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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Manu on October 18, 2001, 10:55:00 AM



Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Manu on October 18, 2001, 10:55:00 AM
Hey again,

you mention these four steps in any action: Intention, Initiation, Completion and Effect; could you again provide some examples of what you were thinking about? Thank you - great essay by the way :smile:


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 19, 2001, 07:52:00 AM
Hey Manu,

Whoo doggies ... can I ask a favor and sort of belay this one for a while? What with Scenes and Tasks and Gamism and Audience and all that, it's pretty thick at the moment.

This topic is a BIIIG deal and I think we can probably move it to the Design forum. How about in a couple days?

Best,
Ron


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2001, 07:44:00 AM
Hi Manu,

I'm finally ready to address the issues in this post, but believe me, it's a biggie. I hope we get somewhere …

Let's consider an event that is established through role-playing as "happened" in the game-world. I look back over last night's game, and I can say, "Sebastian killed the ogre."

Now you and I know that Sam (the player) and the rest of the people he played with had to do SOMETHING to establish that. Dice and whatnot may have been involved, but ultimately, it was social and verbal. Sam had to propose something and through whatever mechanism, everyone else came to agree with it and how it came to pass.

The topic at hand is not the DFK mechanisms involved (not initially anyway), but rather the communication among the role-players (GM, players alike) to establish the event. I am talking about whatever Sam and anyone else SAID during that process.

OK, during play, here we are, and Sam is playing Sebastian, and there's the big evil ogre. Sam says, "I attack him!"

What the hell did Sam just establish in the imaginative game-world? Depending on the game system and/or the group, it could have been any of the following.

Intention: Sam has announced Sebastian's intention, but in the game-world, Sebastian has not yet moved or done anything. That must wait upon some other step of the process.

Initiation: Sebastian has officially moved into action; his sword is raised, he is moving and grimacing and so on.

Completion: Sebastian has completed his sword stroke; the action, for all purposes, is finished.

Effect: Sebastian's sword-stroke has produced its consequences and we have established just what has happened to the ogre and to Sebastian.

In actual role-playing, I have seen EVERY one of these categories as an interpretation of Sam's statement.

For a role-playing situation to be functional at the most basic level, the group as a whole must know and agree upon which one it is. I think that most of us are aware how jarring, disruptive, and plain Not Fun it is, when people at the role-playing table are disagreeing about which of the four categories is being established by an announced action.

"But I said it!" is the issue. What, in fact, did you say? Intent, Initiation, Completion, or Effect?

Game designs vary in the extent to which they either ESTABLISH or ASSUME the status of Sam's announcement in regard to the four categories.

By far and away, the most common solution is to break down the game-world causality into linear form.
1) Establish order of actions among all participants. Each character may now be considered "frozen" in the beginning of the sequence.
2) Resolve the action of the first participant in terms of (a) unfreezing, such that the action may now be announced in full by the player; (b) motions of the character from initiation through completion through result.
3) Continue through all characters.

Please note that this paradigm exists with or without Fortune playing a role. In Champions, step 1 is fixed by Speed and Dexterity, whereas in other games each round requires a new Initiative determination (e.g. roll). In still others, the order is purely metagame in terms of "go around to the left" or something like that. For purposes of the present topic, this distinction does not matter.

Several tweaks of this paradigm exist. They include:
- "Saved" actions - explicitly permitting characters to reserve their actions past the point of order, to use as an "interrupt" prior to another, subsequent character's action.
- Formalizing and fixing the announcements of actions prior to step two. E.g. in Sun & Storm, the characters' actions are announced in order of slowest-to-fastest between steps 1 and 2, and then resolved in order of fastest-to-slowest in step 2 as normal.
- Assigning point-costs to actions such that one may manage a resource to distribute one's moments of action through the round (example: Shot Costs in Feng Shui).

I suggest that this approach to the problem is functional, but it does have its limitations. For instance, the "saved" modification tends to result in everyone announcing "I save" and then playing multiple-interrupts on each other during each person's action. Or, some people dislike the "freeze" effect generated in the imagination.

However, this paradigm is not the only one. Another is essentially "laissez-faire" for actions, in which everyone is expected to agree about the order informally, which in practice usually means the GM may rearrange who is going first and what happens when, for each series of actions in a group situation. The Window operates in this fashion, assuming that everyone's good faith is more reliable than a step-by-step method. In practice, this usually gives so much power to the GM that he or she may as well be writing the entire scene (especially insofar as many climactic scenes rely very heavily on the timing and sequence of actions).

I have observed the laissez-faire method to founder on many occasions, due to confusions between the four categories. When Sam says, "I attack him," Sam and the GM and everyone else can be quite at odds about whether Sebastian is actually in motion or not. A subsequent announcement may influence Sam to say, "Um, actually I don't," or conversely, "But I'm already attacking him!" or anything in between. On the other hand, I am assured by many people that they prefer this method, and I can only assume that the group in question has informally worked out a standard for which category is being applied for a given announced action. I suspect that in these groups that Balance of Power heavily favors the GM.

Finally, Zero introduced an novel solution - announced actions are ONLY Intent, and finalized as Initiation only at the end of a "free discussion" about them. The order of the actions are established simultaneously with the resolution of the actions (it's the same roll). Results of the actions are all then established in order. Sorcerer's group-resolution mechanic imitates that of Zero with minor differences.

Another solution is found in Extreme Vengeance, in which order is fixed but adjustable due to metagame resources, and Hero Wars follows this lead.

There are lots of other solutions or models as well, but none so consistently established across many games as the first two. If I'm leaving out your favorite, please don't have a cow about it; this post is long enough already.

If anyone would like to add insight to this breakdown, or to disagree with it entirely, or otherwise to give me some feedback about it, I'm very interested. It's a really big deal and - in my opinion - even more fundamental than DFK. The four categories obviously are integrated in many ways with conflict vs. task resolution, and I'd like to work out some of those relationships as well.

Best,
Ron


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Laurel on October 23, 2001, 10:19:00 AM
I think IICE is brilliant, and its a game mechanic I'm working on this week for my own game.  I want players to be able to state their character's Intent, and if the action seems possible but not absolutely assured, for them to pause long enough for a very quick fortune-based check.  

Regardless of the outcome of the check (success, failure, or catastrophe), I want players to proceed to the Initation without stating a new Intent, even if they know the action is going to fail and to role-play through to the Completion using a Director's stance to provide the elements that explain specifically why the action was successful or a failure.  The Effect will be announced by the next player to pick up the narrative, as an introduction to their own Intent.  

What I'm stumbling over right now is the best mechanism for determining order of actions.  My design goal is to minimalize disruptions to Narrative play, so that the story flows with as few meta-game interruptions as possible.  The standard linear form of resolution (what Ron posted as step 1-3) required enormous quantities of meta-game interruption.  I'm not saying this is bad, or bad for every game, but its something I'm trying to avoid without running smack into the organizational and coherency issues of freeform.


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2001, 10:42:00 AM
Actually, Laurel, I suggest that you're struggling with an impossible design goal here:

"My design goal is to minimalize disruptions to Narrative play, so that the story flows with as few meta-game interruptions as possible."

Narrativism relies on a very strong metagame presence, and I've found that, counter-intuitively, it HELPS the story flow by acknowledging it.

I think the key issue, though, is "disruption" rather than metagame vs. in-game. The traditional/common method, for instance, LOOKS as if it's very logical, but if people change their actions at the last second, you have a whole renegotiatory process going on with every character at every action. It's that kind of disruption that I think CAN be avoided.

Best,
Ron


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Le Joueur on October 23, 2001, 03:19:00 PM
Warning: system plug ahead.

This simplifies very well, kudos to you Mr. Edwards.

Quote
Ron Edwards wrote:

The topic at hand is...the communication among the role-players to establish the event...could have been any of the following.

Intention: ...the game-world...has not yet moved or done anything. That must wait upon some other step of the process.

Initiation: ...moved into action...

Completion: ...the action...is finished.

Effect: ...has...established just what has happened...

Very well conceived!  (Just one small quibble, since I would include what happens between the initiation and completion of an action - the act itself – in with the second group, I might call it Action, as it ‘caught in the act.’)

Quote
In actual role-playing, I have seen EVERY one of these categories as an interpretation of Sam's statement.

For a role-playing situation to be functional at the most basic level, the group as a whole must know and agree upon which one it is. I think that most of us are aware how jarring, disruptive, and plain Not Fun it is, when people at the role-playing table are disagreeing about which of the four categories is being established by an announced action.

You have that right.  We felt so too when creating Scattershot; in fact we felt that our mechanics had to first act as a communal language, thus such concepts had to be explicitly delineated in the text.

Quote
By far and away, the most common solution is to break down the game-world causality into linear form.
1) Establish order of actions among all participants. Each character may now be considered "frozen" in the beginning of the sequence.
2) Resolve the action of the first participant in terms of (a) unfreezing, such that the action may now be announced in full by the player; (b) motions of the character from initiation through completion through result.
3) Continue through all characters.

This is too true amongst traditional games.  And as you point out leads to many confusing situations.  I originally found that ‘initiative rolls’ seemed to be a mechanism to collapse many ‘intangibles’ about what can or cannot affect who makes the first (nigh?) successful attack in a combat.  To that I said, "Why skip the role-playing?"

What eventually resulted (mostly because I was lazy in my analysis of the many varied systems out there) was stripping out such mechanics entirely.  As a game of Scattershot proceeds, when anyone does anything that raises the tension level to a degree that, in all fairness, more detail is needed to parse out, ‘rounds’ begin.  And they begin with that participant’s character.  It need not be anything traditionally thought of as melee (owing largely to my feeling that violent aggression need not always come to blows), just anything that creates the narrative atmosphere the can[/] result in a fight.

I take a page from so many gunslinger movies where, to me, the battle begins with an insult, tossed drink, or silent response (with the villain seemingly tempting the hero to ‘make the first move’).  Not only did all ‘statements’ in Scattershot’s combat need to be ‘initiations,’ all statements had to be, certainly because any of them could shift play into combat-turn-sequencing.  (Heck, ‘regular’ play is described as loosely following this sequencing anyway; combat’s need for impartiality simply makes it more structured.)

Quote
- Formalizing and fixing the announcements of actions prior to step two. E.g. in Sun & Storm, the characters' actions are announced in order of slowest-to-fastest between steps 1 and 2, and then resolved in order of fastest-to-slowest in step 2 as normal.

As an aside, for all my bad experiences with role-playing gaming, this is the style whose author I most wish to go back in time and strangle in their crib.

Quote
On the subject of 'saved actions:’

I suggest that this approach to the problem is functional, but it does have its limitations. For instance, the "saved" modification tends to result in everyone announcing "I save" and then playing multiple-interrupts on each other during each person's action. Or, some people dislike the "freeze" effect generated in the imagination.

I saw that too.  In Scattershot, saved actions must have explicit ‘activation’ conditions and are lost when play comes back to the player.  Likewise, combined with actions that do not weigh upon a character’s combat, Scattershot combat can take on an air of that tense circling I am fond of in cinema.

For Scattershot we decided to scrap all the complexity of turn ordering mechanics in favor of a clear and simple ‘counter-clockwise around the table’ system.  To make up for things reflected by those rules, we took note from the game theory premise it seemed to be founded on: ‘they who attack first, have the advantage.’  This might be important where decisive blows can be easily had, but since this was not the case, we let the above, ‘whoever initiated goes first’ rule determine combat (in playtest, we found that this gives the desired level of cinema to our system).

The effect this had was to place more focus on the role-playing aspect of the game.  In tense scenes it could really be important who ‘initiated’ as we see it in cinema.  As testing wore on, it became evident that not only did parsing everything out this way strengthen the ‘communal language’ effect of the system, but also it streamlined the play itself unobtrusively.

The other thing we added to de-emphasize the ‘who attacks first...’ effect was to institute a running ‘who has the advantage’ mechanic.  You know, the ‘Robin Hood is higher on the stairs, but the Sheriff, who is better with the blade, can still press his attack upward’ kind of stuff.  Together this allowed us to abandon a lot of the complexity of more mechanical systems without sacrificing combat’s value in the narrative.  (As a student of game theory, I appreciate the interplay between chosen actions and their effect on ‘advantage,’ making tactics a two-leveled process.)

Quote
It's a really big deal and - in my opinion - even more fundamental than DFK. The four categories obviously are integrated in many ways with conflict vs. task resolution

I think this is another one of those, ‘without focus, a game dies on this ground’ issues and heartily agree.  I, for one, am curious whether anyone else made this sort of thing more explicit in their games.

I believe this kind of communal unspoken agreement stuff underpins a great deal of role-playing gaming yet receives almost no discussion.

Fang Langford


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2001, 07:28:00 PM
Fang,

Quotin' you for emphasis:
"I believe this kind of communal unspoken agreement stuff underpins a great deal of role-playing gaming yet receives almost no discussion."

Exactly. I've been chafing for over two years to get to this level of discussion, yet until now have been tripped up by the continual need to clarify GNS. With any luck, that stage is over.

Best,
Ron

P.S. Editing this personal note in: I didn't find the Sun & Storm (backwards-announce, forwards-resolve) anything as aggravating as the perpetually saved action. Or worse, the play-tactic that shifted announcements up and down the Intent/ Initiation/ Completion/ Result spectrum as the player or GM saw fit, from action to action.

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-24 10:01 ]


Title: The 4 steps of action (for Ron)
Post by: Laurel on October 24, 2001, 11:52:00 AM
Fang-

Quote

  The other thing we added to de-emphasize the ‘who attacks first...’ effect was to institute a running ‘who has the advantage’ mechanic.  Together this allowed us to abandon a lot of the complexity of more mechanical systems without sacrificing combat’s value in the narrative.  


Thanks for going through Scattershot's mechanics in such detail- that helped me a whole lot at least.  I think I will experiment with something similar.  The idea of acknowledging and utilizing combat advantages as something beyond a high dex or fortunate initiative roll makes so much sense to me.  

Ron-
Thank you, that makes sense. Its a drawn out renegotiatory process of players attempting to discern the best possible tactical advantage for character action that I think is very disruptive to Narrative play and not a general metagame presence.  I appreciate you helping me define what I was talking about.  :smile: