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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Daredevil on October 24, 2001, 02:26:00 PM



Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Daredevil on October 24, 2001, 02:26:00 PM
I'll give a bit of a background about my concerns, so you can see where I'm coming from. I'm currently designing a couple of different games, trying hard to advance my games forward along the track of game development and am trying to learn about all the trends in game-making currently. I feel there's a lot happening in the roleplaying game industry and I'm designing my games with that pioneering state of mind.

That said, I thoroughly enjoy the GNS model and this forum, even if I am not swallowing the model whole, so to speak. I recognize it is a tool and not a way to constrict (indeed, I feel it's purpose is quite the opposite), so I'm often reviewing my own work in light of the GNS paradigm, even if I am not wholly designing within it.

There are a few thoughts that have occurred to me, since I find myself appealing to both narrativistic and simulationist (even occasional gamist, perhaps) tendencies within my game. I design mechanics and settings that facilitate both. So, I often wonder at the usual negative comments said about trying to achieve a "best of both worlds" response.

I want to leave a lot to the GM, but I want to offer a lot more tools to craft their game than a typical "old school" roleplaying game.

And I'm not totally convinced that narrativism and simulationism have to be separated.

I'll quote Ron's latest essay here:

"Facilitating a metagame concern (a developed Premise) differs greatly from Exploring a listed element as a priority. To address a Premise, the imaginary, internal commitment to the in-game events must be broken at least occasionally during play, to set up and resolve the issues of interest in strictly person-to-person terms. To Explore the topic in the Simulationist sense, breaking the imagined, continuous in-game causality is exactly what to avoid. The at-first attractive idea that a system could easily encompass, say, Character-based Premise and prioritized Character Exploration is actually utterly unworkable.

Facilitating Simulationism is all about Exploring the designated element(s). The most important priority is that the stated features express linear, in-game-world causality. That is why the most prevalent version of Simulationist character design relies on Nature-Nurture distinctions, using layered qualities, for a large number of attributes and abilities. Other sorts of Simulationist design may employ different methods, but the commitment to in-game, linear causality remains the priority.

Facilitating Narrativism relies on bringing specific Premise and the ability to have an impact on it into the foreground, over and above any “descriptive” or “explanatory” elements. Distinctions between attributes and skills, for instance, is irrelevant. A big tough fighter and a small lithe fighter may well be described, in game terms, with a single identical “fight” value, perhaps modified retroactively during play for especially-appropriate situations. A character may have features for completely metagame concerns, such as “plot points” or similar things."

(end quote)

I understand the concept of not allowing the game to "break" out of an immersive mindset in a simulationist model, but I wonder if that is a necessary outcome of using a meta-game mechanic or another narrativist tool.

I propose that one can embed narrativism into a simulaion by allowing narrativistic concerns to influence the inherent randomness of any actual world. What I mean is that most simulations of a world are going to include pure chance or fortune, so why not allow the needs of the story to influence those apparently random decisions?

I wonder if it is necessary to break the in-game-world causality to allow narrativism to take hold?

Can the rules of a game not account for the same thing which Ron refers to when he writes: "to set up and resolve the issues of interest in strictly person-to-person terms."

Also, on a not wholly related note, I tend to sense a certain idea on the forum that simulationist games can't be rules-lite and that rules-lite is usually considered to be imminent narrativism? Where does this come from or am I reading into the wrong phrases?

My games are on the rules-lite side, but with definate simulanist concerns influencing my design. I am however, including a lot of narrativistic tools for the GM and the players, as well as having the player take part in creating the setting and story, often on the fly in something bordering on Director or Author Stance.


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 24, 2001, 02:38:00 PM
Hi Daredevil,

Great post. I'd really like to address it detail soon, but now won't work (time crunch). You've quoted one of the most important sections of the essay.

Instead, I want to deal with your afterthought first.
" I tend to sense a certain idea on the forum that simulationist games can't be rules-lite and that rules-lite is usually considered to be imminent narrativism?'"

Wherever you're perceiving that, you're seeing a terrible, pernicious thing. As stated in my essay, I do not consider ANY degree of rules-density to be correlated with any particular mode. The full spectrum of rules-density may be found in game designs focused in all three directions.

In fact, I suggest (and have repeated again and again) that associating "rules-light" with Narrativism is one of the most destructive assumptions in discussing role-playing.

Best,
Ron


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Epoch on October 24, 2001, 05:04:00 PM
And Simulationism is just fine with being rules-light, thankyouverymuch.


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 05:45:00 PM
Hey DD,

We may be kindred spirits on this one. And the curmudgeon who made the short comment above might end up being your best ally. I think that he and I have been working on concepts similar to yours. Anyhow, the phrase that intrigues me would be:
Quote

I wonder if it is necessary to break the in-game-world causality to allow narrativism to take hold?


Indeed, I wonder the same things. There do seem to be essential points of conflict up front, but I'd like to at least investigate the possibilities. The question is what angle are you approaching this from. You mention the idea of the addition of Author/Director power. I have previously surmised that these tools could be very effective in non-immersive simulation; essentially using these sorts of powers for a different end. That's easy. But what you suggest is harder. How do you allow players to create events and still feel as if they are experiencing the world? Is this a case of limited powers, or filtering them somehow? Can you share your methods, if even just theoretically?

Mike


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Paul Czege on October 24, 2001, 06:10:00 PM
Hey Mike,

How do you allow players to create events and still feel as if they are experiencing the world?

A very good question, and very central to Universalis, I think. To be honest, the game is cool in a lot of ways, but I'm not sure you hit this one.

Paul


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Daredevil on October 24, 2001, 06:15:00 PM
I think it can be pretty much summed up by saying that I want to allow narrativism, (and now I deviate from typical Forge lexicon) without breaking suspension of disbelief.

Quoting the above post:
"The question is what angle are you approaching this from. You mention the idea of the addition of Author/Director power. I have previously surmised that these tools could be very effective in non-immersive simulation; essentially using these sorts of powers for a different end. That's easy. But what you suggest is harder. How do you allow players to create events and still feel as if they are experiencing the world? Is this a case of limited powers, or filtering them somehow? Can you share your methods, if even just theoretically?"

I'll try putting it simply at first, as much to stir conversation and brainstorming as not to give away ideas just yet. :smile:

Assume characters have in-game knowledge of the gameworld that the player (and gamemaster) does not. That seems rather obvious. After that it's just a matter of developing a tool to allow the player to create that knowledge within the gameworld.

In it's simplest form, already existing in most good RPG tables, it's when players do minor ad libs, like : saying "we head to Tavern of the Great Oak we passed when we arrived to the town" when no tavern has been mentioned by the Gamemaster. Depending on the GM, he can continue from there or allow the players to describe the place further.

It (the mechanical tool) can be developed from there, but that's a good starting point for discussion, I think.


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Paul Czege on October 24, 2001, 07:09:00 PM
Hey DD,

I think it can be pretty much summed up by saying that I want to allow narrativism,...without breaking suspension of disbelief.

Everybody wants this. Well...a lot of people do. It is, to quite a few Simulationist game designers, like El Dorado to the conquistadors.

Honestly, it's a hard thing for me to wrap my brain around. I keep thinking, why is retroactive justification of character actions widely considered to break suspension of disbelief when dice-based Fortune mechanics aren't? Both require the player to step outside whatever mental veiling he's implemented to protect his SOD. Is it just that nonlinear conflict resolution is harder? Or is there a notion that suspension of disbelief becomes impossible if conflict resolution is not an outgrowth of multiple individual task resolutions?

As I've had more experiences with Narrativist games, I've begun to think that preferencing suspension of disbelief in an RPG design is almost like striking at shadows. I personally don't consider it to be one of my "must haves", so maybe this is irrelevant, but I'm aware of how Authorial power is considered to undermine suspension of disbelief, and despite having a great deal of Authorial power in Tom's Theatrix game, when I consider things in retrospect, I'd say the game was characterized by as much or more suspension of disbelief than any of many games of Champions, AD&D, Vampire, or Call of Cthulhu that I've played. You can ask Scott, Matt, and Tom if they think the scenario I'm currently running using The Pool feels lacking for them in suspension of disbelief.

Still, I understand that people feel the mechanics and conventions that make Narrativism possible are problematic for suspension of disbelief. But I think of scientific experiments that have made nuclear fusion work in special lab conditions, or have made energy travel faster than the speed of light in a specially constructed environment. I can't help but think someone's going to lab out a game that gives players access to the mechanics and conventions that make Narrativism possible, but in a way that doesn't violate suspension of disbelief for Simulationist players. I suspect it'll be a carefully constructed game system with mechanics integrated into a setting where the authoring and directing mechanics are disguised in ways that don't pose a challenge to suspension of disbelief. Imagine a game setting where a player can call on the aid of a guardian angel...something like that.

Paul


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 07:11:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-24 22:10, Paul Czege wrote:
Hey Mike,

How do you allow players to create events and still feel as if they are experiencing the world?

A very good question, and very central to Universalis, I think. To be honest, the game is cool in a lot of ways, but I'm not sure you hit this one.

Paul


Truth be told, Paul, this wasn't a design goal of Universalis at all. And in fact Universalis probably removes players from immersion more than any other game I've played. As in the game we played where I didn't even play my character at all. I've had whole sessions where I didn't even have a character.

This is one of the reasons that I warn playtesters about the game. If they are looking for any level of immersion they are likely to be dissapointed.

OTOH, I've got several other projects I'm working on... Still, I must admit that an effective method to create events and feel the world has eluded me to this point.

Mike


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Paul Czege on October 24, 2001, 07:15:00 PM
Y'know, upon rereading, I wrote:

I can't help but think someone's going to lab out a game that gives players access to the mechanics and conventions that make Narrativism possible, but in a way that doesn't violate suspension of disbelief for Simulationist players. I suspect it'll be a carefully constructed game system with mechanics integrated into a setting where the authoring and directing mechanics are disguised in ways that don't pose a challenge to suspension of disbelief.

And you wrote:

Assume characters have in-game knowledge of the gameworld that the player (and gamemaster) does not. That seems rather obvious. After that it's just a matter of developing a tool to allow the player to create that knowledge within the gameworld.

And I think we're saying the same thing.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Paul


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2001, 07:42:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-24 23:09, Paul Czege wrote:
Hey DD,

I think it can be pretty much summed up by saying that I want to allow narrativism,...without breaking suspension of disbelief.

Everybody wants this. Well...a lot of people do. It is, to quite a few Simulationist game designers, like El Dorado to the conquistadors.

Yep.

Quote

Honestly, it's a hard thing for me to wrap my brain around. I keep thinking, why is retroactive justification of character actions widely considered to break suspension of disbelief when dice-based Fortune mechanics aren't? Both require the player to step outside whatever mental veiling he's implemented to protect his SOD. Is it just that nonlinear conflict resolution is harder? Or is there a notion that suspension of disbelief becomes impossible if conflict resolution is not an outgrowth of multiple individual task resolutions?


It's a little of both. And I think that the Sim problem with SOD refers with disbelief in being in the game. This is actually how I'd define the Immersionist need. To feel as though you are in the game to a small extent.

I occasionaly feel the immersion pull myself, and what it is can be hard to describe to those who don't feel it. But, essentially, the mechanics traditionally have to work in a similar fashion to how life works in order for it to feel right. That is, whatever I can control, my character should be able to control. And to the extent that my charater is not me he should be able to control those things that I could if I were that character. Controling other things than these usually makes this fall apart as the player gets the notion  that there is not an objective world outside of my character; that is not like life, and therefore unsatisfactory.

To this extent, randomizations are just simulations of the uncontrolable minutae of life. In real life it seems to me that sometimes when I shoot a basketball it goes in and other times it does not. The effect seems semi-random, the semi part coming from my skill at the task. Which is why Simulationists have traditionally gone with Fortune task resolution.

This is not to say that Conflict resolution is a problem, however. I can see players able to go with conflict resolution; I just think it hasn't been tried yet in a full design. After all, even task resolution comprises smaller events. If I am successful at a sword swing, I can define it as an overhand chop, or a backhand swipe, or even as a smack with the pommel maybe, whatever. I've used conflict resolution with Sim players before successfully. There may be a point at which it becomes a similar problem of being able to control more than the character "should" from an Immersion POV.

I hope the above describes the "Immersionist" urge fairly well.

Quote

As I've had more experiences with Narrativist games, I've begun to think that preferencing suspension of disbelief in an RPG design is almost like striking at shadows. I personally don't consider it to be one of my "must haves", so maybe this is irrelevant, but I'm aware of how Authorial power is considered to undermine suspension of disbelief, and despite having a great deal of Authorial power in Tom's Theatrix game, when I consider things in retrospect, I'd say the game was characterized by as much or more suspension of disbelief than any of many games of Champions, AD&D, Vampire, or Call of Cthulhu that I've played. You can ask Scott, Matt, and Tom if they think the scenario I'm currently running using The Pool feels lacking for them in suspension of disbelief.


But this SOD is more like SOD in a movie or book. Sure everything is coherent, but I am not in the film or book. This is the "advantage" of Immersion. You get to do something that can only be dome in an RPG, simulate. Different sorts of SOD you see.

Quote

Still, I understand that people feel the mechanics and conventions that make Narrativism possible are problematic for suspension of disbelief. But I think of scientific experiments that have made nuclear fusion work in special lab conditions, or have made energy travel faster than the speed of light in a specially constructed environment. I can't help but think someone's going to lab out a game that gives players access to the mechanics and conventions that make Narrativism possible, but in a way that doesn't violate suspension of disbelief for Simulationist players. I suspect it'll be a carefully constructed game system with mechanics integrated into a setting where the authoring and directing mechanics are disguised in ways that don't pose a challenge to suspension of disbelief. Imagine a game setting where a player can call on the aid of a guardian angel...something like that.


Now yer talking. I think that's exacally what were getting at. Sounds like a worthy goal to me.  And maybe it is El Dorado, but, if were lucky, we may strike gold elsewhere while we search.  :smile:

Mike


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Valamir on October 25, 2001, 05:18:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-24 23:11, Mike Holmes wrote:
Quote

On 2001-10-24 22:10, Paul Czege wrote:
Hey Mike,

How do you allow players to create events and still feel as if they are experiencing the world?

A very good question, and very central to Universalis, I think. To be honest, the game is cool in a lot of ways, but I'm not sure you hit this one.

Paul


Truth be told, Paul, this wasn't a design goal of Universalis at all. And in fact Universalis probably removes players from immersion more than any other game I've played. As in the game we played where I didn't even play my character at all. I've had whole sessions where I didn't even have a character.
Mike



I'll just jump in here to mention that before any hope of Universalis supporting a degree of immersion is abandoned, that the game has not been playtested enough by the same group of people to really say for sure.

So far all playtesters have been first or second timers in the game and have spent most of their time just trying to get their minds around the mechanics, stretch their creative wings, and have fun playing around with plot and setting possibilities.

Until there is a group who can play the game regularly and consistantly (preferably one that doesn't involve either of the creators) we won't know for sure.  My hope is that actual metagame mechanics are simple and intuitive such that they can fade into the background enough to permit a more immersive stance.

Never a FULLY immersed stance, but something akin to what a GM experiences when he actually steps into the head of an NPC.  He still has all of the world direction stuff in the back of his mind, but for the time being he is trying to "be" the NPC.




Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 25, 2001, 07:04:00 AM
Hey Daredevil,

I believe it is time for me to be the Bad Man in the Corner again, Old Miseryguts (I stole this term from Warren Ellis) nattering about what can't be done ... no fun, probably pisses on himself ...

First, the good news.

I think that achieving Narrativist goals with full suspension of disbelief embedded in it periodically is possible, not difficult, and extremely wonderful role-playing. I especially like The Pool and The Framework for taking exactly opposite, yet functional approaches for formalizing it.

I also think that achieving Simulationist goals (i.e. full suspension of disbelief) with a strong focus on Situation is possible, not difficult, and extremely wonderful role-playing. Call of Cthulhu play is an excellent example, and there are many others at various levels of complexity and emotional depth out there, such as the popular drifted-variant of Amber. (To be clear, this IS story-based or story-oriented or whatever you want to call it.)

However - and here Old Miseryguts disgusts and embarasses everyone in the room - I do not think that a story can be reliably created, with players as co-creators, via the means of Actor Stance, continuous suspension of disbelief, immersion (as narrowly defined), or anything similar. I articulated my point of view on Epoch's thread "'Story,' Actor Stance, and My Guy-ism," specifically in the post on October 17, 13:23. El Dorado does not exist, say I.

Sorry guys. I'll go mumble and stink elsewhere now.

Best,
Ron


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Marco on October 25, 2001, 07:30:00 AM
El Dorado doesn't exist?

Hmmm ... Gedanken Experiments (thought expeiments):

1. Suppose:
There exists an amnesia pill. The player who wishes to co-create the story details the scene he wishes to create, with likely plot forks, to the GM, and takes the pill. Now he takes the pill and is run through his scene in simulationist fashion with full attention to Narrativist Premise (including being in a story he authored and the GM is running).

Would that count? Or would the fact that he isn't *aware that he's narrating as he's in it* make it non-narrativist?

I suspect that, under Ron's definition, it would: there's little room for discussion about SOD and narrativist--the argument is reduced to a tautology.

2. Question:
If I detail the plot, story, and theme of a game without telling you which participants did what in a directoral sense, and you ONLY know that the GM and the players were ALL surprised with the outcome, can you tell whether it was narrativst or sim? If you "can't be sure" do you think you'd *probably* know?

3. If the game-system is Narrativist and one of the players doesn't narrate--but asks the GM to run him in a simulation of what's going on does that make the gaming-session simulationist?

I think the point was that some players could narrate and some could play pure-sim. Does anyone think *that's* impossible? It seems like a great idea to me.

-Marco


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 25, 2001, 08:02:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-25 11:30, Marco wrote:
El Dorado doesn't exist?


Yet to be seen. We just know that nobody has found it.

Quote

Hmmm ... Gedanken Experiments (thought expeiments):

1. Suppose:
There exists an amnesia pill. The player who wishes to co-create the story details the scene he wishes to create, with likely plot forks, to the GM, and takes the pill. Now he takes the pill and is run through his scene in simulationist fashion with full attention to Narrativist Premise (including being in a story he authored and the GM is running).


The Pill won't help in this situation.

Narrativist games are *never* decided as to which direction the story will go before hand. That is key. Creation of detail by the player with author power is not of itself Narrativist. This power only allows the player to make the events in the game seem like a story. Improperly used, Authorial or Directorial power could actually go against story. I think this may be a central problem with your understanding of how Narrativism works. The player must use these powers on the spot to create story, and often preventing other mechanics from derailing the story (which is what they often do). These powers are often prophylactic as well as empowering.

Quote

2. Question:
If I detail the plot, story, and theme of a game without telling you which participants did what in a directoral sense, and you ONLY know that the GM and the players were ALL surprised with the outcome, can you tell whether it was narrativst or sim? If you "can't be sure" do you think you'd *probably* know?


Nope. I can tell you if it was a good story. Nobody ever said that Simulations can't produce good stories. Just that they aren't geared to, and don't tend to. The mechanics don't support it.

Quote

3. If the game-system is Narrativist and one of the players doesn't narrate--but asks the GM to run him in a simulation of what's going on does that make the gaming-session simulationist?
Quote


Yes, that player is playing Simulationist. This is called Drift. Playing a game in a manner other than what it's geared for. This player can certainly do so. They just might have more fun playing in a Simulationist game than this Narrativist game.

Quote

I think the point was that some players could narrate and some could play pure-sim. Does anyone think *that's* impossible? It seems like a great idea to me.


Happens all the time. I've heard of examples, right here. The problem is threefold. Either the Sim or the Narr players aren't going to be supported by the system given that it balances one way or the other (all known systems do this). Also, the Sim players may have their SOD affected by the other players' play. And the Narr players may be disapointed with the Sim players contribution (refusal to produce story through these mechanisms. But it can certainly be done. And a really excellent GM might be able to make it fun for all. Just sounds very difficult. Depends a lot on how willing the players are to compromise some.

Mike


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 25, 2001, 08:56:00 AM
Authorial and Direcorial power are not the only Narrativist tools. There are all sorts of others. And many of these don't break anyone's SOD. Take, for example, the Relationship Map. This tool works for anyone to create dramatic potential and is as "believable" as any other background subject. Heck, even if you were as a player so anal about your Immersion that you didn't like to design your own background, a decent Relationship Map could probably be generated randomly. In fact, "realistic" relationships should help Immersion quite a bit.

Other background stuff is also very allowable. Like Ron's Kickers. I think that most players are OK with setting up the scenes with already extant problems and conflicts. They are just used to having the GM do it for them traditionally. I'd go so far to say that any sort of background options of this nature are not a problem. After all, the player almost always gets to decide things about their character before hand. The usual problems only arrive with mucking about with things during play.

The true "immersionist" might want their character to be generated completely at random to avoid any dissonance with the idea that they had control over certain parts of the character's development that would likely be uncontrolable by the character. Like size. But I'm not too concerned with catering to this fictitious player.

Mike


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Laurel on October 25, 2001, 02:22:00 PM
Quote

However - and here Old Miseryguts disgusts and embarasses everyone in the room - I do not think that a story can be reliably created, with players as co-creators, via the means of Actor Stance, continuous suspension of disbelief, immersion (as narrowly defined), or anything similar. I articulated my point of view on Epoch's thread "'Story,' Actor Stance, and My Guy-ism," specifically in the post on October 17, 13:23. El Dorado does not exist, say I.


I'm going to disagree with Ron on this one.  I went back and re-read the thread above and I can think of one type of game where I have seen story consistently created using only the tools mentioned.

Online freeform chat room roleplay, usually involving 2-3 people.  The line became "game" and "interactive literature" is very thin, mind you.  However, given that what the participants are saying that they are doing is "gaming", I'm willing to include it as an RPG game.  

The users can become so immersed and typing so fast that they lose awareness of their own time-space and withdraw from author stance to complete actor stance for hours on end- easily staying in immersed, actor mode only for 2-4 hours (as long as most table top games) at a time and creating story during their entire immersion.  

This particular kind of game (online freeform) tends to:
1. Lack a GM, requiring all players to assume directorial power so that they are co-creating the environment on an unconscious level.

2. Lack the subtle cues and priorities from other players because there is no face-to-face communication.

This isn't to say that hidden or obvious Author stance doesn't exist in online freeform- its certainly more common that pure Actor stance.  However, I've pet the unicorn, touched the pot of gold, witnessed the gates of El Dorado often enough to say "Its more than a myth!"  *g*

Now, can anyone cause this El Dorado of mine to -intentionally- happen at a given time and place?  Nope.  It happens as a phenomenon in my opinion, because of a unique set of circumstances.


Title: Simulationism and Narrativism Under the Same Roof
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 26, 2001, 10:21:00 AM
Quote

Laurel wrote:
Now, can anyone cause this El Dorado of mine to -intentionally- happen at a given time and place?  Nope.  It happens as a phenomenon in my opinion, because of a unique set of circumstances.


And this last is the problem. We're discussing mechanics here. As we've admitted, such can occur by accident. The El Dorado in question is mechanics that promote such a thing. Unlikely at best...

Mike