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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on November 11, 2003, 03:49:15 PM



Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 11, 2003, 03:49:15 PM
Hello,

All the following material is supplemental to the existing essays, but it also overrules them as well as any of my previous comments in forum discussions at any point of contradiction.

In other words, all of the following is the straight dope as of this writing. If a particular term or concept isn't mentioned here, then the pre-existing material stands; ask about it if that material isn't clear to you. If I haven't defined a term (and I define very few here), that means that the current definition is intended to stand.

My plan is to hammer out any necessary hassles about this material in this thread, and then rewrite the whole damn thing in "nice and friendly" prose, which as far as I know is pretty much the first time that will have been done. For a sample of the tone/logic I'll be using, see GNS - what is it? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5860).

THE MODEL ITSELF

[Social Contract]

Social Contract encompasses everything about role-playing, because it is the sum of all interactions among the people involved. If these people happen to be role-playing together, then Social Contract crucially includes "Let's play this game." This crucial element is what's further subdivided throughout the rest of this model.

[Social Contract [Exploration]]

The above two terms do not constitute a dichotomy. Exploration ("imagined stuff," "shared imagined space"), as previously defined in my essays, is an expression or application of that particular group's Social Contract. One cannot say "That's just social" when discussing some aspect of play, nor can one write off Social Contract as "just being polite" with actual play being something else.

Exploration is usually described as merely a list of Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color. But it does have more internal/imaginary structure: Character + Setting make Situation, System permits Situation to "move," and Color affects all the others. This concept applies only to the imaginary causes among the elements, by the way; the actual effort, priority, or cause among these things, in social/creative terms, varies widely.

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda]]]

Creative Agenda is the blanket term for any and all GNS modes or priorities of play. The Venn diagram is supposed to indicate that any Creative Agenda is an expression or application of Exploration among the real-people group. Since Exploration necessarily includes System, that means, as soon as we start talking about Creative Agenda, "play has begun."

On paper, I draw this terms as an arrow, labelled GNS or Creative Agenda. This arrow is very important - this "step" or "level" in my model shifts out of the abstract and solidly into this group, playing this game, this way, at this time. The model instantly ceases to be a broad overview or comparative panoply, and starts to be a diagnostic or description of a real play-experience among real people. Unless you are thinking of such a case, you will be left flailing at this point in the discussion.

For purposes of explaining the overall model, I'm profoundly uninterested in discusing the nuances, internal relationships, definitions, or anything else about the internal content of Creative Agenda. All I care about, at this point, is that people recognize that role-playing requires such a thing to exist.

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda --> [Techniques]]]]

To understand this part, again, recognize that Creative Agenda and the arrow symbol are supposed to be the same thing, not two things. That means that we are talking about some actual play. The panoply of Techniques being employed in that instance, over time, either satisfy or fail to satisfy one or more Creative Agendas.

It's not too off-the-wall to think of Techniques as being a direct expression of the more abstract concept of System (way up in Exploration), except that System doesn't exist all by itself - it's fully integrated with all the other components of Exploration. But if you keep that in mind, then yes, the arrow represented by Creative Agenda can indeed be "shot" from the bow of System.

Techniques include IIEE, Drama/Karma/Fortune, search time & handling time, narration apportioning, reward system, points of contact, character components (Effectiveness, Metagame, Resource), scene framing, currency among the character components, and much more. Each of these terms represents a range of potential play-methods. I consider the two most important Techniques to be reward system and IIEE.

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda --> [Techniques [Ephemera]]]]]

Ephemera is a new term, indicating the smallest-scale interactions and activities of role-playing: anything that gets factored into or is expressed by play in the space of a few seconds.

Although fleeting, Ephemera are emphatically not trivial. As with every level/box so far, fairly extensive combinations of Ephemera express or apply one or more Techniques. They are the internal anatomy, if you will, of Techniques and hence (conceptualizing upward) of System.

Ephemera include individual Stances, in-character vs. out-of-character diction and dialogue, referring to texts, sound effects, taking or referring to notes, kibitzing, laughing, praise or disapproval, specific dice or other system-based outcome interpretations, showing pictures, and anything similar.

Clarification
Some related topics are out of the scope of this discussion. I'm happy to discuss them in other threads if the person is completely able to demonstrate understanding of the material presented so far. However, none of them are going to occupy a whole lot of my emotional attention, at least not until the Narrativism essay is done.

- The relationship of S to N and/or G, or any other nuances of GNS definitions or combinations within the [Creative Agenda] level. With any luck, all three essays will do a good job of at least making myself clear about this stuff. Whether that will mean a damn thing in terms of resolving anything for anyone else, I can't say.

- Incoherence and/or dysfunctional play based on GNS incompatibilities. This one will be a big deal for some, but I suspect it's a matter of defensiveness in many cases: "You say it's incoherent but we have fun!" To which I can only reply, "Sounds coherent to me," or, "I suspect your 'fun' isn't as 'fun' as you think, for everyone." I've been saddened by how often the latter response has proved accurate in the long run.

- Commerce of any kind, especially in terms of "success." This discussion, unfortunately, will have to await a much broader understanding of game marketing and commerce than I think is the case, currently. Recent threads at the Forge reinforce my impression about this.

Instead of going into stuff like the above, this thread is devoted to clarifying any aspect of the Big Picture as presented here, especially inter-relations among the levels, and how they are to be assessed and discussed. I'd especially like to talk about combinations of Ephemera relative to one or more Techniques, and combinations of Techniques relative to one or more categories within Creative Agenda.

DESIGN, RULES, AND TEXTS

Design, when all is said and done, means authorship of a rules text. "Rules" aren't part of the model any more. As I now see it, rules texts are not and can never be "role-playing," but rather are recommendations regarding the model, if you will, in hopes (shared by the readers) that people who read it can get that version of the model into action.

Therefore the goal of design, it seems to me, is to make sense to the reader in terms of the whole model. It's like a musical instrument, or several of them, as well as instructions for how to play them, and finally some music or chords to work with. Seems easy? Well, here are the usual problems I see with role-playing texts, now that I have this "model" thing setting next to me as I type.

Problem 1 = Simply leaving whole levels out, assuming that readers already know and agree exactly where you're coming from for those levels. It's conceivable that, for instance, a panoply of Techniques are simply so powerful in reinforcing some subset of Creative Agenda that stating the latter would be redundant, but as far as I can tell, most rules-sets aren't that lucky.

Problem 2 = Problematic combinations of Techniques which lead to confusion about Creative Agenda, which in turn means a whole lot of local construction about "why we play." If you want to call this "incoherence," you can - it's what I originally meant by the term, which I'm considering retiring from use. And although I stand by my point that this issue usually is a genuine problem for role-players, don't get me started on early Champions or Amber, both of which turned out to benefit greatly from the very same phenomenon. Whole 'nother essays, waiting to happen.

Problem 3 = Plain bad system design, which is to say, unsatisfying at the group level for any particular Creative Agenda. If a given rules-loop allows an "automatic win" in Gamist play, if it jars the Dream inconsistently with other features of the game, if it locks down Premise too tightly ... any of these "break" a game relative to a given goal of play. Such games tend to be instantly discarded or instantly repaired, often covertly (people insist that the "right" way to play just happens not to be textual).

Problem 4 = Nonsensical prose, which might accompany perfectly good rules. This is far more common than is good for any hobby, I think. It's often associated with Creative Agenda issues, but also with many aspects of character creation.

Here's also what I see when looking at each level of the model and thinking about rules texts.

Social Contract and rules: This is where all those "What is Role-playing" sections fall flat on their face. Just to pick the most glaring example, I'm here to say that role-playing is not, and never was, "cops and robbers with dice to resolve disputes." Going by the model, people roll dice (or whatever) because they agree about the imagined events, not because they disagree. It might be interesting to see whether anyone could write an introduction to a role-playing game that really did specify Social Contract issues in a way which set up all the following material in the game. Everway, perhaps? Universalis?

Creative Agenda and rules: Most role-playing texts are emphatically silent about Creative Agendas, especially in the model's context that it's an expression of imaginative Social Contract. Often, especially when Gamist priorities seem to be invoked, one can parse out the GNS recommendation by looking at key words and phrasing ("When your character dies, you have lost the game."). The more emphatic Simulationist texts (Arrowflight) are often clearer, but whenever the term "story" gets thrown around in a vague, "You know, the story" way, I think the text becomes dramatically less helpful. I'm very impressed with the introduction in the Marvel Universe RPG, which provides an amazing textbook piece on the differences between Gamist ("The Brawl") and Narrativist ("With great power comes great responsibility") play, emphasizing that a group does well to decide which they would prefer to do when playing the game.

Techniques and rules: Here's the most solid correspondence; I don't think it's difficult to see how most rules are in fact instructions for Techniques. The problem is that, according to the model, Techniques alone do not a role-playing game make.

Ephemera and rules: Here's another tricky one - as with Creative Agenda, you have to find key phrases or little snippets scattered around the text in order to see whether any Ephemera are being explained or (more likely) assumed to be already standard for the role-players. The most explicit example I can think of are the frequent exhortations toward Actor Stance in so many games, as well as the implicit content of a "GM only" section.

DISCUSSING THE MODEL

I am listing some of the issues that people bring to discussing the model here at the forums and elsewhere, and including some points of interaction with the inherent stumbling blocks. The stumbling blocks usually arrive from people employing one or more of these approaches:

a) reaching understanding through paraphrasing and correction,

b) denying understanding as a means of defending oneself from a perceived threat,

c) desperately trying to present one's own developed notions of some kind, and

d) arguing in order to fit in, a common behavior among members of a somewhat socially stunted subculture.

Role-players often arrive at the Forge in an advanced state of frustration regarding either play, talking about play, or both. Since there's no way to control (or on my part anyway, no desire to control) what people want when they arrive, I think it's important for everyone to consider all of the following points about discussing the model.

Point #1: Nearly everyone who first encounters the theory is predisposed to discuss Ephemera. They are also emotionally tied to various Ephemera, especially those combinations which reinforce certain Techniques, and it's hard to get people to let go of that commitment long enough to look at the variety available. They are often convinced that even looking at alternatives will destroy the entirety of whatever play-profile (real or idealized) that they currently hold in highest esteem.

Required point of discussion: Get them up to Techniques, which is what they really want to discuss. The key is to validate the Techniques they're trying to reinforce, and to acknowledge to the person that they are, indeed, making sense in these terms. After that point, the diversity of Ephemera can be discussed without the person going into protective-mode regarding what Techniques they prefer or are used to.

Point #2 (related to #1): People may also take a Reductionist approach to trying to understand the model, which is to say, they would like the "particles" of (say) Stance to be themselves little chunks of GNS, and GNS as described simply to be collections of these chunks. This is not the case. Instead, for every box in the model, a category or type of "outer box" is always expressed/applied as a combination of terms/categories within the inner box.

Required point of discussion: It's best to speak of combinations within an "inner" box in terms of how it affects or is affected by its "outer" box or boxes. Resist the extreme temptation to identify any one Technique, for instance, with a particular GNS category, or any one Ephemera-type event with a particular Technique.

Point #3: Creative Agenda is the "verb" of the model. As a generalized topic, without an actual group or any role-playing to discuss, GNS priorities are incredibly vague and abstract, to the point of being uninteresting.

In application, however, they are extremely concrete and easy to recognize. As I wrote in a recent thread,

Quote
The only variables that really make sense, in discussing GNS, are the social interactions and communications that go on among the real people at the table, during play.

What is reinforced among them? Who praises whom, for doing what, and how often? When is a stated or proposed action disallowed, often in very subtle form? What gets everyone listening with undivided attention to a single person's announcements? When do people laugh? When do they not laugh, or socially squelch someone else's amusement?

All of those things, and more, are the only valid variables for assessing a GNS profile for a given instance of play. (And by "instance," I mean a lot of play, at least a session, probably more.)

I wish I'd made this point earlier. It's a big deal. The definitions of GNS are not the same variables one uses to assess GNS in action. Since GNS is a subset of Social Contract - indeed, it's the application of Social Contract to the imagined material ("Exploration") - its identity for that group can only be assessed in social terms.


Furthermore, in application, a given Creative Agenda category is also extremely diverse in terms of possible Techniques, which is what my current three essays (two down, one to go) are mainly about. M.J. Young made a very good point recently when he said that within-Agenda categories (e.g. specific types of Gamism, etc) lead to more rancor and "not-us" distinctions among people discussing role-playing than among-Agenda categories, in most cases. Or to put it differently, people are highly committed not to "Gamism" but rather to "Gamism our way." Or to put it in terms of my essays, within-category synecdoche seems to be an extremely heartfelt, hotly-defended problem.

Required point of discussion: Don't get sidetracked into definitional descriptions when discussing actual play. If a person really is interested in examining the Creative Agenda(s) of his or her role-playing, or more accurately that of his or her group, then focus on social interactions, the real-people approval and disapproval during play itself, as quoted above.

Point #4 (related to #3: Creative Agenda is the most troublesome level of the model for people to discuss, because many folks would very, very much like Techniques to construct a satisfying GNS-profile for them, without explicit reference to Social Contract. To link [Social Contract [Exploration]] causally downward into [Techniques], emphasizing personal responsibility ("You get what you play for"), is frightening and unwanted. They want what they want without wanting (a) to say so or (b) actually to do that thing. Or if they are getting what they want, it's often through Social Contract manipulation and they don't want to endanger their carefully-constructed power-play.

Here's the biggie: people have often come to idealize "rules" or "lack of rules," whichever, in order to cement into play the Techniques that they are used to or that they think will get them what they want. This is the source of Rules and/or Setting Fetishim, as well as the source of System Doesn't Matter. It's also the source of the failure of both tactics, neither of which stand up well in the long term. Cries of "it's just a game" or "I just play to have fun" are signs of these tactics in a state of final breakdown. Excessive arguing about details of GNS-stuff is sometimes a defense mechanism.

Required point of discussion: Stress Creative Agenda as the absolutely necessary bridge from "we all like Star Trek" (Exploration) to "this is how we role-play Star Trek" (Techniques). And just as importantly, be prepared for the possibility that the person may not be coming from the position described in this point, and may well be perfectly comfy with the concept of Creative Agenda once they get it properly explained in terms of the levels of the model. So over-defensiveness on your part should be acknowledged as a potential problem too.

Point #5: Techniques express and satisfy Creative Agenda, whether unsuccessfully or successfully. However, the relation between these levels is not a tautology. You cannot discuss some abstract "real Simulationism," for instance, in terms of Techniques which define it, and especially not in terms of whatever the imaginary characters did to or with whomever they fictionally encountered. Instead, you must investigate whether X Techniques as applied and socially reinforced in Y role-playing group are coalescing around (e.g.) a Simulationist aesthetic. This is related to Point #3 in that applying Creative Agenda is highly specific to a group of people: their personalities and interactions, and their habits of play. But my current point is that Techniques don't "compose" a Creative Agenda in a definitional way.

Required point of discussion: Details of Creative Agenda may not be the necessary point of discussion anyway; it might just be a matter of letting the person know you get where they're coming from. For point #4, getting GNS into the light is crucial. For this point, however, you just might need to acknowledge that the Techniques being described, by this person, do nail the GNS priority he or she prefers. It's very similar to the "wants-Techniques, talks-Ephemera" issue mentioned for Point #1. In this case, it's "wants-GNS, talks-Techniques." Again, the point of discussion relies on acknowledging the person's valid combination so they know they are being heard.

Also, a person who's confounded over this issue probably needs to hear that Creative Agenda categories (GNS) are not principles to live up to, but rather just a vocabulary that helps describe the whole-model profile for that particular group (or rather, an instance of that group's play in action).

Point #6: Rules, Techniques, and System are now carefully distinguished from one another in the model. System is a fairly abstract term that indicates that the imagined Situation and other elements actually change through the activity of role-playing. As a term, I suggest thinking of it as "a or any system" rather than "the system." Techniques are extremely concrete and observable methods of actual play. Rules are textual guides or instructions about any aspect of role-playing at any level of the model.

Required point of discussion: It's going to take some work to help people understand that "rules" are not part of the model at all. People usually say "rules" when they mean Techniques or System. Instead, they are texts, used to greater or lesser extent as a way to establish any aspects of the model that the group wants to be established. This is the Lumpley Principle in action. Discussion of the Principle got a little wonky when I was working out "rules" vs. "system," but now I think it's nailed.

Point #7: In discussing Techniques, one person's mind-blowing, door-opening example is another person's ho-hum or still another person's deal-breaker. One of the most difficult problems with a multi-user forum discussion is when Person X explains something about the GNS-level to Person Y using a specific Techniques example, and then person Z gets the idea that this Technique is the GNS term. And if they hate the Technique, then they fall right off the cognitive mountain, sometimes irretrievably.

Required point of discussion: Fear is a serious problem when dealing with a third-party's reaction to these discussions. It's very common for someone literally to flip out when reading a Techniques example, as the example may represent (rightly or wrongly) everything that is Horribly Wrong with Other Role-Players in this person's mind. Whereas for the person to whom the example is addressed, the Horribly Wrong Thing might be just what they're looking for; or more likely, the Techniques example only works in the very localized context of that person's game being discussed (which is why it was used as an example in the first place). So managing these third-party reactions can be a major issue and take a lot of time.

Some final bits about discussion ... we are not talking about minor issues at the Forge. We're dealing with how people socialize, how they express their creative drives, and how they self-identify in a highly technical subculture. The very fact that people register and post denotes that they feel a need to communicate about it. So the main watchwords are care, and yet also, detach. The times to detach are easy to recognize - whenever any of the following phrases start getting thrown around.

- "But my character would do this ..." Characters are fictional and cannot make decisions in the absence of a real person's creative input.

- "System doesn't matter, all you need is a good GM / group" ... All role-playing utilizes System, and "good" in this context usually means "what I want."

- "That upsets balance ..." Balance is a red herring unless it's defined in highly specific terms. See my Gamism essay for details.

- "That's not realistic!" Realism cannot be mandated by "rules," and like balance, must be locally defined with care. No one "just knows" what realism is, in actual play.

- "The Storyteller Golden Rule ..." This rule is a big puff job, because it leaves "fun" undefined, nor does it specify who can mandate when a rule is to be ignored.

However, rather than using these responses as comebacks, use them as a foundation from which to defuse the potential fight. And make no mistake, when a person says stuff like this, they're almost certainly fighting, in response to being upset with you or with someone from the past. The only solutions involve removing the confrontation, rather than meeting it - all that'll get you is a headache.

WRAP-UP

Any ideas for this section, anyone? I have some, but I thought I'd save'em until you all stomp and shatter all of the above material into more useable form.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ben Lehman on November 11, 2003, 04:11:21 PM
Thanks.  That clears a lot up for me.  Still needs more digestion, but at this point I can say that this matches my beliefs pretty closely...  Still many quibbles about other (not included in this post) details, but that's what makes life interesting, isn't it?

A few points and questions:

1)  Is Stance a technique, exploration, or social contract level issue?  I was under the impression it technique-level, but it seems to me that it might be higher than that, particular with regard to Lumpley and Emily style play, where it seems imbedded in the social contract at the highest level...

2)  I think that discussion of Ephemera is VERY important, because it is where the rubber hits the road in terms of actual play.  Saying that it should all "be a discussion of techniques" seems a little strange to me.

3)  The particular layout of this explanation (as a manual for an apologist {in the Catholic sense}) is slightly disturbing to me.  I would change it if you want this to be a reference document for people who do not understand your theory, which it is excellent at doing.

Thanks again.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 11, 2003, 05:11:39 PM
Hi Ben,

Quote
1) Is Stance a technique, exploration, or social contract level issue? I was under the impression it technique-level, but it seems to me that it might be higher than that, particular with regard to Lumpley and Emily style play, where it seems imbedded in the social contract at the highest level...


Don't forget that every single level exists within the levels above it - those brackets are a big deal. If you touch "Stance," you're reaching through Social Contract, Exploration, Creative Agenda, and Technique to do it.

Apparently for you, tracing the patch of that "reach" or "touch" is very easy and even essential. For others, Stance variations may be nearly a complete non-issue.

Quote
2) I think that discussion of Ephemera is VERY important, because it is where the rubber hits the road in terms of actual play. Saying that it should all "be a discussion of techniques" seems a little strange to me.


I'm not sure you're representing my view correctly. Don't I say, at one point, that I'm interested in discussing combinations of Ephemera and how they represent or affect Technique? Seems like that would satisfy your outlook. I can't see anywhere that I say "Techniques are the only thing to discuss."

As for what level is most important, I guess I'll have to say it now: no one of these levels is The Level for discussing role-playing. It's all role-playing. I bet this is going to be one of these things I have to say over and over and over.

Quote
3) The particular layout of this explanation (as a manual for an apologist {in the Catholic sense}) is slightly disturbing to me. I would change it if you want this to be a reference document for people who do not understand your theory, which it is excellent at doing.


I have no idea what you're talking about. Not a bit. Rather than immediately explaining, are you sure this is something worth discussing in the first place? I mean, before everyone gets their oars into the water regarding the basic points?

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Marco on November 11, 2003, 06:33:22 PM
I'm still digesting it. I think it's an excellent effort. I'll have to consider it more before having a real, cooked, response.

I would separate the "problems in design" and "discussion or entry points" for another document, possibly with the section on incoherence being left in as a historical note.

I would religiously avoid using words like "desparately" and "fear" in the description people who approach the theory.

I would remove the "literally" from the "flip-out" section unless ... well ... yeah.

-Marco


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: M. J. Young on November 11, 2003, 07:18:05 PM
Wonderful document, Ron; I look forward to the completed piece.

I think Ben's point was that this starts out as an explanation of GNS theory and then becomes a document about how to deal with people who don't understand it. A solid concise explanation of the theory in present form--a sort of revision of previous documents to incorporate developments from forum discussions in a concise reference document--is definitely needed at this point (there are just too many places at which we're saying, read this article, but understand that the use of this word has changed since it was written), but referring newcomers to a document which also discusses how to deal with newcomers isn't the best approach.

The latter half is also important; but it might work best if it were changed from telling us how to do it to attempting to do it through example.

I'll follow this thread with interest; unfortunately, I'm staring down the barrel of a long away game at Rochester's UNY-con, so I'm going to miss several days of posts and have to catch up again--but I've managed to catch up before, so it shouldn't be too problematic.

--M. J. Young


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 11, 2003, 09:00:16 PM
Hello,

Thanks folks! (Although "... excellent effort ..." isn't a phrase I associate with much merit, being a prof and all. Digression; ignore.)

I should clarify: the eventual document I'm thinking about will encompass only the first section, the model itself, and maybe a very friendly section on rules/design, with examples of text. The current post is not an outline for that document - it's intended to set up our understanding, now, of what the hell I am trying to say.

So don't worry about the eventual newcomer to the Forge and what that person may or may not think of some version of the post. Just read the post and tell me what does or doesn't make sense to you.

Or rather, that's what I'm hoping for. If you want to contribute to the thread in some mind-opening fashion that I haven't anticipated, please feel free.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 12, 2003, 12:36:10 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

So don't worry about the eventual newcomer to the Forge and what that person may or may not think of some version of the post. Just read the post and tell me what does or doesn't make sense to you.


Makes perfect sense to me, I've been hoping for a concise overview of the main points in one place. I'd like to pick one specific place in the text that delighted me especially:

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Design, when all is said and done, means authorship of a rules text. "Rules" aren't part of the model any more. As I now see it, rules texts are not and can never be "role-playing," but rather are recommendations regarding the model, if you will, in hopes (shared by the readers) that people who read it can get that version of the model into action.


This is something that has for a long time been a crucial part of my personal interpretation of roleplaying texts. I absolutely love seeing it in writing by one of my favourite rpg theorists. I'm firmly convinced that my first published game will carry the words "Guide to roleplaying in [something]" on the cover.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Marco on November 12, 2003, 08:07:47 AM
By excellent effort, I meant "looks good, I'll have to put some real analsis in to see how successful at hitting all of its goals I think it was--It'll take me some time." Not: 'nice try, try again.'

I think the post is (at least in proto-form) exactly what GNS needs. Splitting the content into a few documents is a good idea too. That wasn't clear to me until you said it.

On splitting them up:
I would formally separate theory,  ramifications for game design, and utility and implementation from the basic theory meaning:

1. Have a section on the theory very similar to the first part of what is there, if not identical.

2. Have a secion on GNS analysis of play (I'd be interesting in seeing what the purpose, value, and method of GNS analysis of play is)

3. Have a section on "this is what I/we think the ramifications of GNS are for game-design" (using what's up there)

4. Have a secion on "Here's how I/we think this perspective could be used to help solve what I/we think are some common problems during play." (with the perspective and vocabulary notes and a discussion of dysfunction seen from a GNS POV).

This write up does most (or at least some) of this very well already--separating them formally would help to see what pieces are seen as theory and what pieces are seen as ramification or utility (I see the mxing of these as a major stumbling block to the understanding of GNS as a whole).

Also:

I need to carefully examine the arrows in the Venn Diagram. I get thay they mean sort of "follow from" but I'm not sure how that's different than "composed from."

And:
For each section maybe a formal:
Description [what's there]
Example: ["Fortune resolution, for example, rolling the dice to see if an action is judged successful by the group is an example of a technique." ]
[/b]Definition of important terms[/b] [Karma, Drama, and Fortune, discussed in depth here are three major techniques for outcome resolution.]
Caveats: [Note: there has been discussion of GNS modes lining up with resolution techniques so that one would say "Narrativist mode is best facilitated by Drama Technique." While that may sound reasonable for a variety of reasons, examination of the that theory has shown it to be false. A given Drama technique might or might not be good for Narrativist play-mode--but so might any other technique. Thus Techniques are said to be node-agnostic."]

The Creative Agenda section isn't clear to me (which, I think is my fault--I'm not saying it's not clear or poorly written). I'm not sure who you're talking to when you say you're profoundly uninterested in discussing nuances: me as someone reviewing the document or me as someone coming to it at the first time. If the latter, I'd change it. To me that section looks like a placeholder for a real description of G/N/S modes.

Also: There's an issue of GNS as a description of play (we watched play and this is what it looked like to us--we saw three basic categories). For me (and maybe only me) there's a lot of question about that (as I've said, from an internal standpoint the theory makes a lot of sense to me--from an observational standpoint, it's not as clear to me).

A discussion of that in the Creative Agenda session would be good (I see the three essays speaking to internal intent--I don't know what step-on-up looks like distinct from exploration of situation and character but I can tell when I'm doing it--and maybe no one has a clear textual discription (although I'd be surprised if that's the case)--but addressing that would help with the GNS-is-about-intent/no-it-isn't issue).

-Marco


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: The GM on November 12, 2003, 08:20:09 AM
Ron says:

>>(snip) I'd especially like to talk about combinations of Ephemera relative to one or more Techniques, and combinations of Techniques relative to one or more categories within Creative Agenda.<<

Neato. This (I think) is what I’ve been trying to get some input about, although I didn’t say it quite like this in my recent thread. Specifically, I’m looking for hard and fast guidelines to facilitate this ‘stuff’ in such a manner that it fits our troupe’s style of agreed play. Now, is that goal realistic considering the vast potential for various in game outcomes when you start mixing and matching all of these elements together? I firmly think so, although I may not know how to do that just yet. This is why I’ve been taking a hard look at communication techniques that would yield specific results (those results being ‘the game’ that we’ve all agreed we want to play.)
I know that in RL, certain words used in a certain order will result in a very specific outcome. Politicians are masters of what we typically call spin. For instance, if you hear a politician say, “If we do not win the war on terror abroad at all costs, then we will become victims of fear in our own homes, our country will falter.” What he’s really just done is employed a conversation technique called a Closing Triplicate of Choice. Really, when you hear that, what automatically happens is that you run through the options and pick the lesser of the evils. ‘Hmmm…I don’t want to be a victim; I don’t want the country to falter, so I guess we have to win the war at all costs.’ That way of conversing is designed to put your mind in a specific frame of thinking. This kind of communication is far from new, but it works to provoke a specific response, (in this example, support for an agenda.) Could the same be done for creating an atmosphere where a game stays on track? Again, I think so.
Now, I’m not saying that I want to have to use a script to run or play in a game. Blah, boring. It would, however, be helpful to have something firm to refer back to in order to keep a game from identity crisis.
I think about this topic a lot lately.
;)

I'll be interested to follow this discussion and see where it leads.

Warm Regards,
Lisa


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ben Lehman on November 12, 2003, 09:30:26 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Quote
2) I think that discussion of Ephemera is VERY important, because it is where the rubber hits the road in terms of actual play. Saying that it should all "be a discussion of techniques" seems a little strange to me.


I'm not sure you're representing my view correctly. Don't I say, at one point, that I'm interested in discussing combinations of Ephemera and how they represent or affect Technique? Seems like that would satisfy your outlook. I can't see anywhere that I say "Techniques are the only thing to discuss."

As for what level is most important, I guess I'll have to say it now: no one of these levels is The Level for discussing role-playing. It's all role-playing. I bet this is going to be one of these things I have to say over and over and over.


BL>  Yup.  Imagine so.  On reread, I think I misread some stuff.  Apologies.

Quote
3) The particular layout of this explanation (as a manual for an apologist {in the Catholic sense}) is slightly disturbing to me. I would change it if you want this to be a reference document for people who do not understand your theory, which it is excellent at doing.


I have no idea what you're talking about. Not a bit. Rather than immediately explaining, are you sure this is something worth discussing in the first place? I mean, before everyone gets their oars into the water regarding the basic points?
[/quote]

BL>  Your own later posts regarding the "mission objectives" of this layout cleared things up a bit.  MJ expressed my viewpoint much better than I ever could.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 12, 2003, 09:47:34 AM
Hello,

Further reflection has clarified my own goals for this thread.

You know, I think that I'm not interested in suggestions for editing and presenting. That was a bad thing even to mention.

I'm interested in whether you, the Forge folks, understand what I'm saying. If there's anything you need clarified about the model as presented, or anything you think doesn't hold up, then now's the time to say it.

I'm very committed to reviewing and refining the material in the Discussing the Model section. Those are phrased as recommendations for a reason, and presented in the post for a reason. I would very much like to get confirmation and/or attempts at refutation about all seven of the points.

I don't mind mentioning that quibbles about internal issues of Creative Agenda are right out the window. I'm profoundly sick of GNS talk, frankly. I'm convinced that once the model as a whole is better understood, then dozens upon dozens of "GNS issues" will simply evaporate.

I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.

I'm also interested in what I mentioned in the essay about Techniques-to-Creative Agenda, and Ephemera-to-Techniques. Lisa's post is, in my view, the most valuable one so far to develop in this thread. I have plenty of thoughts on this issue and would appreciate some input about yours.

So from now on, please, no more editing or presentation suggestions. Talk about the material. This thread is not about what some hypothetical other people will think and feel about the model, but about you. Say, "YES, I AGREE, ESPECIALLY ABOUT X," or, "NO, YOU MAKE NO SENSE AND HERE'S WHY," or "GEE, WHAT ABOUT THIS PART HERE." That sort of thing.

Without that kind of dialogue for a while, I'm considering closing up the whole forum. That's not a threat, but rather a statement that I don't see any point to public/forum GNS-wrangling without a strong and easily-reinforced shared understanding of the big picture.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Valamir on November 12, 2003, 10:08:33 AM
Quote
I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.


I think you rightly point out that this is the crux of the entire model.  I don't think you'll find anyone who games (even without spending much time thinking about it) who will disagree with the idea that social issues impact game experience.  I don't think you'll find anyone who hasn't found mechanics and techniques that work profoundly well (and others that work poorly) to deliver the kind of game they want.

The issue then is this idea of a Creative Agenda beyond simply "having fun sharing a hobby with my friends" and much deeper than "I don't like dice pool mechanics or hard scene framing".

I think the fact of the existance of "something" going on in that Creative Agenda space is pretty irrefutable.  Enjoying RPGs must require something more than the sum of Social conciderations plus Techniques or there wouldn't continue to be dysfunctional play.  If all that is required is selecting some powerful favorite techniques and then making sure everyone at the table is on good civil terms and committed to each others enjoyment...then nearly every game would be a rageing success.

Clearly there's something else going on there, and for purposes of this model we call that something else "Creative Agenda".

I'm particularly impressed with the fact that this format of presentation (speaking of the article overall here) is quite powerful at identifying and seperating out the component part.  At being able to set aside the specifics of the component parts altogether and just talk about the processes of the model.

This enables us to look at and "approve" (if you will) of the overall framework of the model, without getting caught up (again, and again, and again) in debating trivial nuance ad naseum (guilty).  It focuses attention on the "forest" so we can all agree that we are, indeed, looking at a forest, before delving deep into the individual trees.

I'm envisioning the final version of this document as a sort of master article that we can be reasonably confident is about as final and finished as likely to get.  Each box on the Venn can then be hyperlinked to an article talking deeper about each item, and ideally serve as a place to list links to appropriate threads on the topic.  In this way the sub articles can be more easily updated to reflect "current thinking on the nature of Techniques.  See also <these 6 threads> for additional thoughts and the development of the concepts.

To make Mike happy these sub articles could be ideal to set up as a Wiki where it becomes trivial for various parties to submit links and add to content (supposedly...I can't figure the think out), with links from them to other articles (such as the 3 GNS ones, etc.)


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: C. Edwards on November 12, 2003, 10:19:40 AM
Hey Ron,

Looks great to me. It's nice to see so much of the current thought all together on the same page. I particularly like that you repeatedly point out that System reaches down and through the lower level boxes. (I've been thinking of it like the funnel of a tornado.)

Oh, have you considered changing the name of the model? The current moniker seems to cause quite a bit of focus on particulars of Creative Agenda, often resulting in tunnel-vision in regards to the model as a whole.

-Chris


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Lxndr on November 12, 2003, 10:54:07 AM
I am very glad to see "Creative Agenda" replace "G/N/S".  Granted, I'm aware G/N/S is still a popular construction, but your new Venn Diagram allows for alternative theories on Creative Agenda in particular (like the ever-popular "Beeg Horseshoe") without implicit contradiction.

That said, I agree with Chris that it'd be nice to see the entire theory no longer be called "the GNS model" since, well, the name itself brings an unhealthy amount of focus on that one part of the model...


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 12, 2003, 11:19:39 AM
Quote
I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.


Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. In light of my own group's recent discussions, this was the key issue. While I don't expect my fellow group members to be able right now to write an essay on Creative Agenda, I do think they have recognized their right and need to understand just what exactly it is we as a group are going to sit down and do for our enjoyment.

I'll say that again. Each person who choses to play a role-playing game with other people has a right to understand just what it is that he will be doing when the group actually plays the game. Similarly, with right comes responsibility. It is a person's responsibility to recognize what his group's Creative Agenda is. Failure to do so absurdly risks one's enjoyment, and one's right to enjoyment.

While many publishers aren't, to my mind, openly fighting against that right, what they are doing is either clumsily ignoring that right OR disingenuinely undermining that right with inconsistent positions on what the act of role-playing is versus the act of maintaining the industry and/or culture is.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 12, 2003, 11:53:00 AM
Quote
It is a person's responsibility to recognize what his group's Creative Agenda is.
To use the term from the other thread, this would be called "Deliberate Gaming", right?

I'm not sure that I would state it as such an imperative, or in such a manner as to indicate conscious consideration, but I think it's nice to have a term to refer to it by.

I found the post to be a tad verbose, and potentially confusing in its twists of phraseology, Ron, but then that's probably because it all already makes sense to me. <shrug>

Mike


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: lumpley on November 12, 2003, 12:03:10 PM
It's terrific, Ron.

I'm happy to see that the Stances don't have their own little [] anymore.  I've kind of had it in for them for a while.

Here's how I've been picturing it and talking about it outside the Forge, but using your terms:

People talking Socially - about, among other things, Characters Situated in Setting, in motion (per System) and Colorful - using various Techniques - composed of various arrangements of Ephemera - all in pursuit of some Creative Agenda (which may or may not be fulfilled over time).

You see it from outward in, I see it from the ground up.  I've sort of wondered why you put Creative Agenda in a middle ring instead of the center - I've chalked it up to just seeing it differently.  But now you wrote this:
Quote
It's not too off-the-wall to think of Techniques as being a direct expression of the more abstract concept of System (way up in Exploration), except that System doesn't exist all by itself - it's fully integrated with all the other components of Exploration. But if you keep that in mind, then yes, the arrow represented by Creative Agenda can indeed be "shot" from the bow of System.

And ding!  That's why.

Your arrow / step / "shot from the bow of" and my "all in Pursuit of" mean the same thing.

So yeah.  

"Ephemera" is good, too.  I welcome Ephemera.

-Vincent


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ben Lehman on November 12, 2003, 12:05:13 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm interested in whether you, the Forge folks, understand what I'm saying. If there's anything you need clarified about the model as presented, or anything you think doesn't hold up, then now's the time to say it.


BL>  I must confess to having a little bit of difficulty with the Venn Diagrams -- for whatever reason, this is just a difficult way for me to parse information.  However, I'm pretty sure I finally have a grip on the basic structure of the theory, and there is no bulk of material (there are individual phrasing concerns, which I place in editing and thus out of this thread) which just makes me go "huh?  What the heck is he talking about?"
  That said, I'm having a little trouble picking out a specific example of an Ephemerus which, if I'm not mistaken, is a new term.  So an example would be very helpful.

Quote

I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.


BL>  I have no disagreement with this, and I think the formal restatement of this bridge as "Creative Agenda" rather than "GNS" really helped me digest it.  I second the suggestion of renaming the theory as a whole to reflect this greater scope.  Possibly consider "Social Contract Theory of Role-Playing"?

  Further, I think that this opposing the existence of a Creative Agenda level is tauntamount to saying "we don't get anything out of role-playing," a statement which is clearly untrue (otherwise, why would you do it?)

Allow me to paraphrase here.  If what I say here makes you go "Who's essay did he read?" then I had problems understanding.  If you say "yup, that's another way to say it," then you've gotten through.

To start with, you have a group of people
Social Contract -- How they relate to each other, including the decision to play a game.
Exploration -- What they are going to examine through the lens of that game.
Creative Agenda -- Why they are playing that game -- what they hope to achieve and gain through play.
Techniques -- How they go about playing that game.
Ephemera -- This I am still slightly unclear on.  Is this how, in practice, the game is played (moment to moment) rather than the general procedures of game play? (which would be techniques?)

yrs--
--Ben

edit: serious typo


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 12, 2003, 12:06:02 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote
It is a person's responsibility to recognize what his group's Creative Agenda is.
To use the term from the other thread, this would be called "Deliberate Gaming", right?


Sure. I think Lisa (The GM) coined the term, "Gaming on Purpose." She did so in our groups actual, face-to-face discussion, then posted as much on the Forge. I like the phrase, but that's just me.

But, to clarify, Mike (and more for posterity than your sake -- you get it, I know):

When I say it is a person's responsibility to recognize his group's Creative Agenda, I'm not saying that "If you fail to do so, you are a fool / will live in gamer hell forever / are stupid."

I am saying that if you don't accept that responsibility, you're RISKING your own enjoyment. It may work out fine. If so, great. But, it may not. Hence, it's a risk. It's not one that I, personally, am eager to take.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: jdagna on November 12, 2003, 12:08:01 PM
I'm pretty much in total agreement with what's been presented here.  It is certainly the most rational combination of all the separate issues that have been presented.

However, two little points of disagreement.

Quote
Social Contract and rules: This is where all those "What is Role-playing" sections fall flat on their face. Just to pick the most glaring example, I'm here to say that role-playing is not, and never was, "cops and robbers with dice to resolve disputes." Going by the model, people roll dice (or whatever) because they agree about the imagined events, not because they disagree.


Anyone playing a game of any sort must agree on a lot of points automatically, especially once you get the social contract in there because they have to agree to play in the first point.

However, dice are used as an "impartial" way to determine which events will happen when there may not be unanimous agreement on the event*.  Players don't roll dice to resolve disputes, they roll dice to prevent disputes.  If I say "I shoot Joe" without any input from the system, we have to resolve this purely through social contract (that's how kids tend to do it, with a lot of arguing involved).  If we have rules (whether they use dice or not) then our social agreement to abide by the rules can prevent the need for debate by dictating a result.  Thus, I feel the "cops and robbers with dice" explanation remains the best description of RPGs I've seen.

*Naturally dice can also be used for other things.  Pure games of chance have made billions of dollars for the casino industry.

Quote
- "But my character would do this ..." Characters are fictional and cannot make decisions in the absence of a real person's creative input


This horse has been beaten to death, so I won't elaborate much.  However, as long as character sheets have things like "Will only kill in self defense" on them, you can make statements about what a character would or wouldn't do.  These statements remain independent from the player, though they can enter actual play only through the "creative input" of one or more players.  

I have a feeling we're not really in disagreement here on the core idea, just over the language we use to express it.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ian Charvill on November 12, 2003, 12:32:47 PM
It's an excellent piece of work.  I would also make the suggestion that it might be worthwhile in time to phase out the "GNS Model Discussion" forum in favour of the "Creative Agenda Model Discussion" forum (although I suspect there's a better form of words than that).  Especially post the Big 3 essays.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Walt Freitag on November 12, 2003, 01:20:39 PM
Hi Ron,

Am I correct in gathering that within-Agenda categories and within-Agenda descriptors (dials and switches, as described in the Simulationism and Gamism essays) exist inside the Creative Agenda level? That is, are they part of the lens through which we evaluate Technique, rather than themselves being Techniques?

If so, I think that's vitally important to the key principle of "Creative Agenda as the bridge between Social Contract [Exploration] and Technique," and should be explicitly discussed.

My interpretation of the overall theme of much of the GNS discussion of the last year (including some of its frustrations) is that Creative Agenda described or understood only in the form of "G, N, or S, pick one" is too short a bridge (or too inaccurate an arrow) to connect with Technique. For instance, and pretty obviously, you can usually only examine whether a given Technique supports a Gamist Creative Agenda if: (1) you know the precise Creative Agenda of the participants first-hand or from extremely comprehensive descriptions of their actual play; or (2) you know "what kind" of Gamist Creative Agenda you're talking about, in terms of understandable descriptors.

If only the first-hand or near-first-hand knowledge will suffice, then most practical discussion would be precluded. Hence, within-Agenda descriptors are key to focusing the Creative Agenda lens sufficiently to resolve Technique.

- Walt

PS Regarding the name thing: Anagrammizing the Venn hierarchy, and dropping the final E (which is, after all, Epehemeral), we could name this model the SECT of Ron.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jason Lee on November 12, 2003, 02:35:53 PM
The thing that really stuck out for me, and I whole heartedly agree with, but wasn't exactly said, was that people have a tendency to prioritize from the inner most box outward, and that can cause all sorts of problems.  People will give up Social Contact long before their favorite Ephemera, and that causes everything to break down.  Like how it bothers you more that your dog dies than it does when the old lady down the street dies; empathy exponentially decreases the farther away you get from your immediate perceptions.  I think groups who prioritize downward are more functional, but that's just me thinking - doesn't really have anything to do with the topic.  

I'm drifting. If that was meant to be said, great!  If not, well now you know how I saw it.

*****

I think you're giving too much weight to creative agenda - what with its own little arrow and 'key to the model' status.  Historically, GNS has gotten all the attention, and I think that's been a disservice to the model as a whole.  If Creative Agenda is the bridge between Exploration and Techniques, then Techniques are the bridge between Creative Agenda and Ephemera, and so forth.  I'd just leave it at that.  I don't think Creative Agenda is any more important than any of the other layers.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 12, 2003, 02:43:42 PM
Good post, Jason. You might want to follow up on that "working from the outside in" concept on another thread.

Mike


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Valamir on November 12, 2003, 04:29:33 PM
Quote
I think you're giving too much weight to creative agenda - what with its own little arrow and 'key to the model' status. Historically, GNS has gotten all the attention, and I think that's been a disservice to the model as a whole. If Creative Agenda is the bridge between Exploration and Techniques, then Techniques are the bridge between Creative Agenda and Ephemera, and so forth. I'd just leave it at that. I don't think Creative Agenda is any more important than any of the other layers.


I'd have to disagree with that.  Importance aside its the one that needs the most emphasis because its the one that's not immediately obvious.  As I said in my post above I don't think you'd find any serious roleplayer who doesn't immediately agree that there are different techniques to roleplaying and that social issues impact play experience.  But Creative Agenda?  That's one that requires additional justification.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: M. J. Young on November 12, 2003, 07:02:58 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.

I'm not certain what this means; let me offer possibilities and see how they sit.
  • It is absolutely necessary to recognize the presence of Creative Agenda as the bridge between Social Contract and Techniques if you hope to understand role playing games in a theoretical way. I think I would agree with this.
  • It is absolutely necessary to identify a specific Creative Agenda in the text of a role playing game in order for that game to be functional. I disagree with this; I think it would help, but functional games have been designed in which there was no explicit statement of the Creative Agenda.
  • It is absolutely necessary for the designer of a game to be cognizant of the Creative Agenda of his game in an articulable form in order to produce a coherent game. I don't think I agree with this; John Wick probably could not have articulated the Creative Agenda behind OrkWorld, but people generally think it's coherent.
  • It is absolutely necessary for the designer of a game to have a Creative Agenda in mind for his game around which he designs it for that game to be coherent. This is a much more difficult matter; it's already been agreed that many games that predate the model reflect such coherent creative agenda (and that many do not). This gets so much into the psyche of the designers that it's difficult to find relevance to the statement. When Jones and I designed Multiverser, I think we both knew what we wanted; I don't think we necessarily agreed--particularly since neither of us had ever heard the expressed Creative Agendae terminology, and probably at times we were looking for mechanics that would facilitate all three modes one way or another without being particularly aware of them (that is, looking to design a game that supported the way the people we knew played, which was not always consistent from one to the next). I can't say we didn't have a creative agenda somewhere in the backs of our minds, or that we didn't come to a common vision during the process--but I can't say we did, either, and if I can't say that about my own game, I don't see how the matter could be answered in general. I take it that this is not what you mean.
  • It is absolutely necessary for players to openly and consciously recognize the Creative Agenda that they have in order to move from a social contract to techniques. I think this is also wrong; players who stumble into the same Creative Agenda will move from Social Contract to Techniques without being at all aware of the intervening bridge. That can happen because the members of the group learn to play entirely from each other with no preconceived notions of what the game is "supposed to do". No one ever complained that Monopoly didn't produce a good story or didn't properly represent the road map of Atlantic City or the rent ratios in effect. People complain that role playing games "don't work" because they have expectations that are contrary to results. These may spring from incoherent design encouraging different expectations and then disappointing, or experience with other games and the failure to recognize that this game is trying to do something different, or group efforts to mold the game into something other than what one individual wanted. But if we assume that the group is all on the same page, they probably aren't aware what page they're on--knowing the Creative Agenda is not always relevant to making that step.
  • It is absolutely necessary that all the players in a game share a Creative Agenda in order for agreement at the Social Contract level to be reached regarding what Techniques will produce the desired outcome in play. If this is what is meant, it's probably a very important point, and should be stated considerably more clearly. In fact, having just stated it that way myself, I see how important it is--we can't agree (at the social level) regarding how to do it (at the techniques level) until we know exactly what it is we are doing (at the Creative Agenda level). Is that it?[/list:u]
    Sorry to make this so long; some of it is my effort to come to grips with it myself, but if I've parsed it aright, perhaps it will be helpful.

    Aside to Lisa--have you seen the Applied Theory article? Although its focus is on game design rather than play, it does speak to the matter of how techniques can be supportive of Creative Agenda. I think it's important to understand that techniques alone don't force a particular agenda, but that they can facilitate or impede one.

    --M. J. Young


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jack Aidley on November 13, 2003, 02:45:18 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Talk about the material. This thread is not about what some hypothetical other people will think and feel about the model, but about you. Say, "YES, I AGREE, ESPECIALLY ABOUT X," or, "NO, YOU MAKE NO SENSE AND HERE'S WHY," or "GEE, WHAT ABOUT THIS PART HERE." That sort of thing.


Ok. This is to my mind the single best essay on roleplaying theory I've read. I agree with everything written here. I see this as the framework into which the other discussions go, and while I'm unsure about GNS as a description, I think this framework is really solid.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Walt Freitag on November 13, 2003, 04:48:39 AM
Reading my previous post, I realize I inadvertently edited out (that is, I remember writing them but they ain't there now) some brief examples that might have made my question clearer.

So, to focus the question, are the following concepts Techniques, Creative Agenda, or Something Else (e.g. belonging to the Social Contract or Exploration levels)?

- purist-for-system (as a description of some Simulationist play)
- high-concept (as a description of some Simulationist play)
- low-competition at the Step On Up level (as a description of some Gamist play)
- low-competition at the Challenge level (as a description of some Gamist play)

- Walt

PS I also meant "acronymizing" instead of "anagrammizing."


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Marco on November 13, 2003, 09:44:46 AM
I have a clarafication issue concerning creative agenda:

The Creative Agenda is described in terms of priorities. I think that's ptoentially misleading. If I say Susan's game is Gamist then what I am really saying is "During the play of Susan's game, I observe more step-on-up behavior than either pure exploration or address of thematic questions" (or something like that).

The idea that "Gamist behavior is the priority" can lead to two conflicting reads (much the way The Impossible Thing Text seems to).

It can indicate there is observed to be more gamist behavior during the play (which is, I think, what's generally meant)

It can indicate a preference for gamist play on the part of the participants (check Mariam Webster online for priority, these are 1. and 2.)

The latter is not compatible with what has been said elsewhere.

It gets even iffier when someone makes the claim that what's "being prioritized" is what's "preferred right there at that moment in play" (which I have seen done).

I think it might be clearer to describe the primary GNS mode in statistical terms (which will raise questions about how well one mode can really be distinguished from another, but hey ...)

-Marco


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on November 13, 2003, 09:59:36 AM
And more on Creative Agenda (with appologies, Ron, if this dips into the things you don't want to discuss at this level of the model):

While this outline of the model (and yeah, "the model" should be called something other than GNS . . .  "SC->E?" Social Contract to Ephemera?)might get people to agree/understand that a Creative Agenda is necessary to roleplaying, I'm not sure it requires them to think of it as anything more sophisticated than "we want to have fun."

I could talk some about the plusses and minuses to that, but I think that would *definitely* dip into the "don't want to talk about it" stuff, so - I'll leave it there.  

Gordon


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 13, 2003, 10:30:59 AM
Hello,

Actually, it really isn't the time and place to discuss either of those issues (Marco and Gordon). I misled Marco to think that he should bring it up here, so that was my fault.

What I'd really like to see is for people who are interested in this stuff to re-read the Simulationism and Gamism essays, with the points made in this thread in mind. And also, I ask for a certain amount of patience regarding the Narrativism essay, currently projected for January 1st.

We can talk more detailed-GNS after the re-readings of the two essays, and with a strong emphasis on laying off Narrativism until the essay is up and discussed. I don't see much point to getting into those issues before then.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on November 13, 2003, 10:53:58 AM
Ron,

Cool.  If just letting Creative Agenda exist is all you need from this, no worrying about what it is, looks good.

I particularly like the distinctions drawn between what applies to the imagined environment vs. the social interaction (in talking about Character, Situation etc.), and between what can be discussed as general theory vs. what requires/allows for actual play (in the Creative Agenda section).  These are really important issues, and this is the best job I've seen of getting them center-stage without tripping all sorts of alarm bells.

EDIT - Uh, I wasn't quite done.  I also was wanting a little more about how one level can penetrate down to others.  You talk about about how System (from Exploration) shows up in Techniques - what about how Social stuff shows up in lower levels, or Creative Agenda?  This is a another tricky bit, and while I *think* I get it, sometimes I wonder if there's something I'm missing.

Gordon


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 14, 2003, 09:02:24 AM
Hi there,

As you might imagine, it took a full printout and a highlighter to get ready to respond to the comments so far. I'll start by saying Thank You to everyone, because this is a major push on my part. I appreciate people being willing to walk with me on it.

I'll go person by person, but I think everyone should go back and see the original comments for everyone else as well as just himself or herself. This is very much a community effort, for which the person-by-person reply structure will probably be misleading.

Oh! Two exceptions to that. The first is the call for "renaming" the model. You guys, uh, realize that the model has never had a name?

a) My original posting based on System Does Matter quickly centered (to my surprise) on people hotly contesting that any such thing as (now called) Creative Agenda was relevant to role-playing. Yeah, seems weird. 'Strue. We started by refering to this thing as "G/N/S" and over time the slashes got dropped.

b) Once my big essay was published here at the Forge, incorporating and altering the Scarlet Jester's concept of Exploration, people called the whole thing "GNS" merely to say "the model which has this 'GNS' thing in it," or just out of habit.

If you had a different impression about what the scope of "GNS" meant, and would like to enlighten me about that, consider yourself already heard. Let's leaving naming out of the picture for a while.

The second exception is the importance, primacy, increased emphasis, or whatever you want to call it of the Creative Agenda level (or, for that matter, "GNS" which is at-this-point synonymous). I'm with Ralph, you see: I think that people wrangle and suffer over this "bridge" more than any other, and try to solve problems in it in more messed-up ways than they solve any other hassles about play. In large part, it's due to the nature of the medium, and it's also, I think, due to Social Context issues that I raised in the Infamous Five threads earlier this year (when was that, anyway? geez).

I also think that the arrow is extremely important, denoting "now we enter actual play," and that there is no equivalent point/concept between any of the other levels/boxes.

To Lisa (theGM)! Let's talk about communication techniques, yes. I'm sorry if this is kind of abstract, when your whole post says "let's get concrete," but I hope you can spot me that for now, in this thread. We'll get there; as I said, this is what I really want to talk about once this "model" stuff gets better understood all 'round.

1. How things "happen" in the imagined events, especially single and short-term actions by characters. I spend a hell of a lot of brain-cells talking about this, eventually inventing something called IIEE to deal with it (Intent, Initiation, Execution, Effect). The notion is that the phrase "I hit him!" can mean four possible different things, and that dialogue just as you describe is almost always necessary to establish which one. Once a group gets playing together for a while, the need for the dialogue diminishes, but that may be a bad thing in many cases. My claim is that the dialogue which exists is often highly manipulative, in a negative way.

I advocate dipping into Techniques to help out the situation, rather than just going up to Social Contract. This is tricky because most games provide rules for Techniques that only handle (say) Initiation and Effect, or are otherwise "gappy" in the IIEE process. Since people often use those gaps for either Illusionist or strategic purposes, they are also often reluctant to admit they exist, much less close them. When Techniques set up all of IIEE with the points of "choice" well-established in there, it's a wonderful thing - but most role-players have never seen it, and some don't know what to do with it when they do.

2. Scene framing, on the other hand, is a wonderful opportunity for dialogue that permits people to work out how they want to play, as well as what happens. Scene framing is just what it sounds like: when the group (by whatever means) is now oriented toward a new situation, and usually a new locale and/or time in the Setting.

Most rules-sets just ignore scene framing. Some are pretty clear. The most extreme game design for scene framing, at this point, is my Trollbabe, I think. The rules state who can initiate and close scenes, and who can request either one. They also distinguish between Scenes and Conflicts (within scenes); the rules for declaring Conflicts are different from the Scenes ones, and equally clear.

If all this seems overly structured for "what we do anyway," that's great - but many, many groups have a terrible time with this exact issue, and if there's one thing I hear over and over about Trollbabe, it's "Thank you for cleaning the whadda-we-do fat out of our role-playing." Anyway, my point is that all I did with Trollbabe was take the dialogue that I had observed in our group for other games, and simply write it up as a "rule."

So my suggestion is to look at the dialogue by which you already do scene framing, and decide whether it really has the degree of looseness or "snap" that you and the group want. My initial steps in discovering this stuff was to realize that I did best to say, "All right, you're at the airport ..." then pause, and say, "Wait, is everyone OK with that?" and then go on from there. I'd discovered that I didn't like either (a) GM always dictates scene switches without input (after all, what if I just ran roughshod over something cool?) or (b) GM just does scenes as dictated by player actions, which (I'd experienced and observed many times) usually led to "Marty" role-playing. [Marty = "whadda ya wanna do?" "I dunno, whadda you wanna do?" repeat, repeat]

To Ben! Specific example of Ephemera, huh? All right, I'll pick Stance and hark back to some recent My Life with Master play. It's the "Black ooze" game discussed in Actual Play, so check out [My Life with Master] Black ooze oozes forth (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8257) for starters.

In the second session, Tod role-played his character Nestor to kill a child, and it so happened that the child was exactly the one that the Master did not want killed, his favorite and most important protege. When Nestor found the child, Tod well knew the wide range of options - return him to the Master, etc. But Nestor didn't know any of this, and Tod knew that the character's ignorance was a wonderful opportunity for inserting intense conflict into the situation. So Nestor drowned him. This is hard core Author Stance. Tod could have had the character do anything; there was no particular rules-obligation for him to kill this child, and he could have had Nestor form a Connection with him instead.

Later in the session, when my character Augustin was looking for this selfsame child and confronted Nestor, Tod played Nestor as extremely sullen, defiant, and uncommunicative, essentially stonewalling Augustin. In this case, Tod was working from Actor Stance; he didn't care much about the results of the interaction but knew that Nestor enjoyed defying Augustin (an arrogant sort who'd already referred to the other Minions as "sideshow freaks"), and Tod enjoyed Nestor enjoying it. The story-impact was considerable and lots of fun for everyone: I liked the result of Nestor roaming helplessly around the woods, totally out of his element, and Julie, as GM, enjoyed describing all the twigs in his hair and clothes when she framed his next scene.

My claim is that both Stance usages were consistent (a) with the Techniques we were using (consistent with the game rules, in this case, so I won't list them) and (b) profoundly originating in Tod's rather hard core Narrativist preferences. In this case, he was contributing to the intensification of many different vectors of conflict, in a timed way. Author Stance tends to do that, but Actor Stance tends to prolong it a little, kind of wringing out the last drop, if you will. By themselves, neither Stance could have provided the powerful expression of Narrativism that Tod did in fact do; in this particular combination, they hammered it home in an incredibly fun way.

Please note that throughout this entire process, Tod was also engaged in classic Exploration of Character, which in this case embraced and focused the Narrativist Creative Agenda.

I'm quite confident about this example, first because of Tod's behavior and dialogue in both scenes, and second because we all chatted about it after the session was over, to confirm our impressions. Tod brought it up and was pleased to see his understanding of Stance confirmed.

To Jason! Thanks for your primary comments. My apologies for focusing on your small quibbles, but that is what this thread is for, after all.

1. You identify dice as fundamentally preventing disputes? I think your representational, high-Concept Simulationist preferences are showing. I'll spot you that they play that role in some forms of role-playing, yes. If I were playing Pax Draconis, that's what I would do - dice embedded in dialogue ("Role-playing"). But when playing Sorcerer or The Dying Earth, the dialogue is embedded in the dice, the other way around, and the whole package is the role-playing.

2. I will never understand any statements about how what a character would or wouldn't do is or can be independent of the person playing the character, or contributing to such play. I think I'll have to request that no one try to explain it to me any more, ever.

To Walt! Those within-Agenda categories and descriptors do exist "in" that level, but since Creative Agenda is an arrow, all of them are arrows too. Hence they are necessarily directly traceable to the outer and inner boxes in one of the following ways.

a) emerging from one or more elements of Exploration,
b) penetrating to one or more (usually more) Techniques,
c) both.

Food for thought, as well: hybrid Creative Agendas are obviously subdivisions within the Creative Agenda box, but they are combinations of GNS categories. That ought to clear up a whole of confusion right there.

All that said, let's take a look at the Creative Agenda subcategories. Here's one. I want to distinguish carefully between Points of Contact with System vs. Points of Contact with Color. Both of these obviously "hark" outward toward Exploration, and by definition, that means strengthening and clarifying "what we imagine together."

They are also totally GNS-neutral, or rather, the concept applies regardless of which Creative Agenda you're working with.

However, each approach still takes on a different "glow" depending on which Creative Agenda category. Within Simulationism, for instance, lots of Points of Contact with System corresponds to my "Purist for System" category; and lots of Points of Contact with Color (highly integrated with Setting + Character = Situation) corresponds to my "High Concept" category.

Once you nail down this idea, I hope you can see how this "outer-box structure" sets up desirable Techniques and Ephemera quite quickly. Let's stick with Simulationist play. The High Concept Simulationism bit, for instance, necessitates a hell of a lot of Ephemera around narration-rights and stances, usually Actor Stance, and sometimes more Ephemera which diminish the importance of "looking up rules" as a valid play-action. The Purist-for-System bit, on the other hand, necessitates a hell of a lot of very explicit Techniques for resolution, usually in written form ("rules"), and Ephemera which validate consulting those rules.

Within Gamism, I think my discussions of Gamble & Crunch qualify, and they factor straight in from System and then directly deeper into Techniques. Competition at the Step On Up level is right there in Creative Agenda connected to Social Contract; whereas competition at the Challenge level is coming from Exploration, as Situation, specifically Character + Situation.

I think it's awfully interesting that this "split" within Simulationism pulls System apart from [Character + Setting = Situation], whereas nothing of the sort is conceivably possible in either Gamist or Narrativist play (no matter how hard people try in the latter case).

I think that re-reading my Gamism and Simulationism essay, and relating their points to this new presentation of the model, will reveal tons and tons more such concepts.

And I was in fact looking for the acronym and was puzzled. Thanks for clearing that up. And then, you go ahead and make an acronym! SECT ... arrrrghh. Imagine an Irish cop from the 30s looking lugubrious and muttering, "Christ's bleeding wounds." That's my face right now.

To M.J.! Dag, list a whole bunch of things, why don't you.

- I agree with you that phrasing 1 is right

- I agree with you that phrasing 2 is wrong

- I agree with you that phrasing 3 is wrong (I'm on record about this in a big way; it's my physics/bridges concept)

- YMMV for phrasing 4, because one has to define "necessary for what" locally

- I agree with you that phrasing 5 is wrong

- I think phrasing 6 is right, but "a[/b] Creative Agenda" is a very flexible thing, and I can see both Walt and Mike Holmes getting squirrelly about this issue. later for sure

To Gordon! With any luck the connections among levels makes most sense when you think of each "lower" one as being a subdivsion or application of the higher one. Let's take a look, though, at our game of Trollbabe we played at GenCon earlier this year. I'm hoping you can answer all of the following positively.

1. Did our Social Contract set up a Creative Agenda? I submit that you and I were implicitly committed to Narrativist play, and that Michael was especially interested in "going there" due to his and my dialogues about Sorcerer and Fvlminata.

2. Did the whole "look and feel" of having your trollbabe character walk into that valley with her lucky rock (or whatever it was) set up Premise in your mind? And especially when I introduced the human girl wearing the troll horns, in Michael's scene?

3. Did the Creative Agenda (Narrativism) bridge the above point into Techniques? I call your attention to the failed rolls in particular, especially the physical defeat of your character at the climax. If that said "Theme" to you, then we're good.

4. Did the Techniques of re-roll mechanics ("use found item," drawing on relationship), which are exactly what result in your character's defeat, also rely on / result in Stance-changing Ephemera? I'm not off-the-cuff recalling examples, but maybe you can, I hope.

Whew! I'm tired.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 14, 2003, 11:41:18 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
You guys, uh, realize that the model has never had a name?
Uh, yup. But now that you've brought it up, quick come up with one, or people are going to start suggesting ideas for a title. And I know how much you love that. ;-)

Mike


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: The GM on November 14, 2003, 12:13:09 PM
Ron says:

>> Let's talk about communication techniques, yes. I'm sorry if this is kind of abstract, when your whole post says "let's get concrete," but I hope you can spot me that for now, in this thread. <<

Ok.

Few things I did want to comment on here.

>>Once a group gets playing together for a while, the need for the dialogue diminishes, but that may be a bad thing in many cases. My claim is that the dialogue which exists is often highly manipulative, in a negative way. <<

I’m following you here. I think that the ‘intent’ of the dialogue itself is key to this particular dilemma. For instance (an extreme example), if a GM/ player has a very antagonist view about the game itself (ie, it’s me vs the group) then such dialogue could be twisted to manipulate in the very way you’re talking about.  I think current games on the market inadvertently encourage this kind of behavior. Literally, these kinds of manipulations are written into the damn rules when you read ‘examples of play’. Now, I’m about to eat my words here. I’ve *always* taken the position that System Does NOT Matter. Mr. Snyder and I have wrangled over this topic more than once. I would like to change my view to system doesn’t matter, except when it does.
Which would be, I guess, most of the damn time. What you’re talking about here clearly illustrates the point. (Even if that wasn’t your original intent.)
I can see Matt doing a little dance from wherever he’s reading this post.
;^D


>>I advocate dipping into Techniques to help out the situation, rather than just going up to Social Contract. This is tricky because most games provide rules for Techniques that only handle (say) Initiation and Effect, or are otherwise "gappy" in the IIEE process.<<

I like techniques, they are clear, they are firm. They allow things to ‘progress as they should’ as opposed to letting a game wander all over the map. As a GM I can go back to them and critically assess if I’m doing things the way we initially agreed as a group. As a player, I can do the same. It takes away the chance that a game wanders off topic. I like techniques. So we are in agreement that current games on the market do not address this issue in any substantive way, instead they point to a kinda dowhatchalike attitude which causes problems from the get-go. BTW, I like techniques.

>>So my suggestion is to look at the dialogue by which you already do scene framing, and decide whether it really has the degree of looseness or "snap" that you and the group want. My initial steps in discovering this stuff was to realize that I did best to say, "All right, you're at the airport ..." then pause, and say, "Wait, is everyone OK with that?" and then go on from there. I'd discovered(snip)]<<

Nice piece of advice, and something that I have recently discussed w/ my group. IOW, it’s ok to ‘stop’ in the middle of a session and say, “Hey guys, is this going right? Am I doing this right? If not, what do we need to do right NOW to fix it?” Now, hopefully we’ll all get the groove pretty quick and get down to the business of having a blast.  As a group we recently talked about how busy we are, and how it’s important to really get the biggest bang from our leisure time buck. So yeah, I’m all about techniques that work towards making every game session a good time.

Warm Regards,
Lisa


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jonathan Walton on November 14, 2003, 03:11:16 PM
Hey Ron,

I've been buried of late and just came across this thread.  First off, in one feel swoop you managed to clarify away much of my confusion about your model of "the interactions that produce roleplaying."  Give it a couple of days to sink in and I'll give you deeper reactions, but I wanted to point out one point of cognitive dissonance that is bothering me right now:

As you say, Creative Agenda is the only verb in the model, i.e. it is the real driving force behind everything that happens.  So I'm having trouble imagining the impetus for Social Contract and Exploration.  Do you see what I mean?  If Creative Agenda is the cause of everything that happens during play, what causes a group of people to form a Social Contract, Explore, and pursue a Creative Agenda?

It would seem like you need another verb, but I'm not sure.  After all, one might argue that it's Creative Agenda that brings people to the table in the first place.  Many (all?) people roleplay for the pleasure of enacting their Creative Agenda, whatever that is.  However, it then seems odd (in my mind) for the cause to be imbedded in the middle, and Exploration and Social Contract to eminate from it (though, now that I think about it, I suppose it doesn't seem that strange).

If Creative Agenda is really the only verb, the cause of everything, then Social Contract & Exploration don't exist because of any outside reason, they exist only to give something for the Creative Agenda to work within, they are the sea for the boat to sail across.  If this is indeed the case, I think you need to make it more explicit.  Many people will expect your Venn diagram to lead in one direction or another (out to in, in to out) and not erupt from Creative Agenda in the center.  Maybe arrows spreading out from Creative Agenda in both directions?


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: C. Edwards on November 14, 2003, 04:01:20 PM
Hey Jonathan,

 
Quote
If Creative Agenda is the cause of everything that happens during play, what causes a group of people to form a Social Contract, Explore, and pursue a Creative Agenda?


It's the process. You may play for the pleasure of experiencing your Creative Agenda, but you have to travel through the layers of Social Contract and Exploration to get to that point. I think "boxes in boxes" works just fine for the model. Just think of those boxes as buildings within buildings, each with a door you must go through in order to reach the building located within. That's my take on it anyway.

-Chris


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jonathan Walton on November 15, 2003, 10:21:15 AM
Thanks, Chris.  That does clarify things a bit and reinforce what I thought Ron's post was implying with the "Creative Agenda is the only verb" talk, which wasn't completely obvious to me.

Another thing that hit me last night: this is no longer a theory that applies only to roleplaying.  Think about all the interactions it could describe.  Are all of them things that your mind considers to be "roleplaying"?  I don't think so.  So either the definition of "roleplaying" has to change, in this context, or this needs to be "Ron's theory of ________," inserting a word other than "roleplaying."

Personally, I'd suggest not expanding the definition of roleplaying, because the term already has strongly imbedded connotations that the members of the Forge, diverse and vocal as they are, aren't going to be able to change.  But it seems to me that Ron's clarification of his thinking applies to all collaborative creative processes.

If people disagree, maybe we should start another thread to discuss it, since I realize that could be a potentially contentious suggestion.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 16, 2003, 08:01:00 AM
Hello,

Jonathan wrote,

Quote
But it seems to me that Ron's clarification of his thinking applies to all collaborative creative processes.


I don't agree, I'm afraid. I mean, certain features do correspond, yes - but the key one is the mutually communicative medium among all members of a role-playing group, and how Explorative content is established in that medium. In that sense, role-playing is far more like improvisational jazz - and yet it carries the narrative (small N, no "ist") elements of theater, literature, or film. I consider it a unique art form in this sense.

Mileage may vary on this issue, but in the long run, I at least don't think that it's a very important issue.

I'd very much like to receive confirmation and feedback from some of the people I replied to, like Ben Lehman or Walt, etc. Lisa did so, for instance.

Also, those seven points in my initial post are not trivial. If anyone wants to discuss those, that would be wonderful.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ben Lehman on November 16, 2003, 12:03:28 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

I'd very much like to receive confirmation and feedback from some of the people I replied to, like Ben Lehman or Walt, etc. Lisa did so, for instance.


Feedback:

Honestly, I was waiting a couple of days to see if anything more sunk in.  Hasn't yet.  The category of Ephemera is a little clearer to me now, I can see how it exists below techniques, but not entirely transparent.

Is the particular use of stance the example of Ephemera?  Is the whole experience?  Is something else that I am missing entirely?

Apologies for my denseness.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jonathan Walton on November 16, 2003, 12:09:05 PM
This'll probably be my last post on this issue, before starting a new thread, because I don't want to derail the discussion here:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I don't agree, I'm afraid. I mean, certain features do correspond, yes - but the key one is the mutually communicative medium among all members of a role-playing group, and how Explorative content is established in that medium.


Bob and Joe are talking about what to do on a Friday evening.

Bob: "Why don't we go see the new Matrix movie?  That'd be way cool.  All those explosions and chicks in tight leather pants!"

Joe: "Yeah!  ...But wait! The last movie had all that talking in it.  Booooring!  The fight scenes and computer animation were cool, but way too much talking."

Bob: "Sigh.  I guess you're right.  ...Hey!  But if we have a few drinks before we go, we'll be tipsy enough to ignore all the talking and it'll be 100% great!"

Joe: "Totally!  Let's do it!"

I have a hard time seeing how your Venn diagram doesn't apply to this situation.  There's a Social Contract governing Bob & Joe's interaction, they are both imagining (Exploring) the possibilities for the evening in a shared imaginary space that both of them have influence over, they each have a Creative Agenda (even if it's only to discover the best possible activity), and they utilize various Techniques and Ephemera to pursue their Agendas.

I would argue that this kind of thing happens in jazz too, the only difference being that the "art" occurs not in a shared imaginary space, but shared musical space (both of which are based on our experience of the world, either through our imaginations or senses).  You're right that music doesn't have to strive for narrative the way words do, but it has to strive for coherance and gaining the listener's appreciation, just like narrative does.

Still, if you'd rather view your theory as applying only to roleplaying, I suppose that's your prerogative.  YMMV, and all that.  But it just seems very limiting.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 16, 2003, 12:46:28 PM
Jonathan, how is this collborative creation? They agreeing to go be the audience of a movie, not the creators. That they've created an amusing means to be an audience member doesn't seem to change that they're still just being audience at worst and interpreters at best.

But, while I think the model may be somehow a good "starting point" in assessing other "creative collaborations," I'm not sure the Forge is the place. Ron has all but defined role-playing (versus, say, improv theatre or jazz or whatever) with the theory. The theory is specific to role-playing, and so is the Forge.

So, what are these collaborative things you seem intent to examine? Are they things we really need to consider at the Forge, things that might broaden the circle of all the stuff that we do discuss so far?


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jonathan Walton on November 16, 2003, 01:44:16 PM
Quote from: Matt Snyder
Jonathan, how is this collborative creation?


Sorry, that wasn't really clear, was it?  Let me try again:

Bob: "Why don't we go see the new Matrix movie? That'd be way cool. All those explosions and chicks in tight leather pants!"

Joe: "Yeah!"

[Bob imagines explosions and chicks in tight leather pants.  Joe shares this vision, created shared imaginary space.  However...]

Joe: "...But wait! The last movie had all that talking in it. Booooring! The fight scenes and computer animation were cool, but way too much talking."

Bob: "Sigh. I guess you're right."

[Joe has altered their shared vision to include lots of boring talk.  Bob agrees with this alteration and they share their vision of explosions/chicks/talk, though it is not really satisfactory to either of them.  Then...]

Bob: "...Hey! But if we have a few drinks before we go, we'll be tipsy enough to ignore all the talking and it'll be 100% great!"

Joe: "Totally! Let's do it!"

[Bob has altered their shared imaginary space again, adding booze and "fixing" the situation by minimalizing the effect of Joe's "talk" addition.  He could have simply rejected Joe's claim that "the last film was so talky," but he instead accepted it and offered to alter it, which Joe allowed him to do.]

So their decision to go drink booze and watch the Matrix is not the collaborative creative process.  But, in trying to make this decision, they imagine what the experience would be like, make changes to this vision based on the kinds of interactions that Ron describes as belonging to roleplaying.  My point was that this wouldn't normally be considered roleplaying, but the Social Contract, Exploration, and everything else are there in this situation.  Re-imagine the above conversation as two Universalis players trying to decide how to play a Matrix-style game and the parallels become more obvious.

P.S.  Ron, should I take this idea to another thread now?  I'm backing towards the door... opening it... sticking one foot out... :)


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: The GM on November 16, 2003, 06:20:12 PM
Got some additional thoughts here. Take ‘em for what they’re worth, you get what you pay for! ;^D

Ron initially said:
>>Role-players often arrive at the Forge in an advanced state of frustration regarding either play, talking about play, or both. <<

That’s a somewhat misleading assumption, and the reason I say that is because when reading the independent game forums, people seem pretty pleased to talk about/interact w/ or otherwise communicate about those particular games. Doesn’t seem to be too much frustration over on that side of the site. Now, I came wandering through the GNS forums not because of my frustration level, but rather because of the frustration level of one of my players. I care about what he wanted to see in a game, thus I made a commitment to learn the stuff he thought was important. I coulda gave him the boot, and the rest of the group would have been none the worse because we already had a play style that worked for us. It was *important* to make our pal feel  like his ideas were appreciated (because they are.) IOW, it was a question of respect. To be fair, I see a fair amount of disgruntled peps too. But disenchantment isn’t the *only* thing that brings people through the Forge’s virtual door. Alright, on with the show.


>>Point #1: Nearly everyone who first encounters the theory is predisposed to discuss Ephemera. (snip) point of discussion: Get them up to Techniques, which is what they really want to discuss. The key is to validate the Techniques they're trying to reinforce, and to acknowledge to the person that they are, indeed, making sense in these terms. After that point, the diversity of Ephemera can be discussed without the person going into protective-mode regarding what Techniques they prefer or are used to. <<

Rock on, now how are ya gonna do it? ;)
This can be somewhat tricky from where I stand. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked about techniques in the last few weeks, only to be met with stony silence. Granted, maybe no one wants to talk about this stuff as much as I want to. That’s cool. But maybe they don’t know how to talk about it, or even understand what the hell it is I’m trying to talk about. This is where dialogue about gaming becomes so critical in my view. If I can point to a specific technique, this is now the ‘how to’. Ephemera almost seems like the icing on top from what I can tell. Now we have technique established, and because of this nice little definition over here, it’s a concrete, tangible thing. Now let’s chat about ephemera and what that means to us as a group. I suppose all of that is self apparent. What’s not so apparent is how to classify something that can change at a whim in actual play, and furthermore, how to utilize techniques to their best effect for any given game group.


>>Point #2 (related to #1): (snip) Required point of discussion: It's best to speak of combinations within an "inner" box in terms of how it affects or is affected by its "outer" box or boxes. Resist the extreme temptation to identify any one Technique, for instance, with a particular GNS category, or any one Ephemera-type event with a particular Technique.<<

I’m not seeing how a technique could be specifically tied to any given category, simply because techniques (I think) can be constant, even though particular game types might be radically different. For instance, I may employ technique X in game Y, but I may also employ it to great effect in game Z too. I need to think on this more though.


>>Point #3: Creative Agenda is the "verb" (snip) Required point of discussion: Don't get sidetracked into definitional descriptions when discussing actual play. If a person really is interested in examining the Creative Agenda(s) of his or her role-playing, or more accurately that of his or her group, then focus on social interactions, the real-people approval and disapproval during play itself, as quoted above. <<

Important stuff, to be sure. I see CA being inexorably tied to social contract. I think you have the right to understand *what exactly* you’re playing after you have the *who* you’re playing with out of the way. I see our troupe discussing CA a lot (although none of us call it that. It’s all much more informal than the way I discuss it in this post.)

>>Point #4 (related to #3: (snip)They want what they want without wanting (a) to say so or (b) actually to do that thing. Or if they are getting what they want, it's often through Social Contract manipulation and they don't want to endanger their carefully-constructed power-play. <<

I don’t know if this is a purposeful manipulation. I can’t imagine any well adjusted individual thinking ‘Man, it’s game night, I’m going to put the screws to my pals.’ This doesn’t compute for me. I think of this as being a miscommunication issue. YMMV.

>> Cries of "it's just a game" or "I just play to have fun" are signs of these tactics in a state of final breakdown. Excessive arguing about details of GNS-stuff is sometimes a defense mechanism. <<

I’m unconvinced of this as a blanket statement. Sometimes a person very well may mean ("it's just a game" or "I just play to have fun"). Sometimes debate about GNS stuff is because a person genuinely disagrees. I think it’s not fair to generalize these particular events (words) as a catastrophe waiting to happen.

 
>>Point #5: Also, a person who's confounded over this issue probably needs to hear that Creative Agenda categories (GNS) are not principles to live up to, but rather just a vocabulary that helps describe the whole-model profile for that particular group (or rather, an instance of that group's play in action). <<

Hey, this works for me. I use GNS as a lexicon so people know what I’m talking about. This is the level at which I choose to think about GNS at this time.

>>Point #6: (snip) <<

Right. I’ve already talked about this though.


 
>>Point #7: (snip) One of the most difficult problems with a multi-user forum discussion is when Person X explains something about the GNS-level to Person Y using a specific Techniques example, and then person Z gets the idea that this Technique is the GNS term. And if they hate the Technique, then they fall right off the cognitive mountain, sometimes irretrievably. <<

So it’s necessary to keep GNS separate from technique talk? I mean, this is fine from my POV, but is that what you meant?

>>Required point of discussion: Fear is a serious problem when dealing with a third-party's reaction to these discussions. <<

I love that you talk about this. I’ve heard that fear is the ultimate reason that any of us truly gets anything done. (BTW, refusing to change a position/situation is still accomplishing something, even if the consequences may be negative.) These fears that you discuss need to be in big bold print at the top of your essay so that people understand that *you* understand where they are coming from. Get rid of the anxiety, and minds ‘magically’ open up. Nice.

>>- "The Storyteller Golden Rule ..." This rule is a big puff job, because it leaves "fun" undefined, nor does it specify who can mandate when a rule is to be ignored.<<

*Smirks*
Something I’ve never understood about the Golden Rule is this: If you’re supposed to do it ‘your way’, why did WW just spend 60 pages telling you how to do it ‘their way’? I always enjoyed the irony of that.

Wow, that’s a lot of typing.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 16, 2003, 06:21:49 PM
Hello,

Yes, please, Jonathan, I would greatly appreciate the topic of role-playing relative to other art forms being taken to another thread. Here in this forum is OK because it's still about the model.

Ben, you wrote,

Quote
Is the particular use of stance the example of Ephemera? Is the whole experience? Is something else that I am missing entirely?


Tod's particular uses of Stances in my examples were exactly Ephemera during play. The whole experience occurred in the context of Techniques being employed, specifically the rules in MLWM concerning scene framing and certain rolls. Then, those Techniques being employed may be assessed "back up the arrow" through our Narrativist Agenda, as it was shot from [Characters in Setting in Situation, w/System (the "bow"), all Colored]. And that [Exploration box] itself only existed due to our Social Contract to do this thing, at this time, in this way; this Social Contract persisted because we kept giving each other positive feedback about all the stuff going on inside it.

You can't have Ephemera occurring unless Techniques are in action. You can't have Techniques in action unless you have a Creative Agenda at work (or are trying to). You can't have a Creative Agenda at work (or try to) unless you have an Explorative Context, including change [System]. And you can't have the Explorative Context (with everything I've just said inside it) unless you have a Social Contract for it.

If you can see the real events as occurring inward through the layers, and our discussion of it here as retracing that path outward through the layers, then you'll be cool.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 16, 2003, 06:33:04 PM
Hi Lisa,

I was sort of under the impression that I'd provided at least some feedback, and at least some encouragement, about Techniques specifically. Maybe the best places to look for this kind of talk, though, are in Indie Design and Actual Play ... maybe my reviews too. I think there's a lot of discussion about exactly this going on, but it's necessarily slower than the typical debate pace in RPG Theory or GNS Discussion.

To stick with Techniques as a concept, though:

Point 2 discussion: Yes, you are right that Techniques cannot be singly tied to a Creative Agenda category. However, in the past, that is typically exactly what people have wanted to do. "Show me Narrativist play!" they say, and are provided with an example of play which necessarily includes Techniques. They glom onto one of them, perhaps the one they're least familiar with: "So that's Narrativism, then, when you do that?" And when the answer is No, they get frustrated.

You strike me as someone who can do a great deal to help prevent or alleviate such responses at the Forge, which is another way of saying, to help people learn to enjoy their role-playing more.

Point 4 discussion: I think that these manipulative behaviors are anything but "well-adjusted," which is to say, I agree with you. It's totally messed up.

Point 7: this one is reeeal tricky. The issue is, you can't talk about Creative Agenda stuff without discussing Techniques, or the whole model, really. The tricky bit is to keep people focused on Creative Agenda as ultimately a subset of Social Contract via the subset of Exploration -- with Techniques being discussed not because they define the Creative Agenda, but because they are being used by the real humans as a means of "doing" a particular Creative Agenda at this time.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: The GM on November 16, 2003, 06:47:47 PM
Ron says:
>>>I was sort of under the impression that I'd provided at least some feedback, and at least some encouragement, about Techniques specifically.<<<

Yep, I said that wrong. Mea Culpa. What I should have said was that I expected there to be a lot of discussion about that topic, as I figured it would be pretty popular.
That's the problem w/ expectations, sometimes they don't get met. ;) I'll check out the other forums.
Also, I did read MJ's piece, just forgot to mention it MJ!


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: The GM on November 17, 2003, 07:05:14 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Point 7: this one is reeeal tricky. The issue is, you can't talk about Creative Agenda stuff without discussing Techniques, or the whole model, really.  


But can you talk techniques w/out talking CA? I think so since as I understand, techniques are merely the 'vehicle' in which you choose to drive to get you from gaming point A to gaming point B. The way I see it, techniques can be a totally stand alone topic. I also see techniques broken down into a couple of catagories that may or may not correspond to various part of the whole model. Here's techniques as I view them, YMMV, obviously.

Communication techniques:
This is a wide variety of stuff that includes how real people talk to each other in reference to gaming (or anything else for that matter.) This is me giving my players specific examples of play that they can clearly understand at the level at which they are willing to receive said information. For instance, if I said, "Hey guys, I want to run a Narrativist campaign with a strong emphasis on Director's stance," I would get a number of nods, some good natured ribbing about my 'elitist talk' and they'd play however they thought that 'Narrativist' meant. I've seen this actual example occur. Using GNS vocabulary doesn't work if everyone is not in on it. Using words, phrases and questions in such a way that there's no mistaking what I'm talking about is a big deal. This is social contract stuff from where I sit, but good communication goes a lot deeper than that. It also dips into game play so that players/GMs know what the heck is going on all the time and no one is left out of the loop. Examples are a clear way of communicating, I use them a lot, and I prefer when others do too.

Play techniques:
This is actual physical things that occur when we play. This is the how to, this is where the rubber meets to the road. This is stances, this is methods in which players/GMs -get-things-done-. Play techniques includes everything from 'how' we make characters to 'how' we pass the game ball to one another during play. Play techniques are *not* the rules/ system for play (mostly because as we discussed, the techniques written into most game rules sets up an unhealthy me vs them vibe), but they are the tangible way in which craft our enterprise and achieve our individual gaming goals. These are our 'tools' for gaming moreso than any set of dice or sheets with stats written on them ever could be.

I think that these topics stand alone very well. Communication Techniques do for pretty obvious reasons (hey, who couldn't stand to be a better communicator?) Play techniques do because we can port Technique X into game Y with the same efficiency as porting it into game Z. Now, the creative agenda of game Y and Z may vary greatly, but 'how' we do it remains constant in regards to a specific technique.

I've said it before, but I think about this stuff way too much. ;) I've been giving some thought to actually writing up a quick techniques guide, mostly for my own reference. If I do that, I may share my in depth thoughts on the topic.

(Edit, typo)


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 17, 2003, 08:17:34 AM
Lisa, the techniques guide would be great (now just Daedalize it!)

On techniques -- Ron has stated elsewhere many times, and you've clamored here for more discussion of techniques.

How about several techniques threads in which one person starts explaining as specifically as possible the type of game he / she would like to run or play in. Then, people's replies could suggest (again, specifically as possible!) techniques that might work well for the given game. Over time, we could build up some useful threads, I think.

I often see people ask for techniques only to be met, as you've learned, with stony silence.  One reason could very well be that it's hard to discuss techniques in general. Discussion might work well given a specific frame of reference.

 ("So you have no frame of reference, Donny. You're like a child who wanders in in the middle of a movie and wants to know--"  Heh.)


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Walt Freitag on November 17, 2003, 10:36:18 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'd very much like to receive confirmation and feedback from some of the people I replied to, like Ben Lehman or Walt, etc. Lisa did so, for instance.


in reference to...

Quote from: Ron previously
Those within-Agenda categories and descriptors do exist "in" that level, but since Creative Agenda is an arrow, all of them are arrows too. Hence they are necessarily directly traceable to the outer and inner boxes in one of the following ways.

a) emerging from one or more elements of Exploration,
b) penetrating to one or more (usually more) Techniques,
c) both.

Food for thought, as well: hybrid Creative Agendas are obviously subdivisions within the Creative Agenda box, but they are combinations of GNS categories. That ought to clear up a whole of confusion right there.

All that said, let's take a look at the Creative Agenda subcategories. Here's one. I want to distinguish carefully between Points of Contact with System vs. Points of Contact with Color. Both of these obviously "hark" outward toward Exploration, and by definition, that means strengthening and clarifying "what we imagine together."

They are also totally GNS-neutral, or rather, the concept applies regardless of which Creative Agenda you're working with.

However, each approach still takes on a different "glow" depending on which Creative Agenda category. Within Simulationism, for instance, lots of Points of Contact with System corresponds to my "Purist for System" category; and lots of Points of Contact with Color (highly integrated with Setting + Character = Situation) corresponds to my "High Concept" category.

Once you nail down this idea, I hope you can see how this "outer-box structure" sets up desirable Techniques and Ephemera quite quickly. Let's stick with Simulationist play. The High Concept Simulationism bit, for instance, necessitates a hell of a lot of Ephemera around narration-rights and stances, usually Actor Stance, and sometimes more Ephemera which diminish the importance of "looking up rules" as a valid play-action. The Purist-for-System bit, on the other hand, necessitates a hell of a lot of very explicit Techniques for resolution, usually in written form ("rules"), and Ephemera which validate consulting those rules.

Within Gamism, I think my discussions of Gamble & Crunch qualify, and they factor straight in from System and then directly deeper into Techniques. Competition at the Step On Up level is right there in Creative Agenda connected to Social Contract; whereas competition at the Challenge level is coming from Exploration, as Situation, specifically Character + Situation.

I think it's awfully interesting that this "split" within Simulationism pulls System apart from [Character + Setting = Situation], whereas nothing of the sort is conceivably possible in either Gamist or Narrativist play (no matter how hard people try in the latter case).

I think that re-reading my Gamism and Simulationism essay, and relating their points to this new presentation of the model, will reveal tons and tons more such concepts.


Very very cool and useful. Ron, this might be the very first time I've posed you a direct question and the "answer I expected," the "answer I hoped for," and the answer you actually wrote were all the same.

As a programmer, where you see bridges and arrows, I see mappings and relations (aka links in data structures), but it's all the same idea. The important thing is that CA can be examined at a strictly funtional level (what specific techniques are connected to what aspects of Exploration) or as the expression of an idea. Sort of the way a Sine function can be seen as a process that turns one number into another number, or (on the "idea" level) as a description of oscillating motion.

The (a) (b) (c) distinction between emerging-from-exploration and informing-technique is something that I think will become more clear and useful as the nuances are developed over time. I anticipated that CA descriptors can also emerge directly from the Social Contract level, which is why I offered up both "competition at the step on up level" and "competition at the challenge level" as test cases. Yeah, the first emerges directly from Social Contract and the second emerges from Exploration.

But I don't understand the paragraph starting "I think it's awfully interesting that..." What split in Simulationism are you referring to? (The preceding paragraph describes Gamism.) If it's the split between High Concept and Purist for System discussed in the paragraph before that, well, I still don't understand the point.

I did in fact re-read both essays when posing my original question.

Now, some comments about causality and the SECTE hieararchy. In general, we can say that going from left to right "down" the hierarchy answers the question "by what means?" or "how?" Going from right to left "up" the hierarchy answers the question "to what purpose?" (or "why?", but I think "why?" is too loaded, as I'll try to explain). These relationships exist for any instance of actual play. But there's no implied causal sequence or "starting point," is there? Not at Creative Agenda (sure, I could organize play of a Gamist game because I want some Step On Up competition, but I could also Step On Up and get all competitive because I find myself playing in a Gamist game.) Not at Social Contract. (We might start role playing because we happen to find ourselves sitting around a table with lots of dice on it and we're looking for something to do, but that's not the most likely scenario.) Not at Ephemera. (Though I'm sure some players are initially attracted to role playing by specific observed Ephemera, and some might carry strong feelings about them through long-term play). Not anywhere. With enough information we might trace out "which came first" for a particular player in a particular game, but there's no assumed causal sequence and no need for one.

Also, I find that the SECTE presentation makes me want to reexamine the idea of what a "GNS conflict" really is. I'd explain it this way: G, N, and S (or players predisposed to play with those Agendas) aren't like cartoon foxes and hounds, genetically programmed to attack each other on sight. They're pretty much oblivious to each other. (That is, players are oblivious to others' differing Creative Agendas.) The conflict occurs at all the other levels of the hiearchy, when players with different CAs dislike or disagree with aspects of the Social Contract, Explored imagined space, Techniques, or Ephemera that are informed by different CAs.

The process of using GNS to diagnose and improve dysfunctional play, much discussed and often much criticized here, could be better delineated under the new presentation of the model. What we've generally discussed (or at least, the impression I've gotten from the discussion) is:

1. Observe play.
2. Perceive Creative Agenda of each participant.
3. If Creative Agendas differ, diagnose Creative Agenda conflict between players as cause of dysfunction.
4. To resolve dysfunction, convince participants to adjust Creative Agendas, or replace participants with people sharing the chosen Creative Agenda.

When perhaps it should be more like:

1. Observe play.
2. Identify conflicts between participants over Social Contract, Exploration, Technique, or Ephemera issues.
3. If conflicts (especially, past history of failed attempts to resolve the conflicts by modifying Social Contract, Techniques, etc.) exhibit patterns suggesting differing Creative Agendas, diagnose Creative Agenda conflict between play styles as the nature of the dysfunction.
4. To resolve dysfunction, change Social Contract, Exploration, Techqniques, and Ephemera to support a consistent Creative Agenda. Replace participants who don't find the changes or the resulting play appealing with others who do.

Not a huge difference, but perhaps a hugely important one. It lets the model be applied without "correct" identification of everyone's Creative Agenda being the sole focus of analysis, getting us out of the finicky "what GNS mode are you?" game.

- Walt


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2003, 10:52:27 AM
Hi Walt,

Quote
But I don't understand the paragraph starting "I think it's awfully interesting that..." What split in Simulationism are you referring to? (The preceding paragraph describes Gamism.) If it's the split between High Concept and Purist for System discussed in the paragraph before that, well, I still don't understand the point.


It's not the same split. It's a whole different split and probably worth a thread, later (much later). I flashed on it while typing, which is probably a bad time to include something in a post.

Quote
Now, some comments about causality and the SECTE hieararchy. In general, we can say that going from left to right "down" the hierarchy answers the question "by what means?" or "how?" Going from right to left "up" the hierarchy answers the question "to what purpose?" (or "why?", but I think "why?" is too loaded, as I'll try to explain).


Agreed. I phrase that second "up the line" issue a bit differently, in that I think it's an investigation of "how we did it" or "how we experienced it," in a retroactive or detective sort of sense, and must always remain inferential. This brings up the aggrieved question of "But how do we know?" which faces the same baffling stone-wall that it receives in any inferential endeavor.

Quote
But there's no implied causal sequence or "starting point," is there? ... Not anywhere. With enough information we might trace out "which came first" for a particular player in a particular game, but there's no assumed causal sequence and no need for one.


Agreed. I don't see any need for a fixed or predictably fixed starting point. My "GNS and other matters of role-playing theory" fell into this trap by trying to explain both the process and components of play at the same time, starting with Exploration.

Quote
Also, I find that the SECTE presentation makes me want to reexamine the idea of what a "GNS conflict" really is. I'd explain it this way: G, N, and S (or players predisposed to play with those Agendas) aren't like cartoon foxes and hounds, genetically programmed to attack each other on sight. They're pretty much oblivious to each other. (That is, players are oblivious to others' differing Creative Agendas.) The conflict occurs at all the other levels of the hiearchy, when players with different CAs dislike or disagree with aspects of the Social Contract, Explored imagined space, Techniques, or Ephemera that are informed by different CAs.


Groan ... must we say "SECTE"? I mean, I know it's a joke, and so do you, but really, establishing a jargon-name at this particular moment seems like a really bad idea to me.

Anyway. I agree with you about the "GNS conflict" thing entirely. People tended to get hung up on the mistaken idea that player A and player B would never play well together, whereas my point is that their concerns were locally in conflict, at a given place and time, playing with the particular other people involved, in this particular. way.

Quote
1. Observe play.
2. Perceive Creative Agenda of each participant.
3. If Creative Agendas differ, diagnose Creative Agenda conflict between players as cause of dysfunction.
4. To resolve dysfunction, convince participants to adjust Creative Agendas, or replace participants with people sharing the chosen Creative Agenda.

When perhaps it should be more like:

1. Observe play.
2. Identify conflicts between participants over Social Contract, Exploration, Technique, or Ephemera issues.
3. If conflicts (especially, past history of failed attempts to resolve the conflicts by modifying Social Contract, Techniques, etc.) exhibit patterns suggesting differing Creative Agendas, diagnose Creative Agenda conflict between play styles as the nature of the dysfunction.
4. To resolve dysfunction, change Social Contract, Exploration, Techqniques, and Ephemera to support a consistent Creative Agenda. Replace participants who don't find the changes or the resulting play appealing with others who do.


I tend to agree, and think that this second list is where my often-quoted but often-problematic "best suited to discussions of dysfunctional play" comes from. I think the issue you raise remains open, actually. Definitely new thread territory.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: contracycle on November 17, 2003, 11:55:52 AM
I like it lots, I buy it.  The structure seems conceptually useful to me.  I hope and expect the identification of techniques will prove fruitful, perhaps that is where my interest in portrayal is really located.

So, what do we do to discuss techniques, get a grip on it.  Just blunderbus some ideas as to what constitutes a technique and what it might do?  Try to identify techniques in sequence of the publish corpus?

Techniques are beginning to seem to me like an awfully big box.  It would seem to me the abstract techniques box can contain techniques that are themselves ordered heirarchically or sequentially with one another.  Do techniques also have "purpose"?  I can understand that ultimately the point must be derived from the hole diagram, but if a game has multiple techniques, one should be able to say what they are intended to do, what effect they are intended to have, and what their interaction is supposed to evoke.

Can


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2003, 12:31:18 PM
Hi Gareth (contracycle),

Whoops, looks like you got cut off there.

It strikes me, anyway, that I discuss Techniques in detail all the time. Check out Martian eyes strike again (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8708) and its associated parent thread, for linking the Techniques interpreting Effect (IIEE) via Fortune-in-the-middle; [My Life with Master] Black ooze oozes forth (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8257) and its associated parent thread, for dealing with narration-trading (Horror Revealed) relative to scene framing; Haven: City of Violence (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8128) for dealing with player-usage of setting (application of Director Stance) and GM-usage of player-character (Illusionism), although this one concerns a lot of Ephemera mainly; [Tunnels & Trolls] Gamism ain't for the faint of heart (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7863), and associated threads, for dealing with one resolution system embedded within another one, and how that relates to number of characters per player as well as to player-character death; and No-death and Trollbabe (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8692) for a discussion of very similar issues but with a very different set of Techniques.

Scene framing, IIEE, narration trading, resolution of any kind (combinations of DFK) ... all of these and more are Techniques. They're bigger than Ephemera because they're generalized across many specific little bits of play - "When I say my character swings his sword, then I roll these dice." That's a Technique.

And oh yes, you can betcha that the Techniques box is highly internally organized. That is a whole topic right there which I outlined long ago, and have not yet put into essay form. I've been waiting for people to get the big model first, and finally found the words for that to happen.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: jeffd on November 17, 2003, 06:03:06 PM
Admittedly I'm no expert on any of this stuff (just look at when I joined and my post count, heh).  But I'll happily throw in my 0.02 - really just a few thoughts and observations.

First, Creative Agenda rocks.  It really crystallizes what "the theory that was never offically known as GNS" was all about - namely, what do we want to get out of our roleplaying.

I'm not really up on exactly how Venn Diagrams work, but it does seem to me that on a practical level the relationship between the things on either side of the arrow are different.  Social Contract and Exploration are sort of meta-roleplaying concepts (I know I'm phrasing this clumsily at best).  They (along with Creative Agenda) seem to be descriptors for our roleplaying whereas Techniques and Epherma are things that occur as we roleplay.  

It almost seems as if Epherma are born out of the previous four categories.  Sort of like this:

Social Contract (let's play a game)
Exploration (this game)
Creative Agenda (here's what our game will be about.  Note that I don't mean in a traditional "plot" sense)
Techniques (here's how we'll play our game; the toolbox)
Epherma (here's the final result, the actual game play which seems would largely consist of applied techniques).  

Am I at least on the right track in understanding, or am I completely off my rocker?

JD


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2003, 08:32:56 PM
Yeah JD! Got it solid. I'm glad you came by to take a look.

Best thing to remember about the Venn/boxes thing is this:

Exploration is a type or application of Social Contract.
Creative Agenda is an application of Exploration.
Techniques (in combinations) are applications of (and back through) Creative Agenda; traceable all the way back to System in Exploration.
Ephemera are the "anatomies" or pieces/bits of Techniques; combinations of Ephemera are applications of Technique.

Let's please please go to Actual Play and discuss Fading Suns! I was really looking forward to some feedback on my post ...

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: contracycle on November 18, 2003, 01:26:27 AM
I started getting carried away with the innards of the techniques box and then decided ity would likely be a thread of its own.

So yes, I agree we have discussed techniques before, but I'm not sure that they made all that much sense to me without this framework.  Yes, I could see what they were doing, but I had a hard time identifying "what constituted a technique as opposed mechanism" and thus experienced some difficulty learning anything but the specific observation; it was hard to generalise.  But, with this sort of elimination of system as a bulky entity of its own, we can start to examine systematic devices in the light of what effect we want them to evoke.  This seems an important breakthrough to me.

What I was thinking of at the end of my last post was this: I think I can now make the case that we CAN have two different resolution methods in a game, so long as those systems interact in some technique-serving manner of a particular purpose.  The concept of technique supplanting mechanical method as the subject of investigation/creation is a bit of an eye opener, IMO.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 18, 2003, 06:34:11 AM
Hi Gareth,

Quote
I think I can now make the case that we CAN have two different resolution methods in a game, so long as those systems interact in some technique-serving manner of a particular purpose. The concept of technique supplanting mechanical method as the subject of investigation/creation is a bit of an eye opener, IMO.


Yup! I have always supported the idea that multiple resolution methods are perfectly all right - the trouble usually comes in when they represent differing Creative Agendas.

My unpublished game Fantasy for Real (now so thoroughly strip-mined by myself and others as to be obsolete) used a Karma + Resource system much like Nobilis' for combat/etc resolution and a Fortune + Drama system for magic.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: M. J. Young on November 18, 2003, 10:12:16 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
To M.J.! Dag, list a whole bunch of things, why don't you.

Well, I could have just said, "I don't understand this part"--but then you might not see why I don't understand, and I probably haven't contributed anything to clarifying the model

Quote from: Ron
- I agree with you that phrasing 1 is right

Quote from: which was agreeing with what I
It is absolutely necessary to recognize the presence of Creative Agenda as the bridge between Social Contract and Techniques if you hope to understand role playing games in a theoretical way.

Quote from: Skipping a bit, Ron then
- I think phrasing 6 is right, but "a[/b] Creative Agenda" is a very flexible thing, and I can see both Walt and Mike Holmes getting squirrelly about this issue.

Quote from: which referenced what I
It is absolutely necessary that all the players in a game share a Creative Agenda in order for agreement at the Social Contract level to be reached regarding what Techniques will produce the desired outcome in play. If this is what is meant, it's probably a very important point, and should be stated considerably more clearly. In fact, having just stated it that way myself, I see how important it is--we can't agree (at the social level) regarding how to do it (at the techniques level) until we know exactly what it is we are doing (at the Creative Agenda level).

I eagerly await comment from Walt and Mike on that. As I say, I think this point really is the summation of why GNS matters at all: if the players don't actually agree on what they're trying to do, they ultimately can't possibly agree regarding how to do it. Creative agenda is very much "what we're trying to do when we play", and has to be in sync.

The other point is significant, but only in a rather minor way. Theorists such as the Turku school always seem to become prescriptive and definitive, declaring "this is what role playing games are, marked by these techniques" and so creating very narrow notions of what constitutes role playing games based on their experience. The only way to get outside the box of defining role playing games on the basis of how they've always been done is to reach to why we do them and how they fit into social interaction overall. (No offense intended to the Turku school--they've produced some fascinating and challenging stuff, but to me they seem trapped in a rather narrow box at times.) So if you want to make headway in roleplaying game theory you really do have to reach beyond what's been done and understand creative agenda as the link between getting together and actually playing the game. Still, it's quite possible for people to design good games without this understanding--as valuable as it is to game design, it's not necessary to understand in a coherent and comprehensive way until you start dealing with the theory behind game design and play.

So I think the focus should be on the necessity of a group to share a creative agenda in order to be able to identify and apply the techniques that will enable them to achieve it.

In other words, agreed.

--M. J. Young

P.S.--If you would like a more thorough and detailed critique, it's what I do (I've done law papers for publication). I'd rather tackle something closer to publication-ready, as I'm the sort who will quibble over phrasing for clarity. Let me know (PM or e-mail is fine).


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Walt Freitag on November 19, 2003, 07:44:58 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
Quote from: Skipping a bit, Ron then
- I think phrasing 6 is right, but "a[/b] Creative Agenda" is a very flexible thing, and I can see both Walt and Mike Holmes getting squirrelly about this issue.

Quote from: which referenced what I
It is absolutely necessary that all the players in a game share a Creative Agenda in order for agreement at the Social Contract level to be reached regarding what Techniques will produce the desired outcome in play. If this is what is meant, it's probably a very important point, and should be stated considerably more clearly. In fact, having just stated it that way myself, I see how important it is--we can't agree (at the social level) regarding how to do it (at the techniques level) until we know exactly what it is we are doing (at the Creative Agenda level).

I eagerly await comment from Walt and Mike on that. As I say, I think this point really is the summation of why GNS matters at all: if the players don't actually agree on what they're trying to do, they ultimately can't possibly agree regarding how to do it. Creative agenda is very much "what we're trying to do when we play", and has to be in sync.


I'm a bit concerned about the use of "chronologically loaded" words like the word "until" in the quote above or the word "before" in statements like "before we can accomplish X, we have to have agreement on Y." In many if not most successful games I've seen, players agreed "how to do it" first and let "what we're trying to do" flow out of that. (And isn't that the joyful Sorcerer scenario in many of Ron's war stories? Players are urged to try the techniques, then they "get it" -- that is, they come to understand what kind of play can be accomplished with those techniques.) That's why I thought it was important to verify with Ron that the model's series of linkages is not meant to imply any specific chronology or direction of causality.

That's not, however, what I believe Ron was expecting me to get squirrely about. I think that's a reference to my discussions of the possibilities of functional play in which individual players have different (in GNS terms) individual creative agendas. Things like a GM who exercises traditional GM powers (e.g. no-myth technique) to advance a personal Narrativist CA while playing with Simulationist players, or Gamist and Narrativist players playing off against each other's behavior patterns in a superhero milieu.

Do I then see "multiple" Creative Agendas rather than "a" creative agenda in such cases? Not really. I see "a" complex shared Creative Agenda that has an internal structure that includes multiple individual Creative Agendas. I think the same can be said for play in which Techniques shift to support different Creative Agendas at different times. In that case there's "a" complex long-term Creative Agenda whose internal structure includes multiple temporary Creative Agendas.

- Walt


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 19, 2003, 08:04:40 AM
Hiya,

Walt, you wrote:

Quote
I thought it was important to verify with Ron that the model's series of linkages is not meant to imply any specific chronology or direction of causality.


Verified! The process of play needs those variables M.J. is describing, but how they are realized (in the classic, not cognitive sense of the word) is definitely a case-by-case matter. And among those cases, vive la difference.

Also, your anticipation about the squirrelliness is accurate - and your response puts us both right in the same place, as far as I can tell. I think this sets up future discussions of possible Congruence with a much, much better foundation, although possibly with less to discuss in the first place. That's definitely for another thread.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ben Lehman on November 19, 2003, 09:27:20 AM
Quote from: Walt Freitag
That's why I thought it was important to verify with Ron that the model's series of linkages is not meant to imply any specific chronology or direction of causality.


BL>  Wow.  That is important.  Didn't notice that at first.  Might want to be made a bit more obvious.  (Of course, if it were up to me, all Theory terms defined around here would have a great big whopping list of "What this is NOT" appended onto them.)

Quote

Do I then see "multiple" Creative Agendas rather than "a" creative agenda in such cases? Not really. I see "a" complex shared Creative Agenda that has an internal structure that includes multiple individual Creative Agendas. I think the same can be said for play in which Techniques shift to support different Creative Agendas at different times. In that case there's "a" complex long-term Creative Agenda whose internal structure includes multiple temporary Creative Agendas.


BL>  Just wanted to say that I think that this sort of play is quite common (by which I mean it is most of the play that I have ever done), and would appreciate it very much if you could link me to your previous discussions of it, or even spin it off into a new thread.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Walt Freitag on November 19, 2003, 11:37:12 AM
Hi Ben,

The most intensive discussion of these things took place about a year ago. A starting point is the thread Can a game designer work for all three? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=3396) Its second post by Ron includes more links and references. A follow-up thread directly on topic is Same game, different players, different rules? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=3408). The "Narrativist GM/Sim players" possibility is discussed (but no consensus reached on whether that correctly describes any real phenomenon) in the thread Illusionism and GNS (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=4232).

You might also want to do a search on "congruence." Even though congruence isn't really the same phenomenon, it does tend to get mentioned in discussions about play in which Creative Agenda varies between individuals.

I'll caution you that some of the discussion in these threads hasn't aged well IMHO. Key points of theory and terminology have changed, and most of the disucssion was based on hypothetical cases (could a game do X?). However, I think many of those hypotheticals were based on people's recollections of actual play in the messy world of "incoherent" systems and groups with mixed individual Creative Agendas. The stage might be better set now (or in the near future) for more productive examination of them.

- Walt


Title: SEC as procedure - TE as operation (actual roleplay)
Post by: Silmenume on November 22, 2003, 07:59:30 PM
In some of my postings I have been struggling with how Exploration functions and recently how it is defined as the 2nd layer of the model.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
[Social Contract [Exploration]]… Exploration ("imagined stuff," "shared imagined space"), as previously defined in my essays, is an expression or application of that particular group's Social Contract.


Exploration as process (or the actual doing).

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Exploration is usually described as merely a list of Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color. But it does have more internal/imaginary structure: Character + Setting make Situation, System permits Situation to "move," and Color affects all the others. This concept applies only to the imaginary causes among the elements, by the way; the actual effort, priority, or cause among these things, in social/creative terms, varies widely.


Exploration as definition (of the activity that will be engaged in).

Ok – what am I going on about?  Somewhere in the back of my mind I kept tripping over the idea that Exploration (the act of) was somehow suggested to be happening up here in the second level of the model.  This is patently not the case.  Exploration of the Elements (what I call the Narrative Process in Simulationism) takes place at the Ephemera Level of the model.  It is at the Ephemera Level of play that we step into the Shared Imagined Space.  Everything above Ephemera is Metagame; still part of the gaming experience, but not Exploration of the Shared Imagined Space.  Even character creation cannot take place until we get to the Techniques Level.

Assuming that I am on to something, let’s follow through with this thought process for a moment.  Later in The Whole Model – this is it essay Ron asserts the following in the Creative Agenda portion.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
On paper, I draw this terms as an arrow, labelled GNS or Creative Agenda. This arrow is very important - this "step" or "level" in my model shifts out of the abstract and solidly into this group, [playing this game,] this way, at this time. The model instantly ceases to be a broad overview or comparative panoply, and starts to be a diagnostic or description of a [real play-experience] among real people.

(emphasis mine)


What this above quote points to is that role-play doesn’t begin at least until we hit Creative Agenda.  (I believe role-play [which in not to imply that the act of Roleplay is the only enjoyable experience or reason to be at the table] begins and ends at Ephemera, everything else leads to and supports the Ephemera).  However, if roleplay is said to begin in the Creative Agenda level, then the Exploration level cannot be process oriented as the process begins after the Exploration Level.

So what is the Exploration Level and what are we attempting at this point?  I have two ideas.  The first is that at the Exploration Level, after having agreed to participate in this activity called a Roleplaying Game, we are now going to define what a Roleplaying Game is.  Thus after agreeing to Roleplay we now define roleplay as some activity that concerns itself with items known as Character, Setting, Situation, Color, and a System.  Or…

The second is that we decide on this Level what we are going to play specifically.  What character I want to play, what Setting I want to play him in, what Situation and Color I wish to use and what tool (system) are we going to use to facilitate the Roleplay of Character, Situation, Setting, and Color.  For example I want to play a super hero (Character type), in New York present day (Setting), fighting bad guys (Situation & some Character) and he says, “Not today evil guy,” when he wins (color?) and I want to use D20 (system).

At this level we are choosing what to play, we are not yet playing.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Since Exploration necessarily includes System, that means, as soon as we start talking about Creative Agenda, "play has begun."


I disagree.  System is not equivalent to “roleplay”.  System (methodology/procedure) functions in a support role to the Narrative Process/roleplay.  I would say that the first 3 levels of the Model – Social Contract, Exploration, and Creative Agenda are all definitional/procedural, but not the (operational) act of roleplay at all.  In these levels we are all players trying to determine what it is exactly that we want or are tyring to do.  We have not entered the Imagined Space, donned our characters and started the act of Exploration.  We may have agreed to Explore and that we are going to use tools to aid, we have even agreed to what we are going to Explore and what tool sets to use, but the act of Exploration (The Narrative/Experiential Process) has not yet begun.  It is in these upper levels that we engage in the framing of our choice of activity (roleplaying) but we have not yet employed our choices (started to roleplay.)  The arrow from Creative Agenda that leads to Techniques IS the bridge from procedural to operational.  The bridge is not operational (not roleplay) in and of itself.

Gaming begins at Techniques and “Roleplay” begins at Ephemera.

Just a quick aside, but I think it is representational of some of the problems that currently exist in the definitions of the levels - the use of the word Character.  At the Exploration level do we mean Character as the player character/avatar/imagined person, I want to play a Klingon or an Elf, or do we mean Character as referring to personality traits, I want to play a courageous person?  If we mean exploring/developing/playing out of personality traits we are breathing all over Ephemera and the Shared Imagined Space.  If we mean avatar/person/being (thing) we are in the metagame level.

As a role in the gaming experience the 3 upper levels of the model, Social Contract, Exploration, Creative Agenda all function together as a frame work upon which we attempt to define our actual roleplaying efforts.  They steer, guide, and in times of confusion provide a reference point, but are basically inert.  In other words, once agreed upon, “They Are”.  They cannot be changed by one person overtly or covertly, but must be altered and agreed up by all or dysfunction will almost certainly occur.  Once this edifice is created then we can go into the dynamic realm of roleplay itself secure in our foundational assumptions.  While we make take our characters where we will in the Shared Imagined Space, we can rest comfortably in that the actual players’ motives are clear and understood thus leaving misunderstood motives either out of play, or a matter of the character itself and not the player.  If there is a misunderstanding we can reference back up from the Ephemera level towards SEC and use these levels as yardsticks by which to measure and decide if someone’s actions have truly been a violation, or was an act of the character being played.

Just some thoughts, but I think once the act of Roleplay is placed into its proper realm (Ephemera), then many issues of the model will right themselves.  Or maybe I’m a crack smokin’ lunatic!  At any rate I believe that Procedure leads to Operation.  SEC are procedural, and TE are Operational.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ian Charvill on November 23, 2003, 03:18:25 AM
Silmenume,

I think part of it is that exploration does begin before we hit the level of ephemera (although I do think all five need to be in place before we are talking about role-playing proper).

For example, as a group we agree to play a game based in Tolkein's Middle Earth, but haven't decided to whether to use ICE's MERP, Decipher's LoTR RPG or a modified version of Heroquest.  From the second we agree about Tolkein, exploration in a concrete way has begun though.  We have agreed - social contract - to play a game in a particular background (exploration).  We haven't settled on what our creative agenda is, or what techniques and ephemera we'll try to use to satisfy it, but we have begun the act of group imaginative engagement.

Does that make sense?


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on November 23, 2003, 06:11:19 AM
Silmenume,

I think that breaking down at which point does roleplaying actually occur is a slippery slope. Fact is, all of the levels of the model are going on all the time that a group roleplays. People don't get together and say:

Hey, let's do something.
OK let's get a social contract together
Good. Now what do we do with it?
We could watch the duckies.
We did that last week. How about we do some exploration?
Super! How about we use this creative agenda I have here...

The whole thing sort of comes together and gels into roleplaying rather than following any kind of process from Social Contract to Ephemera. Chances are better that a creative agenda is found first and the rest grows out of that in both directions on the model. Like this

[Social Contract[Exploration <~Creative Agenda~>Techniques]Ephemera]

(I don't know much about the structure of Venn diagrams, but screw Venn. He never bought me a beer)


Title: Exploring the meaning of the word "Exploration"
Post by: Silmenume on November 23, 2003, 12:03:05 PM
Hi Ian,

Let’s start with the second part of your post first –

Quote from: Ian Charvill
For example, as a group we agree to play a game based in Tolkein's Middle Earth, but haven't decided to whether to use ICE's MERP, Decipher's LoTR RPG or a modified version of Heroquest.


Both the decision to play a game based in Middle Earth and deciding whether to use ICE's MERP, Decipher's LoTR RPG or a modified version of Heroquest, are both decisions that belong in the Exploration Level of the Model.  Deciding to play in Middle Earth is, to me, filling in what I call the Narrative Elements of Exploration – Character, Setting, Situation, and Color.  Deciding which published game to use is choosing which System (of Techniques) that you wish to employ (on the Techniques Level of the Model) to aid in the Narrative Process (on the Ephemera Level of the Model) both of which take place on the Operational Levels of the Model.

Quote from: Ian Charvill
From the second we agree about Tolkein, exploration in a concrete way has begun though.  We have agreed - social contract - to play a game in a particular background (exploration).  We haven't settled on what our creative agenda is, or what techniques and ephemera we'll try to use to satisfy it, but we have begun the act of group imaginative engagement.

emphasis mine


The act of group imaginative engagement is the defining action of “roleplay”.  It is the point where we engage with (suspend our disbelief of) the Shared Imagined Space and start to view this pocket universe (SIS) from our character’s/avatar’s point of view.  This to me takes place only at the Ephemera Level of play.  Now we can bounce rapidly back and forth between the various Levels of the Model, so while we are in the Procedural phase of the night’s activities (the preamble to roleplay proper - SEC), it is entirely possible that we can pop down to Ephemera at any time and pop right back out.  Ideally I think it works best if once we are into the Operational portion of that session’s game we try to avoid going back up to the Procedural.  If that does happen I would suggest that we do so because something is starting to go terribly wrong or has gone terribly wrong and we are now tracing our way back to where the violation took place i.e., once we are “playing our character” (Ephemera Level – Operational Level), if someone has decided “mid-game” that they don’t want to play in Middle Earth, or that they don’t like the choice of system/techniques (Both decisions made on the Exploration Level - Procedural), and we now have to go back up to the Exploration Level (Procedural) to address the issue then something very bad (dysfunction) is happening to that evening’s gaming experience.  In other words the Framing of that evening’s activities is being challenged.

I think the problem lies partly with label we give to the second level of the model.  This is NOT an attempt to hammer Ron on his choice of labeling, but I think there is some confusion with the definition of the word “Exploration” as it is used in these forums, much like there is much confusion about the meaning of “system.”  Exploration is usually an action word; it is something we do (Operational).  We explore a person’s character, we explore a person’s motives, we explore the nature of love, etc.  But as the model stands we cannot engage in Exploration (as action/Operational) at the Exploration Level (as label/Procedural) yet because we are merely deciding what (a Procedural process) to do, not actually doing it (exploring as action/Operational).  At this point, the Exploration level, we are laying out the Narrative Framework that will be put into operation (the act of Exploring) later in the Ephemera Level.

As a point of reference I come at the act of Exploration from the dramatic sense of the word.  It is a process where we learn about a character viscerally by putting the character to the test (facing conflicts) and seeing how they respond.  In this milieu, roleplaying, we are said to be Exploring our characters within the Shared Imagined Spaced, by being beset with conflicts and responding as we see/feel how our character would respond.  The responses the characters’ make reveal the character (as descriptor - the avatar’s personality – is he brave, cowardly, sure under pressure, treacherous, loyal or disloyal, etc.) of the player character (character as label – the avatar/the fictional person).

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
I think that breaking down at which point does roleplaying actually occur is a slippery slope. Fact is, all of the levels of the model are going on all the time that a group roleplays.


I agree with your example that players typically do not (almost never?) go about as deciding what they are going to do as formally as the process is laid out in the Model.  Like you said, all the levels of the model are going on all the time that a group roleplays.  (Actually I will challenge that later)  Your point seems to me that most players are not that formalistic about their roleplay.  However, just because the various topics such as Social Contract, Exploration, and Creative Agenda are not overtly discussed and labeled as such does not mean they are not in operation.  If I can surmise the generative motive behind this whole website, it is basically discovered that there is such a thing as Creative Agenda, that players were operating based upon that agenda, but they were unaware that they were and that there could be conflict based upon those various agendas.  I think that Creative Agenda, for those who aren’t aware of its existence (haven’t read these boards), is just an expression of desire based upon unexamined expectations.  This does not mean that Creative Agenda is not functioning in the gaming setting; we know that is not the case, but rather that in most cases Creative Agenda is simply not addressed.

So yes, procedurally, one may start the process of gaming from anywhere within the model, however that does not invalidate the model as a tool for understanding what IS going on at the table.  Just because one of the levels of the Model isn’t explicitly discussed does not mean its effects are not in operation.  Like you said, one could start at the Creative Agenda level, though I think most people start at the Exploration Level i.e., I want to play in Middle Earth, or I want to play to MERPS.

While I was making reference to certain events happening “only” at a certain level, I was doing so in a manner to illuminate how the events relate to each other within the model.  This is not meant to imply that we must employ the model rigorously from the outside in for a game function.  There may be games where none of the Procedural Level topics are really discussed in a meaningful manner and that is absolutely fine as long as the game is functional.  Don’t fix what ain’t broke.  The model only comes into discussion when things are going wrong (dysfunction), when we are trying to fix dysfunction, or when trying to avoid dysfunction in the first place.  If a group of players can just dive right in and have a great time, then they would never have to know that such a model exists.  It would not serve them.  The model describes, it does not proscribe.  So again when I am saying that certain things “can only happen when” I am speaking on a theoretical level or on a descriptive level and strictly in reference to the model; I am not saying the players can’t do certain things because they haven’t followed the arrow of the model or that they must follow the arrow from Social Contract down into Ephemera.  But the players may be doings things without being consciously aware that they are making certain assumptions, and these assumptions happen to function in the areas of the model as we have described.

For example, everything we do once we agree to play falls under the Social Contract.  Many issues get hammered out here whether or not the players are aware that they are negotiating and forging such an agreement.  What are we doing?  Where are we playing?  Who’s GMing?  Who’s bringing food?  Are we going to provide food and drinks for the GM?  Is the host of the game going to provide us with refreshments?  Who sits where at the table?  Is it important to us as a group to try and stay in character as much as possible (sometimes called Immersive – I know that is a loaded term, but I referencing common usage that players make), i.e., are we trying to keep metagame talk to a minimum?  How long are we going to play?  What game are we going to play?  What time do we start?  Can we make sure that player X takes a shower before he/she shows up?  Can we invite new player Y to the game?  Are we going to allow people to talk while a person is “on camera”?  Are we going to allow players to read at the table?  Is death permanent or more of an annoyance?  Are we going to allow people to take information gleaned from the Monster Manual into the game even if their character wouldn’t know that information?  All these and many questions like this are asked all the time, and are all part of the Social Contract, but most players are unaware that this process is vital to be nailed down, especially early on, and that it is called formally a Social Contract.  The need is vital, whether or not the players understand that is exactly what they are doing.  The model we use merely tells us why it happens, its importance, and where it fits in the scheme of things as we understand them based upon observation.

I hope that does clear up some issues, at least in regards to my postings.

I do have a question though.  Why do you think it is a “slippery slope” to suggest that roleplay only functions at the Ephemera level?  To me, “slippery slope,” suggests a thought process that tends to be “relativistic” and to engage in such discussions ultimately leads to irresolvable, irreconcilable, or unprovable arguments.  I am not saying that my assertion about the level of roleplay is unassailable, I am sure it is open to debate, but I find it curious that you think that such a debate is so fraught with potential disaster.  Maybe this isn’t the forum to discuss that idea.  If you think it important perhaps a new thread could be started or you could email me directly.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume.


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 23, 2003, 12:46:32 PM
Hello,

Maybe the point to clarify is that an "Ephemeral item" is automatically a piece of a Technique, and that a Technique is automatically an expression of Creative Agenda, and that a Creative Agenda is automatically performed as an expression of Exploration, and that Exploration is itself a subset of the interactions of a Social Contract.

In other words, pointing out that "[phrase during play]" is as a sentence in the Ephemera category, does not disqualify it from being a major identifiable component in, say, Social Contract.

On a much more minor point, your claim that "Let's play using game X" is Exploration greatly puzzles me. Maybe we are just visualizing different things. To me, that would be Betty, Joe, Bob, and Phil talking with one another and not playing at all - this is all prior to play. Maybe a few game-books are sitting on the table in front of all of them, or maybe Betty and Joe are on the train, and then Joe calls the other two later to see what they think.

They aren't actually playing yet - hence we are in Social Contract, but in a "sector" of that box which does not include Exploration (or hence any of its sub-components). We could point to a discussion about the game or its "management" between sessions and say the same thing.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on November 23, 2003, 01:33:35 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
On a much more minor point, your claim that "Let's play using game X" is Exploration greatly puzzles me. Maybe we are just visualizing different things. To me, that would be Betty, Joe, Bob, and Phil talking with one another and not playing at all - this is all prior to play. Maybe a few game-books are sitting on the table in front of all of them, or maybe Betty and Joe are on the train, and then Joe calls the other two later to see what they think.

We'd had a similar discussion with the cooking analogy, I think.

To recap, I had noted that shopping at the grocery store is not actually cooking, but some disagreed.
(But then, if shopping is a part of cooking and not just a necessary step to do *before* you actually cook, then maybe playing a game of touch football in the yard is also a part of cooking since that's what you did to make you so hungry, right? Right? But I digress)


Title: An attempt to put the new theory into practice
Post by: Palaskar on November 23, 2003, 04:20:50 PM
Okay, this is my rough take on the new theory:

Social Contract Level-- Social Roles

Host: The Host provides the place to game.
Caterer: The Caterer provides food and drink.
Player: The Player controls one or more Player Characters (PCs.)
Judge: The Judge decides on ambiguous outcomes
Guide: The Guide controls the enemy characters and decides on the Challenges.
Simulator: The Simulator provides verisimiltude.
Rules Strictness: Rules strictness determines how strictly the provided rules of the game are followed.

I include "rules strictness" because it is possible, theoretically anyway, to do away with some or all GM-like roles (Judge/Guide/Simulator) if your rules are strict enough.

I am also aware that the whole Player-Judge-Guide-Simulator thing overlaps into Creative Agenda, and especially in the case of Simulator, Technique. I do this for a reason. I figure the more things we solve "higher up" the less mess and confusion there is.

Social Contract [Exploration]

System (breaks down into)
    (Character Description)
    (Setting Description)
    (Resolution System)
Color

I omit Situation, becaus Resolution System+Setting produces Situation, therefore it seems redundant to me. I also lump Character, Setting, and System together because I think a good RPG (ie, one I would like) should have the same mechanics handle charcter description, setting description, and conflict resolution.

I put Color by itself simply because I don't know what to do with it on a mechanical level.

Social Contract [Exploration[Creative Agenda]]

I break the GNS approaches down by Social Contract role. IMO, it's simpler and easier this way, and only somewhat less precise.

Gamist: ((Judge+Guide)/Rules Strictness +Player)
Narrativist: (Guide/Rules Strictness +Player)
Simulationist: (Simulator/Rules Strictness +Player)

I omit the rest, as I simply don't have enough experience to come up with good general mechanics for Technique and Emphemera.

An example of how I rearranged my house game system to the theory can be found here:

http://www.meant2be.150m.com/44/signature/sig_3_12.html

Thanks in advance for any comments, critiques, or insights.

Palaskar


Title: Model of Structure or Model of Procedure
Post by: Silmenume on December 12, 2003, 08:23:17 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Maybe the point to clarify is that an "Ephemeral item" is automatically a piece of a Technique, and that a Technique is automatically an expression of Creative Agenda, and that a Creative Agenda is automatically performed as an expression of Exploration, and that Exploration is itself a subset of the interactions of a Social Contract.

In other words, pointing out that "[phrase during play]" is as a sentence in the Ephemera category, does not disqualify it from being a major identifiable component in, say, Social Contract.


I fully understand and agree with all that you said above.  Any “category event” points to all other categories.  However, after much chanting in a dark room, I have discovered that that above quote does shed some light on my understanding of the nature of the model and why I am having some confusion regarding it.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
On a much more minor point, your claim that "Let's play using game X" is Exploration greatly puzzles me. Maybe we are just visualizing different things. To me, that would be Betty, Joe, Bob, and Phil talking with one another and not playing at all - this is all prior to play. Maybe a few game-books are sitting on the table in front of all of them, or maybe Betty and Joe are on the train, and then Joe calls the other two later to see what they think.

They aren't actually playing yet - hence we are in Social Contract, but in a "sector" of that box which does not include Exploration (or hence any of its sub-components). We could point to a discussion about the game or its "management" between sessions and say the same thing.


“Maybe we are just visualizing different things.”

I think we are.  I will state my thoughts not so much to try and convince anyone of my point of view, rather I lay them out mostly as a diagnostic to my view that may either lead someone to say something in a way that I hope will then understand leading to greater understand on my part, or possibly my thoughts may shed light on a real issue that needs to be explored.

My failing was that I mistook the model as a model of process.  In other words one starts (with desire) at one end, leading to the construction of the Social Contract and works their way down through all the layers down to Ephemera to get to an “actual instance of roleplay.”  One employs these various level to get something, e.g., this is how you make bread.  When I made my posts earlier indicating the idea the model is one of process; some eyebrows shot up and the confusion that resulted indicated that I did not share the same view of the model as others here have.  Oops.  Out in the cold again.  Alas….  One element that lead me astray is that the model appears to be organized into levels of diminishing units of time, from the ever presence of the Social Contract to the fleeting moments of the Ephemera.

From what I can gather that is not the way the model was intended to be or function as.  Fair enough.  So let me state now what I think the model is.  The model is not a procedural model, but a structural model.  For example the Creative Agenda level of the model does not describe how one should play, but rather it describes emergent behavior – a property.  I will argue by way of analogy – which I am aware is a very dangerous way to proceed, but it’s the best I can do a present.  I beg all of your patience, please.

From what I can see on these boards, distinctions are made about “real play” and non-play.  For example players could all be together, have their books out, be talking about play, but aren’t actually engaged in “real play”.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Let's play using game X…To me, that would be Betty, Joe, Bob, and Phil talking with one another and not playing at all - this is all prior to play. Maybe a few game-books are sitting on the table in front of all of them…


To me “Let's play using game X”, a statement process that indicates that the players are hammering out the/a Social Contract, but is not considered an act of “play” is very important.  There is no doubt that Social Contract is an integral part of roleplay, but as indicated above Social Contract alone does not constitute play.  More must be involved.  My statement that “statement X” indicates a “level” of the model where “roleplay really takes place” was rebuffed by a statement that any “roleplay” statement reflects all levels of the model.

This, there are times when you can have game elements present and not be playing, and that all elements are always present whenever there is play confused me until I had an epiphany.  (Kind of a circular statement, but what can I say?)

Think of an instance of play as a baryon (a proton or a neutron).  This instance of play is the creation of a fact via the Lumpley Principle.  (A statement, a Negotiation, and finally a Consensus is reached)  This particle of play/fact (baryon) is composed of 5 quarks.  These 5 quarks represent the ideas contained in each level of the model.  Like quarks, these 5 levels of the model cannot exist/function on their own.  They all have individual properties, they all interact with each other, and none can function without the others.  We can deduce their existence, their properties, and how they interact, but take one (or more) or leave but one (but not all) and you no longer have a baryon/instance of play.

In this sense the model describes the internal structure of an instance of play.  The game can then be said to be the creation of all these instances of play/facts/baryons.  At the end of the game one could hold up a bag (that is fabricated from the Shared Imagined Space - it is what holds all these facts together) that is filled with all the instances of play/facts/baryons.  By looking at the bag and all the “particles” of play within (reviewing the game and all the instances of play/facts) one can then discern emergent patterns contained within the play process.  By looking back at the game, by looking at the aggregate of all the play particles, one can then begin to see creative agenda at work.  Story can now be discerned.  Theme can be discerned if it is present.

However, if this Model is truly a structural model, then it cannot be procedural as well.  A structural model does not give precedence to any specific area of the model, nor does it say when something happens or should happen.  For example a structural model would not say “roleplay” begins here or this action leads to that action (Creative Agenda is where roleplay begins or that the Creative Agenda leads to Techniques).  It would tell what exists, what those things do, and how they relate to one another.  A structural model would not say how to do something; it merely illuminates parts within.

IF the model were procedural it MIGHT look something like this –

Creative Agenda (desire) -> Social Contract (procedure) -> Exploration (frame) -> Techniques (play) -> Ephemera (roleplay)

One starts with the desire to do something, follows the procedure, and ends up with a widget or instance of play.  This would be akin to having the instructions on how to build a bridge without having to know the physics behind it – how to design it.

IF the model were structural it MIGHT look something like this –

Social Contract <-> Exploration <-> Creative Agenda <-> Techniques <-> Ephemera
Or
Exploration <-> Techniques <-> Social Contract <-> Ephemera<-> Creative Agenda
Or
…any other combination because there is no arrow of precedence or procedure.  All elements interact, are related to/dependent upon one another, and all have to be present in order to play.  This version would be akin to understanding how to design a bridge or understanding what the various parts of a bridge do, but it does not tell you how to go about actually building it.  

The model cannot be both procedural and structural at the same time.  

At any rate this is how the model looks to me and why I was (and am) confused.  I am not saying that is the way the model was intended or this is the way the model should be viewed, but if I am in the wrong this should allow those who would wish to correct me to understand where I am coming from.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 13, 2003, 01:38:52 PM
Hello,

The model is structural. Always was, always will be.

A procedural set of principles might well be addressed by talking about what sorts of (say) Techniques in combination might help with a given Creative Agenda being realized, all to be assessed in terms of social satisfaction during instances of play.

And look! A great deal of this website is dedicated to doing that very thing.

Best,
Ron


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: M. J. Young on December 14, 2003, 06:44:14 PM
As Ron said, the model is Structural.

That does not mean it can't have relationship that are linked in a specific and directional way. Most models of linguistics are structural (such as Chompski's), yet have such patterns. Mental process supports syntax, which provides the structure for vocabulary, which when combined by syntax produces meaning. All are necessary for communication to occur; but meaning syntax is dependent on mental process, and vocabulary is dependent on syntax and mental process, and meaning is dependent on vocabulary and syntax and mental process.

Thus Exploration is dependent on Social Contract, and Creative Agenda on Exploration and Social Contract, and Techniques on Creative Agenda and Exploration and Social Contract, and Ephemera on all of the above. Social Contract is not dependent on Exploration in the same sense (although it is in a different sense). Items in the inner boxes are there in a structured hierarchy.

Anyway, I don't feel like I've expressed this particularly clearly; it is a two-way relationship, but it is structured on this line, even though it is descriptive rather than prescriptive. The relationships up the line are different from those down the line, and those at the bottom only relate to those at the top through the intervening parts. The hierarchy is part of that which is observed and modeled.

Does that make sense?

--M. J. Young


Title: The whole model - this is it
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 15, 2003, 02:01:42 PM
Hmmm. Syntax. Particular syntaxes can be ascribed to the arrows from one level to the next. For example:

"Let's play RPG X."

Is one Social syntax that helps form the nature of the Exploration to take place. And might also further to an extent work to dictate the Creative Agenda under that form of Exploration, etc. Right? Would this be a useful term to put in place here?

Mike