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Author Topic: Force and Creative Agenda  (Read 2887 times)
Henri
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Posts: 88


« on: May 20, 2004, 09:30:53 AM »

The relationship between Force and Creative Agenda is something that has been bothering me for a while.  It seems to me that force is anathema to ALL THREE creative agendas.  But there is definately a consensus that illusionist play, when agreed upon by all players, can be functional and fun.  To me this seems to hint at some other agenda behind illusionism, but I'm not sure what it is.  I know that Force is a Technique, and technically Techniques are supposed to be orthoganal to Creative Agenda, meaning that any Technique can be used with any Creative Agenda.  However, if we look at what people actually say, Force is always associated with Sim.  I am proposing that Force is incompatible with any of the three Creative Agendas.

I think the conflict between gamism and force is obvious, since force removes the possibility of fair conflict with success based on how well you play the game.  But what about Sim and Nar?

Quote from: Ron in the Nar Essay

Producing a story via Force Techniques means that play must shift fully to Simulationist play. "Story" becomes Explored Situation, the character "works" insofar as he or she fits in, and the player's enjoyment arises from contributing to that fitting-in. However, for the Narrativist player, the issue is not the Curtain at all, but the Force. Force-based Techniques are pure poison for Narrativist play and vice versa. The GM (or a person currently in that role) can provide substantial input, notably adversity and Weaving, but not specific protagonist decisions and actions; that is the very essence of deprotagonizing Narrativist play.


I agree with Ron's claim that Force is poison to Narrativist play.  But what is Simulationist about it?  As I understand Sim, it avoids metagame priorities and focuses on the importance of in-game causality.  But the use of Force directly violates in-game causality.  

Force inserts the metagame priorities of the GM (which destroys Sim) while at the same time overruling the metagame priorities of the players (which destroys Nar).  Thus it seems to me that there is no home for functional Force/Illusionism in the GNS framework.

I suspect that if this argument were true, someone would have thought of it before, and that I have probably come to this conclusion based on a misinterpretation of Sim.  However, I would like someone to explain how I got it wrong and hopefully this will help me understand Sim better.

Thanks.
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-Henri
Bill Cook
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Posts: 501


« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2004, 03:14:47 PM »

Hello.  This thread dilineates Nar and Sim by considerations of Force.  It's the third post that relates.
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Henri
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2004, 05:45:05 PM »

Hmmm.... I don't really know that this thread answers my question.  It shows why Force hamstrings Narativist play, but I'm still not seeing how it does NOT hamstring Sim.  

I think I should clarify the question a little bit.  Since we are talking about Sim, premise is not an issue.  What is at issue is the integrity of the Shared Imagined Space (SIS) or the Dream (I see these two terms as synonyms, at least for Sim).  Maintaining the integrity of the SIS is crucial to Sim play, and any action that violates this, IMO, would inviolate a Sim-based social contract (ie. lead to dysfunctional Sim).  In Sim, cause-and-effect relationships must be maintained.  But with the application of Force, the decisions of the players are irrelevant to the outcome.  Thus, effect is divorced from cause.  

Let's use a concrete example to get out of pure-theory-land.  Suppose I have decided that wherever the characters go, they will be ambushed by a certain villain.  In this case, the players decisions about where to go determine, retroactively, where the villain went to set up his ambush.  It doesn't matter if the characters suspect an ambush and decide to choose an alternate route at the last minute, the villain still ambushes them.  To me, this violates the integrity of the SIS.
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-Henri
Bill Cook
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2004, 07:34:33 PM »

Sorry if that link was not on target.

So you're saying, it's ok to set up an ambush, put you have to commit to a site.  i.e. You can plan to have things happen, but they should have immutable triggers; otherwise, it wouldn't be fair.  It'd be like you're just trying to have a particular thing happen.

So I guess, to you, Sim's proper model is a D&D-style module.  I guess even random encounters could be permitted as long as their occurence and frequency were expressed in some table, right?
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2004, 08:17:19 PM »

I just lost a very long nearly finished post that was probably very helpful, in an unexplained browser crash.

I'm going to attempt to recap it as well as I can.

There are some issues of terminology; I had to check the glossary to see some of them, and I'm going to have to make some comments to Ron about a couple of glossary entries.

Your comment about illusionism being acceptable if it's agreed to by the players goes against the usual usage of that word. Illusionism means that the players' choices have no impact on the outcomes, but they don't know it because the referee steers the game through illusionist techniques such that his story will be told. If the players know that this is happening and agree to it, then that's participationism--"illusionism without the black curtain" is what the glossary says, but that means in essence that everyone knows the player choices don't matter beyond color and characterization, and everyone is there for the referee's story.

More significantly, I found that the glossary defines force as illusionist techniques used to override thematically significant decisions of the players. This definition surprised me, and I'd wager that it is often used merely as synonymous with either illusionism or illusionist techniques, without reference to theme. If indeed we understand force only in relation to thematically significant decisions, of course by definition it means that the referee is preventing the players from addressing premise, and thus blocking narrativism. Such techniques would not prevent simulationism, because thematically significant decisions are not prioritized in simulationism.

I need to step back and explain illusionist techniques. An illusionist technique is any mechanic or method used by a referee to vacate the effect of any player decision. These can be used positively or negatively.

The Moving Clue is an illusionist technique espoused (possibly invented) by Ron Edwards. In short, in most games in which players must solve a mystery, there is some essential piece of information which can only be gained by asking the right character the right question. If they miss this, they've lost the game. The Moving Clue takes that essential piece of information and decrees that if the player characters question people and ask any one of them the right question, that character will give the essential information. It is still the case that only one character knows that clue; however, which character knows it is determined by who the players ask.

Your notion of moving the villain's ambush into the character's path is an illusionist technique. It is a bad one if the players have carefully investigated, determined that the villain is in the south, and so leave town headed north to avoid him--because you've decided that they are going to face this villain no matter what they want. It is a good one if the players are looking for the villain and you drop him right in their path--because you've enabled them to avoid wasted hunting in every direction and get right to the part of the game that interests them.

As for simulationism, it is not so that simulationist play requires strict in-game causality. It often requires a slightly higher level of integrity within the shared imaginary space, because it is about discovery and thus the thing to be discovered must be more coherently realized. However, you could play a simulationist Twilight Zone game in which nothing was certain and anything at all could happen next, driven by a narration mechanic that allowed players to invent stuff on the fly that constituted the shape of the world. The fun would be in discovering the world as it was created, seeing just how weird it might be and what it would be like to exist in such a world. Most simulationist play has strong in-game causality and mechanical physics, because that's something that is explored in a lot of play. It is not really the definition of simulationism as a creative agendum.

Meanwhile, as long as the players don't know that the villain is not waiting for them in the south pass, there's no reason why the referee can't decide that he is waiting for them there if that's where they go. There's nothing contrary to simulationism about that. You don't have to have the complete model of where everyone and everything is fixed in your mind for it to be good simulationist play--there really is no difference between creating it ten years before the game and making it up as you go along, except that it's tougher to maintain consistency on the fly.

I hope this helps.

--M. J. Young
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Henri
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2004, 07:29:22 AM »

Thanks M.J.  That cleared up some terminology for me and also answered my question.  I think perhaps I was getting confused by mixing Threefold and GNS Simulationism, which is easy to do since they have the same name and overlap each other, although they are not identical.

Ok, but now I have more questions.  I just went on a massive binge of "Reading Sim," and read all the threads in the GNS forum in the past 5 months that focused on Sim.  I found M.J. and Walt to be really helpful in understanding what Sim is about, particularly the "it" of Sim thread and the Zilchplay thread.  

I had it in my head that the key to Sim was internal cause, but now I see that it is really this thing that you call Discovery.  Illusionist techniques can be okay for Sim, even if they break internal cause.  Some use of illusionist techniques is probably okay.  However, they can become harmful and dysfunctional if they rob the player of his power of Discovery.  This is the equivalent of Narativist deprotagonization, which robs the player of his power to address theme.  

I'll come back to this, but first a side-note on Discovery (yay hijacking my own thread!).  M.J., now that I (think) I understand Discovery, I think that it is a fine term and represents an important incite into the purpose of Sim.  I do have one complaint, however, which is that your explanation of what you mean by the term is not crystal clear.  It would be better to have a definitive definition from you, but for now I'm going to take a stab at putting Discovery in my own words.  I hope I get it right.  

Discovery is more than just exploration.  Discovery is an ACTIVE push towards exploration, which motivates the creative generation of SIS by the same or another player (often the GM).  Discovery is motivated by a sense of curiosity about the imagined world, and celebrates the Wonder of learning about and understanding this world.  There are two ways in which Discovery can happen, but both equally qualify.  The first is direct Discovery, wherein the player both poses questions of exploration and answers them.  This is facilitated for exploration of character and color only by rpgs that limit players to actor and author stance, but is facilitated more broadly in games heavy director stance games like Universalis which allow direct player input to setting and situation.  The second is indirect Discovery, where the player poses questions to another player (usually the GM), which promote either the creation or revelation of imagined space by that other player.  In real Sim games, both of these are going on all the time, mixing together and reinforcing each other.  At heart they are really the same thing, but analytically it may be helpful to recognize them as distinct in order to understand that Discovery includes both of these things.

Let me unpack this with an example that M.J. has used before, that of role-playing a scientist who has just arrived in an alien world and is seeking to understand this world.  To be more concrete, lets say the player has the scientist look into a tide pool on the rocky shore of this alien world and investigate the organisms that live there.  Two things could happen.  In indirect Discovery, the player says "My character peers into the tide pool, what does he see?"  And the GM answers.  In direct Discovery, the player simply states, "I look into the tide pool and I see ...", and then describes what he sees.  

I think a major source of confusion is that to some the word "discover" implies that the object of discovery had to pre-exist.  We say that Columbus "discovered" America because America already existed, whereas Leonardo "created" the Mona Lisa because it didn't exist until he painted it.  But in the context of an imaginary world, this distinction is irrelevant.  When applied to rpgs, the term "Discovery" includes the creation of imaginary elements.  However, I find the term "Discovery" appropriate because it suggests the feeling that the imaginary world has a life of its own, much as an author may come to feel that his own characters are real people who are "telling" him their story, and that he is merely recording it.  This does not mean that the author is schizophrenic or otherwise mentally unstable.  It just mean that he has an active imagination with a life of its own.

Ok, so what does this have to do with the role of illusionist techniques in Sim?  I think at this point the question answers itself.  Illusionist techniques are not necessarily bad if they do not interfere with Discovery.  But they become an abusive form of Force if they do not allow a player to Discover those elements of the imaginary space that they find worthy of exploration.  If the player wants to learn about the biology of these alien organisms and I thwart him at every turn, that's abusive force.
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-Henri
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2004, 08:19:53 AM »

Hello,

Henri, I agree with you entirely. However, what you and others are calling Discovery is what I've been calling the Dream since my Simulationism essay was posted. I was sort of under the impression that this essay is actually not about anything else but this exact point, but apparently that didn't get communicated well. I've been baffled by all the Sim threads because it seems to me that my essay was literally acknowledging that Simulationism is a "real agenda" and not merely an absence.

Best,
Ron
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Henri
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2004, 09:23:06 AM »

This is a reply to a PM from Ron, but I thought I would make my answer public.  There are two things that I think are confusing about Sim as presented in the GNS essays.

1)  Just how important is internal cause?  The Sim essay states "Internal Cause is King."  But I think this only refers to a subset of Sim, especially Purist-for-System.  As M.J. says above, though, this does not have to be true in order for it to be Sim (as in the "Moving Clue.")

2)  More importantly, the Sim essay equates Exploration and The Dream directly.  This is problematic, however, because the other two modes also include Exploration.  Thus it seems that Sim is defined by the absence of Nar/Gam.  But you say that what we are calling Discovery is The Dream.  This means that the Dream is not just exploration, but exploration + this other stuff.  Incidentally, if The Dream = Exploration, then logically it makes no sense to talk about Sim hybrids, since by definition Nar = Exploration + Premise and Gam = Exploration + "Step on Up".  But you do talk about hybrids, which suggests that this is never how you were actually thinking about it.  Instead, a sim/nar hybrid = Exploration + The Dream + Premise.

I'm sure that at the time you wrote the essays, you could not have had any idea how confusing it would be to people to equate The Dream and Exploration.  But while subtle, I think it is an important point to make that The Dream is more than Exploration, and that not doing so is the source of most of the confusion about Sim.
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-Henri
Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2004, 12:48:44 PM »

Hey Henri.  I think you're seeing the same thing as I stumbled upon awhile back where I attempted to differentiate between two kinds of Sim...Sim 1: pure exploration, and Sim 2:  exploration plus other stuff that isn't G or N (what you're calling Discovery).

FWIW, I think Discovery and "the Right to Discover" is a better word than Dream.  But I've never been a huge fan of any of the catch phrases anyway.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2004, 06:58:56 PM »

I don't know that my concurrence is necessary, but I too agree that Henri's definition is spot on, as they say.

Discovery and The Right to Discover work for me; they weren't the words with which I started when I tackled that thread ("The It of Simulationism"), but Discovery came out as the best word I could find for it.

I think that for most people The Dream as a descriptive is passive even when it's active--most of us don't dream actively; when we say we are dreaming, it is a passive experience. Discovery can be passive, but it usually involves the pursuit of knowledge, and expanding it with the concept that such discovery can be as Henri describes both of things presented by another participant and by the things we ourselves devise is not a major stretch.

I also agree that the emphasis on internal cause is representative of the vast majority of existing simulationist play, and is important to providing a foundation for discovery in most simulationist games, but I think that it is not essential to simulationism as an agendum, as the Twilight Zone game suggestion clarifies.

--M. J. Young
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sirogit
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2004, 10:02:37 PM »

I would say that illusionism in itself, a Creative Agenda, or morever, a part of the Creative Agenda, as in the player appreciates the Illusion of interacting under a Creative Agenda, but in actuality only providing color for a non-interactive narrative.

An Illusionist gamist is playing in the illusion of a game he's competeting in.

An Illusionist simulationist is playing in illusion that he is Exploring something in a non-illusionist context.

An Illusionist narrativist is playing in illusion that he is Creating a story.

A special definition is required for illusionist simulationism, as a forced, non-interactive game can Explore in-game concepts, when the illusion of explorative, in-game concepts is introduced is when the game is actually "Illusionist Simulationism."
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