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Author Topic: Narrativist question  (Read 11916 times)
Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« on: September 27, 2005, 05:55:10 AM »

I'm still trying to sort all that GNS buisness.

Taking the N in particular. I think I understand what a premise is. It's an issue, a rhetorical question central to the game. Like for example "Does the end justify the means" or "What is worth fighting for" etc.

I think I also understand that Theme should emanate from adressing the premise.

What is theme? I'd like some actual example please. Thank you!
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Sebastien
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2005, 06:28:59 AM »

Well, lets say you have a premise of "does the end justify the means".

As a simple example you could address such a premise by putting the players in a situation where they have to choose between achieving their character's goals by having their characters perform some horrifying act or to refuse to perform that act and walk away from their goals.

If they chose to do the act and they achieve their goals and they walk away satisfied that their characters are happy by the results then the theme they've derived is "yes the ends do justify the means".  If they do the act, achieve their goals but the players decide their characters are suffering horrendous consequences for doing so, or are ashamed at what they've become, etc. then the theme they've derives is "no the ends didn't justify the means"

The theme is simply the answer the players came to during play from addressing the premise.

Keep in mind that while it is possible to articulate "today the premise we will be addressing is whether the ends justify the means" before play begins, that this is actually pretty rare in Nar play (especially more vanilla versions).  Often only at the end of play can you look back and recognize what premise your game was addressing.
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Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2005, 07:15:03 AM »


Keep in mind that while it is possible to articulate "today the premise we will be addressing is whether the ends justify the means" before play begins, that this is actually pretty rare in Nar play (especially more vanilla versions).  Often only at the end of play can you look back and recognize what premise your game was addressing.

If I understand that part correctly, does this mean and in Nar play, you implicitly address an "unnamed" premise beforehand that can be recognized only afterwards?

I think the best way to answer my question would be to give a short example of vanilla Nar play.
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Sebastien
Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2005, 08:19:07 AM »

Hi,

A perfect example of Vanilla Nar play is an Unknown Armies game I've been playing in for about 3 months now.  The various premises' in play, had to be developed, in part by the development of the characters by the players.  For example, one character's "big issue" is, "Can I achieve justice AND be a good cop?"  (which, is a variation of ends justifying the means).  That is one of the more obvious ones, while another couple of characters have the issue of "How can I connect to others?", which, for the most part, it appears the players haven't fully explicitly recognized, though I'd have to sit and talk with them to confirm.

Fact is, no one came into play with any exact idea of what premises would appear, and only through play have they developed.

On the other hand, depending on the group, it might take a very long time for a premise to gel, and that's assuming that everyone in the group has that in mind.  The other alternative is to narrow down or even pre-select theh premise before play begins, in order to focus and speed up play.  Dust Devils & Primetime Adventures are two examples of this kind of game.

Chris
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Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2005, 08:35:32 AM »

Assuming a band of characters has player-determined goals (as general or not or abstract or not they may be). Assuming that the GM doesn't rely to force to trace paths for these characters to achieve their goals and assuming that during play all players act in order to acheive their goals, would that be a type a vanilla Nar play? Is that example too vague to characterize?
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Sebastien
Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2005, 08:57:31 AM »

Hi,

The individual goals of the characters, aren't specifically important except as they assist or drive the creation of conflict and choices that allows people to address premise.  That is, whether the characters' goals are predetermined or not, the main question is if premise is open to being addressed.

For example, Polaris, My Life with Master, Dogs in the Vineyard, all of these games pre-set a lot of the characters' goals and roles, but still leave open room for the addressing of premise.  On the other hand, you can look to games such as HeroQuest, Riddle of Steel, or Sorcerer that typically leave the characters' goals also open to definition by the players.  Again, the goals of the characters are just tools to getting premise underway. 

The only decisions that absolutely must be open for input, are those dealing with addressing premise, the rest can be preloaded or not.  For example- in Dogs in the Vineyard, you are one of God's Watchdogs, supposed to bring justice to the towns you travel to- that's a given.  The decisions you make all base around "What is justice? And at what price?"  How you answer that question- that's the meat of play.

Chris
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2005, 08:58:15 AM »

Hey There,

I think that's a bit vague.  Such a game might, I think, easily be Gamist with the player set goals being the win condition and the GM committed to providing challenge and the players having the freedom to tackle those challenges as they see fit.  I think this neatly describes the Black Fire game Ron created for the Gamist essay.

What's required is recognizable human conflict and for play to be about addressing that conflict.

The problem, I think, is that people get all turned around about what a conflict is.  Surviving a snow storm is not a conflict.  Slaying the evil dragon is not a conflict.  Conflict is unreconcilliable wants between two people.  For which a snow storm or an evil dragon can be a stressor.

Vanilla play is rife with compelling human conflict but doesn't necessarily intellectualize it into any articulated Premise.  It's there.  It's obvious.

Bob and Joe are best friends since childhood.  Bob and Joe both love Susan.  Susan favors Joe.  The elders of their village have chosen Joe to go slay the dragon that has held the village in fear.

I'm not sure it's really necessary to nail this down into one pithy Premise.  There are all kinds of problems in this situation.  Just play.

Does that help?

Jesse
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2005, 09:07:08 AM »

Heh, this is crossposted with two people that obviously agree with me...

Not just too vague, but missing a critical bit of information. So you've got players with characters pursuing goals, and a GM using no force to create particular themes from play. Fine. What are the players doing when presented with opportunities to create theme? That is, let's say that a character has a goal to help poor people. He comes across a situation in which there is a poor person of his religion, and a poor person of another religion.

Does the player?

A. Ignore the potential dillema presented and just feed them both in whatever order? or

B. Make a decision that says something about the character?

Having characters with goals is probably pre-requisite for narrativism to occur, but just "staying alive" is enough of a goal in some cases. Narrativism for the GM is giving the player opportinities to reveal the character and create theme, and for the player, it's doing so. If the player has decided that the character is X, and never adds to that, or changes it, and does this not because it's interesting to stay static, but "because that's the way the character is, and it would be wrong to play him otherwise" that's simulationism.

Does that help?

Vanilla, BTW, merely means that there aren't strong techniques being used to cause narrativism to occur. Meaning that the only real technique being used is the player's own judgment of what the character does in certain situations (and perhaps a bit of author stance to the extent allowed). IOW, it looks just like roleplaying in other modes using the typical techniques, except for the priority on the decision making.

Mike
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Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2005, 09:24:15 AM »

Assuming a band of characters has player-determined goals (as general or not or abstract or not they may be). Assuming that the GM doesn't rely to force to trace paths for these characters to achieve their goals and assuming that during play all players act in order to acheive their goals, would that be a type a vanilla Nar play? Is that example too vague to characterize?
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Sebastien
Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2005, 09:31:34 AM »

(meta: can we edit posts on this forum?)

I think in my example above, I mistook "goals" for "individual premise". Is it a mistake or can it be the same in some instances?

I think I understand Mike's point about "it could be gamist and it could be simulationist".

I just don't understand how/where/when/by whom premise is introduced in vanilla play. It is addressed by all players but how can it be addressed if it's not defined upfront? Or is it defined as it is addressed?
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Sebastien
Darren Hill
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Posts: 861


« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2005, 10:30:14 AM »

I just don't understand how/where/when/by whom premise is introduced in vanilla play. It is addressed by all players but how can it be addressed if it's not defined upfront? Or is it defined as it is addressed?

(I hope the following paragraph is correct! I hope Forgite veterans will correct me if I have it wrong.)
Once you have players invested in getting their characters into situations where they will have to make important choices, and a GM willing to present difficult choices, you can't help but get narrativist results - premise will be generated. You don't need to know what form it will take beforehand, and - this is the really important bit IMO - you don't need to identify what form it took afterwards. You can discuss and analyse play to discover what the group was collectively saying, or it might be instantly obvious in some cases, but that understanding isn't necessary.
People can enjoy a book or movie which addresses big questions - when their enjoyment comes from the way those big questions are addressed, it doesn't matter if they can articulate exactly why they enjoyed it.

As I understand it, games that support and encourage narrativist often do it by using a clever trick: the character generation process produces characters (and a player relationship to those characters) that will act in a narrativist manner. That might sound like a tautology, so here's an example.
In The Riddle Of Steel, characters have Spiritual Attributes - the players choose these, and in play, to get the benefits, players will have to manoeuvre their characters into certain sorts of situations. By giving their characters these SAs, they want to do this.
The GM knows ahead of time what sort of situation they'll be looking for, and can use that knowledge to preconfigure situations in which players and characters will need to make interesting choices and face dilemmas of some sort, or create them on the fly. (Bangs.)
Get this sort of thing right, and the rest will come naturally.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2005, 10:38:51 AM »

Quote
(meta: can we edit posts on this forum?)
I think the function is off indefinitely.

Quote
I think in my example above, I mistook "goals" for "individual premise". Is it a mistake or can it be the same in some instances?
Premise is not something you decide up front in a mindful manner in 99% of cases. But, yes, sometimes you can be embedding a premise in a character by giving him a goal. The thing is that most goals won't look like a premise. A goal could be "Find the Gold." But that's not a premise itself. It doesn't ask any sort of question that can produce a theme. Now, if the situation is right, maybe there's an implicit premise in this goal. For instance, maybe to find the gold I have to either sneak into a library, or assault a librarian. So this goal introduces a "Does he think that breaking and entering, assault, or not getting the gold is the least evil thing to do?"

See what I'm saying?

Quote
I just don't understand how/where/when/by whom premise is introduced in vanilla play. It is addressed by all players but how can it be addressed if it's not defined upfront? Or is it defined as it is addressed?
Premises are created by anyone, including by accident. That is, in the GM introducing situation, or the player maneuvering his character, premise can emerge. Intentionally or unintentionally. Part of premise is simply recognizing it when you see it. For instance, in a game I might introduce some NPC of a certain type, and not remember that one of the PCs has a hatred for that sort of character. Given a situation in which the PC is supposed to keep the peace, suddenly the player goes, "Huh, what do I do, break the peace, or simmer?" Not explicitly in play, likely (though it happens), but just internally. Then the character makes a thematic statement like "I attack him!" or "I keep my mouth shut for the sake of the peace."

A player not playing narrativism just misses it entirely.

Any clearer?

Mike

P.S. Cross posted again. But Darren is correct. And, yes, a lot of support for narrativism in games is embedded in character design and enumeration. TROS narrativism is just on the other side of Vanilla because of the SAs. In Vanilla, the player comes up with that on his own, likely, he isn't motivated by mechanics of that sort.
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Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2005, 11:15:19 AM »

I think I get it. Thanks everyone!
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Sebastien
ewilen
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Posts: 108


WWW
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2005, 12:49:11 PM »

For instance, in a game I might introduce some NPC of a certain type, and not remember that one of the PCs has a hatred for that sort of character. Given a situation in which the PC is supposed to keep the peace, suddenly the player goes, "Huh, what do I do, break the peace, or simmer?" Not explicitly in play, likely (though it happens), but just internally. Then the character makes a thematic statement like "I attack him!" or "I keep my mouth shut for the sake of the peace."

A player not playing narrativism just misses it entirely.
Hi, Mike. If you will, I'd like to request a point of clarification: a player might have his character attack or not attack, and still "miss it entirely", yes? If either action is carried out "automatically" without sensing the conflict on some level, and the possibility of choosing between the two options, that would not be Narrativism. Is that correct?
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2005, 01:48:42 PM »

Yes, quite correct. It's precisely in sensing that there's some conflict that narrativism is found. So, quite accidentally as well, opportunities for narrativism to shine are often mowed over in trying to move play on.

Again, it's not something you do consciously, any more than you think, "Gee, this is a tough challenge that'll make me look good in the eyes of the other player" when playing gamism.

Mike
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