The Forge Archives

Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Mike Holmes on November 30, 2005, 11:13:39 AM



Title: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 30, 2005, 11:13:39 AM
In the following post, Ron came up with the phrase Constructive Denial: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.15

Actually I think that some of his last posts were some of the best statements that I've read to date on sim definition. He went a long way to making more concrete with this ideas that I'd thrown out there like "seeming objectivity." He points out that this particular fiction is about restricting the "wrong" in play. Hence the term denial.

And, well, I'm sure that I'll come off as a kneejerk political correctness advocate or something, but can't we term it something like "Constructive Constraint" or "Constructive Restriction" instead? Denial has the current connotation that it's about self-delusion. When, in fact, people are pretty aware of what they're doing in this case. Yes they're rejecting things on aesthetic grounds that have no basis in any "real objective" criteria. But the criteria are real nonetheless, and very important.

So, could I get a terminological concession here? I think that Constructive Constraint sound much more positive, and would be less prone to misinterpretation based on the connotations of it's constituent terms. Uh, basically I don't want to have to explain a thousand times that denial is a positive thing here.

Mike


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 30, 2005, 11:29:45 AM
Shrug. Maybe.

On the other hand, and given that Jim Henley (Supplanter) has found it powerfully useful - and Jim is one of the single most fervent proponents of the Don't Upset the Poor Sensitive Sims Society - I'm OK with it. No pun intended, but using the term "denial" is something of a deliberate, uh, reality check.

Frankly, the Right to Dream was chosen as a very friendly, this-is-OK kind of term. And it didn't do any good at all.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Supplanter on November 30, 2005, 11:36:55 AM
Hunh. I'm feeling a palpable irony in having absented myself from the Forge a few years ago partly because of a lot of the psychodrama around the definition and valuation of sim play, and finding the term "constructive denial" to be tremendously healing of that very drama. All because of the first word in the phrase.

The fact that I fell instantly in love with the term shouldn't determine things, I know - I don't even live here! I'm not averse to the idea of changing it, FWIW. I don't think "constraint" or "restriction" make as flavorful a phrase. Because they're not verbs? I dunno. So I'd wish that, if we're going to replace "denial" with another word, it should be more active. The big thing is this: whatever monks do that's cool? That's constructive denial, or whatever people decide to call it. Monks deny themselves certain conveniences toward reaping a reward they could not otherwise harvest. That, IMHO, is the principle behind sim play the phrase needs to capture.

CROSSPOSTED WITH RON, I SEE. Yes, Don't upset the poor sensitive sims. That's me, sort of. But it isn't about me, needless to say.

Best,


Jim


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Supplanter on November 30, 2005, 12:02:36 PM
Should add: as "validating" as I find the term, my enthusiasm is not just about validation. I think it encapsulates what is actually behind sim play very powerfully. I don't think "constructive constraint" or "constructive restriction" are as vivid. That may be an idiosyncratic reaction. I suppose "abnegation" does the same duty as "denial," maybe with less potential baggage. But it's not a word that rolls trippingly off the tongue. "Renunciation" and "abjuration" are candidates too, perhaps. That's what two minutes with Bartleby offers.

Best,


Jim


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: GreatWolf on November 30, 2005, 12:05:58 PM
I'm tracking with Jim here.  In fact, it was as soon as he started talking about monks denying themselves that the phrase went "click".

Here's my understanding of what's going on.  A group of people sit down at a table to engage in roleplaying.  From one perspective, the entire imaginative structure (SIS or whatever we're calling it) is up for grabs.  However, in order to encourage the sort of shared experience that they all wish to have, each player, including the GM, gives up ("denies himself") a portion of his personal authority over the imaginative structure in order to create boundaries and expectations for play.  These boundaries and expectations are then given authoritative weight, since they are really simply an expression of the shared will of the players.  As a result, these boundaries and expectations can be appealed to by any player to give or challenge the credibility of the introduction of any fact into the imaginative structure.  (In other words, they become part of the System for that game, whether or not they are written.)  But this only works if each player willingly submits to these boundaries, "denying" himself decisions that might otherwise be valid.

Well, this clarifies things for myself quite a bit.  Hopefully it's helpful to the rest of you.  Personally, I agree with Jim that we've made an important breakthrough here, and that is an unqualified good.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: talysman on November 30, 2005, 01:59:07 PM
ah, yeah... they deny part of themselves and their right to total control in order to affirm the illusion of the Fiction as an independent entity, an extra "player" at the table. Sim play often has patches of discussion about "what is realistic" in terms of the Fiction because, when one player makes a statement that is stretching the Fiction too much, everyone has to reach an agreement about how much they are willing to stretch this part of the Fiction. the danger lies in arguing too much or too long, because then it turns from a discussion about an impersonal object (the Fiction) into personal issues (what resonates for me versus what resonates for you, and my interpersonal skills that I will use on the group to get my way.)

to use the "Star Trek" example from the other thread, what if one player announces he wants to play a leprechaun from the magical area of space described in the animated "Star Trek" series? the other players might argue that the animated series is not "canon", despite being made by some of the same priniipals as the original series... what the argument may really be about is the personal resonance of magic as a thematic element for that player, which doesn't resonate in the same way for the rest of the group (they may prefer a more technically-oriented Fiction.) they may eventually agree to allow "leprechauns" that achieve magic-like effects through some kind of psi or technological device, or they may fail to reach an agreement at all because the argument has become too personal.

I think also that the argument about subjective versus objective comes from the fact that Sim players treat the Fiction as an external entity through this process of constructive denial, sacrificing their own personal vision for the group Dream; this leads hardcore Sim players to forget when discussing RPG theory that the Fiction is *not* "objective" (in the sense of "empirical",) which is how non-Sim players are likely to interpret the word. when Sim players say "subjective", they mean "personal opinion, as opposed to consensus", while for Gam/Nar, the distinction doesn't even matter as much: it's all personal decisions in the context of interpersonal communication and dice-rolling or paper-scribbling.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: GreatWolf on November 30, 2005, 02:21:33 PM
ah, yeah... they deny part of themselves and their right to total control in order to affirm the illusion of the Fiction as an independent entity, an extra "player" at the table. Sim play often has patches of discussion about "what is realistic" in terms of the Fiction because, when one player makes a statement that is stretching the Fiction too much, everyone has to reach an agreement about how much they are willing to stretch this part of the Fiction. the danger lies in arguing too much or too long, because then it turns from a discussion about an impersonal object (the Fiction) into personal issues (what resonates for me versus what resonates for you, and my interpersonal skills that I will use on the group to get my way.)

And that makes me wonder if a good Sim game needs to address this issue head-on.  Rather than just providing tons of setting information (in an attempt to nail down the Fiction in the game text), perhaps a solid Sim design also needs to incorporate methods of assisting the players in negotiating and establishing the Fiction, both before play and during play, as conflicts arise.  After all, if even the GM is bound to uphold the Fiction, then it is definitely not something that should be left assumed and unstated.  I'll go out on a limb here and wager that a major source of discontent in Sim play is a lack of real consensus on the Fiction covered by an assumed consensus.  To use the Star Trek example, the entire debate could probably have been avoided by establishing what is covered by canon.  If the group had agreed that only Classic Star Trek (defined as the original three seasons and excluding the movies) was considered canon for the game, then there would be no question about leprechauns.

In some respects, Universalis already does this by giving bonuses to Challenges that are supported by previously establishes Tenets.  Hmm.  There might be something useful there to consider....


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: talysman on November 30, 2005, 02:27:48 PM
And that makes me wonder if a good Sim game needs to address this issue head-on.  Rather than just providing tons of setting information (in an attempt to nail down the Fiction in the game text), perhaps a solid Sim design also needs to incorporate methods of assisting the players in negotiating and establishing the Fiction, both before play and during play, as conflicts arise.

that's part of the reason behind Dispute Rolls in Serpentine Thunder, although I state outright in the rules that if the group doesn't agree on what's *possible*, the play should stop right there, because there's a problem with the social contract. probably not the best approach, but I didn't really see Dispute Rolls as being useful in the case of extreme disagreements.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Supplanter on November 30, 2005, 02:39:04 PM
that's part of the reason behind Dispute Rolls in Serpentine Thunder, although I state outright in the rules that if the group doesn't agree on what's *possible*, the play should stop right there, because there's a problem with the social contract. probably not the best approach, but I didn't really see Dispute Rolls as being useful in the case of extreme disagreements.

Yes. The trad sim approach is for the ref to "teach" the Official Reality to dissenters by bad consequences in play - classic case of trying to solve a social-contract issue at the intragame level. I still weep for all the times I did that.

Best,


Jim


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Marco on November 30, 2005, 02:40:31 PM
So, could I get a terminological concession here? I think that Constructive Constraint sound much more positive, and would be less prone to misinterpretation based on the connotations of it's constituent terms. Uh, basically I don't want to have to explain a thousand times that denial is a positive thing here.

Mike

I like Constructive Constraint. But then, I thought Right-To-Dream was a step in the right direction to, so what do I know?
-Marco


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: GreatWolf on November 30, 2005, 02:52:12 PM
Oddly, the example that bounced into my mind (of all things) is Scrabble.  Technically, before you sit down to play Scrabble, you are supposed to choose the dictionary which will be used for challenges.  This dictionary, in a sense, is "canon" for this particular game of Scrabble.  All challenges are resolved by appealing to this particular volume, and its authority is final.  As a result, if you're wanting to use obscure words in your game of Scrabble, you'd best have a solid dictionary at your disposal.

So, I guess what I'm turning over in my head is something akin to this.  Before play, the group needs to get its canon in order.  This should be recorded somewhere official and should consist of Tenets.  This is true, even if the Tenets are things like "Our Star Trek game will only use the original TV series as canon" or "Our Amber game will only use the first five novels as canon".

However, no list of Tenets can be complete.  As a result, the group should agree to allow additional Tenets to be added to canon, so long as the group agrees unanimously and the new Tenet does not contradict the previous Tenets.  Or something like that.  Regardless, the method of clarifying and amending canon needs to be established before play begins.

Of course, for all this to work, the players need to understand that they are engaging in constructive denial.  This means first that the players must acknowledge that they are making a choice to be limited by a voluntarily accepted canon.  This is a big deal, I think.  There's no "right" or "wrong" canon; there is only the canon that the group agrees to employ.  This is especially important when working in licensed settings like Amber, Middle-earth, Star Trek, or Babylon 5.  It can be easy to assume that "everyone knows" what canon is, and therefore, as a result, assume that all gaming groups are bound by the canon that "everyone knows".  This leads to bad assumptions within a game group and judgment of other game groups that are using a different "canon".  Acknowledging that a gaming group chooses the canon by which it is bound, rather than having that canon imposed on it, would therefore seem to be a vital part of functional Sim play.

I hope that this doesn't seem blindingly obvious to everyone else.  I have lightbulbs coming on all over the place, and I want to share them with all of you.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: komradebob on November 30, 2005, 02:53:18 PM
Quote
In some respects, Universalis already does this by giving bonuses to Challenges that are supported by previously establishes Tenets.  Hmm.  There might be something useful there to consider....

Which is why I always considered Uni sim supportive, despite it normally being categorized as narr supportive.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on November 30, 2005, 03:14:42 PM
I thought I was getting somewhere near to understanding what was being talked about, but then Seth brought the example of Scrabble, which is probably closest to Gamist if any comparison can be drawn. But I think his point is valid still.

In games, participants should agree on what is and what is not (=denial) allowed into the game. Sim does that mainly through setting, genre conventions, but Gamist does that through the rules that are used to achieve the step on up (people deny other possible means) and some Narrativst games do that by at least focusing the premise somewhat (tMW is more about honor than it is about religious beliefs). Each of these cases have a constructive goal behind the denial (achieving the CA).

It does seem though, from the way most here are talking about it, that I'm missing something in my reasoning. So what makes Sim especially a case of "constructive denial" in regards to the others?


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: talysman on November 30, 2005, 03:49:52 PM
I thought I was getting somewhere near to understanding what was being talked about, but then Seth brought the example of Scrabble, which is probably closest to Gamist if any comparison can be drawn. But I think his point is valid still.

Seth is only using choice of dictionary in Scrabble as an example. don't worry about whether Scrabble is really like Sim RPGs.

part of the problem, though, may be that Seth talked a lot about choosing what's canon in regards to the Fiction, but didn't stress the fact that the Fiction is not the canon. if I say "let's play a Star Trek game based on the three seasons of original Trek only", I'm suggesting a canon as a jumping-off point for the Fiction, but I and the other players are going to have slightly different interpretations of what the events of the canon mean; plus, as we play, we're creating additional elements of the Fiction.

constructive denial isn't just denying what source material is not going to be considered canon, but is also a process of my agreeing to not bring in fictional elements, even "canon" elements, without a process of rejecting or limiting elements that don't fit with the group vision.

have you ever heard the description of sculpting as "carving away parts of a block of material to reveal the form hidden within"? it's like that. the Fiction has infinite potential before it's ever discussed. when we agree on a canon (Star Trek,) or a process to modify the canon (Star Trek, but with Lovecraft,) we've not only agreed what stays in the Fiction, we've also carved away big chunks of stuff that doesn't belong. as play continues, we keep carving away more stuff, further limiting the Fiction while simultaneously revealing more detail. once we've carved away all we can in a particular area (a planet we're exploring,) we have to move on to another area of the big block and start carving there.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: GreatWolf on November 30, 2005, 05:22:11 PM
Seth is only using choice of dictionary in Scrabble as an example. don't worry about whether Scrabble is really like Sim RPGs.

Oops.  Sorry if I added confusion with that example.  I wasn't talking about Scrabble-playing being equivalent to Sim RPGs; I really was just focusing on the idea of establishing, prior to play, an outside authority to which a player can appeal during play to support his actions or object to others' actions.

Quote
part of the problem, though, may be that Seth talked a lot about choosing what's canon in regards to the Fiction, but didn't stress the fact that the Fiction is not the canon. if I say "let's play a Star Trek game based on the three seasons of original Trek only", I'm suggesting a canon as a jumping-off point for the Fiction, but I and the other players are going to have slightly different interpretations of what the events of the canon mean; plus, as we play, we're creating additional elements of the Fiction.

Good point.  I want to clarify one thing, though.  When I talked about "canon", I was referring to all the Tenets of the setting that constrain play, regardless of their source.  Maybe "canon" isn't the best term for it.

I agree that the different players will probably have differing understandings of these Tenets, which necessitates a method of clarifying the Tenets during play.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Mark Woodhouse on November 30, 2005, 07:52:09 PM
When I talked about "canon", I was referring to all the Tenets of the setting that constrain play, regardless of their source.  Maybe "canon" isn't the best term for it.

I have used Library in discussions elsewhere (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=207366 for one) to refer to that stuff. Everybody brings a personal Library to the table with them, and play is at least in part a matter of bashing selections from those libraries up against each other to create a usable intersection. I think of it as being a lot like collaborative filtering - the stuff Amazon, et al, use to arrive at recomendations - in that what you're doing is meshing up multiple sets of individual preferences and aesthetic judgments, and trimming the false positives, then rerunning that process again and again to converge on a reliable estimate of group tastes.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: clehrich on November 30, 2005, 09:48:54 PM
This may sound odd, but I agree with Mike and Marco: constraint seems to me the appropriate term.

My sense is that we are talking about a deliberate, arbitrary constraint upon what can and cannot enter play (in a broad sense), not a flat rejection or denial that there are other things going on.  The latter would sound to me like those old-fashioned "D&D people turn into serial murderers because they can't tell fantasy from reality!" sort of nuts.  The former is a well-known, constructive process of analysis, filtering, or what have you.

Interestingly, "constraint" also fits neatly into the question of things like canon in the context of religion, which seems to me appropriate: having arbitrarily limited the range of texts (or whatever), one then employs lots of ingenuity to develop infinite complexity within the constraint, leading to things like theology.  And, as you know, I'm always happier to see new terms introduced that mesh smoothly with stock terms in the "human sciences" (so-called).

In short, in my neck of the academic woods this is normally called constraint.  I'd like to see the same terminology 'round these parts here.

Chris


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Supplanter on November 30, 2005, 09:50:14 PM
I like Constructive Constraint. But then, I thought Right-To-Dream was a step in the right direction to, so what do I know?
-Marco

If we get votes can I change mine? Purely to make Marco happy, and I mean that sincerely. I still think "constructive denial" is a better term, but Marco is Mr. Sim in a way I'm not, and I think there's genuine value in a term that someone like him responds to. I'd love to talk Marco INTO preferring Constructive Denial, but if I can't, I yield.

Best,


Jim


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on December 01, 2005, 04:34:13 AM
I'd prefer "constructive constraint" as well.

I think I now see what was confusing me, after reading Ron's post in the other thread again. I'll give it a go, since I think I'm not the only one who was confused.

The Pool, and it seems Universalis as well, has a rule that demands coherence of Monologues of Victory with the setting and whatever happened in the game. I thought this was a constructive constraint, but in fact it's just the "Never say no" rule from improv theatre in disguise (does that work with Universalis as well?). From there, anything is okay.

The (b) part from Ron's post asks more. It asks to respect a "global vision" or basic principles (the Bible, the cannon), an overall aesthetic or mutual understanding of the fictional content in a way that the Pool doesn't. The Pool's rules are just concerned with making a point (addressing premise), while the content is secondary. Sim cringes at that statement.

To take the Scrabble example a step further, Sim could be okay to allow other words than those that are in the incomplete dictionary, as long as they are words from the player's language (the group vision). Narr could allow even foreign terms, as long as they convey the desired meaning (but this would be breaking (b)). Narr still asks you to respect the already placed words and the alphabet, but from there, you can make your points.


Since Sim is about exploring fictional content, why not expand the new term to "constructive content constraint"? (Allowing for some nice acronyms: con³, ccc, 3c...)
This might help lessen confusions of the sort I had (it's not about constraining premise or what's okay for stepping on up).




Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: jmac on December 01, 2005, 04:54:59 AM
If the term is to describe that feeling (when I can't accept something new introduced by another player), 'denial' is quite precise, much closer then 'constraint'.

I would think about 'constraint' if scope of things accepted or denied could be consiously agreed upon, before play.

There happens to be an overt 'constraint' (like setting) but... isn't it a different thing?


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: contracycle on December 01, 2005, 05:14:22 AM
Bravo, an excellent discussion from all concerned IMO.

I'd just like to raise for discussionan idea prosted previously as RPG as Set Text, in which I argued that selecting or appointing ANY text or authority external to the play group could serve the same function as game worlds do.  I fully agree with the points raised above about the agreement on the "fiction" being potentially dubious and varied, but if one said that the specific constraint for this game was, say, Star Trek episodes 1-6, then this specification resolves any potewntial dispute about what should, or should not, be part of canon.  And this applies even if it later transpires that the selected canon is wrong, or legitimately challangeable, on the basis of some other source.  The objective validity of the claim is not important, only the consensus and the external reference.

Talysman wrote:
Quote
The trad sim approach is for the ref to "teach" the Official Reality to dissenters by bad consequences in play - classic case of trying to solve a social-contract issue at the intragame level.

Agreed in full.  Now, I am in favour of there being an Official Reality of course, but I think the hitherto non-explicit nature of this contract has lead to much of the poisoning of RPG discussion, because this didactic/dictatorial role, especially in the context of adolescent gaming, tends to accumulate moralistic overtones about what is "right" and "reasonable", leading to a sense that the GM "punishes" - which is, of course, mostly the adolescent experience of adult behaviour.  So I think a proper discussion about the Intent of sim, and the purpose of constraint, in future RPG texts may go a long way to making many games healthier and functional and a much more positive experience for many participants.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 01, 2005, 05:22:49 AM
Hello,

As I see it, "constraint" is a key factor in constructing fiction of any kind, and it very definitely applies, in many senses of the word, to all of role-playing. Adding "constructive" is a nice and hopeful touch.

But none of that has anything to do with the points I've been making about Simulationist play. At present, I see not only accuracy, but useful and meaningful tension between the terms "constructive" and "denial."

Just as I see an implied question in "Story Now," which is to say "As opposed to Story When Else?", I see an implied question in "Constructive Denial." It is, "How can that be?" which then can be answered.

Removing that tension destroys the point entirely. I'm a little appalled by this apparent desire to clear terminology of tension for some vague (and never to be appeased) hope for comfort.

 It seems to me as if, in the desire to find some sort of comfy-term, many of you are forgetting the point. The point is to describe a creative and social interaction unique to and necessary for Sim. I am very satisfied with the summary tag-line being "The Right to Dream," and we ought to be talking about the "Right," finally, as I outlined in the previous thread. I am also very satisfied with "Constructive Denial" as the core, or one of the core processes involved.

Points made so far by Gareth, jmac, and John L make a great deal of sense to me.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 01, 2005, 08:25:45 AM
I only proposed constraint hoping that it would have the same meaning, while, yes, being more "comfy." But I do see your point.

To illustrate and kill two birds, Bob, what tenets in Universalis to is to provide constraint. Denial comes when somebody actually challenges something based on the tenets and their interpretation of them. This is why I'd say that the tenets in Universalis are really only "exploration" supportive, and not sim supportive particularly. They rules really don't go far in telling anyone how hard they have to do the denial part (leaving the rest to be only vaguley nar supportive as it promotes conflict as a way to move story on).

So we could say that exploration is prioritized as simulationism precisely when play moves on from simple constraint to denial being the primary criteria in determining what happens ("Can't be this, it must be that")? That incorporates bricolage, but I think also leaves the definition open to larger sim definition (like my assertion that some people will defer to the mechanics as a way of determining what to deny and what not to deny). Chris?

I'd also like to hear what MJ thinks about this and if it matches "discovery." I think it does in that, sans this process, discovery is impossible as defined. That is you have to have the denial of the "wrong" in place before you can "find" anything as a player.

Mike


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 01, 2005, 09:15:52 AM
Mike: YES.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: M. J. Young on December 01, 2005, 08:44:48 PM
I'm glad I was asked to comment, because I was going to comment anyway and was very pleased to see this thread opened and very much hoping it had not been closed already.

As far as whether "constructive denial" fits with "discovery", I'm going to give a guarded yes. That is, everything about the concept as I understand it fits with discovery, but I have other doubts about the concept that need to be addressed.

I want to say that I found this new concept very insightful, and can see that it goes a long way to clarifying much about simulationism. It is at the very least a major step toward finding that clear explanation of the very specific something which we've been struggling to describe.

My problem arises from this notion of an agreed canon as a necessary component of all simulationist play. I can see how it fits with many, many simulationist skewers, but there are also simulationist skewers with which it does not fit.

I agree with Ron's assessment of Multiverser, that it is essentially a simulationist game, and a good one. Narrativist and Gamist play within it is created through player/referee negotiation and the introduction of supportive elements through the game worlds (which are ultimately "supplemental rules" in the form of setting). Many of the Multiverser worlds, including published ones, are fully simulationist-supporting. I think particularly of the major "gather" worlds which are the centerpieces of the two world books, NagaWorld and Bah Ke'gehn.

What immediately catches my attention about these two worlds is that at the moment play begins, the referee is the only person at the table who knows (excuse the vulgarism) squat about them. As referee, I am revealing the world in response to their exploratory ventures, and they have absolutely no basis on which to challenge anything I claim is in that world. Thus this idea of "shared canon" or "agreed library" can mean not more than "we agree that what the referee tells us about the world is true".

This is particularly significant when I run Bah Ke'gehn, because I created that world and wrote the text myself. It cannot even be said (as it could with NagaWorld) that I am constrained to what someone else imagined, because here I am constrained to what I imagined and put on paper; no one else playing at the table knows what that is.

It was even more so when I was writing and playtesting this world, because at that point a significant part of the playtesting process involved the fact that I would be making changes, filling in gaps, working out what actually had to be in the world and correspondingly what had to be in those pages to which others presumably are constrained.

Further, I create many worlds entirely on the fly, having no knowledge myself of what is going to be in them until after exploration begins and I start looking for answers to the questions the players are asking.

Yet all of this seems still to be simulationist play. We're not addressing premises or stepping up to challenges. We are cooperatively unfolding a universe maybe none of us have ever previously imagined or encountered. I may be making it up as we go along, and devising the parameters that fit what is already known, but it's still simulationist.

I am not the only one who does this. One of our most avid known players, Eric "World-a-Week" Ashley, does this all the time, and I've watched him do it. He has already run a convention seminar on how to create worlds on the fly, and he's good at it.

So the question is, if the referee has the full credibility to create anything he wants, and the players have no basis on which to challenge anything he claims is part of the world, in what sense has "constructive denial" occurred or become part of the process?

Or is the assessment entirely wrong, and this form of play in which players are experiencing the dream of being in a world completely unknown to them from the ground up (quite literally in the two worlds cited, where almost nothing is what it seems) is not actually simulationism?

I really like what I'm reading about "constructive denial" otherwise, and I want to say that it is a major part of the simulationist process, but I'm thinking there must be some aspect of the terminology I'm not understanding--or else my roleplaying experiences include data completely outside Ron's and the theory does not yet account for them.

Help?

--M. J. Young


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 01, 2005, 08:54:28 PM
Easy as pie, M.J.

It's because the "package" that gets accepted as canon doesn't have to be as simple as a set of costumery and stories (i.e. "playing Star Trek"). It may instead focus much more strongly on mechanism rather than subject. This is the essence of Purist for System Sim play and design - to have the canon be how it works rather than what it is.

But the logic, aesthetic content, and goals of play are exactly the same from an outsider or summary perspective. Establish (a) - how it works, no matter what. Then challenge it (b) - with "well, can it work here?" and continue. The fact that Multiverser uses the very thing that traditionally stops play (character death) as the springboard for starting this question anew, speaks to the reason to play.

You, uh, do realize that the reward system of Multiverser is predicated on the character dying? Whereas in N play, it might ask what the point of dying is, in Multiverser (without add-ons, etc), it is what's next? And the metagame tension concerning that is, we used it to do that, now can it do this?

I've been saying it all along. Although I commonly use genre conventions as the source-material touchpoint when discussing Sim play, only because it's so obvious and common, that's only one way to seize the five components of Exploration with a bevy of implications/points that the group appreciates. Another way is to focus on how it is done, how it works, will it work, and similar.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: komradebob on December 01, 2005, 09:00:55 PM


I don't like the term Constructive Denial.

The Denial half has tons of negative associations to me. If this term comes into usage, I expect we will see the same kind of knee jerk misunderstandings/accusations of elitism/whatever that float around the terms incoherence and fantasy heartbreaker.

Now, I expect lots of discussion will be generated, but that discussion will focus on the term and not on the ideas the term refers to.

Which honestly may not bother anyone else, but I thought I'd take a stand on it before it was adopted.

Apologies for the sidetrack.


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Supplanter on December 01, 2005, 09:13:11 PM
The Denial half has tons of negative associations to me. If this term comes into usage, I expect we will see the same kind of knee jerk misunderstandings/accusations of elitism/whatever that float around the terms incoherence and fantasy heartbreaker.

Damn the Codependency Movement for ruining a perfectly good word. And that's the problem - for this purpose the word IS perfectly good, esp paired with 'constructive." It's the negation you build with. A very powerful formulation.

I know Ron is too busy standing off the Hun to worry about the touchy-feely stuff, but what about "constructive self-denial." Now you're out of the Self-Improvement section and onto the Diet and Fitness shelves in terms of connotations, and I think the term may be as precise and evocative of the thing described as "constructive denial" or even moreso.

MJ, re your world-building on the fly and where the denial comes in: from what principles do you build worlds as you go? Is there anything you won't add to a world on the fly for the sake of some kind or other of "interest?"

Best,


Jim


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 01, 2005, 09:45:59 PM
Hey,

Jim, I'm going to venture a guess for the answer to your question to M.J.

What a GM won't add is anything that doesn't follow a rule for building a Multiverser world. And ... (wait for it)

... the players wouldn't accept it if he did.

That's how they are enlisting in the constructive denial.

Of selves, if you want to phrase it that way. I'm OK with that as a personal add-on.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Constructive Denial?
Post by: Supplanter on December 02, 2005, 04:48:52 AM
Hey,

Jim, I'm going to venture a guess for the answer to your question to M.J.

What a GM won't add is anything that doesn't follow a rule for building a Multiverser world. And ... (wait for it)

... the players wouldn't accept it if he did.

Yup. That was pretty much my own guess, as you know doubt figured. MJ? How close are we?

Best,


Jim