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What am I doing?

Started by ErrathofKosh, September 15, 2004, 02:49:59 PM

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First off,  I'm not sure whether this question should be asked in this forum or over in Actual Play, but as it concerns my understanding of GNS, I put it here...

I have recently finished playing in a long Star Wars campaign (7 years long!).  Looking back, I am enormously satistified with nearly the entire experience even though the group membership fluctuated and we changed systems (WEG to D20).  Of course, at the core of the group, there was always the same four people.  My questions, which I will summarize at the end of this post, revolve around GNS.  But, the main question is this: can my CA switch back and forth of extended periods of time, or is my play hybrid, or am I playing with one CA with "atomic" instances of the others just croppping up?  

So, here are some important events from my experience:

The first several weeks of the game were eye opening for me.  I had only played D&D before, so the idea of playing a Jedi Knight in the Star Wars universe excited me to no end!  It was, quite literally, a childhood dream come true.  That first month I tried out every Force power available to my character and delighted in defeating the forces of the empire.  The group was trying to solve the mystery of the location of a cloaking device.  I was their "sorceror" in my mind and I had great fun confusing stormtroopers with my Affect Mind power.  Every combat was a chance to try new strategies and abilities.

As the quest for the cloaking device went forward, my character grew in power (mechanically) and I started to learn more about him.  I realized that he should follow the Jedi code, but was often impatient and hasty in action.  He was like Anakin in Episode II, just less of an ass.  He tried his darndest to follow the code, but when he failed to do so, he would just shrug his shoulders and go on.   Mechanically, this earned a Dark-Side point or two, but I always made sure they were redeemed.  In short, I was exploring what playing a brash young Jedi with no master was like.  At the same time, I still enjoyed employing strategy to win in combat, but now I had a few favorites.

Then, one day, I was presented with a situation that made me think and think hard.  My character and a female NPC were surrounded by a group of Dark-Side creatures, controlled by a Sith master, who were impervious to anything but attacks based on the Dark-Side of the Force.  My character had a choice: die and allow the female NPC to die as well or begin using the power of the Dark-Side.  Now, if I had played my character as I perceived him, he would have rather died than use the Dark-Side, even though he was often brash and impatient.  (That's why he was atoning for his slips.)  However, I, the player, decided that my character would create a diversion, drawing on the Dark-Side, so that the female NPC could escape.  He did and she did.  Now, my character had a few Dark-Side points, but perhaps now he could die.  No way, I decided.  I had him suddenly fill with rage at his hopeless situation and begin attacking the creatures as hard as he could.  After awhile, he (mechanically) fell to the Dark-Side.

From that point onward I played a tortured character.  He obeyed his new master, but the hatred between them was palpable in our gaiming sessions.  He simply craved the power that his master could give him.  He killed thousands of innocents in an attempt to catch his old friends (the PCs).  I felt like the second GM, because my will was almost as important in determing what happened to the rest of the group as the GM's.  I wasn't able to kill them, but, with the permission of one of them, I tortured a PC into amnesia and near-death.  

Eventually, my character killed his master and came up with his plan to become master of the galaxy.  (which made him a lot of enemies, including the Emperor...)  But, right in the middle of the ancient Sith ritual that would awake an ancient army of darksiders, one of the PC's managed to confront my character.  This PC was barely a Jedi-Knight, but his player threw him before my character as a sacrifice.  As that character lay bleeding and weaponless on the floor, my character's good side rebelled against his evil one.  He pretty much went schizo.  In the end, the good side won and he was redeemed.  In my mind, I quoted, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend..."  The other character had given up his life to redeem his friend, even though that friend was almost absolutely evil.  I was estatic!

The campaign went forward after this point, but I think these events are sufficient to ask these question:

Did my CA evolve?
Or is my CA hybrid?
Or am I playing with a consistent CA embedded with "atomic" instances of other CAs?

And, oh BTW, based on this limited information, what is my CA?

I can expand on these events if anything is unclear...



Since I'm interested in understanding GNS better, I'm going to make an analysis based on my current understanding.

This sounds like simulationism to me. I base that in part on what you have chosen to tell us. You started by telling us of your dream to explore being a Jedi Knight in the Starwars universe. Then you went on to tell us of the various ways you explored what it was like to be a Jedi Knight.

Frank Filz


What you have is fantastic example of the three agendas supporting each other.  I'd say you started as gamist, moved into Sim and then Narr, but with all three CAs present most of the time.

There's no reason that the CAs have to be antagonistic.  The splitting of play into three seperate CAs has been done for analytic purposes, but reality is a lot more interesting.
<This Sig Intentionally Left Blank>


Looking back over this campaign, I view it this way:

I began with some Sim goals in mind, but really played Gamist for quite awhile, until I began to understand that if I wanted to explore being Jedi, there was more than combat.  Admittedly, I still experienced gratification from being patted on the back by my buds whenever I pulled off a well thought out strategy.  (I still do...)  So, I went on my merry way playing Sim with Gam as a secondary priority.

When I reached ther point of my character's fate laden decision, I experienced a conscious shift in priority.  I no longer cared if my character would win the fight at all.  I suddenly decided to explore the idea that life is more important than ideology.  "How would character behave after he made this decision?" was a question I asked myself.  But, now there was no system to determine his mental state, his guilt, or anything else I was interested in.  I had control of what would happen to him because of his actions.  In the end, I decided that he was slowly becoming more and more insane.  The arrival (and defeat) of his friend triggered a schizoid response that manifested itself through the Force.  My character began a fierce lightsabre battle against himself, which he eventually won and lost.  His dark persona was destroyed and his light persona survived in an intensly weakened state.  My goals at this point seem to be a Nar/Sim hybrid with Nar prioritized.

Any other comments?

BTW, I intend to start a new thread over in Actual Play describing this last scene in some detail.  It occurred back in May, but I enjoyed immensely and think that it could be enlightening, maybe.  Look for it soon...


Ron Edwards


Everyone clings to Narr/Sim when what they are describing is Narrativist.

Don't confound baseline Exploration and enjoyment of the setting/imagery for Simulationist play.

Functional and straightforward Simulationist play is actually much rarer than most folks think. Especially when one considers the Mike-Holmes-point (maybe I need a name for it) that gummed-up Narrativist or Gamist play is not Simulationism, even if the gumming-up parts may look like it.



Listen to Ron! This is an important point. I got hung up on it for a long, long time. You will not understand the role of CA in the Big Model until you understand this.

However, there is this weird moment that happens in a lot of people's play that this post is a good example of. You're going along enjoying color and exploration with a gamist focus driving your play-decisions. And then, all of the sudden, there's this shift - and suddenly something entirely different becomes important to you about your character, and your choices change, etc. Sometimes this breaks up groups, sometimes groups flounder on incoherently with people pulling in different directions, sometimes a whole group makes the shift at once.

I think this is how a lot of 'traditional role players' come to Narrativism. They want it. But they got there from systems that mostly facilitated something else (Gamism, though often in a bad way that gets confused with Simulationism). So they developed all these weird semi-functional techniques in the context of those rules-systems to get Narrativist play out of them.

In a 7 year game, your CA certainly can shift. How did the system interact with your shifting though? Did you feel that the Star Wars d6 system (if you were playing that) pulled you away from Gamism and towards Narrativism? Or did it fight the shift to Narrativism? Or did it sort of clunk along with both and the shift was mostly at the psychological and social interaction level? Any thoughts?


Well... We employed some Drift.  

First, we have always used conflict resolution, not task resolution.  The GM reports the situation, I tell him what I want my actions to do, I roll and determine if my actions caused the intended result.  Thus, things like Perception rolls got added into Lightsabre rolls instead of being used to determine who gets to swing first.

Example:  Seven stormtroopers are firing on us, guarding the entrance to an Imperial compound.  I ignite my lightsabre and state my intention to gain entrance to the compound by defeating the stormtroopers.  I roll Perception plus Lightsabre and charge in.  I roll a success and the GM narrates how I decapitate one stromtrooper, stab another, and rest surrender or flee.  I've gained the entrance.

Another good example: Instead of using Force Points to double our dice rolling pool for an action, we roll one die.  If it's 2 or better, the conflict is automatically decided in favor of the PC.  That makes these very powerful, but because there are so few of them (at least in our game) they are only used for the most important moments.  And there still is a chance of failure on a 1.

Secondly, if a character doesn't succed in their goal, we have always let the player decide the magnitude of defeat (within reason).  

Example: Same situation with the stormtroopers.  I roll and don't succed.  I say, "Oh, one of them got shot through and it hit my sabre hand; it's scorched.  I hurry back to cover and rethink my strategy."

This method allows us not to worry about rolling strength to determine most injuries and such.  A high strength just gave the player more credibility in making statements that his character received less wounds.

Finally, we employed an interesting reward system.  If you rolled a Force Point and the resulting success was particulary interesting or dramatic (as stated in your intent prior to action), then you got it back.  However, if the action was pretty routine, you might gain character points, but no Force Point.  (We didn't use character points for advancement, we just used them to add to our dice pools.  Advancement was by petitioning the Gm and giving him a good reason...)

SO, maybe you can judge whether or not my shift was facilitated or not by the system.

Interestingly enough, we've just begun using D20 Star Wars.  Not rolling much handfuls of dice is great, but we're still working on which techniques we need to change.  Of course, we still use conflict resolution.  (and at the moment we're putting together a new group...)