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Title: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 17, 2009, 05:59:50 AM
Hi!

I have not posted over here for a long time -not that my posts were anything relatively important really- but I felt revisiting the "particular" wisdom of this place, a wisdom about analyzing the particulars of roleplaying games and sharing theory regarding their nature. 

Intrigued by the event of the new edition of d&d I have been posting at the Enworld forums. Intrigued mostly by any potential shifts in the market of our hobby and the hobby itself. Nevertheless I made a post over there about some personal thoughts regarding roleplaying and I would like to share them over here as well so that I can check your feedback and see if such a point of view has been already examined over here and if you have any helpful insights to give.

I will copy paste the original post and a couple of generated replies by the discussion that has followed.

me:
"title: "tabletop rpgs-are they really games? or rather a "fun" interactive experience"

A game, traditionally, is an endeavor of unknown conclusion but of known possible outcomes. This means that any game has a clear goal. In their most simple implementation you can either achieve the goal or fail. Win or lose. This definition about games is even valid for team based games where each member has to achieve on what goals its team role dictates. And it seems that a game and a race in theory are the same thing. Where they differ is the fact that in a race it is more clear the progress of the endeavor and its most probable outcome while been undertaken.

But what about tabletop rpgs? Can we say that they have clear game goals? Their nature is one of a team and each member assumes a role but does this role have the clear goals as in a team based game?

If so why the need of adventure? Because no reflection of the need of exploration and discovery in one's team role may very well create incompatibility problematics here. So the question since it seems rather more appropriate if clear game goals are established to be done with adventuring.

In case you are not convinced about potential incompatibility problems think of how team adventuring works in principle. It is clear that one needs a way to play with an ever evolving dynamic ground that offers the needed dimension for such an endeavor of exploration to be played. Such a way is the simulationism that many tabletop roleplaying games offer. And it becomes clear that any gaming goals one's team role has, they will influence or weight on the dimension of exploration because even in this dimension the gameplay is team based. So follow one's clear team role or try to reflect on ways to explore and make new discoveries?

I tend to choose the second answer of the last question. I believe traditional rpgs are more interactive experiences than traditional games. So the question in the title. What do you think?"

poster1: He does not agree with the above definition of "game" as the traditional one. He asks for further elaboration and points out that context of discussion is important.

me: "Consider the "traditionally" characterization a mistake and lets not confuse the term with what the word entertainment is generally about but rather try to be more specific on some context as you say. Lets place our context on what a tabletop rpg is about -how it is supposed to work in contrast with other activities officially acclaimed as games. From olympic games to video games to board games to scientific roleplaying games (and make it clear that while films and toys entertain for example they are not considered games).
I would also like to see your insight on the incompatibility thesis among game serving "gamism" and simulationism (adventuring) serving "gamism". I use the term "gamism" since I can not say if we finally agree or disagree to consider it appropriate for our context."

poster1: He makes a point about the marketing functionality of the word and thinks it was firstly used for this reason by D&D. The three word phrase "role-playing-game" is pretty powerful from a marketing point of view for the product.

poster1 further expanding by poster2: Poster1 says that besides simulationism,  narrativism is necessary to provide the "adventuring" process I am talking about. Then he talks about the necessary mechanical limits of roleplaying games in contrast to our imagination and thus the limited scope or focus of each roleplaying game. Poster2 directly replies to the question posed in the original message: I am quoting him here (hope that's ok with him -if it is not I will come back and edit):
"In a traditional RPG, you have a field, basically the time and place the world is set in and some parameters concerning what you are going to game about. Then you proceed through the game, with two overall goals in mind: decision, and narration. Decision means the player makes a decision about the desired outcome. Narration means resolving a challenge or question and then describing it in story terms.

Thus, "role-playing game" is exactly what it sounds like, it is a game in which you play a role. The meta-goal is an exciting experience that mimics our responses to real life. The process is immersion." 

me:
"I can accept "decision" as a valid goal. A "decision" is something we understand as the input in cases where such input is a matter of how we value their outcome. If the way we value the outcome is indifferent to such input then there is no "decision". So our goal is to create a solid ground where we can value its outcomes based on our input to it. But such a solid ground can be nothing else but socializing on some common ground, be it our neighborhood or our roleplaying game. So, our roleplaying game mechanically must be nothing else but some common ground in perpetuity. You spoke about a field of a "world" so this can very well be it, I guess.

What about "narration"? How can we understand "narration" as a goal? Do we need to establish a set of guidelines or rules so we can value "narration"? Right now I am thinking about these contests where you have judges valuing performance by various parameters such as technique, synthesis and overall form. But are roleplaying games something such as this? I think not. So how do we understand "narration" as a goal? Well, we can try to see this in the most simple way possible. One either manages to narrate or he does not. Going even further this could be: one either expresses himself or he does not. But isn't this a necessary and integral condition so that the "decision" game analyzed in the previous paragraph takes place? If so we could eventually say that narration is just a tool that reflects decision. At this point can we say that narration is an actual goal of the game? I would not say so.

In the end, the only important mechanical thing seems to be the creation of an understandable and acceptable common world with no end in sight other than our meaningful input. This means that we need to be able to value such input -or, that such input can be valued- by the known value of things in our real life. This means that we need to be able to reflect the various possibilities of inputs with the value of things in our real life. Hence the fundamental importance of simulationism I was talking about."




The discussion has gone so far (till now). The thread is found here:
http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/250706-tabletop-rpgs-they-really-games-rather-fun-interactive-experience.html

I would like to see your thoughts.     


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: CKNIGHT on February 17, 2009, 08:49:45 AM
Interesting subject,

You could compare it to

What is dance?

Is the robot a dance?
What about line dancing?

When dancers compete is it a game?


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 17, 2009, 09:05:53 AM
When dancers compete is it a game?

First of all you will need to establish clear rules for the competition. Now if one's dancing influences his competitor's dancing I could call it a game. If not, I would rather call it a race.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2009, 09:15:04 AM
Guys! This topic may not continue in its current form.

1. First Thoughts is about ideas for game design, and sometimes some introductory material.

2. The Forge does not exist in order to reinforce or extend discussions being held elsewhere. They belong where they started.

3. All discussions of how role-playing works or what it is must be held in the Actual Play forum and conform to its specific requirements.

To folks who've replied, when someone posts in a way which isn't obeying the forum topics, do not reply to them. It's your job as well as mine to preserved this site's focus and structure.

Xechnao, I will permit this discussion to continue only if you post regarding an actual play experience which raises your points. It may do so in any way. If you do that, then I will move this thread into the Actual Play forum. Otherwise, it must stop here.

No one else may post until Xechnao replies.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mjbauer on February 17, 2009, 09:57:57 AM
First of all you will need to establish clear rules for the competition. Now if one's dancing influences his competitor's dancing I could call it a game. If not, I would rather call it a race.

The first one to finish the dance wins?


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 17, 2009, 10:56:25 AM
Understood and pardon me for not having grasped the forum's requirements. The topic presented here is an attempt to bring together some observations so to seek to explain the reasons of some confusion I have perceived on the matter of immersion among players.

When there are clear objectives players will seek to fulfill them but they easily grow tired of this type of challenges. What seems to work better, from my experience, is a game that allows or rather runs on player interactions on a basis of their in-game personal relationships. Of course everyone must be able to make meaningful and powerful decisions in-game for this to have any effect. And here is where the rules are important.

A problem that I encounter with 4ed D&D for example is that its rules do not provide anything of this sort. The game's rules detail combat action but they offer little about any balances regarding the risks one takes and his expectations. It ends to be just an exercise to master the game's combat tactics and as soon as this happens lack of interest seems to prevail. I feel the same way about the various iterations of the D20 system where the goal seems to be to gain XP by killing monsters. I like action but I guess I do not like mindless repetitive action because in the end it does not feel action any more. AD&D 2e seemed to fare better in this account although there was some fatigue in implementation. Also Cadwallon has fared a lot better because of well defined systematic (inherent to the system's design) backgrounds and responsibilities the PCs come with -although there was still fatigue but because of the mechanics. But I wanted to make a point here and I think I am getting lost.My point is that I think tabletop games may benefit more from seeking game design elements found in "the sims" rather than WoW. What may happen in "the sims" IMO works better as a basis for building and enjoying storytelling in a collective way. But I do not know how I can precisely describe this from actual play. If you do understand this perhaps you could try to analyze it with examples of your playing sessions and perhaps this could help research this problematic and its solutions even further?  
        


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Vulpinoid on February 17, 2009, 02:46:18 PM
I certainly agree that if Pen-and-Paper RPG had adopted elements of a computer RPG form, it would have been far more interesting to follow "The Sims" rather than "WoW".

I think the WoW model marginalizes the roleplaying community further by reinforcing certain stereotypes, while the Sims model would have opened it up a bit more.

But then again, most of the game designers around here are trying to add something interesting and dynamic to the games they are producing...pushing the envelope in one direction or another to see what flies and what crashes.

A few games already incorporate the types of elements that you see in "The Sims".

1) Skills improving with use and specific skill-oriented research (reading books, performing tasks, etc.)
2) Improving job status through acquiring a pattern of required traits
3) Playing with a character's morale levels based on the events that happen around them (bad thing happens, morale goes down; good thing happens, morale goes up)
4) Gaining power/money/status in the game for performing actions that are specifically tied to these concepts

Most of the amateur mods I've seen for "The Sims" have been simply cosmetic changes, and maybe a couple of new items or building types. The official expansion packs have added new game concepts to expand the immersive experience of the game, I'd love to see someone write up a fantasy simulation for one of the games in the series, throwing in things like racial bonuses to certain things, extra degrees of friendliness to allied races, instant enmities with opposing races....but still focusing on the development of a character within that world, rather than focusing on a grand quest or world-shattering adventure.

This kind of project isn't typically the kind of thing that gets explored here on the Forge, that form of game design requires a fairly different skill set to the one fostered here.

V

P.S. From the Forge perspective, would "The Sims" be better off called "The Nars", since it doesn't give you a pre-defined storyline and encourages players to develop their own narrative within the world that has been presented?


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 17, 2009, 05:22:25 PM
mjbauer, you posted to this thread against my moderation. I do understand that you posted in good faith as part of the discussion, without intention of causing problems. I'm not scolding your intentions and you're not being put down.

However, posting against moderation does cause a problem. The sole reasons that the Forge is what it is are (a) my social-intellectual rules and (b) everyone's willingness to respect and reinforce them themselves. It's really important that when I say "Don't post," it means "don't post," not "post if you really feel like it" or "post if you happened not to read this one." Only in this atmosphere can an on-line discussion be this good for so long. Please help me and everyone else keep it that way.

And everyone, mjbauer, everybody, please continue the discussion. No need to dwell on moderation. We have actual play material to work with, so the points being made are now grounded.

xechnao, one issue I have with your ideas in this thread is that one person's repetition is another's welcome "next step." It depends vastly upon the goals of play - if you and I share the goals, and the feedback via the system and our interactions together lead to a new step (scene, event, issue, location, whatever) that lets us "do it again!" with the new materials in hand that resulted from the last step ... then it's fun!

But if we don't share the goals then your next step (a new iteration in Sims-mode play) means it's just more fooling around as far as I'm concerned until I get to put my tactics and drive into play in a stress situation. And in turn, if in such a situation, you're saying, "shoot, another stupid fight" and not even caring about how well I do in it this time ... well, here we are, not having fun playing together.

So my current take on what you're saying is that it's great and fine ... but it's also predicated on the people playing sharing the agenda for our creativity (-ies, together).

Best, Ron


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 17, 2009, 11:48:56 PM
3) Playing with a character's morale levels based on the events that happen around them (bad thing happens, morale goes down; good thing happens, morale goes up)

This sounds interesting. Any actual examples? I would also like to see something around the premise of the real life strategic objectives, from the more casual ones like securing one's safety to the more "permanent" ones like the love bonds one seeks in his life.     


V

P.S. From the Forge perspective, would "The Sims" be better off called "The Nars", since it doesn't give you a pre-defined storyline and encourages players to develop their own narrative within the world that has been presented?

I understand what you are saying and I think that yes, it could very well be so if this is reflected by a choice of options that lie in the rules. Keywords or background choices or something like that.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 18, 2009, 12:04:17 AM
xechnao, one issue I have with your ideas in this thread is that one person's repetition is another's welcome "next step." It depends vastly upon the goals of play - if you and I share the goals, and the feedback via the system and our interactions together lead to a new step (scene, event, issue, location, whatever) that lets us "do it again!" with the new materials in hand that resulted from the last step ... then it's fun!

But if we don't share the goals then your next step (a new iteration in Sims-mode play) means it's just more fooling around as far as I'm concerned until I get to put my tactics and drive into play in a stress situation. And in turn, if in such a situation, you're saying, "shoot, another stupid fight" and not even caring about how well I do in it this time ... well, here we are, not having fun playing together.

But wouldn't it be more fun if we were trying to solve this conflict of interest in-game? Lets assume that your character is some dare-devil and my character is someone more cautious and for some implications well explained and covered by the rules we are bound to act together. Each one will try to influence the course of action towards his way, but whatever the course everyone has to be involved -due to prohibiting consequences- and the dynamics of their relations is still a thing to consider regarding the further course of action or even the whole story.
At least have some rules framework that allows this sort of thing. I think it could allow gameplay of sharing goal characters as easily as gameplay of situations where goals conflict.   


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 18, 2009, 03:28:41 AM
A few games already incorporate the types of elements that you see in "The Sims".

1) Skills improving with use and specific skill-oriented research (reading books, performing tasks, etc.)
2) Improving job status through acquiring a pattern of required traits
3) Playing with a character's morale levels based on the events that happen around them (bad thing happens, morale goes down; good thing happens, morale goes up)
4) Gaining power/money/status in the game for performing actions that are specifically tied to these concepts
A few? A lot of old fashioned RPGs have elements like these.

Quote

P.S. From the Forge perspective, would "The Sims" be better off called "The Nars", since it doesn't give you a pre-defined storyline and encourages players to develop their own narrative within the world that has been presented?

Why would lack of a pre-defined storyline make it Nar? Blindly following a storyline and facing the chalenges it offers seems to me to be the heart of Gamism. Many Simulationist games are more about throwing characters into an open-ended world and having them find their own place in that world without a guiding pre-defined storyline, and from what I know of it (which is very little, I admit), The Sims seems to fit that kind of simulationism quite well.

Unless of course The Sims is all about conflict between different goals and beliefs, making hard choices between those, and growing through those choices. Then it should have been called The Nars. (But I don't think it'd sell that well with that name.)


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 18, 2009, 03:29:32 AM
A problem that I encounter with 4ed D&D for example is that its rules do not provide anything of this sort. The game's rules detail combat action but they offer little about any balances regarding the risks one takes and his expectations. It ends to be just an exercise to master the game's combat tactics and as soon as this happens lack of interest seems to prevail.
A lack of interest prevails in you, but not in other players with different interests. D&D4 is, in my opinion, limited experience with D&D and still limited knowledge of GNS theory, a very Gamist RPG. It's all about overcoming challenges, and those tend to be combat oriented. Some people like that a lot (witness the popularity of D&D compared to more Simulationist RPGs), whereas you don't.

And neither do I, in fact. D&D has never been my kind of game. Too restrictive, too much focused on combat, too limited in what kind of character I can play, too limited in my choices. Too limited in my combat options, even. It's too much about game mechanics themselves, and not so much about a realistic simulation of how that combat would have happened if it had been real. I'm a simulationist, and you're probably too.

To me, D&D4 feels like a tactical wargame. A skirmish game. A very fun skirmish game, with lots of funky abilities you can use to defeat your opponents, lots of new abilities you can gain as you progress, and lots of support for the DM to create new balanced skirmishes. But as soon as I try to see it as more than that, as an actual RPG, I get disappointed.

Quote
I feel the same way about the various iterations of the D20 system where the goal seems to be to gain XP by killing monsters.
That's exactly what D&D has always been about in all its iterations. You can use it in a different way ofcourse, but that's more demanding of the DM, and less supported by the system. AD&D2 and arguably D&D3 have tried to move more towards simulationism, but never left their gamist roots, and never really got far enough towards simulationism, IMO. But of course the right group can make it work. In D&D4, that group will have to work a lot harder at it.

Quote
My point is that I think tabletop games may benefit more from seeking game design elements found in "the sims" rather than WoW.
Of course you'd think that. You're a simulationist, and WoW is definitely not a simulationist game. The Sims probably is (although I haven't played it). Eve Online would probably be more up your alley too.

Quote
What may happen in "the sims" IMO works better as a basis for building and enjoying storytelling in a collective way. But I do not know how I can precisely describe this from actual play.

In what way does The Sims support storytelling? Do you have an example of something that happened in a Sims game that demonstrates this?


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 18, 2009, 04:29:06 AM
throwing characters into an open-ended world and having them find their own place in that world without a guiding pre-defined storyline,

conflict between different goals and beliefs, making hard choices between those, and growing through those choices.

Is there a difference among the two? Or are they the two faces of the same coin?


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 18, 2009, 05:30:46 AM
throwing characters into an open-ended world and having them find their own place in that world without a guiding pre-defined storyline,

conflict between different goals and beliefs, making hard choices between those, and growing through those choices.

Is there a difference among the two? Or are they the two faces of the same coin?

They are quite different. Simply exploring an open world freely doesn't in any way imply moral conflict or difficult choices. Nor vice versa. They can go together, but they don't need to, and often don't.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Patrice on February 18, 2009, 05:40:24 AM
It all lays about the way you set the Characters' agenda actually. One very common way to deal with Character's agenda is experience. Experience (and sometimes possessions) define how you win the game. Yes, win. I think the discussion would fare a lot better if we openly discard the common idea that "there's no winner nor losers in a RPG". If you play a skirmish game, whether D&D or Cadwallon (more on Cadwallon later in this post) or any other, it's just silly to push your minis or counters or whatever and play without win system. In Gamist systems such as these, there has to be a goal external to the Situations of play, almost a metagame goal to provide you a meter, a scale for your Stepping on Up.

There's two main reasons underlying this : First because this gives you a real reason to keep the fights going and allows you to socialize about it at a metagame level, second because it sets a limit to the game, it defines its end. I think the main reason why D&D4 fails at it is because the experience system, which is more or less the same as former versions of D&D is too fluffy and doesn't provide a goal in itself. Okay I level and then ? It does a poor job in giving the Characters an agenda. D&D4 keeps fostering the myth of a Sim play just like all D&D games do and is stuck with that. Cadwallon had a few interesting experiments regarding Chararacters' agenda but it's drowned in a mechanism set that doesn't support it. It's like most of Cadwallon content, it's a patchwork. And a heartbreaker too and it's unplayable without home corrections. Everybody designed his own bit and everything didn't match when we sew it together. It's a game that wanted too much with too many constraints to allow it.

In my recent experiments I've been designing a Character-based experience system. It's an interesting twist as it uses mechanisms found in Nar games such as The Shadow of Yesterday (Keys) but I use this at a metagame level. Did you push the action towards stealth and did you succeed at it ? Okay, if  you're the rogue type you get to level, too bad for the warrior. Something like that. You win if you bend the story your way or at least play it your way if the story if provided beforehand (while using mechanisms found in Nar games, I'm not aiming at Story Now the least). If you have a goal, individual or collective, you have a purpose for playing the game and in order to provide this, you have to allow a metagame mechanic.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 18, 2009, 06:39:47 AM
Simply exploring an open world freely doesn't in any way imply moral conflict or difficult choices. Nor vice versa. They can go together, but they don't need to, and often don't.
Yes, but from a first person perspective -and by this I mean that you actually make part of the world- you'll have to make the moral choices the world comes with. It is hard to imagine anyone during his course of life not having to come up with tough choices. Of course there are people more privileged economically but happiness is not guaranteed, rather it is a matter of ongoing struggle. It is even harder for the less privileged people and unfortunately for many more it is impossibly so -at least till today.     


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 18, 2009, 06:57:25 AM
Hi Patrice

What if there was some strategic achievement meter used for tracking casual and permanent goals. Casual goals being an action zooming-in where it allows you to explore things, to learn new things while permanent goals those that more or less condition your true goal status or situation -staff like permanent "bonds" or "scars" -enemies, vendettas, love and things like that. 


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 18, 2009, 07:17:26 AM
Simply exploring an open world freely doesn't in any way imply moral conflict or difficult choices. Nor vice versa. They can go together, but they don't need to, and often don't.
Yes, but from a first person perspective -and by this I mean that you actually make part of the world- you'll have to make the moral choices the world comes with. It is hard to imagine anyone during his course of life not having to come up with tough choices.
Of course tough choices can always happen, but as far as I've just come to understand it, that doesn't necessarily make it Narrativism. Otherwise I've never played anything other than Narrativist campaigns in my life.

But I'll agree that the seperation between sim and nar can be very fuzzy at times.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Vulpinoid on February 18, 2009, 06:04:49 PM
Cadwallon had a few interesting experiments regarding Chararacters' agenda but it's drowned in a mechanism set that doesn't support it. It's like most of Cadwallon content, it's a patchwork. And a heartbreaker too and it's unplayable without home corrections. Everybody designed his own bit and everything didn't match when we sew it together. It's a game that wanted too much with too many constraints to allow it.

As one of the official English language playtesters for Cadwallon, I can tell you that there were a community of us who tried to make the system more streamlined and user friendly. You're right that it is a patchwork of systems and mechanisms, many of which seem to be in place purely for the aim of complicating things.

It could have been a great system in a great setting, if only someone had listened to the playtesters...or if it hadn't been designed by committee.

As for my earlier comment about "The Sims" being known as "The Nars", let me quote text from the back of the original box...
Quote
Create your Sims - Design their personalities, skills and appearance.
Control their lives - Guide your Sims' relationships and careers, for better or for worse.
Build their neighbourhood - Move your Sims into a pre-built house or build your own from the ground up.
Tell their story - Create Sim Web pages with the push of a button and share your Sims with the world.

Having played the game, it's much like a lot of other RPGs; you can play it for simulationism, or you can play it for narrativism. The bit about "Tell their Story" obviously implies that this was one of the design goals for the programmers.

In much the same way that people buy different sets of roleplaying rules to achieve different methods of play, different computer games can be used to engender different experiences of play. I don't think anyone will argue over that one.

The Sims had a dramatic impact on the computer game community, some even making the claim that it revolutionised the industry. In light of this, I still stand firm by my earlier comment that if D&D had used "The Sims" game model as a basis, it would have opened things up in much the same way for tabletop games, instead of cycling back to the origins of roleplaying games as we know them (developing from the context of miniatures and wargaming).

As for that last comment...
Of course tough choices can always happen, but as far as I've just come to understand it, that doesn't necessarily make it Narrativism. Otherwise I've never played anything other than Narrativist campaigns in my life.

I think that every campaign that I've played in (and virtually every game that's been memorable) has had a story in it. That's one of the things that makes it memorable.

I certainly remember more session details from nights of roleplaying than I remember details about specific games of Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary. Whether the story has been pre-loaded or developed through play isn't the issue, but if you're saying that any level of story developed through play instantly refers to narrativism then I'd have to say that every roleplaying game I've participated in has had Narrativistic elements.

I wouldn't say that they've all been Narrativist, as some have favoured aspects of exploration (external or internal to the character), while others have favoured competitive play (between players and GM, or between players themselves).

V


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 18, 2009, 11:54:03 PM
I think that every campaign that I've played in (and virtually every game that's been memorable) has had a story in it. That's one of the things that makes it memorable.

But story by itself doesn't mean it's narrativism. From what I've been told on this forum, you can have strong, powerful stories in simulationist or gamist play. But usually those stories are either mostly predetermined by the GM, or they emerge by accident (which is amazingly cool when it happens). In Narrativism, you focus directly on creating a story through play by focusing directly on dramatic decisions and moral dilemmas.

Almost any kind of play will have some degree of dramatic choices, but only when those choices are more important than winning the fight or exploring the world or your character, only then is the game more narrativist than gamist or simulationist.

But I think most good games are a mix of the three. It's just a matter of where your primary focus lies and what the fortunatel by-products are.

At least, that's how I understand it so far. But this theory is still pretty new to me.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: xechnao on February 19, 2009, 12:42:06 AM
But story by itself doesn't mean it's narrativism. From what I've been told on this forum, you can have strong, powerful stories in simulationist or gamist play. But usually those stories are either mostly predetermined by the GM, or they emerge by accident (which is amazingly cool when it happens). In Narrativism, you focus directly on creating a story through play by focusing directly on dramatic decisions and moral dilemmas.

I think the premise of this thread is to look for some mechanic that tells how these cool "accidents" may happen -but leaving choice of what happens as far as PC behavior is concerned to the players.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 19, 2009, 03:47:54 AM
I think the point of Narrativism/Story Now is to force those accidents to happen by making some of the elements that lead to those accidents the central focus of the game. Some new RPGs developed here assist in this process by providing specific mechanisms to enhance that focus, and to give the players tools with which to make those tough choices and dramatic decisions that should lead to good story.

In fact, I think Narrativism/Story Now basically boils down to:
  • A desire for engaging story developing naturally through play (rather than following a story by a single player (usually the GM))
  • A willingness to make it the central focus of the game, at the cost of other things you might want from play
  • Mechanisms that assist in focusing on the elements that might produce engaging story
Note that you can have some of these without having them all. Is that Story Now? In some ways it is, in some ways it's not. You can play Nar without a system that supports it, but you'll have to work harder at it. It's like simulationism in D&D, I suppose.

Opinions may differ on what elements of play usually result in engaging story and how to call those elements, but terms bandied about include "premise", "moral dilemma", "tough choices that may cost you something", "finding answers to a question about the human condition", etc. Not all of these are the same, but they can overlap. Exactly what works best for a specific group may vary, I suppose.

Note that I've only recently learned about narrativism, and it was pretty vague at first because everything written about it failed to get to the point. I'm secretly hoping that the above contains the central point I was looking for.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Callan S. on February 19, 2009, 01:20:20 PM
Hi Martijn,

Yeah, as I'd put it, Nar is rigged. Deliberately pushing the planchette towards stuff. Morally ambiguous/shocking/cool stuff.

Which, on a side point, is why I can never understand why people think the SIS decides anything in terms of game options. Once you know the planchette can be moved, how can you ever go back to thinking no one moves it? Though I've considered that like you might know your character might decide to do something, that same principle might be applicable to the inanimate matter in an imagined world. So the dirt and the rocks and the trees, etc are like some big character and their physics are one big characters expression or something (but this really does involve adding some animus to all inanimate objects). But I've gone overboard on this side point!


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Luke on February 19, 2009, 03:02:07 PM
Xen,
I feel like an old man saying this, but you seem to be questing for mechanics that have already been thoroughly explored in roleplaying games, both new and old. Rewarding players for engaging with the system in a manner satisfying to them is pretty standard fare.

Check out games like Prince Valiant, Inspectres, Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures and even Mouse Guard if you're feeling daring.

D&D rewards a specific type of play. You are correct in that analysis. D&D is a good game because of its focus, but D&D is not the only way to play.

-Luke


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: mcv on February 19, 2009, 03:57:42 PM
Yeah, as I'd put it, Nar is rigged. Deliberately pushing the planchette towards stuff. Morally ambiguous/shocking/cool stuff.

Which, on a side point, is why I can never understand why people think the SIS decides anything in terms of game options. Once you know the planchette can be moved, how can you ever go back to thinking no one moves it?

That's a good point, and now that I think about it, I think I enjoy the illusion that nobody is moving the planchette, even when they are.


Title: Re: rpg theory
Post by: Callan S. on February 19, 2009, 05:58:04 PM
That's a fine thing to enjoy! It's like enjoying wrestling as if it were real, even though it's fake. Or enjoying a magic show, even though there isn't magic involved.

One of the agonising things for me is that I can enjoy play as if it events just naturally develop of their own accord. But when I try to say, even here on the forge, that behind the scenes people are just making choices, it's utterly refuted, by and large. It's like when I was a teen and my friends believed wrestling was real/was a real event. Just a few months ago (were all 30+ now) they mentioned it was fake and it was such a relief for me! Because I enjoyed watching it every so often right from teenagerdom, but I never really shared that enjoyment with them because even though we both enjoyed watching the same events, they believed in it, while I merely enjoyed the idea of believing in it (like one enjoys a magic show). We were so close to enjoying the same thing...that's why it's such a relief now. I get the same thing with the roleplay community - people who genuinely believe, rather than enjoy the idea of believing.

Gah, that was meant to be of aid to you, but it's probably more me having a grumble! Hopefully it's of some aid.