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Groping Forward

Started by Bill Cook, September 29, 2004, 05:17:49 AM

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Bill Cook

After reading Splitting Simulationism and Subtyping Sim, I experienced a return to understanding regarding layering of the Big Model. (i.e. Actual play reflects settings on the panel of agenda; often, definitional quandaries amount to varying technical approaches within the same aesthetic umbrella.) Specifically, Sean's light bulb moment brought renewed clarity. I had been squaring things in terms of Force, and I think Sean's re-statement enters the same zone from another angle. I like how confirmation must certify satisfying exploration, in all cases; for N and G, the mark simply extends further, to their well-known purposes.

I also benefited from M. J.'s excellent delineation of incoherence and dysfunction.

I think I can now speak to my bliss: I've been altering my group's technical approach to dispel dysfunction. And it's not a GNS-cognizant effort. I think I get the difference, but it doesn't seem relevant, on a conscious level. And I'm not even terribly organized or especially effective.

Example #1: in my group's first TROS campaign, during the first session, interest quickly focused on a shipyard warehouse. So I sat up straight and said, "Ok. Let's wait 'til dark and break in." Then Luke wrote us to the market and asked us what kind of supplies we wanted. We talked a bit about that, and I said, "Ok. So, we're off." Luke asked what our plan was to break in. So the group talked for a long time about that. After several drafts, I said, "Alright, so we do it." Luke asked us one more time if we were sure. And that was enough to scare the shit out of everyone. Which, we all talked some more, trying to work up the courage to break into an imaginary warehouse.

This kind of trend continued in my struggle to advance a plan for my character to ruin his nemesis. Each time I tried to take some action, Luke would turn to another player and say, "Ok, and what do you do?" Picture me, at the agenda panel, turning the user-friendly IIEE dial up to the second I. Next time I got Luke's attention, I said, "I do X. And by that I mean, I not only intend to do it, I by god fucking do it, right now."

This increase in functionality led to grossly incoherent play on my part, but that's a sad story for another time.

Example #2: in [Sorcerer] First Campaign, everytime I asked Nick, "So what does your guy do?" he'd say things like, "I walk to the door. I open it. I walk through the doorway. I close the door behind me." And I kept thinking, how can I steer him towards his regular's boyfriend so they can have their murderous confrontation? Picture me, metaphorically, thumbing through the agenda manual, unscrewing the case and changing the board jumper to the setting, "frame aggressively to a point of inescapable, relevant choice."

To be honest, I lost Nick (as a player) in this campaign, but I applied the lesson I learned to other narrative threads to good effect.

Example #3: in [Traveller] Writing Myself into the Back-Story, (which should have been titled Writing Myself into the GM's Plot,) I was about to claw my eyes out for lack of integrated direction to my group's exploration. Nick and Cory were happily exploring a sunken alien ship, hoping for nothing more than to score some battle armor, whereas I wanted to advance the intrigue of the power struggle between the rival governments of the New Hope colony. Well, just picture me, walking to the agenda panel, and turning the authorship dial from "central/GM" to "diffuse/players" and flipping the weave switch.

Play just exploded.

Ron Edwards


This makes me happy.

Quick point: it does sound very GNS-y to me, though, because the "conscious" issue doesn't matter. No Creative Agenda requires everyone at the table looking at each other, saying, "Oh, so let's be Narrativist [e.g.] now," and then switching Techniques. In fact, any such interaction strikes me as highly dubious that they'd be doing any such thing.


Bill Cook

True. As much as aesthetics may be stamped, I'd say those examples were S, N, S. Or maybe, for the second one, N, kicking and screaming.

What I now realize, though, is that poor play is not automatically a clash of CA's. In our first TROS campaign, in that regard, I was the only apple in the orange basket, suffering under the delusion that throwing the system at the GM enforces agenda. To contrast, with our Traveller campaign, we're all willfully, knowingly holding hands, well underneath the umbrella of Sim; and still I'm fidgeting in place, unhappy with the group's direction.

What's interesting is that my adjustments (which spread like a brushfire) were all at the techniques level, and did not (with the latter) reflect any expectation that a CA shift would redeem play. GNS context is inescapable, but you don't have to be aware of it to improve your play.

I think a useful analogy is a PA system. Any boob can fiddle with the board knobs, and he'll learn things like "Whoa! Feedback sucks!" and "Hey! Slightly raising the highs increases intelligibilty!" Then, at a conceptual level, you learn about signal-to-noise ratio and proximity effect; applying your new understanding, you realize, "If I maximize gain with each successive stage, I reproduce a fuller sound spectrum and am less likely to create a loop of particular frequencies," and "If I have the singer put her lips on the mic grill, it increases clarity beyond any compensation by other means." Then, even further down, you learn about polarity and vocal production; so you refine your approach: "Wow! This phase inverter makes sure that my polarity is good at each stage in the chain," and "Taking a belly breath creates a more confident and expressive tone."

Two points illustrated here: (1) though one may lack awareness of more fundamental levels, they pervade; and (2) at every level, improved performance manifests as an implementation of technique.