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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Clinton R. Nixon on October 22, 2001, 10:56:00 AM



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on October 22, 2001, 10:56:00 AM
contracycle (Gareth, I believe?) and I have been having a pretty spirited discussion in the "New essay by Ron" thread about where Premise comes from in Gamist RPGs.

Here's a quick breakdown so far of points argued:

Premise
Me: I think Premise has to be embedded in the mechanics of any game to work well.
Gareth: Premise is a quasi-narrative thing that exists only in the context of the storyline.

Gamism
Me: The focus of gamism is some sort of competition, whether it be player v. player, player v. GM, or player v. character (internal).
Gareth: Gamism is based on resource management.

Until this second problem is resolved, the first is almost moot. Resource management does however fall within what I've said. I think this is an interesting element to watch, actually, because it's a Gamist mechanic that shows up everywhere. The example I used before in the 'New essay by Ron' thread was Sorcerer, actually, as the balancing of Humanity and power is a very rigorous example of a Gamist mechanic that works well within a game usually considered Narrativist.

Where I think things go astray when talking about Gamism is that there's a bunch of battered people out there that enjoy Gamism, but have been vilified by someone else. That is, they might play Sorcerer, or The Pool, or Dying Earth or whatever, but what they enjoy is the resource management aspects.

Now, if there were a game that focused solely on this sort of internal competition, that would be a great Gamist RPG, and should appeal to these people, right?

Wrong.

Why? They've been told they were wrong over and over, that these games are only for 'hack'n'slash,' which is a bad thing in this context. This is why I don't eat Play-Doh. I love the stuff, but I've been told so many times it's not food that I'm conditioned to think so.

It's not bad to have an RPG focused on game rather than story. Dispel the concept.

That said, is Premise in any game, Gamist or not, seated in the mechanics?

Let's say it's not for a moment. If Premise is solely in the narrative, let's use the ever-so-prevalent vampire example. The GM establishes a premise of "Is power more precious than relationships?" The story concerns three 20-somethings changed into vampires overnight, and thrust forward into a heady world where money flows, blood is passed around as easily as cocaine, and everything they ever wanted is theirs. Except the people they once knew, now alienated from their vampiric lives.

Great set-up. If Premise is not in the mechanics, let's say we're using Vampire. Now the time comes to reinforce the Premise. The GM wants to give a character the chance to save his mortal mother at the cost of destroying himself. The scenario will be that his mother's car overturns near the character's apartment. The character could rush out and pull his mother from the wreckage - but would be hurt and possibly die from the fires, as well as the fact that he would expose himself as a vampire.

In Vampire, here's what happens:
 - The character sees the accident. He decides whether or not to save his mother.
 - The fire scares vampires. Roll to see if you frenzy. If you do, you'll probably start eating people.
 - If not, you try to lift the car. Take damage from the fire. You can't do anything about this damage, so you may die here.
 - If you don't die, are you strong enough to lift the car? If you're not the right type of vampire, maybe not - and the longer you take, the more of a chance you'll die. Statistically, you'll probably die or freak out before you can save anyone.

Now what if this premise were rooted in mechanics? I'll have to make a fictional system, so watch carefully.

In System V, as I call it, you have a few stats:

- Blood Pool
- Humanity
- Will

These are rolled against each other, much like Sorcerer. The only difference is that Blood Pool has a maximum value and goes up and down. To use a Power, you allocate as many Blood Dice as you want. You roll that many dice, and if successful, it works. However, all non-successful dice are subtracted from your Blood Pool.

You also have a list of Powers - vampiric traits you have that you can use. This might look like: Strength, Speed, Mist Form.

Ok, here's the play-by-play:

- The character sees his mother. Roll maximum Blood Pool (your vampiric-ness) vs. Humanity. If Humanity wins, you manage to care.
- The fire and flipping the car over are one scene. The difficulty to flip a car is 5 dice + 1 more because of all the flame. You spend all 6 dice out of your blood pool, and the GM gives you a bonus of +1 for your screams and shouts (good roleplaying) and +1 for your personal investment - your mother. That's a good chance, and the kicker is - you just spent all your Blood Pool. You will pass out or possibly die here - after you flip the car.

This was kind of contrived, but I think brings a point home - Premise exists in all games, and is a point of the story. However, Premise backed up and seated in mechanics is much more powerful of a tool.

Next post: how to identify Premise in Gamist RPGs, and how to create one with strong Premise.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: jburneko on October 22, 2001, 12:23:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-22 14:56, Clinton R Nixon wrote:
Gamism
Me: The focus of gamism is some sort of competition, whether it be player v. player, player v. GM, or player v. character (internal).
Gareth: Gamism is based on resource management.


I think I'll jump in here and say that I agree with Clinton.  And I think the most prevelant form of Gamism is Player vs. Scenario with the GM acting as Referee.  I will agree with Gareth to an extent that resource management can be a big PART of Gamism but it by no means defines Gamism.

A well designed gamist scenario is VERY VERY VERY hard to pull off because it requires an incredible amount of attention dedicatted to detail.  Particularly physical detail.  For example it's not enough to simply draw a map and slap down some monsters, treasures and traps.  If you do this you are in fact relying on a kind of dungeon resource vs. player resource model to provide all the entertainment.  I know, because this is the extent of my patience of gamist design and my D&D games all follow this model.  The result is I never repeat a monster because my game solely relies on overcoming a specific monster's abilities.  Once you've figured out how to do that most effectively, whats the point of ever fighting that monster again?

GOOD gamist design however relies on clever variations on a theme often combining monsters that compliment each other abilitywise in particularly nasty ways or even better getting the terrain involved.

In one of the few moments of gamist inspiration on my part I came up with this situation:

The party had traveled to a place known as the Temple of Time.  The clerics who live here are responsible for making sure time continues to flow in a linear fashion.  While in the main chamber the party was attacked by an Evil Black Knight figure.  Now normally this would just have been a fight inside a temple and indeed it would have been Black Knight resources vs. Player Resources if that's all it were.  BUT I added the following element: There were 4 Clerics walking in concentric circles around the room.  If any of these clerics were disturbed then the linear nature of time would be disrupted.  So, all the players had their initiative point, the Knight had his initiative point but the clerics ALSO had their initiative point.  So, part of the challenge of the scene was not only to defeat the knight but to make sure no one was standing in the way of the clerics come their initiative point.  Suddenly all those minitures made sense to me.

So you see the added element of dodging the non-hostile clerics has NOTHING to do with resource management and yet a great deal of the Gamist challenge comes from that element in this scene.  I also think that a lot of the fun in Gamism requires this ability to basically present the same situation repeatedly but with enough variation to significantly change the strategy needed to overcome the obstacle.  

And to some extent this gets back to Clinton's other assertion of Premise needing to be in the mechanics.  I don't think just managing the resource of Humanity in Sorcerer is enough to hold the Gamists attention.  I think that element is what satisfies the little gamist in us all but I don't think it would satisfy the player who holds Gamism as his priority.  To satisfy the gamist the rules have to support that variation on a theme thing I'm talking about.  Watching humanity going up and down is going to eventually bore the gamist if that's all he's using to measure win/loss conditions.  But something like D&D3E where we have all kinds of feats and physical movement rules and spells and special case combat rules, ultimately has the necessary tools to create a solid gamist scenario.

Sure, arena fights are interesting but good gamist design will have more than just arena fight after arena fight.  It will have fights among circling clerics.  Or just plain tricky terrain based cliffs to scale.  Well laid out keep plans with thuroughly thought out guard patterns.  And so on.

Jesse


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 22, 2001, 12:51:00 PM
Hmmm. I'm not entirely sure that what Clinton has above are Gareth's arguments precisely. Maybe they are, and I'm mistaken. However, I hope that we can get some clarification from him before proceeding. Even if these are his opinions, they seem to have been stripped of quite a lot of context.

Gareth, would you care to elaborate?

Mike


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Bankuei on October 22, 2001, 02:16:00 PM
  Gamist design appeals to the strategist in me.  I can't deny I love playing mech games, micromanaging and designing the mech for maximum efficiency.  I guess it goes in the same line as fantasy football, and the perfect team, or people who tweek out their cars.  When it comes to the gameplay tho, I prefer lite rules, maximum focus on tactics, and quick play.
   The Narrativist in me loves story, and the Gamist loves a challenge.  The strategist loves the resource management, but in effect, strategy is always about finding the most efficient use of resources or abilities within a given set of rules/restrictions.
   You can definitely see the Gamist rules in all Whitewolf games, since they all include some "power" stat(Blood pool, Gnosis, Arete, Quantum, etc) and a "corruption" stat(Loss of Humanity, Rage, Paradox, Taint) both which are linked, usually the bad one in to the abuse of the power.
    Gamist rules are more than resource management, its always about hard decisions(which class?  Which skills?  Which feats?).  There's always satisfaction to having chosen wisely with one's character creation and equipment, just like building a good magic deck.
    The gamist part comes in with,"If you can only be good at A,B, or C, which do you pick?", and trying to make it work, regardless of your choice.

Just some thoughts from a bipolar Narrativist/Gamist :smile:

Bankuei


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Don Lag on October 22, 2001, 09:27:00 PM
I just had to comment that the cleric dodging in the Temnple of Time situation IS a resource management problem. The resource to manage just doesn't get much attention paid to it in most D&D games. This is, of course, Space. (Space and Time, funny).

See, the problem is defeating the Black Knight. There is a limited resource which is Space (or mobility if you will), you can't use ALL of the Space at ANY given time. So you have to figure out how to manage it.

I'm not sure if resource management is actually a Something that might or not be present in a given situation/context. Rather, it seems to me, that resource management is a way of dealing with any given situation/context. So it would actually reside in the observer, not it the actual phenomenon.

My two cents.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Matt Machell on October 23, 2001, 12:39:00 AM
Quote

"Is power more precious than relationships?"


This whole thing interests me, because to my mind what you're describing is the Theme of the individual GMs story rather than the Premise of the entire game.

Are you saying that say, White Wolf should design their game so that only "Is power more precious than relationships?" can be explored? What about the people who want to explore other ideas?

It's a bit like saying an episode of Star Trek explores "Is power more precious than relationships?" so the basic Premise of the series should include that.

Just my thoughts.

Matt



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 23, 2001, 02:27:00 AM
Bankuei expresses a number of my interests in the Gamist approach to play.  So anyway, lets tackle some of the initial points.

Firstly, I am not denying the presence of a competitve strand of gamism; but I think that, for example, the resource management issue is a parralel way that gamists can enjoy a game.  Furthermore, the absence of an easily framed comeptition can itself be part of the "competition", in the sense that "picking your fights" may also be a part of the game.  Sometimes the most succesful strategy is to stop competing.

I think that the RPG gamist has already delberately selected a form of play which values cooperation much more than competition, and this adds to my concerns about describing gamist play as competitive.  I like Don Lag's phrasing of a "problem" which needs to be resolved, and I think it would be more constructive to see gamism in the light of problem soolving behaviour rather than competitive bahviour (makes sense to me anyway - I do technical support for a living).

The issue over premise is separate matter IMO, and in fact I am very surprised to see these issues conflated with one another.  I think it must necessarily be the case that  premise, as Ron has mostly discussed it, is necessarily a property of a story.  Hence I don't see it appearing in the mechanics at all, although it is true that the terms of the competition, or as I prefer, the variables in the problem, are delineated by the mechanical system.

However, I think a significant part of the draw of RPG to gamists is the fact that, like life, the problem is not clearly understood, bounded and known.  Hence, a big part of the problem is identifying, or prehaps selecting, the problem you intend to tackle itself.  Its that old saw about the inferior general who fights to win, where the superior general wins before they fight.  This element of strategy is I feel somehat ignored if we think of the conflict we are establishing as bounded and explicit.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 23, 2001, 06:45:00 AM
OK, finaly we get the word from the horses mouth.

Quote

On 2001-10-23 06:27, contracycle wrote:
Bankuei expresses a number of my interests in the Gamist approach to play.  So anyway, lets tackle some of the initial points.

Firstly, I am not denying the presence of a competitve strand of gamism; but I think that, for example, the resource management issue is a parralel way that gamists can enjoy a game.  Furthermore, the absence of an easily framed comeptition can itself be part of the "competition", in the sense that "picking your fights" may also be a part of the game.  Sometimes the most succesful strategy is to stop competing.


I think that the above clears up half of the argument by itself. Gamists have as much range as anyone else. I think everyone can agree to that.

Quote

I think that the RPG gamist has already delberately selected a form of play which values cooperation much more than competition, and this adds to my concerns about describing gamist play as competitive. I like Don Lag's phrasing of a "problem" which needs to be resolved, and I think it would be more constructive to see gamism in the light of problem soolving behaviour rather than competitive behaviour (makes sense to me anyway - I do technical support for a living).


Well, then this is just a problem of POV. Collaborative problem solving where the problem is the scenario is called competition with the scenario by others. These things don't really conflict. It's just the angle that you're looking at it from.

Is it your opinion that competition is derrogatory or inaccurate in this sense? I suggest that competition is being offered in the broadest of senses here soley for the purpose of finding a unifying factor. If "problem solving" were substituted for competition, would you be all right with the definition?

This is the important factor to Gamism, the idea of the player gaining his satisfaction from the rating of relative success. Did we compete well, did we solve the problem or make a good attempt? Gamism must necessarily be defined by this factor (whatever you call it) to distinguish it from the other modes. A Simulationist can certainly play a character bent on solving, competing, winning. And to the extent that he chooses to play such characters, this may indicate a Gamist slant. What makes a particular decision Simulationist, however, is the motivation behind it. A Gamist will play the character so that the outcome is positive from that solving, competitive, whatever angle. The Simulationist will only do this if he thinks that it is "realistic". In other words, a Simulationist will do the wrong thing from a competition or solving angle, if he thinks it is what the character would do.

I, for example, like to occasionally play characters who are much dumber than I. I like to see them mess up and do the wrong thing, even if the character has a desire to problem solve. I just see it as a truer simulation. If I were a gamist, I'd put those considerations aside in order to try and have the character perform better in the situation, to solve the problem, or to compete more effectively.

This is the line between Gamism and Simulationism. Realize that I feel that many, if not most players shift back and forth over this line constantly. They play to win one minute, and the next go for an interesting portrayal by doing something untactical but in-character. This describes most of my players precisely. And they have lots of fun with it.

Much fewer are the players who only play to solve the scenario, or only to remain true to the character and setting.

Quote

The issue over premise is separate matter IMO, and in fact I am very surprised to see these issues conflated with one another.  I think it must necessarily be the case that  premise, as Ron has mostly discussed it, is necessarily a property of a story.  Hence I don't see it appearing in the mechanics at all, although it is true that the terms of the competition, or as I prefer, the variables in the problem, are delineated by the mechanical system.


Well, I think in the essay that Ron was trying to conflate certain things. He was expanding the term Premise beyond it's usual Narrativist/Literature definition, to mean that thing which attracts that player to the particular game. For Narrativists, then, these are that same old thing. For Gamists and Simulationists, the "Premises" are the rules or setting hooks or whatever that draw players in.

Perhaps he would have done better to create a new term like "hook" or something that would indicate these things, and left Premise only to mean Narrativist hook. Note that a game can have all three types of hooks, and many games do. The problem is that the system will usually only support one of these hooks well, leaving the GM on his opwn to support the others.

Quote

However, I think a significant part of the draw of RPG to gamists is the fact that, like life, the problem is not clearly understood, bounded and known.  Hence, a big part of the problem is identifying, or prehaps selecting, the problem you intend to tackle itself.  Its that old saw about the inferior general who fights to win, where the superior general wins before they fight.  This element of strategy is I feel somehat ignored if we think of the conflict we are establishing as bounded and explicit.


I'd agree with you that the "competitive framework" or "problem to be solved" can be diffuse and still be compelling. But that doesn't deny it's existence. It just characterizes the particular framework.

One of my favorite board games right now is 1830. What I like about it is that there is no clear strategy. The strategy constantly shifts with play. You can't start the game out saying, "I'm going to do this because it will win." That just doesn't work. Which is cool. Yes, shifting targets and obsucre goals can be a very interesting part of the problem to be solved.

Hope some of this helps somehow.

Mike


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Marco on October 23, 2001, 07:18:00 AM
I've got some comments on Premise being rooted in mechanics:

1. Can a specific example of a specific rule screwing up a specific scene invalidate a whole premise? (what if the car plunged into a deep pool and everyone knew the vampire character couldn't swim? Say it was filled with pirannahs ...)

2. If my premise was Navy Seals beat Rangers hands down in small unit fire-fights I'd better have a system that really does a job of detailing the differences, I agree, but for Vampire themes of alienation? What if in System V the character hadn't taken Strength as a power and tried to lift the car (or the game designer had overlooked, say, a Show Up In Mirror power that a GM wanted to have a vampire have?). That doesn't mean the system's failing, it means the GM should consider his scenes a little more carefully.

3. If what we're saying is that the game has to walk-its-talk, I agree: VtM shouldn't make vampires that can be hosed with a few SMG shots ... (and I *don't* like the whole aggrivated damage thing) but that's a simulation thing ... I don't see it as a premise thing.


-Marco



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 23, 2001, 08:29:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-23 11:18, Marco wrote:
I've got some comments on Premise being rooted in mechanics:

1. Can a specific example of a specific rule screwing up a specific scene invalidate a whole premise? (what if the car plunged into a deep pool and everyone knew the vampire character couldn't swim? Say it was filled with pirannahs ...)


Probably not. But the example is demonstrative of the sort of problem that many of us see with how mechanics handle game premise. If the mechanics repeatedly work against a Premise, then there is a problem.

Quote

2. If my premise was Navy Seals beat Rangers hands down in small unit fire-fights I'd better have a system that really does a job of detailing the differences, I agree, but for Vampire themes of alienation? What if in System V the character hadn't taken Strength as a power and tried to lift the car (or the game designer had overlooked, say, a Show Up In Mirror power that a GM wanted to have a vampire have?). That doesn't mean the system's failing, it means the GM should consider his scenes a little more carefully.


Nobody said that the GM was uninportant or couldn't screw tings up too. Just what you said: the system should do what it can to support the Premise. And, yes, I am of the belief that a mechanic can support something like alienation if designed right. More obviously, a particular se of mechanics can certainly work against something like that. The minimum requirement for narrativist success of a system in this regard is that it should stay out of the way. Better though is to have the system actually facilitate.

Quote

3. If what we're saying is that the game has to walk-its-talk, I agree: VtM shouldn't make vampires that can be hosed with a few SMG shots ... (and I *don't* like the whole aggrivated damage thing) but that's a simulation thing ... I don't see it as a premise thing.


Again, this is just semantics. Ron speaks of Premises for Simulationist games meaning exactly what you mention. What you have pointed out is a problem with Vampire's Simulationist Premise (getting to play a Vampire). The game is even worse when it comes to supporting it's purported Narrativist Premise (the angst of Vampirism vs Humanity).

And, as always, a good GM can make these Premises work even with a system that does not support it. But the system as written does not.

Note that I don't have a particular beef with WW games. Though they don't do a great job of supporting the Narrativist Premise, I'm more concerned with the Simulationist end anyhow. I like much of what they do there. (though I'd agree with you on some specific implementations like the aggravated damage example you give). But I do see how someone who played it, looking for it to support strongly the Narrativist Premise which it states as the primary goal, might be seriously disapointed.

Just another reason to be a Simulationist. :smile:


Mike


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 24, 2001, 03:18:00 AM
So, is premise a property of the story, or of the mechanics?  We still appear to be using a single term to describe two vastly different animals.

If oremise is in the mechanics, does the game have a theme?  If the GM tries to run such a game and wants to use a story premise, can they?  And is there a danger that the mechanical premise will conflict with the premises of on or more stories conducted with those mechnaics which have their own premise?


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Matt Machell on October 24, 2001, 04:38:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-24 07:18, contracycle wrote:
So, is premise a property of the story, or of the mechanics?  We still appear to be using a single term to describe two vastly different animals.

If premise is in the mechanics, does the game have a theme?  If the GM tries to run such a game and wants to use a story premise, can they?  And is there a danger that the mechanical premise will conflict with the premises of one or more stories conducted with those mechnaics which have their own premise?


This is exactly my problem with the use of the word Premise in the context of what Themes are being explored. One term for two concepts just doesn't work, and leads to confusion.

Also, I think it needs appreciating that peoples complaints about systems often lie with "It doesn't do what I want it to" rather than "It doesn't do what the designer wanted." The Vampire example above being a good example of this.

Matt



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 05:49:00 AM
Remember, I'm coming from Ron's definition of Premise. Which is not precisely the same as the commmon definition. Ron is using the term "Premise" as jargon to mean "that thing which is compelling about the game" or "that thing which makes you want to play" or something of that nature. For a Narrativist game, these things happen to resemble (to a certain extent only superficially) the Premises of literature. The others don't very much.

Yes, it may be confusing to speak about Premise being in mechanics. A more proper phraseology might be "the mechanics of a game may support a Premise". Premise can also be driven by setting, BTW. And that might be enough or some. But if the sysem does support the Premise, so much the better. At the very least, it should not interfere with the Premise.

In fact, I'd say that the usual challenge in design is to get the System to support the Premise as portrayed in the description of the Setting. Ron doesn't have to worry about this in Sorcerer, though, as Sorcerer is Setting independent. Instead the whole game is just mechanics supporting the Premise of the game. But for more traditional games the challenge is getting the system to support the Premise as presented in the Setting.

Lets look at another game. Say Pendragon. This has the incredibly well established "Arthurian Legend" Setting. The Premise is a Simulationist one, which is "Being in an Arthurian Legend". Does the system support that well? Extrememly well, IMHO. In fact I'd speculate that if you took the system and used it in a different setting, you'd still get something that looked a lot like an Arthurian Legend (which just now gives me a cool idea for playing a game like that; Sci-fi Arthurian anyone?). This sort of judgement is necessarily subjective, but I can point to the Virtues and Passions mechanics and others, and how well these work in actual play as evidence.

Mike


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2001, 06:23:00 AM
Matt and Gareth,

I'm having a little bit of trouble seeing your position.

"Premise" as presented in my essay means ONE THING: any aspects of play which engage the role-players' interest (plural role-players there). One of my most important points is that such a Premise takes its meaning and development from the GNS terms; more accurately, GNS is a set of applications by which Premise is addressed.

To say "Premise resides in the mechanics" or "arises" from them or anything of the sort is an abomination. What we CAN say, accurately, is that procedural and conceptual aspects of an RPG can facilitate, focus, and develop a given Premise or range of Premises.

Mike has stated the matter fully, completely, and, as I see it, definitively. I don't really see any reason to continue the discussion.

Maybe it's the shorthand issue? For purposes of bevity, people including me often say "Premise" when we are really referring to something like "Narrativist Premise with strong Setting focus." Also for purposes of shorthand, we might say, "The Trouble mechanic in Orkworld presents the game's Premise," or, "The wars and politics of Glorantha prompt the game's Premise during play."

Is this discussion based on a confusion with the shorthand? Or is it based on a disagreement with how Premise is defined and developed in the essay?

Best,
Ron


[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-24 10:25 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-24 10:32 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Marco on October 24, 2001, 08:16:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-24 09:49, Mike Holmes wrote:
Remember, I'm coming from Ron's definition of Premise. Which is not precisely the same as the commmon definition. Ron is using the term "Premise" as jargon to mean "that thing which is compelling about the game" or "that thing which makes you want to play" or something of that nature. For a Narrativist game, these things happen to resemble (to a certain extent only superficially) the Premises of literature. The others don't very much.


I take exception with the last line there. Correct me if I'm wrong but from your text you'd be saying (this is an extraplation):

In non-narrativist games the things that make the games worth playing don't resemble much the things that make good literature. (the last is taken from  " ... resemble ... the Premisies of literature."

Specifically, you didn't say that what makes narrativist games worth playing for some people is the ability for all the participants to engage in authorial construction of the adventure. You said that Narrativist games' premises tended to resemble literature premises and, say, Simulationst games (and I don't mean the system, I mean the play-session) don't. What, if anything, is Call of Cthulhu, then?

It's certainly compelling ... and based on literature and the themes of the novel--and its simulationist.

I see it as this:

Simulationist -- one gets pleasure as though *reading* literature (sure, you get to play, but you *aren't* the *primary* author)

Narrativist -- one gets pleasure as though *writing* literature (sure, the GM may provide 'a lot of meat' but the players get to do a lot more of the story).

The Premise could be identical between the two--the only decision is where you as a player/GM want to fall on the reader/writer scale.

-Marco


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2001, 08:30:00 AM
Marco,

I think you are employing "Premise" differently. In my terms, for purposes of role-playing, your two examples have tremendously different Premises that correspond exactly to your two statements about them ("being in" vs. "writing/creating"). What they share are some of the basic listed elements of play: Situation, Setting, and Character.

Thus playing (as written) Call of Cthulhu, one gets the Simulationist approach of Exploring Situation, Setting, and Character (primarily the first). The Premise remains very sketchy and personal, just an enjoyment of those elements of Lovecraft-style material.

And playing some other game, which happens not to exist, which takes a Narrativist approach to Lovecraft, one gets the Narrativist approach of beefing up the Premise of insight = alienation, or American optimism cracking in the face of the horror of the Truth. Developing that Premise into a Theme, specific to THESE protagonists at THIS time, is the task of the role-players (GM + players alike).

The casual use of "premise" which simply describes a few of the listed elements, has all the problems of the casual use of "genre" for all the same reasons. If I'm not mistaken, you are employing "premise" in that fashion.

Best,
Ron


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 24, 2001, 09:12:00 AM
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Premise is a metagame concern, wholly different from the listed elements. They are the imagined (Explored) content of the role-playing experience, and Premise is the real-person, real-world interest that instils and maintains a person’s desire to have that experience. At this early point, though, Premise is vague and highly personal, as it is only the embryo of the real Premise. The real Premise exists as a clear, focused question or concern shared among all members of the group.


It is the evolution of notional, system-wide premise into specific, story-based premise.  These two appear at odds - the premise of a story/episode/whatever needs, according to the sense in which I understood you to have developed premise, a specific question, usually with a morel bent.

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To play successfully, the members of the role-playing group must be, at the very least, willing to acknowledge and support the focused Premise as perceived by one another.
The developed or focused Premise is no longer a noun (“vampire”) or image, but has become a question, challenge, or provocative issue.


How is it possible to have the premise be a provocative issue if, for gamists, it is obliged to emanate from a mechanical system?  The mechanical system cannot be provocative; it only sets out the bells and whistles and the levers you can push.  Furthermore, how does one relate a multitude of story-specific, provocative premises to the kind of "hook" that is being discussed in the initial conception of premise as the "cool factor" that wowed the players?  If the premise of the system is abandoned as soon as play begins and a "real" premise is developed, then what use is a discussion of the basic, system-specific premise?  

I'm not sure what value this concept of the system-premise brings.  Sure, you buy a game based on a "premise" of what kind of play you are going to have, but is this not merely a discussion of setting or situation?

Furthermore, if it is only the narrative real-premise that is a premise of the form the Egri discusses, what refences do we exploit for the theory of the gamist real-premise or the simulationist real-premise?  Necessarily, we have no sources because the very concept of premise is indeed premised on a narrative act; it is a statement about the course and methods of narrative behaviour.  So this process appears to me to negate the value of the concept of premise in RPG at all; if it only applies in a developed sense to one aspect of the GNS, then of what value is it?

Lastly, this whole architecture seems a long way from what I understood Egri to be saying about premise.  What I took from his book was the sense in which the premise is a kind of guiding principle that keeps a story focussed, bound within its own frame, and addressing a meaningful question which engaged the audience.  This I can see as a useful approach to story construction, but I have concerns about its application in RPG, which I have enumerated at some length, precisely becuase the techniques that Egri expounds upon for maintaining a coherent premise are largely unavilable to RPGers - characters simply cannot and will not be designed and played sufficiently close to the real-premise to replicate the consistency that an author exploiting Egris techniques achieves through their limitless editorial power.  Even worse, the transfer of authorial and directorial power to the players means that the very kind of central direction and "pruning" that Egri advocates becomes increasingly improbable, if not impossible.

I mean, at this point we don;t even have a coherent theory of the use of the Egrian premise in RPG at all, and yet we seem to have leaped right beyond that point and begun to deconstruct premise by GNS.  Obviously, I feel this produces some extremely weird results - the premises in the essay.  Frex the premise "Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing intrigue among vampires?" does not appear to me to be a premise at all.  Where is the challenge, the provocation?  Where is the emotional commitment?  How does this apply to other players, or is this a "premise" specific to an individual player?  Whatb ahppens when you finish this event and want to carry on with the same character - surely, if the "premise" above indicates a player mentality, then it will be constant in all premise-possessing stories in which this player participates.  Which, once again, renders this construction useless in regards both the broad, systemic premise and the specific real-premise.




Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 24, 2001, 09:22:00 AM
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And playing some other game, which happens not to exist, which takes a Narrativist approach to Lovecraft, one gets the Narrativist approach of beefing up the Premise of insight = alienation, or American optimism cracking in the face of the horror of the Truth. Developing that Premise into a Theme, specific to THESE protagonists at THIS time, is the task of the role-players (GM + players alike).


Why is that specifically narratavist?  This is the part I don't get at all - players are NOT simply happy with "the hook", they don't wander about just exploring.  They need, want, some sort of direction, an emotional investment, yada yada.  I submit that the phenomenon you describe as occuring in the Narratavist approach necessarily appears in the gamist and simulationist approach too.  In fact, it MUST do - every game is about THESE protagonists at THIS time.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Marco on October 24, 2001, 09:41:00 AM
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On 2001-10-24 12:30, Ron Edwards wrote:
Marco,

I think you are employing "Premise" differently. In my terms ...


I was refering to it in Mike's terms (whose post I quoted). I believe in your terms it's *axiomatic* that narrativist premises are different from simultionist premises.

Whoever was using premise for "what makes the game worth playing" I take issue that:

What makes the game worth playing for Narrativists resembles literature and for others doesn't so much. I didn't use 'premise' unitl my last line and I regret it.

Do you believe that "what makes the game worth playing" is more similar to literature in narrativist games than sim? If so, from a writer standpoint (i.e. "I like to write literature--that's what interest me."), a reader ("I enjoy reading literature") or both? I assume you wouldn't say they're the same thing.

-Marco


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2001, 10:30:00 AM
Gareth,

It is completely opaque to me why you perceive Gamist Premises as necessarily arising from mechanics. Again and again, I have said, Premises express role-players' interest in what to do. None of my listed Gamist Premises rely on a specific system being present. No Premise does.

Now, if you perceive this to be at odds with my (presumed) claim that Gamism DOES need external, formalized circumstances of competition, then I can see where the conceptual snag is. Gamism does not need these things to be present in a given system; people with Gamist inclinations will either use them if present or will simply insert them (up to and including a standard of success/win) if necessary.

These inclinations on the part of actual role-players are real. Many people LOVE to find a role-playing game and see what they can find in it which provides a good "win" issue. If they don't find it, they are then good at competing for things like "outcome control" using Drama methods, or "screen time," or anything else that may be superimposed/inserted as an indication of winning.

Also, I am convinced you are misreading the paragraph in Chapter 1 regarding the change from individual interest ("embryonic Premise") to the general, shared interest ("developed Premise"), in assuming that the latter must be Narrativist. It does not have to be. Any, all, or other of the Premises listed in the GNS chapter are where a "developed Premise" may go.

As for Egri, his notions apply ONLY to a developed Narrativist Premise, and not for one second or for any other purpose to the other sorts. I referred to him only in the context of such Premises. Egri does not provide the foundation for my FULL explanation of role-playing Premises. His book is the foundation for discussing the Narrativist sub-set of them only.

I am baffled by your claim that:
"... characters simply cannot and will not be designed and played sufficiently close to the real-premise to replicate the consistency that an author exploiting Egris techniques achieves through their limitless editorial power. Even worse, the transfer of authorial and directorial power to the players means that the very kind of central direction and "pruning" that Egri advocates becomes increasingly improbable, if not impossible."

My entire experience of role-playing, and over the last six years specifically, suggests that you are not crediting role-players enough. People who are inclined to play in this direction do so with ease, enthusiasm, and vast creativity.

To address your second post, I agree with you that role-playing is necessarily about these characters at this time, but that "developing Premise into a Theme" is specific to Narrativism. I have written at length in the past about how diversity of characters in (say) a Call of Cthulhu scenario does not represent the same impact on the outcome of play that a diversity of characters has in (say) Hero Wars. (By diversity, I do not mean among the group, but from group to group.)

You ask for references regarding Simulationist ones, and I refer you to any of the Scarlet Jester's or Seth ben-Ezra's treatment of Exploration, which is quite explicit about it ("shared daydreaming" and so on). Regarding Gamist Premises, I am confident that any rigorous discussion of organized competition would suffice.

And that brings me to more baffling claims and questions about Gamism, for instance:
"'Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing intrigue
among vampires?' does not appear to me to be a premise at all. Where is the challenge, the provocation? Where is the emotional commitment? How does this apply to other players, or is this a 'premise' specific to an individual player? Whatb ahppens when you finish this event and want to carry on with the same character - surely, if the 'premise' above indicates a player mentality, then it will be constant in all premise-possessing stories in which this player participates."

I'm not even sure where to begin with this material. I'll try ...
1) The challenge, provocation, and emotional commitment are explicit given that competition is a source of enjoyment. These things absolutely rely on the expectation of the other players to compete regarding the same issues. If you cannot see that many people enjoy competing with one another regarding status and influence, via imaginative circumstances, then I'm afraid you are failing to see a very common, very well-acknowledged form of recreation.

2) Regarding carrying on with the same character, as time progresses during play, circumstances of that competition change. If we are playing D&D3E and this Premise happens to be extant, the competition among the players is rather different at 10th level than it is at 1st. Or, to stick with Vampire, the competition among players is similarly different when they are Princes of their territories rather than shivering newbies. It is baffling to me that you cannot perceive that many role-players will enjoy the changing circumstances of competition as the characters and events of play develop.

3) At the very end, unless I am mistaken, you imply that such a player is absolutely constrained to compete in just such a fashion under any and all circumstances. Why? I have stated clearly that a given role-player is not constrained either to a Premise nor to a whole GNS mode. This fellow we are discussing may well enjoy a hard-core Simulationist role-playing experience, with no competition at all, next week. Or perhaps he does indeed bring the player-player competitiveness to every table. Either way is permitted in the context of my points.

Gareth, something about the way you perceive this Gamism issue is really, really hampering the discussion. I place the responsibility on you because I have just reviewed all my replies to you about it starting with "Ron's new essay" thread, and putting them together, I'm pretty much finished presenting my case. I have yet to see an argument that refutes that case. I see a lot of material that illustrates the confusions or, shall we say, skewed readings that I've tried to dissect in the above post.

Best,
Ron


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2001, 10:32:00 AM
Marco,

I am getting the impression that I keep agreeing with your central point and you are not seeing that I agree.

Yes - Simulationist experience (at least of certain kinds, when "story" is involved) is much like reading, although in a kind of "experience it directly" way.

Yes - Narrativist experience is much like writing.

I agree. I'm not sure how to be much clearer than that.

Regarding the differences in Premise, it's explicit in my essay. The Premise in Narrativism permits one to act as an author regarding issues by the setting, situation, etc.

In Simulationism, the Premise consists only of INTEREST in the setting, situation, etc, and the priority is to EXPERIENCE whatever might be happening.

These Premises could not be more different to me. Their reliance, in our present example, on the same literature is utterly trivial.

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-24 14:35 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 10:46:00 AM
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On 2001-10-24 13:41, Marco wrote:
I was refering to it in Mike's terms (whose post I quoted). I believe in your terms it's *axiomatic* that narrativist premises are different from simultionist premises.


But as I keep pointing out, I am trying to elucidate Ron's point. If you don't like the use of the term Premise here, replace it with something else that better fits Ron's meaning. Or define what you mean by Premise, and we'll talk about that instead. Take your pick.

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Whoever was using premise for "what makes the game worth playing" I take issue that:

What makes the game worth playing for Narrativists resembles literature and for others doesn't so much. I didn't use 'premise' unitl my last line and I regret it.

Do you believe that "what makes the game worth playing" is more similar to literature in narrativist games than sim? If so, from a writer standpoint (i.e. "I like to write literature--that's what interest me."), a reader ("I enjoy reading literature") or both? I assume you wouldn't say they're the same thing.


That last part is confusing. And I feel like I should take what I said about literature back. I was just trying to employ the allusion to make a point. I'll try to be more clear:

Those things that make a Simulationist game interesting to Simulationists - what Ron would call a Simulationist Premise , but whatever - are things like "participating in Lovecraft's New England" or "participating in a world where the things that Lovecraft wrote about are real."

Those things that make a Narratitivist game interesting to Narrativists - what Ron would call a Narrative Premise - are things like "alienation" or "optimism vs. dread", which happen to be more like the Premises of literature (no surprise that this sort of premise interests people who are more interested in story).


And I'll repeat, yet again. That doesn't mean that the Narrativist game can't have verisimilitude in it, or that the Simulationist game can't lead to a story. It only means that, as written the game's mechanics tend to support one or the other.

Am I just talking in circles, or does this make sense?

Mike

(edited to say, dangit, Ron beat me to it)

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-10-24 14:53 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 10:56:00 AM
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On 2001-10-24 13:22, contracycle wrote:
Why is that specifically narratavist?  This is the part I don't get at all - players are NOT simply happy with "the hook", they don't wander about just exploring.  They need, want, some sort of direction, an emotional investment, yada yada.  I submit that the phenomenon you describe as occuring in the Narratavist approach necessarily appears in the gamist and simulationist approach too.  In fact, it MUST do - every game is about THESE protagonists at THIS time.


People can't be hooked or emotionally invested by competition, problem solving, and simple simulation? Jeeze must really be wasting all that time with all those war games I play; I wonder why I do it?

Sorry. That's not right. What I mean is that Gamists do prefer these sorts of hooks, become emotionally invested in them, and are sometimes not even at all interested in the others. Sometimes. Simulationists are sometimes engaged even if no story ever presents itself (and I've got some that will really rail against using mechanics to cause story).

Gareth, I'd venture to say that you are like me and many other players what I like to call Tri-Modal. You like bits of each. Wouldn't want to play without considering all three. But there are others who are exclusionists, as well. The point is that Gamist mechanics will satisfy the Gamist in you. Same for Sim and Narr.

Not really all that far out, is it?

Mike
(edited to ameliorate effects of snarky comment)

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-10-24 15:42 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Marco on October 24, 2001, 11:01:00 AM
Hi, Ron,

That's really clear :smile: My post was about "that thing which makes you want to play" being 'more like literature in narrativist games' (my pharaprhase) I read your post as saying "but that isn't exactly what I mean by Premise--" which I knew.

It was all about:

"For a Narrativist game, these things happen to resemble (to a certain extent only superficially) the Premises of literature. The others don't very much."

As I said, I wished I hadn't used the term because I *wasn't* using premise as you've defined it.

I, of course, agree with you about the different approach (authorial vs. experiencing--which I'm calling reading as a lit-analogy). Mike, I think, tied "that thing which makes you want to play" to "resembling Premises literature." If his use of capital 'P' means *writing* literature, I've got no problem then. If it doesn't, I disagree with him.

But if that's true then what he said in effect was:

"Writing literature is like writing literature and reading it isn't very much like writing it."

Which I'd find a strange thing to be asserting (true as it is).

Take care,
-Marco



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 11:56:00 AM
Marco, your logic is off.

A tree needs water.
I need water.
Therefore I am a tree.

You know that I was not trying to assert anything like what you said. I'm just making some statements.

All games have a premise (defined here by Ron as thing that makes ya wanna play). Simulationist premises (in this context) are about participation in a simulation. Narrativist premises are statements that resemble the premises of literature as described by Egri.

Now, which part do you disagree with?

Mike


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Marco on October 24, 2001, 12:37:00 PM
Hi Mike,

What I took issue with was NOT

Simulatist Premises == that which interests Simulationists. As I said, that's pretty unarguable.

It was:
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Those things that make a Narratitivist game interesting to Narrativists - what Ron would call a Narrative Premise - are things like "alienation" or "optimism vs. dread", which happen to be more like the Premises of literature (no surprise that this sort of premise interests people who are more interested in story).


I'm not using the word 'Premise' here at all. I *am* talking about "that which makes the game worth playing."

The thing that makes me want to play Call of Cthulhu was the same thing that made me want to read the books. It isn't the act of getting to 'be' a CoC progagonist (that wouldn't actually be any fun, would it?) and I don't like the term Exploration since I think if I said "I want to find out what happens at the end" it'd be seen as exploratory but, going to a play and watching King Lear and wanting to "stay until the end to see what happens" would be described by few as 'exploratory.'

I think:

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" ...this sort of premise interests people who are more interested in story ..."


under the heading of Narrativists Premises may be what I find misleading. A better way of saying it might be:

"Those people that are interested in literary themes in their gaming (literary being a terrible word--but I can't think of a better one) will like scenarios which employ those themes."

--Aside--
It seems to me that how you want to experience those themes (be it 'writing' or 'reading') determines whether or not you're Sim or Nar--not the theme itself.

As someone who is 'more interested in story' and in, say, Lovecraft's themes, I'm unsure of the value of directoral power (a key point of Narrativisim over Simulationism, no?) in experiencing/exploring those themes.

Clearer?
-Marco





[ This Message was edited by: Marco on 2001-10-24 16:58 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 01:07:00 PM
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On 2001-10-24 16:37, Marco wrote:
What I took issue with was NOT

Simulatist Premises == that which interests Simulationists. As I said, that's pretty unarguable.

It was:
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Those things that make a Narratitivist game interesting to Narrativists - what Ron would call a Narrative Premise - are things like "alienation" or "optimism vs. dread", which happen to be more like the Premises of literature (no surprise that this sort of premise interests people who are more interested in story).


I'm not using the word 'Premise' here at all. I *am* talking about "that which makes the game worth playing."

The thing that makes me want to play Call of Cthulhu was the same thing that made me want to read the books. It isn't the act of getting to 'be' a CoC progagonist (that wouldn't actually be any fun, would it?) and I don't like the term Exploration since I think if I said "I want to find out what happens at the end" it'd be seen as exploratory but, going to a play and watching King Lear and wanting to "stay until the end to see what happens" would be described by few as 'exploratory.'


Would you be more satisfied with Experience than Exploratory? Sure you want to see the end. But do you care more about it being a "realistic" portrayal of Cthulhuania or should it be more of a Lovecraft story? CoC does the first, not the second.


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I think:

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" ...this sort of premise interests people who are more interested in story ..."


under the heading of Narrativists Premises may be what I find misleading. A better way of saying it might be:

"Those people that are interested in literary themes in their gaming (literary being a terrible word--but I can't use a better one) will like scenarios which employ those themes."


Uh, sure, if it makes you feel better.

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--Aside--
It seems to me that how you want to experience those themes (be it 'writing' or 'reading') determines whether or not you're Sim or Nar--not the theme itself.


Never said anything about theme, personally. And that, too, unfortunately has a loaded meaning around here. But if you mean setting here, you're absolutely right. But we're not talking about the setting. We're talking about the mechanics.

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As someone who is 'more interested in story' and in, say, Lovecraft's themes, I'm unsure of the value of directoral power (a key point of Narrativisim over Simulationism, no?) in experiencing/exploring those themes.


A couple of things. First, I think that you are less concerned with story than you are with the simulation being good, which is why you don't like Director Power and other Narrativist trappings. Or, maybe I'm wrong and you really do prefer to push story. But if you do, then I can only suggest that you try Director power. What is the downside of Director Power? The only answer I've ever heard is that it kills SOD. If you prioritize SOD over the story, then by definition you're a Simulationist.

I'd suggest that you are just like me and Mike Sullivan in that you like story but want a good amount of SOD as well. Well, to the extent that you want this SOD and reject Narrativist methods, I'd say that you are a Simulationist. But that hardly matters. What matters here is that CoC has a Simulationist Premise (Ron's def. for Premise) of "Playing a part in a Lovcraftian Plot". Whereas the theoretical Narrativist game would have the exact same Setting, but a Premise of Optimism vs. Loathing. The difference? The mechanics would be vastly different including, potentially, such stuff as Author and Director Powers, and other Narrativist stuff.

Still circling?

Mike


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2001, 02:31:00 PM
Hey,

If I'm reading correctly, Marco is now spot-on. He was right to spot that Mike should have said WRITING or CREATING literature as the Narrativist premise, which is one little weeny word difference in what Mike said, not worth posts and posts of debate.

I'm pretty sure Mike, I, and Marco are all saying the same thing now. I suggest we back up, look over the whole thread, and see if we can call it done. There's been a bit too much narrow-focus on one-little-word per thread - we haven't realized that we're all agreeing.

Best,
Ron



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 25, 2001, 04:47:00 AM
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It is completely opaque to me why you perceive Gamist Premises as necessarily arising from mechanics. Again and


I have said repeatedly that I find the notion absurd.

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conceptual snag is. Gamism does not need these things to be present in a given system; people with Gamist inclinations will either use them if present or will simply insert them (up to and including a standard of success/win) if necessary.


And as I have mentioned previously, I find your imposition of a competitive motive innapropriate.

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These inclinations on the part of actual role-players are real. Many people LOVE to find a role-playing game and see what they can find in it which provides a good "win" issue.


I fully accept such people exist.  How do you cater for non-competitive gamists?  You perstitenly avoid answerring this question, becuase you keep identifying gamism with competition.

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As for Egri, his notions apply ONLY to a developed Narrativist Premise, and not for one second or for any other purpose to the other sorts. I referred to him only in


Why?  This is a central part of my objection to the scheme as it exists in your essay.

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Premises. His book is the foundation for discussing the Narrativist sub-set of them only.


Just to be explicit, why only that subset?

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My entire experience of role-playing, and over the last six years specifically, suggests that you are not crediting role-players enough. People who are inclined to play in this direction do so with ease, enthusiasm, and vast creativity.


I find the idea that 5 people are able to exert authorial consistency with coherency indistinguishable from the coherency exerted by a single author very strange.  Is there any supporting evidence?

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To address your second post, I agree with you that role-playing is necessarily about these characters at this time, but that "developing Premise into a Theme" is specific to Narrativism. I have written at length in the past about how


Fair enough, this distinction is clarifying some of our conifusion.  Why do you believe this to be the case?

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("shared daydreaming" and so on). Regarding Gamist Premises, I am confident that any rigorous discussion of organized competition would suffice.


I am quite confident it would necessarily fail, as competition is not IMO a significant part of the appeal for gamists who have, with malice aforethought, selected a cooperative hobby.

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1) The challenge, provocation, and emotional commitment are explicit given that competition is a source of enjoyment.


As I have poibnted out at great length, that is not a give.  I repeat the question: whats the hook?

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circumstances, then I'm afraid you are failing to see a very common, very well-acknowledged form of recreation.


And as you also pointed out, most of them left when MtG came out.  Can we address RPGers now, please?

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2) Regarding carrying on with the same character, as time progresses during play, circumstances of that competition change. If we are playing D&D3E and this Premise happens to be extant, the competition among the players is rather different at 10th level than it is at 1st. Or, to stick with Vampire, the competition among players is similarly different when they are Princes of their territories rather than shivering newbies. It is baffling to me that you
cannot perceive that many role-players will enjoy the changing circumstances of competition as the characters and events of play develop.


It is not baffling to me at all.  It strikes me that this implies that one single premise (competition in your view) operates at all periods of the characters existance.  Which suggests that such a premise is embodied in the mechanics, as previously discussed, or in the style.  Which is merely to say that gamists don't really have premise - which I object to.

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3) At the very end, unless I am mistaken, you imply that such a player is absolutely constrained to compete in just such a fashion under any and all circumstances. Why? I have


That is the inference I draw from premise located in the mechanics, which as I point out, I disagree with.

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stated clearly that a given role-player is not constrained either to a Premise nor to a whole GNS mode. This fellow we are discussing may well enjoy a hard-core Simulationist role-playing experience, with no competition at all, next


Exactly.  So then why above do you construct a scenario in which a single form of competitive premise is persistent?

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thread, and putting them together, I'm pretty much finished presenting my case. I have yet to see an argument that refutes that case. I see a lot of material that illustrates the confusions or, shall we say, skewed readings that I've tried to dissect in the above post.


This is because you keep imposing interpetations on my words.  Where I talk about gamism, you read competition, frex.  I did not propose that premise were located in the mechanics, I have been objecting to the idea, and yet you have attributed it to me.  This is not helping.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 25, 2001, 08:48:00 AM
Hi Gareth,

I'm using my essay format to answer rather than a line-by-line, because I find that the latter loses focus really quickly. If this has led me to miss one of your points or fail to address something important, please let me know. I have also attempted to paraphrase your points in order to make sure that I am dealing with them, rather than caricaturing them.

THING ONE: GAMISM AND MECHANICS
We apparently agree on one thing quite nicely - no Premise arises independently from game mechanics.

It appeared to me that you were attributing the mechanics-based outlook to my essay. That is what I was objecting to. It appeared to you that I was attributing the mechanics-based outlook to you, and that's what you were objecting to.

Given that we both agree that Premise is a people-want thing, not a rules-say thing, and also that neither of us is accusing the other (or ever has) of holding the silly view, we can stop there.

THING TWO: COMPETITION AMONG WHOM?
I have been very careful to state that my construction of Gamism does NOT specify precisely who is competing with whom. All it requires is that the competition exists, and that the participants are real people.

Players may compete with other players in the same group. Players may compete as a group against other groups of players. Players may compete as a group with the GM. Players may compete, via the GM, with the designer of the scenario (who is indeed a real person and therefore eligible).

I think it is reasonable to say, for a given period of play (a session, a campaign so-called, whatever), that a group of role-players must agree about which of the above they are according with. The range of such agreements is what I have based my diversity of Gamist Premises upon. I freely admit this list may be added to or otherwise modified.

Therefore, to suggest that my construction of Gamism always relies upon inter-player competition (and conflict of interest specifically among players) is not accurate.

THING THREE: COMPETITION AND APPROPRIATENESS
Is competition an "appropriate" basis for role-playing? You suggest, for instance, that the main reason for bringing such a thing into role-playing is "malice aforethought," and also that the competitive-player exodus to Magic has left us with non-competitive "real" role-players. These suggestions and other points you've made lead me to think that your answer to the question is No - that competition is imposed upon, or perhaps even … soils? diminishes? the acts of role-playing.

At one point in your post, when you refer to "with malice aforethought," you have identified any competitive role-player with a disruptive person whose goals are not to be granted consideration. I agree that disruptive persons are NOT welcome or necessary to fit into the framework (it's mentioned in my essay). However, I do not agree that bringing competition to the table constitutes disruption. When a group of competitive role-players meet and play, they have fun together; similarly, when a group of (say) habitual Narrativists get together expressly to compete instead for an evening, they have fun together. When a group of (or a group containing) disruptive pseudo-players meets, they do not have fun together.

Therefore, I simply have a different view of the constructive role of competition among like-minded people. It applies most especially to those people who, in the face of Magic's lure, DID prefer role-playing. In other words, those to whom Exploration of setting, system, situation, color, and character DOES afford the context in which they prefer to compete. To my certain knowledge, this behavior is popular. We even have a game well-suited for some aspects of it: D&D3E caters to it far better than any version of D&D so far.

To remove these people (or more accurately, these preferences) from the sphere of "proper" or "real" role-playing appears to me to be classic synecdoche and rather unfair.

That outlook informs the substance of my treatment of Gamism in the essay. If it comes down to you seeing competition as utterly at odds with role-playing ("cooperative" as you put it), then we simply disagree. You are free to do so, but such a fundamental disagreement is not going to be worked out BETWEEN US, but among those who review all the points that have been made and decide for themselves, individually.

THING FOUR: GAMISM WITHOUT COMPETITION
As I mentioned at one point, the notion of "testing one's skill" or "deal with a challenge" does not strike me as a goal/mode of play at the same level as the three that I have defined. Instead, it strikes me very much like "story" or "be my character" or any of the other, similar terms that I have acknowledged but not fitted into the framework. This is because these terms are best considered nuances of Exploration that may show up in multiple ways across all three of the stated modes, as well as across multiple Premises within those modes.

So if a person states that he has "testing my skill" as a goal of role-playing, I treat it very much as if he had said, "space opera," in which case I would ask more questions to discover what setting, situation, etc, he is referring to with his genre label. Or if he said, "story," in which case I'd ask more questions to discover which of creating or experiencing the story was the highest priority.

Questions for "testing my skill" would include "against what?" in which case an answer that included an active fellow human with opposed interests in-game (or more subtly, a scenario design that could be said to have "opposed interests") would indicate Gamism. Other answers would indicate, perhaps, versions of Simulationism that focused on Situation. Still others would indicate one or another version of Narrativism.

Therefore, to my view, I have not avoided the question of non-competitive Gamists because it simply does not exist. Gamists who prefer to compete against scenario designers, for instance, relying on cooperation among the "team," are in fact Gamists too. All persons (or rather, preferences) are accounted for in my scheme. No one has to be "explained" or "explained away."

The only thing that has to get tossed out is the insistence that a non-competitive role-playing behavior has any claim to the term Gamist. Again, if this comes down to a very fundamental disagreement between you and me, then we have to live with it. I do not foresee any budging on my part if the disagreement exists at this level, rather than at the "adjustable" or "negotiatory" level. On the other hand, I certainly think no less of you for holding an alternate view, and will refer to that view with respect.

THING FIVE: EGRI AND PREMISE
Egri's book is about playwriting. It is the only analytical treatment of writing I know of that distinguishes between the ISSUE as perceived/productive by the audience early in the experience, and the OUTCOME as perceived/constructed by the audience at the end, or near the end, of the experience. Most other analyses, and the way writing is often presented in school, tend to confound these together into "theme" in a very generalized sense.

Egri uses the term "Premise" for the first part (the issue). He spends less time on the second part, but I think that it corresponds very nicely to the strict usage of Theme, which might be "message," or "point," or "lesson." Egri also does a fine job of stating that the goal of the author is to render Premise TREMENDOUSLY clear early in the experience.

My own use of this material is very much the same as Egri's purpose - to render the act of CREATING a story more intelligible to the practitioner. The role-playing group, to me, is in the position of the author. I modify his presentation slightly by consistently stating Premise as a question

Now, all of this back-story is to set up for my point: Egri only concerns himself with the active, self-reflective construction of a story. This act corresponds exactly with my definition of Narrativism (which preceded, by the way, my discovery of Egri). Therefore his points only apply to the various permutations of Narrativist Premises.

My use of Premise elsewhere - the embryonic form in part 1 of the essay, and the developed forms in the various GNS modes - is much larger and broader than Egri's topic, and, as I say, his topic fits neatly into ONE of those modes. In other words, trying to broaden his use of the term to fit ALL the role-playing Premises is nonsensical, as would be any other mix-and-match of his Premise to anything but Narrativism. (I am not claiming that you are doing anything nonsensical; I am only attempting to clarify my present point.)

Part of your discussion concerns the actual practicality of group authorship. I do not claim that the coherency of such group authorship is "indistinguishable" from the coherency of a single author. I do claim that it is TOLERABLY coherent, and reliably so among like-minded role-players, enough such that stories of some merit may be constructed.

As for references to support this claim, those would require a literature on role-playing that has undergone academic review and years of published, rigorous studies. We don't have any such thing. You are of course free to disbelieve my above claim of tolerable coherence, if you'd like.

THING SIX: SOME STUFF I THINK IS MUDDLED
I am very disinclined to get into a I-said-that-you-said-that-I-said tangle about anything. I suggest that the material in our posts about a continuing character and shifting goals is leading to that kind of tangle. I will present my claims and hope that they get us out of it. Both of these claims refer to potential aspects of Gamism as defined by me, but neither claim is intended to hold for any and all examples of Gamism.

Gamist play, if desired (not by definition), may be sustained over long-term play because the changing events and power levels present new arenas for competition.

Gamist play, however, is NOT constrained always to lead to more Gamist play, either within the context of a given group or game, nor during the history of the person from game to game.

I think that elements of these claims were being seen as definitive. They are not. They are observations about different aspects of Gamism, as I have defined it, in response to specific questions. Nor do I see any substance to the claim that these observations lead to a "mechanics-based" interpretation of Gamist Premises (not to say you made this accusation, either; I'm simply being clear about my present point).

IN CONCLUSION
I have done my very best to present both my view and a respectful, accurate restatement of your view, in order to make sure we are communicating. Again, if I have elided or simply missed any of your points, please let me know. Also, if it is true (as it appears) that our disagreement is at a very deep level, regarding the "appropriateness" of competition in role-playing, then I suggest we stand up, put on our hats, pay for one another's drinks, and walk out of the tea-club arm in arm - disagreeing, but seeing one another's views and happy to meet again for the next conversation.

Best,
Ron

P.S. Edits were to fix a word or two (bad cut/paste) and an apparent inability to count


[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-25 13:05 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: joshua neff on October 25, 2001, 10:27:00 AM
Although this is offtopic regarding the main thrust of this thread, I didn't want to start a new thread just for this, so if I derail any discussion, I apologize. But I wanted to add my own comments to something Ron said:

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Part of your discussion concerns the actual practicality of group authorship. I do not claim that the coherency of such group authorship is "indistinguishable" from the coherency of a single author. I do claim that it is TOLERABLY coherent, and reliably so among like-minded role-players, enough such that stories of some merit may be constructed.


I would say that if you want the "strength" of single authorship, go write a story. If you want the "strength" of collaborative authorship, narrativist RPGs are a good way to go. I don't see one as stronger than the other, just different. As many people have pointed out (usually as a slam against narrativist play), RPGs aren't books or movies or comics. Of course they're not, so expecting them to behave the same way is unrealistic. But RPGs have strengths of their own, & from my own experience, good narrativist play leads to satisfying stories that engage the players/authors/audience. Not in the same way as reading or writing a novel, but as something different.
So, no, not "indistiguishable". But just as satisfying. (& for me, much more satisfying than playing a roleplaying game in which the GM is the primary author & the players are exploring the GM's story. I get very little enjoyment from that.)

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-10-25 14:29 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Matt Machell on October 26, 2001, 12:51:00 AM
Okay, I'll keep this brief.

My problem was with a perceived misuse of the word Premise. Using it for "what interests a player in the game" and "the themes which a narativist wishes to explore" at the same time. I have no problem with it being used for the first, but believe it just confuses people if you use it for the second as well(especially in close proximity), so it's the shorthand which annoys/confuses.

Aside: One of the things which interests me is the ways in which people interpret what a games premise is (as it's what makes a player interested it must be subjective, right?). It seems to me that what a designer thinks the premise is and a player/gm think it is can often be completely different things (possibly to do with player expectations). The vampire example at the start of the thread was what brought this home to me. What people want vs what they get.

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I suggest we stand up, put on our hats, pay for one another's drinks, and walk out of the tea-club arm in arm - disagreeing, but seeing one another's views and happy to meet again for the next conversation.


This is one of the really good things about the forge, people seem really able to do this even when they obviously diagree strongly.

I'll stop blathering now.

Matt



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 26, 2001, 04:16:00 AM
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I'm using my essay format to answer rather than a line-by-line, because I find that the latter loses focus really


Fair enough, I have a prefernce for the sectional quote as it allows me to address specific issues explicitly.

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I have been very careful to state that my construction of Gamism does NOT specify precisely who is competing with whom. All it requires is that the competition exists, and that the participants are real people.


OK.  To reiterate, I find the conception of competition in RPG to be largely useless.  This is because:

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Players may compete with other players in the same group. Players may compete as a group against other groups of players. Players may compete as a group with the GM. Players may compete, via the GM, with the designer of the scenario (who is indeed a real person and therefore eligible).


The first form of behaviour appears to be disfunctional, IMO.  at least, I have only ever encountered it in a form I considered disfunctional.  The second form would appear to me to describe tournament play almost exclusively, which seems unecessarily specific for a general theory.  Furthermore, such play is usually a special case for the participants, not their regular mode.  The third form is meaningless, because a competition between a side with limits and a side which is limitless is not any sort of challenge for either party.  The last form is equally strange, since the active participants will never meet their opponent, and are competing with them only by proxy (the GM).  This exhibits much the same problem as option 3.

As a result, I don't believe that any of the above meaningfully describe gamist play, nor do they shed any light on gamist motives.  I think the gamist is much more attracted to "challenge", which we possibly associate with competitiveness between real people, but I don't believe this is strictly necessary.  There are many forms of challenge, IMO, which do not rely an actual competitive behaviour against another person.  Climbing mountains springs to mind, with the frequently expressed motive "because its there".

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Therefore, to suggest that my construction of Gamism always relies upon inter-player competition (and conflict of interest specifically among players) is not accurate.


Right.  I think the gamist player is not competing against real people at all, but is experiencing the "competition" experienced by their character by proxy.  The response that the player gives to the challenges presented by the game are the driver for gamist play; the test is whether the player can correctly analyse the problem and implement a solution.  That is why I feel that describing this behaviour as "competitive" misses the point in almost every respect.

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Is competition an "appropriate" basis for role-playing? You suggest, for instance, that the main reason for bringing such a thing into role-playing is "malice aforethought,"


Bad choice of phrase; in the UK "malice aforthought" is a mildly humorous verbose way of saying "deliberately".  What I was saying that, if a person (player) is motivated by competition, deliberately selecting such a cooperative behaviour as RPG in which to experience this competition seems rather odd.  It suggests to me that characterising the motivation of gamists as competitive is a red herring, because the one factor we know for certain is that their preferred form of play, inasmuch as they are RPGers, is largely cooperative.  Secondly, even if it were true that at one point there was a significant incidence of competitive gamism, your argument about the winnowing induced by M:tG is a good one, and that if we accept that theory we should adress not a notional gamist which once existed, but those remaining gamists which exist today.  I.e. those gamists who were not merely interested in comeptition framed with fantastic trappings, but who are attracted to RPG qua RPG.

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To remove these people (or more accurately, these preferences) from the sphere of "proper" or "real" role-playing appears to me to be classic synecdoche and rather unfair.


This is essentially what I am arguing your present schema does; by mischaracterising their motivation as competitive, we appear to me to be entirely missing a discussion of non-competitive challenge which would address their concerns.

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Questions for "testing my skill" would include "against what?" in which case an answer that included an active fellow human with opposed interests in-game (or more subtly, a scenario design that could be said to have "opposed interests") would indicate Gamism. Other


Right.  And at this point, what I believe is the imposition of an assumed competitivenes, IMO you miss the "bite" for gamists.  I am essentially asserting that the diagnosis of "competitivism" in gamists is mistaken, and that conclusions drawn from this diagnosis will also be mistaken.

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The only thing that has to get tossed out is the insistence that a non-competitive role-playing behavior has any claim to the term Gamist. Again, if this comes down to a very fundamental disagreement between you and me, then we have to live with it. I do not foresee any budging on my part if


OK, fair enough.  I have attempted to outline above why I think competitive roleplay is a non-sequitur.



the disagreement exists at this level, rather than at the "adjustable" or "negotiatory" level. On the other hand, I certainly think no less of you for holding an alternate view, and will refer to that view with respect.

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THING FIVE: EGRI AND PREMISE

My own use of this material is very much the same as Egri's purpose - to render the act of CREATING a story more intelligible to the practitioner. The role-playing group, to me, is in the position of the author. I modify his presentation slightly by consistently stating Premise as a question


I wholly agree with this from my reading of Egri, and that is how I would like to see the concept employed.

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my discovery of Egri). Therefore his points only apply to the various permutations of Narrativist Premises.


And this I stonrgly disagree with, because I feel that a GM serving a groupd of sim/gamist premises, for example, should and does engage in much the same activity.  The conscious and self reflective aspect of story building may not be occurring in the players, but is occurring in the GM's mind.  So to limit this process only to the narrativist participants does a gross disservice and is rather dismissive to players with other preferences.

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other words, trying to broaden his use of the term to fit ALL the role-playing Premises is nonsensical, as would be any other mix-and-match of his Premise to anything but Narrativism. (I am not claiming that you are doing anything nonsensical; I am only attempting to clarify my present point.)


I would like clarification as to why tyou find this nonsensical.  Please not that a response like "cooperative self reflective design amongst competitive gamists is a nonsensical proposition", this will of course not be answering my actual question.

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Part of your discussion concerns the actual practicality of group authorship. I do not claim that the coherency of such group authorship is "indistinguishable" from the coherency of a single author. I do claim that it is TOLERABLY coherent, and reliably so among like-minded role-players, enough such that stories of some merit may be constructed.


Excellent.  Then we agree that even in the Narrativist case, there must be some modification of Egri's conception of premise and the methodologies he suggests.  I would greatly value a discussion of how these techniques can be employed in a multi-author environment, but feel that this must necessarily address how this process operates in the other aspects of the GNS too.  I do not accept that a Egrian premise ONLY occurs in Narrativist play, and players of those other games (if only the GM's) would benefit from such an analysis.  If anything, it would be MORE valuable in the othe strands, where the necessity for such coherency in story terms may be less immediately apparent.

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if it is true (as it appears) that our disagreement is at a very deep level, regarding the "appropriateness" of competition in role-playing, then I suggest we stand up, put on our hats, pay for one another's drinks, and walk out of the tea-club arm in arm - disagreeing, but seeing one another's views and happy to meet again for the next conversation.


That appears to be the case.


[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-26 08:18 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Valamir on October 26, 2001, 06:33:00 AM
Quote

Quote

Players may compete with other players in the same group. Players may compete as a group against other groups of players. Players may compete as a group with the GM. Players may compete, via the GM, with the designer of the scenario (who is indeed a real person and therefore eligible).


The first form of behaviour appears to be disfunctional, IMO.  at least, I have only ever encountered it in a form I considered disfunctional.  The second form would appear to me to describe tournament play almost exclusively, which seems unecessarily specific for a general theory.  Furthermore, such play is usually a special case for the participants, not their regular mode.  The third form is meaningless, because a competition between a side with limits and a side which is limitless is not any sort of challenge for either party.  The last form is equally strange, since the active participants will never meet their opponent, and are competing with them only by proxy (the GM).  This exhibits much the same problem as option 3.


I'd suggest that your experience has missed an awful lot of legitimate game play.  I have played SEVERAL campaigns where the players and their characters were actively competing against each other, and this goes beyond the silly fun of paranoia into some pretty deep "secret agendas" in a B5 campaign.  For the campaign to end, some characters would have to "win" and some would have to "lose".  Unlike in a narrativist game where who the winners and losers are would be determined ideally in collaboratively by what makes for the best story, this campaign was determined soley by which player was best at keeping his agenda secret while thwarting everyone elses.  It was not dysfunctional, it was one of the best campaigns I've ever been in.

I have also structured campaigns with competition between groups on a regular basis, in fact a friend of mine is running such a game right now.  This usually stems from having 2 different groups to GM for and not wanting to have to double the prep time.  So both groups play in the same world going through the same "story" on different days...usually as rivals.  One of my climactic sessions involved finally getting the two groups together and having them duke it out.  Admittedly this is a much less common situation but it does exist.

As for competing with the GM...that is not a non existant situation, it is one of two traditional defaults.  In "old school" roleplaying you have the GM as referee, or the GM as adversary.  Sure the GM has unlimited power that hardly makes it less of a competition.  I know MANY MANY gamers who prefer rules heavy games for the primary reason NOT of any supposed realism or simulative value, but because the more rules there are the less freedom the GM has to just squash you.  I would venture to say that a LARGE LARGE percentage of AD&D campaigns (which represents a LARGE LARGE percentage of all roleplaying activity) fell into this category.  You might not like it, but its hardly dysfunctional.  It usually results in breaking out the "10-foot poles" and checking for secret doors in every room in an effort to out wit the GM's latest diabolical dungeon, avoid his death traps, and find the hidden treasure.

This sort of play tends to bore me to tears today, but it held me in good stead for many a year, and in fact was such a standard that a game like RUNE can come along (or Elfs) and Parody this style in such a way that everyone gets the joke.  The fact that everyone gets the joke should suggest to you just how widespread this sort of play was (and is as a journey to most local gamestores and cons will confirm)

To dismiss it as not existant...ridiculous.

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As a result, I don't believe that any of the above meaningfully describe gamist play, nor do they shed any light on gamist motives.  I think the gamist is much more attracted to "challenge", which we possibly associate with competitiveness between real people, but I don't believe this is strictly necessary.  There are many forms of challenge, IMO, which do not rely an actual competitive behaviour against another person.  Climbing mountains springs to mind, with the frequently expressed motive "because its there".

I think the gamist player is not competing against real people at all, but is experiencing the "competition" experienced by their character by proxy.  The response that the player gives to the challenges presented by the game are the driver for gamist play; the test is whether the player can correctly analyse the problem and implement a solution.  That is why I feel that describing this behaviour as "competitive" misses the point in almost every respect.


I'm not quite sure why Ron's last post seemed to concentrate on interpeople competition.  It is certainly possible to have competition with just one person.  In your mountain climbing example...thats competition.  You may not be competing against the other climbers (although I know a good number of cliff climbers who definitely take pride in getting to the top first) but you ARE competing against the mountain.

I did not interpret Ron's essay as requiring an actual other human being on the otherside of the competition in order to qualify as Gamist...if he is, I'd have to disagree with that also.  Care to clarify this Ron?

Competition to me can caertainly be internal.

An alcoholic fighting the urge to take a drink is competing with his disease.  A clinically depressed person trying to return his life to normal is competing with his chemical imbalance.  A cancer patient is competing with his illness.  Competition is everywhere and in everything.  A Gamist game is nothing more (or less) than a game which makes such competitions the focus.  

"Can I overcome this illness?" is a gamist question
"What is the most dramatic way this illness can impact the story?" is a narrativist question
"What are the odds that with the proper treatment the illness will go into remission" is a Simulationist Question.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 26, 2001, 07:29:00 AM
Quote

I'd suggest that your experience has missed an awful lot of legitimate game play.  I have played SEVERAL campaigns where the players and their characters were actively competing against each other, and this goes beyond the


Does mere incidence of such behaviour qualify it as a style?  I cannot dispute that in any given group of participants such a motivation may apply, but is it consistent enough to constitute one third of RPG behaviour?

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silly fun of paranoia into some pretty deep "secret agendas" in a B5 campaign.  For the campaign to end, some


Genre is not a play style or goal.  The question is: did they play these games BECAUSE they sought the opportunity to compete?  Or was competition the metaphor of This Game.

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It was not dysfunctional, it was one of the best campaigns I've ever been in.


Fair enough.  And did you also feel that this indicated that all of your gaming goals were framed by such competition?  I see no reason that inter-character competition could not arise from Narrativist or Simulationist praxis; it could be accurate to the Sim, or it could be a pretext for the creation of dramatic conflict.  Do you think the behaviour you observed was specifically Gamist?

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As for competing with the GM...that is not a non existant situation, it is one of two traditional defaults.  In "old school" roleplaying you have the GM as referee, or the GM as adversary.  Sure the GM has unlimited power that hardly makes it less of a competition.  I know MANY MANY gamers
who prefer rules heavy games for the primary reason NOT of any supposed realism or simulative value, but because the more rules there are the less freedom the GM has to just


Which suggests to me that they are actively avoiding competing with the GM.  I submit that the structure of the old style game is distorting their actual play goals, although now of course I am speculating on other peoples psychology.  Almost every form of formal competition starts from an initially level playing field; the above argument would suggest that RPG is one of the very few in which the playing field is massively distorted.

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squash you.  I would venture to say that a LARGE LARGE percentage of AD&D campaigns (which represents a LARGE LARGE percentage of all roleplaying activity) fell into this category.  You might not like it, but its hardly dysfunctional.  It usually results in breaking out the "10-


I would suggest that it was so dysfunctional as to drive a large expansion in the conception of RPG as entertainment.  Which is precisely how we get to be here.

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joke.  The fact that everyone gets the joke should suggest to you just how widespread this sort of play was (and is as a journey to most local gamestores and cons will confirm)


And the fact that people experience this homage as humour implies, to me, a tacit recognition of just how broken that model was.

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I'm not quite sure why Ron's last post seemed to concentrate on interpeople competition.  It is certainly possible to have competition with just one person.  In your mountain climbing example...thats competition.  You may not


Why is it competition?  I usually don't like to play the definition game, but I've just run the word through an online dictionary, and all the responses it returned centered around rivalry or conflicting demands between organisms.  this is how I understand the term "competition", and I recognise Ron's caveat that competition implies the active resistance of at least a living entity capable of resisting, and motivated by some reward scheme.  A mountain is a lump of rock, it cannot "compete" with anything.  Well not without reducing the word to meaninglessness anyway.

Tangent: Privately I suspect that this misuse of the word competition arises from the tendency of late industrial capitalism to define competition as some kind of natural law inherent to the universe.


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Competition to me can caertainly be internal.

An alcoholic fighting the urge to take a drink is competing with his disease.  A clinically depressed person trying to return his life to normal is competing with his chemical imbalance.  A cancer patient is competing with his illness.  Competition is everywhere and in everything.  A


NONE of these are competition.  They are all STRUGGLE.

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Gamist game is nothing more (or less) than a game which makes such competitions the focus.  


It is a game which makes "overcoming obstacles" its focus.  These obstacle may be generated by:
1) comepteing players
2) a referee
3) a scenario design

The payoff is not in defeating your opponent.  The payoff is in achieving your goals.  It may be that that to achieve your goals you need to overcome some actively resisting opponent, and thus compete with them, but that aspect is secondary to the personal struggle you go through in pursuit of whatever your goal may be.

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"Can I overcome this illness?" is a gamist question
"What is the most dramatic way this illness can impact the story?" is a narrativist question
"What are the odds that with the proper treatment the illness will go into remission" is a Simulationist Question.


I agree with all of these, but primarily because the first doe not, to my mind, address competition at all.  So, in the couyrse of this post, I have coined a term which I find much more appropriate, that of Struggle.  Does that appear similar enough to you of your conception of gamism to be valid?

[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-26 11:32 ]


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: kwill on October 27, 2001, 08:50:00 AM
contra, could you expressly define your understanding of "competition" and "struggle" to clarify how you distinguish them?

it seems (to me) that you may be more concerned with the process (the struggle to achieve the goal) than the motivation (the goal the player/character wants to achieve)



Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: contracycle on October 29, 2001, 03:48:00 AM
Well, Yes, the struggle itself is the point, because in the course of that struggle you "test yourself", your decisions, your capacities.  As others have bointed out, it's not about winning, at either the player or the characetr level IMO, it is about being resisted, thwarted, frustrated, and overcoming those frustrations.  IMO.  The structure of competitive play appears only to provide an intelligent opponent; the reward systems appear only to frame the conflict.  Both of these are subsidiary aspects, not the central motivator, IMO.  Which is way I feel that a sense of gamism being "competitive" describes the subsidiary processes rather than the real issue.


Title: Gamism and Premise
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 29, 2001, 09:47:00 AM
I'm now fairly certain that this is just a Sematic argument on both sides. I think that we are describing the same things using words that the other side does not agree with. Ron has a need to frame the struggles in question as being between people, but has admitted that a scenario can be a proxy for that person. This is tantamount to admitting that people do not have to be on both sides of the equation, so why quibble. I fail to see how either definition is functionally different than the other.

Is it a problem with the connotations of competition, that competition can be a negative thing on occasion? Well, then in the name of political correctness, by all means lets say struggle or test instead. Nobody means to imply that Gamism is a negative thing, so we can chuck the competitive term if that's a real problem. I think that we have agreed that the central issue is, as Gareth put it, testing oneself. As long as we agree that it is a test of the player in some fashion (the character being only the player's proxy), then I think that we have a functional definition that everyone can agree upon.

What I see here is a lot of argument over terms, when we all agree on what it is that we're arguing about.

Mike