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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 30, 2001, 09:12:00 AM



Title: Bobby G
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 30, 2001, 09:12:00 AM
The Bobby G thread in Actual Play has gotten away from the actual play aspect and moved to theory.  Hence this thread.  I had to fight the urge to paraphase Janis Joplin for the subject line.

But the point of the Bobby G discussion is muddied somewhere.

To recap, Marco's last post in its entirety:

Quote

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


Part of the problem is Ron's definition of plot vs. what has become common usage in some circles.  Well, that can only get ugly, so let's drop it.  

Just keep in mind there is the noun plot and then there is the verb to plot or plotting.

Bobby G is an example of plotting as applies to the RPG medium.  To contrive the events into a story in some fashion.

Somewhere in the discussion Ron's original point got lost, Bobby G is not narrativism.  Agreed.  Probably why it got lost.  Narrativist gameplay it to create the story as you go.  Bobby G has the story (as it were) already set up in advance.  All that's left are the little details.

Using Bobby G in a true narrativist way would probably work like this:

GM: Bobby G is the guy you should talk to.  He has information.

Players: Screw Bobby G and screw the main villian.  We're going to Nova Scotia!


We are talking about two types of gaming here in the same sentence without taking a breath first.

On the one hand there's narrativism, which focuses on the story creation and as such a device like RPG Plot #42:"Bobby G" should or would never get used.  The players have a bit too many finger in the pie to make a standard, overused adventure like this to be necessary and it probably would only get used in a "new" spin could somehow be put on it in a narrative context.  (exactly what, I don't know.  I'm just aknowledging the possibility while ignoring the improbability.  This is not an impossibility)

Then there are the other two branches, which for our purposes here may be treated similarly since the issue at stake is not the particulars of simulationism and gamism, but how narrativism focuses on story creation and the other two do not.

Actually, it's a fairly specific style of playing that makes use of the Bobby G and similar scenerioes.  The exact GNS focus is probably irrelavant.

The style we're talking about here is the GM works out the plot, story, whatever while the players have little responsibility save to show up, roll dice when told, and keep track of stuff on their character sheets.

I've seen this happen all the time.  I suspect it's fairly widespread.  Now, it can be a fun and good way to play, but it can give rise to cetain behaviors.

The main thing is just plain laziness on the part of the players.  Expecting the GM to all the work and to figure out the story for them, never taking an active role in the game they claim to enjoy.

I dunno.  I think I lost it again.

Bottom line is Bobby G is not narrativism.  It is railroading.

Are they any other scenerioes as distinct as Bobby G?

Feeling good was good enough for me.
Good enough for me and my Bobby {Mc}G.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 30, 2001, 10:10:00 AM
Jack,

I'm with you on most of this issue, specifically your focus on what my point was. I'll quibble about the judgmental aspect of calling the players "lazy," especially since at least half of the responsibility for using Bobby G preparation lies with the GM.

I agree that the next step is to discuss Actual Play - specifically that of scenario preparation that does NOT rely on railroading. I'm doing a very extended example in the Sorcerer forum, but I'd like to hear others' views.

Dav is my first pick, by the way, 'cause I get to experience his very cunning usage of Intuitive Continuity almost every week.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 30, 2001, 04:15:00 PM
I suppose the judgement aspect lies in the possibility more than actuality.

That is, some players do take an active role in the game, some do not.  Some sit back and wait for the GM to entertain them, never doing anything if they don't have to.  Scenerioes like Bobby G help run such groups, since they MUST do something or are carried along by the plot of it.

This is probably a different subject altogether and such players should question why they spend their saturdays playing but not really playing when they could be doing something else that they'd really enjoy.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 31, 2001, 07:16:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-30 13:10, Ron Edwards wrote:

I agree that the next step is to discuss Actual Play - specifically that of scenario preparation that does NOT rely on railroading.


If the players are narrating the outcomes of their actions then it gets tricky (I haven't played that way) but some of the least railroaded scenarios I've been in are straight D&D-type scenarios where the GM makes a bunch of dungeons and encounters and NPC's and organizations and time-lines (on day six the orcs will attack the town) and turns the PC's loose.

The paladin decides to go rescue people. The thieves hook up with the gild and do their thing ... like that.

Even better is when the GM has a meta-plot which is designed to catch the characters intereststs as well as the players and then introduces into play like a chef stiring in a little ingredient at a time.

In this case *more* prep is better since the more work that's done on the world the more there is for the players to interact with when/if they aren't going after the meta-plot.

(This doesn't have to be fantasy: I once played a modern day scenario where each character did their own thing an pursued their own interests. The key to doing it well--if the player himself isn't narrating the outcome of their own actions--is for the GM to be comfortable/prepared enough to have interesting things happen as the Karate master decides he's going to organize a local tournament or some such).

I'd have called those games *pure* simulationist gaming. I'm not so certain now.

-Marco


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 07:35:00 AM
Hi Marco,

One of the issues here is the definition of metaplot. I believe that what you have described is "back-story," rather than metaplot, in that basically there is a lot of material that has already happened and it's going to be interesting to players/PCs. I also think you are including changes or developments in the setting that provide opportunities for the players to continue or initiate meaningful actions for their characters.

However, most of the time at the Forge, the term "metaplot" is used to indicate outcomes of the game's conflicts that are fixed by the GM (or by the GM as agent of a published adventure). Thus the conflict at hand may be the unity of the Seven Tribes, but the GM is fully aware that the Fourth Tribe is going to fall apart permanently when the chief is assassinated, and the

It's a tricky point - but if the conflict at hand is the unity of the tribes, that's metaplot (a form of large-scale railroading). If the conflict at hand is something ELSE, then what I have presented above is NOT resolving those conflicts, but is instead providing a nice arena for them to be worked out in, and is therefore not railroading.

A good comparison is the Hero Wars of Glorantha as opposed to the War of Ascension in Mage.

In Hero Wars, it is predestined that the gods will recede into (for all purposes) nothingness, and that the world will become much more mundane. This is not the conflict at hand, it is merely Setting in terms of time. The conflict concerns what the Heroes redefine as the primary moral issues of the new world, as their role in the Wars supercedes that of the gods. How this conflict develops and is resolved is strictly a player issue.

I should also point out that the players at the Hero level of play are expected to KNOW that this is the case - the outcome of the Hero Wars (in the big sense) is not a secret to be revealed to them through play.

In Mage, the conflict at hand for the players/characters is the War of Ascension itself. And through a series of published supplements, the publishers tell us how it works out - which factions eliminate which ones, which NPCs are instrumental in these events, and so on. The player-characters may address their minor concerns independently, or may aid with the details of an NPC's achievement, but the conflict that is supposed to be of primary interest is essentially predetermined, in chapters as well as in whole. Furthermore, the GM is expected to be "channelling" these outcomes to the players, who are expected to be acquiring and experiencing them only through the medium of play.

I should like to state that many Forge members enjoy playing Mage and - as far as I can tell - have often drifted its application away from what I have described. This post does NOT explicitly accuse anyone of ACCORDING with the published expectations of Mage. I do stand by my interpretation of the published expectation, however.

Hope this helps to clear up the difference between [Simulationism with the Exploration focusing on Situation and Setting] and [Narrativism with a strong emphasis on Setting].

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 31, 2001, 07:59:00 AM
Garrrh! Definitions.

I meant meta-plot in the X-files sense: where sometimes Moulder and Scully do one-shot adventures and sometimes they participate in something which (at least purports to) advance a larger storyline.

This meta-plot is the GM's "story" in that it consists of elements that he's put together and has some themes the group may be intereted in exploring but whether or not its is outcome pre-determined isn't important to what I was saying.


-Marco

[ This Message was edited by: Marco on 2001-10-31 11:10 ]


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 08:16:00 AM
Yeah Marco, that's what I figured you meant. In which case, we're not really talking about metaplot, but plain old plot! Whether long-term or short-term really doesn't matter.

In terms of role-playing, "plot" (of ANY mode of play) is only established when the session or events of play are over. Anything before that is not plot but preparation.

Now, in Narrativist play, the distinction between these is TREMENDOUSLY well established. If the GM preps tons of events to happen during play over which the player-characters have no control, that's fine! But if the GM preps tons of OUTCOMES of situations in which the player-characters are supposed to be the protagonists, then that's a kick-in-the-nuts transgression of the social contract of play.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 09:07:00 AM
So - why is Bobby G railroading and not setting exposition?


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 09:43:00 AM
Gareth,

Bobby is railroading and not setting exposition because the scenario cannot proceed UNLESS the player-characters make certain decisions in a certain way. The GM's job is to keep providing barriers that force these decisions (a) to be made and (b) made "correctly." I believe I explicitly stated these elements of this mode of play when I first introduced the topic.

In other words, it's like voting in a totalitarian state. You can vote, but until you vote the "right way," you have to do it over.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 09:59:00 AM
OK well this is going in circles, I've had enough, never mind.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 10:06:00 AM
Gareth,

I disagree. I've said one thing, and I keep saying it. People have tried to mess with various elements of the argument (what is "plot") (what is "railroading") (etc) and nothing has challenged my points.

Failure to refute an argument does not constitute going in circles. At least not for the defender of that argument.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on October 31, 2001, 10:18:00 AM
No, Ron, people have not tried to "mess" with your argument, because for one thing that would imply malicious intent.  Disagreement is not indicative of malice and I am annoyed to be so treated.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Laurel on October 31, 2001, 10:21:00 AM
So, to sum all of this up (after reading both threads):

Note to GMs

For Narrativist play, PCs cannot be rail-roaded through mandatory predetermined scenarios in order to accomplish their objectives.  The "story" of Narrativist play is, after all, constructed from the actions, motivations, and dialogue of the PCs.  Therefore the plot must be flexible and sustainable even with rapid change in both circumstance and tone in order to provide a true Narrativist platform.  


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Marco on October 31, 2001, 10:39:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-10-31 12:07, contracycle wrote:
So - why is Bobby G railroading and not setting exposition?


Contra,
It's railroading because it's *defined* as railroading. Any Bobby G. "type" scenario which wasn't railroading wouldn't be Bobby G.

Ron,
Part of the reason things get twisted is because the terminology in use is, despite Forge history, *confusing.*

I think in many cases a lot of these arguments reduce to "what I said is true because of the way I defined it."

When I object to your terminology I'm not messing with your argument--I'm objecting to what I see you as stating your argument as. In other words, there's no 'convincing someone you're right' stage here--it's just about definitions.

I think a lot of the problem is word-choice, and I think that some of it is (I would say unintentionally) the sort of word-choice that is *inclined* to produce misudnerstanding.

-Marco







Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 31, 2001, 07:34:00 PM
Both Marco's and Gareth's latest posts have been answered via private messages.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 01, 2001, 04:59:00 AM
I was thinking about the example offered in which, rather than visiting Bobby G, the characters become distracted by the wife-beating fishmonger and decide to divert to that direction.  This was offered as an example of the way, in narrativist play, the story is constructed by the participants in real time rather than mandated by a GM.

This clarifies the issue for me a great deal.  However, I had perhaps not considered this scenario precisely because of some other concerns that I had about this form of play:

Is a story being created here, or is this just "tourist mode"/exploration?  Is it assumed that the participants are, while doing this, keeping one eye cocked toward the dramatic impact of the scene, pacing, working toward climax, bearing an explicit premise in mind and working toward a theme?

If so, and it implies a distinct consciousness of the metagame, then I'm not still not sure why Bobby G is antithetical to narrativism.  After all, nobody else has the opportunity to realise, at the metagame level, that seing Bobby G is the gate to be passed, and AUTHOR such an outcome.  Yeah, so one participant has mandated that part of the story is "how we got the info out of Bobby G", why is that not a valid narrativist scenario, and methodology for dealing with the scenario?

Secondly, if no central authorial direction is being implemented, and the characters are indeed free to involve themselves with the abuse of the fishmongers wife, then what happens to theme and premise?  Is it the case that whatever "story" had been conceptualised, in premise and the like, such as "what price power", must now be reinterpreted under the present circusmtance, and where the "what price power" premise was initially expected to realise a theme through interaction with Bobby G, it is now required that this (another) theme be realised through interaction with the power struggle in the fishmongers home?

In which case, what I wonder is, does this work, and is it RPG?  Is any SOD possible in a case where the participants are, now, working in an area in which there has been no preparation, the theme and premise possibly need to undergo radical reinterpretation?  In a communal author environment, would this not require some pretty specific metagame discussion of WHAT the premise is explicitly and HOW this is to be realised through theme so that some reasonable form of consistency may be managed by the disparate inputs of the various participants?  And then finally, does this not suggest that this form of play requires such a level of metagame awareness that to do so in a vanilla fashion appears rather implausible?

On might say that I had considered that part of the point of the level of authorial control implicit in Narrativism was, in a sense, to obviate rather than prevent the Bobby G scenario; to "manage" the necessity to meet with Bobby G such that it does not become an easter egg hunt or require increasingly absurd improvisations by a GM.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 01, 2001, 05:19:00 AM
A further thought.  Could you not construct a narratavist scenario something like this:

Story: The Assault On Everest
Premise: Are the risks we undertake for fame worth it?
Theme: To be developed in play

Scene 1: How We Arrived At The Mountain
Scene 2: Making Our Way To Base Camp
Scene 3: Climbing The Face
Scene 4: How We Lost A Companion
Scene 5: Making the Peak
Scene 6: The Return To Camp
Scene 7: The Homecoming
Scene 8: Attending The Funeral

In each explicit scene, the goal of the players as players is to narrate a satisfying sequence of events which, at least eventually, meet the criteria of the gates and thus progresses steadily through the scene order.  In the case of Scene 4, where one of the climbers dies, it has not been specified who will die, or how, and this is left to the players to "negotiate", Author, amongst themselves.

Plausible?


Title: Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on November 01, 2001, 06:54:00 AM
Gareth--

Quote
Yeah, so one participant has mandated that part of the story is "how we got the info out of Bobby G", why is that not a valid narrativist scenario, and methodology for dealing with the scenario?


If such a scene is mandated, so that the players have to meet with Bobby G & get info from him for the plot to move forward, it's not narrativism precisely because that scene is mandated & the players are being railroaded into certain actions & outcomes.

Quote
Secondly, if no central authorial direction is being implemented, and the characters are indeed free to involve themselves with the abuse of the fishmongers wife, then what happens to theme and premise?


As Ron has discussed, plot isn't something separate from character, it comes from the characters & their actions. Let me elaborate on that & say the same is true for theme & premise.

Okay, the GM is going to run a scenario. S/he has discussed it with the players & laid out that the Premise is "What are you willing to do for love?". All the conflicts & relationships between the NPCs are a fractal model of the Premise, all based around that central question. The GM has set guidelines on character creation & the players have all discussed their characters so that, from the outset, their characters are also big representations of the Premise. In this narrativist case, the GM's role isn't to make sure the PCs get to such-n-such location or get certain information from a certain NPC at a certain time. The GM's role is to reinforce the Premise & keep the pace. Done right, the story won't be a floundering series of meaningless scenes because everybody is grooving on the Premise. Everytime the PCs interact with an NPC, the Premise is right there in the conflicts. The players aren't trying to solve a mystery in the GM's head, they're involving themselves in the Premise through play. Being able to involve themselves with whichever NPC they want to won't throw off the Premise, because all of the NPCs are representations of the Premise.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 01, 2001, 08:06:00 AM
Quote

If such a scene is mandated, so that the players have to meet with Bobby G & get info from him for the plot to move forward, it's not narrativism precisely because that scene is mandated & the players are being railroaded into certain actions & outcomes.


Thank you for restating the ground we have walked over so many times.  Can we get back to the question now?

Seeing as the model you describe allocates no particular power to the GM, the GM is just another participant.  This participant has introduced a "scene"; why cant the players be left to bring about that scene?

I am finding your definition circular: its not narrativism because its railroading, and why is it railroading? ... because its not narrativism.  Gah!

Would you like to tackle the everest example?  Can you explain to me why that structure is invalid?

Oh an incidentally, these NPC's - where do they come from?  Where do other setting details originate?


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 01, 2001, 08:09:00 AM
How can a GM keep/control pace if they have no idea of the outcome?  If the players can simply decide that they wish to do Something Else, how is the GM supposed to know to bring it to climax and denoument?  And indeed, SHOULD they - should the other players not have responsibility for authoring the close?


Title: Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on November 01, 2001, 09:13:00 AM
Gareth--

I'm not saying it's not narrativism because it's not railroading & it's railroading because it's not narrativism. I'm saying it's railroading because the GM is dictating the outcome of events that haven't occured yet, thereby forcing the players into a certain avenue. That is railroading, & it's antithetical to narrativism, because the whole point of narrativism is that the outcome comes from the players actions, not predetermination by the GM. If it's predetermined, a story isn't being created, it's being experienced, which is not narrativism.

Also, nobody is saying the GM has equal power to the players & is therefore just another player. That could be a form of narrativism. It could just as easily be a form of gamism. There's nothing inherent to narrativism to make a GM equal in authority to all other players. As Ron & I were discussing recently, we both prefer the "GM runs the game" model to the more extreme forms of power-sharing like Soap (we enjoy both, prefer the former). But for narrativism to work, the PCs have to have automatic protagonism & the story has to ultimately come from their actions. Otherwise, a story isn't being actively created--a story may be the result, but a "story result" is not necessarily the same thing as a "story created".

As for GM pacing: just because the players have more authorial/directorial power, the GM can still act as the final word for pace & scene-framing. (Paul Czege wrote a great post about scene-framing, but damned if I can remember where it is--Actual Play somewhere?) The GM "controls" pacing the way a bass player keeps the rhythm in a band--the GM starts a scene, ends a scene, & cuts to the next scene. Exactly how this works is up to the individual group. When I'm the GM, I'll sometimes just declare "Your character is here, what do you do?" (which isn't railroading, it's giving the PC opportunity for conflict) or I'll ask "Okay, who wants a scene next? You? Okay, where are you & what are you doing?". And sometimes, like my last session, I'll say "Okay, cut to--" & a player will interrupt & say "Wait, can I have a quick scene?" & then go on to describe a ship pulling into the docks & his character disembarking, & then we move onto the scene I'd intended. In a narrativist game, one of the GM's primary responsibilities is to keep things moving, so the game doesn't get bogged down & people start getting bored. "Okay, this scene is definitely over--cut to: midnight, the park. Jack, Poe, & Terrance are hiding behind the bushes, staking out the rose garden."

Is this helping at all?


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 01, 2001, 09:38:00 AM
Quote

On 2001-11-01 11:06, contracycle wrote:
I am finding your definition circular: its not narrativism because its railroading, and why is it railroading? ... because its not narrativism.  Gah!

Well, it sort of is circular. The assumption behind Narrativism, the reason that Ron created its current definition is because he noted that there are players for whom any sort of railroading is distasteful.

Quote

Would you like to tackle the everest example?  Can you explain to me why that structure is invalid?

Invalid as Narrativist? Well, insofar as players may decide in a Narrativist game to go elsewhere than the scenes indicated, railroading them back to those scenes is exactly what they hate. If the players happened onto those scenes, then there would be no problem. But the odds of them deciding to have exactly those scenes is unlikely. Still, the GM can introduce things, and make such scenes potentially desireable. But in the end it has to be the players choice to be satisfying to the Narrativist player.

Does this make things like pacing impossible. Well, it makes it a team effort. Will it always work perfectly? No. Depends on the players and how well they participate. Can it work. Does all the time. Usually, in fact. The few really Narrativist games that I've played have all gone very well for me. Do you need a GM to control pacing. No. Not at all. That's just one way. The advantage that Narrativism has is the notion that the players are trying to make a better plot. Simulationists only do it by accident.

Mike


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 01, 2001, 09:59:00 AM
Hello,

The Everest example - like so many counter-examples offered in the heat of argument - does not offer enough context to be evaluated.

The question is what the conflict is, in the Lit 101 sense. Setting is not, itself, conflict. It may be that everyone is perfectly content to attempt to climb Everest, but that the conflicts at hand concern issues of loyalty, ambition, and clashes of leadership. If these are the shared Premise (with various characters, as presented by players, reflecting or acting upon it), then the mountain-climbing and the structure of the plot as Gareth has presented it are a fine foundation for a Narrativist role-playing experience.

I have observed that many people who are used to Simulationist play perceive ANY discontinuity between GM and player "desire for what happens" as a source of tension, anger, and disrupted play. Therefore when we discuss player contribution to Authorship in Narrativist, play, these people cannot initially perceive anything except argument and "random wanderings in groups of one" to be occurring.

I have similarly observed, as a one-more-layer-in phenomenon, that these people then come to think that Narrativist play has no constructive or contributory role for the GM at all - that ANY input, structure, or authority exerted by the GM must be, "to those Narrativists," railroading.

The Everest example as presented COULD be a Narrativist experience, and it may be understood as such by people who have worked through the layers I have described. Similarly, it COULD be a Simulationist experience with any number of emphases, ranging from the "realism" of mountain-climbing, to experiencing the breakdown of one's cultural assumptions under travail, to ... well, again, tons of possibilities.

Without context, simply naming a setting and a sequence of events is not enough to go on.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: jburneko on November 01, 2001, 10:07:00 AM
Hello,

I thought I'd offer my insights as well.  I propose that the Everest example is not Narrativism.  Precisely because the outcome is already predetermined.  In fact, what you have described is an excelent design for GAMIST play.  The idea being that a scenario sets explicit goals and the job of the players is to use all the resources at their disposal to achieve that goal.  For Example at some point durring play the player's learn that they need to retrieve the Scarlet Gem of Hugo Drax.  The GM has in no way predetermined what sequence of events will lead up to the retrieval of that Gem.  He may know where the Gem is and the parameters of the obstacles between the players and the Gem but HOW players deal with that is solely left up the players.  

The other thing that the Everest example does is show the classic confusion between story and narration.  Story results from the resolution of conflict.  The STORY of the Everest climb has already been told.  It's right there on your list.  Since the story has already been told it is impossible for the player's to create it.  What the players WOULD be doing is narrating the events that lead up to each of the valid story points.  As I said this is fairly typical scenario design.  All STORY elements have been predetermined and all the players are REALLY in charge of is explaining how those story elements came to pass.  This is fairly typical simulationist and gamist scenario design.

Narrativist design however contains only the conflict elements with no expected or even suggested outcome.  But more importantly those conflicts are centered around a Premise.  Narrativism is about the nature of the conflicts.  How the players choose to deal with those conflicts is their own business.  They could ignore the conflict.  They could pick a side in the conflict.  They could try to negotiate a truce.  They could try and eliminate both sides of the conflict.  They could enter into the conflict as a third unexpected variable.  It doesn't matter.  There is no right or wrong answer.

Your other posts seem to suggest something that reminds me of my original thinking about Narrativism when I first encountered it.  That is, if players are left to their own devices with no clear goals or paths through the scenario they will resort to silliness and slapstick.  I find this to be true in only two cases a) A wanna be Narrativist GM who doesn't know what he's doing (erm.. ahem... I speak from personal experience). b) From players who genuinely aren't interested in the style of play.

In my case I was going to far with my players and getting all jargony and trying to get them to grasp all these abstract concepts and what not when all they wanted to was play.  I do know however that my players genuinely DO care about a good story and genuinely want to be plot moving protagonists.  So, I moved the expectation of Premise source from the players to the setting, I designed in a Narrativist fashion, and simply said this to my players, "I want you to know that I've designed this scenario a little differently than usual.  There are events and conflicts but no right or wrong answers.  Deal as you see fit and don't try and second guess me."

And WHAM.  I suddenly have a group of Narrativist players.  Vanilla Narrativists.  But there they are talking about the conflicts over the table like they're analyzing a novel they just read.  It was surreal.  But the point is they stayed focused.  When they saw a conflict they decided if they were prepared to deal with it and in what way they wanted to deal with it and they went for it and I as the GM role-played the consequences of their decisions.

The point to all of this is that if at any point there is something that MUST be done in order to advance to the plot then it's railroading.  If railroading is involved then at least that element is not a narrativist element.

Does this help?

Jesse

Note: Edited for my seeming in ability to tell the difference between a GM and a Gem.

[ This Message was edited by: jburneko on 2001-11-01 13:25 ]


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 01, 2001, 10:13:00 AM
Jesse,

With your permission, I would like to tweak one or two of your points.

1) The Everest issue applies as you have described it IF the essential, overriding conflict at hand is whether the players/characters climb the mountain. Otherwise, my points about setting vs. Premise do apply.

2) In Narrativist play, especially of the Vanilla variety (which I repeat is my favorite), the GM may certainly introduce many things - even amazingly important things - that the players have no control over. What he cannot do is dictate or even expect outcomes to those situations in regard to the players' actions and development of the situations into Plot.

I spent a fair amount of time recently distinguishing between Hero Wars and Mage in regard to large-scale pre-planned events, in that in the former the aim is Narrativist and in the latter it is Simulationist/Illusionist.

Best,
Ron


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on November 01, 2001, 12:32:00 PM
I put this together over in the Actual Play Bobby G thread, realized that was a lousy place for it, and so submit it here.  I'll consider  the Everest issues . . . maybe there's something more I can say with that, I'm not sure.

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On 2001-11-01 11:36, contracycle wrote:
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?

My opinion?  I think Ron's said something similar earlier here (using the space/airlock example I remember from an earlier discussion of Simulationist stuff), so maybe I'm just repeating an unconvincing argument, but . . . looking at those particular decisions, in isolation, we have no definitive way to "know" if it's narrativism or not.

I find this frustrating - I would like the model to be able to identify particular decisions, considered in a vacuum, as clearly G, N or S (and more) - but practically, I can see where it's not actually a problem.  Over the whole Bobby G "run", even if the GM is skilled at concealing his railroading, we'll start to see behaviors that make it clear there is really no choice/creation involved when Sam says "I go to see Bobby G".  

I think I've been here before - it's easy at this point to start talking about the difference between "I go see Bobby G" and "I go south" as being about WHY Sam makes the choice (South-because it's a stupid/boring/inconsistent-with-stated-focus story to create if Bartholomew gets sucked under the quicksand, Bobby G-because he knows the GM won't move things along unless he does), but that's getting into internal states, and while my strawman a few posts up might not stand, with internal states, it's not hard to create one that would.  Internal states may be (very much ARE, I'd assert) valuable for a particular group to discuss, but in the model, they're treacherous.

I guess the somewhat-unsatisfying solution is to say: When considered in the context of the whole set of observed behaviors, whether an action is new-story-generative (Narrative) or precreated-story-conforming (Railroading, in some form - certain styles of Metaplot in Simulation, or certain Gamist scenario constructions, and etc.) becomes pretty clear.

Interestingly, this could mean that while there might be a particular moment/decision/scene in Bobby G that is truly new-story-generative (regarding, say, a subplot), that doesn't change the fact that it is, as a whole, Railroading.  That offends my desire for "purity" in the model, but it's probably actually a positive feature - as, conversely, NEVER making a decision that's a bit "railroady" in a Narrative game is unrealistic, in my limited experience.

So, to wrap a post that's much longer than I thought it would be, this feels like a "practical use" vs. "theoretic completeness" issue in GNS.  Theoretically, Narrative players COULD generate a Bobby G story EXACTLY - so how to we tell that from a GM-created and "forced" Bobby G?  Practically, it's not that hard to see the Bobby G Railroading.

I'd love for the model to achieve better theoretic perfection than that, but it doesn't really need it to be practically useful.

Gordon

PS-Gareth, thank you VERY much for challenging this issue and sticking with it.  It's really helped me reach a satisfactory - at the moment - conclusion for myself.  I hope my thoughts were in some way useful . . .


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Paul Czege on November 01, 2001, 01:06:00 PM
Hey everyone,

Paul Czege wrote a great post about scene-framing, but damned if I can remember where it is--Actual Play somewhere?

I think this is the one you're referring to:

http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=313&forum=14

Paul


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 01, 2001, 01:06:00 PM
The easiest way to determine if it is Narr or Sim is to ask the GM if he's railroading or using illusion. The GM knows. And the players probably have a good idea as well. They certainly know what mode of play they are using.

And this is what is important. The theoretical outside observer doesn;t even exist in most games. The only thing that matters in my book is whether or not the players are having fun. And from my experience the players who prefer Narrativism will have more fun with a Narrativist game as described, and the Simulationist players will have more fun with the Simulationist game as described. Which should be obvious. But this is the utility of the distinction.

Mike


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Paul Czege on November 01, 2001, 02:44:00 PM
Hey Mike,

The easiest way to determine if it is Narr or Sim is to ask the GM if he's railroading or using illusion. The GM knows.

In large part, I agree, but I do think there's a category of exception. I think there are some GM's who do very little illusion or railroading beyond what Ron has called the primary act of illusionism, subjectively considering announced actions to be Intention or Initiation/Completion based on what they personally want for the outcome of the scene. And I think this kind of GM considers himself to not be railroading or using illusion at all. You might ask him if he has great success with prep because of his skill at predicting and anticipating just how a scenario will play out. If he says yes, I'd hazard strongly that he's a walking self-fulfilling prophecy.

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-11-01 17:45 ]


Title: Bobby G
Post by: contracycle on November 02, 2001, 08:38:00 AM

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Okay, the GM is going to run a scenario. S/he has discussed it with the players & laid out that the Premise is "What are you willing to do for love?". All the conflicts & relationships between the NPCs are a fractal model of the Premise, all based around that central question.


Yes, I understand that.  What I am wondering is whay this cannot be applied to the Bobby G scenario.  What if the intent behind Bobby G is to act as a catalyst for the characters, to force them to come off the fence, make a decision, take a position.  I fully understand why railroading is antithetical to narrativism, but I don't understand why such a pinch point cannot be explicitly used by narrativism as a narratavist tool.  Surely this can be seen as nothing more then enforcing the crisis; mandating that the story must go via Bobby G could be one of the methods the GM employs to control the pace, for example.

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Done right, the story won't be a floundering series of meaningless scenes because everybody is grooving on the Premise. Everytime the PCs interact with an NPC, the Premise is right there in the conflicts.


Well, maybe - but fuckups happen.  What I mean more specifically is that, in the sense of the dramatic premise expounded by Egri, he uses it as a pretty brutal tool.  He advises that you reread and reread your work and if you find anything which is not advancing the conflict, is not grooving on the premise, you cut it.  Now my difficulty here is, even though the players may be explicitly conscious of the premise, there will inevitably be differences in perspective and opinion; different players may choose a thematic response to the premise which is at odds with thematic response of a fellow player, for example.  Under these circumstance, how do you choose what to cut?  And how do you cut anything in real time real play?  Well you can't - especially in the context of distributed authorial powers.  In the case of NPC's, it may be that an NPC has been ontroduced by a player, or its behaviour Authored/Directed by a player; how than can anyone be sure that such a coherent and consistent premise exists?

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But for narrativism to work, the PCs have to have automatic protagonism & the story has to ultimately come from their actions. Otherwise, a story isn't being actively created--a story may be the result, but a "story result" is not necessarily the same thing as a "story created".


You're right that it has to come from the *PC's* actions.  But this applies in Sim and Gamism too - I think you mean it has to come from the players actions. i.e. authorial decisions.

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Well, it sort of is circular. The assumption behind Narrativism, the reason that Ron created its current definition is because he noted that there are players for whom any sort of railroading is distasteful.


Yes, and some of them are gamists and simulationists.  I find this really ironic - accusations of railroading have been one of the biggest clubs with which narratavism has been beaten.  In fact, the reason I posited the Everest scenario in that particualr form is because, I would think, only narratavists would be in a sufficiently metagame mode to work toward that structure consciously - a bit like bearing the premise in mind as it was outlined above.  I would never do anything so explicit for gamist or sim players, as it would deny any challenge to the gamist and blow the SOD of the simulationist.

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Invalid as Narrativist? Well, insofar as players may decide in a Narrativist game to go elsewhere than the scenes indicated, railroading them back to those scenes is exactly what they hate.


Yeah, I didn't say railroad them back, I said that this structure was offered to the players, and if they agreed to play, presumably they agreed to the structure.  I am talking about players voluntarily, consciously and deliberately staying within that structure of their own volition.

Furthermore, if the problem with Bobby G is in fact a problem with with railroading, then there is nothing about the Bobby G scenario as writ that is antithetical to narrativism, but the railroading which is sometimes implemented in Bobby G scenarios by Game/Sim GM's.  Surely, narratavists consciously working toward a conclusion in reference to a premise would easily be able to author their way around any ephemeral obstacles which may lie between them and the information held by bobby G?

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I thought I'd offer my insights as well. I propose that the Everest example is not Narrativism. Precisely because the outcome is already predetermined. In fact, what you have described is an excelent design for GAMIST play.
Quote


Well, it depends on what you think the outcome IS.  Clearly, IMO, it is not about whether they reach the top of the mountain.  It is much more, in my reflex exploratary sentiment, about how one copes with the death of a companion, hence the choice of premise.  I would consider it a crap design for gamist play because the goal my character will have will, nevertheless, be to climb the mountain, and that challenge is already decided, which I will then have to isolate in my suspension of disebelief.  I've said often enough that its the struggle thats more important than the victory, and so there would still be room for gamists in such a scenario, but I certainly don't think its a very strong situation for gamists.

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The other thing that the Everest example does is show the classic confusion between story and narration. Story results from the resolution of conflict. The STORY of the Everest climb has already been told.


No.  I have outlined the structure of the narrative, I have NOT told a story.  How can I, with no characters and no conflict?  The story CAN only occur in play, the conflict will not be between the characters and the mountain, but just between the characters; hence the premise.

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Narrativist design however contains only the conflict elements with no expected or even suggested outcome.


Exactly.  And I have not suggested an outcome, becuase I do not yet know if Janet will still love Brad after her brother Mike falls down the mountain.  Because these characters don't even exist yet!  I have, however, posited A conflict, in that SOMEONE will fall down the mountain (it could easily be an NPC, incidentally) so there is a certain player-level tension about who that will be, which will manifest through player narration, etc etc yada yada.  Furthermore, I would be very surprised if the players did not bring certain conflicts to the table with their characters, which will thuse drive their interaction.  The story arises from that interaction, not the dumb sequence of being dragged over a lump of rock.

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Your other posts seem to suggest something that reminds me of my original thinking about Narrativism when I first encountered it. That is, if players are left to their own devices with no clear goals or paths through the scenario they will resort to silliness and slapstick.


Oh, I certainly don't think that that is the case.  However, I think that the presence of something as vital to a story as premise, handled by multiple people, is asking for trouble.  Theres lots of good game/chaos science indicating why letting things go out of consciousnce control, so that emergent phenomenon may appear spontaneously, is a Good Thing; but this would appear to expose everyone to the risk that Player A thinks its a good time to stoke the climax while player B thinks otherwise.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on November 02, 2001, 09:00:00 AM
Okay, Gareth, I think I see your point now.

Quote
What I am wondering is whay this cannot be applied to the Bobby G scenario. What if the intent behind Bobby G is to act as a catalyst for the characters, to force them to come off the fence, make a decision, take a position. I fully understand why railroading is antithetical to narrativism, but I don't understand why such a pinch point cannot be explicitly used by narrativism as a narratavist tool. Surely this can be seen as nothing more then enforcing the crisis; mandating that the story must go via Bobby G could be one of the methods the GM employs to control the pace, for example.


The whole idea of the Bobby G scenario as Ron put it (& as I've played or ran it far too many times) is that Bobby G isn't a catalyst for conflict, he's a stonewall--the players can't move forward through the story until they meet Bobby G & interact with him in a way that's been predetermined by the GM. Now, it's entirely possible that you could change it, & make Bobby G just another point of conflict, a Bang, that the players can, but don't have to, encounter. But then it wouldn't be the Bobby G scenario, it would be something else. The way the Bobby G scenario works is the PCs can't confront the Big Bad Guy until the meet Bobby G & get the information from him--which is railroading.

Quote
Quote:
Done right, the story won't be a floundering series of meaningless scenes because everybody is grooving on the Premise. Everytime the PCs interact with an NPC, the Premise is right there in the conflicts.

Well, maybe - but fuckups happen.


Sure, but that applies to everything humans do, & as far as I'm concerned isn't a terribly useful point. Besides, I happen to like fuckups. Some cool stuff comes from mistakes. And I'm not asking for or expecting perfection. But communication can go a long way towards making sure everyone is on the same page concerning goals & expectations. Plus, I'd say too many people have seen the kind of narrativism put forward on the Forge work well to start worrying that it isn't possible. It's very possible.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 02, 2001, 09:19:00 AM
Yeah, I think that we're all on the same sheet of paper now. Bobby G as defined isa railroad, and was proffered as an example of the sort of scenario that is sometimes mistakenly thought to be Narrativist. But Bobby G as a character is not a problem.

There is a fine line here. What some call railroading and others call Bangs definitely have some similarities. In Ron's setup for the Sorcerer game he has a murder that is going to occur as a catalyst for the plot. He will have to force it's discovery somehow for it to be effective. This force is similar to what happens in Illusionism. The only difference between the Bang in this case and Bobby G is a point of implementation. In the case of the Bobby G scenario, the GM refuses to allow other things to happen until Bobby G is discovered. This can be a Soft Railroad if you will. The GM does not force the players to Bobby G so much as making Bobby G the only game in town.

The problem, of course, is that the player feels this railroad. In the case of a Bang, the information is usually brought to the character, or discovered during the course of play, which makes it just more of an occurence, not something that the player has been forced into.

Again, though, this is a fine line. Just like convenient plot twists in movies there is a point at which even an informational bang can be seen to be directing the plot in a certain direction. This could get intrusive after a point. So, determining what is a Bang and what is a railroad can take some skill.

I'm now much more comfortable with my illusionism. It is subtle, and bears a lot of resemblance to introduction of bangs. I think that I keep it at a level at which my players don't feel abused, yet produces some story despite my players heavily Sim/Gam play. Yes, I'm definitely comfortable with that.

For example, I would never run Bobby G as described. I always remain flexible enough to allow my players to come up with their own solutions to problems. I might interpose Bobby at some point in an unobtrusive manner, just cause I like Bobby and want him to get into the picture, but I wouldn't make the particular solution of going to him the only game in town.

Mike


Title: Bobby G
Post by: joshua neff on November 02, 2001, 10:25:00 AM
Mike--

I'd say the difference between a Bang & railroading is this: a Bang offers up a conflict, but with no resolution preplanned--it's up to the players how it's resolved. Railroading offers up a conflict that has to be resolved in a particular way (or there could be different possible ways--the "all roads lead to Rome" plan)--but the GM has already decided on how the conflict can & should be resolved.

So, telling a player "Okay, your character is in a bar, facing Bobby G & his goon sidekicks." Isn't necessarily railroading--if there's no resolution preplanned, the GM is just setting up conflict for the player to resolve. If the player has do a particular action to resolve things, it's railroading.

Setting up unresolved conflict is very narrativist. Setting up conflict with a planned (or "predicted") resolution is inherently anti-narrativist.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 02, 2001, 10:44:00 AM
Right, Josh. That's more or less what I was getting at. These things may look similar, but it's a matter of implementation. Are they there for the characters to pass through perfunctorily, or are they there to give a starting place for players to have someting to do with their characters.

Mike


Title: Bobby G
Post by: mahoux on November 02, 2001, 01:55:00 PM
Wow, you people are blowing my mind. And since I can't go on without addressing "Bobby G." (hmmm.... who set me up in this), my two cents is this - most GMs I know have a story set up; A leads to B which leads to C. I myself set things up to end a certain way, and I have fallbacks to help the characters along if they need them, but I am learning that flexibility leads to more enjoyment for everybody in the game. If the characters can come up with a more entertaining way to get where they are going then don't use Bobby G. as a main plot device. Gamers can be very imaginative if given half a chance, it's just the 12 million dungeon crawls that have stifled them. It's our task as GM to set up the story and let players run with it. Otherwise, we might as well write crappy screenplays.


Title: Bobby G
Post by: Paul Czege on November 02, 2001, 02:07:00 PM
Hey mahoux,

Wow, you people are blowing my mind.

Ron Edwards blew my mind late last summer, and I think he did the same thing to Josh Neff a month or two later. You might consider taking a leave of absence from work; I think you're going to find yourself doing a lot of online reading now.


:)


Paul