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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on October 29, 2001, 08:49:00 AM



Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 29, 2001, 08:49:00 AM
Hey,

So last Tuesday, I got a chance to play D20, finally! It was the new Star Wars, and I leaped into action with my Twileek bodyguard and translator for my friend's character, a Wookiee senator.

My comments on playing D20 itself are pretty extensive, and I'll be happy to talk about them later. What REALLY interested me was that the scenario was a perfect exemplar of something which - oddly enough - I had JUST FINISHED discussing privately with some Forge members a few days before. I'd dubbed a certain brand of scenario design "the Bobby G scenario," and lo and behold, a couple of days later, there I was in the middle of one.

What is a Bobby G scenario?
1) Begin with mysterious events happening to player-characters, whether it's assassins leaping from an alley or a fellow dying in the character's arms after giving him a small foreign coin, or a letter from Aunt Sally that is curiously unlike her in tone and penmanship.

2) Provide elaborations and clues, either by introducing an attack or murder for people who got mysterious hooks, and clues for people who got violent hooks. All investigations about "what's behind it all" must be stonewalled VERY distinctly, but the various clues, including "word on the street" or forensic details of previous scenes or whatever, all point to a key individual who may know what's going on.

3) This individual is Bobby G. (I made up this name in the course of a conversation about this topic, and it stuck. It seems perfect to me for no good reason.) Bobby G may be a local crimeboss, which is probably his primary manifestation. More rarely he's a kindly old expert of some kind, or perhaps an ambiguously interesting lower-tier bad guy, or even someone like a crusading D.A. The point is that Bobby G is an NPC with an agenda and power-base of his own, and the player-characters MUST find him to discover what to do.

Here things get very customizable. Maybe the issue is that they have to FIND Bobby G - or maybe they have to FIGHT his minions to get to him - or maybe the problem is that they must CUT A DEAL with him - or something. A "quest" variant may be inserted, in that Bobby G assigns them a project which has to be completed, or maybe it's really basic and they just have to rough him up.

All that customizing isn't anything but window dressing. Bobby G will eventually tell them about the Big Villain and the Big Villain's Plan. In the most common variant, Bobby G is himself suspicious about the Big Plan and would prefer that his low-level villainy or interests not be threatened by such things.

They might be told where the Villain will strike next, so that they may be there to intercept him. They might be told about the location of the Villain's base, or a password or secret entrance. No matter what, the information from Bobby G allows them to confront the Villain and put an end to the Big Plan.

Sound familiar? Played in something like this, a time or two? GM'd something like this, a time or two? I'd number my Bobby G experiences, as GM or player, in the hundreds.

The vast majority of role-playing scenario design seems to be a matter of "doing Bobby G differently" time after time. It doesn't matter what setting you're using or whether the characters wield mutant powers, arcane magics, +3 longswords, pistols, zap guns, or nothing at all. Just customize each of these: the hooks themselves, the threat level of the elaborations, what the villain is out to accomplish, who Bobby G is, how hard is it to get to him, what he wants or what must the characters do regarding him, and what he can tell you about the villain. Voila, expert GMing forever.

A couple of other nuances include (1) whether the players must be shepherded with great effort to want to visit Bobby G (Terry, Doc Midnite, calls this the "Panama Canal" style of play), (2) the extent to which the railroading is acknowledged, and (3) whether the villain-fight fits Jesse's point about climactic confrontations, in that they are mainly concluded through GM Drama anyway.

So what's my point? I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away. There is not a shred of story creation happening anywhere. It's a fine template for Exploring Other Things or for setting up arenas of competing/testing. But the claim of a Bobby G scenario to a "plot" is much like the claim of a science fair project to "hypothesis testing," or the claim of an Easy-Bake Oven to "cooking dinner."

Again, we are talking about the Impossible Thing - it looks as if you're creating story just by playing characters, but you ain't. If you're interested in Narrativist play, the Bobby G scenario is the first thing that has to go.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Matt Machell on October 29, 2001, 09:18:00 AM
Thing is, the Bobby G scenario is easy.

So easy in fact that 90% of our TV, Cinema and popular fiction is based around it too.

Roleplayers like it, they want to know that if they were the heroes in those media, they'd do it better/faster/cooler.

And because it's familiar it's ideal to hang something else off of.

It's like the theory there are only 60 stories and everything else is just window dressing. It may be true, but we're still willing to read/watch/play those 60, cos the devil is in the details (the characters/the location/the theme/the mood etc).

In the end, we're all rather fond of Bobby G.

Just my thoughts.


Matt

_________________
http://www.realms.org.uk
Home of Lost Gods and Agency 13

[ This Message was edited by: Matt on 2001-10-29 12:19 ]


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 29, 2001, 09:26:00 AM
Matt,

I disagree. Die Hard is not a Bobby G scenario. Neither is Aliens. Neither is Dangerous Liaisons, nor The Maltese Falcon, nor even Mortal Kombat, nor even the average soap opera. I suggest that NO story that really interests us is a Bobby G scenario; stories that are only interest us if they REMIND us of stories that aren't (many sequels and imitations rely on this method). Interesting movies and stories, no matter how lowbrow, are about Stuff, and the characters interest people because we care about Stuff too.

I do agree with you that there are only so many "plots," although I would specify that to Premise. I do not agree that the Bobby G construction is an effective way to create them; in fact, its very use indicates that NO plot creation is going on in the session at all.

Again, there is nothing WRONG with using Bobby G scenario construction - IF one is not professing to be "creating story" in doing so.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Matt Machell on October 29, 2001, 09:47:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-29 12:26, Ron Edwards wrote:
I disagree. Die Hard is not a Bobby G scenario. Neither is Aliens. Neither is Dangerous Liaisons, nor The Maltese Falcon, nor even Mortal Kombat, nor even the average soap opera. I suggest that NO story that really interests us is a Bobby G scenario; stories that are only interest us if they REMIND us of stories that aren't (many sequels and imitations rely on this method). Interesting movies and stories, no matter how lowbrow, are about Stuff, and the characters interest people because we care about Stuff too.


Heh, 90% was exaggeration. I'll be more careful next time :smile:

As I said, it's used because it's something easy. But I don't believe any other plot is somehow more valid because it's not easy. The story is as much in how the characters react to their situation as what the situation is. We care about the characters, how they grow and evolve through their experiences. If they happen to be experiencing the Bobby G scenario, is it a bad story? A cliched one perhaps, any less narativist, I remain to be convinced.

Matt




Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on October 29, 2001, 09:55:00 AM
Matt--

The point is that if the characters are "experiencing" the Bobby G story, then yes, it's bad narrativism, which isn't about "experiencing" stories but creating them, together, collaboratively.

Now, as always, if everyone's having fun, then no worries, nothing to see here, move along. But if you're the kind of person (like I am) who finds "experiencing" a story, where the GM stonewalls your attempts to do anything except what s/he had planned & doesn't let you do certain things (like confront an NPC) until the "right moment", extremely frustrating, then the Bobby G senario is a big thorn. I played in a game that had a variant of the Bobby G senario fairly recently, & it was one of the most frustrating games I've played in in a while.

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-10-29 12:56 ]


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 29, 2001, 10:48:00 AM
What's the problem? Did somebody say that this was a Narrativist scenario? All you Narrativists gotta stop worrying that our Simulationist scenarios are not Narrativist.

Or

Sounds like a personal problem, Ron. Do you really see a lot of Narrativists running stuff like this? And while were at it, is any pre-plotting at all allowed in Narrativist games? What is the point at which plotting a Narrativist game makes it non-Narrativist? Certainly you allow for certain events to be pre-planned.

Mike


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 29, 2001, 11:03:00 AM
Hi Mike,

"Sounds like a personal problem, Ron. Do you really see a lot of Narrativists running stuff like this?"

What I see are people who PROFESS to be creating stories and people who WANT to be creating stories running stuff like this. I see a very strong dichotomy mentioned over and over that one either is not story-oriented ("dungeon crawl," "hack and slash") or is story-oriented (Bobby G, endlessly repeated).

As for the "personal problem" issue, I'll write that off as a joke and leave it.

"And while were at it, is any pre-plotting at all allowed in Narrativist games?"

Depends on what you call pre-PLOTTING. You refer to "pre-planned events," which are of course a major feature of role-playing under nearly any circumstances. That is not pre-plotting, in my book; that is preparing for plot to be formed during play.

Pre-plotting is defined by having OUTCOMES of scenes predetermined, specifically those scenes in which the player-characters are supposed to be exercising personal judgmental and playing a pivotal story role.

Narrativist role-playing is not necessarily improvisational; many events may be established during preparation and carried through in play. However, as long as we're talking about the significant actions of protagonists, that's a different issue. You'll see how that plays into my Sorcerer prep soon.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 29, 2001, 12:09:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-29 11:49, Ron Edwards wrote:

So what's my point? I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away. There is not a shred of story creation happening anywhere. It's a fine template for Exploring Other Things or for setting up arenas of competing/testing. But the claim of a Bobby G scenario to a "plot" is much like the claim of a science fair project to "hypothesis testing," or the claim of an Easy-Bake Oven to "cooking dinner."





1. It reads a bit like you're suggesting that 'real-roleplaying' = Narrativism. It's this:

Quote

"... have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism"


that's confusing.

2. Who would claim that was Narrativist by your definition? How could they? Who did?

3. Story creation is happening every second the game runs, no matter who's doing the talking or what was pre-plotted.

I think it might be time to drop some of the special terminology.

Since story-creation is defined as:
"The creation of a story by shared, Narrativist game-play" I'd suggest calling it a Player-Created-Story and not 'a story.'

Whithout that clarification it reads confusingly. A story obviously was created. Players who were there could have (and maybe were) emotionally engaged. It could have all the literary characteritics of theme, foreshadowing, etc. It could have been a great story and those who participated in it could have come away with the tingly feeling that one gets when one writes a great book, watches a great play, or reads a great novel. None of that, as I'm sure you'd agree, hinges on Narrativist gaming.

-Marco

[ This Message was edited by: Marco on 2001-10-29 15:11 ]


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 29, 2001, 12:23:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-10-29 12:55, joshua neff wrote:
 But if you're the kind of person (like I am) who finds "experiencing" a story, where the GM stonewalls your attempts to do anything except what s/he had planned & doesn't let you do certain things (like confront an NPC) until the "right moment", extremely frustrating, then the Bobby G senario is a big thorn.


Where I'm from that's just called 'bad-GMing.' I can assure you it's just as frustrating in Simulationist play as anywhere else.

-Marco


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Doc Midnight on October 29, 2001, 12:30:00 PM
Mike, It's not really N vs. S as far as I'm concerned. It's really just bad story telling in a RPG context. If I'm writing a Doc Savage novel, then it's entirely possible that the Doc will have to run the guantlet of shifty stool pigeons before getting to the point that there's something nasty beneath Antarctica. In that case though, Doc is my captive little chew toy and he ain't goin no where till I say so.

In RPGs, the players tend to have to stumble about just to get to Bobby G. Hell man, that could take hours. What's so Simulationist about that? Where is it written in the I.C.E products that you gotta go see the right gnome at the bar before you find out who MAY HAVE stolen your holy artifact.

I think Narrativism is about more than that. I would imagine that anyones games could be about more than that if one was alerted to the fact that this was boring as all heck.

Bobby G. isn't even the worst of it. The worst is when the Panama Canal effect is on. That's when the GM is shoehorning the players so tightly just to get them to Bobby G. that they start to choke on the improbable hapening all at once.

Doc Midnight



Stuff Mike Said:
What's the problem? Did somebody say that this was a Narrativist scenario? All you Narrativists gotta stop worrying that our Simulationist scenarios are not Narrativist.

Or

Sounds like a personal problem, Ron. Do you really see a lot of Narrativists running stuff like this? And while were at it, is any pre-plotting at all allowed in Narrativist games? What is the point at which plotting a Narrativist game makes it non-Narrativist? Certainly you allow for certain events to be pre-planned.



Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 29, 2001, 02:25:00 PM
Marco,

No, "real role-playing" is not Narrativism. ANY discussion of "real role-playing" specific to a mode is synecdoche.

Perceiving such things in my comments is projection on the reader's part.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Matt Machell on October 30, 2001, 01:51:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-29 12:55, joshua neff wrote:
The point is that if the characters are "experiencing" the Bobby G story, then yes, it's bad narrativism, which isn't about "experiencing" stories but creating them, together, collaboratively.


As I said "The story is as much in how the characters react to their situation as what the situation is". The fact that the story is about the characters emotional journey makes it less narativist? Plenty of stories focus on this rather than the action, using the action merely as a backdrop to the real story. We're not allowed to have these layers in our roleplaying? Perhaps I'm just using the story part of the narativist definition in a different way to you.

I feel that the criticism of Bobby G is more in the repetitive/bland overuse of the scenario, rather than a flaw in the scenario itself.

Quote

But if you're the kind of person (like I am) who finds "experiencing" a story, where the GM stonewalls your attempts to do anything except what s/he had planned & doesn't let you do certain things (like confront an NPC) until the "right moment", extremely frustrating, then the Bobby G senario is a big thorn.


But that's a problem with the way the GM is running the scenario, not the scenario itself. To my mind this is criticising the framework, for how people decide to use it.



Matt





Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 30, 2001, 06:11:00 AM
I don't know.  The Bobby G senerio has a plot.  It's just a very cliched plot.  They must've used in in Magnum P.I. about 100 times out of some odd 160 episodes.  I still like that show.

At some point it probably was an original plot. I was collecting Cliffhanger Serials on tape at one time (personal fav: The Adventures of Captain Marvel) and it seems to have been a cliche then, too.

I suppose that you could come up with a highly original plot but later it could prove formulaic and reuseable and then before you know it, BANG! your highly original plot is a cliche, just like Bobby G.


Oddly enough, this all strikes me as similar to how Stephen King described his own writing in Stephen King On Writing.  (If this starts to hijack the thread, this discussion should probably move to another thread. I tried to start a thread on On Writing before with no takers.  

Basically, King says he writes very situational.  Misery, for example, is "two people in a house."  He set up the characters and the general situation in his mind and, well, "watched" it play out.

A good thing for Rob Reiner, James Caan and especially Kathy Bates he did let Misery play out naturally.  He originally envisioned a completely different ending with Paul Sheldon's skin being used to bind the last Misery novel, and the rest probably being fed to the pig.  What happened was his own characters surprised him and the Misery we have today grew organicly out of the situation.

This sounds a lot like narrativist play, or a narrativist technique.  Strange because i've always thought the old "set up the situation and then see what happens" deal was a simulationist technique.  I guess it ain't necessarily so.  In either case, it sounds like King would be a blast to play with if you could get past the whole celebrity thing.

hurm...you guys had better do it, then.

Bobby G is plotting.  King says some negative things about plotting in writing like how most of his plotted novels (Rose Madder, Insomnia) with the exception of The Dead Zone "try to hard."  What he means, I think, is that they feel contrived.  As contrived as Bobby G.

Sort of like Hitchcock's direction for Tippi Hedron.  Her character was supposed to climb the stair to find all the birds up there.  She was having trouble rationalizing why her character would go up those stairs by herself or at all after all that had already happened.  She asked Hitch what her motivation was.  He said "Because I tell you to."

Plotting can indeed be contrived if overused.  At other times it's useful and keeps a work of fiction from being a stream-of-conciousness mess and help you focus on a goal.

I had just picked up Catcher in the Rye.  So far it was just Holden Caufield complain about nearly everything, and all, until his roommate mentions the girl he's about to date was someone from Holden's past.  Suddenly it was like "Ah, now we're going somewhere."  The girl may turn out to be a dead end we never hear from again, but maybe not.  (Don't spoil it, please  :wink:   The point is, the story suddenly seemed to be going somewhere.  Maybe it was plotting, maybe it wasn't.  In either case, it sure helped me sustain interest.

In the end, plotting is "easy."  Easier, perhaps, than letting the story grow out of the situation naturally.  WHich is probably why there are standard scenerioes like Bobby G (and a few others no one has coined a name for yet).  Not everyone who plays an RPG is interested in the story or not interested in it to put a huge amount, or even modest amount of effort into it.  Hence why a scenerio like Bobby G winds up being used hundreds of times.  It is more satisfying storywise than dungeon crawl yet no where near as deep as pure storytelling things.

Or such is my view.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on October 30, 2001, 06:21:00 AM
Matt--

My bad. I typed "characters" when I should have typed "players". If the characters are reacting, sure that's fine, as long as the players aren't just reacting. The problem with the Bobby G senario as Ron put it forward is that it pretty much exclusively calls for the players to react to what the GM has put in front of them. That's fine RPGing, bad narrativism. What the Bobby G senario is, essentially, is railroading. Railroading is fine as long as everyone is having fun. But it's not "creating a story" & it's not narrativism.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 06:28:00 AM
Hi folks,

A great deal of the responses have convinced me that people are laboring under that false notion that "plot" and "characters" are independent things.

This distinction is an artifact of the Hollywood studio days, when writers, actors, directors, and studio heads all played various and often-strange roles in getting a story created. I am very familiar with the epigraphs or quotes from this culture and consider most of them highly suspect.

A character (of the sort we are discussing, specifically a protagonist) is a person whose actions make the story. They may be REactions - in which case the situation they're thrust into is not of their making (best immediate example, North by Northwest). They may be PROactions - in which case the situation is most definitely of their making (Citizen Kane, perhaps). They may be a mix (The Godfather). The characters exist and matter to the extent that they act upon things.

A "plot" is a litany or account of the persons, the situation, and the actions taken to deal with it. There is no other meaning of plot; it is not something apart from the characters.

Role-playing with an eye toward story-making has a terrible time with this, because in many cases the GM provides more "plot" that can be justified without consulting or bringing in the characters. This forces railroading and hence destroys the notion of the players determining the actions of protagonists.

My most serious objection to a Bobby G scenario is that no story of ANY kind is permitted to be created. There is no "emotional journey," as one may insert any PCs into the situation and nothing changes except for coloring-in. Their decisions aside from those that conform to the Bobby G expectations are literally irrelevant; anything they care about besides the villain's Big Plan is so much piffle. The only content of interest becomes the MacGuffins and the details of the villain's Big Plan - although the impacts or relevance of these things to the main characters is always the same, dissipating that interest.

I stand by my original claim. Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to creating stories through role-playing.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 30, 2001, 07:28:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-30 09:11, pblock wrote:

This sounds a lot like narrativist play, or a narrativist technique.  Strange because i've always thought the old "set up the situation and then see what happens" deal was a simulationist technique.  I guess it ain't necessarily so.  In either case, it sounds like King would be a blast to play with if you could get past the whole celebrity thing.


It seems like its a very fine line to me too. I think it depends on who's running the world when you "see what happens" (the players or the GM). Ron?

-Marco


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 30, 2001, 07:29:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-30 09:11, pblock wrote:

This sounds a lot like narrativist play, or a narrativist technique.  Strange because i've always thought the old "set up the situation and then see what happens" deal was a simulationist technique.  I guess it ain't necessarily so.  In either case, it sounds like King would be a blast to play with if you could get past the whole celebrity thing.


It seems like its a very fine line to me too. I think it depends on who's running the world when you "see what happens" (the players or the GM). Ron?

-Marco


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 07:54:00 AM
Marco,

My answer is mainly contained in my reply to Jack a couple of posts ago (bottom of the first page).

I disagree that the issue rests with who controls outcomes, although that is definitely involved. It rests mainly with the source of conflicts, or more specifically, with how Situation is transformed into Premise through the agency of the characters' actions.

I believe that the thread is wandering from its topic: the Bobby G scenario. Others' experiences and judgments regarding this topic are most welcome.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 30, 2001, 07:59:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-30 09:28, Ron Edwards wrote:

My most serious objection to a Bobby G scenario is that no story of ANY kind is permitted to be created. There is no "emotional journey," as one may insert any PCs into the situation and nothing changes except for coloring-in. Their decisions aside from those that conform to the Bobby G expectations are literally irrelevant; anything they care about besides the villain's Big Plan is so much piffle. The only content of interest becomes the MacGuffins and the details of the villain's Big Plan - although the impacts or relevance of these things to the main characters is always the same, dissipating that interest.

I stand by my original claim. Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to creating stories through role-playing.


I get this: you're saying the story was created by the GM *before* the session. So it's the 'through role-playing' that you're on about--not that 'a story isn't created' (it is created, just not 'through roleplaying') yes?

Ok, with that clarifier, I can agree--but I have some comments:
1. You *defined* a Bobby G. Scenario as one where nothing *at all* (or at very best nothing remotely significant) works beyond the GM's tightly plotted scenario. So yes, that stands to reason.

I the wild, though, if you have a good GM given Bobby G. source material, it doesn't have to work out that way. I submit that you could run a Bobby G. plot that players would find immensely interesting. All it would take is a different set of assumptions.

2. Your stance that player dialog and in-character actions don't "create story" seems a bit like saying dialog doesn't matter in a story like, say, Pulp Fiction. What the character's say doesn't change the plot--but it makes the movie.

3. Ebert says of movies that it isn't what the movie is about, but how it's about it. I think that's brilliant. Bobby G. as source material is netutral. You're down on frustrating gamemastering.

-Marco



Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 09:03:00 AM
Marco,

We're getting better at communicating (or maybe I'm just being more clear) ... yes, I'm "on about" whether story is being created before play or during play.

With respect, I disagree most strongly about the dialogue in Pulp Fiction. The foot massage debate and the eating-pig discussion in particular stand out (although my point applies to what one feels about killing another person, the quality of milkshakes, and others). The issue of the movie concerns loyalty to Marcelus (an evil man who demands that one do evil things), and when it is "OK" to discontinue that loyalty. Nearly every dialogue in the movie is literally about that issue, not just symbolic of it.

Each character's position in each of these dialogues presents, develops, and clarifies his or her relationship to Marcelus - and what he or she is going to do about it when the crunch comes. (Butch defies him almost from the beginning, Vincent stays loyal, Jules shifts from the one to the other.)

For example, "Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I still wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker," is delivered precisely at the moment when Jules decides that he can no longer work for Marcelus, no matter what benefits are used to reward him for it.

And no, this is not "just my opinion." That is, it is my construction (I didn't read it anywhere), but it is incontrovertible to the point and enjoyment of the movie, consciously or not.

How does this relate to the issue at hand? It supports my view that "character" is not some disconnected, floaty, superficial set of details about a plot element with legs. It means that the character IS the plot element, or more accurately, that plot emerges when characters do things - and that what they say is aligned with and integrated with what they do.

Applied to role-playing, this means that the players either do or do not exert control over the characters' key actions. In a Bobby G scenario, they do not. They may "color things in," but they must follow the series of key actions that are predetermined in order to "make the [pre-planned] story happen."

I still disagree that we are discussing GM competence. Either one is playing a Bobby G scenario, or one is not. Similarly, either the GM is skilled/good, or he/she is not.

Bobby G scenario + good GM/group = good play that happens not to be Narrativist.

Bobby G scenario + poor GM/group = poor play that happens not to be Narrativist (and lacks merits regarding other play styles as well).

Other sort of scenario (relationship map, intuitive continuity) + good GM/group = good play that happens to be Narrativist.

Other sort of scenario (relationship map, intuitive continuity) + poor GM/group = poor play that happens to be Narrativist (albeit not of merit).

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Don Lag on October 30, 2001, 01:25:00 PM
What is being called a "scenario"? is it the execution of the game itself? or just the pre-game info the GM and players have at the beggining plus certain elements the GM would like to include in the game?

Or, more basically.... is it the material printed on the sheets of paper, or whatever was actually played once the game is over?

I'm a little confused about this specifically because of Ron's "Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to creating stories through role-playing.".

So, is BobbyG-ing considdered as a specific type of GM railroading? or is it any (not very original) story in which the characters end up seeking an NPC to enable them to avoid something being done?

I myself consider nothing unethical about the last case, just a little boring most of the time. What I do have a problem with is the former case: GM railroading.

I don't see how a Bobby-G plot in play neccesarily implies railroading, unless the term "Bobby-G" applies to an actual style of play rather than a family of plot ideas (in which case I agree with Ron).

And Ron, I don't see how one could understand anything other than Narrativism=Roleplaying from
Quote

I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away.


even though I don't think that's what you've meant (at least not from other stuff I've seen you post). I don't want to get into the grammar, but I thiunk most lingüists would agree on this one :smile:


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on October 30, 2001, 01:35:00 PM
Quote
And Ron, I don't see how one could understand anything other than Narrativism=Roleplaying from
Quote:

I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away.


I didn't get "narrativism=roleplaying" from that at all. Are you (& anyone else who saw it that way) ignoring the quotation marks & assuming that Ron seriously meant dungeon crawls are awful & & Bobby G senarios are real roleplaying? I thought it rather obvious that Ron was attributing those quotes to others, saying people think that the Bobby G senario is an example of a better kind of roleplaying than dungeon adventures. I think Ron's past posts have shown that he obviously doesn't see things that way.



Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 01:38:00 PM
Don Lag,

The presence of quotation marks indicates that these are phrases often mouthed by others, BOTH of which I personally disavow.

I'd considered putting a footnote into that post to make that clear, then decided it was unnecessary given my comments in my essay about synecdoche, and have now ground my teeth in frustration regarding exactly the confusion I'd anticipated.

See the forest, gentlemen. I say, repeatedly: "There is no One Way of True Role-playing. Period." Then, in reference to OTHERS who utilize a mode of scenario preparation and execution that I am specifically criticizing, I quote the terms about "real role-playing" that they often use. This does not indicate, on my part, any endorsement of those terms.

Yes, looking at the single tree of my paragraph, it is POSSIBLE to interpret it (given a generous dose of suspicion) as Marco has described. However, without that suspicion, and with a SINGLE GLANCE at the point of my post and the principles I have been at such pains to outline, that interpretation cannot apply.

I've been wrong about things before, but in this case I hold with my position that the readers are projecting meanings where they emphatically do not belong.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 06:22:00 AM
Right, I'm becoming increasingly confused about just what is meant by narrativism, even more so after reading the vanilla narrativism thread.

Specifically, where Ron says:
Quote

Does your character "care about Stuff," in that you as the player care about how that Stuff works out? Here I define Stuff as things that matter IN GENERAL, like "love," "family," "my people," "my honor," and similar things. If you care about the Stuff that your character is dealing with, and your statements about the character's actions reflect that - well, golly, that's Author Stance and that's a Narrativist Premise. All done. Role-play as usual.


Why can you not have just this experience in the Bobby G scenario?  I mean, my reading of what you wrote in that thread agreed with other posters that it sounded like good Sim gaming to me.  I had also understaood that narrativism incorporated a significant amount of counscious player action, in Directorial mode.  If this is not the case, in precisely what way does Simulationist play differ from Narrativist play?  I don;t see why the statement above is incompatible with Bobby G - it would appear to me that if the player cares about the Stuff apparent in the Bobby G scenario, then the scenario would qualify.  What is it about Bobby G that disqualifies it?

Incidentally Ron, in that pragaraph where you address a narrativist premise, do you mean for just that player?  Would other players have diferent premises?


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 06:38:00 AM
Quote

I didn't get "narrativism=roleplaying" from that at all. Are you (& anyone else who saw it that way) ignoring the quotation marks & assuming that Ron seriously meant dungeon crawls are awful & & Bobby G senarios are real roleplaying?


I did get that impression too, but not from that construction.

Ron says: Bobby G is sometimes described as Real Roleplaying
Ron says: But Bobby G is not narrativist.

Thus: the people who said Bobby G was real roleplaying were wrong BECAUSE Bobby G is not narrativist.

Implication: Real Roleplaying = Narrativism

However, I recognise that this is probably not what Ron meant.  It thus leaves the opening that Bobby G can be "real RPG", merely not in a narrativist format.  Which brings me back to my question above about "vanilla/crypto-narrativism" in which there is no player Directorialism and an apparent inability to distinguish between this behaviour and simulationist behaviour.  If it is possible to be a crypto-narrativist because you care about "stuff", then why does the presence or absence of preplotting matter in the Bobby G scenario?  After all a player/character could reflect upon their "Stuff" while experiencing an objectuve frustration in their efforts to find Bobby G.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 07:02:00 AM
Folks,

Caring about "Stuff" is not enough to define Narrativism. We are talking about role-playing BEHAVIORS, not internal states. One must have the inclination to comment/act upon Stuff, via one's character's actions. (Note that those actions might not be YOUR actions, or be successful, in order to comment successfully.) For actual Narrativism to be present, those actions are appearing in play.

The frustration in the Bobby G scenario is not referring to anything the characters may be experiencing, but rather to what players who are inclined as described above are experiencing.

The "crypto"-Narrativist tag is not accurate. We are talking about Narrativist inclinations and behaviors (see title of thread). I have described "vanilla Narrativism" as a minimal or foundational style of play, but it is not hidden if we look at the key variable: what the role-players want and do.

I am borderline-disgusted with the entire "real role-playing" issue as raised by Marco, and most especially with the syllogism presented by (although not endorsed by) Gareth. Anyone who perceives me as presenting such a foul view should contact me privately. Bring a baseball bat.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 07:14:00 AM
Quote

The frustration in the Bobby G scenario is not referring to anything the characters may be experiencing, but rather to what players who are inclined as described above are experiencing.


Allright, let me restate that.  If there were sufficient illusionism present to fool the player into thinking that this was NOT a railroaded gate that had to be passed, but emerged naturally from the context, would the players still feel that frustration?


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on October 31, 2001, 07:48:00 AM
I've been thinking about this for a bit. Plus, reading Ron's Art Deco Melodrama stuff in the Sorcerer. Reading the relationship map ideas, comparing that to the Bobby G scenario, I think a problem for potential narrativist games is bringing to the table the past RPG scenario concepts. Specifically the idea that there's a mystery that needs to be solved, & solving that will finish the scenario.

Ron & I were talking on the phone recently about dispensing information to players. I noted that, having watched a number of Buffy reruns, it seemed that in some episodes, the story centered around a crucial piece of information that wasn't revealed until the final act. Other episodes, that same crucial information was revealed early on, & the episode wasn't about "what's the mystery?" but "how do we deal with the consequences of the events surrounding the information?".

When I run adventures, I have this tendency to play my cards as close to my chest as possible, trying to keep the players from finding out significant information for as long as possible--because that what RPG scenarios are all about, right? It becomes a game of "what's in my pocket?", as they flounder around, talking to various NPCs, doing research, trying to figure out my mystery. I think a more narrativist scenario would have them finding out all sorts of significant info early on & then spending the rest of the scenario dealing with the consequences. Resolving rather than solving.

The problem with a lot of mystery scenarios is they tend to involve a lot of railroading, because the very nature of mysteries is that information is a rare commodity, not to be doled out freely. The GM has to corral the PCs, so they don't get everything easily, figure out who the bad guy is, kick his or her ass, & all go home. Watch any 3rd rate mystery movie or TV show & watch as the writers do everything they can to keep the protagonists from finding out stuff--if the protagonists got it early on, the mystery would be solved in 5 minutes & the story would be over. Then watch a soap opera for a week & watch as everyone gets information easily, but it gets them deeper into intrigue & conflict--the story isn't over because the mystery is solved, it's only just begun.

Information empowers players. If the GM is tight with the info, there are only so many things the players can do, which makes railroading easier. Empower the players by giving them information early on. Getting the information doesn't mean the adventure is over--okay, so now the know who's sleeping with who, who's blackmailing who, who hates who--what do they do about it? Leave that up to the players. No railroading. And then you've got narrativism.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 08:09:00 AM
Gareth,

I believe you have restated the question as to contain its own answer: "If the players are not frustrated, are they still frustrated?"

Before addressing this (insofar as it can be), I want to state two things to everyone.

1) I think that the discussion has FINALLY clarified and supported my basic point - that Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to Narrativist play. Period. If anyone objects to this idea, we can continue to discuss it, but at present, it looks as if we've reached agreement.

I would appreciate it if, when a discussion does reach agreement, that people acknowledge that rather than bounce immediately to a related topic or different question about the topic. This is not a bear pit and I am not the bear.

Hence: Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to Narrativist play. Don Lag, Marco, Gareth, etc - if you want to raise another point or inquiry, I want confirmation on that one first.

2) The "real role-playing issue" is and was moot. I didn't say Narrativism is real role-playing. I abominate both that conclusion and the thought processes that would perceive it in what I have written (ever). Again, I want confirmation on that one - otherwise, your input about the continuing discussion is going to be ignored by me.

NOW TO ADDRESS THE QUESTION
I'll re-state it as well as I can to avoid the potential tautology. I'm pretty sure Gareth didn't intend it as such, and I hope I'm according with what is really being asked; correction is requested if I'm off the beam.

"Is a Bobby G scenario/adventure frustrating to the Simulationist player, specifically those engaged in the form of Simulationism called Illusionism?"

My basic answer is "No." Such play may be very enjoyable, considering that the players are either fooled or, more likely, complicit in the Illusion and BY DEFINITION are more interested in "experiencing" the story rather than creating it anyway. The better the prep, it would seem, then the better the experience.

I have both played and GM'd in this fashion, in many cases very successfully. It does work fine (as stated in my essay, Illusionism is functional ON ITS TERMS). If this is where a particular group's play is finding enjoyment, then more power to them.

However, the basic answer is probably not sufficient, given two more factors: time and aesthetic standards. Taking both into account, repetitive Bobby G scenarios have been observed to pall. Why?

Many players may not be interested in CREATING story, but that does not mean that they are content with experiencing a DUMB story, either. The Bobby G story, ultimately, isn't very engaging EXCEPT in terms of the complexity of the hooks and the intrinsic interest of the Villain's Big Plan.

Regarding the complexity of the hooks, it doesn't take but two or three Bobby G scenarios (maximum) for everyone to realize that hooks ONLY exist to get the players to agree to go see Bobby together. I think that after this realization is apparent, few people are willing to enter into the experiential element of role-playing when given a hook - they know what it's for and no longer Explore regarding it. This is when the Panama Canal tactic becomes necessary, providing HUMONGOUS deterrents to keep characters from doing ANYTHING except seeing Bobby G.

Regarding the Villain's Big Plan, The GM often falls into the "escalation" tactic - first the villain is robbing banks; then the villain is poisoning the city reservoir; then the villain is taking over the government; then the villain is aiding the alien invasion; then the villain is "unravelling the very fabric of time and space" ...

Personally speaking AS WELL AS relying on multiple testimonies, both aspects described above become exhausting for the GM, and the payoff in terms of group enjoyment diminishes steadily, as the Illusion becomes very frayed at the edges.

Again, individual groups may be able to avoid this issue - but I suggest it's because they deviate enough from Bobby G type play and hence are NOT DOING IT.

So, to answer your question - no, for this mode of Simulationist play, the Bobby G scenario doesn't AUTOMATICALLY negate enjoyment, but its limitations MAY in the long run do so.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 09:49:00 AM
Quote

Hence: Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to Narrativist play. Don Lag, Marco, Gareth, etc - if you want to raise another point or inquiry, I want confirmation on that one first.


Hmm, well, yes and no.  I understand that this is your point, but I am still trying to discover WHY it is antithetical to narrativist play.

Quote

2) The "real role-playing issue" is and was moot. I didn't say Narrativism is real role-playing. I abominate both that conclusion and the thought processes that would perceive it in what I have written (ever). Again, I want confirmation on that one - otherwise, your input about the continuing discussion is going to be ignored by me.


Well, I have some residual concerns that you feel that it is a *better* form of roleplay.  But everyone thinks their politics are the best politicis, that there partner is the most wonderful person on Earth, so rather human all in all and nothing much to worry about.

Quote

"Is a Bobby G scenario/adventure frustrating to the Simulationist player, specifically those engaged in the form of Simulationism called Illusionism?"


No, that missed the point entirely, I said nothing about Simulationism.  Forget that I used the term "illusionism" and default back to Suspension Of Disbelief; if the situation is so compelling, even to narratavist players (vanilla narratavist players, more specifically) that it appears to arise naturally rather than be GM imposed, then WHY would it be antithetical to narrativism?

Seeing as vanilla narrativists do not exercise directorial power, pop in and out of authorial stance, they do not appear to have access to information much beyond what I the GM give them.  It appears to me that the actual physical dynamic between player and GM are almost identical to Sim-Illusion, even if their goals are slighly different.  This to comepletely set aside any concerns abouty overdoing one structure or the illusion fraying; those may or may not be problems, but why is this structure inherently anti-narratavist.



[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-31 12:50 ]


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on October 31, 2001, 09:56:00 AM
Contra-Gareth:

It's antithetical to narrativism (even "vanilla narrativism") because regardless of player information, regardless of stances, the story isn't generated by the players, they're just following the GMs lead. Now, if the GM is expert enough to make it look as if the players are making crucial decisions that drive the story but really they're just following the GM's lead (the "all roads lead to Rome" approach, for example), they may enjoy it--but it ain't narrativism. A story hasn't been created, it's been followed through from point A to point Z, as dictated (however benevolently) by the GM. Everything the players do just adds color, but doesn't really generate story.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 10:02:00 AM
Gareth,

Narrativism to any degree at all, even the mildest vanilla, requires Author OR Director stance to be applied during play, at those points in which the character is affecting the story. This does not mean the player must stand on his or her chair, specifically state that he or she is "not my character," or in any way make a big deal of it. But the decision being made is wholly a player one, and character knowledge and motives are subordinate to that.

I gathered from your latest post that you were not including this element of Narrativist play in your description. The Author Stance is crucial - no, it does not DEFINE Narrativism or vice versa, but it is one of its most important tools. In the absence of Director Stance, it would be a baseline indicator of Narrativist play.

Therefore, no, vanilla Narrativism is not Simulationist play, not even borderline-Simulationist play. It's mild, but it's definitely on one particular shelf.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 10:04:00 AM
Right, OK, but as I said I am now increasingly confused by what you mean by narrativism.

I had thought that it was about wehat the players did, i.e. they consciously and deliberately co-authored the story.  But this appears not to be the case.

I ahd also thought it might be about what the players know, i.e. they exploit out-of-game info to leand a more satisfying behaviour.

But, if their physical play behaviour is Vanilla, neither of these appear to apply, and so in what way are they creating a story?  It appears to me that they are going through "story happens2 like a Sim player.  What preciesly is the difference?


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on October 31, 2001, 10:48:00 AM
Gareth--

Narrativism is all about the players co-authoring stories. So...

--Regardless of what stances are being taken
--Regardless of whether there are any metagame aspects that allow player contribution (like Plot Points)
--Regardless of whether or not players are using OOC knowledge to further the story

...the story has to come from what the players do, not what the GM decides has to happen. Any railroading, no matter how expertly hidden, is anti-narrativist, because it goes against the players creating a story. This includes "vanilla" narrativism.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: jburneko on October 31, 2001, 10:53:00 AM
I thought you guys would like to know that I've created another thread for the Vanilla Narrativism vs. Simulationism in the GNS forum.  I thought that the line was sufficiently blurry and worthy of its own thread.  I was going to make an effort to answer it but words failed me and so I merely opened the question.

Jesse


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 11:27:00 AM
Gareth,

One more thing. You did refer to Illusionism in framing your question that I decided I had to re-phrase. Illusionism IS, by definition, part of a type of Simulationist play. Thus re-phrasing your question in Simulationist terms, specifying the Illusionist sub-set, is valid on my part.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 31, 2001, 05:36:00 PM
I've been kinda overwhelmed by all the meaty, interesting and sometimes contentious threads of late . . . and I'm never sure if my comments are REALLY "on thread" or not . . . but let me dive in anyway.

Gareth's confusion/concerns inspired this - seems to me an issue here is, if what we're talking about is OBSERVABLE BEHAVIORS in GNS, and the OBSERVABLE action in a "Bobby G" scenario is consistent with Vanilla Narrativism, with the only difference being that the GM "internally" knows that he's been Railroading . . . by  our observable behavior standard, that Bobby G run is Narrativism.

It seems to me unlikely that  the GMs' internal railroading in NO observable way shows itself in play . . . but in theory,  it is posibile.  Is there something to be gained in analyzing this rare case?  Maybe - the "absolutist" in me says a complete theory should cover all the bases.  Or maybe not . . . except that I suspect this rare case is a goal that MANY gaming groups strive for.  So . . . thoughts?

Gordon


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 07:31:00 PM
Gordon,

I think that behaviors of both GM and players may be identified to distinguish Illusionist play from vanilla Narrativism.

Situation: Bartholemew is being sucked down by quicksand south of where Sebastian is searching for the wreck of the helicopter. Sam, playing Sebastian, says, "I go south!" [Note that Sebastian does not know where Bartholemew is.] Sam then justifies the decision in some way.

Such a behavior CANNOT be anything but Author Stance, regardless of whether Sam "thought about it" in that way.

Situation: Bob, playing Bartholemew, gets a wild hair up his ass when the characters confront Bobby G, and announces that Bartholemew will attack Bobby G. The GM performs the PRIMARY ACT OF ILLUSIONISM by interpreting all of Bob's announcements regarding actions as statements of Intent, but interpreting all of the other characters' actions (who are trying to stop him) as statements of Execution. In this fashion, the chance of serious harm to Bobby G is lessened, and the characters may still get the necessary information from him.

These and other "types of play" behaviors are easily identified, when you know what to look for.

In conclusion, I do NOT suggest that vanilla Narrativism is "wholly internal," or (as Gareth said) "cryptic." Far from it. The behaviors are there to characterize EITHER style of play I'm discussing, even if they are not being openly acknowledged among the group.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 31, 2001, 11:58:00 PM
All right, let me beat this even further into the ground, in case an interesting insight arises.  I'll risk the Wrath of Ron by starting with a quote & response:
Quote

In conclusion, I do NOT suggest that vanilla Narrativism is "wholly internal," or (as Gareth said) "cryptic."

I'm not sure exactly what (in detail - I get the general statement) Gareth meant by cryptic, but I'm certainly clear that vanilla Narrativism is not, commonly or of necessity, "wholly internal".  In fact, my opinion is that it's VERY likely - perhaps approaching certain - to be external, i.e., identifiable through observing behaviors.

However, to use your Bobby G example, let's suppose that to the players, the GMs behavior looks no different.  Remarkably good Illusionism occurs, and both the player attempting to go wild on ol' Bobby G and the other, more reasonable (and compatabile with the GMs plans) players take the same (game-mechanic) actions, have the same "feel" for their success chances and associated factors - in retrospect, they're proud of the "good cop/bad cop" scene of the story they (think they) created.  Only the GM knows Mr. Whoop-Bobbys-Ass had no chance to succede - and it is theoretically possible that he ONLY knows this internally, and lets no external evidence show.

How do we observe anything that distinguishes this from a trully "Narrative" approach?  I mean, I'm not sure I believe this strawman could ever stand - I've been in a lot of Illusionistic games in the last 20+ years, and its rare that an hour goes by without something observable that I could (now) use to "peg" the style, but . . . does it have to be that way?  Couldn't a group succede in going through Bobby G THINKING (and having no observable evidence to contradict) "We're creating the Bobby G Narrative", when the GM knows "I'm Railroading"?  Isn't this in fact a common, desired outcome of play?

Perhaps.  But here's an insight, if not a particullarly profound one - "observable behavior" does NOT mean simply what the players observe during play.  It is also what the GM observes, and what a spectator might observe, and perhaps even what an outside observer might see the GM do in preparation to play.  Include all that, and it seems the chance for a "only see Narrative external" but "really it's Railroading internal" becomes ENTIRELY theoretic, and in fact we've simply got Railroading that people COULD identitfy, but choose to be blind to (as assisted by the GMs clever Illusionism).

I've got another insight, from your "I go south" example - but it belongs elsewhere.  I'll get to it . . . maybe not tonight, but soon.  Actually, there are 3-4 posts I'd like to make "soon".  Sigh.

Gordon


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 01, 2001, 06:30:00 AM
Hi Gordon,

The Wrath of Ron?? Wait a minute … let me take my glove off … minions, strap down that Landis guy and prepare the ear-crawlies!

Actually, I think you've answered your own inquiry in terms perfectly acceptable to me. In my view, your proposed "perfect Illusion" is indeed a Straw Man and not a counter-example. Furthermore,

"… here's an insight, if not a particullarly profound one - "observable behavior" does NOT mean simply what the players observe during play. It is also what the GM observes, and what a spectator might observe, and perhaps even what an outside observer might see the GM do in preparation to play. Include all that, and it seems the chance for a "only see Narrative external" but "really it's Railroading internal" becomes ENTIRELY theoretic, and in fact we've simply got Railroading that people COULD identitfy, but choose to be blind to (as assisted by the GMs clever Illusionism)."

Beauty. Exactly what I was planning on writing in response to your first paragraph, and almost certainly stated better than I could have done it.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 01, 2001, 08:36:00 AM
Question:

Quote

Situation: Bartholemew is being sucked down by quicksand south of where Sebastian is searching for the wreck of the helicopter. Sam, playing Sebastian, says, "I go south!" [Note that Sebastian does not know where Bartholemew is.] Sam then justifies the decision in some way.


Situation: The characters are advised they need to go see Bobby G.  Sam, playing Sebastien, says "I go to see Bobby G".  Sam then justifies this decision in some other way.

So: why is the former narrativism, and the latter not?


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on November 01, 2001, 09:07:00 AM
The difference is that needing to meet Bobby G is predetermined and nothing can happen unless the characters go see Bobby G.

Bartholemew may be able to save himself from the quicksand or another character can find him or Bart simply dies and a new character is then rolled up.

In a Bobby G scenerio, NOTHING can happen or will be successful unless the PC's go see Bobby G, do as he asks, and use whatever information he has to help them.

Sebastian need not save Bartholemew and the GM need not herd Sam toward making Sebastian save Bartholemew.

He may, and this would be a small form of on-the-fly railroading, having PCs always help each other out like this even when they aren't even aware.  This sort of thing is part of that group mentality thing that is prevailent in RPGs since D&D first came out of Gygax's basement (that is where TSR started, isn't it?)

Group mentality forces lots of behaviors on the player that some may not want. {keeping the party together, always helping each other out} These usually efface the character's motivations or intentions, effectively forcing Author or, probably more often, Pawn Stance on the player.

This is the sort of thing we're talking about with Bobby G.  Forcing behaviors and forcing actions, sometimes to the point that the players may as well be watching a movie.  It's not quite that bad, but it's fairly close if you look at it from the angle of how little control or effect on the story the PC's have.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Don Lag on November 02, 2001, 09:21:00 AM
Ron wrote:
Quote

I quote the terms about "real role-playing" that they often use. This does not indicate, on my part, any endorsement of those terms.


Ok, I get what you mean. I still think it's a little confusing, but I don't triple check my posts for or run them through a focus group either, so I apologize for being so emphatic on my previous interpretation.

Besides acknowledging that, I'd just like to ask if you can clear one last thing (I'm very sorry if you've already answered it in the thread, if so I didn't see it).

Would a game session in which the GM prepares a pre-plotted scenario and whose players voluntarily run through with it qualify as a "Bobby-G scenario"?

What if the players deviate from the pre-plot (drastically even) and the GM is willing to honestly "let" this happen (letting Bobby-G be killed for example), while trying to be consistent to as much of the pre-plot as possible, without railroading the characters (letting the scheduled events happen, although now in a very different circumstance)?

Would you consider this last case be a "well GM-ed Bobby-G scenario" or rather a "scenario that got de-Bobby-G-ized by a good GM"? Or none of these??


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 02, 2001, 09:24:00 AM
Hi Don,

"Would you consider this last case be a "well GM-ed Bobby-G scenario" or rather a "scenario that got de-Bobby-G-ized by a good GM"? Or none of these??"

I'd call it a scenario that got de-Bobby-G-ized. I'd also say that the de-Bobby-G-izing was done by THE GROUP, not by the players or the GM as distinct units.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Don Lag on November 02, 2001, 10:04:00 AM
Ok, this helps me get your point much better, now I'm sure I agree with you on most of this discussion.

And I have to agree on the observation about it being the the GROUP's doing and not just the GM's. It's just been my personal experience that most effort usually comes from GM rather than the players, although I'm very much the advocate of considering the GM as a peer of the players, creativewise.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 07, 2001, 05:00:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-11-01 12:07, pblock wrote:
The difference is that needing to meet Bobby G is predetermined and nothing can happen unless the characters go see Bobby G.


Thats the circular argument again.

Let me try this:  the whole example is wrong.  Bobby G CANNOT EXIST in a narratavist game, because the mandated power required to *oblige* the characters to see Bobby G does not exist.  Its a straw man;he same way that Ron applied my reference to illusion, to even propose that Baobby G and narratavism can coexist, as Ron does, is nonsensical.  Therefore this whole argument has been utterly, utterly pointless.

Quote

This is the sort of thing we're talking about with Bobby G.  Forcing behaviors and forcing actions, sometimes to the point that the players may as well be watching a movie.  It's not quite that bad, but it's fairly close if you look at it from the angle of how little control or effect on the story the PC's have.


Right - so what your basically saying is "games where all the power is invested in the GM are not the same as games where the power is distributed amongst all participants".

What a revelation that is.  In fact the entire initial question depended on arguing this conclusion.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on November 07, 2001, 07:02:00 AM
Contracyclical Gareth--

Quote
Quote:
On 2001-11-01 12:07, pblock wrote:
The difference is that needing to meet Bobby G is predetermined and nothing can happen unless the characters go see Bobby G.

Thats the circular argument again.


With all due respect, I don't see a circular argument so much as people (me, Ron, pblock, Mike Holmes) explaining that the Bobby G scenario as Ron described it is railroading, & railroading is counter to narrativism. You ask why that's counter to narrativism, we explain why, & you declare it a circular argument. I disagree, it hasn't been circular at all. You may not be happy with the explanation, but that doesn't make it circular.

I'm tempted to express one more time why the Bobby G scenario is anti-narrativist, but I'm afraid you'll just once more declare it a "circular argument".

Quote
to even propose that Baobby G and narratavism can coexist, as Ron does, is nonsensical. Therefore this whole argument has been utterly, utterly pointless.


Actually, what Ron's been saying since the beginning is that the Bobby G scenario & narrativism aren't compatible. Has this argument been pointless? I don't know. I certainly feel like I've gotten something out of it.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 07, 2001, 07:03:00 AM
Gareth,

I am convinced that you and I should have taken the Bobby G issue to private email many, many posts ago.

Given what both you and I have written on this thread alone, it is clear that we are having two different conversations, neither with the other person. I'd like to have ONE conversation with YOU, by which I mean I am listening to you and vice versa. Please oblige if you're inclined.

Best,
Ron


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 07, 2001, 07:42:00 AM
Quote

Actually, what Ron's been saying since the beginning is that the Bobby G scenario & narrativism aren't compatible. Has this argument been pointless? I don't know. I certainly feel like I've gotten something out of it.


Its not the SCENARIO thats incompatible, its the railroading.  So all Ron said is: non-narrativist play is non-narrativist.


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: James Holloway on November 07, 2001, 07:49:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-11-07 10:42, contracycle wrote:
Its not the SCENARIO thats incompatible, its the railroading.  So all Ron said is: non-narrativist play is non-narrativist.


The only reason this is a silly assertion is in light of the dozens of posts which have followed it. As far as I can tell, the original purpose of the post was just to point out a common thread in annoying scenario design. Ron happened to mention that it wasn't narrativist and then it all just went right to hell.

The main point of the post, at least as I got it, was "here's what I've observed in lots of scenario designs."


Title: Narrativism and Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 07, 2001, 07:51:00 AM
Folks,

This thread is over.

That does not mean I am stifling the topic - and most especially not stifling Gareth, who I utterly trust to present fair-minded argument, and who is NOT a troll.

It does mean that specific questions or concerns about the topic need to go either to private email or to threads of their own.

For instance, the specific concern that "Ron did not present a worthwhile point" may be dealt with very nicely through private means.

Or, for instance, discussions of specific Bobby G instances in a given game session might go to a thread for just that purpose. (I am inclined to do that myself soon.)

I'd prefer not to lock the thread. Please oblige me by simply not responding to this one.

Best,
Ron