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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Frank T on August 31, 2006, 10:15:57 AM



Title: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on August 31, 2006, 10:15:57 AM
The recent “kill puppies” thread reminded me of my Sabbat character, one of my favorite ever, and a truly evil one as well. We once had one of this show-off forum games on GroFaFo where everybody walks his favorite character into a tavern and they chat. So all the Vampires and Drow were hanging out there and posing with their “cool evilness”. When I started to detail on my character’s philosophy, however, there was an uproar. Because he wasn’t just cool and badass and sooo dark. He was cruel and sadistic and brilliant and, in his own warped way, he made sense. People were scared by him. But I am too far ahead.

So, this was a game I played long before I started discussing RPGs with other folks on the internet. It is also, to date, one of my favorites, ever. And it is a very good illustration, in my opinion, of how Simulationism works and of how elements of both Narrativism and Gamism can be supportive of the Sim agenda. You see, this is something I only recently understood: When the Big Model says “supportive”, it means “supportive” as in “necessary”, not as in “not getting in the way too much”.

We were GM + 3, the three players of us long-time Vampire gaming buddies, the GM a friend with whom we went party, but hadn’t gamed much before. He wanted to run a very ambitious Sabbat campaign, although we never got past the first part, which was actually only meant as an introduction. That is probably why he didn’t bother to railroad, which was key to the whole fun of it.

We knew we were going to be Sabbat Vampires in 1900 New Orleans. So we made up characters accordingly. Michael played Roberto, a brawny, aggressive Hispanic criminal and City Gangrel Antitribu. Marco played Seamus, an Irish terrorist type with a huge Celtic cross tattooed on his back, Brujah Antitribu. I played Alexandre, a sadist/hedonist warped poet/philosopher and Toreador Antitribu.

We played through our initiation full length, more or less. It was very intense, exploration at its best, gripping even though I had read the Sabbat books and knew what was to come. Watching my fellow players react to being buried alive and clawing their way to the surface was even more fun than acting it out myself.

Maik, the GM, had made up our sires as a Sabbat pack that was starting a Crusade on New Orleans, who created us as their “first line”. He put in some astonishing personal conflict: Seamus’ sire was the leader of the pack, but challenged by Sir Edward, a Tzimisce and, in his past life, English nobleman! (Remember: Seamus = Irish terrorist). The animosity was tremendous. My character, on the other hand, was fascinated by Sir Edward’s flesh-forming abilities, his arrogance and his sophisticated cruelty.

I also developed, quite on my own, a very interesting conflict for my character: He was all about freedom. “Freedom”, quoth he, “is the ability to defy others’ needs in favor of your own.” The Sabbat as a very tight-knit organisation demanding total loyalty was, on the one hand, challenging to take away his freedom. On the other hand, it was possibly a means to eventually attain the ultimate freedom, no longer having to fear punishment by anyone, for anything.

Addressing Premise in support of The Right To Dream, check.

In the course of play, we got assigned several missions by our sires, which we accomplished with various success. I think that never before or after in my role-playing history I was so determined, so focussed, so quick and deadly in my lines of thought. That was not because the mission mattered so much to me. It was because my character demanded that I be brilliant, because he was brilliant.

So, despite me being the weakest of the player characters, physically and powerz-wise, I was the most successful and earned the respect of my sires. It was my plan to unleash the Werewolf in the middle of a Vampire party. My quick thinking that secured that at the same time the Masquerade was breached heavily, and the Camarilla Vampires felt grateful to me for helping them, and they came to regard me as more powerful than I actually was.

Step On Up in support of The Right To Dream, check.

Throughout the five or so sessions that we played, fictional content was amazing. We really dug the atmosphere of 1900 New Orleans, the sense of danger and stress, and furthermost the alluring and disturbing sensation of taking on the role of a really brutal, or, in my case, cruel and remorseless creature. The integrity and power of our shared imagination was clearly the focus of play, with strong emphasis on our characters. The GM was challenging us in all kinds of ways, leading to the abovementioned manifestations of supportive elements of other CAs, but there can be no doubt that our actual CA was crystal clear Simulationism.

How did the system tie into that, you ask? Why, we gamed the system for combat effectiveness as well we should (supportive Step On Up, check), however never sacrificing the inner logic of our characters and the game world. The reward system was not really relevant at the mechanical level, but the social reinforcement was so powerful and intact, with so much feedback from player to player going on, that no mechanically enforced reward was really needed.

Speaking of which, there was no ban on “OOC” in this game. No urge to “stay in character” or anything like that. Still it was extremely intense, like what people have described as “immersive”.

Points:

1) There are evil characters, and then there are evil characters.
2) Simulationist play, to me, really shines when there is a lot of challenge and/or thematic stuff charging it up.
3) OOC and immersion (whatever that is) work well together, at least to a certain degree.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on August 31, 2006, 10:17:06 AM
Oh, and there were also some very erotic moments in the game.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Sovem on August 31, 2006, 11:02:20 AM
Sounds pretty sweet! One of my all time favorite characters was a Sabbat, too ^_^

Can you give some examples of some of the more brilliantly evil schemes your character enacted? It seemed like you were about to talk about that in the beginning, but then got sidetracked.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on August 31, 2006, 12:09:13 PM
Frank,

I'm curious why you point to specific techniques and say they are Narrativism or Gamism. You need to show a longer sequence of play that includes the reward mechanics and what the players got out of the game in the long term to really understand what Creative Agenda, if any, was at play in this game.  Almost all the things you point out as "tells" are techniques.

Also your "Gamist" example is more about your character kicking ass to impress other characters in the fiction, not you kicking ass to impress other players. That isn't Step On Up anyway.

If you're trying to say that you had multiple Creative Agendas at play here, then I would argue that you can really only have one CA. If you're saying that the "elements" -- meaning what? Techniques? Exploration? -- of Gamism and Narrativism can be used to support Simulationism, then I would argue that CAs don't have elements. Look at the Big Model diagram (http://indie-rpgs.com/_articles/bigmodelpic.pdf) and tell me which things are the elements of Narrativism and Gamism.

I wanted to talk a bit about these two paragraphs:

Throughout the five or so sessions that we played, fictional content was amazing. We really dug the atmosphere of 1900 New Orleans, the sense of danger and stress, and furthermost the alluring and disturbing sensation of taking on the role of a really brutal, or, in my case, cruel and remorseless creature. The integrity and power of our shared imagination was clearly the focus of play, with strong emphasis on our characters. The GM was challenging us in all kinds of ways, leading to the abovementioned manifestations of supportive elements of other CAs, but there can be no doubt that our actual CA was crystal clear Simulationism.

How did the system tie into that, you ask? Why, we gamed the system for combat effectiveness as well we should (supportive Step On Up, check), however never sacrificing the inner logic of our characters and the game world. The reward system was not really relevant at the mechanical level, but the social reinforcement was so powerful and intact, with so much feedback from player to player going on, that no mechanically enforced reward was really needed.

There can be doubt!

Amazing fictional content? Not unique to Sim.
Really digging cool atmosphere? Sense of danger? Sensation of taking on a brutal world? Not unique to Sim.
Strong emphasis on characters? Not unique to Sim.

You did say one thing that made me bounce in my seat a little:
Quote
The integrity and power of our shared imagination was clearly the focus of play . . .

Yes! Show me what you and the other players did during the game to enforce the integrity and power of your shared imagination. An example of play here will help.

Have you read Ron's discussion of Simulationism as constructive denial (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019) (in the "ignoring the subjective" thread in the GNS forum)? These articles greatly helped me to understand Sim play. Essentially, there and a couple posts down (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188029#msg188029), Ron talks about the essence of Sim and another way to express the ideas in the Right To Dream article:

Quote
Also, I really carefully chose that phrase, "the Right to Dream." People always seem to get hung-up on the Dream part, when it's the Right which distinguishes this CA. That was a big disappointment to me in the responses to the essay. Perhaps this clarification of "the Dream" will help people to focus, now, on the Right.

As in, "it's my right to have my imagination validated for its own sake" [reflexive]
And, "play it right" [transitive]
And, "the right [way to look at it] shall prevail" [interpersonal, social]

Do those statements ring true to you about your game? Are those issues more important than impressing your friends with your game performance and more important than making a thematic statement about something? 

Ron said in the first message I linked, "A great deal of the aesthetic power of Simulationist play, as I see it (and I mean that literally), lies in (a) adding to or developing that package, and (b) enjoying its resiliency against potential violation." The "package" to which he refers includes the five components of Exploration (System, Setting, Character, Situation, and Color), plus thematic and other emergent content.

Can you show me an example of play that shows how (not just what) you and your friends added to the "package"?
Can you show me an example of play that shows a "potential violation" of this package in your game and how you and your friends proved that the package was resilient against violations?
Can you explain how you celebrated in this resiliency?


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on August 31, 2006, 11:50:22 PM
Hi Sovem,

Derailed is not really what happened, rather, I moved on to what I really wanted to talk about. If I find the time later, I can elaborate on the Werewolf thing, it’s the only piece of nifty decision-making that I still get together in full detail.

Hi Adam,

Ah well, that always happens when you bring up fucking GNS, I guess. Some clarifications for my initial post and this discussion:

1) I did not say there was a Gamist or Narrativist CA at any time. I said that elements of these CAs were present supportive of the actual CA, which was Sim. That applies to techniques you would normally associate with Gam and Nar, though this technical approach to CA analysis doesn’t really work. But especially, it applies to the social dynamics at the table.

2) Your comment about reward mechanics is off-base. The mechanical reward system of Vampire 2E did not support our CA at all, as I stated in my post. There can be functional and coherent play without a mechanically enforced reward system, you know.

3) You don’t honestly expect me to give you a ride like the one Ron and Levi had recently, in order to prove to you that our CA was really Sim, do you? Firstly, I don’t have the stomach for it, and secondly, the game was long ago and I probably don’t recall enough detail.

Sorry to be rude that way, it’s just that you happened to be the one to say the things people sometimes say on the Forge that, well, make me get rude that way. I know you meant to be helpful, which I appreciate. Thanks for taking the time to dig up those quotes. All of them confirm my gut feeling that the shared CA in the above game, across everyone and throughout several instances of play, was indeed Sim.

I’ll think about some examples and maybe post them later today.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on September 01, 2006, 05:20:07 AM
Hey, man, calm down. I'm not looking for a ride, and if you're not interested in making your point with me then nothing is forcing you to continue. I'll bow out of the thread if you want.

But, not only did you bring up GNS,  you seem to have confounded some terms and I had hoped to clear things up. I'm not entirely convinced that you were playing Sim but you are and if you don't want to put that on the table for discussion,  that's your right. But it's critical to your point: "Simulationist play, to me, really shines when there is a lot of challenge and/or thematic stuff charging it up." It's also in the subject line, so I figured it was important.

Some responses to your comments:

1) I still don't believe that CAs have "elements." I think you mean Techniques and I think that none of those Techniques belong to any specific CA. If that is the case then it's pretty meaningless to talk about the "elements of Narrativism," for example. I'm not sure whose "technical approach to CA analysis" you mean doesn't work. Mine? Yours?

2) I never used the phrase "reward mechanics" and I'm having a hard time seeing which comment you thought was off-base. Where did I say that you needed mechanically enforced rewards to have functional and coherent play? Where did I even say that you didn't have functional and coherent play? It sounds like your play rocked. I'm just not convinced it was Sim; that's all.

3) No, no, I don't expect a ride. Did you expect a conversation? Or did you just have some points to make and they're not up for discussion? I think you want to discuss this topic:

Quote
When the Big Model says “supportive”, it means “supportive” as in “necessary”, not as in “not getting in the way too much”.

The word "supportive" appears only once in the Big Model Provisional Glossary so I'm not entirely sure to what you're referring. Under Hybrid, the Glossary says: "Play which combines two or more Creative Agendas. Observed functional hybrids to date include only two rather than all three, and one of the agendas is apparently primary or dominant, with the other playing a supportive role. See my review of The Riddle of Steel." Are you referring to this?

Your post did not adequately demonstrate "how Simulationism works and of how elements of both Narrativism and Gamism can be supportive of the Sim agenda." For me to buy your premise, I need to believe that 1) you were actually playing with a Simulationist CA, 2) that there are "elements" of Narrativism and Gamism that are not just Techniques that work with any CA, and that 3) those things actually support Sim. It's a fascinating premise and I want to talk about it more but I don't buy it right now.

I asked the questions at the end because I was genuinely interested in the answers. If you want me to bow out now, I will. If you want to engage in a discussion with me about this, I'd enjoy that.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 01, 2006, 06:40:04 AM
Hi Adam,

re-reading this, I have to apologize. I wasn’t expressing myself as clearly as I could have, and you were making valid points to check if I was on the right page. Please let's discuss further.

Here is some answers to your questions:

Quote
Can you show me an example of play that shows how (not just what) you and your friends added to the "package"?

Most of it was done through acting and description, but also by OOC comments like prompting a detail on your character’s background or the historical context. IC-dialogue was embraced, but players also drove for “spotlight scenes” where their character was doing something unique to them. The obligatory “feeding” scenes were often used for this. I had a part in which I seduced a woman and then played a sadistic, erotic and disgusting game with her that ended in her death. We were walking a thin line there, but it worked because we were close friends and knew each other very well. It was creepy and extremely thrilling to act out these scenes, and I was identifying with the victim almost as much as with my character.

Quote
Can you show me an example of play that shows a "potential violation" of this package in your game and how you and your friends proved that the package was resilient against violations?

Not really. As far as potential violations through the resolution system go, the Vampire 2E resolution system works sufficiently for establishing and maintaining an integrity and inner sense to the fictional content. It’s not elegant and far from perfect, but it works sufficiently. If there were minor collisions that I fail to recall, we certainly overruled the rules, possibly fixing them with a house rule.

As for potential violations arising out of a participant’s behavior, that did not happen because all of us were too much in the same vibe. Or wait, maybe here’s something: Marco and I are history freaks, whereas Michael and Maik have solid historical knowledge, but not to the same detail. So, when Michael or Maik would come up with something that violated the historical context, Marco and I would interfere, briefly explaining why that wasn’t possible, and they would restate. Is that the kind of thing you mean?

Quote
Can you explain how you celebrated in this resiliency?

No. That was not a primary focus of our experience.


Regarding the term “supportive”, maybe I recall something wrong, but I think I’ve heard a certain line of discussion several times now:

User A: “We were optimizing our characters, isn’t that Gamism?”
User B: “No, that’s just a technique.”
User A: “But we were also doing a lot of IC acting, isn’t that Sim?”
User B: “No, that’s just a technique.”
User A: “But how do I know what it is?”
User B: “Look at what’s going on between the real people. Look at the Instance of Play.”
User A (looking it up in the Glossary): “But I see elements of all three in my game!”
Ron: “Well, one is the primary and the others are just supportive.”

Sadly, I can’t point to a discussion like that, so maybe I got it mixed up with the hybrid thing, but I don’t think so.

Anyway, what do I mean by “elements of a CA”? Looking at the articles, I find that CAs are described by social dynamics going on between the players, and relating stuff that happens in the fiction. However, these characteristics must be stable over an Instance of Play, and must prevail in situations where they conflict with other CAs.

I’ll have to discuss this without crosschecking the articles and previous discussions, which is kind of unfair since you are doing all the work, but I just can’t afford the time, please excuse. As far as I recall, just because something that looks like Step On Up is happening in one scene, that does not constitute a Gamist CA, because one scene is not an Instance of Play. But it happens. That’s what I mean by “elements of a CA”.

This relates to techniques only as far as certain techniques are commonly seen as supportive of certain CAs. Like what I’ve heard often: Actor Stance supports Sim play, Author Stance supports Nar and Gam play. I think that is nonsense, and so do you, so let’s move beyond that.

I’m talking about the social reinforcement level. Yes, we did game the system for combat effectiveness. Yes, we were saying stuff like: “Why don’t you boost Stamina first, so you can soak up the damage, and then go for Dex?” And we credited each other for these ideas. Losing a fight meant losing, as a player. It mattered. So. Does this look like Step On Up? I would call that a “Gamist element”.

Are we already in hybrid play now? I don’t think so, because the above does not conflict with the goals of Sim play. So we did it within the boundaries of our shared CA, which was Sim, and it was very important to our enjoyment of the game.

Same goes for the thematic content in the fiction, where the statements I was making about freedom and cruelty and violation were appreciated not only as a contribution to the SIS, but also as some personal statement, which was especially sensitive because of its power and absurdity and strange appeal. We also talked about this stuff OOC, communicating our views as a real person on what was going on. I would call that a “Narrativist element”.

Again, there is no conflict with the goals of Sim play, and I think there was no interference with the CA overall. These exploits were just that: Exploits. But crucial exploits. The shared fiction was still the main focus of the social dynamics at the table, and yeah, the Right to contribute, and the Right not to have your imagination violated, totally governed our interaction.

This whole thing occurred to me when someone in a discussion about PtA said that the game, to him, was all about the interaction of the real persons and what he learned about them through play, and that the fiction itself was more of a by-product. Our play was the opposite: It was all about the fiction, and the rest was a by-product. But just like that PtA player could not have done without the fiction, we could not have done without the rest.

Why am I making these points? Why do I bother whether that was Sim or Gam or a Hybrid or even Vanilla Nar when it’s just a stupid model and I can already explain in my own words how play worked for us? Ah well, dunno. Probably to test whether I’ve really understood GNS by now. Also, because I don’t like how people are often associating Sim with boring pointless IC acting and actor-stance no-OOC “immersive” play.
   


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on September 01, 2006, 10:32:46 AM
Thanks for giving me a second chance, Frank.

I believe that you were playing with a Sim CA, but I need to understand what "package" you were developing and protecting. Is it your group's version of the World of Darkness (including setting material and game rules and such)? That would make the most sense.

If so, then I'd expect to see the players adding to that package during play. Prompting other players to explain a character background detail or a historical context detail is exactly the kind of thing I'd expect from Sim. It's basically the other players being watchdogs over the package while you are talking. By prompting for these additional details, they not only protect the package from potentially dangerous and "incorrect" input, they also validate the input you've given before and the input that just tested out. Validating your input makes you feel good about your own contribution and it further strengthens the package.

That example does demonstrate a "potential violation." Why did they prompt you to explain a detail? Because they thought there might be a potential violation of the package. Your answers to them clarified your meaning and ensured them that you weren't violating the package. In explaining more details, the package grows larger and stronger. The group now has additional stuff shared among them that isn't in any source book. The group grows tighter as a result. This is a positive social consequence of a good Sim CA in action.

Your "history freak" example is exactly what I meant.

I suspect, when you were doing the thing you're calling Gamist-supportive, that you were really doing classic Sim stuff with regards to System. Recall that the "package" includes all elements of Exploration, including System. I suspect that you were "doing it [System] Right," and not really trying to Step On Up.  In any case, min-maxing is just a Technique and in no way a "tell" pointing to Gamism. I min-max in Dogs in the Vineyard all the time and it doesn't distract me from my very Narrativist CA.

I'm glad you're continuing this discussion. It's helping my solidify my own understanding of Sim play. I hope it helps you, as well.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 01, 2006, 01:18:40 PM
Yes, the package was "our" World of Darkness very much. Marco, Micheal and I had long been players in another WoD game (Vampire Dark Ages), from whence we knew the rules and some general stuff about vampires in the WoD and, interestingly, the sort of official pre-history to the Sabbat metaplot. That way, many expectations had already been established. Luckily, Maik and the GM of our other campaign, Sven, were friends and exchanged a lot about "their" Worlds of Darkness.

The whole part about New Orleans and 1900 came from our own historical background, interpreted through our knowledge of the WoD, with every player contributing to speculations as to how they might intertwine, but the GM having the final say.

Micheal and Marco had no idea of the Sabbat, so that part of the "package" was all in development for them, not yet established and to be protected. I for my part had read the Player's Guide to the Sabbat and was pretty much expecting Maik to adhere to it, which he did. I also think that the Paths (replacing Humanity) worked quite ok as flags and as inspiration. We knew from our play-experience and knowledge of the rules what vampires could do, in general, and we knew what to expect of the Camarilla pretty much. That was the part we preserved. We did not have to protect it because it was not challenged.

Quote
I suspect, when you were doing the thing you're calling Gamist-supportive, that you were really doing classic Sim stuff with regards to System. Recall that the "package" includes all elements of Exploration, including System. I suspect that you were "doing it [System] Right," and not really trying to Step On Up.

Well, you can put it that way. "Exploration of System", as an idea, never quite convinced me, but I see that it's in the Model. I guess my point, especially with regard to this "gaming the system", is this: If you had taken five minutes out of one of our combat scenes, and compared that to five minutes of a combat scene from another Vampire group with a functional Gamist CA, you probably would not have spotted any difference. Not in the applied techniques, not in the fictional content, and not in the social dynamics at the table.

That is more than techniques talk. It goes right across Social Contract and Exploration, down to Ephemera. Just like CA. See?

This kind of interaction not only didn't disrupt our Sim CA. It was key to us having fun in play. It was part of the CA.

So, that's my Sim. It's meaningful and overflowing with conflict. It demands a lot of performance of the players. It says something about the players. It's far off of cinematic coolness posing without risk. It's far off of Illusionism and Participationism. It has no need for so-called "immersive" techniques, does well with meta-talk, scene-cutting and the like. It's far off of extensively detailed "realistic" rules (though Vampire rules have such tendencies, but we ignored them). It's intense. It rocks.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 01, 2006, 11:57:34 PM
Oh, one more thing. Talking about the "package", it's important to note that the details about setting and system mentioned above provided context for play, but during play itself, the main focus was exploration of situation, character, and color, in that order.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on September 02, 2006, 07:48:16 AM
To me, "Exploration of System" means celebration and testing and development of the rules and procedures of play, during play. When you level up and try out different combinations of feats and classes and spells in D&D, you're exploring the system. When you test out dice pools in different situations in Storyteller and discuss the "right" way to bring in dice for the dice pools, that's exploring the system. You might solidify your group's understanding of the game text, or even interpret in a way that makes you comfortable but would make other people cringe, or you might tack on a house rule. You might discuss a situation as a group and decide, no, that rule doesn't apply here because it doesn't make sense. That, to me, is all very Sim "constructive denial" with regards to System. It sounds very much like that's what you did in this game.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 02, 2006, 11:19:57 AM
Hi guys,

Maybe this quote from the big essay will be useful:

Quote
For a given instance of play, the three modes are exclusive in application. When someone tells me that their role-playing is "all three," what I see from them is this: features of (say) two of the goals appear in concert with, or in service to, the main one, but two or more fully-prioritized goals are not present at the same time. So in the course of Narrativist or Simulationist play, moments or aspects of competition that contribute to the main goal are not Gamism. In the course of Gamist or Simulationist play, moments of thematic commentary that contribute to the main goal are not Narrativism. In the course of Narrativist or Gamist play, moments of attention to plausibility that contribute to the main goal are not Simulationism. The primary and not to be compromised goal is what it is for a given instance of play.

Although "instance" was not defined when I wrote that, I've defined it since: at least one full reward cycle of play, which for most games is at least a single session and often more, and for some games, considerably more.

So Frank, your five-minute comparison is valid but not at all relevant for talk about Creative Agenda. What I'm seeing is solid Simulationist play, with moments of strategizing and moments of thematic content that support what's going on - however, no actual Gamist or Narrativist trends or over-arching goals.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 02, 2006, 05:06:16 PM
Hi Ron,

Yeah, we are on the same page about that. I was probably not expressing myself well. What I wanted to say from the start is exactly this:

Quote
solid Simulationist play, with moments of strategizing and moments of thematic content that support what's going on

At least over here in Germany, I think the meaning of the word "support" in this context is not acknowledged properly, even though the word is really abundantly clear. It's not like: "It's Sim, you can ignore the strategizing and thematic content." It's like: "It's Sim, and it relies on the strategizing and thematic content to be fun."

I think what I'd really like to see is some solid Sim play powered by forgy rules for strategizing and/or thematic content.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ricky Donato on September 05, 2006, 11:11:44 AM
Ron mentioned in an earlier thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18177.msg192280#msg192280) that strategizing and effectiveness management, a priority of Gamist play, can still be used in other CAs as "turbochargers". For example, in Capes, you can manage your Story Tokens so that they are spent wisely. (I'm not too familiar with Capes so let me know if I mangle a rule.) That strategizing is not Gamism, because it occurs at a small scale. By contrast, Capes rewards story-telling at a much bigger scale, which is why Capes supports Narrativism.

Similarly, we know that Exploration, a priority of Sim play, must occur in Gam or Narr play; it has to occur by the definition of the Big Model, or else you're not playing an RPG.

I submit that the same principle applies with thematic content, a priority of Narrativist play. If Joe is playing a paladin, facing down a horde of demons, the demons could, for example, offer the paladin power and wealth if he will only let them pass and destroy the innocent villagers. If Joe is playing Gamist to show how awesome his paladin is, the paladin says, "No, you shall not pass." This isn't Narrativist play, because there was never any chance of Joe accepting that offer. Instead, it has the following effects:

1) It allows Joe to state, "Yes, I want this conflict right now." Note that important distinction. If Joe is playing Narrativist, the conflict is actually whether or not the paladin says yes or no. In Gamist play, that decision was never in question; the conflict lies in the consequences of that decision.
2) It reminds Joe of the consequences of failure; not just his character but also the innocent villagers die.
3) It cranks up the consequences of success; if the paladin beats them, Joe can go around saying, "Oh yeah! Not only did I kill all those demons, but not one of the villagers died! Not even when one of the imps tried to fly past me; I took him down with a spear throw! How cool am I!"

This is solid Gamism at work.

This means we have three major activities when gaming: strategizing, thematic questions, and Exploration. All 3 can occur in the same instance of enjoyable, coherent play, and yet still have only one CA in operation. The difference is which one is the priority? Which one do you do for its own sake? The other 2 will then be used to support that priority.

I'm certain that this is what confuses many newbies trying to understand the Big Model. (I know it happened to me.) They say, "But I do all of those things in my game!" Maybe that's true, but which one is the point of play?


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 05, 2006, 02:27:43 PM
Hey Ricky, I think it's not helpful to refer to single player decisions, or game systems, in order to explain Creative Agenda, because neither describes play in a given group in a given Instance of Play. Your basic point, however, is just what I had been hoping to illustrate neatly through my actual play example. And thanks to Adam, I think it worked out, didn't it?

I guess the points on GNS have been made. If anybody still has any questions on the Vampire game, please feel free to ask.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 05, 2006, 02:48:20 PM
Hi Frank!

I want to know about the evil, and how it was different from the evil. What happened in play, meaning among the characters in the fictional situation, that made that distinction?

Yes, I am asking you to "tell me about your character," from a Vampire game. Before anyone falls over dead from shock, keep in mind, I trust Frank. He's good at this stuff and won't bore us.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 06, 2006, 08:02:08 AM
Damn, Ron, you are putting some pressure on me. ;-)

So, of the evil. Understanding that Alexandre was evil is only one part of what made him so fascinating to me. The other part was that he had some pretty heroic features about him, in his own way. In his mortal life, he was a weak but daring man. He got exiled from his home, abdicated, and eventually thrown to jail for living life his way. In staying true to himself and his conviction, he showed real bravery, in a MacBeth “I will not yield” kind of way. It was utterly satisfying to see him emerge as leader of the pack after the Camarilla struck back and killed our sires. He was never one to back down, even if chances were slim.

So Alexandre grows up as the son of the governor of Martinique. Even as a child, he is brilliant, an artist, but his art is warped and sick. He is a sadist, not in the way of a functional SM relationship governed by respect, but in the KZ overseer way. He enjoys having power over other beings, to cause them pain and terror. This, to him, is the ultimate freedom. This, his poems of the time are about.

He gets all kind of treatment to cure him, and is finally exiled to New Orleans where he studies philosophy and develops his ideas further. Many feel drawn by his charm, subterfuge and the allure of the forbidden. He has to spend some years in prison and learns to treasure freedom even more. He becomes sick, suffering from a liver damage (probably due to alcohol and drug abuse), which causes him unbelievable pain. He has also lost all his money and lives homeless in the streets. At that time he is writing his most inspired poems, about the beauty and fragility of life. Alexandre is not a cynic, he is thirsty and compassionate. Shortly before he would have died in agony in a poorhouse, his sire transforms him.

That was the backstory from whence I started the game. In the game, I seized every chance to express Alexandres warped nature. I totally embraced the Sabbat philosophy of “mortals are just toys”. The same went for the Werewolves and Camarilla vampires we captured. In interrogating/torturing them, in feeding on mortals, or other similar instances, I proved a sophisticated cruelty that went beyond simple intimidation and was intended to cause a maximum of terror, pain and utter desperation. There is this discipline in Vampire that lets you form flesh and bone, which totally fascinated Alexandre. Just think about having your spine twisted and your vertebrae sprouting thorns that pierce your flesh…

Now, most of this isn’t that impressive if you play in that adolescent “we are so brutal and laugh about it” way. But if you play as intense and serious as we did, it’s scary as shit. Often in those stupid kid kind of games (that probably inspired kpfs), your character will do totally mindless but brutal stuff just for a shock and a laugh. But Alexandre was making perfect sense in his actions, and so were the victims. There was this one feeding scene where I lured this woman to my house, chained her down and made her realize slowly, very slowly, what I was going to do to her. We drew a veil at some point, but made sure to flesh out how I got rid of her bits and pieces afterwards.

When Alexandre infiltrated the Camarilla, he would stop at no lie, betrayal or manipulation, the more ruinous it proved to the personal relationships of others, the better. I don’t recall exact details, but in a way, this was deeper and more defiling than turning a frenzied Werewolf on helpless mortals. It was not just an act of remorseless cruelty. It was taking what people cared about, twisting it and turning it against them. Not only was I Macbeth, I also was Iago.

The philosophy of power = freedom is a classic, but if power is expressed through corruption, excruciation and rape, that’s the final escalation, especially if you actually argue your point in perfect logic. Alexandre understood the Sabbat’s cause, at a global scale, in bringing freedom to its members by destroying those who would keep them at bay. That was why he became absolutely devoted and loyal to the Sabbat as a cause, not through fear or personal ties, both of which were total strangers to him, but through pure abstract reasoning. All of this reasoning entered the fiction through dialogue, most of it acted out in character. So, evil on the basis of an ideology that makes perfect sense to itself, in a community supported by total loyalty to the cause, knowing no fear and no remorse and stopping at nothing. Much like Al’Quaida, actually.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2006, 07:05:55 AM
Fantastic summary.

Tell me, what was feedback like among the group about issues of this kind? I don't mean deconstructive, analytical discussion after play. I mean during play, in terms of how people reacted and "replied," either through normal dialogue or through the medium of their characters and other aspects of play.

Did anyone else in the group provide such intensive portraiture with his or her character? If so, did your character and theirs come into conflict in any way?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Silmenume on September 10, 2006, 09:34:23 PM
Hi Frank!

What a great thread!  Whether due to my poor writing skills or not, there was much in the description of your game, your interests, your processes that mirror my own current gaming processes.  I was reading the self-assessment of your character and was transfixed.  Wow.  That was a game I would seriously have loved to have sat in on, if not actually played.  I don't know much about New Orleans or any of the Vampire milieu so I don't know if I would have made the grade - especially since the grounding for your game seemed to spring, partly at least, from your love of history.  In my instance its a fanatical love of the works of Tolkien.

What mattered to you and the players, how it was handled, the IC and OOC elements were near carbon copies of my own experiences.  The philosophy that entered into the fiction via dialogue but mostly through the actions of the characters has my hands trembling with recognition.  Thank you for sharing and articulating what I have not been successful at.  Your complaint about how Sim has been characterized ("...because I don’t like how people are often associating Sim with boring pointless IC acting and actor-stance no-OOC “immersive” play.") so echoes my own particular frustrations. 

Finally I am so in debted to you for the summary -

    So, that's my Sim. It's meaningful and overflowing with conflict. It demands a lot of performance of the players. It says something about the players. It's far off of cinematic coolness posing without risk. It's far off of Illusionism and Participationism. It has no need for so-called "immersive" techniques, does well with meta-talk, scene-cutting and the like. It's far off of extensively detailed "realistic" rules (though Vampire rules have such tendencies, but we ignored them). It's intense. It rocks.

also

    Most of it was done through acting and description, but also by OOC comments like prompting a detail on your character’s background or the historical context. IC-dialogue was embraced, but players also drove for “spotlight scenes” where their character was doing something unique to them. The obligatory “feeding” scenes were often used for this. I had a part in which I seduced a woman and then played a sadistic, erotic and disgusting game with her that ended in her death. We were walking a thin line there, but it worked because we were close friends and knew each other very well. It was creepy and extremely thrilling to act out these scenes, and I was identifying with the victim almost as much as with my character.

I agree with all this 1000%.  The necessary trust that must exist between the players, the drive for "spotlight scenes" for the purpose to exhibit something unique as well as the visceral emotions roiling personally via those actions.... Wow!  Its an intensity that's almost like a high! 

Bah, my post probably hasn't been much help to you, but yours has been a tremendous morale boost for me.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 12, 2006, 01:37:30 AM
Jay,

I’m glad you like it. I certainly posted it with you in mind.

Ron,

Quote
Tell me, what was feedback like among the group about issues of this kind? I don't mean deconstructive, analytical discussion after play. I mean during play, in terms of how people reacted and "replied," either through normal dialogue or through the medium of their characters and other aspects of play.

Did anyone else in the group provide such intensive portraiture with his or her character? If so, did your character and theirs come into conflict in any way?

I think it’s nearly impossible to transport the full detail of a character like that into the SIS, so if the other players were telling you about the game, their characters would probably be more detailed and mine a little less so. Marco’s character had this Irish terrorist background, for which he looked some historical stuff up, and which came up in the discussions with the English nobleman NPC, and also in infiltrating anarchs from the Camarilla. I don’t recall it in full detail, but it was fuelled more by history and politics and less by philosophy and Shakespeare, reflecting Marco’s interest as opposed to mine.

Michael’s character was a tad more sketchy, I think that he was content, at the time, with bullying other people around and generally being a mean and ruthless fighting machine. So his somewhat dumb character was caught between the two big egos of Marco’s and mine, serving as a mirror and catalyst. There was pretty heavy conflict at points, and the GM was pouring oil into the fire through the conflict between the sires. Marco’s character was actually getting along better with the Camarilla anarchs than with his Sabbat pack. My character was ordering Michael’s around like the scum he was, and most of the time Michael decided to obey with gritted teeth, though ripping my throat out was a close runner-up.

Apart from heated IC discussions, there was also a lot of OOC commentary, much like it is encouraged through fan mail or similar mechanics, only without the mechanics. These were mostly just showings of approval of the other’s contribution. I really don’t recall if we also addressed the sickness of it all through this kind of commentary, but it was not really necessary since we were building on a strong foundation of close friendship and knowing each other really, really well.

Damn, now I’m getting all sentimental and tempted to quote Brian Adams, so I better stop.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2006, 04:32:41 AM
Hi Frank,

If you quote Brian Adams, I will be forced to quote the South Park movie, and the geekery shall ne'er stop!

You certainly are providing a textbook of this form of Simulationist play, and a couple of the details really jump out for me to emphasize to others.

Quote
I think it’s nearly impossible to transport the full detail of a character like that into the SIS,

That's an interesting statement, because in many ways the reverse is also true. The cumulative, shared, interpreted version of the character who resides only in the SIS - and would be available primarily to an engaged observer - is usually not perceived by any single player, including the GM. To be clear, that's a general rather than Simulationist point.

Quote
a lot of OOC commentary, much like it is encouraged through fan mail or similar mechanics, only without the mechanics. These were mostly just showings of approval of the other’s contribution.

There it is, that's what's needed for this discussion - and in fact, it's the only real confirmatory aspect of the coherent Creative Agenda among a group, for purposes of discussing CA. When using a rules-set of this kind, I've been in and seen groups either use these signals either to reinforce the improvement mechanics (replacing the textual guides for assigning points, basically fanmail with a mechanic) or replace them nearly entirely as reward. In the latter case, improving the character is fun, but not related to the point of play.

Is that a Sim tell? No, not necessarily. It's certainly a Creative Agenda indicator, in that the group has one.

The emotions you describe at the end do providing an opportunity for me to make a good Sim point, though, and a chance to clear up a long-standing error, in case it's still kicking around out there.

Years ago, people were just tying themselves into knots trying to discuss Narrativist play, especially in conversations with Marco Chacon, who was incensed about The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast (and if I'm not mistaken still is, but that's his privilege). I and others tried lots of different angles. The one that stuck, for some people, concerned "emotional engagement."

Now, that was not a good definition; despite its close relationship to the concept of Premise, it doesn't define it. Any and all Creative Agendas are engaging among the group employing them, by definition, and "emotion" is too vague a term to separate from "engagement" (even "intellectual engagement" doesn't work very well as a contrast), so all sorts of red herrings were created. At that time, that argument did help a few people who were inclined only to be so engaged under Narrativist circumstances, which applied to several of us, and so things got even murkier.

Anyway, I'm bringing all this up to establish or confirm that "emotional engagement" is a powerful feature of CA and not a defining feature of Narrativism, if anyone still finds that a troublesome concept. Consistent engagement (of whatever sort, if there are different sorts) about what is then what leads to identifying the Creative Agenda, through the cycles of reward.

Thanks for sticking with my pushy questions, Frank. This is a great example of why Actual Play is better theory.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Thomas Lawrence on September 12, 2006, 05:53:54 AM
This is a very interesting thread.

I wnat to make sure I've grasped something, if I may, Ron.

Quote
Consistent engagement (of whatever sort, if there are  different sorts) about what is then what leads to identifying the Creative Agenda, through the cycles of reward.

So, on differing Sim from Narr.

Narr CAs consitently engage with Premise (that is, the consistently engage with wider human issues in order to say something about them). A well-designed Narr-supporting System (whether textually written or developed within the group) actively rewards players who do this - reward being anything from "the Nod" to applause, to a mechanic like Fan Mail in PtA.

Sim CAs do not consistently engage with Premise. This is not to say they avoid it pathologically (which I think perhaps has led to much misinterpretation of Sim as rather empty) but merely that it is not their chief objective to asess and express ideas about human issues. Instead, their reward cycles are st up to express approval of actions which are in tune with a Dream.

The Dream itself may represent a position on a human issue that is not deviated from ("Let's all play a game in which we demonstrate how guns are evil") or it may be agnostic on human issues and instead treasure other ideals - either way, any actual addressing of human issues is not the point. A player who tries deliberately to address Premise in a Simulationist group will encounter frustration when the Theme they resolve their Premise into a Theme that contradicts directly with the Dream, and simple disinterest if the Theme does not relate to the Dream.

Does that make sense at all? I'm still very much a neophyte at this.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2006, 06:05:26 AM
You're nailing it, Thomas! I'll add some details, but the basic answer is yes.



Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 12, 2006, 06:08:52 AM
Hi Thomas,

Quote
any actual addressing of human issues is not the point

I'd rather say it's not the primary point. That is an important distinction I have tried to illustrate in this thread.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Thomas Lawrence on September 12, 2006, 06:22:53 AM
Yes, indeed, not the primary point is essntially what I meant - when talkign about "the point" I don't mean to say that there can't be secondary objectives, I'm simply saying that there is a primary one, which I called "the point". Your way is clearer, though.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2006, 06:27:51 AM
Whoops, hit "post" by mistake. Here's the rest of it.

Hi Thomas,

Think of these as coloring-in stuff you said.

Quote
Narr CAs consitently engage with Premise (that is, the consistently engage with wider human issues in order to say something about them). A well-designed Narr-supporting System (whether textually written or developed within the group) actively rewards players who do this - reward being anything from "the Nod" to applause, to a mechanic like Fan Mail in PtA.

Single major caveat: all of that is observationally and definitionally correct, but it does not describe the actual sensation of doing so. No one has to state the wider human issue up-front. No one has to remind oneself to buckle down and analyze it, or say something about it in the abstract. There is no analysis built into the process of Narrativist play.

Also, all reward systems are ultimately social. The reward mechanics work insofar as they tap into that, or reinforce it, or give it a specific shape.

Quote
Sim CAs do not consistently engage with Premise. This is not to say they avoid it pathologically (which I think perhaps has led to much misinterpretation of Sim as rather empty) but merely that it is not their chief objective to asess and express ideas about human issues. Instead, their reward cycles are st up to express approval of actions which are in tune with a Dream.

Single minor caveat: "in tune with" can take many different shapes. In some cases, it's "emulate," in the sense of reproducing without errors or anything different from that starting Dream-stuff. In others, it's "tweak," in the sense of introducing material that's not in the starting Dream-stuff and enjoying the robustness of the Dream in dealing with that new stuff.

Quote
The Dream itself may represent a position on a human issue that is not deviated from ("Let's all play a game in which we demonstrate how guns are evil") or it may be agnostic on human issues and instead treasure other ideals - either way, any actual addressing of human issues is not the point.

Correct. I want to emphasize that the Dream can be about all sorts of things, as long as it's considered canonical by the group. Such things include:

- a genre or type of story
- real or imagined physical processes (the classic engineering approach)
- a psychological state or a social dynamic

People get pretty wrapped up in loyalty to one or another of these types of Dreams, and therefore wall themselves off as strongly as possible from groups with some other approach. I've found that to be a primary source of resistance against the idea that this is an identifiable Creative Agenda, because people are mistaking the differing fluids in the pitcher, which they have mixed themselves, very carefully, for the shape/type of the pitcher.

It is also very, very easy to mistake Simulationist play for the baseline Exploration that defines role-playing itself. That's why discussing Sim falls into synecdoche so very often. I've tried to articulate this in multiple ways for several years, and it's very hard for people to get through - especially those who favor Sim play.

Quote
A player who tries deliberately to address Premise in a Simulationist group will encounter frustration when the Theme they resolve their Premise into a Theme that contradicts directly with the Dream, and simple disinterest if the Theme does not relate to the Dream.

There's one more possibility - the Theme produced both relates to and is consistent with the Dream. Why wouldn't that work? Jam for everyone, right? It doesn't work because it's not socially recognized and reinforced, and hence no real reward system is in place. The player ends up being his or her sole audience member, and the prognosis for such a situation includes (a) bored incoherence, quite likely long-lasting; (b) Prima Donna behavior; and (c) usually developing from the previous, Typhoid Mary behavior.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Thomas Lawrence on September 12, 2006, 06:44:27 AM
Single major caveat: all of that is observationally and definitionally correct, but it does not describe the actual sensation of doing so. No one has to state the wider human issue up-front. No one has to remind oneself to buckle down and analyze it, or say something about it in the abstract. There is no analysis built into the process of Narrativist play.

I entirely agree. The important thing is consistency in address of Premise, not consciousness of it. Obviously having the latter can aid the doing of the former, but it is not necessary.

Quote
Also, all reward systems are ultimately social. The reward mechanics work insofar as they tap into that, or reinforce it, or give it a specific shape.

Again, completely agreed. When I mentioned textual rules, the "(where the textual rules are incorporated as part of the social procedures of play)" was implicit, as it were :).

Quote
Single minor caveat: "in tune with" can take many different shapes. In some cases, it's "emulate," in the sense of reproducing without errors or anything different from that starting Dream-stuff. In others, it's "tweak," in the sense of introducing material that's not in the starting Dream-stuff and enjoying the robustness of the Dream in dealing with that new stuff.

Works for me. "Middle-Earth, but in the future" and all that. There are interesting questions, in "tweaker" group of Simulationists, of precisely what is tweaked, who gets to do it and how, but these are rooted at the level of Technique, I should think. I recall vaguely a thread somewhere on how one could unite Director Stance with Simualtionist goals that's starting to make a lot more sense now.

Quote
Correct. I want to emphasize that the Dream can be about all sorts of things... <snip>

All very true.

Quote
There's one more possibility - the Theme produced both relates to and is consistent with the Dream. Why wouldn't that work? Jam for everyone, right? It doesn't work because it's not socially recognized and reinforced, and hence no real reward system is in place. The player ends up being his or her sole audience member, and the prognosis for such a situation includes (a) bored incoherence, quite likely long-lasting; (b) Prima Donna behavior; and (c) usually developing from the previous, Typhoid Mary behavior.

Veeeeery interesting. That is very interesting indeed. I was having a conversation elsewhere about incoherent play and how it can still be fun provided someone does a lot of work to ensure everyone is kept rewarded, and this throws that into sharp relief indeed.

Thanks, Ron and Frank.

(I hope that isn't too much quoting, I know some places hate it if you overquote. I'll cut it down in future if people are finding it more annoying than elucidating)


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Silmenume on September 13, 2006, 01:16:17 AM
Hey Frank!

I’ve been reading and pondering your posts as quietly mentally and emotionally as I could muster to try to become as aware as I can of the important “social” and “system” elements.

First I want to draw attention to some of your own observations that practically parallel my own play experiences.  You mentioned that watching the other players clawing their way to the surface as being “even more fun” than your own play at that moment.  I too experience similar states, especially when my playtime is extraordinarily difficult and stressful.  IOW I am sooooo wrapped up in dealing with the problems that I am facing that it isn’t until after that particular sequence that one has time to reflect and fully enjoy what has just happened.  For me, it’s a huge rush to play so close to the edge but the laughing and regaling does not happen until later.  Sort of like riding a roller coaster.  It can be scary as all get out when you are on the ride, but once it’s over you laugh it up and share back and forth with everyone else who was on the ride about how scary it was!  … gosh it really was exhilarating and fun!  A similar analogy might be the scary movie experience…  So in a sense, for me, watching other players struggle with their own problems and create some really neat or clever solutions (as you say react) is not only fascinating/entertaining in its own right but it also allows me a moment to catch my breath, decompress and consider how to react what has just transpired.  Does this ring true with you?  Do you have a different take on this?  If it does ring true do you think you might be able to articulate why it’s interesting to you?

How did you go about Character generation?  As you said you created your own characters.  Did you use templates from game books or was this more of a free form process where you sieved through the source material, your own knowledge of the history of the real New Orleans and created a character that then melded your own particular creative interests that you wished to bring to the game?  Was there much of a mechanical process that at times dictated what you could or could not create or was this again a matter of the group aesthetic acting as a guide to the process.  Was the GM much involved in the ongoing process as a co-creator as it were or was his role more of judge to just make sure that the character you did create did not wander too far outside the group aesthetic?  IOW was the GM’s role more of a gatekeeper giving you a thumbs up or down on your character work?  Did you “work” with the other players in this creation process with the idea of creating characters that would have certain roles within a greater campaign group or did they just provide some ideas that helped you come up with a really cool character?  Or was this initial phase of creation something that you did entirely solo but constrained your choices to stick within the shared aesthetic standards of the group.  IOW no one had direct input on your choices but you self limited so as to stay reasonably true to the source material, but then brought in a few new pieces to the canon?

That you really dug the atmosphere of your setting is something that I personally think is critical to this type of play.  I believe that the Setting is the wellspring from which all other elements of play (including or especially mechanics) spring forth in this particular mode of Sim play.  (Nods, for the moment, to Ron’s tripartite break down of Sim sub-categories(?).  I’m still pondering this particular issue but for the moment I am well content avoiding sparking additionally controversy on that particular topic.  I’m not looking to get dropkicked in the balls at the moment!)

Your statement that you yourself, as a player, had to become determined, focused, quick and deadly in your lines of thought because your character demanded it again mirrors my own particular mode of play.  I, too, do not consider this immersion but rather how the process of representing those traits if one wishes to in the SIS must happen.  If the character is a bastard he must be portrayed in the SIS via actions as a bastard.  It is simply not enough to say, “I do bastardly things,” but that you as the player must find the means, given the circumstances and the limitations of the Setting, to portray a convincing bastard to all the other players.  In my book I find this is effort to be extremely difficult but I also think this is exactly where the players are truly challenged and must reach deep creatively within themselves to accomplish.  I think that these periods of time are some of those moments where the players really do need to be “good.”  It is these moments that are treasured in the game process.  Do you find this to be true for you?  If not how where do you think that the core creative process shines the most or is the most demanding upon the player?  Again I think this is part of the reason you do enjoy, as you stated, watching how the other players play out intense or difficult moments.  Is this summary correct?  If not, why not?

That you were the “weakest” of the three characters but the most “powerful” within the SIS via your own creativity and ability to express those creative thoughts into concrete actions, as opposed to falling back onto mechanics, is a vital element of this mode of Sim play.  IOW your mechanical “short comings” had did not impinge on your ability not only to “play your character” to the fullest ability you could muster not did it impinge your ability to have a powerful influence game events.  IOW your own prowess as a player was the single most important element to your goal of power.  This too mirrors my own game experience.  We can and frequently do have the ability to have “low level” character and “high level” characters all working in the same scenario without the “low level” characters having any less of an opportunity to have an important impact on the SIS.  It’s the player that makes things happen, the “better” the player the more he will influence the SIS, less so the mechanical “power” of the Character.  Did you find this to be true in that game?  Do you agree with this or do you have your own opinions on this?

Given that you do need to express the nature of your Character through concrete action with in the SIS I noted that you did say that the actions you did take kinda freaked you out.  I find this is also true in my own gaming experience and is the primary reason I have a strong distaste for playing “evil.”  Please note this is not a judgment on your own character choices, but rather a statement of concurrence.  I do think that Character play like this does eventually get inside your head and can have powerful or even overwhelming emotional effects.  What are your thoughts on this?

I also noted that mechanics to a back seat to the internal logic of the player created SIS as well as the source material.  This to me is an essential element to this mode of Sim play.  IOW the players’ choices in play can have an effect on the mechanics either existing or new.  The SIS is the top priority and in the end the mechanics must “follow” play as opposed to leading play.  If a mechanic conflicts with the established SIS or the source materials it is either altered or junked all together.  To me, the implication is that mechanics are really a reflection of the Setting and the players actions in the SIS – which do effect the Setting in the long run.  Do you agree with this or have your own thoughts on this topic?

I found reading your “obligatory” feeding scenes quite interesting.  In my opinion I think they illustrate another important idea of Sim play.  While they are a “trope” that is brought into play so as to support and reinforce the aesthetic of this particular milieu your choices during these scenes expanding both the Setting and your own Character as well as having an effect on that particular “trope.”  It seems to me that you did not haul out this trope as a necessity in order to show that the game is indeed really a vampire game, but also an opportunity to challenge to the players to expand on these tropes thus expanding the Dream as a whole.  Do you think that these tropes helped in this fashion?  Did you find them to be opportunities to expand the Dream and explore some new avenues of creative moments as opposed to moments that you had to suffer through in order to fulfill the necessity of having vampiric feeding scenes so as to support the vampiric Dream?

I also agree that losing a fight meant losing as a player.  Not in a step on up way, but in a way that stems from having to think like your character and finding that at that moment you were incapable of portraying the character you had hoped to do.  IOW I did not have it within me to win…

I am growing weary, but I did want to note that fully and completely agree that Setting and system provide the context of play, but that during play proper the main focus was exploration of situation, character and color.

Finally do you have any thoughts why conflict is so important to this CA expression?  This I am deeply curious about.

Rawk on, Frank!


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 13, 2006, 02:44:39 AM
Hi Jay,

Wow, that’s a lot of questions. To most of them, the answer is simply: Yes, I agree. Especially this assessment rings true with me:

Quote
It is simply not enough to say, “I do bastardly things,” but that you as the player must find the means, given the circumstances and the limitations of the Setting, to portray a convincing bastard to all the other players.  In my book I find this is effort to be extremely difficult but I also think this is exactly where the players are truly challenged and must reach deep creatively within themselves to accomplish.

Exactly my feelings about this mode of play. This can also lead to frustration if your skill forsakes you, if your character doesn’t work or if you just don’t get the reinforcing response you are hoping for. It’s crucial that the other players acknowledge you as the bastard you are being.

On playing an “evil” character: That was actually the only time I did that, and I never felt the need to do it again. It was certainly a powerful emotional experience. I think Alexandre was a superb villain. To get inside his head was challenging and fascinating, in the way that disgusting things often fascinate people. I was about 20 when I played in the game, so I was grown-up and stable enough that my personality was not endangered. Relating to Alexandre’s twisted thoughts that way, celebrating the great fiction and my player performance, and also sympathizing with Alexandre’s victims, all summed up to the fantastic play experience.

Regarding character generation, I think that Michael was the least familiar with the rules and setting, thus he created his character together with Maik, the GM. Marco also figured out the mechanical stuff together with Maik, but provided the background on his character himself. I did it all by myself, using the Vampire 2E core rules and the Player’s Guide to the Sabbat. I used the Toreador Antitribu clan description, Nature and Demeanor, and the Roads as inspiration, blended that with my own historical knowledge and creative vision, and thus made Alexandre. Linking the characters in the pack and creating the sires was entirely the GM’s part.

The role of conflict in this mode of Sim play was one major point I wanted to make in this thread. In the Vampire game, conflict was crucial to our enjoyment of play. Not in every scene, but overall, the conflicts were the motor of play, just as you’d expect in Gam or Nar play. They forced us to make choices, both tactical and thematical, thus providing us with the chance to portray, not to say prove, our characters. They were also making the Situations we explored interesting.

It is said Sim is all about Exploration, but not just any Exploration will do. It has to be meaningful to the players. In some cases, this meaning may come from emulating genre conventions or “coolness posing” or “tourism” or the “GM show” or a number of other things. In our case, however, the meaning came from those conflicts and choices, challenging us as players and creating opportunities for us to affect the SIS in important ways. Therefore, some people may confound this mode of Sim play with Nar or Gam because they think that “hard choices” are a telltale for Nar or Gam, whereas Sim can actually rely on hard choices just as much.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 13, 2006, 09:11:19 AM
Oh, one more thing: What made the game such a blast was not only the shared Creative Agenda. That was prerequisite, as was knowing and trusting each other. But what really made the game a blast was compassion and player skill. Acting. Description. Alertness. Sensitivity. Knowledge. Creativity. Reasoning. Those guys just rocked.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on September 13, 2006, 10:08:56 AM
Frank said:
Quote
It is said Sim is all about Exploration, but not just any Exploration will do. It has to be meaningful to the players. In some cases, this meaning may come from emulating genre conventions or “coolness posing” or “tourism” or the “GM show” or a number of other things. In our case, however, the meaning came from those conflicts and choices, challenging us as players and creating opportunities for us to affect the SIS in important ways. Therefore, some people may confound this mode of Sim play with Nar or Gam because they think that “hard choices” are a telltale for Nar or Gam, whereas Sim can actually rely on hard choices just as much.

I wouldn't say Sim is all about Exploration, since every CA is all about Exploration. Role-playing is all about Exploration because it's a necessary component of the Big Model. Exploration is basically a synonym for "playing a role-playing game." Creative Agenda (of which Sim is a manifestation) pierces through all the layers of the Big Model, right through Exploration but also through Social Contract and Techniques.

But in case I'm just nitpicking semantic points or burning strawmen, I do agree that "not just any Exploration will do." Sim Exploration has to support a Sim Social Contract by using Sim Techniques. The "meaningful to players" that you refer to is just another way of saying, "supporting a Sim agenda," which doesn't say a lot about Sim. =)

I agree with a good deal of the rest of what you said though. I just think your terminology is a bit muddy and confusing.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 13, 2006, 10:19:41 AM
Hiya,

Uh ... perhaps "muddy and confusing" can be left to the individual perspective. This does seem to me to be a "say it yourself" sort of thread, regarding Simulationist play. Everyone's version, based on different backgrounds of what to rely upon in role-playing, is probably going to be iffy for nearly everyone else.

I mean, I could refine some of what Frank's said, especially in terms of further reasons why it's not Narrativist despite some similar language that works for him; and I could refine some of what you've said, in terms of techniques not being associated with given CA ...

... but based on multiple posts by you guys in the past, I am fully confident that such refinements would be only for my benefit, and that neither of you really needs to have those bits tweaked in your own phrasing. So I'm suggesting that we spot one another a few phrasings here and there.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on September 13, 2006, 10:30:49 AM
Fair enough. I'd love that clarification, myself, about techniques and CA but I'm not sure this is the thread for it.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 14, 2006, 12:09:02 AM
Adam,

Let’s not get entangled in semantics. Please bear in mind that this is not my mother tongue after all. For further discussion of the subjects you raised, it’d probably be best to have an Actual Play of, say, a Narrativist game you played in. I’d gladly participate in that discussion.

Let’s also not force Ron to rephrase the whole GNS model in this single thread. Give the poor man a rest.

Ron,

You know, I used to be confused about the distinction between Vanilla Nar and Sim with strong thematic content, until the Jasper we both know said that bit about the fiction being by-product, and I found myself going, “Shit, no!” Then, things fell into place.

I do think that some less formalistic Forge games that are generally considered Nar designs, e.g. Sorcerer and The Shadow of Yesterday, would support the mode of play I described very well, without any tweaking necessary. In fact, I think they’d support it much better than Vampire did.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Adam Dray on September 14, 2006, 11:26:28 AM
*nods sheepishly to Frank*


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Callan S. on September 14, 2006, 10:18:22 PM
Quote
It is simply not enough to say, “I do bastardly things,” but that you as the player must find the means, given the circumstances and the limitations of the Setting, to portray a convincing bastard to all the other players.  In my book I find this is effort to be extremely difficult but I also think this is exactly where the players are truly challenged and must reach deep creatively within themselves to accomplish.

Exactly my feelings about this mode of play. This can also lead to frustration if your skill forsakes you, if your character doesn’t work or if you just don’t get the reinforcing response you are hoping for. It’s crucial that the other players acknowledge you as the bastard you are being.
Just on that acknowledgement, in other AP posts of mine I identified in early games trying to do addresses of premise in such a way as the other players would get it. On reflection this is just horendous, as I was applying force to my address, trying to make a better story so they'd get it/acknowledge it. That's probably why the agenda's are distinct - you can't win someone over to acknowledgement (of any agenda). It just has to be there. There's nothing you can do in play to get it - it's there or it isn't. I think this applies to sim potrayal as well - if its your turn its absorbed into the dream, but your not - well, theres no hope, no matter how much you try to be clever.

On the hard choices and sim, I agree. Although I tend to think the hard choices are there mainly to stir up play, so you don't just tread on old ground. And what you do is an exertion of will/an exertion of yourself, not just something which was less you and more a reflex. Would you agree with that at all?


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Frank T on September 15, 2006, 12:18:11 AM
Hi Callan,

Quote
And what you do is an exertion of will/an exertion of yourself, not just something which was less you and more a reflex. Would you agree with that at all?

I don't understand. Could you explain what you mean by "what you do"?

- Frank


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: JasperN. on September 15, 2006, 02:22:14 AM
Frank,

since it seems that my thread over at Grofafo had a crucial part in making you come up with these thoughts, I'd like to add that my remark about fictional content being a "byproduct" was referring to Primetime Adventures alone and to a very specific session at that. I enjoyed this particular session tremendously and tried to put in words how most of the fun derived from interaction between the actual players rather than creating "a story", and how that required doing things that were not actually in the PtA rules and so on.

Apart from that particular game and that particular session, I'm completely with you as regards to Sim with strong thematic/competitive elements. What you are describing is exactly what I've been doing in my Unknown Armies campaign for a long time - and I think, UA lends itself particularly well to that kind of play. We had a pretty traditional distribution of competencies within the group, but still the obsession and trigger mechanics allowed players to drive some thematic issues, while the game, despite being "rules light", still offered enough crunchy bits to make character improvement fun and meaningful.  Those mechanics were supported by frequent outgame discussions and informal scene framing rights for the players. They would often discuss in which direction to drive the story or how to build scenes that would highlight certain traits of their characters. Nevertheless, having read your thoughts here, I'd  agree that all of that was a means to come up with a better dream in the end.

Great thread, nice new understanding of Sim play here for me.


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Caldis on September 15, 2006, 04:35:46 AM
I do think that some less formalistic Forge games that are generally considered Nar designs, e.g. Sorcerer and The Shadow of Yesterday, would support the mode of play I described very well, without any tweaking necessary. In fact, I think they’d support it much better than Vampire did.

Interesting thoughts Frank.  If this isnt getting too hypothetical maybe you can answer this question.  What kicker do you think you would have come with up for this character if you had been playing Sorceror rather than Vampire?  How would dealing with that kicker and the other players kickers have changed the game from the one you had?  Would the plotlines dealing with the Camarilla vs the Sabbat have been as important?


Title: Re: [Vampire 2E Sabbat] Of Evil and of Simulationism
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 15, 2006, 05:36:10 AM
Hi there,

Without trying to step on anyone's desire to answer, I suggest that "would you" questions aren't going to be useful. I've been seeing such attempts go down the drain for seven years (Gaming Outpost, RPG.net, here), without fail.

Frank already suggested that other threads about Narrativist play with similar content be started instead, and I think that's a great idea. I modestly suggest that many of my darker play accounts, such as the Violence Future and le mon mouri threads, are good examples.

Jasper, your comment about Unknown Armies matches extremely well with my experience with the game, and every account of play I've heard or read. Other games that seem optimally suited for this sort of moral portraiture include Dread (the game by Rafael Chandler), Godlike, and the Mutant Chronicles.

Best, Ron