Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Drawing Conclusions in Public

Started by lumpley, February 08, 2002, 05:06:40 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


In far distant”>Actual Play, Ron says
QuoteSo here I am, Narrativist player, "playing my character." Do I think, "What would he do?" Sure I do! In my case, the question serves the purposes of the underlying player priority of getting a great story made about this guy; why ever in the world would I permit violating "him"? That would defeat the purpose…  Sacrificing the integrity of [character decisions, conflict resolutions, and the authors’ commitment to the issue] makes a worse story, not a better one. Rather, the integrity of these things are utilized, up-front, to produce a story (as just described) as the shared end.

And this is why it makes sense for Exploration to be broken out, on top of or underlying or surrounding the GNS, right?  Everybody needs consistent characters, robust setting, compelling descriptions, suspension of disbelief.  Having your SOD broken is good for nobody.

It’s also why it doesn’t make sense to talk about Narrativist techniques as such.  Things like Director Stance and Fortune-in-the-Middle work at the Exploration level.  Director Stance might make the Exploration more Narrativist-friendly, say, if it’s used that way, but by itself it doesn’t say anything about the goals of the players.  So when we say ‘Narrativist technique,’ it’s a shorthand for ‘technique for Exploration that makes the process of Exploration support Narrativism more effectively’ or something.

Just making sure I’m in the right neighborhood.


Ron Edwards

Pretty much OK by me, Vince ... except for one teeny li'l thing that will probably cause a big shitstorm once I say it.

To wit: abandon all reference to Suspension of Disbelief.

I have always found this term to be meaningless for any discussion of media or activity. At best, it stands in for a variety of other, more concrete things (e.g. "interest," "engagement," "commitment," "attention"), and at worst, it's one of those horrible terms that takes over a discussion such that no one has any idea of the actual issue being debated.

To discuss what "Suspension of Disbelief" is, one must first have a notion of what "Disbelief" is, and to do that, one must first have a notion of what "Belief" is. Let's see, I'm watching a movie or playing an RPG, and I "believe" first, then "disbelieve," and then "suspend the disbelief" ...? Bullshit. Nothing but entrenched-by-bad-teaching, entrenched-by-poser-handwaving bullshit.

When anyone uses the term regarding (say) role-playing, I ask a few questions, and I find that all they mean, usually, is simply that the person involved is (a) imaginatively engaged, (b) paying attention, and (c) contributing. That's all. Hell, I call that nothing but (a) imaginatively engaged, (b) paying attention, and (c) contributing. No weird cognitive twisty believe/disbelieve/suspend process necessary.

[Anyone interested in this issue relative to cinema should check out Noel Carroll's Mystifying Movies and Carol Clover's Men Women and Chainsaws, both of which provide excellent, academically-solid, powerful arguments against the traditional mode (ie infantilized, dream-state, suspended-disbelief) of describing an audience member's interaction with a film.]




I agree completely--and Ron does as well. In practice though (here) it's often not presented that way.  This is from a recent thread:

First of all one of the keys to Narrativism is the focus on real human issues be they concrete, Mother-Daughter Relationships, or more abstract, Honor.

Which can be the focus of a Simulationist game too--or even (in some way) a Gamist game, no? The *context* of the writer is shifting from Simulation to Narrativism--so I think it's pretty clear that this is being presented as one of the differences.

Also: If you break Exploration of [story elements] out of Simulationism, what's left? Under GDS it's an emphasis on results being consisent with some established reality--but that isn't the case under GNS. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding this.

Finally: SOD.

1. Roger Ebert cites studies that show different mental states viewing reflected light (movies) vs. projected light (television): awe vs. stupor/hypnosis. Is this the case? Who knows--but it's key to his argument against digital projection of movies.

2. Reading is different from Writing. Telling a story is different from being told a story ... call it SOD, immersion, whatever. Call it something--it's a different take on things between GM'ing and playing.

JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland


Nope, no shitstorm over here.  Engaged, attentive, contributing it is.

But then I always was a bandwagon-jumper when it came to terminology.  (Witness me picking up SoD from Simulationism-of-old.)

However, I do have definite experience of things sometimes breaking my -- something.  Willingness to go on if that's indeed true, call it.  Things that make me go "Huh?  No way in hell."

Oh, of course, they're times when the group consensus isn't working, that's what they are.  One of the other players draws conclusions incompatible with mine, introduces something into the game that I can't accomodate, bang!  That's what I mean.  

I don't imagine that you're denying the existence of that kind of breakdown, only the validity of the term.


Ron Edwards


In defense of Jesse's point, I submit that he is using "focus" to mean, specifically, the priority of play, and "real human issue" to indicate that something is up that the people at the table would like to address, via their characters, in addition to (and more important than) something that the characters, in their fictional reality, must address. It might interest you to know that Jesse, a year ago, presented extensive arguments and protests on the Gaming Outpost about many of the same issues that you often bring up now.

"Also: If you break Exploration of [story elements] out of Simulationism, what's left? Under GDS it's an emphasis on results being consisent with some established reality--but that isn't the case under GNS. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding this."

It's really hard for me to understand your question. What do you mean, actually, by "breaking Exploration of [story elements] out of Simulationism?" If by "[story elements]" you are referring to Character, System, Situation, Color, and Setting, I do not consider these things in Part One of the essay to be "story elements" but "components of Exploration." The difference is huge; those things may be story elements, but they do not have to be. Also, what you describe as "emphasis on results being consistent with some established reality" - if by "emphasis" you mean "priority" - is a perfectly reasonable description of my definition of Simulationist play, especially if "established reality" can take on many meanings, from character psychology to physics or metaphysics-of-magic, or whatever.

You may be confounding "stuff happening in play" with Story. A story is not an element of Narrativist play; it is a goal of play - a distinctive object with distinctive qualities that may occur or result from whatever-is-done with elements such as character, setting, and situation. Simulationism, by my definition, refers to modes of play in which creating that particular sort of object is not the goal. All the [listed elements, "stuff happening in play"] are still there; the difference is what the group or person is doing with them and what for.



Hi Ron,

It may be that Jesse made the same arguments--and that I haven't made the cognitive leap yet.

1. If the stuff that happens is primiarily series of scenes envisioned by the GM (maybe plus or minus a few depending on player actions) isn't that the GM's story? It sure feels (when I'm the GM) like writing a story.

2. If the players and the GM, when deciding what to do choose to participate in a game that appeals to their issues (and consider those issues when making their characters)--but includes no narrativist mechanics and the the players are generally committed to being "in character" isn't that exploration of situation that that appeals to real human issues?

3. Looking at The Window as a simulation of some reality will render it broke. Looking at it as a system that lets you explore situations (defined by the GM) while staying in-character makes it almost perfect (there are no mechanics to get in the way of the GM creating events and outcomes).

[ Note: I'm not saying that narrativism is the same as simulationism in aims and methods I'm just saying that the points people are talking about aren't where the differences lie.

Narrativist Premise: Is Love worth death? (answered by the player in the "creation of a story.")

Simulationist Premise: What is it like to be faced with the choice of Love over Death? (answered during play as the player works to stay in character).

Compare to:
Simulationist Premise: What is it like to be a Vampire? ]

JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland

Jared A. Sorensen

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Pretty much OK by me, Vince ... except for one teeny li'l thing that will probably cause a big shitstorm once I say it.

To wit: abandon all reference to Suspension of Disbelief.

And thank you for saying it, Ron.

I am a big, big opponent of the whole SoD thing (except in the rare cases where SoD refers to the seminal mid-80's thrash band "Stormtroopers of Death," which I'm all for).

I have a feeling this is a topic for a whole new thread. But in short, whenever someone mentions the suspension of disbelief the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I start to feel slightly green around the gills. Unless you're mentally ill, or the director is purposely misleading the audience as part of their goal,  there is no way that someone in the audience is going to think the events of a movie are really happening. The characters are always actors (no matter how good they are), the effects are always effects (no matter how good they are). SoD is simply not an issue.

Quality is an issue. Consistency is an issue. Pacing is an issue. But trying to "trick" the audience into thinking something is real is NOT. Take a look at Jason & the Argonauts. The stop-motion skeletons were revolutionary effects back then and they STILL hold up well today, even though they are by no means "realistic." What they are is effective. Creepy, weird and cool. When someone looks at Plan 9 from Outer Space and sees a flaming pie plate, that's not their suspension of disbelief being broken. That's just crappy filmmaking. It doesn't break the SoD ("Oh wow, this is all just a movie...almost forgot!"). It just breaks the mood ("Wow, that sucks.").

Compare the CGI Godzilla with the stop-motion King Kong from the original movie. Which is more realistic? Which is more effective?  yaddah yaddah, rant mode off, medicine imbibed. So very, very sleepy...
jared a. sorensen /


Hmm - we seem to see a lot of pricklishness to SOD without any real explanation as to how else to describe the experience.  I don't like the deconstruction much; we are not trying to get the audience to believe that this is real, but to suspend their knowledge that it is not and thus identify with the situation and the protagonists.  (Although incidentally, movies in the pseudo-documentary style make a much greater effort in this direction - honourable mention goes to '84 Charlie MOPIC', which I found succeeded in FULLY supending audience disbelief to the point that you had to consciously remind yourself that it was a work of fiction).  I don't think "imaginative investment" really captures this concept for me; perhaps it is a form of imaginative investment, but I don;t think the term really conveys the specific of the act - internalising a fictional situation as real within certain limmited but usually conscious bounds.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


I gotta agree with CC on this one.  The term has always worked for me, and I never ascribed to it any of the ludicrousness that some of the above comments do.  

I dont' expect to believe that I'm on a planet surrounded by alien bugs when watching Starship Troopers.  I do expect that the elite mobile infantry troopers behave like elite mobile infantry troopers and not a rioting mob.  I do expect that naval captains can keep their ships from colliding with each other as a prerequisite of being given command in the first place.

These things (as the MIA John Wick once said) serve to "snap my disbelief suspenders".

When things work the way they are supposed to work and the movie / novel / TV show / or RPing session is plausible then SoD has been achieved.  When there are jarring nonsequitors, segues that don't follow, and scenes that aren't "true to themselves", then SoD has not been achieved.

Its really as simple as that.

Gordon C. Landis

SoD is a perfectly acceptable/descriptive term for me (in terms of RPGs - I'm not cinema-crit-savvy enough to comment on its' applicability in movies), though I agree with/understand folks who are upset with the excesses to which it might sometimes be used.  In particular, it's important to realize (as I recall John Wick did in his "snapping the disbelief suspenders" description) that what breaks SoD for some folks is no big deal for others.

My main thought, though, aligns with Gareth - if you want to get rid of SoD, you need to give me something to replace it with, and 'imaginitive engagement' is not sufficiently precise.  There is a specific kind of issue that SoD describes.  For example, I have a bit of concern about the kind of Authorial power demonstrated by, oh, the example of a crane dropping something on the villian.  The player invents that, it's a cool effect, it serves the story - great!  But a little earlier, we had someone trapped under a bunch of steel pipes, and had to summon a demon to get 'em off of him . . . where was the crane then?  I could've avoided my demon-summoning if we had a CRANE!

Obviously, there's lots of ways to handle this kind of thing, from the group agreeing to ignore such little inconsistencies in the name of a good story, to appropriate GM intervention, or . . . hmm, an interesting toipic for another thread - what are good Narrativist techniques (Vincent caveat's about the term taken) to avoid this kind of problem?

But my point is - breaking SoD (or snapping my disbelief suspenders) describes, rather precisely, why the "crane situation" might be a problem.  If you want me to stop using SoD, I'm gonna need another way to describe that.

Gordon (under construction)

Ron Edwards


The term you're looking for, I think, is "integrity." It is the aesthetic satisfaction of the imagined circumstances, which are a little complex in role-playing because proposal and establishment of "what happens" are negotiated rather than presented as a unit.

For Gamist play, it's the integrity of the contest; for Simulationist play, it's the integrity of the imagined causality; for Narrativist play, it's the integrity of the formal narrative content (ie Premise in Egri's terms).

Elements of that integrity vary greatly within the modes and overlap greatly among the modes - that's why people get so squinty and upset when they try to figure out whether "consistency" matters, or try to confine it to one of the modes (ie Simulationism).

I contend that group commitment to this integrity, coupled with the "imaginative engagement," is the actual venue of role-playing, much as a screen and a darkened room are the venue of cinema, or a page of some kind is the venue of literature/fiction. I also contend that "suspension of disbelief" is used as a term to indicate this thing (hence Ralph's point is valid - what he's referring to is an issue of importance), but that the term itself is misleading to a harmful extent.

This actually goes back to the point that Jared and I were discussing about playing characters on or off type for oneself - everyone kept bringing in "SoD," and Jared kept saying, "That's not the point." We were committed to the integrity of the venue, not to what we "didn't believe," or "didn't not believe" or whatever SoD is supposed to be literally describing.


Gordon C. Landis

"Integrity."  OK, that's a good general descriptor for the situation.  The only thing that concerns me is that integrity is a kinda absolute-sounding word, and SoD (for me) is about acknowledging that we are NOT in an absolute situation, we realize we can't acheive "100% integrity", but that doesn't matter, everything still works and everyone is having fun.

Until it's not, and they're not.  Suspenders snapped/SoD broken.

So . . . you've got an imaginitive commitment from the group.  You've got a game-world integrity that's being maintained (in some way) by one and all.  Importantly, everyone knows this integrity is NOT 100%.  There is "sufficient integrity" - either the imaginitive commitmet is high enough to overcome integrity issues, or the integrity is being maintained at a level that prevents issues from arising, or some approriately balanced combination of the two is working.

So . . . I can replace "SoD was broken" with things like "I lost my imaginitive commitment when the not previusly-established crane convienently dropped its' load of rebar on the villan" or "The integrity seemed way off when the Master Steersman couldn't succesfully dock his ship half the time".

Now I'm off to that gender-bender thread to see if this is actually useful in some way.

And after that visit . . . I'm left with thinking that even over in that thread, what people meant by SoD is exactly what's being discussed here - the ability to continue imaginitive commitment and accept the inevitably flawed-integrity as sufficient-integrity.   The factors that enter into this are many, and often personal.  E.g., there's a guy in my group who basically ALWAYS plays a female.  It was a bit jarring at first, but now, the OPPOSITE is jarring - when he played a guy a few games back, it was hard for me to adjust.

This "integrity" we're talking about here is a twisty beast . . .

Gordon (under construction)


Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
You've got a game-world integrity that's being maintained (in some way) by one and all.  Importantly, everyone knows this integrity is NOT 100%.  There is "sufficient integrity" - either the imaginitive commitmet is high enough to overcome integrity issues, or the integrity is being maintained at a level that prevents issues from arising, or some approriately balanced combination of the two is working.

Well I like like the SoD term as well and I know it doesn't equate to 100% integrity, but maybe that's the problem. My internal suspender snap level is an entirely relative construct.

But I still think there's a "lowest common denominator" level that allows the term to continue to be useful.