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standard G/N/S example

Started by Doctor Xero, June 21, 2004, 02:04:35 PM

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Doctor Xero

The situation :

The player's character is a member of a party from the High Gnome tribal-nation, which is enemies with the Wild Gnome tribal-nation.  The party has captured and interrogated a Wild Gnome.   The player's female character has a magical ring which will transfer 1d10 Health Units from any one character to any other character, impressive in a game system in which the average character has 14 Health Units.  One of the player's character's fellow party members had lost  4 Health Units a while ago, and the Wild Gnome prisoner has 6 Health Units.  Should the player's character use her ring to transfer Health Units from the Wild Gnome prisoner to her party comrade, knowing she may roll high enough on 1d10 to kill the prisoner in the process?

The typical gamist response :

If Wild Gnomes are the Standard Faceless Enemy, and the party comrade is an ally, then there's no question about it but to use the ring -- that helps the player win!

However, if the Wild Gnomes are the McGuffins or Scavenger Hunt Targets in a tournament competition, with each team earning so many points per living Wild Gnome brought in, then it becomes a gamble over whether improving a comrade's ability to back one up in upcoming conflicts is worth possibly killing off the prisoner point source and thereby jeopardizing the odds of winning the tournament.

The thrill and personal testing of competition is what the gamist wants, after all.

The typical narrativist response :

Is the combined presence of the ring, the prisoner, and the wounded comrade part of the Premise or just empty description?  If it's just description thrown in by the game master or another player, if there's no Bang involved, then it really doesn't matter what the character does so long as the player can move on and continue towards the Premise.

However, this situation was more likely engineered by the player to create  a situation for interrogating the morality and ethical quandaries of possibly taking a helpless prisoner's life to help a seriously wounded comrade.

In that case, this situation is one of the reasons for the gaming in the first place.

The typical simulationist response :

What is the genre (and ambiance/mood) about this game which first attracted the player to it, and what is the player's character's conception?

If both character conception and genre treat Wild Gnomes as the Standard Faceless Enemy, there's no Bang involved for the simulationist player here, so why not use the ring?  If both character conception and genre treat all living creatures as sacred, even enemies, then there's no Bang involved for the simulationist player here, and of course the character does not use the ring.

(It would really ruin a James Bond game for everyone else if a major player-character was traumatized with fear at the thought of blowing up a SPECTRE base with hundreds of minions -- it might make a fun game but it would not make a fun James Bond game!  It would really ruin a classic superhero game for everyone else if one player decided to play Superman as a cut-throat with all the compassion of your average dungeon-delving "hero" -- it might make a fun superpunk game but not a fun classic superhero game!  That's why it's so important that, before the campaign even begins, the players choose a genre which every player enjoys and within which every player feels unrestrained except by choice.)

Then there are times when either response is possible within the genre (a common enough occurence) and when character conception may be challenged by this situation.  Now is the time for drama!  (Often leading to after-the-game discussion of the situation.)

The chance to play out the conventions with flair and fun and the chance to interrogate what one can do within the genre are the moments which simulationists live for (at least Actor stance simulationists).


Doctor Xero
"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas

Ron Edwards


I think I can read enough within-CA specification in each example to say, Not Bad At All. As long as one doesn't read each of these examples as the single and archetypal description of its respective CA, then we're good.

Minor point: in your Narrativism example, it should not be an issue whether the situation was engineered by GM or non-GM. Doesn't matter; the GM is a player too.

Also, your use of "genre" is tricky for me, but I imagine we can let that stand. I'm not sure, DX, if you're familiar with the posting history of Fang Langford (Le Joeur), but if not, you should check out his inactive forum regarding Scattershot, especially his discussion of genre expectations. Like you and me, Fang is a Champions veteran and painfully all too aware of what happens when people get together to play "comics heroes" without further specifications.

The reason I bring this up is that I think the thematic content/point of "genre expectations" as Fang defines them (and which I think is consistent with your use of "genre") applies to all three CAs, not just Sim.