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Author Topic: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift  (Read 12040 times)
Marco
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« on: January 30, 2005, 04:48:01 AM »

In the Deception Thread Chris said this:
Quote from: clehrich

If you ditch story and play WoD games Sim, you'll be happy.  And the self-deception comes in if you tell yourself that really this is storytelling.

If you hang on to story hard and play WoD games, you must either Drift into Nar (which means altering the system), or get GM-controlled stories, or get unhappiness.  Or all of the above!

All I'm saying is that this mismatch, Nar-Sim constructed this way, is I think what Ron really means by TITBB.


When I read this, speficially the second paragraph, I thought I knew what he meant--I started writing a response--and then I realized I wasn't sure. The reasons deal with the words 'story' (or 'storytelling') , Drift, and GM-Control.

Note: I'm not singling Chris out--I do think he was clear there and I'm not arguing his *point* (I think it's a bit to general and wanted some clarafication elsewhere). I'm quoting this here because the collection of words and concepts that I find problematic are all in one place.

Here's what I think was meant:

Quote

If you hang on to the idea of [Address of Premise during play] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a game where the GM mandates all important actions], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


It's possible he meant something like this:
Quote

If you hang on to the idea of [getting a tight transcript in terms of action and theme] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a Sim-game where the GM assigns and controls the "focus of play"], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


It might mean (although I'm sure this isn't it):
Quote

If you hang on to the [ludicrous and non-sensical concept of story and story-telling in an RPG] hard and play WoD Games you must either [abandon the rules, or ditch the players or something] or [have an game where the GM simply narrates everything and the players sit silently and listen], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


All of these meanings have been advanced (and others as well) for the terms in the brackets. Here's how I interpert that statement:

Quote
If you hang on to [the idea of putting thematic elements into the transcript during play] hard and play WoD games, you must either [adopt a group-wide Nar stance] or [have the GM provide situations that strongly encourage play along the lines of some external character-engaging crisis], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


I don't think Chris was, for any large measure unclear in context nor is the language "useless" by any stretch of the imagination--however, I think that a lot of the discussion is making assumptions about what Story and Story-telling and GM-Control (or similar things: Force, for example) mean in a general sense.

So I wanted to use this thread to point out that I think there are several reasonable definitions of the terms (especially in various contexts). Hopefully this could either lead to some new glossary terms or perhaps an abandonment of centering discussions around 'story' and 'storytelling' (or GM-Control-of-Story) and instead using specific instances and examples in their place.

Term 1: Storytelling
There are a lot of people with firm ideas about what 'storytelling' means in an RPG context. Some of these are:

0. Storytelling is a term simply meaning 'what happens under Nar play.' This seems to be implied in a lot of posts I've seen.

Strength: It's a circular definition. Whatever storytelling might sound like (illusionsim? Participationism? Sim-play under Theatrix?) it's now definitionally tied to Nar play and therefore resolves confusion.

Weakness: The glossary pretty firmly separates 'story' from Nar play and doesn't mention 'storytelling' at all. The Nar essay doesn't mention 'storytelling' either as a defining concept of any sort (it's in the title of one of the chapters that's referenced for a quote). I think this is an addition to, or modification of the existing theory.

1. The 'literalist' approach: there is no such thing as storytelling in a traditional RPG. Traditional storytellers don't use dice, rule-books, or have 'players.' The term, therefore, cannot apply to a standard RPG at all.

Strength: This is inarguable. If the person adops a literal definiton of storytelling then RPG's don't apply.

Weakness: I object to this on the grounds that people use storytelling as a term that distinguishes something and therefore, saying that everyone is talking crazy-moon-language when they use it seems a bit useless. We regularly use the term 'author of the story' on The Forge, but there is no agreement as to what that means in the glossary.

If storytelling is useless terminology then so is protagonist and author. The author of the story is simply "the guy who writes the transcript down." That's not very useful.

2. The glossary approach: Story is defined in the glossary as being an interpertative quality of transcript (a redaction of play). Storytelling is not defined in the transcript. If we are to assume it means something, it means putting the elements of theme into the transcript that make a transcript a story.

Strength: I think this removes Story and storytelling from the discussion all around (including removing it as an important factor of Narrativist play). If people feel it's really important and should hold a special place (i.e. distinguishing Sim from Nar) then arguing this may lead to a revision of Narrativism.

Weakness: I have seen statements that I read as saying that without Narrativst play, even a tightly run CoC scenario will not produce a story-transcript without extensive rewrites and embellishing. I have yet to see a solid reason why this must be the case, however.

3. The Story-Game vs. Hack-and-Slash Approach: I think that people distinguish certain types of games based on their precieved mode of play.  In this sense, if the characters are attending parties and politicking and making angsty-in-character statements, they are storytelling. If they are fighting a battle of one set of orks after another, it isn't a story.

This is a very vague standard--however, I'm not so sure it's as vague as to be useless. As a stated preference, for example, it could lead to a variety of useful questions that illuminate what the user is speaking about ("I like it when people talk in character because it makes the dialog be like you'd find in a book.").

Strength: I think this is how a lot of people mean it--in a fairly broad, maybe even inconsidered fashion. Making a broad or somewhat vague statement should not be considered identical to making an incorrect one. Treating broad statements as incorrect will lead to argument rather than dialog.

Weakness: It makes it useless to use here.

Term 2: Drift
In this case, we know what Drift means since we have a glossary entry. However, historically changes to system (which is how the term was used early on) mostly meant changes to rules. Under the glossary defintion, however, it can mean simply having an agreement at the Social Contract level to do things a certain way.

With many games (TRoS) there will need to be some shared agreement about how the game is to be run amongst the players to get Narrativist play (although this is no big deal).

So when using drift in a sentence it is not clear if one means:
1. Changing the rules.
2. Merely haivng a shared Nar agenda at the table?

In the case of (1) there is clearly some additional effort invovled. In the case of (2), however, depending on one's concept of Nar-faclilitation this effort may a given for play (i.e. in order to sit down and play a Narrativist game of Over The Edge everyone must come to the table with a Nar agenda).

So it's not clear where a given speaker who employs the term stands on a given rule-set.

Term 3: GM-Control
Our other option is that the GM controls the story. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people.

1. Railroading. If people assume that GM Control of the story means railroading then it's definitionally dysfunctional.

Strength: It's clear. Railroaded games are clearly "GM controlled." You know this because the PC's ran into GM control and had an issue with it.

Weakness: It's a synonym and there is at least the theory that games can be controlled by the GM in some sense and not be dysfunctional. If that's the case, the term is highly misleading.

2. The GM sets up an active situation which must be addressed by the PC's or there will be dire consequences. In this case, the PC's may be said to be in the "GM's story" in some sense as he has set up a situation for them to interact with and it's hard for them to avoid that. If the GM's situation has a signifcant hand in driving the pacing of the game then it can be said to be "controlled" in some way by him.

Strength: The GM who creates the situation and sets it on the PC's is certianly generating a 'controlling force in the game' (i.e. if Sauron is marching, Frodo's wish to throw the One Ring in a river and open a bagel shop with Sam doesn't make a lot of sense under the context of the characters being real guys living in that world).

Weakness: This doesn't preclude an CA. Any CA, Sim, Gam, or Nar can be handled from a GM-driven external crisis. If the term is to be used to preclude Narrativist play it won't work.

3. The Right Idea. The GM has a right idea and if you don't guess it, he'll be hurt (this was the example in Chris' former post).

Strength: A GM who is dictating things on the basis that he has an emotional state in the direction of play is certainly 'controlling.'

Weakness: It isn't the status or power of being the 'GM' that is controling the story--if this person was a player with the same attitude (things had better turn out my way or I'll be hurt) the issue would be identical.

4.Sim-Where-the-GM-Assigns-The-Point: The GM says "this is what we'll be reinforcing" and the players agree.

Strength: A GM assigning the "point" of Sim play and acting as the gatekeeper sounds like an exercise of control.

Weakness: The GM has to play by the same rules. This can also be seen as a group agreement (the GM decides where to go) but once play is started the element of 'choosing where to go' applies to him as well.

So what's the statement really mean?
I'm going to modify Chris's statement for purposes of this article. I am
Quote

If you hang on to [storytelling] hard and play WoD games, you must either Drift into Nar (which means altering the system), or get GM-controlled stories, or get unhappiness.  Or all of the above!


My readings of the words without specific context are:
Storytelling (2).
Drift (2).
GM-Controlled (2).

From, were I to state Chris's sentence myself, I would mean:
Quote
If you hang on to [the idea of putting thematic elements into the transcript during play] hard and play WoD games, you must either [adopt a group-wide Nar stance] or [have the GM provide situations that strongly encourage play along the lines of some external character-engaging crisis], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!


This is actually a statement I completely agree with--it's something I'd tell someone who was complaining that under the Forge definition they were having a hard time getting story (under the glossary definition) out of their games.

However, it's also, I'm pretty sure NOT what Chris meant--since he associates it with TITBB. The point of this isn't that Chris was unclear--just that the terms used are not defined. Even in context, I'm not exactly sure what is meant by Drifting WoD (does giving the characters easy access to a blood supply, as I did in my game, count? Or not?)

-Marco
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John Kim
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2005, 06:02:50 PM »

I thought I should put a brief comment on this.  I think you're tackling several diverse topics here, which makes it hard to answer.  

1) What Chris Lehrich meant to say in the statement you quote.  That's a pretty specific question which should really be up to Chris to answer.

2) General use of the term "storytelling"

3) General use of the term "Drift"

4) General use of the term "GM control"

I think each of these could stand to be a topic unto itself.  I'm thinking of taking on #2, but it'll go in a new thread.
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Marco
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2005, 06:30:46 PM »

Right--the thread wasn't supposed to be about what Chris meant. It was meant to point out that we're using a lot of language that isn't defined anywhere and could mean a lot of similar but subtly and importantly different things.

-Marco
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clehrich
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2005, 06:58:36 PM »

Ye gods!  Um, ok.

First of all, Marco, you do know that what I meant by "charitable reading" didn't go to quite such extremes, right?  :->

Quote from: So I
If you hang on to story hard and play WoD games, you must either Drift into Nar (which means altering the system), or get GM-controlled stories, or get unhappiness.  Or all of the above!

Quote from: And then Marco
Option 1
If you hang on to the idea of [Address of Premise during play] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a game where the GM mandates all important actions], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!

Option 2
If you hang on to the idea of [getting a tight transcript in terms of action and theme] hard and play WoD Games you must either [change the rules] or [have a Sim-game where the GM assigns and controls the "focus of play"], or get unhappiness. Or all of the above!
I think I meant something in between.  You're right -- this terminology is imprecise, and does need focus.  Just to clear up the initial (and basically not very important) question, I think I basically meant:
    If the crew playing a WoD game is really insistent that
what they're going to do is tell stories, and they're really going mandate that that has to happen, then either they're going to have to change the rules or hand over all control of important actions to the GM; otherwise, they're not going to end up telling stories, since that's not usually what happens with Sim games, and that's going to lead to unhappiness all around.[/list:u]On to what matters -- Marco's careful terminological analyses.

Please note: while the above clarifies what I meant (more or less) about Drift and GM-control, it does not answer Marco's question about Story and my point, nor does it answer Marco's real question, which is what we all ought to mean by these terms.

But as John is dead right that this post is structured more intricately than is usual around here, I'm going to do that next post.  This one is just to get me off the hook!

Oh -- and thanks, Marco!
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2005, 07:46:42 PM »

Quote from: Marco
So I wanted to use this thread to point out that I think there are several reasonable definitions of the terms (especially in various contexts). Hopefully this could either lead to some new glossary terms or perhaps an abandonment of centering discussions around 'story' and 'storytelling' (or GM-Control-of-Story) and instead using specific instances and examples in their place.
First, let me say that I agree fully with Marco.  These terms are not all sufficiently precise or specific.  It remains to be seen whether on the whole they need to be terribly precise, but the question is certainly essential.

Let's start with Story, since this is the painful one.  I'm not going to discuss the others in this post.

[Marco's definitions]
Term 1: Storytelling

0. Storytelling is a term simply meaning 'what happens under Nar play.' This seems to be implied in a lot of posts I've seen.

1. The 'literalist' approach: there is no such thing as storytelling in a traditional RPG. Traditional storytellers don't use dice, rule-books, or have 'players.' The term, therefore, cannot apply to a standard RPG at all.

2. The glossary approach: Story is defined in the glossary as being an interpretative quality of transcript (a redaction of play). Storytelling is not defined in the transcript. If we are to assume it means something, it means putting the elements of theme into the transcript that make a transcript a story.

3. The Story-Game vs. Hack-and-Slash Approach: I think that people distinguish certain types of games based on their precieved mode of play.  In this sense, if the characters are attending parties and politicking and making angsty-in-character statements, they are storytelling. If they are fighting a battle of one set of orks after another, it isn't a story.

---
Okay, so let me add to Marco's analyses.

0.  This definition would fall squarely into the old wheeze of "Forge jargon."  By removing "story" from all usage except that specific to one Forge-defined CA (another Forge concept), we make it increasingly difficult for anyone else to make any sense of what we're talking about.  Practically speaking, I also doubt very much that everyone could reasonably adhere to this anyway, because "story" just seems so chunky and useful so often.

1. Again, I think it's unreasonable to remove the term from the lexicon entirely, on any grounds.  In addition, Actual Play discussions, and common perception, show that a lot of games do indeed produce something that "feels like" a story -- they have at least a "family resemblance" thereto.  To eliminate the term is to define it more narrowly than is at all usual: in normal English usage, "Story" does not refer only to what story-tellers do, but to a much wider range of (usually literary) objects.  So to discard it is both impractical and narrow-minded.

2. This definition is in fact not a definition of story, but a description of the circumstances under which story is produced.  It assumes, in fact, that we know what story is.  Thus it is a circular definition.  In effect, it says that story (and we all know what that is) only appears in certain kinds of transcripts under certain circumstances; this is at best a negative definition, intended to block the term's use in other contexts.  This last has had practical value around here, which is why it's formulated this way.  But it is not a definition of story itself, and thus at the least it requires expansion.

3. As Marco says, this definition is much too vague for precise use, and will naturally lead to confusion and disagreement.  It does reflect common use in gaming circles, to some degree: WoD games are "storytelling" games by this definition (so long as you forget about all that fighting and whatnot that happens there).  Once again, it's really a negative definition: story isn't hack-and-slash, which doesn't say what it actually is.

I would suggest that we forget about 0 and 1, as they are simply impractical and I see no way of fixing that.

------------
So what do we mean by story?

Let's note that the "Story Now" essay does provide a gloss:
Quote
All role-playing necessarily produces a sequence of imaginary events. Go ahead and role-play, and write down what happened to the characters, where they went, and what they did. I'll call that event-summary the "transcript." But some transcripts have, as Pooh might put it, a "little something," specifically a theme: a judgmental point, perceivable as a certain charge they generate for the listener or reader. If a transcript has one (or rather, if it does that), I'll call it a story.
Later in that essay, Ron uses a few concepts apparently derived from Lajos Egri; he says that
Quote
at least one engaging issue or problematic feature of human existence [must] be addressed
and he provides an extensive gloss on "address."

Ultimately, however, Ron does preface all this discussion with the remark that
Quote
Long ago, I concluded that "story" as a role-playing term was standing in for several different processes and goals, some of which were incompatible.
By my reading, nothing has really changed.  Ron has proposed definitions that work for Story Now, a particular mode of play, but are not intended to work more broadly.  Certainly Marco's analysis indicates, and I'd agree with him, that these definitions should not be applied generally.  So we're stuck.

------------
My own inclination is to fall back on narrative terms: exposition, development, climax, denouement -- or their many variants.  It seems to me that what we usually mean by "story" has these qualities.  The problem is that even these are sufficiently general that we could say the same thing of a fight scene, as in fact is often done in film; that is, film people do often analyze a scene or sequence in these same terms.  This means that the obvious distinction between "hack and slash" and "story" is not well formulated on this basis, since a fight-scene is normally a sequence (in film terms) that fits a narrative model.

But here's where I want to throw a wrench in the works.

I think that the difference which the "storytelling games" folks have in mind is not that between fight scene and story, but between "hack and slash" and story.  I think Marco is remarkably precise there.

Consider The Princess Bride, looking at the sequence in which the disguised hero meets Inigo Montoya at the top of the cliff.  This is simply a fight sequence, nothing more.  But it does tell one sort of story:
    Exposition: the hero is panting for breath (having climbed a cliff), but he's ready to fight.  Inigo doesn't want to just yet, because he doesn't want it to be unfair.  This tells us that Inigo is basically a decent guy, and the fact that they have a little banter here as well sets up the general feel of the sequence.  Eventually, Inigo is getting impatient, because now the hero has decided to sit on his butt, so they've switched.  Then they finally get their act together and draw swords.
    Development: they fight for a bit.  Cool swordplay, lots of fun is had.  Eventually they come to the clinch.  Inigo admits that the hero is a fabulous swordsman -- but that he himself is not left-handed.
    Development 2 (used to heighten tension): they fight some more.  More cool swordplay.  Eventually they clinch again.  The hero reveals that he too is not left-handed.
    Climax: the hero wins.  Inigo begs to be killed.  The hero bonks him on the head instead, because he rather likes him and he's not a rotten guy -- he's the hero, right?
    Denouement: the Sicilian sees that Inigo has been beaten.  "Inconceivable!"  He sends the Giant to stop the hero.[/list:u]That is a story, isn't it?  But it isn't hack-and-slash.  Sure, some fighting happened, but it happened in a manner structured to say something.  The point, from a "storytelling games" perspective, is that this could not be experienced by the players through mere die-rolling.  In other words, this is "storytelling" and not "hack-and-slash."

    The problem that Ron has been pointing to for some years now is that even if you discard the "just roll some dice" approach associated (not entirely fairly) with D&D et al., you're not going to get this sequence without doing something more.  In fact, you're going to have to enforce, somewhere, at some level, that dramatic structure.  You're going to have to prevent a bad roll from killing a character, which would suck for the story.  And so on.  In fact, you're going to have to impose constraints from a meta-level that will ensure that story happens.

    Now apparently (according to Xiombarg, for example), this is not at all popular as a conclusion among WoD players.  This means that one of the following things is happening:[list=1][*]They're not getting story
    [*]They're secretly doing meta-work, but don't know or admit it
    [*]The GM is doing meta-work, and they feel this doesn't count as a problem
    [*]The hand of God regularly reaches down into WoD games[/list:o]I for one doubt 1 and 4.  I suspect (as you know from another thread) that 2 is happening, to some degree, but I think the main point is that 3 is happening.

    So apparently story, for these players, requires not only this structure, but also that it happen to them rather than being constructed by them.

    But the nice thing about looking at it this way is that story is happening regardless, by a fairly traditional definition, which is to say some version of a classic narrative structure.  Which we can then debate, in other threads, without running too far off from what non-Forge posters are familiar with.

    The trick is, this does entail one big change: the definition cannot be formulated in terms of process.  Story is product.

    This means (getting back to Marco's definitions) that #2 is a poor definition, because it tells us how story is made.  It also means that #3 is poor only insofar as it is negative and not positive.  That has the advantage, practically speaking, that we can hang on to all that stuff people sometimes like to talk about: narrative, form, structure, and whatnot.  Lit-crit stuff, or drama-class stuff, or whatever.  I don't know much about this sort of thing, but a lot of folks do.  I think that a definition that permits all of that material to be applicable is a wise thing to shoot for, as it opens up new avenues of analysis.

    But the shift from process to product does have one BIG implication:
      The Big Model is about process, not product[/list:u]Which means that "Story Now" suddenly changes its valence.  Every form of "story" within the Big Model except Story Now must be eliminated, because it's totally irrelevant: only Story Now is about process -- and it's not exactly about story, either, although it's very much about something like story.  Whenever we talk about story and CA, then, we're necessarily talking about Narrativism.  If we say that a Sim game can produce stories, that says nothing at all: it's like saying that the baker makes both bread and cookies -- they aren't connected.

      All of which leads me in a vast circle around to saying that I don't love the usage "Story Now," but it's been pretty well accepted, so I'll buy it.  But otherwise, Story has nothing whatsoever to do with process-analysis, and thus nothing to do with GNS or Big Model or anything like that.  It's a piece of a model not yet built, a product-model of gaming.  That's a necessary and overdue complement to the Big Model, but it's not the same beast at all.

      Enough yammering.  Sorry!
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      Chris Lehrich
      John Kim
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      « Reply #5 on: February 01, 2005, 09:33:12 PM »

      Quote from: clehrich
      The trick is, this does entail one big change: the definition cannot be formulated in terms of process.  Story is product.
      ...
      But the shift from process to product does have one BIG implication:
        The Big Model is about process, not product[/list:u]Which means that "Story Now" suddenly changes its valence.  Every form of "story" within the Big Model except Story Now must be eliminated, because it's totally irrelevant: only Story Now is about process -- and it's not exactly about story, either, although it's very much about something like story.

        Right.  This is exactly the point that Marco was driving at in his recent GNS thread, http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13935">Retroactive Story.  Narrativism as defined is about one process (or one class of processes) for generating story.  It's not about story itself.  On the other hand, Marco met with some stiff resistance to the idea in that thread.
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        Marco
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        « Reply #6 on: February 01, 2005, 09:35:49 PM »

        Chris,

        I agree with your arguments and not with your conclusions! You are right that Storytelling is process--but Story is still product and it isn't only CA's that define Process. Techniques do too.

        Storytelling, IMO, is a collection of techniques. I put it like this:

        I think:
        Product: Story is a potential product of any CA (as per the glossary)
        Process: Storytelling is a collection of techniques. also available under any CA.

        If, on the other hand, we say Storytelling is Story Now and don't change the glossary then we get this:

        Process: Storytelling -> Story Now = Narrativist only
        Product: Story -> Story Techniques / Pure Chance = Any CA

        This doesn't make sense to me.

        The Nar essay is not fixated on either structure (the Lit 101 stuff people talk about) nor even story itself. There's a reason for that. I think the reason is that if you associate Nar play with structure then you are linking it to lower level entities (techniques) in a way that violates the model. Look at the glossary entry for Story Now:

        Quote
        Story Now
        The epiphenomenal outcome for the Transcript from such play is almost always a story.

        (emphasis added)
        Story is secondary to Address of Premise. It's very common for Nar play--but it's not essential.

        How do I know Storytelling is a pan-CA technique? Because I can clearly see how it can be done regardless of CA.

        Look at your four possibilities:
        Quote

           1. They're not getting story
           2. They're secretly doing meta-work, but don't know or admit it
           3. The GM is doing meta-work, and they feel this doesn't count as a problem
           4. The hand of God regularly reaches down into WoD games


        I agree with you: (2) and (3) are the likely ones. The (1) is good for self-deception but that puts us in the case of judging everyone as lying to themselves. Maybe it's (4) but, you know, I kinda doubt it too.

        However: your (2) and (3) are dead on. However, they don't need to be Nar. They're techniques of play.

        Here are two examples of techniques that fall into those categories (but do not define them).

        Example of Your (2) Case: Structure-is-the-point-Sim.
        Blood Brothers (a collection of excellent movie-style CoC adventures) makes each adventure like a film. There's a "preview" the players can read, pre-gen characters with notes on how to play them. There are posters done in the film style historically. There is discussion of the genre. There are words of advice to tell the players they are 'in a movie' and should behave appropriately.

        I think it's possible, even with this, to play Blood Brothers straight and be Narrativist. But if you play it straight Sim you are still going to get a story. Just about the same story, in fact. It'll have theme and everything. It'll have all the structure your Lit 101 teacher wanted. It's just like a movie.

        The game provides the structure--the players, acting like characters in a movie, will keep the action tight and focused on doing movie-like things in a movie-like structure.

        In this case, story is generate with intent from the players. It just isn't (doesn't have to be) Narrativist intent. If someone thinks all intent-to-generate-story-structure is Narrativist, I think that's provably not true. The Nar essay says many, many times that Address of Premise means the Player is engaged with the moral/ethical challenge.

        Someone deciding it's time to move to the climax because that's what would happen in a movie is not doing that.

        Your (3) Case: Premise Rich Situation. In my Nazi adventure from several threads, it's quite possible to present a fairly controlled situation (but not 'railroaded') that has an implicit structure and embeded premise.

        In this case the GM is doing some work at the start of the game (makin' an adventure) and, yes, it's perfectly fine. In fact, I wouldn't think (some) Narrativist would object to this either. All that's required is for the GM and the Players to connect for Nar play.

        And if that doesn't happen, it might be Gamist. It might be Sim. Hell, some of it might be Narrativist and some might not--but it'll reliably be a story.

        -Marco
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        « Reply #7 on: February 02, 2005, 07:52:45 AM »

        Quote from: John Kim
        Quote from: clehrich
        The trick is, this does entail one big change: the definition cannot be formulated in terms of process.  Story is product.
        ...
        But the shift from process to product does have one BIG implication:
          The Big Model is about process, not product[/list:u]Which means that "Story Now" suddenly changes its valence.  Every form of "story" within the Big Model except Story Now must be eliminated, because it's totally irrelevant: only Story Now is about process -- and it's not exactly about story, either, although it's very much about something like story.

          Right.  This is exactly the point that Marco was driving at in his recent GNS thread, http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13935">Retroactive Story.  Narrativism as defined is about one process (or one class of processes) for generating story.  It's not about story itself.  On the other hand, Marco met with some stiff resistance to the idea in that thread.
          As you know, and I admitted, I had some trouble following that thread.  I'm not sure why, but a little more on that next post (in response to Marco).  Here's something I said in that thread, since it's one of the few things I'm sure I understand.
          Quote from: In that thread, I
          All of which, I'm sorry to say, seems to me to make this whole retroactive business a matter of deep confusion -- unless it is intended as a sharp challenge to the Big Model. Retroactive examination is founded on a product focus, which the Big Model is emphatically not. It's perfectly plausible to generate a good analytical theory of gaming that is founded on product -- although I'd suggest that an extensive transcript (T-L) would be more effective for the purpose -- but such a theory has little to do with the Big Model.
          I don't think I've changed my mind in this thread from that one.  If we grant that Story is a kind of product, appearing wherever (back to transcripts etc.), then Story has nothing to do with the Big Model, and cannot be used for CA-diagnosis at all.  Apparently we agree about this, yes?

          Now that also means that, as you say, Nar is a way of generating story.  I would like to be a bit more precise, though: I think that it would be better to say that Nar is a way of generating something that in many cases, even most, looks like story.  This is perhaps over-precise for practical purposes, but for the moment it may be worthwhile: my point is that the only level at which we can say that Nar produces story is in the aim and intent.  That is, whether story is or is not generated does not in any way alter whether the game is/was Nar, nor whether it was successful.

          That is, a fully successful, functional, happy, true Narrativist game may not generate story at all.  This is because one simply cannot connect the processual categories of the Big Model to product categories like story (or myth).

          A follow-up, for another thread, would be whether we can understand CA's as having intended products, as for example Nar intends to produce story, which might be a useful way of examining the aesthetics of CA processes.  But we'd have to be very firm about not examining success in this, since that would re-confused process and product.

          Assuming we're on the same page here, let me say that the "stiff resistance" didn't come from me -- that was just flat-out confusion.  I still don't know why, exactly.  I think maybe I should sit down and re-read that whole thread very slowly and see if I can figure it out, eh?
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          Chris Lehrich
          Marco
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          « Reply #8 on: February 02, 2005, 08:05:27 AM »

          I think what John is saying--what I'm saying, anyway--is that Nar play usually contains techniques that are some of the of many methods that reliably generate Story.

          I think Ron's use of the term 'epiphenomenal' in the Story Now definition is very key here. Story is seen as a 'symptom' of Nar play--but not the focus (and perhaps even unrelated in some cases--such as when you get Story without Nar play).

          [ Yes. A lot of people who self-identify as Nar say Story is important to them. That's true. Looking at why that is is probably very profitable and might result in some surprising revelations--but Sim players say Story is important to them too. Maybe an honest desire for Story crosses both CA's. ]

          -Marco
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          « Reply #9 on: February 02, 2005, 08:22:58 AM »

          Marco,

          We seem to have a continual low-level miscommunication going on.  Last thread, I couldn't seem to follow you.  This one, I think you're misreading me.  Let's try to clear this up, since actually I think we think we're on the same page -- if we are, that's great; if we aren't, let's pinpoint why.
          Quote from: Marco
          I agree with your arguments and not with your conclusions! You are right that Storytelling is process--but Story is still product and it isn't only CA's that define Process. Techniques do too.
          I suppose Storytelling is process, but I'm not convinced that it's a useful term, having been largely appropriated by a specific set of games.  I didn't intend to make the claim about that term, particularly.  As to "Story is only product and it isn't only CA's that define Process," I'd totally agree with this.  In fact, I would go rather farther than adding Techniques to Process -- to my mind, it's the entire Big Model, from Social Contract down.  None of this -- none -- has anything to do with story, because story is product, and the entire Big Model is process.
          Quote
          Product: Story is a potential product of any CA (as per the glossary)
          Process: Storytelling is a collection of techniques. also available under any CA.
          I'd expand that slightly, but I think we agree entirely.  I'd just say that Story is a potential product of any gaming whatsoever.  If you want to include Storytelling as a technique-cluster, I think we do get into a bunch of narrow details about techniques common to a range of play-modes that desire to generate particular ends; the problem is that Storytelling cannot be defined in relation to Story, except in terms of intent, as in "we intend to generate X results so we do Y thing that seems sort of like it would produce X."  We can't say anything about whether it works, or even whether it could work, except insofar as it is by definition possible that the techniques could generate story because any play could generate story.
          Quote
          If, on the other hand, we say Storytelling is Story Now and don't change the glossary ...
          I don't like that any more than you do.  If nothing else, it strikes me as a big mistake to take up a catchphrase from some games explicitly read by Ron as CA-incoherent and use it to replace a Ron term for a specific mode of CA-coherence.  We've got enough terminological problems without that!
          Quote
          Look at your four possibilities:
          Quote

             1. They're not getting story
             2. They're secretly doing meta-work, but don't know or admit it
             3. The GM is doing meta-work, and they feel this doesn't count as a problem
             4. The hand of God regularly reaches down into WoD games
          I agree with you: (2) and (3) are the likely ones. The (1) is good for self-deception but that puts us in the case of judging everyone as lying to themselves. Maybe it's (4) but, you know, I kinda doubt it too.
          Actually for me, #1 isn't really an issue of self-deception.  It's one thing to conceal or mystify structures, processes, and methods that one doesn't want to recognize.  It's another thing simply to assert that something is absolutely true when it absolutely isn't.  (Incidentally, this might be why you and "self-deception" aren't getting along -- if this is what that term means to you, then you're absolutely right to reject it.)  So example 1 basically means something like this:
            WoD player: We're having a blast, and what we're generating is story, according to some very loose definition.  We know we're getting story, because we're getting what we want out of play, and what we want is story.  (Note that this is a circular definition -- that's intentional.)
            Analyst: You aren't having fun.  You're not getting story.  You're not getting what you want out of play.  Actually, you hate everything about your play.  What you're getting out of play doesn't fit my definition of story, which is narrow and specific (unlike yours), so therefore you hate your game.[/list:u]That's ridiculous.  The only thing debatable about the WoD player's statement is the circular definition of story: if he's having fun, he says, he must ipso facto be getting story.  The only way to figure out what he means by story is to analyze what he's getting out of play, and try to figure out why he calls that story.  But by some definition, anyway, he must be getting story.  I was just trying to suggest that the definition in question is a pretty informal narrative structure (Lit 101 stuff, as Marco nicely calls it).

            #2 is what I would call ordinary self-deception: the players want to conceal from themselves a mode of activity and thinking -- meta-play -- that they consider externally (consciously, etc.) is a bad thing.  The problem is that to get what they want out of play, they have to do some of this.  Since they think it's a bad thing, for reasons having nothing to do with play itself, they conceal from themselves the means by which they do these things.  And then they get what they want, and do not as far as they know violate the aesthetic principle that says they can't do meta-play, and so they have happy gaming.

            #3, conversely, is presumably what they tell themselves.  They don't mind the GM doing meta-work, because after all the GM's job is to be the meta-guy.  At the least, he's the guy who knows the stats on the NPCs and such, which is meta-information.  And unquestionably the GM is doing meta-work, so we presume that at least some of #3 is going on in such a game.
            Quote
            However: your (2) and (3) are dead on. However, they don't need to be Nar. They're techniques of play.
            Agreed.  The only thing processual here is the concealment or mystification, and that is not, so far as I can see, currently part of the Big Model structure.  It would be interesting to incorporate it into a kind of Social Contract technique, but at the moment that's not part of the model.

            Your examples seem perfectly plausible to me.  I do think that there's some of #2 going on in the Premise Rich Situation, because the players' "connecting" with the GM is partly a deliberate decision, made before and continuously during play, to stick to the meta-constructed Premise Rich Situation.


            So far as I can see, we don't disagree at all.  You started the post, however, by saying that you disagreed with my conclusions.  Did I miss that somewhere?
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            Chris Lehrich
            clehrich
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            « Reply #10 on: February 02, 2005, 08:25:42 AM »

            Quote from: Marco
            I think what John is saying--what I'm saying, anyway--is that Nar play usually contains techniques that are some of the of many methods that reliably generate Story.

            I think Ron's use of the term 'epiphenomenal' in the Story Now definition is very key here. Story is seen as a 'symptom' of Nar play--but not the focus (and perhaps even unrelated in some cases--such as when you get Story without Nar play).

            [ Yes. A lot of people who self-identify as Nar say Story is important to them. That's true. Looking at why that is is probably very profitable and might result in some surprising revelations--but Sim players say Story is important to them too. Maybe an honest desire for Story crosses both CA's. ]
            See, I'm getting lost again.  Is there something here that you think I'd disagree with?  Can you pinpoint that for me? -- because I don't see anything here remotely objectionable.
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            Chris Lehrich
            Marco
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            « Reply #11 on: February 02, 2005, 08:54:19 AM »

            I think we're in agreement. I was clarifying that when you said "Nar is a way of generating story" it was meant that it was 'one of many.'

            Edited to add: What I thought you were saying (and I misread) was that Story Now, by virtue of being accepted in general usage, should be used to define the term 'storytelling.'

            I was wrong about that. I think we are on the same page.

            Here is the only other thing I'd like to clarify (I think we're in almost complete agreement otherwise and maybe including this):
            Quote

            #2 is what I would call ordinary self-deception: the players want to conceal from themselves a mode of activity and thinking -- meta-play -- that they consider externally (consciously, etc.) is a bad thing. The problem is that to get what they want out of play, they have to do some of this. Since they think it's a bad thing, for reasons having nothing to do with play itself, they conceal from themselves the means by which they do these things. And then they get what they want, and do not as far as they know violate the aesthetic principle that says they can't do meta-play, and so they have happy gaming.

            I think my example of Blood Brothers is a case of players doing the meta work themselves (agreeing to behave as movie-characters), admitting it, and the play still not (necessiarily) being Narrativist.

            There might be self-deception in some instances of players doing the meta-work. But there might not. If the player in a V:tM game is going "what are the social dictates that surround a Vampire? Hmm? I think, analyzing them, I'll have my character do 'X'" then this may still be very thematic in the transcript--Vampires lead a pretty thematic life. But it isn't Nar since the player himself is not connecting to the premise.

            Quote

            #3, conversely, is presumably what they tell themselves. They don't mind the GM doing meta-work, because after all the GM's job is to be the meta-guy. At the least, he's the guy who knows the stats on the NPCs and such, which is meta-information. And unquestionably the GM is doing meta-work, so we presume that at least some of #3 is going on in such a game.

            I agree with this--I'm just thinkin' it's like a stock-standard mode of being a GM in any game from Morrow Project to GURPS to Sorcerer. I mean, having NPC's and hidden knowledge about the situation is, IMO, pretty much a given.

            I guess I'm just saying "yeah--that's a common technique." I was wondering if you thought it was associated with Force or railroading or anything.

            -Marco
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            « Reply #12 on: February 02, 2005, 09:27:02 AM »

            Quote from: Marco
            I think we're in agreement.
            So do I.
            Quote
            I think my example of Blood Brothers is a case of players doing the meta work themselves (agreeing to behave as movie-characters), admitting it, and the play still not (necessiarily) being Narrativist.
            Agreed.  Meta-play has nothing to do with Narrativism, although it is commonly used there.

            As to V:tM and the like, see my big honking post over in the Deception thread.
            Quote
            I agree with this [about type #3] --I'm just thinkin' it's like a stock-standard mode of being a GM in any game from Morrow Project to GURPS to Sorcerer. I mean, having NPC's and hidden knowledge about the situation is, IMO, pretty much a given.

            I guess I'm just saying "yeah--that's a common technique." I was wondering if you thought it was associated with Force or railroading or anything.
            Nope, I think it's bog-standard.  It is interesting to speculate about why it is so, since it isn't actually necessary as such, but 99% of discussions about "how to GM" assume that this is what's going on.
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            Chris Lehrich
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            « Reply #13 on: February 02, 2005, 06:11:41 PM »

            Quote from: clehrich
            That is, whether story is or is not generated does not in any way alter whether the game is/was Nar, nor whether it was successful.

            That is, a fully successful, functional, happy, true Narrativist game may not generate story at all.  This is because one simply cannot connect the processual categories of the Big Model to product categories like story (or myth).

            Absolutely.

            Is this something new? I thought this was central to the definition--that the agendum was about how you play, not what you get from how you play, and that narrativism was about addressing premise which is likely to produce story (but not guaranteed to do so).

            --M. J. Young
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            Marco
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            « Reply #14 on: February 02, 2005, 06:27:53 PM »

            No--it's not new--but it is contraversial.

            Some people will tell you that Sim-generating-story is incredibly unreliable regardless of how play is set up. If that's true (and I don't think it is) then you can make a strong evidence-based case for Storytelling = Nar play.

            -Marco
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