionism.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote
So there is a problem in paradise?

Is it something I said? Why all the hostility? Have you been reading my posts? Yes, goddamn it, and its not the players who are bored, its me, me, the fucking GM. Why do I show up, if its gonna be me just telling a story? I can do that at home.

Trust me, you would suck at being an Illusionist.  You don't seem to have the desire to conform play to a preplanned story, which is at the heart of what drives one to produce illusions.  May I ask why you are becoming hostile?

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Anyway, to re-interate:

I say it doesn't matter if players are being lied to, to make a game session Illusionist.

Then I say, by your definition, no illusions are used.  If they don't look 'behind the curtain,' then no illusion is created.  Why is it called Illusionism?

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I say it doesn't matter when the GM creates the story to make a game session Illusionist.

Then I say, by your definition, the gamemaster does not depend on illusions to present the story.  Unless some factor other than player will "creates the story" and the gamemaster has to create illusions to 'stick to it,' no illusions are created.  Why is it called Illusionism?

Quote from: Steve Dustin
And I say, the majority of game players I've met, either consciously or unconsciously expect "Illusionist play" to keep the game session coherent and focused.

Per your very original interpretation of the term, you would be right, but what you seem to be talking about has nothing to do with the practice of Illusionism as is used on the Forge; what you have sounds very much more like 'vanilla Narrativism.'

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I don't think I can make myself more clear. Now, if I have the definition of Illusionism wrong because, by definition, Illusionism means the players must be being lied to, I say, why does that matter, if the in-game results are to be the same?

I know by now you must think me a ravening beast, screaming and spitting and drooling.  That's because the internet does not allow me to write in the soothing fatherly voice that I would be using (and trust me with a special-needs 6 year-old, I get a lot of practice soothingly repeating myself, over and over).

I guess you're missing the inherent implication of the word 'illusion.'  Illusion is a falsehood, a lie, a fiction.  To practice illusion, you must make one thing look like another.  Nowhere in your "London" example have you done that.  You say one thing, the players follow it; where's the illusion?  In Illusionism, you would say one thing, the players wouldn't follow it, and only then would you be behooved to create an illusion that in essence 'forces' them to follow it anyway.  That's why it's called Illusionism, because you use illusion.

On the Forge, this definition has been rarefied.  In this definition, Illusionism occurs because of a conflict over 'where the story is going.'  The players would go one way, the gamemaster another.  The Illusionist 'works his magic' so that his way, the gamemaster's way, is the only way that things happen.  The motivation is to preserve the gamemaster's way at all costs by using illusion.

If you tell your players that your way will always take first place during play then you are then under no obligation to trick them, you don't need illusion to have it your way, the players will help out.  (Really, they will, I've tried it.  It's just as boring as you state, but it's not Illusionism.)

You keep saying "because the in-game result is the same."  It can't be, by definition.  It may not be immediately necessary to use illusion to force play back to the gamemaster's way, but the only thing that makes it Illusionism is that when the chips are down, it is only by illusion that things will go that way.  What you describe with your players does not obligate (or even seem to use) illusion, so as cool as the term may sound, you are not practicing Illusionism.

The problem that you seem to be having is not because of your practicing Illusionism, nor even because of your players expecting it.  They are actually expecting you to practice Narrativism.  And since it is on their behalf, it becomes 'vanilla Narrativism.'  For it to be Illusionism, they would have to expect that you aren't practicing anything, otherwise where's the illusion?

Is that clear?

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Paul Czege on March 13, 2002, 07:21:46 PM
Hey Fang,

...Illusionism occurs because of a conflict over 'where the story is going.'....The Illusionist 'works his magic' so that his way, the gamemaster's way, is the only way that things happen.

I don't think that active player resistance, thwarted and redirected by the crafty use of illusion, is a broad enough litmus test of Illusionism. It may be present, but I believe, only in a subset of Illusionist play. Rather, I think, an Illusionist game results in story, and the "illusion" part is that the player is convinced by the GM (perhaps aided by a big spoonful of complicit denial) that his decisions were a substantive contribution to it.

And since it is on their behalf, it becomes 'vanilla Narrativism.'

I don't think so. The simple reason why is that vanilla Narrativism isn't boring to the GM. Vanilla Narrativist players are still handling the protagonism of their own characters, creating a theme with the character through play.

Paul


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: C. Edwards on March 13, 2002, 07:48:18 PM
Steve,

I just want to say that I have complete sympathy for your situation.  I went through pretty much the same thing.  After questioning the players about why they were never proactive I discovered that they just didn't want to be proactive.  They viewed the role of GM as having the responsibility of entertaining them with as little work on their part as possible.  They didn't see why this might be a problem for me.  Since I refused to be used in such a manner (without large sums of money being offered anyway) we parted ways.

As far as Illusionism, well, the whole concept implies that the opportunity for disillusion must exist.  If the players are aware, or even prefer, that their characters are pretty much led down a one-way path, then they cannot become disillusioned by the fact.

What do you call it when GM and players are aware and carry on with that play style regardless?  I call it BLAH! But for some, that's their cup of tea.

Be well,

   Chris


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 13, 2002, 08:07:41 PM
Steve and Chris,

A question:

If one were to have such players create Kickers of some kind (a la Sorcerer, The Questing Beast, Hero Wars), and base the sessions on the completion of that kicker -- do you think the players would -- simply by virtue of having something on the Character sheet that said, "You will get this done," become more proactive.

I don't know why I believe this to be true, but I do.  (And if I'm wrong, I'd love to hear more about it.)  It just seems to me if you hand someone a pencil, they'll doodle, if you hand them a hammer, they'll pound, and if you hand them a gun... And so on...

I know that we could assume that these people would never respond to such a tool -- but unless either of you tried, we just wouldn't know.  (Did you try? I'd love to hear about that.)

The point is I used to complain about players not getting it -- but now I think in terms of, "What can I bring to the table that will give them a means of doing it?"  For example, a tool, on the character sheet, like othe tools for interacting with the story that they're already used to using.

And this wouldn't be a matter of explaining it, in theory or preperation. (As in: "I'm going to give you a tool to make you more proactive."  "ummm... no.")

The question is: during chargen, will certain tools help create the kind of play Steve and Chris want?  Specifically, Kickers or Quests of some kind.

If not, why do we think not?  (And again, not just "the players won't," because we just don't know -- even if it seems horribly unlikely.)

If so, why don't we just start doing it as a matter of habit?

Bonus question:  If these tools were implemented, I'm assuming the GM at hand (that is, any of us) would gladly give up the responsibility of coming up with the bad guy's plan and really let the players drive the adventure with their own agenda.  Yes?

Thanks,

Christopher

***
And in no way am I picking on Steve or Chris.  They're talking about these matters -- I'm always looking for solutions.  If either of you guys thinks I'm out of line or trying to put you on the spot, just let me know and I'll drop it.  Thanks.

Oh.  One more little thing: if... How do I say this... I'm not saying anyone is going to come on and try to answer my question in terms of labelling styles, players, tools and whatnot.  But I'm going to ask that in response to my questions people refrain from anything like that -- no matter how illogical it might seem.  For the moment I don't care about the abstraction floating around kickers.  I just want to explore what concrete effect this concrete tool might actually have in a concrete game.  If we then need to expand to other concrete tools and keep adding on, we might end up with a need for definitions.  But I don't think that's a concern just yet.  Thanks again.


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: C. Edwards on March 13, 2002, 10:04:42 PM
Christopher,

The methods you mention have been, in my experience, reasonably successful at promoting proactive play.

The situation referred to in my post, which happened about 4 years ago, was doomed to result in stasis from the start.  The players (a group of 3) refused to accept/try/experiment with any role-playing elements that were outside their, very limited, experience.  None of them had been role-playing for much over a year and they had all used the same system (rpg) during that time.  All attempts by me to make the gaming experience more dynamic were met with a wall of stubborn close-mindedness.

Now, I can understand if you try something and decide that you don't care for it much.  But I have little time and no patience for people who foolishly hold on to their one way of doing things without even the most vague attempt to explore other posibilities.

(puts his soapbox away)

I think the key is to have the tools pre-existing in the system (whether it be a requisite form of dynamic character descriptor, a base dice mechanic that promotes narrative play, whatever) that can be used as a "can-opener" on players who might have difficulty with a proactive style of play (as opposed to players who dont want to play in a proactive manner).  That idea is nothing new though, especially to The Forge.

Cheers,

  Chris


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Le Joueur on March 13, 2002, 10:12:33 PM
Quote from: Paul Czege
Hey Fang,

...Illusionism occurs because of a conflict over 'where the story is going.'....The Illusionist 'works his magic' so that his way, the gamemaster's way, is the only way that things happen.

I don't think that active player resistance, thwarted and redirected by the crafty use of illusion, is a broad enough litmus test of Illusionism. It may be present, but I believe, only in a subset of Illusionist play. Rather, I think, an Illusionist game results in story, and the "illusion" part is that the player is convinced by the GM (perhaps aided by a big spoonful of complicit denial) that his decisions were a substantive contribution to it.

...when they aren't.  You left that part out.  That means, by whatever illusion, it goes the gamemaster's way.  If the players aren't resisting (passively even) they're going the gamemaster's way anyway, no illusions necessary and no proof of Illusionism.  <-- I'm agreeing with you here.

And I never meant to imply that the players were actively resisting in any way.  When I say I want to visit gay Paris, it's not because I know that the story doesn't go there; theoretically I was completely ignorant of that fact, I just like french food (or whatever).  (I understood these players were anything but proactive, meaning they wouldn't actively do anything, even resist.)

Quote from: Paul Czege
And since it is on their behalf, it becomes 'vanilla Narrativism.'

I don't think so. The simple reason why is that vanilla Narrativism isn't boring to the GM.

Who said it was?  I was talking theoretical.  That the Steve is bored means his play is dysfunctional, largely I might suggest, because of sharing incompatibility (He wants to share; they want him to 'do it all').  Whether you call it Illusionism (I wouldn't because I see no illusions being used), or if you call it 'vanilla Narrativism,' Steve wants more out of his players.

Quote from: Paul Czege
Vanilla Narrativist players are still handling the protagonism of their own characters, creating a theme with the character through play.

I beg to differ, as I understand it 'handling protagonism' and 'creating theme' are of extremely reduced responsibility for players in 'vanilla Narrativism.'  These might be priorities for full Narrativism, but for it to be vanilla, the players don't really care about them much (that is the impression I am given, hence the confusion with the idea that Simulationist players play in 'vanilla Narrativism').  All the players want is that someone is 'making story happen' (just not them, they want the story but not the responsibility), for it to be Narrativism.  I was given the impression, that Steve is bidden by his players to 'make story' and that they don't want to do the work.  (We'll have to see how it really goes...)

Fang Langford


Title: Me Too, Me Too!
Post by: Le Joueur on March 13, 2002, 10:24:00 PM
Quote from: thickenergy
The situation referred to in my post, which happened about 4 years ago, was doomed to result in stasis from the start.  The players (a group of 3) refused to accept/try/experiment with any role-playing elements that were outside their, very limited, experience.  None of them had been role-playing for much over a year and they had all used the same system (rpg) during that time.  All attempts by me to make the gaming experience more dynamic were met with a wall of stubborn close-mindedness.

I had that too (more like 13 years ago, oh my god...).  As a matter of fact, many of the original Scattershot techniques (Sine Qua Non, Precipitating Event, Character is a Part of Setting/Setting is a Part of Character, and et cetera), were born at that time to trick, cajole, sneak them into, and outright force players to get me more that I could use to seduce them into 'really participating.'

Quote from: thickenergy
I think the key is to have the tools pre-existing in the system

That's how my personal style became Scattershot's techniques (after a suitable number of requests for tutoring).

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 13, 2002, 11:50:11 PM
First off, apologies to Fang for being a hot-head. I read the "trouble in paradise?" line as some sort of jab.

Ok, I follow your logic finally, about Illusionism. It seems to me that Illusionism and vanilla Narrativism are really just to sides of the same coin. Side A is a frustration for the players, Side B, a frustration for the GM. With that said, I find the term "vanilla Narrativism" to be misleading, when juxtaposed with (ok my understood) definition of Narrativism: a group of roleplayers cooperating to answer a Premise. But "vanilla Narrativism" still has the GM with total control over the story, even if he doesn't want it. Why is this called Narrativism when its really not? You can see why I equate this with Illusionism. To me, the important aspect is the control over story -- not any communication breakdown or outright lies between the involved parties. I'm not sure what the utility of a definition if its just to point out someone is being lied to.

Chris --

I believe I've got a good group of players to attempt the kickers. They definitely not beyond reform (my DnD'ers on the other hand...) Still, players I think hold themselves back, because they expect to be held back. It's not players per se that I feel is the problem, it's the prevalence of the dominant RPG paradigm: GM control, players react.

Lately, I've been thinking that group character creation may alleviate a lot of this. I bought Sorceror, so I know about the kickers, but I still see a disconnect between players. The traditional group would all go into a corner and create seperate and totally unrelated kickers. I've been thinking that characters, with strong relations to one another, created by the group may alleviate some of this. The playing group would develop maybe as many as 10 characters set in an intricate character map, and then individual players decide who they want to play. Almost like a reverse relationship map -- instead of for the scenario, it's for the PCs. I'm tooling around with a few ideas that may see the light of day on the Indie Game Forum.

Finally, as for that Pool game, I must dissappoint, it didn't happen for various reasons. I did have an extended conversation with one of my players about Illusionism, how the group plays, etc; discussing some of the points brought up here. I also did a poor job of explaining GNS. He actually had reservations about the Pool, but not about the MoV, but instead what he saw as a low chance of success. He actually gave me a copy of the Interactive Toolkit a few months ago, and I completely forgot! He thinks very highly of it, and tries to pattern his gaming style on it. So I think there's a lot of paydirt to be made here.

Next week, I guess I'll give my low-down on how the Pool went.

Take care, Steve


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 14, 2002, 05:51:36 AM
Hi there,

Fang and Steve, both of you are missing the point of the concept of Vanilla Narrativism. Vanilla Narrativist play does include the players being committed to story creation, authoring, Premise, protagonism, and all that stuff. However, they are not doing so with overt game mechanics or a lot of out-of-character acknowledgment of these goals. Think of it as "quiet" Narrativism.

Both of you are perceiving the term to mean that the players are not playing in a Narrativist mode, and rightly, that would seem to be a form of Simulationism. I agree with that logical step. However, the initial perception is incorrect.

Vanilla Narrativism is Narrativist play with no exceptions or buts. Its distinguishing feature is that the various aspects that make it Narrativism are not verbalized much nor are they adopted with a lot of conscious effort or negotiation.

That's been the definition all along. Check out the relevant threads if that seems like I'm being revisionist, and if it requires further discussion, let's do it on a new thread.

Best,
Ron


Title: Ron Beat Me to It
Post by: Le Joueur on March 14, 2002, 06:44:07 AM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
It seems to me that Illusionism and vanilla Narrativism are really just to sides of the same coin. Side A is a frustration for the players, Side B, a frustration for the GM.

Not when the gamemaster wants it that way.  How many styles of play work for people who don't want to play that way?  Side A usually results in frustration for players, largely because they weren't asked if they wanted to play that way.  Side B works fine if the gamemaster wants to do it that way.  You see the major difference is on Side A, most of the people are never offered the choice, by definition.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
With that said, I find the term "vanilla Narrativism" to be misleading, when juxtaposed with (ok my understood) definition of Narrativism: a group of roleplayers cooperating to answer a Premise. But "vanilla Narrativism" still has the GM with total control over the story, even if he doesn't want it. Why is this called Narrativism when its really not?

I was in the process of assembling a large description of what 'vanilla Narrativism' is but Ron beat me to it.  What he said!

Having control "even if he doesn't want it," is not a feature of 'vanilla Narrativism' or of any kind of Narrativism.  It's a feature of disfunctional play; don't do it.  You can use any tool wrong; using a hammer to drive screws doesn't make it hammering in any functional way (but it is kinda screwy).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
You can see why I equate this with Illusionism. To me, the important aspect is the control over story -- not any communication breakdown or outright lies between the involved parties. I'm not sure what the utility of a definition if its just to point out someone is being lied to.

Is there any utility in differentiating between a cold and a sneeze?  Sometimes a sneeze is something you want to do, but a cold is always something one must either cope with or get rid of.  Illusionism was coined not as a preferable manner of play, but as a retrospective on years of dissatisfaction (well, maybe after the fact).  Those who defined Illusionism have always spoken of it as a borderline dysfunctional form of play (barely on the dysfunctional side).  'Vanilla Narrativism,' or bringing the players more 'on board' was a first step towards functional play; the idea being that 'vanilla Narrativism' could be a 'window' to larger Narrativism and more 'control sharing.'

The utility of the definition of Illusionism is that once you have identified it, you might be able to 'fix it.'  Lately however, several people have begun 'softening' the definition of Illusionism (it is a 'sexy' term) to suggest that it might be a functional form of gaming; I remain highly dubious because the whole concept of an illusion is to 'pull the wool over someone's eyes,' and that road always leads (as well said above) to disillusionment.

I hope that clears things up and, even if it doesn't help you 'chart your course,' it helps you see a way out of your current situation.

Fang Langford


Title: Re: Ron Beat Me to It
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 14, 2002, 07:36:02 AM
Yeah, I know, here I am again. I just would like to state a couple of perspectives.

Quote from: Le Joueur

Those who defined Illusionism have always spoken of it as a borderline dysfunctional form of play (barely on the dysfunctional side).  

Only if all forms of play are borderline dysfunctional. I would call Illusionism difficult, problematic at times, and other things, but there is a form of Illuusionism that is not dysfunctional and is, in fact, a mode of play that I would promote as fun. I've had way mor problems with my Narrativist games than my Illusionist ones. Does that mean that Narrativism is dysfunctional? No, just that, as with everythig in life, it's never perfect, and has its own peculiar advantages and drawbacks. As does Illusionism.

If I thought that Illusionism was dysfunctional I'd stop GMing that way.

Mike

Quote

The utility of the definition of Illusionism is that once you have identified it, you might be able to 'fix it.'  Lately however, several people have begun 'softening' the definition of Illusionism (it is a 'sexy' term) to suggest that it might be a functional form of gaming; I remain highly dubious because the whole concept of an illusion is to 'pull the wool over someone's eyes,' and that road always leads (as well said above) to disillusionment.

Unless the players expect it. I know you think this is not Illusionism, but you are the one refining the definition in a way not intended, or useful. What you describe as "Vanilla Narrativism", because the players are complicit in the GMs Illusions, is also not an accrate description of Narrativism at all. Why? Becasuse the players are not using any Author stance or any other tool to produce the story. If they are participants in the creation of story it is only by accident. Agreement to allow the player to create the story is maybe Dramatism, but certainly not Narrativism. Both Paul and Ron have made this point, but you keep ignoring it.

Also, the example of Illusionism that you give is but one Illusionist tool. You may not have intended to make it seem like the sum total of Illusionism (or perhaps you did), but it comes off that way. Another example of Illusionism is having players enounter things that did not previously exist but making it look as though they did. Or changing NPC motivations to get things to look more like a plot. More importantly, I still claim that Illusionism has nothing to do necessarily with sticking to a pre-planned plot. That is a subset of Illusionism, and describes a good portion of such activities. But in addition, there are cases of just making taking what exists, and creating new elements and events such that some story does then occur or is created from what exists. Again, (and this is where we agree on the definition) the Illusion here is that the players caused the plot to occur by their action when in reality the GM created it all on his own. (This, I believe, is what Ron called using IntCon as a tool for producint Ilusionism).

You may proceed to call this a moving target of a defintion if you will, but I can only ascribe that to the fact that the definition of Illusionism was never really nailed down firmly. I think we've all had a specific definition in our heads since the original discussion, and no agreement was ever made. So we probably should nail this down.

The question becomes in creating a new definition, which serves us better? I think that a broader definition is best here, as I think that observers would intuitively include play of the sort that I describe. The limited formats could serve to illuminate a dysfunctional or very narrow form of play, but then we are left with no definition for similar forms of play and will be correcting people till the cows come home about its usage. Better to have the broad category and further subcategories. Like the aforementioned forward/backward, and dysfunctional subcategories. Hell, I'd even append a note on the definition that "it is noted that the difficulties of Illusionism often lead to a dysfunctional version".

But I would prefer not to sign on to a definition of Illusionism as necessarily dysfunctional, or only included pre-planned play.

Mike


Title: Theme as dialog
Post by: Walt Freitag on March 14, 2002, 08:04:03 AM
I've been thinking about sharing and control, about the question of who creates the Story. And looking at it with a dialog model.

I previously said on the RPGnet thread that led to this one, "Theme is a question posed by a protagonist and answered by the world." Does love conquer all? Can you recapture the past? What is life worth? Is it possible to be forgiven? Whoever creates the world ultimately provides those answers, although often in a form that must be interpreted by the players/protagonists. That's usually the GM.

For the players to participate in providing the "answers," the players have to share in the control of the world, controlling things like the behavior of NPCs or the outcome of probabilistic causal events that traditionally are under the control of the GM.

Kickers appear to relate to this sort of theme. Notably, they are typically player-selected. The player is "asking the question" that the kicker embodies.

But a theme (or perhaps something similar to which a different term may apply) can also be "A question posed by the world and answered by the protagonist." Is it possible to be sane in an insane world? How far would you go to protect a loved one? What is your life worth? Is it possible to forgive?

For the GM to answer such questions, the GM has to share in the control of the character in one way or another (including illusionism and railroading as well as more consensual means). For the player to answer such questions, the player also has to control aspects of the character that might conventionally be left up to the system or random chance, such as when the character exerts sufficient effort to succeed in a very difficult task.

Currency mechanisms appear to relate to this sort of theme. Notably, they are typically GM-selected (i.e. built into the system, like Sanity or Humanity). The GM is "asking the question."

So let's break it down according to "who asks, who answers:"

GM asks, GM answers. Welcome to 97% of the RPGs out there. The game system and the metaplot define the themes, codified into the system (Humanity in VtM), and the GM runs the world in conventional pre-plotted fashion thus also providing the answers. Small wonder that the worlds in which these games take place are usually described as being indifferent to the player-characters (they're just lowly whatevers in a world dominated by big powerful whatevers). Small wonder that participants (including the GM) get the impression that, on the narrative level, the GM is talking to himself.

GM asks, players answer. This appears to characterize mainstream (Chocolate?) Narrativism. Such tools as relationship maps help to codify the questions and keep them in the forefront, and consensual resolution mechanisms give the player more complete control of the character's fate by which the answers are determined. The GM is focused on the characters' conflicts, using the world to challenge the protagonists with new questions or new instantiations of the thematic questions. GM egotism is a liability here, and much is demanded of the players -- even to the point where the required player contribution can be seen as constraining the protagonist's free will, hence stance issues arise.

Players ask, GM answers. This appears to characterize Vanilla Narrativism. I'm comfortable with this description as applied to myself, at least. As the GM I expect to control the Story (though not the story). This is a viable niche for elitist and egomaniacal, but still player-focused, GMs. I would pick a GM on the same basis as I would pick a novelist to read: because he or she appeared to have things of interest to say and the ability to say them. I assume that others who pick me as GM do so for the same reasons. But protagonists "ask" not only through their initial character concepts but through their every decision, so it's crucial that protagonists have free will to interact with the world, or else this defaults back to "GM asks, GM answers."

Players ask, players answer. This description would apply to systems that marginalize the GM. "Player asks, other players answer" still, however, has possibilities for rich Narrativist interaction and should not be dismissed. "Player asks, the same player answers" would generally, I believe, be unsatisfying except insofar as the presence of the group gives the players a convenient audience for telling stories about themselves.

While there's nothing that appears to fundamentally rule out a combination of "PAGMA" and "GMAPA," it's apparent that this could get complex and/or lead to conflicting system design goals (if not conflicting GM temperaments). It also appears that matching the right kind of thematic questions to the dialog/play model is important. PAGMA could address "is it possible to be forgiven?" more effectively than "is it possible to forgive?" while GMAPA would be just the reverse. Get it mismatched, and it could start resembling a piano duet with the soprano-alto player seated on the left and the tenor-bass player seated on the right, and wondering why they keep getting in each other's way. (Have I heard that song before somewhere?)

Please, challenge this analysis. (That's what I come here for.)

- Walt


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Steve Dustin on March 14, 2002, 08:10:14 AM
I'm with Mike on using a broad definition of Illusionism. If it's to be used as a tool to "fix" dysfunctional play, wouldn't it be easier to say, "that's Illusionism with player approval" than to say, "well, that's vanilla Narrativism, not Illusionism, and [any other ism that may apply]"?

When I see the term Illusionism, I see it as meaning total GM control over the story (which is not depend on when a story is planned or whatever the ultimate result of that play will be). To me, that's what is important about using that term. It doesn't take much to add a caveat (with or without player approval), but it does take a lot to redefine many narrow terms over and over, in relation to one another.

It seems to me, a better idea than re-working a definition of Illusionism right now, is to first add elements about the social dynamics between people during gaming first, so we all know who's satisfied, who's in control of the game, and possibly even how people at the table relate to one another. Dysfunctional play has already been identified. Are there ways to describe different kinds of dysfunctional play in concrete terms? And with it, are there different ways to describe functional play?

It's a big can of worms, but it will definitely separate out the factor that I see as muddling up these conversations, and make GNS even more of a "layer" theory, where you take simple understood terms of goals, techniques, and social contract, and layer them on top of each other to describe a style of play.

Obviously, a whole new thread.

Ron --

Which leads me to vanilla Narrativism. This is really similar to what I was talking to Fang above about that if the result is the same why use a different term. I'll forgoe that argument and just say, I think it's a bad term. Its very obscure. Wouldn't unconscious Narrativism be a more intuitive way to describe it?

And finally, where does my group fit in all of this? The players are not being protaginists, I definitely don't see it as any form of Narrativism. Hmm. Maybe Simulationist focused on Situation?

And finally Intuitive Continuity -- did we decide Illusionist or vanilla (excuse me, unconscious) Narrativism?

Steve Dustin


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 14, 2002, 08:35:37 AM
Hi Steve,

I think I've pretty much stated my take on Intuitive Continuity, which is to say that identifying the technique with any particular single GNS category is not necessary or valid.

From my first post on this thread:
"My only initial point is that Intuitive Continuity, as a form of scenario preparation and running, is not necessarily linked to any particular form of GNS. I have noted in my experience that it tends to become "Roads to Rome" in application."

From my second post on this thread:
"It all comes down to this: Intuitive Continuity is a technique, and it has utility for either Simulationist retroactive "story creation" (by the GM) or Illusionism, as well as for some forms of Narrativist play." [Note: in this quote, I am referring to Illusionism as front-loaded GM-driven story creation; later posts rightly questioned the term being this specific.]

Let me know if my position is still unclear or if you think it's invalid in some way.

Fang and everyone, I am on record from the very first discussions of Illusionism on GO, as well as in my essay, as stating that Illusionism is not necessarily a dysfunctional form of play. I definitely agree, however, that it has a high potential to be dysfunctional when Narrativist-oriented players are involved, but that really isn't any different from saying that (say) some form of Narrativist play becomes dysfunctional when (say) level-up-style Gamist-oriented players are involved.

Best,
Ron


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 14, 2002, 08:39:54 AM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
Which leads me to vanilla Narrativism. This is really similar to what I was talking to Fang above about that if the result is the same why use a different term. I'll forgoe that argument and just say, I think it's a bad term. Its very obscure. Wouldn't unconscious Narrativism be a more intuitive way to describe it?


Your term is probably better in some ways. But in Ron's defense, he came up with the term as a counter to what was going on at the time which was Wild-ass Way-out Narrativism. You see I wouldn't really label it as such, but it was just meant to be descriptive. The term Vanilla is being used in the same way that lots of people use it to refer to Vanilla Sex. Meaning sex, just relatively mundane sex. So it does have a further connotation which is important. I suppose one could play very conscious, very talked about Vanilla Narrativism. Vanilla just means not getting into really far out techniques or anything.

Take an example. I'm in this Sorcerer game. Sorcerer has no rules for taking control of scenes or anything like that, and is the poster-child for Vanilla Narrativism, therefore. But I did it anyway in this game I mentioned. This is a case of a player playing a Vanilla Narrativist game, and drifting toward Chocolate Narrativist play.

Ahem, may I introduce the Narrativist Flavor of the day:

Chocolate - Scene framing
Chocolate Chip - Fortune in the Middle
Mint - in-game retroactive character definition author power
Jimmies - plot points
Marshmallow - Play balance currency
Rocky Road - full directorial power

So, Vanilla Narrativism is just basic Narrativist play and nothing else. Which happens to require little thought or communication, just the decision to prioritize story.

Mike


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Michael Bowman on March 14, 2002, 09:20:06 AM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
I believe I've got a good group of players to attempt the kickers. They definitely not beyond reform (my DnD'ers on the other hand...) Still, players I think hold themselves back, because they expect to be held back. It's not players per se that I feel is the problem, it's the prevalence of the dominant RPG paradigm: GM control, players react.


Hi, I'm one of the players in Steve's game (the one he talks about below, actually). I'd say he's right about holding ourselves back. I'm playing with 3 (soon to be 4) other people, who am I to drag the story my way? I think if we make clear up front that that's what Steve expects of us, that I would be helped in overcoming this reluctance to take charge at times. I've done this in approach to a situation, once, but not in changing the story.

I don't think we'd have problems with "kickers" at all, if I understand kickers correctly. We all are related by a past event (the disappearance of my character's father on a expedition to Tibet). In fact, this has directly resulted in my character's goal: to find out what happened to his father 8-10 years ago.

I look on the current (our first) story arc as the prologue to the story. It's telling how the characters got back together again. We all started in different locations (London, Paris, French Indochina) and Steve's been bringing us together.

Quote
Lately, I've been thinking that group character creation may alleviate a lot of this. I bought Sorceror, so I know about the kickers, but I still see a disconnect between players. The traditional group would all go into a corner and create seperate and totally unrelated kickers. I've been thinking that characters, with strong relations to one another, created by the group may alleviate some of this. The playing group would develop maybe as many as 10 characters set in an intricate character map, and then individual players decide who they want to play. Almost like a reverse relationship map -- instead of for the scenario, it's for the PCs. I'm tooling around with a few ideas that may see the light of day on the Indie Game Forum.


I agree here. We are related by a past event, but we have separate characters, with separate concerns. A more cohesive group initially wouldn't require a "prologue" to get us together.

Quote
Finally, as for that Pool game, I must dissappoint, it didn't happen for various reasons. I did have an extended conversation with one of my players about Illusionism, how the group plays, etc; discussing some of the points brought up here. I also did a poor job of explaining GNS. He actually had reservations about the Pool, but not about the MoV, but instead what he saw as a low chance of success. He actually gave me a copy of the Interactive Toolkit a few months ago, and I completely forgot! He thinks very highly of it, and tries to pattern his gaming style on it. So I think there's a lot of paydirt to be made here.


My misgivings about The Pool was due to misunderstanding the die rolls. I thought if you didn't get any 1s that you failed. I didn't realize it was more about who controls the story than success or failure. After Steve explained that, I no longer have any problems and look forward to trying it out.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Christopher Kubasik for writing "The Interactive Toolkit." It had a very big influence on changing the way I play (and, even more, GM).

I look forward to participating in this forum and getting up to speed on the terminology and thinking.

Michael Bowman


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Walt Freitag on March 14, 2002, 10:10:31 AM
Hi Ron,

I understand your point about Intuitive Continuity becoming Roads to Rome. I think this is yet another instance of the underlying Interactive Storytelling Problem poking through. Basically, the problem of resolution is the Interactive Storytelling problem. In other words, itís easy (or at least much much easier) for any interactive storytelling system to generate compelling narrative without constraining free will when the plot is in the process of "thickening," with new elements and characters and subplots able to be added at will. When it comes time for resolution, the bill for all that giddy freedom comes due.

Ask the folks who had to write the final episodes of X-Files. They, too, had been making it all up as they went along; they too were dropping in odd plot threads and disconnected elements just in case theyíd be retroactively useful later. They sold the illusion that there was some hidden consistent truth behind it all. But what do you want to bet that their finale will consist of tying up the biggest plot threads in some klunky way, leaving a million loose ends and unexplained points? Iím expecting them to use The Big Distraction, some sudden "climactic" development like an overt alien invasion or a rescue of Mulder that can be quicky and dramatically resolved, hoping the audience will mistake the resolution of the Big Distraction for a resolution of the more important (but less obvious) plot issues. And they don't even have to worry about giving their characters free will.

What can be done about this? Besides the Big Distraction (as popular in RPGs as in action movies and TV series finales), here are a few approaches Iíve seen:

Don't Resolve. This is a crude solution. You can keep the narrative going indefinitely if you never resolve anything. In practice, never resolving anything seems to go hand in hand with the pretense of always resolving everything, except that the resolutions never actually resolve anything. (Is this another facet of Illusionism, perhance?) The WWF storyline is a great example of this. Their plots and rivalries always build toward (what else?) wrestling matches that will "finally" settle things "once and for all." Anticipation of this resolution creates suspense. Of course what happens in the ring cannot, and does not, resolve anything, but the camera quickly moves on to new permuations.

Similarly, RPGs can continue indefinitely using levelling or character enhancement as the perpetual non-resolution of the perpetually unresolved "conflict" of being greedy in a dangerous world.

Events Take Over. Resolution occurs when you run out of free will. Sometimes you reach a point where all the important decisions have been made and it only remains to "play it out" and see what happens. This is often true in the real world ("The die is cast" Ė Julius Caesar), and itís a key element of classical tragedy, so why shouldnít it happen in even the most Simulationistic or Narrativistic role playing game? Perhaps itís okay, even beneficial, to drift into a different mode for the climax. Or even to have the GM or a player narrate the climax without role play. The key is to know when to make the transition, so players arenít in the position you described, of having no significant choices left to make while waiting for the climax to arrive.

Whther or not this counts as Roads To Rome depends on when in the narrative it happens. No matter how freely you allow the destination to be altered along the way, eventually a road has to lead somewhere, and thereís a point where youíre close enough to the destination that altering it becomes absurd. If you can delay that point until youíre at the city limits, youíve done pretty well; itís okay for all roads to lead to Rome if youíre already in frigging Rome.

Blow It Off. Resolution is easy if you drop all continuity and realism. When I was a kid The Monkees TV show drove me bugfuck, because every episode they would build up to a big crisis and then instead of resolving the crisis, the episode would end in a music video. This broke so many rules my little story-arc-conditioned brain couldnít handle it. Perhaps the showís writers were way ahead of their time. Who cares how a bunch of singers solved their ridiculous problem, when you can just take the last train to Clarksville? Iíve never had the nerve to try this in an RPG. (For one thing, I can't sing.)

Fractal Resolution This approach is the "hard work clean living" answer. Opportunities to resolve are much rarer than opportunities to thicken, so the latter have to be given top priority. Unbound plot threads must be carefully balanced. Too few, and itís hard to find unforeseen ways to weave them together. Too many, and no matter how many you weave together you never get close to resolution. Resolution in Intuitive Continuity is just rowing against the current; itís not impossible, you just have to row harder.

Viewing the story structure as fractal also helps maintain the balance of expansion versus resolution because chapters, sessions, scenes, and encounters are regarded as successively smaller story structures that resemble the larger ones. They have their own lesser climaxes that are occurring all the time. In fact, this goes right down to the level of the individual action. Any mechanism for deciding results outside the character's control (whether it's a die roll or a player's OOC call) is really just "events taking over" in a micro-climax at the smallest scale. Applying fractal self-similarilty suggests that if your system gives a player the responsibility to decide whether or not the character succeeds in jumping across a gap, it's just as appropriate (and not really much different) to give a player the same degree of responsibility in deciding whether or not the protagonists win a climactic battle. It's still just Events Taking Over; at that point the character no longer has free will, even though the player might.

----------

In practice, for big climaxes I take Fractal Resolution as far as my skill permits it to go. Then Events Take Over, and I often do throw in an element of Distraction (essentially, exaggerating the relative importance of those plot elements most likely to be resolvable), helping to cover up any less important loose ends that might be left lying around.

- Walt


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Blake Hutchins on March 14, 2002, 10:28:39 AM
Hello,

For an examination of how The Pool works in play, check out this thread:  X-Games group's experience with The Pool (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=823).

It may offer some insight as to what to expect.

Best,

Blake


Title: Re: Ron Beat Me to It (again)
Post by: Le Joueur on March 14, 2002, 01:00:31 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Le Joueur
Those who defined Illusionism have always spoken of it as a borderline dysfunctional form of play (barely on the dysfunctional side).  

Only if all forms of play are borderline dysfunctional. I would call Illusionism difficult, problematic at times, and other things, but there is a form of Illusionism that is not dysfunctional and is, in fact, a mode of play that I would promote as fun.

As you define it below, it is a hard, but fun, gaming style.  I still maintain that you are conflating alot of things that don't seen to be related to what is directly Illusionism (thought they may be used to 'make it work').

And, okay, I'm being a grouch.  Technically, Illusionism can be made to work; I'm not an absolutist, but as Ron points out, "it has a high potential to be dysfunctional" (and I think it is more often than just with Narrativist players).

What Steve appears to be using is neither Illusionism nor functional to my understanding.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
If I thought that Illusionism was dysfunctional I'd stop GMing that way.

Again, the way you play works, but you use a lot of techniques that aren't attached to Illusionism.  It doesn't work because it's Illusionism, if anything, I'd say they work in spite of being Illusionism (if they in fact are).

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Le Joueur
The utility of the definition of Illusionism is that once you have identified it, you might be able to 'fix it.'  Lately however, several people have begun 'softening' the definition of Illusionism (it is a 'sexy' term) to suggest that it might be a functional form of gaming; I remain highly dubious because the whole concept of an illusion is to 'pull the wool over someone's eyes,' and that road always leads (as well said above) to disillusionment.

Unless the players expect it. I know you think this is not Illusionism, but you are the one refining the definition in a way not intended, or useful.

We can't really say anything about intent, and the utility will have to become a different thread, suffice to say, I disagree with you.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
What you describe as "Vanilla Narrativism", because the players are complicit in the GMs Illusions, is also not an accurate description of Narrativism at all. Why? Because the players are not using any Author stance or any other tool to produce the story.

Pardon?  I believe Ron has said, in no uncertain terms, that stance presence or absence has no connection to any of the modes in the GNS.  That is to say, you can play Narrativist without ever coming out of Actor stance.  I am strongly under the impression that the 'vanilla' is attached to the term to represent exactly this 'softening' of the 'requirements' of "tool" usage on the part of the players.  You'll have to speak to the experts though.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
If they are participants in the creation of story it is only by accident. Agreement to allow the player to create the story is maybe Dramatism, but certainly not Narrativism. Both Paul and Ron have made this point, but you keep ignoring it.

I'm afraid I just haven't seen that in their posts.  I believe the appearance of 'accidental' story creation on the part of the players is a hallmark of Illusionism (where the gamemaster uses illusion to 'cause' those accidents).

I'm not sure what you're saying with the 'agreement' part; I thought the whole point with Narrativism was an agreement with the players that story was the priority (thus they are 'allowed' to do it too).  Can you quote Paul or Ron to support your point in a context that emphasized it?  I need to understand what you are saying.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Also, the example of Illusionism that you give is but one Illusionist tool. You may not have intended to make it seem like the sum total of Illusionism (or perhaps you did), but it comes off that way. Another example of Illusionism is having players enounter things that did not previously exist but making it look as though they did.

According to what I have read, that is an Intuitive Continuity tool, not one linked to Illusionism.  (While it might be an illusion, I think many styles make use of it, rendering it not a part of Illusionism's proprietary toolkit.)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Or changing NPC motivations to get things to look more like a plot.

This reads more like a Narrativist tool.  You know; story over predefined non-player character motivation.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
More importantly, I still claim that Illusionism has nothing to do necessarily with sticking to a pre-planned plot. That is a subset of Illusionism, and describes a good portion of such activities.

I haven't made it clear, but I have backed down on the 'pre-planned' issue, I still see it as an issue of who knows it is all the gamemaster's 'story.'  Whether pre-planned or not, the illusions come out to hide the fact that it's only his.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
But in addition, there are cases of just making taking what exists, and creating new elements and events such that some story does then occur or is created from what exists.

This, by Ron's description above, is Simulationism's "retroactive 'story creation'" and not directly associated with Illusionism.  It sounds like you are conflating any kind of illusion with Illusionism.  My understanding is that Illusionism is using any kind of illusion in service of hiding the fact that all ways are the gamemaster's way (to the story) not just any kind of illusion.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
You may proceed to call this a moving target of a defintion if you will, but I can only ascribe that to the fact that the definition of Illusionism was never really nailed down firmly. I think we've all had a specific definition in our heads since the original discussion, and no agreement was ever made. So we probably should nail this down.

What I have been working from is what appears to me to be the most common factor in all the exposed descriptions.  That's what's giving mine the 'stripped down' look.  I think everyone agrees that 'using any illusion to cause the players to believe they caused a story, when they have not' is Illusionism.  Can it be made to work?  Yes.  Is it hard?  Yes.  Ultimately, I think the potential for 'disillusionment' is when it becomes dysfunctional.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
The question becomes in creating a new definition, which serves us better? I think that a broader definition is best here, as I think that observers would intuitively include play of the sort that I describe.

And my philosophy would hold that a tighter, smaller definition is more easily assimilated, but I don't like the term at all.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
The limited formats could serve to illuminate a dysfunctional or very narrow form of play, but then we are left with no definition for similar forms of play and will be correcting people till the cows come home about its usage.

I'm not sure how much of Illusionism, outside of the description I gave above, would not fall into 'vanilla Narrativism.'  I am not as confident about what 'vanilla Narrativism' is specifically, but I think it captures everything outside of my description of Illusionism that I have seen anyone 'add in.'

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Better to have the broad category and further subcategories. Like the aforementioned forward/backward, and dysfunctional subcategories. Hell, I'd even append a note on the definition that "it is noted that the difficulties of Illusionism often lead to a dysfunctional version".

I, for one, am against the subcategorization method of definition.  I believe it can't avoid breeding more of the same that in the long term completely erases a definition by blurring it too much.  My way of creating jargon is to create concise terminology and staving off subcategories by creating additional jargon.  (Instead of Illusionism with subcategory this and subcategory that, I would have this, that Illusionism; if this or that are subcategories the latter phrase becomes redundant.)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
But I would prefer not to sign on to a definition of Illusionism as necessarily dysfunctional, or only included pre-planned play.

What about the above: "using any illusion to cause the players to believe they caused a story, when they have not."?  No subcategories, no planning implied, no dysfunctional language, clear and right to the point.  Does it work for you, and if not, how 'bout let's start another thread on it?

Fang Langford


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: Le Joueur on March 14, 2002, 01:40:53 PM
Quote from: Steve Dustin
When I see the term Illusionism, I see it as meaning total GM control over the story (which is not depend on when a story is planned or whatever the ultimate result of that play will be). To me, that's what is important about using that term. It doesn't take much to add a caveat (with or without player approval), but it does take a lot to redefine many narrow terms over and over, in relation to one another.

Only one problem, where are the illusions?

See you in the new thread....

Fang Langford


Title: Re: Ron Beat Me to It (again)
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 14, 2002, 02:59:41 PM
Quote from: Le Joueur

What Steve appears to be using is neither Illusionism nor functional to my understanding.

I agree that it's not functional. And he hasn't shown much evidence that he has done much Illusionism. What he has is like Marco's players who just want to be the window dressing in a story.

I tried to come up with a term for this earlier. Any worse and it'd be what I refer to as Joinerism. But assuming that they really are interested inthe game for the story produced, I'd be tempted to call them Dramatists. But that has too much baggage. Storyist? No. Receptionists? No, overlapping term. Lazy? No, we have to assume that this is a valid play style, as some GMs like these sorts of players.

Actorists? Getting better, but strong actor stancers probably want character control. Audiencism. Hmmm. Problems with the whole "Audience Stance", and not quite right. Passive Narrativism? Not really Narrativist, tho, which would be confusing. Audience Participationism. Wordy, but gets the idea across.

See the problem.

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Again, the way you play works, but you use a lot of techniques that aren't attached to Illusionism.  It doesn't work because it's Illusionism, if anything, I'd say they work in spite of being Illusionism (if they in fact are).

Perhaps. But I find the output of Illusionism worth the work.

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Quote from: Mike Holmes
What you describe as "Vanilla Narrativism", because the players are complicit in the GMs Illusions, is also not an accurate description of Narrativism at all. Why? Because the players are not using any Author stance or any other tool to produce the story.

Pardon?  I believe Ron has said, in no uncertain terms, that stance presence or absence has no connection to any of the modes in the GNS.  That is to say, you can play Narrativist without ever coming out of Actor stance.  I am strongly under the impression that the 'vanilla' is attached to the term to represent exactly this 'softening' of the 'requirements' of "tool" usage on the part of the players.  You'll have to speak to the experts though.

I meant that "or" in such a way as to imply that the player must be doing some "thing" in making decisions to prioritize story to make play Narrativist. Let me rephrase: the players are prioritizing based on exploration. They are playing Simulationist. Simply allowing the GM to take you somewhere is anti-thetical to Narrativism which is defined by player participation in the creative act. If the GM has the power, then it's Simulationism of some sort.

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Quote from: Mike Holmes
Or changing NPC motivations to get things to look more like a plot.

This reads more like a Narrativist tool.  You know; story over predefined non-player character motivation.

This is the GM playing in a narrativist fashion behind the scenes, maybe, but the players don't know that (by the definition of Illusionism, the part we all agree on). The GM is still trying to deliver a Simulationist experience (this difference in the GMs experience and that which he's trying to give to the players is a one of those current valid GNS Issues of Gareth's). That's the goal of Illusionism: retain the Simulationist experience, while still delivering story that appears to have been created by the players. Tiptoeing around "The Impossible Thing".

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What I have been working from is what appears to me to be the most common factor in all the exposed descriptions.  That's what's giving mine the 'stripped down' look.  I think everyone agrees that 'using any illusion to cause the players to believe they caused a story, when they have not' is Illusionism.  

That's a definition I can hang with.

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Can it be made to work?  Yes.  Is it hard?  Yes.  Ultimately, I think the potential for 'disillusionment' is when it becomes dysfunctional.

Again, I'd accept that caveat.

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I'm not sure how much of Illusionism, outside of the description I gave above, would not fall into 'vanilla Narrativism.'  I am not as confident about what 'vanilla Narrativism' is specifically, but I think it captures everything outside of my description of Illusionism that I have seen anyone 'add in.'

Since the players have no role in determining the story, all Illusionism is a subset of Simulationism, and therefore in no way overlaps with Narrativism. As soon as the players take control and actually start to propell the story, it's Narrativism, and no longer Illusionism. Even if the GM then disembles a bit for play's sake (he'd have little reason to do so having lost the Smulationist experience, anyhow).

I agree that we've split hairs so much here that we should have moved to a new thread long ago, probably. That is if anyone cares to continue to debate this point of terminology.

Mike


Title: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity
Post by: contracycle on March 15, 2002, 07:38:26 AM
Quote from: GB Steve
Rambling repsonse.

S taken to the extreme leads to ... nothing


No, just a non-game behaviour - readin history, climbing mountains, historical re-enactment.


Title: Re: Ron Beat Me to It (again)
Post by: contracycle on March 15, 2002, 07:59:46 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

I tried to come up with a term for this earlier. Any worse and it'd be what I refer to as Joinerism. But assuming that they really are interested inthe game for the story produced, I'd be tempted to call them Dramatists. But that has too much baggage. Storyist? No. Receptionists? No, overlapping term. Lazy? No, we have to assume that this is a valid play style, as some GMs like these sorts of players.

Actorists? Getting better, but strong actor stancers probably want character control. Audiencism. Hmmm. Problems with the whole "Audience Stance", and not quite right. Passive Narrativism? Not really Narrativist, tho, which would be confusing. Audience Participationism. Wordy, but gets the idea across.


This is why I keep coming back to dramatism as a term.  I think strong actor play is good in this style of game as the players have a role in acting for one another and thus portraying a significant element of the experienced game - their own character.  It is also why I think the audience stance is valid - precisley because these players are in part approaching the game in much the same way they approach a movie or a novel.  They wish to be entertained.  They also enjoy the active and decisionmaking component, but primarily conceive of story as something that is experienced - and hence created by the GM (or RPG company).  I think the use of audience stance might be an indicator of dramatist play.