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Lookin' for all the wrong places?

Started by Sean, May 19, 2004, 12:39:25 AM

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Hey, quick CA question here.

So you're sitting down to your D&D game and the new guy shows up. You're all ready to smite orcs and level up, and he starts hitting on the tavern-wench, or trying to get it on with the lamia, or whatever.

He's not really in with the CA of the rest of the group, but his deviation is clear and straightforward: he wants sexual gratification out of the shared imagined space, and turns the game in that direction every chance he gets.

My gut tells me that this guy is a some sort of Narrativist, but I'm not sure.

Any thoughts?

Jack Spencer Jr

Not enough information to tell agenda, but it's not necessarily Narrativist. Sounds more like a social issue to me. Get him a real girlfriend.


I'd peg it as Sim as what he's doing is trying to Explore certain issues, not really do anything story-oriented with them. It's also kind've creepy.

That said, a character that aggressively forms sexual relationships can be quite conducive to Narrativism, if that's his intention, but if he's just hitting on random Lamia's, problably not.

I guess it's somewhat comparable to a player who wants the game to have cool action scenes. It could be associated with Narrativism because he's trying to create a certain kind of -story-, not one dependant on that much plot, except for in this, except for in a pornographic direction. I'm assuming that he does it for immersive, personal gratification reasons however so I'd peg it as Sim.

Zak Arntson

It's not a GNS issue. It's a social issue. D&D doesn't reward sexual gratification, so it's not related to the rules & reward system. The real issue here is this: Is it a problem for the rest of the group? If so, it needs to be brought up. Don't try being sneaky and modify D&D, like XP penalties, as this player obviously has an idea of how the game should play out, and penalizing it will just create a frustrated gamer (especially if the player's so focused).

[edit, below is my answer]

Now, why is the player making the decision? If you do want to attack it with GNS, then you've gotta figure this out. Let's say the player is looking for the non-rules reward of sexual excitement. That makes it a gamist decision, where the player's engaging in self-competition (i.e., how can I make myself more excited than before!).


Hi - interesting responses.

A player shows up at a group and consistently moves towards sexual situations in play. If the whole group's doing this, they're on the same page, fine; if not, there's going to be some clash. (The 'he needs to get a girlfriend' response is therefore not appropriate: there's nothing wrong with wanting to explore sexuality through gaming. I object aesthetically to the way some gamers do it, but that's neither here nor there for the present discussion.)


Here's the thing, though. The player consistently seeking out sexual situations is trying to do something with the shared imagined space, so it seems CA-related.

But not pegged to any particular CA - that's the thing. If the goal is to 'score' as a competitive reward-system, that's Gamism. And that may be closest to my original imagined scenario, actually: everyone's engaging in Step on Up, but they're doing it in different ways which are not necessarily compatible.

If one was playing a sex-fantasy game where the setting and GM involved sexual exploration on a sort of intellectual level, that could be Sim, I suppose, though I think the content would disrupt the Dream for all but the most hard-boiled: repeated titillation.

On the other hand, if you're really exploring the moral or emotional significance of the sexual behavior, even in a somewhat juvenile or aesthetically displeasing way, that seems like a Narrativist CA.

What I was wondering about when I posted this was whether there was a 'porn' sub-CA which stood to narrativism as (the majority of) pornographic movies stand to other kinds of film. I guess my answer is 'maybe', but it's an interesting question (at least to me) to what degree that's actually a form of Gamism.

Anyone have more thoughts on this?

Jack Spencer Jr

I strongly doubt that it has anything to do with Narrativism, per se. This is the second time you've suggested that it's N and I severely doubt it. It might be if the fellow is addressing a premise with it in some way, but more likely it's Simulationism Exploration of Situation. As in me as my character is scoring with a hot chick in a chainmail bikini...let's see what happens.


Hi, Jack -

Seeking out surrogate sexual satisfaction in the shared imaginary space is too addressing premise, little-p premise, in the sense that human sexual life is among the most emotionally and morally charged of all aspects of human existence.

Now, if you're approaching sex competitively, trying to 'score', then seeking this out might be Gamism, sure. And it could be Simulationism in the right situations too.

Here's the thing: when we try to judge someone's CA, we're forced to look at what they prioritize in the little moments of decision-making during the game. The capital letter CA of a player or play-group is empirically determined by the CA implicit in the majority of these little moments. "Addressing (capital-P) Premise" is a way of intensifying Narrativist play by making all those little-n's add up to something more, by focusing their direction; "addressing premise" in the little-n sense, which is the only sense in which all Narrativists can be said to do it, simply means choosing to explore (and create) the morally and emotionally significant dimension of the shared imagined space, rather than the competitive one or on the space itself. I may be missing something here, but I don't know how otherwise to interpret MJ's and Ron's responses to my third post in the current 'social mode' thread.

There is such a thing as little-s ("wait, what is that? how does that work? can we go there? what's in this part of the map? i'm going to go to the library and study elvish history"), but unless your system and/or setting have at least some sexual focus from the get-go, the player who is seeking out imaginative sex is not going be identifiably s: he's trying to do something with the imaginative space, like the Gamist or Narrativist is.

My posit is that if "scoring" is just a form of Step on Up, then we've got a situation sort of like Gamism, and the dysfunction comes from the fact that the players are getting their Step on Up on in different ways; but otherwise the player who's seeking out sexual interactions for their character is a sort of Narrativist, except in fairly rare (but conceivable: I think for example of trying to roleplay a Dlamelish orgy on Tekumel where it's kind of a set piece and your principle interest is learning more about Barker's weird demonic rituals) cases where it's Sim.

You may be right, but you'll need to define things better to convince me. Nar is not a term of praise, and Sim cannot simply be a garbage category for stuff that's not Gam and not Nar.



Eero Tuovinen

Sean: good stuff, but I don't agree that a player couldn't be doing sim. It doesn't matter whether the GM or the other players have the game focused on sex, CAs are always a matter of single player focus. There's nothing stopping a player from focusing on exploring sexual facets of the game world. Actually, I think that this is infinitely more likely than the other two options. Likely the player you've outlined is simply interested in sexuality, and thus wants to explore it. This doesn't narrativist make, but rather focused exploration of sexuality, that is, simulationism.

To take another example, if players of Call of Cthulhu suddenly start to explore Prohibition era organized crime this does not mean that they suddenly started being narrativist or gamist. It just means that the players sideline the thematic exploration inherent in CoC and start a different kind of exploration. Whether the game or GM are in accordance doesn't matter.

It should also be remembered that although players might all be in the same CA, it doesn't mean that there cannot be smaller differences in play style. Just because the GM and the other players are playing sim isn't an indication that a clashing player has to be in some other CA. The clash can simply result from aesthetic differences: I want to explore sex, you want to explore action scenes.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Okay, Sean, what premise is being addressed here?

See, as I see it, for it to be Nar, you have to be able to articulate, even psot-facto, what the premise being addressed was.

My own test for premise in these cases is that a premise is a question about the human condition that can only be adequately framed in the general, and only adequately addressed in the particular.

So I'm struggling to see what premise, with whatever size p, is being addressed.

As for what is being explored... sounds to me it's exploring situation, with a focus on sexual situations. Perhaps exploring character, or even a theme, though. There's no reason why the player can't seek to explore situations, or whatever, that hasn't been pre-defined by the system or setting. Exploration includes invention through "discovery".

And just because it makes folks uncomfortable, doesn't mean it's because of CA incompatibility. The CA's in GNS are very broad, and contain a lot of behaviour in each one that is going to rub folk with the same broad CA up the wrong way.

[note, cross posted with eero: next time, we'll do that with harmony's on the chorus...]
Pete Darby


Hi Pete -

I think that you are using 'addresses premise' in a similar way to Jack. (Also, 'can be able to articulate' just can't be right: some people are just incapable of expressing anything coherent about what they are doing even if they want to (some good artists are like this, just explore their work for yourself, don't listen to the insane psychobabble they produce trying to explain it), and other people can't bring themselves to admit consciously what they are really good at unconsciously.)

I think addressing capital-P premise over the course of a game (which is what I take you to be talking about) is a particular technique, a way of making all those little-n moments add up to something which is more likely to be satisfying to a Narrativist player than just picking and choosing among the little n's that come up in play.

MJ and Ron both appeared (subject to their correction, of course) to accept a paraphrase of 'addresses premise' in the recent Social Mode thread which relies only on a focus on the moral and emotional significance of certain play-moments. This paraphrase also helps me make sense of the Big Model as a whole, so I'm inclined to accept it too. That's what I'm going on here. But if that's right, and if I'm reading you and Jack correctly, your responses to me are making Narrativism into something more than what it is: conflating certain excellent and useful Narrativist techniques with the motivation to seek out certain moments in play, and to focus on a certain type of play, as a whole.

I've said twice now (I thought) that seeking out sexual situations in the SIS is not necessarily symptomatic of any particular CA, so I'll just repeat the point again. Ditto your last point about 'uncomfortable'.

But let me just put it back to you: if you insist on your tighter definition of Narrativism, what's your garbage category for the people who are interested in moral and emotional questions in play but don't manage to address a consistent, broad-scale premise through that kind of exploration? It seems to me that they're either relatively unskilled Narrativists (my current choice), 'zilchplayers', or else Simulationists (where Jack seems to want to put them). I strenously object to Jack's choice because it makes a garbage category out of Sim: "Oh, players who focus on this aspect of play in the right way are Narrativists, but then these other players who focus on the same aspects of play but don't manage to put it together to address a sustained premise which defines their play are just Simulationists" - no. (I don't mean to foist that actual claim off on you, Jack, that's just what I'm worried we'll be forced to beleive if we accept a certain approach to the Big Model.) And I also object to Walt's characterization of 'zilchplay', since it seems to imply that human action without motivation is coherent, which I don't believe. (I assume I'm wrong about this but I never found a post where Walt smacked the claim down.) I was pushing towards a 'social' motivation here until I realized that such concerns were orthogonal to the definitions of CA (though not thereby useless or meaningless for a better understanding of the possibilities of roleplaying).

Leaving sex out of it, then, this last is the concern that the thread's really meant to address.




Well, okay, lets play ball with this one... I'm really not seeing the play described as being about addressing any premise, articulated or no.

I'm also slightly at a loss at where little p's and s's came into this... but the question was posed, is this N play, S play or G play, so I'm guessing we're looking at some hypothetical aggregate trend... and without specifics, I can't say.

Okay, lets lok at this: is the player looking to highlight "moral or emotional issues" (I'd add philosophical, but meh) around sex (for the Nar vibe)? What aspect of the sexual situation is he digging on? The challenge, the meaning (man) or the situation per se?

Sure, focussing on sex isn't definitional to any particular CA: nor is focussing on combat, politics, history or magic. All these are elements of the setting, situation, colour, character and system that can be explored with a view to satisfying a CA. So I don't think it's be useful to think of sex as a sub-ca, rather that it's one more (damn) thing to explore.

BTW, I'd categorize them as unconcious narrativists, or instinctive narrativists, rather than unskilled, but I still think in most cases you could look at their play and see they're grooving on raising and addressing ethical, philosophical or emotional issues by putting them into dramatic crises, rather than exploring situations out of curiosity "to see what happens"
Pete Darby

Jack Spencer Jr

Quote from: SeanYou may be right, but you'll need to define things better to convince me. Nar is not a term of praise, and Sim cannot simply be a garbage category for stuff that's not Gam and not Nar.

I think we may have hit an impass. I'll see if I can explain.

First of all, I have said it before, there is not enough information, really. Which means we are both separately imagining the "tells" and are effectively talking about two different people.

But that's not as telling as this:
Quote from: SeanWhat I was wondering about when I posted this was whether there was a 'porn' sub-CA which stood to narrativism as (the majority of) pornographic movies stand to other kinds of film.
Thing is, pornographic movies rarely, if ever have a story in the sense narrativist play is trying to make a story. A porn movie may have a plot, but the plot is only a device to deliver the real point of a porn movie: naked people having sex. Rare is the porn with a premise. So I'm thinking it's a stretch to call this narrativist or akin to narrativist.

That is, yes sex can be a morally and emotionally charged. In porn, it's jus' fuckin'. In play, it may be jus' fuckin'. The presence of sex doesn't suggest to me that it is narrativism at all.

I hope this makes sense.


I think that this is a particular type of Sim, although, again, not enough information to tell from the post.  Its important to realize that, even if everyone else plays Sim, it may not solve your CA problems.

I'm about to post a longish "essay" about types of Sim.  Wait for it, and see if it fits.

This is Ben Lehman.  My Forge account is having problems, so I have registered this account in the meantime.  If you have sent me a PM in the last week or so and I have no responded to it, please send it to this address.  Thank you.

Callan S.

This is probably going to sound bizarre, but does he want to have sex with these SIS women or make love to them? The former is like sim and the latter is full of narrative premise addressing potential (though he may be introducing a premise that the GM hasn't).

Personally it sounds like sex, as making love to a woman in SIS can be done through symbolism like your PC singing a sonnet to her, or brining her a rose that only grows on mountaintops, etc. The actual in and out grunty part is kind of meaningless nar wise.

I'd suggest you suggest to him that he starts courting a woman and saying he'd do all sorts of dangerous things for her love (premise = 'what would you do for your love'). If he picks up on this, then he does want to nar, its just that perhaps (and I'll yet again be sexist against my own sex) he confused sex with ze lurve making.
Philosopher Gamer


Trying to determine a player's motivation (oh, sorry... "creative agenda") based on an extremely limited amount of information is not only futile, it is positively idiotic. Ask the bloody player about his actions directly rather than trying to get people even further removed from the situation to jump to comclusions in their attempts to psychoanalyze him.

Communicate with your players, Sean. You'll find it much more rewarding to treat people like the human beings they are rather than the stereotypes you project onto them. Incongruence is what happens if you fail to work toward a solution. And, as the old saw goes: if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.