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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 05:42:53 AM



Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 05:42:53 AM
I'm new to this forum.  New to game design.  Been playing RPG's for longer than I'd care to admit - well, okay, since Chainmail.

First off, Ron's GNS essay was very well thought out, and provides a great functionalization of terms for the purposes of discussing game design.  I, for one, much appreciate the effort that went into it.

My question or challenge: Can a game design support all three modes?  Is it possible to successfully and equally reward/encourage all three modes in a single game, in the humble opinions of the forum participants?

I get the sense that the answer is no - but correct me if I'm wrong.

Couldn't a game include a sort of 'player pick your own reward system' that would allow the primarly Narrativist player more control and/or encourage/enable him to play in the Director/Author stance, while simultaneously offering the primarily Simulationist encouragement and proivde him rewards for playing in the Actor stance? And so on...

The reason I ask this question - it seems to me that Ron's essay, and the whole premise of G/N/S assumes that a person with a primarily Narrativist interest cannont play well with a person with a primarily Gamist interest or with a person who is primarly interested in Simulationism.  This has not been my experience.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2002, 06:18:44 AM
Hi there,

Welcome to the Forge!

This question has been asked before, as you can imagine I'm sure. The main men to suffer and struggle with it the most are:

Mike Holmes, co-author/designer of Universalis
M.J. Young, co-author/designer of Multiverser
Fang Langford, co-author/designer of Scattershot

You can see in the titles of their games the effort to include as much variety of application as possible, and I strongly recommend visiting the relevant forums and websites, as well as entering into dialogues with them.

Your suggestion about reward systems, for instance, is right in line with Rules Gimmicks for Universalis and some of the neat Experience Dice (so-called) approaches in Scattershot.

I've participated in literally years of GNS discussion with these folks (less in Fang's case, but equally meaty). I think the main insight, and correct me if I'm wrong, gentlemen, comes in two parts:

1) ... that a game that includes a customizable mechanism or potential to focus play in a GNS sense without breaking the system is certainly possible. Fang coined the word "Transition" to describe the behavior and associated game design.

2) ... that all three modes of play are not possible for a given person at a given time, and that systems attempting to promote this goal (usually with say a Simulationist event-resolution, Gamist reward system, and semi-Narrativist metagame context) tend to break down quickly.

[I mildly also suggest that even a "twosie" combination in design tends to let one of the two "horses" do most of the driving.]

Some other threads to check out include:
GNS and "congruency" (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1733) and pretty much anything else featuring input by Walter (wfreitag)
Different goals at different scales of play (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=18503)
Model proposition (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=16134)

And just in case, Seven major misconceptions about GNS (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1578).

Can anyone help me find the stuff about the "atomic" discussion of GNS decisions? That seems right in line with the issues being raised.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Valamir on September 10, 2002, 06:29:48 AM
Dramatism, what is it (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1723&start=0)

I think is the thread you were looking for.


Title: Yes...and thanks for the response...
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 06:32:54 AM
Yes,

As I've been trolling the Forge forums over the last couple of hours, I've begun to answer my own question - to an extent.

I understand that the premise of G/N/S explicitly states that most players are going to prefer one of the modes for any given instance - and in fact will probably skew toward one of the three modes most of the time and enjoy games that support that mode more than games that don't.

I guess the problem I'm having may be one of experience.  I've been playing with the same group for ~10 years now, and we've got representatives of all three prefered modes of play.

Yet we usually manage to have gaming experiences that, on balance, are satisfying for everyone involved.  Not that each experience is as satisfying for each player - but that on balance we seem to have unconsciously incorporated enough elements from all three modes of play that each mode had it's 'moment' during the session.

I'm in the beginning stages of designing my own game system (which is what brought me to the Forge in the first place).

The system heavily supports Narrative styles of play, with a strong secondary focus on Simulationist styles of play (a so-called hybrid).  Would it be worth my time to pick up copies of the games you mentioned in order to see how to handle this issue of 'transition'?

I'll check out the threads you highlighted.  Thanks again for the reply.


Title: Thanks
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 06:36:26 AM
Quote from: Valamir
Dramatism, what is it (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1723&start=0)

I think is the thread you were looking for.


Valamir,  thanks for the link.  I really do know how to use the search feature, I was just impatient and lazy.  I read the G/N/S essay just recently and it started a lot of unbidden thinking - and I wanted my answers *NOW* rather than having to work for them.

In any event, thanks for the link, I'll check it out.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 10, 2002, 06:41:19 AM
To extend a bit on what Ron is saying, lets look at the systems he mentioned.

Multiverser was the first of these, and MJ, early on, claimed that his design encouraged all three simultaneously. I cannot remember the full course of the discussion, but his argument had to do with the ingenious structure of the game which the players switch worlds when they die (hence the title). In any case, it's the only case that I know of where anyone has suggested that the Setting (or metasetting in this case) was designed to accomplish this functionally.

OTOH, there were a lot of people who said that in fact it was mostly just Sim with touches of the other two modes. As always with these things it's a matter of perespective. But I while I don't think that MJ's game actually promotes all three at any one time (generally thought to be impossible), it's structure certainly does offer oportunities to do any of the three at different times. Such that if you don't mind small doses of certain modes (or like all three as I do), you will definitely enjoy the game. From that POV. I can't speak to the mechanics in action, as I have not actually played.

Next we have Fang's long standing project, Scattershot. His theory is that by allowing people to tweak the reward mechanic in use, that they can select play that is in whatever mode they want. When this is done by changing the rules in other systems this is called "drift" (as one is drifting away from the mode supported by the rules as written). Since this is a designed mechanic in Scattershot, Fang came up with a new term for it, Transition. That is, the game Transitions to the player's desired mode by use of the rules instead of their replacement (or ommission as is often the case in drift). The effectiveness of this has yet to be seen, however, as the game is still incomplete. Though the rules to enable the Transition are mostly done (and seem to make some sense), only inthe context of the game as a whole will we be able to see whether it will work or not.

But the thory exists, and seems to make sense.

And finally the game written by Ralph Mazza and myself, Universalis. All this game does is facilitate rules changes in play. Which means that, yes, if you can create a rule that will facilitate a mode of play (and people do), that you can Drift the game to where you like. I say this is still Drift, as the rules only facilitate the change, and it's the change that creates the effect (not the facilitating rule). As such I wouldn't say that the game can Transition, but that it legitimizes and empowers Drift to such an extent that the effect is much like Transition. In fact, as we post add-ons to the game, well thought out additions to the rules that you can plug in, the game gets closer and closer to beig Transitional, and has that effect n all but techniocal description (the actual mode supporting rules are not in the book, just the rules to adopt them).

That's about it. A lot of people who do not understand the modes odel well will claim that their game supports all three modes simultaneously (it's almost part of the definition that this is not possible). But they may have a true calim that their game has support for all three modes in an incoherant fashion. Whether or not this is an advantage or not is the subject of quite a bit of debate.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2002, 06:50:17 AM
Hi there,

The three games I mentioned are excellent resources for a "customization" style design, in GNS terms. Scattershot tends to favor shifting toward Narrativism or Gamism in a nifty covert sort of way; Multiverser, in my view (not everyone's), tends to work from a strong Simulationist base; Universalis is a bit too wonky to summarize easily in this regard.

The game I'd recommend checking out first, though, is actually The Riddle of Steel. My GNS comments about it are available in my review (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/reviews/review.php?id=20_0_5_0). Even though I consider it a "successful hybrid" design, you can see really strong instances of both Narrativist and Simulationist Drift across all the discussions in its forum.

One dinky thing ... You wrote,
"it seems to me that Ron's essay, and the whole premise of G/N/S assumes that a person with a primarily Narrativist interest cannont play well with a person with a primarily Gamist interest or with a person who is primarly interested in Simulationism."

This actually doesn't represent my views or the essay's text very well at all. I'm pointing out a source of contention or dissatisfaction during play that does appear frequently - which is very different from (a) classifying humans 1:1 with GNS or (b) stating that such interests can never work together. "Coherence," as defined in the essay, does not mean "single GNS mode" - although I do contend that focusing on one mode is a pretty reliable way to be Coherent.

Another major issue at work is that GNS represents only one level in a multi-level model - what might be called the "Edwards Boxes RPG Thing." The biggest box is sociality at the most basic human leve; Exploration is the next box in, and included inside that is GNS. From there the whole thing shifts to "application" and we can start talking about standards & practices of specific play, which brings up rules and so forth.

The reason I'm mentioning this (and I can't find the thread in which I lay it out, except for the Seven Misconceptions one) is that people often think GNS alone is supposed to account for anything and everything to do with role-playing and its succcess or failure, which is not the case.

With that notion in mind, another thread that might be handy, with suitable warnings that it's a trifle dense, is GNS, transaction, and game design (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2508).

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 07:51:21 AM
Mike,

Thanks for the overview of the games.  They all sound interesting.

I've seen lots of press and reviews surrounding Universalis, and it looks like a very interesting, unique game.  I've checked out the website, and I'm still thinking about ordering the game.

Do either Multiverser or Scattershot have websites?


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 07:56:31 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi there,


One dinky thing ... You wrote,
"it seems to me that Ron's essay, and the whole premise of G/N/S assumes that a person with a primarily Narrativist interest cannont play well with a person with a primarily Gamist interest or with a person who is primarly interested in Simulationism."

This actually doesn't represent my views or the essay's text very well at all. I'm pointing out a source of contention or dissatisfaction during play that does appear frequently - which is very different from (a) classifying humans 1:1 with GNS or (b) stating that such interests can never work together. "Coherence," as defined in the essay, does not mean "single GNS mode" - although I do contend that focusing on one mode is a pretty reliable way to be Coherent.

Another major issue at work is that GNS represents only one level in a multi-level model - what might be called the "Edwards Boxes RPG Thing." The biggest box is sociality at the most basic human leve; Exploration is the next box in, and included inside that is GNS. From there the whole thing shifts to "application" and we can start talking about standards & practices of specific play, which brings up rules and so forth.


Ron,

Thanks for the clarification.  I wasn't trying to suggest that G/N/S was designed or should be understood as a labeling tool for gamers.  As I understood the essay, gamers usually prefer one mode of play over the others - based on observation.  

It seems to me that the essay was also saying, at least implicitly, that when a player who favors one mode, and only one mode plays in a group with aother player who prefers a different mode - that either one or the other of them, or potentially both, will be dissatisfied with the experience.  

This dissatisfaction would arise, according to your framework, from the fact that each of these players is expecting the other player to play in accordance with the same mode they prefer.

Does that sound about right?


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2002, 08:14:31 AM
Hey,

Yeah, that works for me. It's a commonly-observed outcome that the play group fractures based on these differing goals. "Common," however, doesn't mean "inevitable."

I suggest that when a GNS-diverse group does work well together, that there may well be compensating mechanisms going on, whether at the whole-social-group level, or at the rules-techniques level, or both.

For example, let's say that Gamist George and Narrativist Nguyen are in a group, and they like each other a lot. OK, first of all, it could be that "congruence" as Walt calls it, is going on - their expression of their preferences simply doesn't impinge on one another's own enjoyment, because they "translate" well in this particular case. George's jockeying for advantage feeds well into Nguyen's desire to address some Narrativist-style premise, and Nguyen's characters' actions tend to set George's up for neat strategy-sessions. All well and good. (Walt, correct me if I'm misrepresenting your ideas.) The compensation is mainly internal, in this case.

Second, it could be that social compensators are going on. George and Nguyen simply "back off" when the other person's goals are prevalent in play in a particular scene. All kinds of possible versions exist: let the other person shine and enjoying it as a spectator, participating in it in the "off" mode (ie Drifting briefly), or just taking time off and not Exploring much at the moment.

Third, it could be that the group has agreed, tacitly or otherwise, that the rules simply don't apply the same way to George and Nguyen. It could be the reward mechanics, or damage mechanics, or whatever. Everyone's cool with this and probably doesn't think twice about it, to the extent that they'll even claim that the game system "supports" the two modes of play.

#1-3 are of course compatible in varying degrees as well.

Of all the games I've played, Champions (especially 3rd edition with 2nd edition supplements, the mid-80s mode) is probably the king game for learning how to develop and implement solutions like the above. It doesn't surprise me at all that the early texts dealing with "player type" and similar issues arose in its supplements and fanzines.

And the final point: In my experience and observation, success in accomplishing any of the above is relatively rare, compared to fizzling and fracturing based specifically on GNS differences.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 10, 2002, 09:14:57 AM
Note Ron's "can happen" attitude, and not "must happen". There will often be cases of players who will be just fine playing with each other's different modes of play, without compensators. They are just very tolerant. Which is fine. As Ron has often said, you can't use GNS to solve a problem that doesn't exist. If your game works fine, then looking for GNS incompatibility is, of course, nonsensical.

GNS does not predict that problems with differing styles of play must occur, it just identifies the nature of thses sorts of problems when such exist.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 09:20:53 AM
Quote from:

GNS does not predict that problems with differing styles of play must occur, it just identifies the nature of thses sorts of problems when such exist.

Mike[/quote


Mike,

Thanks.  Yet another good piece of easy-to-understand clarification.  It's clear that you all care about this stuff and have covered this ground well and before.

So the intent of using G/N/S within the context of design is to help with the issue of coherence, and most people here think that its tough to have a game that is both coherent and equally supportive of all three modes of play.

Also, G/N/S may be used to help identify and explicity talk about dissatisfaction within a gaming group - that may arise out of players differeing expectations vis a vis their preferred mode(s) of play.

This is good stuff.


Title: What, No Simulationism?
Post by: Le Joueur on September 10, 2002, 09:57:16 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
in GNS terms. Scattershot tends to favor shifting toward Narrativism or Gamism in a nifty covert sort of way;

S'funny, the Mechanix Ron's talking about are merely those designed primarily to 'spice up' Simulationism.  Their primary purpose is to become 'more important' when one wants Gamist or Narrativist play; especially to differentiate and keep these two other modes in their 'separate corners.'  When de-emphasized they function more as a 'critical hit table' replacement than anything else.

If I'm reading this right.

Otherwise, everything else everyone has written about Scattershot is spot on; thanks for the positive remarks all!

Fang Langford


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Walt Freitag on September 10, 2002, 11:01:07 AM
Quote from: Ron
For example, let's say that Gamist George and Narrativist Nguyen are in a group, and they like each other a lot. OK, first of all, it could be that "congruence" as Walt calls it, is going on - their expression of their preferences simply doesn't impinge on one another's own enjoyment, because they "translate" well in this particular case. George's jockeying for advantage feeds well into Nguyen's desire to address some Narrativist-style premise, and Nguyen's characters' actions tend to set George's up for neat strategy-sessions. All well and good.


That's a very good description of congruence "in action," as long as the emphasis is on the "doesn't impinge" aspect. They definitional quality of congruence is that the players are not necessarily aware -- and in any case, are not being constantly reminded -- of how their goals differ. While it might appear to require a very unlikely juxtaposition of circumstances for the situation you describe to come about, it becomes less unlikely as constraints such as genre expectations are added.

For example, suppose they are indeed playing Champions. Nguyen's Premise is likely to be something relatively simple and traditional for the genre, such as, "What is the price of power?" Ngunen can regard George's character as a supporting character in Nguyen's character's story, who's simultaneously pursuing his own differently-styled story. And whatever happens to George's character is going to say something, however minor, about Nguyen's Premise. Meanwhile, George can regard Nguyen's play, when it deviates from maximizing effectiveness, as "playing the character's disads," as a way to garner more "good role playing EPs" to add to both characters' effectiveness.

Now, it's possible to imagine going beyond "not impinging" and have the players fully aware of each other's differing priorities but finding that they actually promote each other's goals this way. The George and Nguyen scenario as written could be interpreted that way. Let me add some detail in that direction. Suppose Nguyen finds that George's character's Gamist behavior makes him not just a tolerable supporting character of a type to be expected in the genre, but the perfect literary foil for Nguyen's, more so than if George were actively exploring a Narrativist Premise himeslf. Suppose George finds that Nguyen's Narrativist choices lead to more varied and interesting tactical challenges than they would if Nguyen too were jockeying for tactical advantage. This would no longer be congruence as I defined it; it would be some sort of functional transactional asymmetry.

This type of situation probably isn't as rare as it sounds at first glance, but it is challenging for the GM. For instance, Nguyen's character will be deprotagonized even in George's eyes if not afforder a certain amount of "script immunity" in order to focus on the Premise. George's character will be deprotagonized even in Nguyen's eyes if he is given script immunity. This leads directly to Ron's third option (which would be inimical to true congruence).

GMs probably don't often analyze this consciously (I certainly never did before coming to The Forge) but it would be interesting to ask typical GMs running typical incoherent systems with typical incoherent groups of players, and doing so with apparent success, the following question: Which of the player-characters in your game would it be OK to allow to get killed as a result of a random, fair, but unlucky die roll, and which would it not?" My hypothesis is that at least some of these GMs could and would give specific answers other than "any of them" or "none of them," due to awareness at some level of, and adaptation to, the players' different priorities.

- Walt


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 10, 2002, 11:09:48 AM
www.multiverser.com/

for Multiverser.

For Scattershot the only place that I know of that it's posted is here on the Forge in the Indie Games Forum section.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 10, 2002, 11:29:04 AM
Mike,

Thanks for the link.


Title: Regarding Multiverser
Post by: M. J. Young on September 10, 2002, 10:04:33 PM
I, too, want to thank Mike for providing the link. I try to get here once a day, but it seems everyone else is much more immersed in what's happening on these forums than that.

If there are questions about Multiverser, I do frequent these forums (I'm new here, having been more involved in the discussions maybe two years back when they were elsewhere), trying to keep pace presently with Indie Game Design, GNS Model Discussion, and RPG Theory, so I'll answer anything asked here. There are advantages to asking things over on our official forum at http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?Action=ShowForum&ccurrentforum=83; I get there first every day, pay a bit more attention to every thread, and there are at least a few people there who are also familiar with the game (although I'm not certain how familiar any of them are with the GNS model). You can also reach me by e-mail, ICQ, and AIM; on the last two, I should warn that if I'm here I'm busy doing something, and you probably won't get as full attention as you'd get by other methods.

I would agree with Ron that games which do support all three modes (or goals) do so by shifting between them, hopefully in response to player expectations. Although Multiverser was written without the benefit of GNS discussions, it incorporates a level of flexibility within the rules and relies on the referee often to choose which of several means of resolution will provide the needed balance between accuracy and speed in this particular situation. As a result, it tends to drift between modes in response to player choices. Some of my players are extremely gamist; they only ever play D&D, Multiverser, video games, and MUDs. When they play, they often push the envelope to bring greater challenges, and then scramble to find ways to overcome them--and the game tends to respond to their hopes. Others take a much more story-oriented approach, becoming involved in the lives of the people they meet, finding conflict and resolution in the personal stories. Several are more like me, shifting from one concern to another as the nature of the events move. We run a game on the forum. One of the players, finding himself in the post-war world of The Postman, has built a dam and a sawmill, encouraged others to restore technology in an environmentally sound way, and is currently working on a steam engine and an airship. What happens in the game worlds is very responsive to player choices and expectations most of the time.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
MJ, early on, claimed that his design encouraged all three simultaneously. I cannot remember the full course of the discussion, but his argument had to do with the ingenious structure of the game which the players switch worlds when they die (hence the title). In any case, it's the only case that I know of where anyone has suggested that the Setting (or metasetting in this case) was designed to accomplish this functionally.


It's been a while, and I'm not certain I can remember the details of that discussion myself. However, I should clarify that if "the Setting...was designed to accomplish this" is taken to mean we did so intentionally, that would be overstating things. It would be better stated that the two of us, working from completely opposite poles but having enjoyed gaming together, bumped heads rather solidly in trying to devise a game system that met our goals and stumbled into one that adapted itself, both enabling us to support our own modes of play and causing us to support others. E. R. Jones was very much an illusionist and narrativist when he ran games; although I played with a strong narrativist streak, I tended to run games with strong simulationist and gamist underpinnings. Working together, we learned a lot about how each other thought and how each other did what we did, and although we're still very different as referees, we've come to drift more, and the game reflects that. So if you mean "as designed, the setting supports this", I think that's correct; but we had no idea about GNS at the time and can't be credited with having attempted to do this.

Multiverser also supports rules changes in play by allowing it to interface with other game systems. Because of copyright and trademark issues, we don't do a lot of this publicly; but it is part of the system that a Multiverser character can become a character in any other game system, and thus be governed by the rules of that game while in that world. Multiverser rules remain in effect to fill any "gaps" in the system, but in the main the character is translated into the game world until he dies and so moves on.

In a very real sense, the game is more focused on the characters than anything else. The setting keeps changing, and often several settings will be in play at once. The characters provide the continuity in the game; the stories are very much about them. Because of this, it is often the case that one player will be pursuing very gamist goals while another pursues narrativist or simulationist ones, even in the same place and time, without undue conflict. It may be partially because of that unwritten social contract; it may be partially because everyone enjoys everyone else's adventures. I think largely it's because the game allows every player to make his character whatever he wishes, if he's willing to put the time into doing so.

I had no idea I was going to say this much when I started; but then, in my   mouth all stories are long stories. I hope something here may be helpful.

--M. J. Young


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 11, 2002, 07:52:04 AM
Quick point to M.J.,

Regarding "designer intent," your second description is absolutely on-target in my view. Nothing about GNS relies on the authors using or thinking about the issues at all - my claim is that the issues operate regardless of the authors' awareness of them.

Hence Tunnels & Trolls = astonishing Gamist design; Prince Valiant = astonishing Narrativst design; Jorune = astonishing Simulationist design. Or to take it in another direction, Champions (3rd) = Driftable Incoherent design; Shadowrun = Gamist + Simulationist-helper-hybrid design. I imagine that any of the authors would regard my theorizing as at best interesting, and at worst pinheaded and intrusive ... but I still claim that I'm describing what they're doing very accurately.

Best,
Ron


Title: Question for Ron?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 11, 2002, 10:06:38 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Hence Tunnels & Trolls = astonishing Gamist design; Prince Valiant = astonishing Narrativst design; Jorune = astonishing Simulationist design. Or to take it in another direction, Champions (3rd) = Driftable Incoherent design; Shadowrun = Gamist + Simulationist-helper-hybrid design. I imagine that any of the authors would regard my theorizing as at best interesting, and at worst pinheaded and intrusive ... but I still claim that I'm describing what they're doing very accurately.


Ron,

Having only recently begun to understand G/N/S theory, perhaps you could help with something?

When you rate games (FREX: T&T = Gamist design), do you have a quick shorthand rubrick?

Do games with lots of meta-game tactical chocies, for instance, tend to support Gamist play, while those with lots of defined internally consistent lists of skills and their uses tend to support Simulationist play?

If that's the case, would having both of the above (a Gamist resolution mechanic and a detailed skill and use list) nec. lead to an incoherent design?


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 11, 2002, 11:40:19 AM
Thse things are subjective to an exent. One can discuss and come up with a consensus on what sorts of mechanics support what modes, but only in looking at a game as a whole can one determine what it supports. And that is so compex that subjectivity is unavoidable. That said, one can argue points about a particular system. But defining a particular system with any certainty can be problematic. OTOH, some systems do have a more obvious slant than others.

The criteria you're using sound good, actually, but again would only make sense in the context of analyzing a particular game.

And, as always, remember this is shorthand. When Ron says Gamist design, he's saying a design that best or most consistently supports Gamist play. Not that it can't do other play or anything.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 11, 2002, 11:54:23 AM
Hi there,

What Mike said, pretty much. Plus these points ...

1) I'm not sure it's "subjectivity" so much as difficulty with (say) my perceptions and ability to understand a given system. Ideally, we'd have a lot of people with a strong shared understanding playing a lot of these games, and discussing them with one another, in order to hammer out what the system does and does not facilitate.

2) On the other hand, quite a lot of game-play and some design turns out to be so GNS-focused that all our usual provisos are unnecessary. Wham bam, T&T is a very focused (specific) Gamist design - anyone who thinks differently is probably misunderstanding the game (ie confusing their own Drift for "the game") or misunderstanding GNS.

As Mike says, this assessment arises from observing a variety of aspects of the game system, and most especially their interaction with one another.

3) I've played a lot of RPGs, very critically and also with a strong intent to have a good time. Whether this has left me with a good 'eye' for GNS issues in design, well, that's something everyone who reads my stuff with have to decide for themselves. I can't claim any kind of infallible GNS-o-meter ability. Again, what I'd really like is for folks to compare instances of play and talk about them with GNS (and other) stuff in mind, which is pretty much how the Actual Play and RPG Theory forums can reinforce one another.

4) I try to avoid classifying a game without playing it - any time I mention a game, and if someone asks, and if I haven't played it, then I have to say, "All this is speculative." The more play, the better for the assessment, of course, especially if I'm being careful not to tweak things more to my liking.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Valamir on September 11, 2002, 12:15:42 PM
Quote
The more play, the better for the assessment, of course, especially if I'm being careful not to tweak things more to my liking.


This last point is especially important, and the primary reason why many "Game X is _____-ist" discussions wind up more arguementative than fruitful.

All of us have our favored games, and all of us have our favored ways to play, and so all of us (especially those of us who are often GMs) drift our favorite games to suit our preferred style of play either overtly (with houserules and the like) or covertly, often without even realizing we do it.

In other words what you play when you play Game X may be noticeably different from what I play when I play Game X, both of which may differ significantly from Game X "as written".

Its usually best to try and discuss a game "as written" because that's the only standard that everyone has equal access to, but its often hard for favorite games to seperate that out.

But, barring all of the difficulties, such discussions can provide interesting insights...especially as to the nature of drift.  If we can agree that "as written" Game X best supports A-ist play, but you've managed to drift it successfully towards B-ist play, and I've managed to drift it successfully to C-ist play (or drift it unsuccessfully) than some interesting discussions can be had.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on September 11, 2002, 12:29:55 PM
Quote from: Valamir
Quote
But, barring all of the difficulties, such discussions can provide interesting insights...especially as to the nature of drift.  If we can agree that "as written" Game X best supports A-ist play, but you've managed to drift it successfully towards B-ist play, and I've managed to drift it successfully to C-ist play (or drift it unsuccessfully) than some interesting discussions can be had.


This is an interesting point, as it brings the discussion around full-circle.

My hypothesis:
A game can be focused, or unfocused. Note that neither of these categories require the author's knowledge of GNS - solely that the author either focuses a game towards a certain play style or not.

Coherence does fit into this - an unfocused game will almost always be incoherent. However, an incoherent game can be focused on one play style for the majority of it, and then have some incoherent rules jammed in it. (I think Dying Earth is a prime example of this sort of game.)

Anyway, the games that we normally think of as commercially successful are often unfocused. By not concentrating on any play style, they open themselves up to be drifted easily into a play style. As I often do, I'd use D&D (3rd edition) for an example of this. It doesn't really have a play style, and in fact gives options on several parts of it to support various play styles (read the experience section of the DM's Guide - traditional D&D experience vs. story awards.)

I can pretty much guarantee that no two games of D&D are played exactly the same, barring some RPGA madness. It's easily driftable, and is thereby giving a better chance at success when success equals "a lot of people playing it." Whether or not those people are happy with it is a different issue (and in that arena, I'd wager highly focused games are more successful.)


Title: How does Scattershot 'Do All Three?'
Post by: Le Joueur on September 11, 2002, 02:14:18 PM
Sorry this is so late (everybody else posted their games' descriptions earlier).  Better late than never.

Scattershot

The overall game is based on what the group expects from the genre the play in (the Genre Expectations) and the desires of the players for their characters (Sine Qua Non).  Both literally drip with player-engaging character and go so far as to fuel and respond to the Experience Dice Mechanix.  One of the best effects of the Genre Expectations is they give play an 'instantaneous reading' of what level of 'epic scope' it is running (this keeps things 'on track' especially during things like pulp fantasy continuous escalation).  And Genre Expectations go a long way towards eliminating the 'this game is so huge, where do I start?' problem

The game also offers personalized versions of the Genre Expectations that can afford things like Destinies or personal Motifs (the forgetful spellcaster who constantly remembers just the right spell at the last moment or a character who constantly benefits from their alliances).

Scattershot uses a sometimes-aggressive Design-in-Play feature.  Players can give or take advantages and disadvantages to their characters at almost any time.  This can be long forgotten alliances or newly gotten friends, it can be recently acquired artifacts or sudden inspirations or 'hidden talents,' it's all moderated by the expenditure of Experience Dice.  (Note: to 'buy off' a disadvantage requires appropriate In-Character activity and development in the Sine Qua Non.)

What Makes It Go?

The 'motor' that make Scattershot run is the Experience Dice Mechanix.  There are five ways to get Experience Dice, Keepers, Gimmes, Freebies, Loaners, and 'Buy Back.'  Keepers come when you do something 'cool' in the game or 'drive play' into the Genre Expectations; these you can keep and use later for anything you want.  You get Gimmes when your character suffers from one of their disadvantages, the Genre Expectations are supposed to dump on the character, or you 'catch someone out' at following the Genre Expectations (if you 'fix the problem' In-Character, you get even more as Payback); you keep these too.  You get Freebies to use whenever your character is at the advantage (as listed on their character sheet and in their Sine Qua Non) or when you 'go with the flow' of the Genre Expectations; they can only be used at that time.  Loaners come out your 'karmic bank account' and those you use them 'against' must save them and use them 'against you' later.  You get 'Buy Back' when you can 'buy off' an advantage or disadvantage during the game; each point becomes one Experience Dice (this relates directly to the DiP features).

Part of the Genre Expectation involves what kind of Approach is expected 'at the table.'  If you're using the GNS, then aggressive competitive play could be part of the Genre Expectations when using Gamism.  People are expected to use their Experience Dice to further their goals; you can play for a lot of Experience Dice (monty haul style) or for a little (just to 'see them sweat') as noted in the group's play style.  On the other hand, if you're going Simulationist, expect the Experience Dice to flow in that direction (if hardly at all, depending on what kind of Simulationism you're following).  Finally, if you want Narrativism, just think of every Experience Dice as your own personal plot device (a handful then becomes deus ex machina).  Really, how you use them is that flexible and largely covered somewhere in the Genre Expectations.

Now the Mechanix Ron referred to (I think) are the Critical Threshold number Mechanix.  The Critical Threshold is chosen at the beginning of play; what it does is limit 'how big' a result gets (in the resolution Mechanix) before the game 'jumps' to player-defined-Detail mode.  For example, if you roll to see how well you cook a meal and you exceed the Critical Threshold in the positives, you've just blown the socks off your audience (and like everything else in the game, they have to decide what effect that has beyond the numbers).  Let's say you exceed the Critical Threshold (positively, this called a Telling Blow) with an attack in combat; now the victim is compelled to describe in Detail some kind of lasting impact that the blow delivers (beyond just the damage done).  What if you exceed the Critical Threshold picking a lock negatively?; they you describe exactly what happens as a result of the "Catastrophic Failure" (it might even include incarceration).

Now the 'either-or' effect Ron mentions works something like this.  If you crank the Critical Threshold number up high, it rarely comes up (and when it does you can do things like convert some of the effect number, called a MIB, into things like crippling injuries and such) and things tend to get a little Gamist.  If you turn the Critical Threshold way down, it comes up a lot; this compels lots of 'significant effects on the character' and that's often good 'grist' for the Narrativist 'mill.'  However, these are merely tendancies; I've seen one group (while doing the 'test to destruct' on our combat system) playing arena combat with the Critical Threshold really low to get lots of blood and 'crits.'  Likewise, as I've pointed out on a number of occasions, exceeding the Threshold only compels narrative interpretation (as opposed to numerical); actually, you can do the same any time your character is on the receiving end of anything.

Conflict

While I am going to describe this in the familiar terms of 'combat,' Scattershot's Conflict resolution scheme works just as well for car chases, court cases, and military engagements.  Most playtesters use this at the single-action, first-person level, but the system is designed to allow both of these divisions to be broaden (all the way out to multiple-war, national level).  Most melee is handled at the single-action, first-person level, also called 'blow by blow' combat.  Scattershot is set up with three levels of Mechanix to allow for more user flexibility without the runaway effect of multiple 'optional rules;' they are Basic, Intermediate (also called Tournament level), and Advanced (not terribly surprising, but that's part of the charm).

Basic Scattershot combat is largely defined, from engagement to engagement, by whoever gains or maintains Combat Advantage (the method of tracking situation-based residual penalties).  Few choice Flurries of Actions are listed (such as Parry/Riposte) and Hit Location is completely abstracted.  The effects of damage are completely up to the victim.

Intermediate Scattershot combat is largely defined, from engagement to engagement, by whatever Actions were performed earlier in a 'flurry.'  Flurries of Actions are the primary concern at this level, allowing almost instantaneous trading of multiple blows (treated as a singular action).  The functional 'body postures' are dependant upon the most immediate prior engagement.  Martial Arts 'scripts' for flurries, where available, are at more of a menu approach, if any are given.

Advanced Scattershot combat is largely defined by some extra attention to how blows affect the victim (rather than the damage).  Also the various Martial Arts have limited sets of potential Following Actions (conforming to listed scripts or menus) with an accent on cinematic combat.  While hit location is tracked for shock, pain, sudden death possibility, and loss of Combat Advantage, in the form of residual penalties, the exact nature of wounds are still left to the imagination of the victim.

All levels of Scattershot Combat afford a player two Actions (per Turn) to manage.  The complication lie in the choice of Forfeiting one's Action to respond in defense (to an engagement) or falling back on 'Free Actions.'  Order of Turns is rigidly around-the-table (the needs usually fulfilled by complicated initiative systems are met by the Combat Advantage Mechanix); this simplifies greatly what becomes complicated or tedious in some games.  And Hit Points don't track alive-or-deadness, but the capability for physically intense actions; what actually 'knocks ya down' is a combination of proprietor choice and using up-front group chosen conditions.

Only as much detail is used as the group decides when they first begin to play the game or between sessions as their Approach to play and group style develops.  One of the guiding principals has been to work towards a high degree of 'immediacy' to engage the players.  The different levels work based largely on the group's needs for Detail and how well they 'internalize' the 'earlier' information.

The attack/defense dynamic is driven by how players choose to respond to Actions resolved prior to their turn (by Forfeit or Free Action) as well as what kinds of Combat Advantages are in effect.  This causes the players to do the thinking rather than letting the dice do it for them.  Currently I am seeking consultants that I may make the Martial Arts descriptions and scripts as accurate as possible; we are also working with a number of sources to group medieval weaponry by historical use rather than arbitrary choices.

One thing that comes back, again and again, is how flexible the Experience Dice Mechanix are.  In combat, they can be used to simulate passion or drive, dramatic intensity/necessity, or just plain player-competitiveness; it all depends on what kinds of Approaches are being explicitly practiced and that gets rolled into the Genre Expectations or group play style.  Taken with detail similar to The Riddle of Steel, Scattershot could theoretically support any GNS mode tendancy.  It still depends on how well I design and write it.

Fang Langford


Title: Re: How does Scattershot 'Do All Three?'
Post by: deadpanbob on September 11, 2002, 05:12:33 PM
Quote from: Le Joueur
Sorry this is so late...

...Scattershot could theoretically support any GNS mode tendancy.  It still depends on how well I design and write it.

Fang Langford


First, don't be sorry.  Per your suggestion I took a look at the stuff you've posted so far in the Indie Design forums.

It looks really good so far, at least conceptually.  It definitely has the feel of a game that could be both coherent, and focused, and potentially encourage all three modes of play.

I'm looking forward to seeing your progress.  I know it will be slow going, but try not to let that get you down.  I'm working on a game too, not nearly as ambitious as yours, and real life keeps intruding.  If only my hopes of acheiving the Myth of roleplaying design hadn't been skewered by that crunchy bits article...

Cheers.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 11, 2002, 05:27:36 PM
Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon


Coherence does fit into this - an unfocused game will almost always be incoherent. However, an incoherent game can be focused on one play style for the majority of it, and then have some incoherent rules jammed in it. (I think Dying Earth is a prime example of this sort of game.)...

...Whether or not those people are happy with it is a different issue (and in that arena, I'd wager highly focused games are more successful.)


Clinton,

So wouldn't it then be possible to create a game that is unfocused (in the narrow sense of not zeroing in on full on support or preferential support of any of the three G/N/S modes) and yet still coherent?

This is where the critical language breaks down for me a little bit.  I know that the core hypothesis of the G/N/S model is that all games - as written - tend to support certain modes of play overall.  Also, that only games that are focused on supporting (either consciously or unconsciously) a single mode of play are truly coherent.

But if a designer goes into the game with the intention of trying to provide mechanical support in equal measure for each of the three modes of play, couldn't they manage to make a coherent game in the broader sense of the term? (in this sense I mean internally consistent, logically constructed, deductively presented)

I mean, I look at all the material for Scattershot, and it seems like a lot of these core ideas are there.  Same could be siad for Multiverser.  I havn't purchased Multiverser yet, but I probably will.  Scattershot isn't really written yet, so it remains to be seen.  But nonetheless, it seems at least like there are some people who frequent the Forge who are trying to overcome the G/N/S divide - in a sense, to those of us who are latecomers here and don't know the timing of things, they seem to be rising to an unspoken challenge in Ron's essay: you can't create the universal roleplaying game, so don't try.

Again, I'm trying to write a game myself.  Until about a week ago, when I stumbled on the Forge, I thought I was writing a 'universal game' with some pretty innovative ideas.  Hah!  Looking through some of the stuff and discussion here has really opened my eyes.

Not that I've decided to wholheartedly adopt the G/N/S theory, but if I did, I have to now classify my game as heavily Narrativist and heavily Gamist, with little in the way of satisfying or rewarding mechanics for simulationist.  And that's a change from two or three days ago, when upon my second read of G/N/S I realized that what *I* was thinking of as simulationist was actually gamist in the terms of the theroy!

But I still don't want the universal dream to die.  I am about 40%N/40%G/20%S in my personal play style.  I want a game that can handle all three, to at least this degree.  My main goal, in fact, is the ability to use my homebrew system for the majority of my RPG needs.

Sure, I'll never give up on buying new games (the feeling of making a new character for the first time in a brand new-to-me RPG...almost nothing like it...)

Well, I've rambled enough...so I'll close with this: the dream of making a universal roleplaying game that will garner me the respect of millions of adoring gaming fans is sooo seductive that I may be unable to relenquish it from cold, bony hand...

Cheers.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 12, 2002, 05:57:06 AM
Quote from: deadpanbob

So wouldn't it then be possible to create a game that is unfocused (in the narrow sense of not zeroing in on full on support or preferential support of any of the three G/N/S modes) and yet still coherent?
Absolutely. Look at, say, The World, The Flesh and The Devil by Paul Czege. Absolutely coherent Narrativist design, but does not focus on anything. Any "generic", "universal", or "premise injectable" game is likely "unfocused". That is, the mechanics do not look at any one thing very specifically.

Coherence refers to GNS. Focus refers to subject matter. Does that help?

Quote
But if a designer goes into the game with the intention of trying to provide mechanical support in equal measure for each of the three modes of play, couldn't they manage to make a coherent game in the broader sense of the term? (in this sense I mean internally consistent, logically constructed, deductively presented)
Not by these definitions. One could make a very focused, yet very incoherent game. That would be a game that, for example, looked very closely at being a spy in a world of international intrigue, and ignored that which wasn't about being a spy n such a setting. But then had rules that support Gamism and Simulationism in equal amounts, perhaps. That would be Focused, but Incoherent. Note how Focused means "Ignoring that which does not pertain" as much as looking at the subject matter in detail.

Quote
I mean, I look at all the material for Scattershot, and it seems like a lot of these core ideas are there.  Same could be siad for Multiverser.  I havn't purchased Multiverser yet, but I probably will.  Scattershot isn't really written yet, so it remains to be seen.
These are both Unfocused designs. Multiverser is arguably incoherent. Both however, have elements of Transition. Which is an attempt to make Incoherence more functional.


Quote
But nonetheless, it seems at least like there are some people who frequent the Forge who are trying to overcome the G/N/S divide - in a sense, to those of us who are latecomers here and don't know the timing of things, they seem to be rising to an unspoken challenge in Ron's essay: you can't create the universal roleplaying game, so don't try.
Oh, there is certaily a will to create this Uber game. I myself am subject to such ideas. The question is not whether or not people want such a game; they do. The question is whether or not such a game can be made, and made functional. Such that people enjoy the play, and in fact enjoy it more because of the nature as the Uber game.

Note that Universal, is definitely impossible. I'll bet you can't make a game that accurately portrays the Way that Fromabits Comnbabulate the Scovulator. There will always be something that your system does not do satisfactorily for some player. And as the definition of Universal (per GURPS) means supports ALL styles of play, then no game is truely Universal.

Which is not to say that I'm against "Universal" style games. Um, that's what Universalis is to an extent. It's just that I recognize that such games are inferior to games that are focused on specific things when playing about those specific things, and that the play produced by such games is not in actuality "Universal". Moe likely it's Generic, meaning able to be used at least somewhat effectively in any "Genre". If not most effectively.

The Usefulness of such Generic games is in allowing the GM to pick a focus, one that may not exist in other games. And to a much lesser extent the idea that you don't have to reteach rules (this is not, IMO, a big asset).

Quote
I am about 40%N/40%G/20%S in my personal play style.  I want a game that can handle all three, to at least this degree.  My main goal, in fact, is the ability to use my homebrew system for the majority of my RPG needs.
Well, try the incoherent design, and let us see what you have. We can point out what might be the pitfalls of such a design. OTOH, if it's just for personal use, it might serve you perfectly well designed that way.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2002, 06:07:38 AM
Hey 'bob,

Quick clarifier - you wrote:
"Also, that only games that are focused on supporting (either consciously or unconsciously) a single mode of play are truly coherent."

Ah, nope ... nope, that's over-stated. Coherence includes functional hybrids. The most extreme I'll go is to say (1) single-mode GNS focus is more reliable toward generating Coherence, and (2) all-three mode GNS "focus" usually breaks apart very quickly.

Another point is that strictly speaking, Coherence and similar terms all apply to actual play, rather than to design. I'm assuming everyone in this thread is mentally editing "facilitates Coherence during actual play" onto "Coherent" when we talk about design.

Now, as to your point, I'm on record for while now in saying that a lot of Gamism and Narrativism have huge areas of functional/play/rules overlap. That's not hard to understand, because these modes of play are defined by "real person agenda" at the metagame level. If mechanics exist to permit that agenda to "interfere" with in-game-world events (some of my language here is a bit Sim), then shifting agenda with the same mechanics isn't very hard.

So Scattershot's customization-potential regarding Gamist and Narrativist play makes perfect sense to me. However (and pending more info abou the game), I wonder whether Scattershot can "cohere" toward or into Simulationist play, rather than spin off into Gamist or Narrativist play. I grasp how it can do the latter (and in fact I rather like its sneakiness in doing so), but the former still seems pretty iffy to me - what an evolutionary biologist would call an "unstable strategy," without self-sustaining properties.

Best,
Ron

P.S. "Focus" as a term seems to have crept into discussions lately without the loincloth of a definition to hide its bare ass. Mike seems rather certain of its definition, but perhaps that's worthy of a thread in Theory some time.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 12, 2002, 06:47:36 AM
Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
Anyway, the games that we normally think of as commercially successful are often unfocused. By not concentrating on any play style, they open themselves up to be drifted easily into a play style. As I often do, I'd use D&D (3rd edition) for an example of this. It doesn't really have a play style, and in fact gives options on several parts of it to support various play styles (read the experience section of the DM's Guide - traditional D&D experience vs. story awards.)

I can pretty much guarantee that no two games of D&D are played exactly the same, barring some RPGA madness. It's easily driftable, and is thereby giving a better chance at success when success equals "a lot of people playing it." Whether or not those people are happy with it is a different issue (and in that arena, I'd wager highly focused games are more successful.)


I agree with your conclusion, but not with how you got there. That is, D&D is almost necessarily drifted. And not easy to drift, either. It's done because without drifting, some peeople are guarunteed a bad time. But it's horribly difficult to do, IMO. Almost any other system is more easily drifted, IMO. That is because the origianl incoherency is so deeply embedded that it often takes a lot of work and or attempts to make the changes necessary to get the mode you want. Often the results, in the interrim are worse than the "undrifted" version.

This isn't to say that people haven't become rather adept at drifting D&D, in fact, they have. But again, this is a result of its popularity, and the fact that people cling to it beyond all reason. D&D is not popular because it's design is easily driftable, but in spite of it.

The popularity of D&D comes from the fact that it was first and has since been the beneficiary of the "Incumbent" effect. That and the strange assumption that people have that D&D is an easy system. I can personally think of few as complex. What it is, is familiar. People who have invested themselves in being good at D&D don't want to have to switch systems assuming (incorrectly) that they will have to invest as much or more effort into learning the new system. The perspective that Other games are more complex occurs because people are so canalized into D&D terminology and thinking that they actually do have trouble assimilating new systems.

All eroneous thinking, IMO.

D&D does what it does fairly well, IMO, but if you want to play in a different mode, it is much easier to switch systems than it is to drift D&D. Ayhow, the outcome is the same as what you describe, displeased players. My theory explains why, however.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 12, 2002, 07:07:58 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hey 'bob,

Ah, nope ... nope, that's over-stated. Coherence includes functional hybrids. The most extreme I'll go is to say (1) single-mode GNS focus is more reliable toward generating Coherence, and (2) all-three mode GNS "focus" usually breaks apart very quickly.

Another point is that strictly speaking, Coherence and similar terms all apply to actual play, rather than to design. I'm assuming everyone in this thread is mentally editing "facilitates Coherence during actual play" onto "Coherent" when we talk about design.


Ron,

I'll get there eventually in my understanding of G/N/S as a critical taxonomy.  It may take me several years, but I'll get there.

But, your response raises a couple of other questions - specifically this notion of "facilitates X during actual play" bothers me a bit.  Unless we limit our discussions to also include "as written" tags or "as played by me" tags, we can introduce some confusion, can't we?

I mean, the critical language of G/N/S doesn't preclude me from having the opinion that when I paly Champions that it facilitates Coherence during play, as I play it - even if everyone else on these boards feels otherwise.

It's difficult for me to seperate out these issues: how my personal preferences/filters/experiences/skills as a GM (mostly) and a Player tend to facilitate Drift within a given game toward my favored mode(s) of play for any given instance of play vs. how the mechanics of the game as written tend to facilitate these things.

I have read many posts by individuals here stating that G/N/S evaluation of rules/mechanics are dicey (excuse the pun) at best when attempted without the context of a Premise.  However, I keep going back to the idea that certain mehcanical structures within the game explicity support a given mode of play, as written in the game.

These mechanics may do so incoherently, or in a way that lacks focus, or they may be clunky, poorly executed or have loopholes large enough to drive a truck through - but I can't see a meta-game mechanic of any sort supporting Simulationist play.

I am sure it is merely the limitations of my own stunted intellectual horizons, but I'm stuck thinking that a realtively objective rubrick for judging how mechanic x support play style y should be acheivable.

Cheers,
Jason


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2002, 07:37:37 AM
Hi Jason,

The only solutions are as follows.

1) Practice self-critique and critical reading, so that when we do Drift or otherwise interpret game texts to increase our own satisfaction during play, we know it. That's why "as written" shows up so often as a qualifier in the discussions, and I think that's a good thing.

Good recent example: Vincent talking about his InSpectres play in Actual Play forum, being very clear about whether the Premise [which is in the text] matched what they ended up doing, and using other games for comparison and clarification.

Obviously, play overrides text in terms of "having fun," so no discussion of this sort is about "being faithful" or "purer" forms of play in terms of following the text.

2) During discussions, reinforce the necessary reader-perspective of translating "Gamist player," "Gamist play," and "Gamist design" into the appropriate long-hand versions, throughout all the discussions. It's a minor hump that newcomers to the Forge pretty much have to get over, I think, but considering that doing so actually clears up a lot of concerns, it's worth taking the time to do so.

3) Recognize that conclusions here generally result from corrroboration. It takes a lot of dialogue and multiple instances of play and discussion of play to arrive at them. Most references to (say) Vampire are based on a lot of discussion, some of it dissenting, rather than on just me saying "I played it and that's how it is."

Part of this idea is based on the notion of productive discourse. If I critique my play of Champions, and you critique yours, and if we can communicate about that relative to the same game texts, then our different behaviors can be made sensible in terms of the Forge theory-vocabulary.

This method also admits that variation is possible; that not everyone has to experience the play of a given game the same in order for its text to be classifiable. Sort of the "close enough for government work" idea.

It also leaves every conclusion open for further investigation. "Hey, you guys all say that GURPS is a big Sim game, but lookit the point-balance rules - how does that fit in?" And then we discuss that, as well as experiences during play, and so on.

Best,
Ron


Title: On Focus
Post by: M. J. Young on September 12, 2002, 09:41:31 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
"Focus" as a term seems to have crept into discussions lately without the loincloth of a definition to hide its bare ass. Mike seems rather certain of its definition, but perhaps that's worthy of a thread in Theory some time.


I was thinking something very like that.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Coherence refers to GNS. Focus refers to subject matter.


I can understand this use of focus to refer to subject matter. It is probably useful to have a way to discuss what a game is about, particularly in terms of what it attempts to explore. In that sense, you could say that little fears has a very tight focus, as it only explores the fears of children. I'm not sure under what circumstance you would be able to say that a game is unfocused in this sense. GURPS arguably has as its focus an attempt to model any universe; D&D has as its focus creating fantasy adventures. A game might, I suppose, be unfocused if it was not at all clear to anyone what the game was about, or if it seemed to be about several unrelated things for which no connection was apparent.

Jargon (and, after all, what we are doing is creating jargon) is useful insofar as it improves communication. It does so by giving us terms of art, words that have a meaning narrower in the mouths of those in the field than to others, so that by saying "Narrativist design" we understand it to mean the rather longer statement "designed such as to facilitate play that pursues narrativist objectives" (or something to that effect). But jargon loses value when it removes words from our vocabularies which we need in order to express other ideas for which we lack better words. Bob clearly was using focus within the confines of GNS:

Quote from: Dead Pan Bob
So wouldn't it then be possible to create a game that is unfocused (in the narrow sense of not zeroing in on full on support or preferential support of any of the three G/N/S modes) and yet still coherent?


He had every reason to use it that way; it was being so used by others:

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
Coherence does fit into this - an unfocused game will almost always be incoherent. However, an incoherent game can be focused on one play style for the majority of it, and then have some incoherent rules jammed in it. (I think Dying Earth is a prime example of this sort of game.)...


If we limit the use of focus to mean what is the game about, then we can't effectively use it to talk about a game that focuses on a stye of play in a GNS sense. We lose a word. That would be all right, if it's not a word we often used and there are obvious substitutes for it; but I can't think of a way to say focused on one play style without that word, without some awkward construction.

I think that a Game Focus certainly exists; but I think that a GNS focus also exists, and there may be other foci related to games, such as a mechanics focus, a stance focus, a mood focus. I don't know what you would call some of these things if you remove focus from the general to the special vocabulary.

--M. J. Young


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: M. J. Young on September 12, 2002, 10:11:22 AM
I guess I just move a bit too slowly to keep up with these forums. I get called away for a couple hours in the middle of writing a post, and the discussion just moves beyond what I was saying into new areas.

Quote from: Dead Pan Bob
But, your response raises a couple of other questions - specifically this notion of "facilitates X during actual play" bothers me a bit. Unless we limit our discussions to also include "as written" tags or "as played by me" tags, we can introduce some confusion, can't we?

I mean, the critical language of G/N/S doesn't preclude me from having the opinion that when I paly Champions that it facilitates Coherence during play, as I play it - even if everyone else on these boards feels otherwise.


I know a guy who ran a reasonably popular RPG site and wrote a few good articles in the field who admits that he doesn't really care what the system of a game is when he buys it, as in the end he always runs every game pretty much the same using house rules and mechanics he's cobbled together over many years of play. It works smoothly for him, because he doesn't have to think about the mechanics. It's a bit like buying a hundred games to pirate parts for GURPS play. But it obviously is not a bit like playing the game he bought.

That's an extreme example. There aren't a lot of people who would actually think they could evaluate a game by running it with their own system and ignoring the game engine. On the other hand, even Gary Gygax has admitted that there are rules in OAD&D that he doesn't use, and although I'm very by-the-book in that game, there are rules I don't use. But the question is, at what point does that mean you aren't really playing that game? If I say that the armor adjustments by weapon type of OAD&D are too cumbersome in play and don't add anything to the game, how much difference does that make to the essentials of the game? D&D is a particularly good game for this. How many people have thrown out alignment? How many argue about whether or not Unearthed Arcana rules should be included?

In the end, what most people play in most games, once they're familiar with them, is a patched version. They've developed their own patches. That's why you might find that a particular game works for you which everyone else says doesn't work.

A discussion of the merits of a game system really have to be "as written"; the value of "as patched by me" might be useful, in the sense that you might say "there is a lot of good in this game that can be salvaged by making these changes". But such patches inevitably place the bias of the patchmaker onto the system. A game that incoherently combines gamist and narrativist support such that players find themselves working for different aspects or being rewarded for actions contrary to those which facilitate what might have been thought the clear goals of the game can be "fixed" by 1) removing the support for one of the competing modes or 2) finding a way to subordinate one goal to the other or 3) finding a way to balance the two goals during play. But which of these you do will reflect not the game system but your preferences. It could be easier to reduce it to gamism, yet you might rather eliminate the gamist aspects to reduce it to narrativism because you would more enjoy a narrativist game.

You might be very good at drifting a game to work in the way you prefer during play. If so, the way to discover how it's geared to work is to examine what you had to ignore or change, and why.

--M. J. Young


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 12, 2002, 11:08:49 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young

You might be very good at drifting a game to work in the way you prefer during play. If so, the way to discover how it's geared to work is to examine what you had to ignore or change, and why.

--M. J. Young


Well, as a critical evaluator of a game system, that works.  My question is more focused on the application of the G/N/S model to my game design.

What it boils down to is, in G/N/S taxonomy, is that I'm a person who prefers a realtively even balance between facilitating Narrativist play and facilitating Gamist play - with facilitation for Simulationsit play a distanct 3rd.

I want to design a game that fulfills my wish to facilitate Narrativist play and Gamist paly in equal measure - so what rubricks does one use to assess this "as written"?

FREX: From the G/N/S material, I get that a low search and handling time mechanic is important for enjoyable Narrativist instances of play - but how quick and easy does the S&H have to be in order to optomize for Narrativist play?  

Can the resolution mehcnaic also include some tactical meta-game choices that will allow for one character to be in Author stance making tactical chocies for his character using his knowledge of the rules to maximize his Gamist mode for that instance while also not annoying the player who is currently in Directors stance trying to make decisions based on thier vision of fulfilling a dramatic story arc?

Whew, that was a long paragraph.  

What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?

If the later, doesn't that then mean that my natural tendencies as a GM will nec. drift the game in ways that better Faciliate Narrativist Play and Gamist Play, but when I unleash my derivitive screed of a game upon the world, it won't meet my design criteria?

[Edited to correct a glaring spelling error]
Cheers,

Jason


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 12, 2002, 11:19:58 AM
My mistake on the focus thing. I was defining it as we've used it a lot about here before. And Bob probably was asking about something else. Perhaps if he rephrased that question. Ah, but I think he has...

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 12, 2002, 11:40:00 AM
Brass tacs. Cool.

Quote from: deadpanbob
I want to design a game that fulfills my wish to facilitate Narrativist play and Gamist paly in equal measure - so what rubricks does one use to assess this "as written"?

FREX: From the G/N/S material, I get that a low search and handling time mechanic is important for enjoyable Narrativist instances of play - but how quick and easy does the S&H have to be in order to optomize for Narrativist play?  So with all that, it's not an issue.

All play of all modes is enhanced by as low a S&H time as possible. That meaning that S&H are defined as the non-fun parts. I can't imagine anyone jumping up and down because the chart that they have to look at this time is more complex than the last.

The appropriate question is whether or not the S&H is justified by what it produces. And this can leave you with long or short results in any mode. There is no correllation between S&H and mode, IMO. One could imagine a hiddeously complex resolution system that was somehow so empowering to the players as to make it more than worthwhile.

What Narrativism should not be concerned with are mechanics that exist soley to create "tactical" choices, or are just there to increase the verisimilitude of the simulation.

Quote
Can the resolution mehcnaic also include some tactical meta-game choices that will allow for one character to be in Author stance making tactical chocies for his character using his knowledge of the rules to maximize his Gamist mode for that instance while also not annoying the player who is currently in Directors stance trying to make decisions based on thier vision of fulfilling a dramatic story arc?
That's exactly what this thread is trying to address. All I can say so far is, if so it's not going to be easy to find. What we can offer is Walt's solution of congruence, which would be to try to establish elements of the game such that when what you described occured, that nobody could tell the difference. This has been theorized about a lot, and I think the best answer so far is that you can make a game more congruent. Total congruence is likely not possible.

Quote
What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?
One can make guesses, an generalized stabs at assessment, yes. But in the end the proof will be in the playtest. But that's OK, we likes to playtest. :-)

Quote
If the later, doesn't that then mean that my natural tendencies as a GM will nec. drift the game in ways that better Faciliate Narrativist Play and Gamist Play, but when I unleash my derivitive screed of a game upon the world, it won't meet my design criteria?

Which is why we don't solely playtest our own games. Independent play is best. (Heck as Wick once told me, until you get it in front of a group of bad players, you really don't have an idea)

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2002, 12:39:32 PM
Hi Jeremy,

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"

The latter. Emphatically, the latter. GNS-thinking can help this process, especially in terms of evaluating others' enjoyment and their comments, but it cannot provide the handy-dandy "use this mechanic to be Narrativist" toolbox that, in some ways, your question is shooting for.

It may seem as though phrases like "Tunnels & Trolls is a Gamist design" are so strong that one might then say, Ah, it must have had The Gamist Dice Mechanic, then, or something like that - but such statements are produced through corroborative experience and assessment, not through insta-diagnosis.

Side note, regarding Mike's comment: I think that some modes of play prefer/favor higher handling-time, particularly those with very strong commitments to in-game causality (ie some forms of Simulationism). I agree with the second sentence in his paragraph very strongly.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 12, 2002, 12:50:12 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes


What we can offer is Walt's solution of congruence, which would be to try to establish elements of the game such that when what you described occured, that nobody could tell the difference. This has been theorized about a lot, and I think the best answer so far is that you can make a game more congruent. Total congruence is likely not possible.


Mike


Mike (or Walt, for that matter),

Please explain.  I'm not sure how 'congruence' is being functionalized here.  In essence, is it saying that any mechanic, when observed during play, that tends to allow (support? facilitate?) two (or three) modes of play to a reasonable degree of player satisfaction for that instance is congruent?

In essense, is congruence a critical term that referrs to such mechanics - but the defining of said congruent mechanics can only be done via the subjectivity of their feel during play?

Cheers,

Jason


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2002, 01:57:12 PM
Jason,

Almost all of our terminology applies to play. Mechanics that facilitate X or Y term are often referred to in shorthand. So "congruent play" would be very much like my George and Nguyen description; congruent rules would be those which (we think, or have experienced, or have hopefully corroborated with others) facilitated such play.

I'm not sure whether that point clarifies your understanding or not, but it seems to be a point that I'm repeating a lot lately. I'm bringing it up here in order to say that referring to a rule/design as X is never anything but a "I think it facilitates X play" statement.

I also think that "subjective" isn't really the issue - as I said before, good discourse actually removes the "well, I feel this way and you feel that way" option from the discussion.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 12, 2002, 02:06:54 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"

The latter. Emphatically, the latter. GNS-thinking can help this process, especially in terms of evaluating others' enjoyment and their comments, but it cannot provide the handy-dandy "use this mechanic to be Narrativist" toolbox that, in some ways, your question is shooting for.


Yeah, well, that's what I thought would be the answer.  I was yet again hoping to feed my other essential need: intellectual laziness.  Ah well, I guess if you want to screw something up properly, you've got to do it the hard way or some such.

I agree with Mike, btw, about having other groups playtest besides my own.  Which is why I'm happy to have found the Forge.  I'm assuming that you all consider doing this from time to time for games that get built under these kleig lights?

Thanks for the good discussion.

Cheers,


Jason


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 12, 2002, 02:13:15 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

I also think that "subjective" isn't really the issue - as I said before, good discourse actually removes the "well, I feel this way and you feel that way" option from the discussion.


Ahh, but in my line of work and my mind-set deals with facts and measurements and such.  The George and Nguyen example talks about the fact that the mechanics essentially didn't get in the way of either of their play styles, if memory serves, based on their mode of play in that particular instance.

So congruence is a function of how unobtrusive the mechanic is?  I.e. the less it get's in the way of the Narrativist mode desire to direct events to tell a Premise satisfying story, AND the less it gets in the way of the Gamist mode desire to overcome the challenge and win, AND the less it gets in the way of the Simulationist mode desire to experience the world in a self-consistent fashion, the more congruent it (the mechanic) is, would this be correct?

It seems analogous to the use of focus groups for market research - a good research design team puts together a framework that tries to ferret out what the group really wants - and tries to do so in a way that isn't leading or intrusive.

Cheers,

Jason.


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2002, 02:21:40 PM
Hey,

Actually, my line of thinking in the example concerns the rules facilitating the kind of congruent play going on, not just staying out of the way. At least if we are talking about "congruent design," that is.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Jeremy Cole on September 12, 2002, 04:39:18 PM
Quote

Hi Jeremy,

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"


No I didn't.  Is there two Jeremys?


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 12, 2002, 05:48:57 PM
Quote from: nipfipgip...dip
Quote

Hi Jeremy,

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"


No I didn't.  Is there two Jeremys?


I think Ron was in a hurry, since I've only recently begun signing my posts with my parent given name, Jason - an easy oversight when you type as fast as Ron must ;-)

Cheers,

Jason


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 12, 2002, 07:41:17 PM
Quote from: deadpanbob
I agree with Mike, btw, about having other groups playtest besides my own.  Which is why I'm happy to have found the Forge.  I'm assuming that you all consider doing this from time to time for games that get built under these kleig lights?


Oh, no you don't, people still owe me playtests!

But, um, yes, in general, you'll find that often people are willing to do playtesting for you here. Often theoretically in exchange for playtesting thier games. Thoretically...

But I'm not bitter...

;-)

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: deadpanbob on September 13, 2002, 04:13:08 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

Oh, no you don't, people still owe me playtests!

But, um, yes, in general, you'll find that often people are willing to do playtesting for you here. Often theoretically in exchange for playtesting thier games. Thoretically...

But I'm not bitter...

;-)

Mike


Mike,

If you've got a game that needs playtesting, I'm happy to help out...

Cheers,

Jason


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 13, 2002, 05:32:51 AM
Hey,

Quick check then:
- Jason = nipdip etc
- Jeremy = deadpanbob

Two "J" guys joining up more or less at the same time, both enthusiastic posters to the GNS forum ... OK, I'm old.

Tangents about names and plaints about playtesting aside, I'm pretty sure we've hammered out what needed discussing about this topic. If anyone wants to continue, please make it clear what you're asking/claiming, and that's cool. But usually, when a thread starts to meander like this, it's time to tuck it in and let it lie.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 13, 2002, 05:57:14 AM
To clarify, Ron, I think that you have those two names reversed.

As far as the topic, I think that the thread might be petering out, but that this is a subject that we've really only scratched the surface of. I hope it pops up again in potential designs.

Mike


Title: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 13, 2002, 06:19:05 AM
Fuck!

You see? You see??!

Best,
Ron