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Author Topic: Narritivist vs. Simulationist:Situation  (Read 5405 times)
Steve Dustin
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« on: February 14, 2002, 09:28:38 AM »

Let's see if I got this straight. Having read the essay various times and read these threads I'm understanding Narritivism and Simulationism for Situation as so:

Narritivism: focus on story/theme with player input

Simulationism (Situation): focus on story with complete GM control, no player input

Is the deference really whose making the story up at the table? If so, then what's the point of defining GM/Player Directorial Stance--since a player with directorial powers is by definition playing in a Narrativist game?

And finally, if the dividing line is very small, why isn't Narritivism just Simulationism (Theme)?

Inquiring minds want to know.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2002, 09:34:59 AM »

Hi Steve,

This one will have to wait for a day or two. Real life intervenes. For now, I'll say that your distinction is a bit simplistic and that the differences between Simulationism and Narrativism are more fundamental.

Anyone else is of course free to jump in.

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2002, 09:46:00 AM »

Steve,

I'll jump in with an admittedly simplistic analogy:

Think about the difference between real life and a book. In a book, a good story will (or at least should) happen. It's the purpose of being a book - to have a good story. There will still be characters, a background, a setting, and the like, but events are written for the singular purpose of creating a good story.

In real life, you don't think, 'What would make a good story?' before you do things. You think, 'What's the most practical solution?' A lot of times, you don't even think that. You just go with what pleases you the most.

Likewise, narrativism is role-playing for the explicit purpose of creating a good story. Decisions are made to influence the quality of the story, and hopefully, mechanics will support story creation.

In simulationism, you role-play with the explicit purpose of portraying a character within a set of boundaries. It doesn't have to be realistic, but consistent. What your character does and can do are set by the "simulation," or the setting and theme of the game.

As in real life, you'd love it if a great story came out of your action, but that's not the point. Simplified, the point is asking yourself, "What would this guy do in this situation?" and exploring the outcomes of that.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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contracycle
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2002, 09:48:31 AM »

I'll have a crack, partly becuase I suspect I may be Ron's diametric counterpoint when it comes to sim and exploration.  For a while I have been thinking that Sim needs a Forge to discuss its own particular nuances :)

I hadb a bit of a difficulty with the narrativism "vs" sim thing the other day in the horror + nar thread, becuase the descriptions of narratavist play and player behaviour do not seem a million miles away from my experience of player behaviour in strongly Illusionist games.

I think it is necessarily the case that all the preferences can adopt authorial, and to a lesser extent directorial, stances.  I think the distinction lies in the degree of consciousness by the players of their "right", in fact responsibility, to exercise this power.  Sim players will, I think, occassionally exert authorial power unconsciously.  I'm not sure they ever exert directorial power unconsciously, however.

Thus I think an explicit metagame dialogue is between player and "GM" about story points and events is more likely in the Nar environment; I suspect Sim players are more likely to exhibit their "authorialism" with propositions about the game rather than statements about it.  Fundamentally, too much conversation of thus type is likely to challenge the Sim and ths their enjoyment.

To me, at the moment, the distinction lies in the conscious awareness of the tools and their use.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2002, 10:17:59 AM »

Quote from: contracycle

I think it is necessarily the case that all the preferences can adopt authorial, and to a lesser extent directorial, stances.  I think the distinction lies in the degree of consciousness by the players of their "right", in fact responsibility, to exercise this power.  Sim players will, I think, occassionally exert authorial power unconsciously.  I'm not sure they ever exert directorial power unconsciously, however.

This is absolutely true. Sim players even exert Directorial control unconciously on occasion, though, only for inconsequential matters. For instance, a player might order a meal at an inn, and, when insiulted while eating, declare that they are going to smack the offender with a leg from the turkey they are eating. Assuming that the meal had been previously undefined, the creation of the turkey is directorial power. In some Sim games a GM may dissallow this sort of thing, but just as often it goes unnoticed, as long as the creation follows the Sim axiom of versimilitude (are turkeys available, did the player pay enough for one). At a certain point this sort of thing is unavoidable. If the GM says that there is a door, the player is probably safe in instantiating a handle or knob or other opening apparatus as in, "I grab the knob and jerk the door open."

The key difference is the point at which the player assumes that he is grabing an a priori doorknob. The point at which the player starts to create objects important to the plot, with the intent that they be important (that doorknob will occasionally become important by accident), is the point at which it ceases being a Simulation, and instead becomes collaborative Narrative.

Mike
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2002, 11:01:58 AM »

Quote

contracycle says:

To me, at the moment, the distinction lies in the conscious awareness of the tools
                       and their use.


But isn't that circular reasoning? You are playing in a Narrativist game because it claims to be one?

It seems to me, that for Narrativism to exist, it must still exist without a conscious reference to it.

Sorry if I'm asking dumb questions, but I've been lurking for two-three weeks on these boards, and while what's going on here appears to be nothing short of miraculous (to me), I've got more questions than answers. I'm just trying to understand.

Quote

Clinton R. Nixon says:

In simulationism, you role-play with the explicit purpose of portraying a character
                       within a set of boundaries. It doesn't have to be realistic, but consistent. What your
                       character does and can do are set by the "simulation," or the setting and theme of
                       the game.


Let's examine that for a second. Let's just look at things at the exploration level. If you are exploring a setting, a character, a situation, etc. you likely need to set boundaries to be able to explore it. But when you explore a 'theme,' you're only boundaries are thematic boundaries. And to my knowledge no mainstream RPGs (granted I'm not as well read as most of you) have specific rules regarding the thematic boundaries.

My question is, if Simulationism is exploration of things that have boundaries set by GM, and one hallmark of Narrativism, as I'm understanding from this forum, is exploration of theme--then why do we run things through the GNS meatgrinder? Why can't we just discuss RPGs under the heading Exploration and dispense with GNS? What is it that GNS is bringing to the table that I can't explain through Exploration of System, Setting, Theme, Character, Situation, or Plot(?), etc?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2002, 11:17:05 AM »

Hi Steve,

I found a minute so shall wade back in ...

First of all, these are excellent, critical questions. I totally endorse you asking them.

I'll stick with the most fundamental of the bunch, because I'm pretty sure it'll reverberate out to the others:
"why do we run things through the GNS meatgrinder? Why can't we just discuss RPGs under the heading Exploration and dispense with GNS? What is it that GNS is bringing to the table that I can't explain through Exploration of System, Setting, Theme, Character, Situation, or Plot(?), etc?"

I think that Theme is (a) not an imagined element of play. It is an outcome, or even better, a reaction. The same, in many ways, applies to Plot - insofar as we are talking about events and outcomes that are only derived through play, not "pre-planned Plot" (which would be Situation).

In other words, the elements that I have listed (Character, Situation, Setting, Color, even System) may be introduced as "things to imagine" by the various people at the table. Plot cannot - it arises from play (System in action). Theme cannot - it arises from a reaction or judgment applied to Plot.

The larger issue, though, is "Why not just talk about Exploring?"

The answer is, Because people Explore (role-play) for different reasons, and the way they want any of the listed elements to interact is going to vary in tremendously varying ways based on these reasons. This is, in the most general sense of the term, "metagame." Why does Johnny play?

That's why GNS is a big deal - because no procedural or imaginative aspects of role-playing are going to be reliably successful without accord among the people involved about "why," and (as I argue) without some procedural facilitation from the System itself.

I should also point out that Plot and Theme, as discussed above, are not universally desired or prioritized aspects of role-playing. Plenty of people have argued passionately about, and spend hours performing, modes of play that specifically disavow these things. I, on the other hand and for-instance, intensely dislike playing without them as priorities (with some exceptions). That's the metagame right there - without GNS or something like it to describe these real-life, real-human priorities, then we spin into dysfunctional play, dysfunctional design, and dysfunctional discussion.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2002, 11:52:12 AM »

I'm going to take a crack at this.  I think Ron dislikes the terms 'in-game' and 'out-of-game' but I'm going to use them anyway because I think they at least convey what I'm getting at if not concretely define what is actually going on.

Look at the top of the essay and you'll notice that Ron creates sort of a 'minimum' requirement for something to be a roleplaying game.  He basically says that roleplaying is the act of imagining:

Character, Situation, Setting, Color and System.

I think Theme/Plot are dilberately excluded from this list because they are fundamentally different and not NECESSARY for something to be a roleplaying game.  The five elements listed are all, 'in-game' constructs.  Notice that the footnote even defines 'System' to mean 'events to be occurring.'  That is, these things all really 'exist' in the shared imagined space that is the game world.  If this imagined space were somehow real then these 5 things are what it would be made up of.

Things like Theme and Plot and even Game, however require an external observer.  They require something OUTSIDE the imagined space.  A Character only has a Theme in that there is something external to that character to recognize that theme.  A Plot exists only in that there is an outside observer to impose some meaning on the sequence of events.  A Game only exists if there is external entity aranging things appropriately.  And so on.

GNS in some sense is an answer to the question, 'What purpose do these 5 elements serve?'

In a Gamist environment those five elements are deliberately arranged to produce some kind of 'game' in the classic sense of the word.  The five elements are subservient to the player's desire for good competition.

In a Narrativist environment those five elements are deliberately arranged to produce some kind of 'story' in the litterary sense of the word.  The five elements are subservient to the player's desire to explore a Premise (narrow Narrativist sense) and author a Theme.

However, in a Simulationist environment those five elements are the very point of play.  The five elements are subservient to nothing other than the predefined arrangement for their self-contained interactions.

From this point the existence of Director Stance does not effect the view point.  Director Stance alone does not define Narrativism because we have to understand WHY Director Stance is being imployed.  

In fact I find that Simulationist players use Director Stance more often than they think.  

GM: "The Elevator isn't working."
Player: "Okay, I'll take the stairs."

The player just used Director Stance.  But he didn't do it because of Premise or Theme or Game.  He did it because that's a natural extention of the already existing element of the game.

GM: "You're in a Roman War Chariet speeding across the desert."

Player: "Okay, Roman Chariets have shields on them.  I'm going to take the shield...."

Again, Director Stance but no indication that this isn't Simulationism.

Is this any clearer?

Jesse
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2002, 12:47:03 PM »

Quote

jburneko says:

Is this any clearer?


Why yes, it's fabulously clearer.

Just to re-interate back to you, to make sure we are both talking the same lingo.

To roleplay, is to explore one, a few, or all of the five (I don't know) "principles":

Character, Situation (or contrived Plot), Setting, Color and System

Basically, GNS is the answer to the question of "how do I explore those five principles?".

It appears that the five principles are the actual key, and not GNS.

If I'm reading you right, this separates Gamist and Narrativist from Simulationist. Gamist and Narrativist uses those principles to achieve "something" (game, theme, premise...). Simulationist is strictly exploration and "simulation" of those principles.

The question now becomes, are there more then the "five principles" to explore using GNS, and also, is there more then just GNS to explore the "five principles?" That's of course, assuming I've got the length of your jib right.

I believe I'm wandering super-off-target of this thread, which was basically started as "What is the concrete differences between Narritivism and Simulationist: Situation?"

Thanks a bundle.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2002, 01:30:28 PM »

Quote from: Steve Dustin

It appears that the five principles are the actual key, and not GNS.


The key to what? Without GNS you have no organization of these items. GNS is, for me, a key to avoiding bad game designs. Not the only key, but an important one.

You very much seem to want GNS to not be central to RPGs for some reason. Well, don't worry, it's not. It's only central to GNS theory.

Mike
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2002, 02:45:50 PM »

Quote

Mike Holmes says:

The key to what? Without GNS you have no organization of these items. GNS is, for
                       me, a key to avoiding bad game designs. Not the only key, but an important one.


Good question. I'd say the key, for me, to understanding this theory better. For me, it appears much easier to comprehend from the view point of what is familiar to me ("the five principles") to get to the definitions of Gamist, Narritivist, Simulationist. Apparently, for you, its the opposite. Maybe, don't quote me on that one.

Quote

Mike Holmes says:

You very much seem to want GNS to not be central to RPGs for some reason. Well,
                       don't worry, it's not. It's only central to GNS theory.


Sorry, I'm not trying to be reactionary. I'm just devil-advocating GNS to get a better understanding of it. I'm not here to "tear it down," but to understand what its useful for. I think you and I could agree that a theory that isn't useful isn't much of a theory. You got to understand that I'm a little behind the bell-curve then you are on this. What I've read so far on this forum has left me with more questions than answers.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2002, 03:04:30 PM »

Hey Steve,

You wrote,
"If I'm reading you right, this separates Gamist and Narrativist from Simulationist. Gamist and Narrativist uses those principles to achieve "something" (game, theme, premise...). Simulationist is strictly exploration and "simulation" of those principles. "

You are absolutely correct, and if you take a peek at the part of essay where I focus Premise according to GNS, you'll see that I say exactly the same thing. The "something" by definition must be a real-people thing, not an in-game thing. For Narrativists, it's Premise becoming Theme; for Gamists, it's "challenge" or "contest" becoming victory/loss of some kind.

I think this is a good indication that you are indeed latching on to all of this with very little grinding.

Best,
Ron
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