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All righty then

Started by Ron Edwards, May 21, 2001, 05:12:00 PM

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Ron Edwards

Hello everyone,

I think we've successfully dissected G/N/S to current forum members' satisfaction. I'm seeing a lot of light-bulbs going on, and a lot of shared vocabulary being used constructively.  

Rather than paddle about in this little pond created at the headwaters of the river, though, let's head downstream. Given a certain accord about G/N/S stuff, what should we attack?

Stance? NO! That's been beaten into the ground and danced upon. I refer interested parties to "Back to stances" at the Sorcerer forum on GO, and to my post somewhere here to Gordon, where I list them in detail.

Currency? Yeeeeahh ... that sounds fun to me. This is the relationship among the three primary categories of an RPG character - Effectiveness, Resources, and Metagame. Embedded within it is the famous Edwards "skills or attributes not both" rant, but that's a relatively minor issue within this very big topic.

Fortune mechanics? Getting into Fortune-in-the-middle, probability distributions, nested vs. single rolls, target numbers vs. opposed rolls, and most important, the FRAMING of rolls.

Order of announcement and resolution, player relative to character? This is, frankly, the most important concept in role-playing, in my opinion. It is almost universally treated via assumptions and inertia, with all the attention being inappropriately (that is, prematurely) placed on the above topic.

Characterization - the mechanics or lack thereof of establishing "the fictional person," and related issues.

A dissection of metagame mechanics? This would chart how Director and Author stance moved from "override" mechanics (metagame) into actual/standard system mechanics. I'm especially interested in the possibility that a system that confers these rights to players no longer needs Metagame mechanics. (Note to all: "metagame" and "metaplot" are two wholly different and unrelated things.)

Reward/punishment systems of all kinds, including experience + improvement as a subset of the former, and damage + death as a subset of the latter.

Anyway, I'm up for moving into the practical art and design of RPGs. Enough of G/N/S 101. Name one of the above, or name something else that bugs you.



P.S. I'll probably keep adding to this list as new things strike me over the next day or so ... being dumb is so inconvenient ...

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-05-21 13:21 ]

joshua neff

if we're going to be moving on to other topics, should the name of the forum be changed? something more general than "three-fold discussion"--like "rpg theory" or something equally "intellectual"...

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes


Ron -

I think you've picked the right time for this. It seems like most of the posts objecting to or dissecting the G/N/S system have wound down. Note that I'm still not certain that it's the -best- system for this categorization, but I certainly agree that it's a -workable- system, and that and a common set of definitions (which I think we're close enough to as makes no difference) is enough to start talking about deeper issues relating to it.

(That's one thing that annoys me about philosophy in general; too much time spent objecting to each-other's definitions, not enough time spent exploring implications of them.)

> Embedded within it is the famous Edwards "skills or
> attributes not both" rant, but that's a relatively minor
> issue within this very big topic.

Hey ! -I- do that rant, too ! Nice to see it has other support.

> Fortune mechanics? Getting into
> Fortune-in-the-middle, probability distributions,
> nested vs. single rolls, target numbers vs. opposed
> rolls,

I'll admit to possibly being ignorant, but I'm currently in the same territory as E.G.G. here; so far as I can see, these are mainly just different ways of creating a probability distribution, and thus not terribly important unto themselves, except possibly in how they affect the 'feel' of the game (cards or drawing from a bag produce a different feel than dice, rolling percentile seems more 'modern' than rolling d6, etc.)

> Order of announcement and resolution, player relative
> to character?

From my point of view, this was one of the most exciting implications to the G/N/S system so far. I'd done a fair amount of thinking this weekend about how you'd determine success level before you claimed what you were going to do and have it work (I didn't come up with anything non-clunky, though)

> Characterization - the mechanics or lack thereof of
> establishing "the fictional person," and related
> issues.

OK, at this point I think y'ought to have picked a topic and started talking about it: I realized that for almost all of these I could write long essays which boiled down to, "Yeah, I've been trying to figure out implications of G/N/S with respect to that for the past week, too."

Another mechanic that I've been fiddling with, although I'm not sure its necessary or even warranted after thinking about it for a while, was one in which I attempted to simulate the phenomenon in the real world in which it's much easier to concentrate on one issue when you have no others bothering you (i.e., you do a better job at work when you don't have in the back of your mind that your car's in the shop, or whatever.)

I did a reasonable job of addressing a "where's the main story" thing in the Dignity of Labor game I mentioned a while back, in that when I started off, the players assumed that the important story was the case they were supposed to be solving, and that the stuff I let them do when they were off work was just for characterization and color for the setting. It took about four sessions before they realized they needed to be paying as much attention to their lives outside of work as the "real" plot.

Anyway, the whole issue of addressing personality, goals, stress, etc. in game mechanics is something I'm fundamentally interested in, even though I'm not completely convinced at the moment that it's an appropriate thing to try to address in mechanics.

                                           - James

P.S. Just had a thought about why philosophers never get beyond this point: they don't have anything they need to DO with the information, so from their point of view it's perfectly OK to never get beyond definitions.  We, on the other hand, actually need to design some games ...

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-05-21 13:56 ]

Ron Edwards

Well tell you what, guys, when we decide HERE what the new topic ought to be, then a new forum can go up to dance upon with unwashed feet.

I'm thinkin' to give this thread a day or so to get some input, and then move on.



Ron, et al:

The Currency issue seems exciting to me (which is probably some sort of warning sign).  I am always interested in reward/punishment systems within games, as they seem to be one of those points that many games toss in as an "oh yeah, I need that" mechanic, when it has potential for a very strong foundation for continuing story elements/game ideas.

I guess I cast my vote for one of those two.  Unfortunately, my mind is too frazzled to really form an interesting thought to get the whole ball rolling.  

Oh yeah, I'm with Josh (whom I keeping thinking of as "Jeff Nosh" for some reason): the forum should be something along the lines of "Breaking the gaming monomyth", or something equally absurd/deep.


(How odd, Ron and I posted pretty much at the same moment.  My post is under his, thus seemingly "most recent", yet Ron is shown as the last one to be active on the topic thread... sorry, meaningless strangeness)

[ This Message was edited by: Dav on 2001-05-21 15:41 ]

joshua neff

* whom I keeping thinking of as "Jeff Nosh" for some reason*

i used to get that a lot at school...*sigh*

& i'm not saying what i'm interested in, cos i'm not sure yet, & when i am, i'll start a new thread on it (or join in on one, if someone else starts one)...

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes

Gordon C. Landis

On 2001-05-21 13:12, Ron Edwards wrote:
Fortune mechanics? Getting into Fortune-in-the-middle, probability distributions, nested vs. single rolls, target numbers vs. opposed rolls, and most important, the FRAMING of rolls.

Order of announcement and resolution, player relative to character? This is, frankly, the most important concept in role-playing, in my opinion. It is almost universally treated via assumptions and inertia, with all the attention being inappropriately (that is, prematurely) placed on the above topic.

I like these - not so much the systems geek/probability parts of Fortune (though I consider a good understanding of such things generally important), but the FRAMING issue of the 1st paragraph, as informed by the usually-not-considered issues in the 2nd paragraph.  It actually took me DAYS to wrap my brain around "fortune in the middle".  Even though I'd used something much like it (haphazardly and not always effectively) semi-instictively in Talislanta, there's something very alien about breaking the "declare action/determine success/derive result" chain - alien in a good way :wink:

hmm - I may even have a few first thoughts on the matter.  Perhaps tonight I'll add a new topic  . . .

Gordon C. Landis (under construction)


As an aside, I have to say that these forums have largely renewed my faith in role-playing games. I'd gotten pretty jaded, and had largely decided that it wasn't really possible to be sophisticated enough in games for it to keep my interest. Last fall, people would loan me huge stacks of game books, and I'd look through them and think "more of the same".

The fact is, they were - but it's because they were the WRONG game books.
                 So, thanks everyone.

                       - James


I really want to jump into this discussion, but I'm not sure where to begin.  To some degree I'm still struggling with the basics, like Stance, but it's slowly coming into focus.

With that in mind, I guess I'll cast my vote for a discussion of resolution of actions, player relative to character.  It seems to be the one idea I have the most trouble wrapping my mind around.  I'm also interested in the whole meta-game mechanic thing, just to see what other people have to say about it, and to see how I'm doing with it in my own game designs.


Wait just a second there, Ron.

I'm not sure we've said everything there is to say about G/N/S, or stances or anything. I think we've reached a certain point of progress and accord, but if you're interested in making your model better able to handle player behaviors as well as game design concerns, I think there's more ground to cover.

G/N/S: The more I think about it, the more I think you need a layer for GM bias and the impact of that bias. Just a thought to illustrate that the relationships may be a little more complicated in some cases: A primarily Simulationist GM (interested in presenting a simulation of the world and the accurate determination of "what happened") presenting a game like GURPS or BESM could actually be a fairly good GM for Gamist players.

After all, in such a game, the GM provides challenges in the context of the game world. The players, of course, try to overcome them. If the GM has other motives, he can always use the same GM metagame that he's always used, fudging die-rolls and subtly changing outcomes to suit the situation.

Naturally, the Balance of Power and areas of responsibility are as conventional as they can be. The GM has all the power with responsibility for the Game World and full control over everything in it. The players have no real power and only control their characters. A lot of people seem to like that arrangement well enough. I think this explains the popularity of games like GURPS and BESM. It also does a lot to explain the obsession with fairness and all the point-counting in those games. Of course, it doesn't do anything for the hardcore character simulationist, but that's another matter since it seems pretty obvious that there aren't a lot of table-top RPGs that support the style of play. I'd guess there are a lot of LARPs, though.

Stances: I think you should consider Audience stance from the rgfa model in your model. It's not as glamorous as the others, but some players spend a lot of time there. It seems to me, that's the stance players are in when they're playing "20 questions" with the GM about the situation in the game and gathering information for deciding what their character will do next. Also, even if not very many designers or GMs exercise the option, there are probably times when games could include some sort of Audience-based mechanics.

IC/OOC modes: I think it's fine to let the player's IC/OOC mode stand outside of Stance consideration. I think it's been shown pretty well that you can be in Actor, Author, or Director stance and also be either IC or OOC in any of those modes. Even so, the model should spell out the role of those modes in the grand scheme.

Story Presentation: This is something which hasn't played a major role in either model, but it would reduce the level of tension surrounding G/N/S bias. It seems to me that all games present some sort of story. Creating that story is the primary goal in narrative-oriented games, but Gamist and Simulationist games do tell stories. The real question is, where to put the dividing line for different presentations. Here is one possible range from completely preprogrammed to completely unprogrammed:

On one end of the range, you have the completely pre-programmed story, the single-path adventure module which drags the players from one end to the other. I suppose this could also include the dungeon crawl. The plot is minimal, but the players find story in what happens to their characters as they clean out rooms, kill monsters, and gather treasure. There are two endings: The players succeed and the characters get to see the end of the adventure, or the players fail and the characters mostly die. Of course, the plot doesn't have to be so simple or minimalistic, but the characters are definitely walking a path, and the GM will do what he needs to do to keep the players on the path.

Somewhere in the middle is the "set of encounters" adventure. The GM works from a framework of preprogrammed encounters and what happens in the game depends on what the players choose to do with each encounter. At the very least, this sort of adventure gives the player an illusion of choice and a bit more input into what happens. Such an adventure can have a few different outcomes which stem from the players' decisions.

At the far end is the unprogrammed adventure, based on the characters' desires and maybe stuck together with one of your relationship maps. Of course, no one really knows what's going to happen at the outset. There may be some overall goal which emerges from either the setting or the game's premise, but what happens, how, and why is as much a subject of the players' whims as the GM's planning.

An odd thought: It's possible that the Gamist player is the most versatile of all players. If you accept that the Gamist player is most interested in overcoming challenges, the well-rounded Gamist player should be able to thrive in most gaming environments. Naturally, Gamist games like D&D feed his needs, but Simulationist games like CoC could, too. The player usually has a big challenge in overcoming the Old Ones with sanity intact. Even Narrativist games can present a proper challenge as the player strives to tell a good story. I think you noted that yourself. I don't know what it means. The only thing I can think is, it's the explanation for players who claim to like all sorts of games and who have no bias. They have a bias, but they find they can feed their bias in most any environment.

I'm sure there's more, but that's enough for now.





I don't think that Ron is saying that everything regarding the GNS paradigm is "out there" for anyone to see.  I think he saying that we seemed to have reached a point where people are becoming comfortable enough with the idea that it might be safely utilized in other contexts.  

GNS is still a core principles behind most of the philosophical and "rpg-sociological" discussions.  I think the main crux of it is that Ron (and I, if I could toss myself in there) thinks that perhaps the current GNS discussions is not as readily useable in a real context.  What I read the thread as is:  "where can we go to show the real user benefits of GNS?"  (the real business of GNS, if you prefer)

But then again, I may be way off... :wink:


Blake Hutchins

My vote is to keep the Three-Fold Forum name. We may want to revisit it, and Logan's post shows (at least, it shows me) there are other issues we may want to chew over. Maybe I'm slower in absorbing theory than y'all, but I'm not yet ready to roll the G/N/S discussion into the basement. In fact, I'd be curious as to how the model would apply or could apply to computer games. That's an area of discussion we haven't touched on yet. Any takers?

All that said, a "design theory" heading would be cool. Let's not make it an obtuse title, though, much as I like the beatnik flavors suggested. Something short and to the point, please.

As far as the subjects Ron has posted, the two that rock my boat are Currency and Characterization.

And for the record, I join Ron and James in the "stats or skills, but not both" cult.



Ron Edwards

Clearly, I was unclear.

The current forum will remain. Discussions of G/N/S will continue on it, addressing such issues as Logan mentions and so on. With any luck, the contents of threads so far can be compiled into an FAQ and a new System essay (these threads will of course remain as well).

I've decided we need at least one new forum, maybe more, for the topics I mentioned, although these topics will be very broad. Maybe it'll be called "Theory & design 201" or something like that. Let's not debate about forum names.

These will start up during the next few days or week.



I stand corrected. I'm glad the current topics won't be abandoned, and I look forward to seeing what will develop in the new forum.




Discussions on Currency and Fortune Distribution?

Count me in!