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Author Topic: "Sacrificing Character Integrity" - a Rant  (Read 19952 times)
lumpley
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« Reply #30 on: June 30, 2004, 11:12:20 AM »

Marco: That's fine with me.  Recognize, as I said.  Where does that leave us wrt Narrativism?

-Vincent
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Marco
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« Reply #31 on: June 30, 2004, 11:27:38 AM »

Vincent,

It leaves me wondering why Call of Cthulhu with it's Nar-rich game world isn't considered Nar-facilitating. Silence of the Lambs is, IMO, the same structure as basic Investigative games. It could be run with nothing but an FBI simulation-system.

The hypothetical agent's decision not to engage Lecter didn't "make a difference" in one sense (the family is still killed). But a lot of other actions could make a difference--it's the player's choice.

I've seen arguments to the effect that CoC is a 'foregone conclusion or theme' (my paraphrase). I've seen statements that it's the 'whiff factor' of skills.

The first doesn't make sense the same way the example doesn't. The second I think I kinda understand but it seems a minor factor compared to the overwhelming assistance towards meaningful play the setting gives.

I don't recall a lot of railroading stuff in the how-to text. Certainly no more than the stuff in TRoS ... (or maybe I miss-remember).

-Marco
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timfire
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« Reply #32 on: June 30, 2004, 11:44:13 AM »

This thread is quickly drifting. Why don't you guys start a new thread to discusss what is/isn't Nar, or maybe post a reply to the Nar & Force thread?
Quote from: Ron Edwards
It's also related to mis-presenting the difference/relationship between author and audience in role-playing.

Ron, could you elaborate on that? I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say.
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lumpley
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« Reply #33 on: June 30, 2004, 11:49:54 AM »

Marco: I've never played or read CoC, so I can't help you with that.  As far as Silence of the Lambs and investigative games, sure.
Quote from: In an old thread, I
But see, that means that a Narrativist game needn't depend on its resolution mechanics. All the resolution mechanics have to do (at minimum) is foster consensus among the players, so the game happens. It's the game's characters, including opposition, who make it happen -- and thus, potentially, the game's character creation system can do all the work.

Some game rules provoke Narrativist play more or less reliably.  Some you can play Narrativist with pretty easily, if your instincts are good, but they do rely on your instincts - do you happen to create fit characters?  Some undermine Narrativist play.  No news there, surely.  The difference between a Nar game using FBI Simulation rules and a Sim game using the same rules is, as always: are there fit characters locked into conflict across a moral line?  (Can I find and shoot him? isn't a moral line.  When I find him, do I shoot him? might be.)

Timothy: I've been using character integrity for my anchor right along, but fair enough.  I'm going to post this post here anyway.  Marco, if there's more to be said, launch a thread?

-Vincent
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #34 on: June 30, 2004, 12:26:27 PM »

Marco

Quote from: Marco
Vincent,

It leaves me wondering why Call of Cthulhu with it's Nar-rich game world isn't considered Nar-facilitating.


Perhaps because Nar-rich game world has nothing to do with Nar, Sim, or Character Integrity.  The Forgotten Realms, Paladium Fantasy, and World of Darkness are "Nar-rich" worlds, with many stories to be told and a great many moral dilemmas to ponder, but that does not make them Nar-Facilitating. Any planet with a significant number of intelligent beings striving to live would be Nar-Faciliting in that context.

Setting cannot by itself be Nar-Facilitating since it is static until Play occurs. Now it can be Inspiring, which however is not the same thing.


Sean
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #35 on: June 30, 2004, 12:49:48 PM »

Wow. Good stuff.

Over in http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11326">Trying to define S, like G/N, by its relationsip to conflict I posted that I was going to address this issue here.
Quote from: Silmenume
A Narrativist puts more stake (prioritizes) in addressing Premise than reacting to Situation in a fashion that highlights Character mediated response. IOW the Narrativist in this case is willing to ignore what is normally an issue for a person, acting in a fashion that appears to be illogical (ignoring a potential threat to one?s life) in order to prioritize addressing premise rather than address the conflict in a manner that a player who is prioritizing exploring Character would be.

...But in Sim limiting our actions and responses to the circumstances of our created characters is a priority. Not so in Gamism where Character is a tool whereby Challenge is addressed and the players are rewarded for successfully addressing the fictional conflict. Not so in Narrativism where character integrity can be sacrificed in order to address Premise. Premise addressing has priority or Character integrity. This is not to imply that character is not important to either agenda, but rather character integrity is not the prioritized element. By prioritized I am speaking of that element of play which is the choke point of player action. A Gamist is bound by player integrity ? no cheating is allowed via breaking or bypassing the agreed upon parameters of the Challenge. A Narrativist is bound by player integrity ? a player must address the agreed upon Premise and do so without impinging upon the protagonism (I think that is right word) of the other players. A Simulationist is bound by Character integrity. If a Simulationist player breaks character integrity then he is sometimes accused of cheating but is actually starting to pursue other Creative Agendas.

As Vincent said right at the top of this thread, character integrity is not exclusive to simulationism; to clarify the emphasis, it's not essential to simulationism, either. It is no more necessary to any one agendum than to either of the other two. It may be more common in one or another, but that's only historical, not definitive.

Vincent disagreed with Ralph's assertion that the difference between narrativist and simulationist characters was that narrativist characters were defined during play and simulationist characters were fully defined before play. Vincent quite rightly objected that narrativist characters could very well be fully defined prior to play. I will similarly object that simulationist characters may very well be developed through play. To a large degree, simulationist exploration of character begins with, "I have a character who believes/thinks/does this; let me start playing him and see what the ramifications of this is for the rest of his life and identity." If the character is fully formed before play, there's not much to explore about the character--which doesn't mean that simulationism isn't possible, but rather that with such a character you will use the character to explore something else far more than you will explore the already defined character.

The degrees to which character, setting, situation, system, or color must be either defined or internally consistent are all independent variables--independent of each other and of creative agenda. Simulationism is better served by high definition and high internal consistency in most of the elements, but can have low definition in all of them and low internal consistency in some. Narrativism is better served if some of the elements have low definition, but internal consistency will still have to be high in some elements at least sometimes.

--M. J. Young
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lumpley
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« Reply #36 on: June 30, 2004, 01:01:55 PM »

M.J., I even disagree with this:
Quote
Simulationism is better served by high definition and high internal consistency in most of the elements, but can have low definition in all of them and low internal consistency in some. Narrativism is better served if some of the elements have low definition, but internal consistency will still have to be high in some elements at least sometimes.

The two variables - CA, standards for internal consistency - are absolutely independent.  That is, your group will set standards for internal consistency based on your tastes*, and then your CA, whatever it is, will depend on you meeting those standards.  High, low, it doesn't matter at all from your CA's point of view, what matters is that you're meeting them.

In order to fulfill a CA you have to be functionally Exploring, is all I'm saying.  What counts as "functionally Exploring" will vary from group to group, but doing it is a rock-minimum for fulfilling a Creative Agenda.

*Tastes: this is where I'd put the "technical approaches" I've talked about.  RGFA Sim, Virtuality, is a taste - it sets a standard for internal consistency in your game.  Your group might then go on to fulfill any of the CAs.

-Vincent
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John Kim
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« Reply #37 on: June 30, 2004, 02:08:58 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
The two variables - CA, standards for internal consistency - are absolutely independent.  That is, your group will set standards for internal consistency based on your tastes*, and then your CA, whatever it is, will depend on you meeting those standards.  High, low, it doesn't matter at all from your CA's point of view, what matters is that you're meeting them.

In order to fulfill a CA you have to be functionally Exploring, is all I'm saying.  What counts as "functionally Exploring" will vary from group to group, but doing it is a rock-minimum for fulfilling a Creative Agenda.

*Tastes: this is where I'd put the "technical approaches" I've talked about.  RGFA Sim, Virtuality, is a taste - it sets a standard for internal consistency in your game.  Your group might then go on to fulfill any of the CAs.

Interesting.  I'd like to see more about your resolving your disagreement with Ralph over whether sticking with a strongly pre-defined character is incompatible with Narrativism.  For my two cents, this goes back to structure.  Strongly pre-defined characters and Virtuality will lead to an unstructured narrative which will have at best mixed messages.  However, while unstructured there are still plenty of moral issues being addressed.  If you want structure and a single overarching premise or message, then you have to abandon Virtuality and/or allow some fudging of character.  

Per your request, I have split off the discussion of my campaign into an Actual Play thead, http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11830">Water-Uphill-World: Virtuality Examined.  I'd prefer that discussion of Virtuality go there.
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- John
Valamir
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« Reply #38 on: June 30, 2004, 06:20:57 PM »

Quote
For my two cents, this goes back to structure. Strongly pre-defined characters and Virtuality will lead to an unstructured narrative which will have at best mixed messages.


That idea is still very much just simmering gently on the stove, I'm not yet committed to it.  But I do think that as we reach a level of understanding with the core concepts of the big model we should be able to make more concrete judgements about techniques and combinations of techniques as they point towards a specific CA.

I think there is something central to the difference between Simulationism and Narrativism that can be found in different assumptions about game reality and the shared imaginary space and whether something is real even if its not entered that space, vs. only if it has.  Right now I'm just sniffing around the edges of that concept, but so far, it seems to me, to fit.


Quote
However, while unstructured there are still plenty of moral issues being addressed.


This, however, I do disagree with.  I think "there are still plenty of moral issues present." would be a correct sentence.

But I think there is a big and crucial difference between moral issues being present (possible in any CA) and moral issues being addressed (the defining feature of Narrativism).

This concept is what is represented by "Story Now".  Or my prefered turn of phrase "Story on Purpose".  Or as Ron has called it being "mindful".

Currently I don't know of any better way to take that concept and pin it down with more precise language.
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Sean
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« Reply #39 on: June 30, 2004, 07:13:15 PM »

I think the idea that there's always some particular action a fictional character would take, given our conception of that character, in a given situation, is false.

(I also think this is false of real people, but let's not go there.)

Let's therefore look at our conception of our character as an operator, in the mathematical sense. The input is the Situation (this is only one kind of case, but a common one); the output is the character's Action.

This operator has two kinds of output:

- Situation as processed through character conception yields some particular action.

- Situation as processed through character conception still leaves it open what sort of action the character might take.

It's when the second output is the one you get in play that the whole issue of 'is this Nar or Sim' arises, IMO. A Sim-facilitating technique here is to run the function over again, with closer scrutiny to the details of the character's psyche; or in a traditional game simply to punt, and ask the GM questions like 'well, what would a person of my character's sex/race/social class do in this situation', etc.

A Nar-facilitating technique here is to say: damn! Well, if there's a few different ways I could go here, which one will make for the most interesting story?

Vincent, I don't agree with you, assuming I understand you correctly, primarily because I think your emphasis is misleading. The way you put things suggests to me the idea that character conceptions applied to situation only ever yield the first kind of output. This in turn makes you want to say that CA and 'integrity' are orthogonal. To which I say: yes, in the sense you spell that out, which is relevant to this issue, but also no, in another sense which is also relevant. Wanting a definite 'yield' for the operator I describe above in all cases is (a) entirely optional, (b) a Sim-facilitating technique, and (c) describable by a reasonable English-competent speaker as an interest in 'integrity'.
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Marco
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« Reply #40 on: June 30, 2004, 11:33:17 PM »

vicent,

Im very pressed for time. Id lost my train of thought. I wanted to look at the case where the character declines to address the premise in the players optimal way (saving the family) because the player feels fidelity to their internal concept of character.

From the players stndpoint the gm has exercised force--creating a my-way-or-the-highway situation.

From the gms perspective they are keeping continuity. Either the player could decided her PC is sterner stuff (less vulnerable or afraid) or the gm could create clues for her to follow.

I think in this case the conflict is due to conflicting arenas of contunity: both parties  see thing their way and its at odds with the most rewarding flow of story generation.

This is a very speciic case--but one that I think illustrates a trade off.

But the trade-off isnt in terms of premise or exploration--its in terms of willingness to violate perceptions of continuity. Its also about trying to build a good story (so to speak). If neither are committed to that over conception of world or character you may get a frustrating tragedy that is, in story terms "what really happened"--despite the fact that the gm isnt railroading and the player is addressing premise (taking up her father-figure issues with the fbi rather than Lecter).

-Marco
[ also: I disagree that address of premise will put the player in the case of generating focus, symmetry (begining of story is relevant to the end), theme across multiple scenes, or any of the other story tropes. Address alone isnt enough for structure IMO

Also: I find the gms actions indistnguishable from force despite the fact that I dont think they kill Nar play.]
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contracycle
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« Reply #41 on: July 01, 2004, 12:06:12 AM »

Quote from: Marco
I wanted to look at the case where the character declines to address the premise in the players optimal way (saving the family) because the player feels fidelity to their internal concept of character.

From the players stndpoint the gm has exercised force--creating a my-way-or-the-highway situation.

From the gms perspective they are keeping continuity. Either the player could decided her PC is sterner stuff (less vulnerable or afraid) or the gm could create clues for her to follow.


I can't really parse this, especially the bit I bolded.  The character did not decline to address premise, because premise does not exist for characters.  Thus, the PLAYER must have declined to address premise in the players optimal way.  If the player has declined to address premise, that player is clearly not playing Narr.

The GM's issues over continuity are, it seems to me, wholly irrelevant (except inasmuch as they may clue us in to an agenda conflict).  If the players grooving on Narr, the continuity is only of secondary importance, and if they are grooving on Sim, then the continuity is important but the whole scenario is then Sim anyway.

That seems to me implicit in the request "please Mr GM give me another clue so I don't have to wrestle with this dilemma".

I can't accept therefore that the GM is applying force.  This is the Situation; both character and player are responding to it.  If that is force then all GM actions must be force.

Quote

I think in this case the conflict is due to conflicting arenas of contunity: both parties  see thing their way and its at odds with the most rewarding flow of story generation.


Continuity is not story generation in any sense.  If continuity is a reward in its own right, then that is still not story, it is sequence of events or virtuality play, surely.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #42 on: July 01, 2004, 04:47:14 AM »

The discussion seems (to me) to be trending toward saying that everyone who is playing Narrativist is always going to agree.  I think this weakens what is otherwise a strong and convincing set of ideas by portraying Narrativism as a boogeyman that the GM can use at will to negate the investment of a player who has legitimate creative differences within a shared agenda.

For example...
Quote from: contracycle
If the player has declined to address premise, that player is clearly not playing Narr.

I agree with the idea that a player who declines to address premise at all is not playing Narr.  But a player who declines to address premise in one particular instance is an entirely different matter.

Unfortunately, I don't have a good anecdote or example of functional Narrativist disagreement, largely because I haven't played enough functional Narrativist.  I recommend that if somebody can show an example of how players can reasonably disagree on how to fulfill the Narrativist agenda it would permit us to draw some useful contrasts with situations (like those listed so far) where the disagreement rises from an unstated difference of agenda.
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lumpley
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« Reply #43 on: July 01, 2004, 06:12:15 AM »

John: Very cool.  I'll see you there.
Quote
Strongly pre-defined characters and Virtuality will lead to an unstructured narrative which will have at best mixed messages.

That depends on the characters.  Strongly pre-defined characters whose definitions weren't chosen to a particular Premise, sure.  Strongly pre-defined characters pre-defined to a Premise will, turn them loose and watch what they do, address the Premise.  Like it were no thing!

Ralph: Cool.  How much flexibility does creating a fit character demand of me, its creator?  More than creating just, y'know, a made-up person?  Could be, could be not!  I'm happy to leave it an open question.  Certainly it deserves its own thread, at least.

Sean: Cool.  How about this?

When a circumstance dictates only one possible action that the character can reasonably take, in both Narrativist and Simulationist play the player will have the character take it.  Neither kind of play calls for the player to break the character's integrity.

When a circumstance dictates a range of actions that the character might reasonably take, in both Narrativist and Simulationist play the player will choose one from that range.  Neither kind of play calls for the player to break the character's integrity.

Here's where we disagree:
Quote from: You
A Sim-facilitating technique here is to run the function over again, with closer scrutiny to the details of the character's psyche; or in a traditional game simply to punt, and ask the GM questions like 'well, what would a person of my character's sex/race/social class do in this situation', etc.

Those are also Nar-facilitating techniques.  They are, in fact, Exploration-facilitating techniques.  The fitness of a character, his place in the moral conflict that defines Narrativism, is embedded in his psyche, his sex/race/social class.  Looking deeper into the character for direction is very appropriate in Narrativist play.  Narrativist play too, I mean.  All play.

Marco: there is no circumstance where breaking with your established character will address Premise more optimally.  Because addressing Premise de-fucking-pends on not breaking with your character.  Sacrificing your character's integrity sabotages the conflict you're using to address the Premise, inevitably.

I wish you'd put it that way - "what if breaking with your established character would address Premise better?" - instead of presenting this made-up partial case and expecting me to intuit your question.

Tony: In Narrativist play, everybody's going to be grooving on everybody else's Premise-addressage, as Gareth says.  Disagreements of the "that's not relevant to the Premise!" sort might come up, but the group will resolve them or the game will crash.  The GM certainly doesn't have any power to say "address Premise differently!  Address Premise MY WAY!" in functional Narrativist play.  I'm not sure I'm getting your concern, though.

Recap: You don't address Premise by magic.  You address Premise by taking a fit character locked into a moral conflict with fit opposition and playing it through to its logical conclusion, which is: escalation, crisis, resolution.  You can watch it happen.  It's there to be seen, or else it's not there.

You can't fuck up the conflict - by fucking up the character, the opposition, the escalation, the moral line, anything - and somehow still address Premise.

You have to take the right character and play him or her hard, with uncompromising integrity and unflinching realism.  Choose the wrong character and you're screwed.  Compromise and you're screwed.

("Uncompromising" and "unflinching" as locally defined, to your group's standards, as potentially informed by RGFA Sim or whatever.)

-Vincent
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TonyLB
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« Reply #44 on: July 01, 2004, 06:53:44 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Tony: In Narrativist play, everybody's going to be grooving on everybody else's Premise-addressage, as Gareth says.  Disagreements of the "that's not relevant to the Premise!" sort might come up, but the group will resolve them or the game will crash.  The GM certainly doesn't have any power to say "address Premise differently!  Address Premise MY WAY!" in functional Narrativist play.  I'm not sure I'm getting your concern, though.

My concern is that I think you're portraying Narrativism more rosily than even you believe it to be.  This is a natural response when you feel that something you care about is under attack, but it draws more attacks, and since I'm really keen on Narr I'd like to help avoid that.

When Narrativist play is good, everybody will be grooving on each others Premise-addressage.  But if you say "Oh, if it's not good then it's not Narrativist" then you're going to convince people very quickly that you aren't talking about a mode of play, you're talking about a utopian vision.

It's like saying "We're a rock band, we're all dedicated to rock and roll, so there will never be any creative differences... and if there are it's because somebody here isn't really a rock'n'roller!"

I think that if you're interested in conveying what Narrativism really is then you'll have more success by describing it as it is, blemishes and all.  You've said that the Silence of the Lambs example is not an example of a Narrativist problem.  Fair enough.  Let's hear something that is an example of people playing Narrativism and having a clash of opinions within the context of the CA.
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