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several hundred dollars worth of GM

Started by Paul Czege, February 26, 2002, 06:01:19 PM

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Paul Czege

Hey everyone,

Ron's fantastic and complex">post in the Sorcerer forum about the zones and categories of a character's interests brings up an interesting side issue. The post reveals a far more sophisticated and informed-by-biological-concerns understanding of character motivation, and of how that drives audience interest in story, than I have ever seen evidenced by a GM I've played with. It's a zillion times more complex analytical thinking than most GM's and players ever bring to the game, could ever bring to a game without masters level research into biological selection.  (Or perhaps into genograms. I'm still waiting for Lon to post on genograms as a tool for scenario/story creation.)  It leaves me asking, if this is sophisticated film consulting, informed by what it takes to fine-tune a story to maximize audience interest, then aren't narrativist gamers pretty much doomed to dissatisfaction with their games? I can walk out of a movie and articulate its failings, describe why and how and where it fell flat. That's discriminating consumption. I can do the same with the books I read. But skill at analytical, critical consumption alone clearly isn't sufficient to deliver maximized audience interest in the output of creative endeavors. The ability to recognize excellence doesn't imply the ability to create it. It's just enough to be dissatisfied with what you do create. Are those of us narrativists who haven't done the research, and who haven't hired a consultant, doomed to lackluster personal enthusiasm for the games we play? Is a relationship-map like a violin, an instrument than only truly makes remarkable music in the hands of the very well trained? Are the rest of us just grinding out notes on an instrument, comfortably, but still only temporarily, ignorant of that fact that we aren't trained musicians?

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans

Ron Edwards


I think your concern is not an issue.

Brilliant musicians exist with and without technical training. Brilliant directors exist who pre-script and pre-frame shots, and who don't. Brilliant authors exist who outline carefully and draw circles & arrows, and who scribble frantically and tear it all up every night.

In other words, we do not have to articulate the steps of the creative process in order to carry out those steps. For some, that articulation helps; for others, it's not part of the picture.

Don't mistake analysis for performance, or the ability to analyze for the potential to perform.


Mike Holmes

Quote from: Paul Czege
The ability to recognize excellence doesn't imply the ability to create it. It's just enough to be dissatisfied with what you do create.
This is why I decided a long time ago to stop being critical of most performances. The only thing that it seems to me to do is to prevent you from enjoying the performance. Doesn't mean that you can't gravitate to what you like. Just enjoy what you experience as much as you can.


Mike "No Taste" Holmes
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

J B Bell

With due respect to Mike Holmes, I think learning critical technique about movies and other media have added a new level of enjoyment, rather than dulling it.  And as far as RPGs go, the critical methods I have learned on the Forge have more than increased my enjoyment--they have made it possible again after I had given up.  (Yes, I'm a card-carrying member of the Cult of Ron.)

To extend into a bit of ranting, I think one of the very great things about RPGs, whether they be Narrativist, Simulationist, or "GNS is bullshit"-ist, is that they put entertainment into the hands of anyone who cares to try them, rather than being an activity regarded as best left to the experts.  Talent is a continuum, and we can enjoy our own talents and others at nearly every point along it.  I like to listen to recorded music produced by people with a lot of talent, training, and experience, but I've also enjoyed being at a party and jamming on my harmonica with someone I just met playing his guitar, both of us more than half-drunk.

RPGs help to demonstrate to people that "fun" does not have to be an experience delivered unto us poor, stupid, non-celebrities by demigods who are somehow magically touched in a way we can never hope for.  Now, you've been fairly warned I'm ranting, but let me pause here and say no, I do not imagine that the movie, music, and other entertainment industries are engaged in some kind of ueber-conspiracy to rob us all of our creative powers.  It's an organic process:  socially alienated people make a hospitable environment for systems of control, which tend to alienate people from one another, etc.  Anything that helps us to reclaim play as the proper mammalian birthright that it is helps to break this vicious cycle.  Oops, ranting again.

The very idea that your gaming isn't "good enough" should be rejected as ridiculous on the face of it.  There's no Academy Awards of Actual Play, and I frankly hope there never is.  While you and your friends are having a good time, that is all the reward that you need.  If you read about someone else's 14-session masterwork that finished with a climax that made everyone need therapy/have a simultaneous orgasm/run out and join the Revolution/whatever, be inspired by that, not oppressed.  That heavy feeling you get when you make a comparison is your inner cop who thinks nothing you ever do is any good talking.  The inner cop is not a useful member of the society in your head.  Fire him.

The various story-making (not limited to Narrativism necessarily) tools on here are ones you are most likely using already.  If everyone who wanted to try something waited to be an expert before they did it, well, we'd all be dead of starvation.  Or bored to death.  Use what you think is cool, leave behind what sucks or doesn't make sense, and then for crying out loud play.  Don't wait.

Lieutenant of the Glorious Anarcho-Syndicalist Gamer's Revolution (Collective #1346)
"Have mechanics that focus on what the game is about. Then gloss the rest." --Mike Holmes

Gordon C. Landis


I agree with Ron that the "heart" of your concern is not realy a huge problem, but you bring up an intersting issue . . . the fact is, not all groups are 100% brilliant in all areas, and there are probably interesting coping/compensation effects from that.  For example  . . . blood & sex.  What's the likely outcome of unsophisticated handling of blood & sex?  Bad soap opera.  How do you avoid bad soap opera?  Avoid blood and sex.

So - the sophistication/skill of the group can well be an interesting factor, but it's not likely to prevent an enjoyable session.

That's my thought,

Gordon (under construction)