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Author Topic: Looking deeper into Intuitive Continuity  (Read 33875 times)
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2002, 09:04:33 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur

Quote from: contracycle
It is "effective illusionism".  I think the distinction with narrativist play is that the players are directly, and consciously, engaged in the construction of the story.
Quote from: contracycle
I would expect, in GNS terms, it would be described as "semi-drifted sim".

Actually, for the record, I think what has been a described, counts as almost the poster child for 'abashedly Narrativist.'  

Nope. If you must classify it, it was in fact just what the poster claimed. Intuitive Continuity, just as described by the creator of the method, Gareth Michael Skarka in underworld (whether or not this is a valid classification is another entire argument). The poster did mention that he also "fudged rolls" and other stuff in an unnoticable way. That portion would be Illusionism.

Abashed Narrativism refers to systems that only support narrativism in that they do not actively block it. I think the poster was playing D&D. So, again, if we must classify, What I see here is a drift from playing a gamist game to playing it in a Simulationist fashion (as Gareth suggests; nothing to imply that the players were in anything but actor mode, or that the GM was trying to promote such) with the GM using Intuitive Continuity and Illusionism to achieve a Story (in the stronger, usually associated with Narrativism, sense).

This is far from the "Impossible Thing", and is really a well noted and not uncommon play style. I, myself, play in a very similar fashion, as do most of the GMs I play with. Ron played this way for quite a while, if I'm not mistaken.

So what we really have here is a non-issue. This is not an exception to any theory of which I am aware. But, I do support the style, FWIW, despite possibly not being as cutting edge as other newer methods. I think it is one appreciated very much by most Simulationist players.

Mike
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #16 on: March 12, 2002, 09:33:06 AM »

Okay,

Now that Ron's dragged the GNS element of this thread over to the GNS board, and Mike has, correctly, tabled the need to determine whether Intuitive Continuity is "really" one or another of the GNS nodes, let's get back to Walt's question:

"What sort of game mechanisms or resource materials could be incorporated into a new system that would analogously help GMs grasp and use the concept of para-Narrativist on-the-fly world/story building? Could Intuitive Continuity be made less purely intuitive, more accessible, with the right tools? I'm thinking along the lines of mechanisms that could regulate the introduction of unbound story elements (the mysterious stalker, the distant distress signal) based somehow on PC conflict maps; or meta-settings that embody a genre and premise(s) and provide flexible libraries of basic story elements appropriate to them. Resolution mechanisms don't appear to be an issue, since a variety of conventional mechanisms appear quite adequate. But mechanisms would be needed (or at least useful) for aspects of play that have never needed game mechanics before, such as for learning (that is, equivalently, creating) historical information about the world."

Off the top of my head, I'd offer up the Relationship Map found in the Sorcerer's Soul.  While some people aren't crazy about it, others find it of great help.  (And for those of you who are familiar with other Character Maps (under various names), just know this one is different in nature.)  You can find discussions, if not highly spirited debates, about the R-Map all over the Sorcerer board.)

I also think Ron's essay in chapter 7 of Sorcerer and Sword will spark lots of possibilities for people.  It's about Author stance for the players -- which isn't for everybody.  But it jostles the brain out of a lot of presumed RPG habits.

Christopher
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2002, 11:46:22 AM »

Hello,

Walt, welcome!

I am very interested to know what your thoughts are, following the discussion so far. I invite you to check out the "Seven Misconceptions" thread in the GNS forum as well, as I think I won't be able to address your points directly until we've hammered out some of those.

My only initial point is that Intuitive Continuity, as a form of scenario preparation and running, is not necessarily linked to any particular form of GNS. I have noted in my experience that it tends to become "Roads to Rome" in application.

To everyone, I should like to point out that at least three distinctive modes of GMing and playing have been described so far as "agreements" with Walt's described mode. I'm not talking about the labels, but about the examples of play. I suggest that people review the posts so far - we are not seeing the same thing described over and over, although many of the posters seem to think so.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2002, 12:19:46 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Le Joueur
Quote from: contracycle
It is "effective illusionism".  I think the distinction with narrativist play is that the players are directly, and consciously, engaged in the construction of the story.
Quote from: contracycle
I would expect, in GNS terms, it would be described as "semi-drifted sim".

Actually, for the record, I think what has been a described, counts as almost the poster child for 'abashedly Narrativist.'  

Nope. If you must classify it

Whoops!  Terminology dropped.  You are completely correct.  The word I should have typed was not "abashed," it was "vanilla."  My bad.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
would be Illusionism.

Not so!  The original poster never intimated the necessary 'lie' implicit in 'Illusionism.'  'Illusionism' as I remember it, requires a static storyline 'presented' by the gamemaster under the 'lie' that players have freedom of choice.  What I meant to compare it to, was 'vanilla Narrativism,' where only the gamemaster seems to be practicing Narrativism.  (Where I got "abashed" from, I'll never know.)

Sorry for the mix up.

Fang Langford
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2002, 12:43:09 PM »

Yes, the GM was using vanilla Narrativist decisions which is pretty close to the definition of Intuitive Continuity. But the players I don't believe were doing so.

Quote
My job as the GM was to turn the players' unfettered decisions about what their characters would do into story (and story in the proper sense, not just a chronology of causally linked events). I used no overtly narrativist game mechanisms to do so. I did fudge GM die rolls but never obviously, and I always allowed player decisions and player die rolls to stand.


Sounds like "unfettered decisions about what their character would do" indicates actor mode to me, but I could be wrong. Fudging rolls in an inobvious way, and turning players decisions into story (via hidden railroading like "All roads lead to Rome" as Ron suggested, or the aformentioned Intuitive Continuity) has Illusionism written all over it. The players actions seem to be creating story, but in reality it is the GM secretly manipulating things to make the plot come together. Note, I am a fan of Illusionism, and it is one of my preferred methods of GMing. Again, though, it will require confirmation from the poster to determine this for certain. My quote might be out of context, or it might just sound like something it was not.

Anyhow, despite the GM making decisions in such a manner, the experience for the players sounds pretty Simulationist.

Mike
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2002, 12:46:24 PM »

Quote

Not so! The original poster never intimated the necessary 'lie' implicit in 'Illusionism.' 'Illusionism' as I remember it, requires a static storyline 'presented' by the gamemaster under the 'lie' that players have freedom of choice.


Au contraire, mon fraire! (whatever that means)

I say that sessions where the GM concocts a narrative to steer the PCs is illusionism, not matter when or where he/she does it; either on the fly or the week before.

That's currently my best game -- one I'm hoping to give that last tip over into Narrativism with the Pool. Let me break down how I see it (hallaluyah, brother!...halleluegha?...helohemoglobin?):

The major difference I see is who at the gaming table is reacting to whom. For example, in my game I as GM: set the scenes, provide the NPCs, provide plot, setting, whatever. My players just follow my lead. Doesn't matter if I'm making it up then and there, or if I've got this detailed scenario with a scene by scene breakout. My players (very good players I might add but still...) are stuck in the dominant RPG paradigm: GM supplies us with leads, we follow them. If we don't there's no game. It's the unwritten rule of roleplaying games.

Now imagine how I want my game to play instead: I want to react to the players, who play characters with fully-defined passions. Those passions drive play. Instead of me sitting down and saying, "Ok, you're all in a bar, and some ugly mug crashes in with a clue in his pocket," I want to see the players start off by saying, "Hmmm. I've got a score to settle with uber-badass Mafai Boss. I'm gonna go break into his hideout and rough him up."

I want to see players drive the action with fully formed protagonists who are proactive, instead of me dragging them there (time and time again, oh god, I'm so bored it's gonna make my eyes bleed). That's my RPing holy grail.

Sure, there's a fine line being crossed here, but I say it exists. It's there, I can feel it. And I think the ticket is more interactive players, not on-the-fly GMs.

I say, if you're players are reacting to you tell your story, it's illusionism.

Steve Dustin
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2002, 01:38:26 PM »

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote from: Le Joueur
Not so! The original poster never intimated the necessary 'lie' implicit in 'Illusionism.' 'Illusionism' as I remember it, requires a static storyline 'presented' by the gamemaster under the 'lie' that players have freedom of choice.

I say that sessions where the GM concocts a narrative to steer the PCs is illusionism, not matter when or where he/she does it; either on the fly or the week before.

It's that "steer" part that's vital.  Whether this 'steering' is covert or accepted is highly important.  Nay, it could be the only difference between some kinds of 'vanilla Narrativism' and Illusionism (which, as it was defined, contained railroading).  Covert 'steering' is 'Illusionism;' group-accepted 'steering' is 'vanilla Narrativism' as far as I can tell.

Saying to the players that their actions determine the outcome of the game and then 'steering' it behind their backs, to me, is lying (and railroading and 'Illusionism').

Quote from: Steve Dustin
The major difference I see is who at the gaming table is reacting to whom. For example, in my game I as GM: set the scenes, provide the NPCs, provide plot, setting, whatever. My players just follow my lead. Doesn't matter if I'm making it up then and there, or if I've got this detailed scenario with a scene-by-scene breakout. My players (very good players I might add but still...) are stuck in the dominant RPG paradigm: GM supplies us with leads; we follow them. If we don't there's no game. It's the unwritten rule of role-playing games.

But are you lying to them about the "leading?"

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Now imagine how I want my game to play instead: I want to react to the players, who play characters with fully-defined passions. Those passions drive play. Instead of me sitting down and saying, "Ok, you're all in a bar, and some ugly mug crashes in with a clue in his pocket," I want to see the players start off by saying, "Hmmm. I've got a score to settle with uber-badass Mafai Boss. I'm gonna go break into his hideout and rough him up."

I want to see players drive the action with fully formed protagonists who are proactive, instead of me dragging them there (time and time again, oh god, I'm so bored it's gonna make my eyes bleed). That's my RPing holy grail.

Well, in light of this thread, you could probably move towards 'vanilla Narrativism' and maybe wean they players onto 'Director Stance.'  Just dropping them into the Pool (on the deep end I might add), sounds like a recipe for disaster.  (Or are they 'pumped?')

Whatever you do, I suggest not 'springing it upon them.'  A lot of people really like 'vanilla Narrativism.'  (Just a warning from experience.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Sure, there's a fine line being crossed here, but I say it exists. It's there; I can feel it. And I think the ticket is [having] more interactive players, not on-the-fly GMs.

It’s not a "fine line" between 'vanilla Narrativism,' and "more interactive players," it's a huge gulf.  The fine line is between 'Illusionism' and 'vanilla Narrativism.'

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I say, if you're players are reacting to you telling your story; it's illusionism.

That's what I have been trying to say.

Fang Langford
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2002, 02:24:50 PM »

Quote

But are you lying to them about the "leading?"


I don't see how that's relevant. I suspect they know I'm making it up (they're bright guys) and I've never tried to deceive them. But whether they are going willingly or not at all, seems totally irrelevant. If it looks like a monkey, it's a monkey.

No matter when or how I'm making it up, I'm making it up. Faking it. I, as a GM, have nothing to hold me back, or to react to. I hold all the cards. And therefore, the PCs are living my story. It's pathetically easy to steer players to where you want to steer them, as long as they adhere to the idea they are a character in a roleplaying game, not a story. It's a different kind of logic.

When does it cease to be the GM's story? I say, when the driving force are the players acting out their protagonists' passions. When I as a GM have to react to the players. When it's not me presenting the options, but the players coming up with their own.  And it must come from a re-definition of the players' approach to their roleplaying. Majority of play I've encountered is wrapped up in two models: DnD or CoC. I've never really seen anything different. And I think its expected.

As for the Pool, they're smart people. They aren't the average RPer. I think they can handle it. It helps that the game is pretty defined as to what is expected from everyone, and what is makes the game good.

Steve
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2002, 03:24:29 PM »

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Quote from: Le Joueur
But are you lying to them about the "leading?"

I don't see how that's relevant.

I do.  I feel quite disheartened if I am told what I do matters, and I find out it doesn't.  (That no matter what I did, to any extreme, things would turn out the same way.  This is railroading and 'Illusionism' has been defined as railroading.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
I suspect they know I'm making it up (they're bright guys) and I've never tried to deceive them. But whether they are going willingly or not at all, seems totally irrelevant. If it looks like a monkey, it's a monkey.

Then you're making a monkey out of your players if you 'take them for a ride' and tell them they're driving (when in fact they're not).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
No matter when or how I'm making it up, I'm making it up. Faking it. I, as a GM, have nothing to hold me back, or to react to. I hold all the cards. And therefore, the PCs are living my story.

If that's how you see it, then yes you practice 'Illusionism.'  'Vanilla Narrativism' is when what the players do, does define how the story comes out.   If you decide how they get to the ending, it's 'Illusionism.'  If their actions decide how they get to an ending, then it's 'vanilla Narrativism.'

In 'Illusionism,' you have total control; it's 'your story.'  In 'vanilla Narrativism,' you have no idea how the story will go, you merely facilitate the rise in tension, the crisis, climax, and resolution (if you will); you don't decide who they'll face off against, or who they'll save (mind you, as story facilitator - not owner - you won't be terribly surprised, it's just that it wasn't your decision).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
It's pathetically easy to steer players to where you want to steer them, as long as they adhere to the idea they are a character in a roleplaying game, not a story. It's a different kind of logic.

If you can bring off the 'Illusion' of free will for your players, you are a good 'Illusionist.'  However, if 'the sheep' ever 'catch on,' they're gonna wonder what the point in playing is (the ending is predetermined and no matter how much they fail, they'll 'win' - this really takes the value out of any game like this I've been a player in).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
When does it cease to be the GM's story? I say, when the driving force are the players acting out their protagonists' passions.

Judging by what you have written so far, you group has a long way to go before you get to that.  The fact that the players 'let' you lead them around so sheepishly means they will have a lot of 'gamemaster is in control' habits that'll have to be broken.  (And I suspect you may find a few 'my story' habits hard to let go of).

Quote from: Steve Dustin
When I as a GM have to react to the players. When it's not me presenting the options, but the players coming up with their own.

This is not required for their "passions" to drive the story.  Player-created "options" is not required in 'vanilla Narrativism,' but a lack of 'gamemaster story' is.  Can you see the difference?

1) Your story, you make up all the details, they have only the 'Illusion' of choice.

2) Their story, you only work to 'keep it interesting,' facilitating the hallmarks of 'good story' without choosing the elements presented in it.

3) Their story, they make up the "options" and other details as they see fit; they know that they're creating a story and act accordingly.

As far as I understand 1 is 'Illusionism,' 2 is 'vanilla Narrativism,' and 3 is Narrativism.  (Personally, I can't stand to play in a game like number 1 where the story moves towards its ending absolutely regardless of my character's actions.)

Quote from: Steve Dustin
And it must come from a re-definition of the players' approach to their roleplaying.

I'm hesistant to agree, because it sounds like you need your approach radically changed to.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
As for the Pool, they're smart people. They aren't the average RPer. I think they can handle it.

Intelligence has nothing to do with taste.  I'm telling you, if they like 'Illusionism' or 'vanilla Narrativism,' their tastes aren't simply going to change just because of your faith in their intelligence.  Please, don't force this upon them and assume they'll like it because "they're smart people."  You'll be asking for a huge paradigm shift from them and if it's not to their tastes, you're setting your sights on trouble.

Quote from: Steve Dustin
It helps that the game is pretty defined as to what is expected from everyone, and what is makes the game good.

That would be the 'terrible stereotype' siren going off.  I realize the Pool looks really cool right now (it is really cool), but you're making a huge mistake if you assume that your players are going to simply go along with the change in game as easily as they go along with the stories you 'force' upon them.  (In fact, I'm inclined to believe that one almost precludes the other.)  If you can't first 'get them pumped' by the possibilities, don't expect that you can 'talk them into it.'

Free will doesn't work that way.

Fang Langford
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2002, 03:51:35 PM »

Quote

Free will doesn't work that way.


Hmm. We'll find out. We play tomorrow.

Just to give some more background: I've had roleplaying theory discussions with these people before. They've known that we'd be using the Pool for the last three weeks or so, since last session (I've been busy). We currently use Fudge, I'm apparently the only person with any concept of the rules beyond the basic Fudge ladder. And finally, some of these guy's favorite games are OTE and Castle Falkenstein. One guy GMs Hero Wars, although he switched to OTE-Fudge variant because he didn't like how the action points felt in game (and his Fudge game is more rules-light than mine, so you're probably on to something about my "bad habits.")

We're not talking about my Tuesday night crew slogging their way through Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Besides, if it goes poorly, I told them we'd switch back to Fudge.

Thanks for caring though,
Steve
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2002, 09:19:06 PM »

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful responses. Sorry about the 24-hour absence; I had no idea responses would come so quickly.

Christopher,

I should have explicitly credited you for being first to bring up your own take on this idea back on an RPGnet thread. (The thread was on "bad gamemastering;" how's that for irony?) Since you're mostly asking questions, there's not too much to comment on with regard to agreement or disagreement on my part.

You may be right about not needing to fudge die rolls once the rules are Narrativist designed. But keep in mind that I'm pretending to play by the same rules as my players, and my players are not using overtly Narrativist mechanics, so the rules I'm pretending to play by are not designed for Narrativism. (I've been looking over my system tweaks and realizing there is a method to their madness; that is to say, certain elements that have evolved to suit the style. For example, my combat rule modifications tend in the direction of allowing characters more control over their level of risk [traded off vs. their chance of decisive victory] in battle. But there's just as strong a case for that mechanism promoting Gamist or Simulationist play as Narrativist. That's a whole other topic.) Stance-wise, my players are far more Actor than Author.

I like your Aliens example. Perhaps it would be useful to others if you were to re-post your RPGnet "new dance" post here?

Ian,

Thanks for the great reaction. :) And it's interesting to see another perspective from someone who uses a similar approach.

Subsequent reactions from others were more along the lines of "yeah, sure, we do this; it's no big deal." Which I'm really glad to hear. But that leaves me with one of the same questions as Christopher: If this practice (or range of conceptually related practices) is fairly widespread, why isn't it talked about more? Has a generation of gamers perhaps missed out, as Christopher believes? How many people out there buy setting sourcebooks and feel they have to disassemble them to make them useful? Is there a hidden demand for a different type of product, perhaps even for existing systems?

Ian's comments reminded me of a few more fine points:

You're correct that the setting is not as restricted as I might have made it sound in point #2. A world in which mass media exist is fine provided that the mass media don't know anything about the real subject matter of the campaign. In that case, for all practical purposes the real setting is that hidden part of the world, and what I meant was that setting cannot have mass media etc. that's accessible to player-characters.

Your point #4 mentioning Sorceror and Sword speaks to one of my key questions: who else is using this or similar approaches? I'll have to look at it in more detail, but in the meantime could anyone briefly summarize for me where Sorceror and Sword overlaps with the approach I described and where it diverges? Or point me to a source of that information on this site?

And I agree that Point #5 about polymorph plotting is where rubber meets the road, in terms of making this particular flavor of Intuitive Continuity/Vanilla Narrativism work smoothly. When I think about potential tools and mechanisms, this is the area where I think they'd be most helpful.

Jack and GB Steve,

We seem to be mostly in agreement, though as Ron subsequently pointed out, the technical details we're describing do vary some.

Guidance on PC creation is important. As with any approach, some types of characters and conflicts will be better served than others. I should have mentioned initial situation along with the initial setting. I prefer to focus on the character's personality and flaws at the outset, and leave most specific conflicts to develop later. Luke Skywalker doesn't start out with a passion to avenge his father and destroy large pieces of hardware; he starts out with curiosity, thirst for adventure, a strong romantic streak, and a thing for holographic images of women, and the rest develops in time.

Valamir,

Yes, the players do become aware that this style of play is going on. But being aware of it is not the same as being constantly reminded of it; I accept the former and try very hard to avoid the latter.

One thing that helps is that not everything is unplanned. Any plan made is subject to change, but sometimes the players decide to do something that is close to (or dead on) a possibility I planned for. (One could argue, I suppose, that any instance in which players do something I expected they might do indicates that I'm really just leading them. I don't think this is the case -- even in the real world when you presumably have no influence over another person's decisions, you can often predict what that person will do. I have no say over what President Bush would do in the event of another terrorist attack, but I bet I can practically write the speech he'd give word for word in advance. I'll leave to the philosophers the question: If you could reliably predict what your players would choose to do, could you still say they had a choice?)

Also, the use of what Ian called polymorph plotting conveys a strong counter illusion against perceiving the world as being in flux. In a movie, if a character just showed up and attacked the hero out of nowhere, you'd be likely to perceive the attack as a pure plot device that could have been something else if the plot had needed something different to occur. But if you see a character stalking the hero throughout the movie, and then attacking him later on, it's completely natural to assume that attacking was his intention all along, and completely unnatural to imagine that had the plot progressed differently he might have turned out to be an ally instead. Innate perceptions of how the world works, adapted for survival in the real world over millions of years, are being engaged.

Mike,

In your first post you state that what I describe is far from the "impossible thing." But you do so purely on the basis of terminological categorization: what I'm describing is actually drift from whatchamacallit to thingamajiggie and ergo it's not "the impossible thing." I'd like to hear your argument in terms of what's actually going on in the game play I've described. The Impossible Thing is this: "that the GM may be defined as the author of the ongoing story, and, simultaneously, the players may determine the actions of the characters as the story’s protagonists." (Edwards) In what way are the players' decisions not determining the actions of the characters as the story's protagonists? and/or In what way is the GM not the author of the ongoing story?

Actually, I agree with just about everything in your second and subsequent posts. In my variety of VN at least, the GM has narrativist goals, the players usually not. Something I didn't emphasize before (due to my erroneous focus on Simulationism) is that the players can make their decisions however they prefer. If they want to do something inconsistent with the character's personality or motivations because it would make a better story, I won't try to stop them. Usually they just want to play their characters in Simulationist fashion.

Ron,

I've read the misconceptions thread. I appreciate it, and can only say in my defense that my biggest misconceptions were drawn from pro-GNS posts by people referencing this board.

The corrected misperception that I don't understand the basis for is ONE. If VN is the correct term for what I'm doing, and GNS mode is all about goals and decisions during play, then most of my players most of the time are clearly not using narrativist decision-making criteria or pursuing narrativist goals.

from ONE: "It [VN] has nothing to do with Simulationist play in any way; the participants are indeed playing Narrativist, but not talking or thinking much about doing so." (emphasis added)

It escapes me what the players could be doing other than talking or thinking that establishes their overall play as Narrativist even though they're talking and thinking mostly in Simulationist or Gamist terms. They do seem to take pleasure in the resulting narrative, but on what basis can we assume that that's of more importance to them than the pleasure they take in exploration, or for that matter in beating the bad guys and taking their loot? I suppose I could ask them, but it never occurred to me to do so.

I believe the following about what my players want:

A. They want a good story. Who doesn't? Even people who play video games want them to have a good story. (This doesn't imply that they want to create story. When you read a novel you want it to be a good story, but you don't want or expect to participate in its creation.)

B. They want free will inside the game. They want not to be railroaded. (They do sometimes want to be led, that's another whole topic).

(Providing A and B simultaneously is known as the Interactive Storytelling Problem.)

The way I've learned to satisfy both of those conditions in an RPG is to shape the story around their characters and actions in the ways that I've described. As a result, as in inevitable by-product of that, the players contribute greatly to the creation of the story. They may or may not even realize that, and if they do they may or may not care. And I don't care whether or not they care. So, what is it about the players' behavior here that makes it Narrativist?

Steve and Fang,

You're correct that a narrative to steer the PCs is undesirable whether it's done on the fly or done the week before. But I'm not doing that. I'm improvising on the fly after the fact; that is, I'm adapting to the players' decisions after the players have acted upon them. Therefore, I reject the "illusionism" label because it seems to imply, to most people here, the existence of a pre-planned story.

Not to strain the quantum mechanics analogy too far, but there's a running skeptical theme here that reminds me of my own initial gut reaction to quantum theory: "There's gotta be a hidden variable." In other words, I can see that I'm going to have a hard time convincing some people that just because a story materializes at the end, that doesn't mean I must have had it hidden up one sleeve or another the whole time. There must be a Rome that all roads lead to; some narrative plan must be "steering" or perhaps even "railroading" the players.

Nope. Why would I want to do that? It doesn't work.

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2002, 11:17:08 PM »

Walt,

Excellent responses in general.

First, let me define what I refer to as Illusionism (and I was there at the argument on GO that created the term). Illusionism does not require a pre-planned goal. It requires that the GM contrive events in play such that two conditions are met. First that the events lead to a story, perhaps any story. And second that the players remain unaware of any obvious manipulation. This does not mean that the players are unaware that the GM does this in general, just that they are unaware of when it happens specifically. Yes this means that they are aware that they are probably not in any substantive way "creating story", but they do control their characters and may get some satisfaction out of that. They at least have the Illusion of control.

Fang has insulted my players who require this method of me. Apparently they want to be made monkeys. Their refusal to exit actor stance, yet demand for story make only this or similar tactics possible. Yet somehow, they seem to enjoy themselves. All those post-graduate degrees must have adled their brains.

Use of the term railroading is probably not useful in defining illusionism as railroading is a traditional term and itself not well defined. But, essentially, if what I describe above is railroading, then, in that circumstance, railroading is a good thing which my players expect from me.

The idea behind Intuitive Continuity is that you can just work with events as they come and as they relate to player actions, and somehow work them into a story. Again there is a lot of debate about how possible this is, and whether the results lead to story as defined in terms of protagonism, etc. I do not want to rehash that debate here.

But again, all this is really moot. I don't really care what definition one uses for Illusionism. If you want Illusionism to be something else, Fang, that's fine with me. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused. I'm more interested in, say, the particular techniques that Walt uses to achieve gaming success playing in this vein.

"The Impossible Thing"

The problem with your look at Ron's definition is that you are probably unaware of all of the implications behind the word Protagonist. Without going to deep into it, what is beng referred to is the players ability to specifically address the premise of the game. So the impossible thing is really a tautology sorta, more or less a defining line. To paraphrase: players cannot both address a premise thematically by considering the ongoing plot, and simultaneously not do so (which is required in order to prioritize verisimilitude). We can argue on and on about this but it's not at all important. BTW, this is similar to the "Interactive Storytelling problem", and also relates to the problem of believability over plot action in movies and fiction.  

The proper response to "The Impossible Thing", IMO, is "Oh well, who cares?". That's cheeky, but my point is that it does not matter that you are not performing "The Impossible Thing", you are succeeding in making your players happy and in a way that is so similar to "The Impossible Thing" as to make the difference  unimportant. The only importance of "The Impossible Thing" is in arguments that revolve around whether or not people can be doing Simulationism and Narrativism simultaneously (which would  be problematic for the theory as a whole). We could go off in that direction, but it's not really all that interesting, and has been done to death.

You have stated your players' desires very clearly, and they seem to be much like mine in that they want both to be able to employ actor mode, at least part of the time, and still achieve story. I should ammend my earlier statement in that I think that play is probably predominantly Simulationist for the players, and that they probably use some Vanilla Narrativism (plain old shifting to author stance). Probably some Gamism as well. I think that play that is purely one way or another is relatively rare. So, what you do to provide for them seems like excellent technique.

The only real GNS issue that I can think of is whether or not the system that you are using supports the style indicated. Are you Walt, in fact, using D&D (3E?). If so, you do realize that this is usually considered a serious drift to either Simulationism or Narrativism, do you not? Or do you see D&D as supporting this style?

BTW, regarding Ron's misconceptions number one. GNS is about making decisions. What the players are doing in Vanilla Narrativism is making decisions based on story priorities without talking about it or even really thinking about it much. Most players just make decisions that seem right at the time without any consideration of their (the player's) own motives. Vanilla Narrativism is when they just happen to be making decisions based on story priorities.

Another misconception is that Author stance requires players to ignore character motivations. Not true. Motivations are still important. It's just the oder of priority. This means that motivations either have to be retrofitted (figure out why the character is going to do the thing that's good for the plot) or that one must be selected from many (the one that works best for the plot), or any of a number of other ways to link the character motivation to the best possible action plot-wise. Completely ignoring motivation is known a Pawn mode, and is mostly only good for Gamist play, IMHO.  

Mike

edited due to speling probims
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« Reply #27 on: March 13, 2002, 07:35:57 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
First, let me define what I refer to as Illusionism (and I was there at the argument on GO that created the term). Illusionism does not require a pre-planned goal. It requires that the GM contrive events in play such that two conditions are met. First that the events lead to a story, perhaps any story. And second that the players remain unaware of any obvious manipulation. This does not mean that the players are unaware that the GM does this in general, just that they are unaware of when it happens specifically. Yes this means that they are aware that they are probably not in any substantive way "creating story", but they do control their characters and may get some satisfaction out of that. They at least have the Illusion of control.

That's a bit different from what I use (or have read); here's what I found in the GNS essay about Illusionism:

"The play drifts toward an application of Simulationism in which the GM dominates the characters’ significant actions, and the players contribute only to characterization. This is called Illusionism, in which the players are unaware of or complicit with the extent to which they are manipulated."
and
"However, it is not and can never be 'story creation' on the part of all participants," -- Ron Edwards.

Recently, I read:
"(GM preps story prior to play [Illusionism]; GM assembles story afterwards)" -- Ron Edwards.

To me, that suggests that 'story prior to play' is inherent in Illusionism.

I also found:
"Drift from Simulationism (sub-class Illusionism) to Narrativism (sub-class character-Premise, sub-class vanilla).

The transition occurs when (1) the players' Author or Director stance statements become more important to the GM than a pre-planned plot, and (2) the statements are so common as to be relied upon" -- Ron Edwards, emphasis mine.

From the man who brought us the term Illusionism, I take this as my definition.  Since your personal definition contains, "Illusionism does not require a pre-planned goal," it has nothing to do with the Illusionism I was talking about.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Fang has insulted my players who require this method of me. Apparently they want to be made monkeys. Their refusal to exit actor stance, yet demand for story make only this or similar tactics possible. Yet somehow, they seem to enjoy themselves. All those post-graduate degrees must have addled their brains.

Considering the above, I have obviously made no statement or insult to your players because by your definition, I was talking about 'Illusionism with preplanned stories.'  You don't preplan, therefore your players are not being made monkey of.  (It is the preplanning which makes the monkey, to me.)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
The idea behind Intuitive Continuity is that you can just work with events as they come and as they relate to player actions, and somehow work them into a story.

If you want, I could pull the definitions of this too, but as far as I remember, 'story' has absolutely nothing to do with Intuitive Continuity.  If you add story-intent priority to Intuitive Continuity without the preplanning, then poof it turns into 'vanilla Narrativism.'

Quote from: Mike Holmes
But again, all this is really moot. I don't really care what definition one uses for Illusionism. If you want Illusionism to be something else, Fang, that's fine with me. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused. I'm more interested in, say, the particular techniques that Walt uses to achieve gaming success playing in this vein.

If you're going to say that I have insulted someone, don't expect me to 'back off' simply because you say it's moot.

Likewise, I too am highly interested in the techniques Walt uses, largely because they sound very much like mine.  (This is something I want to explore more in Scattershot's design.)  The problem I have using the overall GNS theory (despite my fluency with it), is that as can be seen above, this kind of play (and techniques thereon) are relegated to 'sub-class' status (especially compared to big 'N' Narrativism).

I find this somewhat inhibiting when trying to hold a conversation about them in a realm suffused with this model (not that I mind its presence, but talking about a person's techniques becomes laborious when everyone quickly - and quite innocently - jumps in with a discussion of how the GNS analyzes it).  That's why I have suggested in the past that the GNS might be barred from RPG Theory and vice versa, but I can't see how that'd be overly useful.

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2002, 08:16:13 AM »

Hey,

I think Fang has nailed it. It all comes down to this: Intuitive Continuity is a technique, and it has utility for either Simulationist retroactive "story creation" (by the GM) or Illusionism, as well as for some forms of Narrativist play.

Illusionism is not the same as that "retroactive story creation," although they are very similar in that one person (the GM) is all about a story being created, with the players being participants but not co-authors as such. Thus a lot of Mike's points are valid, as they are referring to that common ground between Illusionism and the "retroactive story creation" thing (which currently has no name). So I'm happy with the confluence of Mike's and Fang's posts throughout the thread, and it's had some impact on me. Expect to see some reflections on that, later.

In practice, and I speak as a long-time practitioner of both of these types of GM-heavy story creation, the "retroactive" thing tends to become Illusionism over time. That transition usually hits after the player-characters have passed through a "hump" of development, such that they now satisfy most of the initial aesthetic goals of the players.

Example: my character Nocturne in a Champions game in the late 1980s was begun at 250 points, and I had a little wish list of stuff he needed in order to be "the guy" I wanted to play. Much later, with 100 points added on, he was quite nicely rounded out as desired, which of course was not quite exactly as originally intended, but suited me fine.

After that, playing Nocturne became more and more troublesome - now that he was "like I wanted," the primary question became "what to do," and (in retrospect) much of that seemed determined by when the GM decided to give us enough clues (or a sudden attack) to generate the climax of the heretofore inaccessible Plot Behind the Scenes.

Up until that point, the GM had had a fine time generating story retroactively from all of our run-around do-stuff character actions. After that point, a minor tug-of-war ensued - I wanted character decisions to be powering things in a major way (at least in terms of climactic moments, if not before then), and the GM probably wondered why I was becoming such a fractious player all of a sudden.

Simultaneously, I was going through the exact same thing with GMing my own Champions group. Being a slow learner, I had to go through it again with yet another Champions group a couple of years later. I found myself confronted with a verbalization of exactly my own frustrations with Nocturne, and here I was on the GM side! How could that have happened??

The issue for me is that both the "retroactive" mode and the Illusionist mode tend to frustrate players who have Narrativist leanings. The latter does more than the former, but the former tends to evolve into the latter.

Now I also want to emphasize that Intuitive Continuity is a powerful tool for all three modes! (Note that the third would be some forms of Narrativism, not "Narrativism" as a whole.) Damned interesting.

In my experience, Intuitive Continuity has been a common technique in role-playing ever since the beginning, but it has rarely been mentioned in rules texts until fairly recently. Thus it might be fair to state that Gareth-Michael Skarka did not invent the technique, but did identify it and encourage it, and deserves credit for that insight.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2002, 08:41:15 AM »

FWIW, and in the name of clarity, I looked it up on GO and it was the mighty, mighty Paul Elliot (AKA Mithras) that coined the term Illusionist, which led to Illusionism. The thread is here: http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?fuseaction=ShowThread&threadID=28594&messageID=28594&forumID=7&CustomSS=0&login=

Paul should get full credit for identifying the phenomenon. Then Ron, myself and others banged away at it for a while, and eventually it got mired in discussions of railroading (which always seems to happen). Anyhow, perhaps we should "officially" decide if Illusionism includes only "pre-planning" situations or is wider. Ron goes a long way to that above, I think. Paul in his initial post indicated that he only prepared "the bare bones" but that may be enough to narrow it to saying "some pre-preparation". That should get everyone nicely on the same page.

Mike
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