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Author Topic: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim  (Read 33803 times)
M. J. Young
Member

Posts: 2198


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« Reply #45 on: November 24, 2005, 04:53:12 PM »

Let me take a step back in this.

Jay, you seem to be under the impression that several of us (Mike and me, at least) are not listening to you, or at least are not giving due consideration to the possibility that your definition of Simulationism as Bricolage is the correct piece that makes sense of the entire agendum.

You are only partly right. It is not that we are refusing to listen to your revised definition of simulationism. It is that we listened to it, gave it serious consideration, turned it over with what we knew of simulationism, and rejected it as not matching the data we knew.

Mike and I are among a handful of people here who claim (and are recognized as claiming correctly) that we have played in simulationist games and enjoyed them. Thus some credit must be given to our assertions that your definition does not match our experience.

It certainly is not fair, however, for me merely to say that your proposed definition does not fit my experience (even if Mike and others who claim to have enjoyed simulationist play are saying the same thing) without giving more of an answer. I object on two fronts.

The first is that I have seen a great deal of quite enjoyable simulationism in which no one is trying to add anything or build anything from the elements provided. It is entirely about trying to experience what is known. What is it like to live in Arthurian England? Pendragon attempts to provide that experience, and no one who plays that game is trying to make Arthurian England anything other than what the book describes. Many, many people play simulationist games with the objective of experiencing a different world, or being a different person. Much genre-emulative play is geared to giving the players the experience of being there, whether it is noir or space opera or fantasy. Perhaps my understanding of "bricolage" is flawed, but I don't see how it relates to this kind of play, which is a valid and (for those who enjoy it) fun kind of play which has a clear agendum which has always to this point been identified with simulationism. If I were to accept your "bricolage" definition, I would have to discard this (and several other forms of play, such as Ralph's exploration of system by testing what actually happens given the mechanics rules) and begin the search for a new agendum which fits what it is these players--including I--are seeking.

More fundamentally, though, I cannot escape the impression, despite your protestations, that bricolage is a technique. Agenda are what it is you want to get; techniques are how you get it. In Narrativism, the agendum is to get ongoing story with dramatic tension and meaning. The use of techniques such as scene framing, director stance, premise questions, and other narrativist-facilitating mechanics are ways we can get that, but they are not exclusive ways. In Gamism the agendum is to show off, and the techniques involved in gamble and crunch are merely ways to provide the situations in which we show off. I am not going to attempt to give one simple phrase to define the simulationist agendum, since that is in part what is at issue. However, the problem with bricolage is that as it has been presented it is not the desired end but the means to the end; it is a process by which play is conducted; it is, in a word, a technique--what you do to get whatever it is you want.

Mike and I know what that "thing" is that we want. Ron calls it "The Dream". I call it "Discovery". In general, we agree that it is characterized by play that seeks to create a context and then experience it--but that the objective is not the creation of the context but the experience that comes from it. Bricolage is all about the process; agendum is about the desired outcome.

Thus experientially I find that there is simulationist play that is quite satisfying that involves nothing at all that fits what I understand to be your definition of "bricolage", while at the same time theoretically my examination of the process of bricolage suggests that it is a technique, not an agendum, a means and not an end, and so excluded from any definition of agenda, since it is established that agenda are independent of method.

I'm certainly willing to once more read through any explanation of Bricolage you would care to compose (although if you quote one from elsewhere I will probably only skim it, as I've read them all before). However, I can see only two possible outcomes. Either you will define bricolage in a way that completely removes the process elements from it and thus makes it nothing more than "experiencing what we have created"--not at all different from any other definition of what simulationism seeks--or you will repeat your assertions that the process is the objective, a position we have already considered and rejected and would rather not waste time considering yet again.

I hope this clarifies the situation. I certainly am not saying that bricolage is not simulationist; think it most certainly is consistent with simulationism (but not excluded as a technique from other agenda). I am saying that simulationism is not bricolage, because there is much that is good and valid simulationist play that does not at all mesh with what I hear you describing.

--M. J. Young
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #46 on: November 26, 2005, 01:00:57 AM »

Hi Thomas,

Jay, I think this is where most of the confusion is coming from.  What you keep seeming to say is that "each Player (including the GM) has absolute control over their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it the fun is reached through some means other than mechanics."  But "Each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.  We tend to call it "fiat" or something like that, but it turns out that it really is a formalized way of interacting with the game in the exact same way that Universalis' "You have (almost) absolute control of the components that you pay to have control of." is a mechanic.

Anything that demonstrates where the source of confusion is taking place is extremely valuable – so good call!

Let’s look at the Glossary here first and then take a look at where I am at odds with the common understanding.

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Mechanics

    Individual and specific features of System; Mechanics in text form are "rules."

System

    The means by which imaginary events are established during play, including Character creation, resolution of imaginary events, reward procedures, and more. It may be considered to introduce fictional time into the Shared Imagined Space. See also the Lumpley Principle.

Techniques

    Specific procedures of play which, when employed together, are sufficient to introduce fictional Characters, places, or events into the Shared Imagined Space. Many different Techniques may be used, in different games, to establish the same sorts of events. A given Technique is composed of a group of Ephemera which are employed together. Taken in their entirety for a given instance of role-playing, Techniques comprise System.

Just a quick comment – I think that Mike was, and is, prescient in noting the difficulty associated with the term, “Techniques.”

…It's just a disagreement on what a useful meaning for the term is. There was a whole long thread that considered terms like Mechanics, Rules, Text, Procedures, etc. I think this thread is moving to the other topic, so if anyone wants to discuss that definition, I think a new thread is in order.

However, my error was mentally equating/conflating “Mechanics” with the “Lumpley Principle.”  So let’s take a look at what I thought I was saying!

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Lumpley Principle, the
    "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play." The author of the principle is Vincent Baker, see Vincent's standard rant: power, credibility, and assent and Player power abuse.

Given the above –
  • 1.  I acknowledge my incorrect usage of Mechanics.
  • 2.  If anyone wishes to be charitable, go back through my posts and re-read them and substitute “those Mechanics specifically involved in the distribution of credibility with respect to statements directly meant for the SIS only,” for “Mechanics.”

    For the purposes and duration of this thread, and for lack of imagination, I will make all further references to the above as Mechanics-SIS
  • 3.  For further clarity with respect to this particular thread – I had also had been functioning under my understanding that any “Mechanic” which did not function in the role delimited in #2 above was a “meta-game mechanic.”

    For the purposes and duration of this thread, and for lack of imagination, I will make all further references to the above as Mechanics-MG.

It is not my intention to try and create a “global change in the definition of Mechanics” at the Forge in this thread.  I do like Mike’s idea of breaking off a thread on that particular topic, though.  The purpose of the above was to clear up a terrible confusing mess that I had created.  I should also note that I am not trying to redefine the Lumpley Principle either.

So let’s go back and parse out Thomas’ comments –

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What you keep seeming to say is that "each Player (including the GM) has absolute control over their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it the fun is reached through some means other than mechanics."  But "Each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.

I am going to borrow your phrasing here, if you don’t mind too much, and make the necessary changes to reflect the ideas I have been trying to get across.

    each Player (including the GM) has
absolute say over their statements of intention regarding their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it what determines what statements get into the SIS is through some means other than mechanics-MG or mechanics-SIS.”[/list]

So I am not saying that Players have absolute control over their pieces of play – that’s a category error for Sim.  Things not only happen to their pieces of play that are not desired or initiated by the Players, but it is fundamental and necessary to Sim play that the undesirable/unplanned does happen with regards to the Players stated intentions, though not all the time.  What I am saying is that the spheres of direct input are divided up – GM Setting/Player Character.  The interaction between the two spheres gives rise to Situation.  The aesthetic that governs the creation of the result (Premise, Challenge, the aesthetic contained within the source material) is that which would normally be described as Color in G/N, yet is originally found in the source materials.  The result/product of that interaction is the creation and expansion of the Dream.

After looking over the above I am intrigued by the notion that the resolution Mechanics-SIS in Sim while looking like task resolution actually fill the role of manifesting risk, not the arbitrating of outcome.  IOW though the resolution mechanics resolve at the task level (which is why they look like task resolution mechanics and why such “Sim” game designs are so easily drifted towards Gamism) they function like conflict resolution mechanics in that we are not arbitrating the fitness of the Players statements but rather were just checking to see if the Players intention go awry of their intended goal.  (Would that be FitM with the GM providing the outcome? …hmmmm.)

On the next –

    "Each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.

This is interesting.  Factually you are correct.  Given my efforts above I would call that Mechanic-MG. 

I should note, however, that I never said or claimed that “each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play.”  In fact, this is quite contrary to the nature of bricolage.  If I have my Character throw a rock, have I not exerted some form of control over the Setting?  Conversely, if the GM has an orc shoot my Character in the leg, despite my interests to the contrary, has not the GM exerted some control over the nature of my Character?  Rather I am saying that each Player has a specific means of input into the SIS.  Each Player has a primary means of direct input and through that input may attempt to have indirect input on anything else in the SIS.  I do think that it is important to the Sim agenda that a Player have ownership of Character (I will try and argue this in the future, however this does not mean that a Player cannot have more than one Character!), yet he most certainly does not have control as to what happens to said Character.

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You keep saying "You can't have mechanics interfering", and then seem to turn around and say "Unless it is this specific set of mechanics."  Now, you're a smart guy, and I think you've got some good ideas, but you're presenting this one in a terribly confusing manner.  You say on the one hand that there should be no mechanics intervening in these circumstances, but then you present an actual play incident in which the situation is constructed out of a set of mechanics (namely fiat*).

Another excellent, and embarrassing, point!  Again, allow me to borrow you construction and make the alterations that should more effectively communicate what I am trying to say.

    "You can't have
K/F mechanics-SIS, K/F mechanics-MG interfering, because it is up to the Players to interpret the current state of the rules that have been created/modified by the Bricolage process as to the validity of the input – i.e., is the proffered statement consistent/structurally similar with the Dream?  Given the construction of the Big Model it follows that such a resolution process might be called ‘Drama Resolution’, but I think that said term does a disservice to the enormous amount of structure querying that goes on behind said resolution."[/list]

Thus its not fiat that I speak of, but Drama resolution as informed by the whole of the structures of Dream.

Now to the last piece that I hope to clarify!

Quote
While you say "There are no situation creation mechanics in Sim" you also seem to be saying "The GM creates situation" which seems to be a mechanic…

The conundrum regarding your first sentence is easily resolved if one considers that a GM cannot create “situation.”  Situation is the dynamic interaction between Character and not-Character.  It takes two to create Situation – and it this flame that makes role-playing so utterly unlike any other activity.  That flame is what it’s all about!  Thus it follows that no mechanic can create a Situation, that is a condition that arises from the interaction between the Players (which includes the GM).

Quote
This is where all the confusion is for me, it sounds like you're saying that it's only Sim (or perhaps Sim is always best realized) if it uses this narrow set of mechanics for situation creation, and that strikes me as simply untrue...

I think Sim is best (not only) realized when there aren’t any K/F mechanics employed in “Situation Creation.”  What is left is the whole vast panoply of the “rules” contained within the source material and those that have been created/modified through the bricolage of play itself.  This does not mean that the GM can’t place elements in the SIS that aren’t designed to provoke a response from the Players, rather such choices should not be determined by a non-sentient disinterested device – as it were.

I am not unaware of the implications of my thesis and after numerous conversations with Chris I think I will be able to address this in full soon.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #47 on: November 26, 2005, 03:36:54 AM »

Hey Mike,

Quote
Sim has not come an effective or useful “conclusion.”
That's your opinion. It works as defined just fine in my estimation, and have provided arguments as to why.

As I have as well.  The most damming is that the current definition of Sim does not describe a process of play nor a define the product of play.  This condition fails the Model which is process driven.  I propose that Sim is Bricolage which is a process that creates a product and solves two major problems that currently plague the given understanding of Sim - 1.  No definition of process.  2.  No definition Product.  Now I may be wrong with bricolage, but it does more than what is currently offered with regards to satisfying the Model.

Quote
Sim has not come an effective or useful “conclusion.”
That's your opinion. It works as defined just fine in my estimation, and have provided arguments as to why.

If you could point out the threads (2-3 will be very helpful) to me please which rigorously define and describe both the process and end product I would be most grateful.

Quote
But we've argued a lot about this, and came to the conclusion that Character doesn't have to mean one-to-many. Could you either refute our arguments or provide one of your own? Why must this be so?

I am again at your mercy, and ask you to provide some links that “proves” that Sim can allow “many Players to one Character” so that I can read and then engage said arguments?

Quote
The GNS model has a certain predictive value that's valuable, and part of that is based on the modes in question following Ron's description of them as decscribing all of RPG play in three broad categories. Your definition takes a portion of functional play and says that it has no mode. Wrecking the functionality of the model. Your have not said why this is either not so, or why the replacement is superior enough to ignore this. The only answer we get is that it makes more sense to you without argument.

Indeed, that there is a flaw in a segment of the Model is exactly what is being investigated.  The flaw is a logical one in that the Model requires both a definition of the process of play and the created product of play, but one mode of play lacks a rigorous definition of both.  IOW the definition of Sim does not meet the requirements of CA.  So either the definition of CA is incorrect or the definition of Sim is not correct.  Given that the definition of CA has worked so beautifully with G/N logically we are left with the possibility that there is currently a flaw in the definition of Sim.  Bricolage meets both requirements.  This does not mean bricolage is the answer, but I am waiting for any process with a better fit to the data that also satisfies the Model to be offered in the stead of bricolage... or show how Bricolage fails to satisfy the Model.

Quote
If we can't get past the defintion of sim, then all of the questions of how things like Character relate to it are going to be meaningless. That is, we're going to disagree perforce until there's agreement on the original problem. To say that we're not making arguments against your position is to willfully ignore the arguments made.

I will happily surrender my efforts if someone offered a more rigorous definition of the process and product of Sim than bricolage.  If this has already happened please give me a link so that I may read up on it!  Quite frankly the desert out here is quite lonely and forbidding.

Quote
Quote
- it’s only going to slow down the investigation process to see whether my thesis has any merits.
I see, we should merely accept what you say because you say it. To do otherwise is obstructionist. I see.

Absolutely not!  I would prefer that someone did engage my arguments of process and product and demonstrate how they fail the definition of CA.  That has not happened.  Many times the argument has been raised that my proposed definition of bricolage will exclude forms of functional play from the rubric of Sim, but that’s a non-argument as the issue is process and product.  Other arguments have been raised that what I am saying contradicts what has currently been offered as the Sim definition in the Model and thus I what I propose is ipso facto flawed.  However, that also does not hold water because the current definition does not presently meet the requirements of the Model for CA (process and product).  Continually raising these points is to not engage in the issue that does need to be resolved – process and product.  To continue to do so in such a manner I would call obstructionist.

Quote
And have provided arguments that say why we disagree. To say otherwise is insulting.

I’m not saying you haven’t provided arguments; I’m saying that my proposition (process and product) hasn’t been addressed.

Quote
As I've said, prove that sim is bricloage.

I’m doing the best I can to work on it!  I know that I have solved two deal breakers already – process and product, yet I know I still have more work to do.

Quote
You've refuted the essay on sim? There is, in fact, a definition of simulationism that's widely agreed to and functional.

Actually it’s not functional within the Model because it provides neither a rigorous definition of the process nor a rigorous definition of the product – it doesn’t meet the requirements for CA as per the Model it was written for.  As a result it is not possible to design anything based on the article simply because the core process has not been illuminated.

Quote
Ah, but we're just deluding ourselves. I see.

Engage in ad hominem all you want, I’m still gonna keep plugging along working at process and product while you take digs at me.

Quote
Quote
“By your definitions tons of functional coherent play is relegated to simply being zilchplay.”  I think this statement is also specious.  First is that many descriptions of Sim play are frequently lumped into the category of “30 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of playing.”  Second there is the idea that has been floated a number of times that functional Sim game are rare.
Not by anyone that I credit. This does happen. And it's a sign of the narrativism bias that this site has. The people who say this stuff are demonstrably wrong.

I’m not certain how to read that as it was Ron whom I quoted originally.

Quote
All you're doing here is proving that you have an axe to grind. "I play sim, people are saying sim is bad, therefore they must not be defining it right." Attack the notion that sim isn't fun. Not that the definition is wrong.

More ad hominem.  Sim typically isn’t fun as Sim games have been designed and have been taught to be played.  I credit that to an incomplete understanding of Sim play.  As the current definition has no predictive value I see no reason to leave it be.  What’s particularly interesting is why you keep pointing a finger at me, has not Chris Lehrich posted as I have, only much more coherently and eloquently?

Quote
By the way, your definition of sim sounds like 5 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of play to me (whereas the other sim stuff that you leave out from your definition is fun when I play it). That's just my preference, however. Doesn't mean that it's not fun for others.

One, I was quoting others when I made that remark – so it wasn’t fun for others.  Two, I wasn’t referring to what was fun, just that to said poster the play was mostly dysfunctional.  A data point.

Quote
"A lot" is not the same as "All Sim" and these forms of play are not what I'm talking about in my definition.

Indeed.  Quote me where I say “All Sim” is dysfunctional.  However, “a lot” is still a serious problem.

Quote
Are you going to say that nobody who ever persued a sim agenda ever failed to do it well?

Seeing as I have never said any such thing, I am rather baffled how you come to such a position. 

I’m rather confused here.  Could you please explain to me how me arguing something about theory means I am saying people aren’t having fun?  Could you make that connection for me please, because I’m not seeing it?  All these absolutes are rather disconcerting, especially since they are being attributed to me – and I don’t remember making them!

Quote
CA isn't only about the imaginings, but all of play.

Quote from:
Creative Agenda (CA)
    The aesthetic priorities and any matters of imaginative interest regarding role-playing. ... Creative Agenda is expressed using all Components of Exploration, but most especially System.

My reading is that CA is the nature of the aesthetic priorities which govern the Exploration process.  CA is expressed using the Components of Exploration, but it does not prioritize them.

Quote
That is, in determining incoherence it's not merely what's produced in the SIS that's important, but how it's produced. Expoloration of system, as opposed to, say, exploration of color where you wouldn't use system mechanics, is one way to do this.

The problem is that Exploration of “mechanics” does not meet the definition of CA.  What’s even more confounding is that CA is expressed using the Components of Exploration while focusing that effort on a process other than itself.   (Address of Premise, Address of Challenge, Bricolage).  To use Exploration to “explore Exploration” is akin to using an X-ray machine to x-ray itself or a hammer to hammer itself.  One needs other tools to delve into and mess with the internal components of Exploration – like the Big Model.

Quote
I think it may be pricisely in focusing only on the SIS as the only determiner of Creative Agenda where you go wrong.

Maybe.  But as CA can only be diagnosed after, at the minimum, an entire instance of play it certainly suggests to me that the SIS is extraordinarily important.  Given that mechanics are geared towards facilitating Exploration and their effectiveness is determined only after Exploration has commenced strikes me as pretty strong evidence that the SIS is where its ultimately at.  Even the rewards systems function based upon what the Players did in the SIS.

Quote
I'm talking about fun, functional play. Which must have a CA by definition.

Not that I can find.

Quote
You simply won't address that I have not only been a part of, but seen tons of examples of this sort of play that were fun. If they weren't sim, what were they? If "zilchplay != fun" then they couldn't be zilchplay.

I don’t know what you’ve been a part of.  I wasn’t there, how can I address it?  Where is it written that "zilchplay != fun?”  Hell people can have fun throwing bottle caps at each other.  Not having a theoretically recognized or designated CA does not in any way “mean” people aren’t having fun.  That’s conflation.

Quote
Or am I lying to you?

OK – this has to be an absolute low point in this or just about any thread.  That’s just down right silly.  How would I know?  I don’t have any reason to believe so, and that argument certainly is not germane.  I’m not lying either, does that make my thesis correct? 

I’m utterly dumbfounded here. 

How does your assumption on my view on your veracity relate to the issue of process and product and procedures that interfere with said process?

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Do you even read what you're writing?

Given the above - I ought to ask you the same question in return.

Quote
Well, if you think we're beyond redemption, then write this as a manifesto and revolt

Ad hominem, yet again.

If you feel it is important to put words into my mouth feel free to do so all you wish, but it does not address the core issue of process and product.

Quote
Of course, then you'll claim that the following is institutional...odd, though, that "Indie-rpgs" would be seen as "institutional." When we throw each other into the fire on each alternate Thursday. But if that's your POV...

Look ma, ever more ad hominem and more false attributions!

Can we do away with the personal slights, attacks, and comments and address my question of process and product and procedures that interfere with said process?  Five pages of dealing with off topic notions…
Logged

Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
LordSmerf
Member

Posts: 864


« Reply #48 on: November 26, 2005, 04:01:19 AM »

Quote
As I have as well.  The most damming is that the current definition of Sim does not describe a process of play nor a define the product of play.  This condition fails the Model which is process driven.  I propose that Sim is Bricolage which is a process that creates a product and solves two major problems that currently plague the given understanding of Sim - 1.  No definition of process.  2.  No definition Product.  Now I may be wrong with bricolage, but it does more than what is currently offered with regards to satisfying the Model.

I realize that this wasn't in response to me at all, but I do want to address it: It is not at all clear to me what the prodcut of bricolage is.  So while you may have a process you don't really have a product here.  On the other hand, it's not clear to me what the "process" of Nar and Gam play are.  Saying that the process is "Addressing Premise/Challenge" isn't going to cut it either.  That tells me precisely zip about the process involved, or at least it tells me nothing more about what's going on than saying that the "Product of play is X".

So it strikes me that your "solution" doesn't actually solve the problem.  This is especially true as the generally accepted "product" of Sim play is the nebulous "Dream" (or as MJ says, "discovery").  So we do have a product, one that, perhaps, is not as well defined as Premise or Challenge, but one that we do acknowledge nonetheless.  I think you would serve your position by laying out precisely what you think the product of bricolage is without referring to the process (saying "the product of bricolage is the thing that bricolage produces" is about as helpful as saying "the process of creating Premise is the process that creates Premise").  Alternatively, explaining what you understand as the process(es) behind Nar and Gam play so that we can compare those processes with bricolage might be valuable.

Thomas
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Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #49 on: November 26, 2005, 04:16:12 AM »

Hi Jason!

…When System sets the feel (like swashbuckling versus gritty action) it defines Color, it sets the effectiveness of characters and makes actual statements about who those characters are, it defines the physics of the world and hence Setting, and so forth.



However, as we are working within the context of the Big Model, I can't reject it.  He's the rub though, you can't then reject it either when describing Sim….

Its almost spooky how closely you zeroed in on what I was planning to go into in a future thread!

I was going to argue that while Color is “inert” with regards to aspects of action or resolution in the imagined space, in Sim it is as you have described above.  IOW in Sim what was shunted aside as Color in G/N saturates the whole of Sim play and becomes one of the guiding priorities of play such that it has a profound impact on “the effectiveness of characters and makes actual statements about who those characters are, it defines the physics of the world and hence Setting, and so forth.”  Roughly speaking.  This is a thesis I am playing with and am as yet uncertain whether it will hold up.

I think this is a good place for me to agree to disagree…

Right on!

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Would it make sense that if I see the same lack of delimiters in all play that I would be of the opinion that you're not getting Nar and Gam if you feel that that fluidity is a distinction between them and your play?

I’ll certainly consider this.  Actually I don’t think that one “feels” the fluidity as it is such an ingrained part of play.  FREX – look at Polaris.  The Characters are going to die, that a given part of the game.  That they die is an import part of the addressing process.  Once a Character is dead his Story is done.  In Sorcerer when Humanity hits zero, and it will hit zero, that Character’s Story is done.  This is an expected and designed in part of the play process.  Conclusions.  They don’t have feel like a denouement and from what I understand and frequently don’t – yet the highest high usually comes at precisely this point.  On another hand the sweeping of a dungeon, the killing of the dragon, the killing of the BBEG usually results in a big reset in play.  Going back to town, resting and refitting, leveling up, etc.  The nature of addressing Challenge usually ends in the defeat of a Challenge and then a taking of stock which is typically preceded by planning and strategizing.  Can you see there is an implicit even if not noticed cycle here?

Does this make any sense?  I accept that I might be wrong but have I at least effectively communicated my thoughts?

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When I watch a movie, like Braveheart (because it's been on my mind for some reason), I don't see the theme as separate from the character motivations, or that the characters are defined independent of the setting, or that the moral of the story is driving the situations.  I don't see those nice little chunks in my play either.

Agreed, but I’m talking from an analytical and not a perceptual point of view which hopefully will lead ultimately to improved game design!

…and game design was why I had brought up the topic in this thread to begin with!
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #50 on: November 26, 2005, 04:42:49 AM »

Hi Thomas,

I realize that this wasn't in response to me at all, but I do want to address it: It is not at all clear to me what the prodcut of bricolage is.  So while you may have a process you don't really have a product here…

Sure we do, myth.

On the other hand, it's not clear to me what the "process" of Nar and Gam play are.  Saying that the process is "Addressing Premise/Challenge" isn't going to cut it either.  That tells me precisely zip about the process involved, or at least it tells me nothing more about what's going on than saying that the "Product of play is X".

OK – lets start here!

Quote from:
Story Now requires that at least one engaging issue or problematic feature of human existence be addressed in the process of role-playing. "Address" means:
  • Establishing the issue's Explorative expressions in the game-world, "fixing" them into imaginary place.
  • Developing the issue as a source of continued conflict, perhaps changing any number of things about it, such as which side is being taken by a given character, or providing more depth to why the antagonistic side of the issue exists at all.
  • Resolving the issue through the decisions of the players of the protagonists, as well as various features and constraints of the circumstances.



How is this done, actually, in play? It relies on the concept of something called Premise and its relationship to an emergent theme.
 
I already snuck Premise past you: it's that "problematic issue" I mentioned…

…But Narrativist role-playing is defined by the people involved placing their direct creative attention toward Premise and toward birthing its child, theme.

Red highlighting added.

So here we have both the “process of Address” and “the definition of Premise” and that the process of Addressing Premise gives birth to Theme.  Process and Product.  I am growing tired, but if you ask I will pull up the definition of Challenge if you wish.

So it strikes me that your "solution" doesn't actually solve the problem.  This is especially true as the generally accepted "product" of Sim play is the nebulous "Dream"


I am and have proposed that the Dream is the myth that is created as a result of play (bricolage).

I think you would serve your position by laying out precisely what you think the product of bricolage is without referring to the process (saying "the product of bricolage is the thing that bricolage produces" is about as helpful as saying "the process of creating Premise is the process that creates Premise").

LOL.  Yes, you are most correct.  I am working on it but I have proposed myth, as defined in Chris’ threads and article.  You are right though, that this is a most subtle and difficult topic.

Alternatively, explaining what you understand as the process(es) behind Nar and Gam play so that we can compare those processes with bricolage might be valuable.

I know this probably sound extremely lame, but I will in the near future.  It’s been something that has been brewing in the ol’ brainpan for sometime and this thread is my trying to work out some issues. 

Thank you for your constructive engagement!

M. J. and contracycle; I have not forgotten your posts and I will respond to them next!
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Jay
Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #51 on: November 28, 2005, 03:05:40 AM »

Hi contracycle,

You see, you say here that these issues were dealt with within the SIS.  Well, I'm sick to death of doing that.  The problem is then that I-the-GM have to do even more thinking for the player, second guessing for example, how much they even know about the blood feud principle. 

Previously, you suggested that players engaged with a particular topic can be taken to know something about it, but why should this be?  Surely, people primarily try to explore things they do not already know - or they explore things they do already know in search of unexpected and unpredictable emergent phenomenon.  So not only do I think it is unsafe to assume the players are well equipped regarding the topic of exploration, but worse, its probable they will be badly equipped.

Actually, these are some very incisive questions.

From the paradigm I’m working on, bricolage, that the Players need to know something about a “particular topic” is akin to the Players needing to know something about the rules and stakes in Gamism and needing to know something about the Premise and the stakes in Nar.  These are the very objects, tools, which the Players need to know something about in order to effectively engage in that particular CA.  IOW without such knowledge effective CA expression becomes very unlikely (not impossible).

To be an effective bricoleur said individual should have a decent working knowledge of the objects he’s likely to be employing.  Social structure is one of those categories of objects that the player will be faced with.  Such knowledge certainly does not need to be complete by any means, but to play without a basic understanding of the more salient social structures does severely restrict the options available to the Player when faced with a problem.  How does one justify a barbarian, FREX, not being familiar with the customs and mores of his own culture?  This runs a huge risk of breaking the Dream!  Just like a Player in Nar not grokking the Premise or a Gamist not grokking the mechanics the game runs a serious risk of stalling and losing momentum.  Why bother Playing a barbarian, FREX, if one does not make the most basic of efforts to become familiar with that which the Player will be representing/simulating/celebrating in play to the other Players at the table – thus running the risk of breaking their Dream as well.

To address your, I am assuming, complaint about you-as-GM having to do “even more thinking” is a little alien to my recent game experiences.  In the game I play in, which I am only offering as an illustration, any new player who wishes to continue to play with us is required to read the LOTR before 6 months is up.  If they don’t make the effort, then they are not “pulling their weight” as far as the Players in the group I play in are concerned.  This, to us, is the exact equivalent of a Player being required to learn the mechanics in a hardcore crunchy/pervy Gamist group.  If the new Player wants to continue to play, he should make the minimum effort to be familiar with the basics!

I know that probably sounded odd, but I included it as an example of the ideas I am trying to communicate.  You may disagree, and that’s totally fine, but I am trying very hard to give you and all some insight to what is going on in my mind.  See, I think that the heart of Sim lies in the source material, not in the mechanics.  IOW I think, and I may be completely wrong, that most people (not all) who want to play “Sim” do so because they were inspired by the desire to continue the experience of some setting they had seen/watched previously.

Now, it is certainly possible that a Player can come to a game where they don’t really know much about the Setting and “learn” their way into the world – just set them up as an outsider to the local culture.  You know, the ol’ fish-out-of-water routine!  Think Antonio Banderas in The 13th Warrior.  In this case the Player doesn’t need to know anything a head of time, nor is there any expectation that he would know anything about said culture, he just learns as he goes along – but it will be a bumpy and quite possible dangerous ride.

In your example, I don’t think as a GM you have to second-guess what the Player does nor does not know.  Just have the NPC’s react as they would given their culture and leave it up to the Player to try and muddle his way through – thus learning about the fictional culture (Setting) in the process of play.  This can be very interesting play as well.

    ”Surely, people primarily try to explore things they do not already know - or they explore things they do already know in search of unexpected and unpredictable emergent phenomenon.”

I agree that we frequently seek the “novel,” as it were, but I don’t think that is the same as the Players being completely ignorant.  Much of Sim role-play, if one speaks of bricolage, is the accounting for and making sense of the hither to unknown.  Your phrase “unpredictable emergent phenomenon” is particularly interesting because therein lies an implied baseline from which the Players are operating.  I love emergent phenomenon, but it does require a certain already existing/known baseline of behavior from which the new behavior could not or was predicted.

In my experiences, which I fully understand are not universal by any stretch of the imagination, when encountering a completely new culture it usually leads to more interesting play if that culture is Explored from the outside first rather than thrusting a player into the role of “creating a new culture from the ground up.”  However, certain experienced Players can certainly do this, but it is very very difficult to pull off effectively without running the risk of breaking the Dream.

I should also note that such a case of a Player being unfamiliar with the local customs such as “blood feud,” is a prime example of Situation just aching to be dealt with/Explored.  This is an example of how one learns while still being an active participant in the process – Exploring the unexpected!  It just needs to be justifiable (bricolage).

For this reason I think having a systematic intervention can work as a representation of social expectations and mores.  Lets say my player balks at the taking of revenge and says seomthing like "violence doesn't solve anything".  My problem then is this: that sounds like such an ahistorical position to take, what does it mean?  doe it mean the player is knowingly violating the social mores to see what happens?  Or does it mean the player simply doesn't understand those mores?  I can;t tell, and so its difficult to judge how to procede.  But if this expeation were mechanically articulated, that confusion would evaporate - the players statement will HAVE to have been informed that a certain course of action is demanded by the setting.

That problem is easily solvable by having a village elder or a sibling or a parent or a spouse or a friend approach and lay out the parameters.  If, however, the Player continues to balk because the Player doesn’t believe in “violence,” then one would have to wonder why said Player even chose to play a barbarian in the first place.  IOW he’s breaking the Dream in a manner that would be identical to a Player in Sorcerer balking at using sorcery in the game because he personally finds it offensive to his belief system to even fictionally play with the idea of binding demons.  The game session is broken at a very baseline Social Contract level.  If on the other hand the Player is balking because it makes interesting play then more power to him, but he should understand that he is in for a whole 6 pack of trouble!

All that being said, I don’t think it is all the difficult to decide how to proceed.  Proceed and see what happens.  Give the Player a problem (Situation) and let it ride.

    ” …the players statement will HAVE to have been informed that a certain course of action is demanded by the setting.”

As I understand Sim, action is always demanded by Setting.  IOW that is a basic tenet of the Creative Agenda.  The challenge to the Player, where he is tested, is in the determination of just what his response will be.  This is partly why I don’t think that “Situation Creation” mechanics are necessary.  Situation will arise naturally enough if the GM throws socially based problems at the Players feet, which are grounded in the local conditions.  The Dream, in order to expand and grow, requires the Players to bump into such problems and their efforts to deal with them based upon their Character’s own current conditions and cultural norms contribute to this very growth.  This growth cannot happen if a mechanic “resolves” the issue in lieu of the Player’s own creative input.

However a Player who has made the effort to read the source materials should have a knowledge of such cultural concerns.  It’s amazing how creative Players get when death is hanging on the line.  Such matters as cultural norms I do not consider rules/mechanics but Setting material.  And what’s particularly intriguing is that these cultural norms are plastic and can change over time under the right conditions – which is another reason why I think that ossifying them into actual “rules/mechanics” prevents this very evolution from happening.  IOW it is likely to interfere with the evolutionary effect of the bricolage process.

Thats the kind of explicatory role I could see such mechanics serving, and I would suggest they would arguably be more valuable in sim than for any other agenda, as it is the agenda in which people are most likely going to be exposing themselves to unusual inputs, I would think.

I fully agree that such knowledge is most critical to Sim play, but not in the form of mechanics, but in the form of background material.  That very material which is being celebrated – or conversely such knowledge can be learned through actual play once again obviating “the need” for such a mechanical enforcement.

You don’t have to agree with my position, but have I at least made my position more understandable to you?  If you have any further questions or comments please, by all means, let me know!  Thank you for your interesting and challenging questions.

M. J. I have not forgotten you!
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Jay
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #52 on: November 28, 2005, 02:49:01 PM »

I've gone off list to discuss with Jay. In case anyone wonders why I've failed to respond here. I think I'm pretty much done here.

Mike
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contracycle
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« Reply #53 on: November 29, 2005, 04:25:45 AM »

Quote
To be an effective bricoleur said individual should have a decent working knowledge of the objects he’s likely to be employing.

"decent working" <> "encyclopaedic and comprehensive".  And anyway, I would suggest that if the bricooleur really does have a perfect understandoing of the materials and tools, they then transform into an engineer.  That is, the make do and mend approach is in contrast with comrepehensive knowledge, which tends to permit more purposeful and econoomic interventions.

 
Quote
Social structure is one of those categories of objects that the player will be faced with.  Such knowledge certainly does not need to be complete by any means, but to play without a basic understanding of the more salient social structures does severely restrict the options available to the Player when faced with a problem.  How does one justify a barbarian, FREX, not being familiar with the customs and mores of his own culture?

Enslaved by Romans as a baby.  Raised by wolves.  Shipwrecked and adopted.  But even more importantly: the purposeful stranger-in-a-strange-land character.  I'vre seent his happen frequently and regard it as a recurrent pathology of Sim: the player who selects an Outsider character precisely so their unfamiliairty weith the local culture is mirrored in their character, and so they are excused the need to accurately represent the culture.  While an understandable defence mechanism, I feel it produces distance and alienaiton from the topic at hand.

You've also shifted your terms of degree slightly, first saying knowledge does not have to be complete but then attacking the straw man of "a basic understanding".  The problem is, what is it that constitutes a "basic" understanding, and how does one determine if your understanding is sufficient without some sort of reference to compare yourself against?  Probably, most people familiar with the stories of CuChulain consider themselves to have a "basic" understanding of Celtic culture, but that would not at all imply they would unerstand why the Fir Fothlach, the "man of going forth", operates as an insitutional element of destabalisation in this socio-economic system.

And, seeing as multiple participants probably have different understandings, the problem is multiplied.  So it seems to me you are assuming that the players come pre-equipped to understand the Dream, and then simply enact it, rather than actually Explore it in an inquisitive mode.  The coherence of the SIS has been offloaded onto player preparation.

Quote
I know that probably sounded odd, but I included it as an example of the ideas I am trying to communicate.  You may disagree, and that’s totally fine, but I am trying very hard to give you and all some insight to what is going on in my mind.  See, I think that the heart of Sim lies in the source material, not in the mechanics.  IOW I think, and I may be completely wrong, that most people (not all) who want to play “Sim” do so because they were inspired by the desire to continue the experience of some setting they had seen/watched previously.

I think thats valid.  Very frequntly the desire is to keep playing in some environment the players have experienced, be that via books or movies.  And I certainly agree that games that are properties of existing works probably do have a head start on getting congruence between imaginary spaces and so forth.  But even so, unless you restrict yourself to vairtual reenactment of the movie or book, you are going to have to go "off piste" into areas that were not covered, if the game has any  longevity.

Quote
In your example, I don’t think as a GM you have to second-guess what the Player does nor does not know.  Just have the NPC’s react as they would given their culture and leave it up to the Player to try and muddle his way through – thus learning about the fictional culture (Setting) in the process of play.  This can be very interesting play as well.

I fear this is a recipe for failure; to be more specific, I have in the past backed off from doing this becuase it would have ended the game by killing the characters.  Sometimes, the "realistic" result is not the most desirable result.  And that sort of impasse is precisely what I want to avoid.  A thematically True game can still be no fun if the Trueness mitigates against the Funness.

Quote

That problem is easily solvable by having a village elder or a sibling or a parent or a spouse or a friend approach and lay out the parameters.

No thats not viable in practice, IME - partly because its obviously a GM intervention which can itself break the dream; partly because it presupposes that the character in question has such friendly advisers, which is not a given, and it further assumes that the characters are in some place proximate to these advisers, rather than out in the bush a hundred miles away.

Quote
As I understand Sim, action is always demanded by Setting.  IOW that is a basic tenet of the Creative Agenda.  The challenge to the Player, where he is tested, is in the determination of just what his response will be.  This is partly why I don’t think that “Situation Creation” mechanics are necessary.  Situation will arise naturally enough if the GM throws socially based problems at the Players feet, which are grounded in the local conditions.

Situation may arise without the players understanding it or knowing how to react to it in a thematically appropriate manner.  Surely part of the exploration is not just what the setting is like, but also what the people in that setting are like, including the players character?

Quote
  The Dream, in order to expand and grow, requires the Players to bump into such problems and their efforts to deal with them based upon their Character’s own current conditions and cultural norms contribute to this very growth.  This growth cannot happen if a mechanic “resolves” the issue in lieu of the Player’s own creative input.

Straw man - not only have I specifically NOT said anything about system resolving anything, but I have specifically said that system can be used to LAY OUT choices, not to impose them.  That is, the system is serving as an exposition of the setting.

Quote
However a Player who has made the effort to read the source materials should have a knowledge of such cultural concerns.  It’s amazing how creative Players get when death is hanging on the line.  Such matters as cultural norms I do not consider rules/mechanics but Setting material.  And what’s particularly intriguing is that these cultural norms are plastic and can change over time under the right conditions – which is another reason why I think that ossifying them into actual “rules/mechanics” prevents this very evolution from happening.  IOW it is likely to interfere with the evolutionary effect of the bricolage process.

The problem with this is that the bricolage process is likely to take a very long time - for example, the material culture of Mesopatamia exists virtually unchanged for some 2000 years.  Now, social systems, even nominally voluntary ones, are likely to pre-exist the birth of the individual - and as a result, the individual experiences them as objective facts, just as they experience a tree or a rock.  The fact that the social formation may, in the grand sweep of history, eventually change does not imply that the processes and norms present in a society are anything other than concrete, as the people themselves experience them.  Thus it seems to me entirely appropriate toi systemise society into a mechanical expression, becuase that is how it will operate in then characters terms.

Quote
I fully agree that such knowledge is most critical to Sim play, but not in the form of mechanics, but in the form of background material.  That very material which is being celebrated – or conversely such knowledge can be learned through actual play once again obviating “the need” for such a mechanical enforcement.

I would suggest, rather, that such a degree of knowledge would obviate the need for exploratory play.
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #54 on: December 01, 2005, 02:36:48 AM »

Hi M.J.,

Thanks for your patience and thoughtful input.

Jay, you seem to be under the impression that several of us (Mike and me, at least) are not listening to you, or at least are not giving due consideration to the possibility that your definition of Simulationism as Bricolage is the correct piece that makes sense of the entire agendum.

You are only partly right. It is not that we are refusing to listen to your revised definition of simulationism. It is that we listened to it, gave it serious consideration, turned it over with what we knew of simulationism, and rejected it as not matching the data we knew.

This is certainly a possibility.  I’ll have to spend some time re-reading previous postings with this in mind and see what happens.  I would also like to say that while I am certainly (over) championing my thesis, I am partly motivated to by seeing just where it falls apart.  The problem as I am perceiving it, is that the counter-arguments are not being made on the same level – IOW we have this apples and oranges conversation going on.

Mike and I are among a handful of people here who claim (and are recognized as claiming correctly) that we have played in simulationist games and enjoyed them. Thus some credit must be given to our assertions that your definition does not match our experience.

See, this is perfect example of the apples and oranges conversational mismatch that I am talking about.  1.  I am not talking about “enjoy-ability.”  I am talking about theory construction and analysis.  2.  Given that I am talking about theory I’m not exactly sure how a theory construct can be said to impinge upon “your play experiences.”  I’m trying to analyze and make explicit what is happening during “Sim” play.  What I am most certainly and explicitly not trying to do is make a value judgment about the worthiness of said play.

The first is that I have seen a great deal of quite enjoyable simulationism in which no one is trying to add anything or build anything from the elements provided.

Again, “enjoyableness” is a subjective term that is neither germane nor descriptive of process.  Essentially what we have is a tautology - “Sim is what I play,” thus “What I play is Sim.”  Now, the same charge has been leveled at me, which I suppose is reasonable.  However, what I wish to discuss in not whether such play is “enjoyable” but rather to formulate a definition of the Sim CA that fits within the Model as a whole.  In order to accomplish that a process must be part of the definition.  What I am looking for is a refutation based on process failure, not subjective arguments based on value judgments.

I’m totally OK with someone demonstrating a process of play that better accounts for the observable behaviors of players during play, but arguments like “you’re excluding whole segments of play,” or “I play this way and that is Sim,” are not arguments but are rather pleas that have the effect of deferring the dialogue away from the topic of process.

If I were to accept your "bricolage" definition, I would have to discard this (and several other forms of play, such as Ralph's exploration of system by testing what actually happens given the mechanics rules) and begin the search for a new agendum which fits what it is these players--including I--are seeking.

This is very intriguing to me as I ask myself, “Why is this an issue?”  Why do you as a GM or a Player have to discard anything because of a theoretical construct?  You don’t have to do anything.  If the style of play you enjoy is functional – then God Bless!  By all means keep doing what is and has been successful and enjoyable to you!  But that does not illuminate what is going on as a process during CA expression as the Model has been formulated.  The Model is a theoretical construct that tries to explain observed human behaviors expressed during play – it is not prescriptive.  You can still continue to seek that which you enjoy in your games – my arguments have nothing to do with that at all.  That particular concern is a non-issue.  Conversely if it can be effectively argued that “bricolage” is something that is truly unique to a given CA and thus deserves it own “CA designation,” I have no problem with that either.

More fundamentally, though, I cannot escape the impression, despite your protestations, that bricolage is a technique. Agenda are what it is you want to get; techniques are how you get it.



However, the problem with bricolage is that as it has been presented it is not the desired end but the means to the end; it is a process by which play is conducted; it is, in a word, a technique--what you do to get whatever it is you want.

Bricolage is no more a Technique than “addressing Challenge” or “addressing Premise” is a Technique.  It’s an approach to solving problems.  The major difference between bricolage and Challenge/Premise is that Challenge and Premise are merely categories of approaches or points-of-view employed when creating and dealing with “problems,” while bricolage is much wider and could be said to be category-less with regard to problem solving.

I agree that from a Player’s point of view Agendas are “what you want to get,” but from the Model’s point of view Agendas are strictly concerned with observable behavior – i.e. what the Players are actually doing at the table and most emphatically not about their internal desires.  I am solely trying to bring to light observable, quantifiable expressed patterns of behavior.

Bricolage is all about the process; agendum is about the desired outcome.

Actually that is not correct.  Bricolage also encompasses the desired “end.”

Essentially a structure is two things.  First of all, it is a pre-made machine, already pretty well tuned and running just fine.  We can slap it into any machine we want to build and know it will run in particular ways.  Second, it is the abstract formulation entailed by the machine.  This is the hard part.



So in addition to structure being a quality of the machine, it’s also an aesthetic constraint on what the machine ought to look like.  This has many, many layers—which we can roughly break down into those functions (practical, psychological, social) and some intellectual and aesthetic ideals of how we like things to be.

Red highlighting added.

I just re-read your point about not quoting what has already been said.  Sorry, I defer to Chris because his descriptions are far more concise and eloquent than anything I could hope to compose.  IOW - I’m saving you from the incomprehensibility of my own writings whenever and wherever I can.

Nevertheless bricolage does encompass the aesthetic or end of the process as well.  This is incredibly important to understanding what bricolage as applied to role-play means.  Bricolage does not seek to make a point, but rather to demonstrate that which it is constructed from was already complete and whole – even as it encounters and absorbs new objects!

I hope this clarifies the situation. I certainly am not saying that bricolage is not simulationist; think it most certainly is consistent with simulationism (but not excluded as a technique from other agenda). I am saying that simulationism is not bricolage, because there is much that is good and valid simulationist play that does not at all mesh with what I hear you describing.

Again I would like to point out that I not making any value judgments about people’s play.  The term “good” has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments.  I am trying to illuminate the process of play which includes and accounts for player input, just like the definitions of the Creative Agendas of Gam/Nar demand.  No more.  No less.
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Jay
Valamir
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« Reply #55 on: December 01, 2005, 09:04:01 AM »

Jay, let me posit you the following, I'll start with some establishing background:

We have the big model.  It has many layers.  The all encompassing social layer where werein lies the groundwork for how human beings are expected to interact with each other on a personal level at the table.  Creative Agenda which encompasses our underlying expectations of why we're playing in very broad terms.  Techniques which are the specific methods, conventions, and ways of applying (or choosing not to apply) mechanics and rules.  And finally ephemera which is the basic unit of action at the table such as speaking words or rolling dice or crossing off boxes.

Each of these layers are a collection of possibilities.  Each possibility in a layer can encompass a variety of different sub sets in the layer below.  "Make a skill check to determine if the character succeeds at a specified task" is a technique.  There are a lot of ways to accomplish that technique in a game.  Which dice to roll, what number to roll against, and whether high numbers are good or bad are all ephemera.  There is a virtually unlimited number of combinations of different ephemera that can produce that desired technique.  "Acting in character" is  technique.  Speaking in first person, affecting a specific accent, speach pattern, or mannerism while "in character", using props, getting up and moving around are all ephemera that can be combined to accomplish that technique.

Why one is using that technique instead of another, what purpose that technique is serving for play, how and when the technique is applied and what players are hoping that application will accomplish is all informed by the Creative Agenda.  Just as any given technique can have many different flavors depending on what combination of Ephemera are being used, so can any given Creative Agenda have many different flavors depending on what combination of Techniques are being used.

Techniques are an important layer of the big model, because it is the layer that is most easily seen and the layer that we most directly and obviously experience.  Ask any typical gamer how they like to play and what you'll get as an answer is a laundry list of their favorite techniques and assorted ephemera.  The danger here is to mistake the parts that are easy to identify (the obvious and readily visible techniques) for the underlying Creative Agenda. 


So enough background, I'll now get to my point.

I don't agree with MJ that Bricolage is a Technique.  As you rightly point out there's alot more going on in there then just a Technique.  Theres a certain approach to what's important, there's a certain shared aesthetic.  Bricolage, as you've described it is a far more complex thing than just a Technique.

But its also not a Creative Agenda.  As one example of why its not consider the following: You go to great lengths to describe as part of the process of Bricolage that its important that the players ability to have an effect on the game world be limited to the sort of inputs their character would have. Great, that's important to know.  But that's a Technique...its a Technique we already have a name for and have been discussing for some time called Actor Stance.  This particular Technique is essential to the proper functioning of Bricolage and that alone disqualifies Bricolage from being a Creative Agenda.  If Bricolage were truly a Creative Agenda I should be able to Bricol away with any combination of Actor, Director, or Author stance I choose (because Creative Agenda are not single technique specific).  I'm not going to use up space by listing a bunch of others, but there are a number of other essential features of the process of Bricolage you've described that are similarly specific Techniques.


So what Bricolage is, is an overall reason for playing combined with a certain subset of very specific Techniqes and Ephemera carefully chosen from all possible techniques and Ephemera to produce a highly desireable but very narrowly defined play experience.  You have an overall definition of what play looks like from what you (and your group) want to get out the experience, you know how you go about accomplishing that in play (which includes not only what you DO do during the game but what you WON'T do as well).  All of that, soup to nuts: Agenda, Combination of Techniques, Collection of Ephemera together rolls up into the play experience you label Bricoloage.

Fortuneately we already have a word to describe what that is, and its a word that we've been using for years...its called a Skewer.  If you visualize the big model like little discrete elements arranged into a stack of layers, a Skewer then is a particular combination of those elements that penetrates down through the layers skewering the desired elements from each layer and leaving the rest alone.  Bricolage is a Skewer.  Yes it skewers through the Simulationist Creative agenda, but then it goes on to skewer a very specific combination of Techniques and Ephemera unique to Bricolage.  The Simulationism that Mike and MJ have been describing is a different Skewer.  One that also passes through the Simulationist Creative agenda, but goes on to spear a completely different comination of Techniques and Ephemera that makes it look very very different from Bricolage.  Both, however, fall under the Sim Agenda.

I've long said that Skewers are the most interesting conclusion of the model and long felt that we can consider the structure of the model largely correct and complete when we can stop talking about how to define GNS and start talking about Skewers.  Noone plays Sim, or plays Gamist, or plays Nar...what we play are Skewers.  Like a good Shish Kabob we all have our favorite ingredients that we like to have stuck on the stick whenever we light up the grill...and those are our play preferences.  For some Immersion is an important ingredient on their skewer.  Some won't eat the kabob if its got percentile dice (Ephemera) on it.  Others really love to throw a huge hunk of Director Stance on the end.  After that the ingredients are pretty interchangeable.  Every game we play is a different Skewer because at the very least its got a different set of Ephemera (3d6 vs. a d20)...which is kind of like having the same main ingredients but varying the condiments.  Playing the same game with a different group (even 1 player different) is a different Skewer because what we spear through in the Social Contract layer will be different.  Hell, playing the same game with the same group on a different night may wind up with a different Skewer because of social events that just happened that color play that night (how charred is the mushroom this time around).

How we actually play...you, me, Mike, Ron, anybody...is a Skewer.  Skewers are fun.  Skewers are interesting.  Skewers are IMO the only thing left worth talking about in the Big Model*

Bricolage is a Skewer.  A very explicit combination of Agenda, Techniqes, and Ephemera elements that all combine together for a very specific play experience.  I'd also add, given the unique social situation of the play group from which you are drawing your experience from, quite a lot of Social Contract in the application of Bricolage as you've described.  Quite probably the first fully described, fully realized Skewer presented on the Forge congratulations.

I think the whole concept of Bricolage becomes much more useful, productive, and exciting as a Skewer and I hope you'll agree and begin to present it as such rather than try to stuff it in as a Creative Agenda where in just doesn't fit.

---------
*In my opinion Skewers are one use only items.  Any single individual Skewer exists only for that single specific instance of play and then is gone forever.  The next instance of play will be a brand new unique Skewer with subtle differences to the Social Contract Layer (a little more salt here, less pepper there) as the social dynamic within a group (even within a single play session) changes (in that sense Skewers are more like Fondue than Kabobs perhaps).

What we then more rightly talk about are families of Skewers...which are like recipies in that every time you make the dish it's going to be a little bit different, but still similar enough to recognize as that dish.  Bricolage is a family of Skewers.  Not only is how someone else experience Bricolage going to different from the way Jay experiences it because they're group will have a different social dynamic but they might also swap out a few other ingredients as well yet still have something identifiable as Bricolage.

Identifying the core specific elements that absolutely positively have to be on the Skewer along with commone variant ingredients is a fascinating subject.  Like a recipe, just how much can you change the ingredients for Aunt Edna's Rhubarb Pie and still be able to call it Aunt Edna's Rhubarb Pie...How can we come to recognize when its become Cousin Frieda's Rhubarb Pie instead...

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M. J. Young
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« Reply #56 on: December 01, 2005, 06:04:57 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Ah, but we're just deluding ourselves. I see.

Engage in ad hominem all you want, I’m still gonna keep plugging along working at process and product while you take digs at me.
That actually was not a dig at you; it was a touch sarcastic, but it was self-referential. The idea is that we claim to have fun, but you claim we are not having fun. More on that in a moment.

Quote from: Jay
Could you please explain to me how me arguing something about theory means I am saying people aren’t having fun?  Could you make that connection for me please, because I’m not seeing it?....

Quote from: Mike
I'm talking about fun, functional play. Which must have a CA by definition.

Not that I can find.

The problem here is that creative agendum is rather broad and rich conceptually, and covers a lot of ground that's hard to describe concisely without risking misunderstanding. The agendum is the "why" of play, in the sense of "what we expect to get" from play. That means that "agendum" is "this is the thing that will make play fun, if we can get it". Play that has no "thing that will make play fun" by definition cannot be "fun".

Thus--
Quote from: Jay
...people can have fun throwing bottle caps at each other.  Not having a theoretically recognized or designated CA does not in any way “mean” people aren’t having fun.
--misses the point. "Throwing bottle caps at each other" has an agendum that makes it fun. It does not have a creative agendum because it is not a creative activity. Creative agendum means whatever it is about our mutual creative activity that makes it fun. Without that, the act of creation is not fun.

Hence, genuine "zilchplay", if it exists, would indeed mean play devoid of any fun or even of any genuine expectation of fun.

So, too, whether we have engaged in "enjoyable" play is very much part of the issue at stake. If play was fun, then it was so because we got whatever we were seeking from it, and what we were seeking is our agendum, and since we were seeking it through the creation of the shared imagined space it was our creative agendum. If we had fun roleplaying, we met our creative agendum. That's fundamental to the model. If we had no agendum, we could never have met it, and so could never have had fun.

I'll gladly concede that there might yet be another agendum, but to date everything I have seen that has been included in concepts of "fun simulationist play" shares a common nature I call discovery and Ron calls The Dream. I don't see a compelling reason to split that, to say that some of what we have to date called simulationist play is really seeking one kind of fun and some is seeking another, even if (as happens in other agenda) players are seeking that same kind of fun in different ways. The difference between gamblers and crunchers is one of how we are seeking; the difference between gamists and narrativists is a difference in what we are seeking. Simulationism is a "what we are seeking", a creative agendum. Bricolage still seems to me to be a "how we are seeking", technique, or if you want to suggest something broader than technique (more akin to the gambler/cruncher distinction), methodology.

If I were to accept your "bricolage" definition, I would have to discard this (and several other forms of play, such as Ralph's exploration of system by testing what actually happens given the mechanics rules) and begin the search for a new agendum which fits what it is these players--including I--are seeking.

This is very intriguing to me as I ask myself, “Why is this an issue?”  Why do you as a GM or a Player have to discard anything because of a theoretical construct?  You don’t have to do anything.  If the style of play you enjoy is functional – then God Bless!  By all means keep doing what is and has been successful and enjoyable to you!  But that does not illuminate what is going on as a process during CA expression as the Model has been formulated.  The Model is a theoretical construct that tries to explain observed human behaviors expressed during play – it is not prescriptive.  You can still continue to seek that which you enjoy in your games – my arguments have nothing to do with that at all.  That particular concern is a non-issue.  Conversely if it can be effectively argued that “bricolage” is something that is truly unique to a given CA and thus deserves it own “CA designation,” I have no problem with that either.

I apologize for this; I was not sufficiently clear in my statement. By "discard" I meant "remove from the category of simulationist play" and possibly "remove from the category of fun functional play because it is lacking that which makes play both fun and functional, a creative agendum". It is on the theoretical level that this "discard" would occur, in that it would say in essence that although people claim to have had fun roleplaying in these various ways, since there is no creative agendum behind such play they were only fooling themselves into thinking they were having fun, because they were supposed to be having fun. I'm sure that happens, but I'm not prepared to throw entire categories of play into that dustbin.

Oh, and you can quote Chris anytime, as long as it's in small doses. The man is brilliant, and I cherish his insights, but I have to spend many hours trying to digest anything of his that's longer than a paragraph before I'm sure I've got it. (That's only slightly exaggerated, and I do love his stuff.)

In reviewing that, though, I'm going to agree with Ralph that Bricolage is a skewer. I hesitated to do so for one reason, but I've decided he's right for another.

My hesitation arises from the realization that I'm not sure Chris, as he used the term, ever meant that bricolage as either process or product was exclusive to simulationism. I believe he was attempting to elucidate the essential concept of exploration, that in all role playing we use elements provided (within the general scope, as another recent thread might have put it) to create new elements. What elements are permitted is controlled by creative agendum and techniques and ephemera and indeed by social contract itself, but all role playing, by Chris' description, entails bricolage as he identified it.

Further, I see what you're saying about what really amounts to dual meanings of the word, that bricolage is both the process and the product, not because the same thing is both, but really because the word has two meanings. (That's confusing, and you really should figure out whether one of those two meanings can be given a different label if you want the term to be useful.) There is a process called bricolage, and the product of that process is also called bricolage, but the product is not the process nor the process the product. The product bricolage is the result of the process bricolage, and in discussions to this point I have not perceived that distinction. However, even with that distinction, what you've got (admittedly I'm putting it less eloquently here) is "we use an agreed collection of objects to make something, and the objective is to have made whatever it is we make." If that's what it means, that's the definition of "exploration", the box into which all creative agenda fit. In order for it to become the definition of creative agendum, it's got to describe whatever it is we're making in a way that explains why we want to make that instead of something else. Story Now is a possible product of bricolage; so is Step On Up. What is it about the simulationist product of bricolage that defines it as distinct from any other potential product? What are we trying to create, and why do we care about it? These are the questions Creative Agendum answers.

You are correct that the model is based entirely on observed behavior; yet Story Now and Step On Up are not observed behaviors, but inferred motivations/objectives from those behaviors. We observe that players take risks and conclude that they are thereby showing off their courage. We observe that players address premise and conclude that they are thereby attempting to create significant story. What is it that bricolage is trying to create, besides that it is trying to create what it does create? What is that product, other than the product of the process? Saying that bricolage creates what bricolage creates gets me no closer to understanding why people play like this. Why do we want to create that? Why is it fun? What do we get out of it? I realize that at some level you can't analyze "fun" any more completely, but right now I don't see anything here that gets beyond dumping junk parts on the floor or throwing paint on the wall. There must be something about that which is being created that is desired by the creators, and that's where you're going to find the agendum.

All that said, in a way Ralph has really hit the nail on the head: you've co-opted the term "bricolage" to describe a particular set of skewers which include simulationist agendum and a number of techniques. You're not using it in exactly the same way Chris is (because his use would not have been limited to simulationism), and in your usage it covers a particular collection of items from different boxes that makes it always simulationist.

Thank you, Ralph, for recalling that concept; I had forgotten it, and it fits quite well here.

--M. J. Young
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Supplanter
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« Reply #57 on: December 01, 2005, 08:45:47 PM »

I've long said that Skewers are the most interesting conclusion of the model and long felt that we can consider the structure of the model largely correct and complete when we can stop talking about how to define GNS and start talking about Skewers.

Hear to the hear to the hear hear hear!

And for my money, the "constructive denial" formulation gets us there. (For others it will have happened long since.) There's no further reason to worry the issue of "sim qua sim" - or even "nar qua nar." As you point out, "sim" and "nar" don't exist except as a layered meal. My personal skewer bundle is a kind of vanilla narrativism, or maybe "French Vanilla Narrativism" or what Ginger Stampley and I have taken to calling aerobic narrativism. Other people will have "virtual nonfiction" sim skewers etc.

I do think that among actual gamers, their bedrock demand, the thing they insist MUST be on the kabob no matter what, may not come from the creative agenda layer but from the social or explorative or technical agenda levels. It's a cliche that people come to the Forge and complain about players they've known who "only want to have meandering in-character conversations." If these talkative players gravitate to sim games (campaigns and systems), and I think they do, it's because a lot of sim games serve their technical agenda of going to town with actor stance, not that actor stance serves their sim goals. My sneaking suspicion is that there are players out there attracted to nar games with heavy director stance options because they like director stance more than because they like narrativism. Etc. Not sure if this is currently controversial or settled doctrine.

So I think this thread identifies a non-coincidental association of sim with a forebearance/abhorrence regarding distributed metagame situation-creation mechanics - it's what I was talking about in the AP Transhuman Space thread. A lot of sim has historically been virtual biographers finding virtual historians; or virtual amusement park directors attracting virtual riders. Then Ron's "testing of the resistance" occurs. It's harder to immediately see where the testable resistance is if you hand the situation and setting-creation tools to everyone. Not impossible: it's even sort of how Ars Magica has often been played, right? But even there IIUC the common practice was to parcel out "territories" (literal or otherwise) to different participants. That way every piece of it was still "testable" by non-creators.

Best,


Jim
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contracycle
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« Reply #58 on: December 02, 2005, 03:58:57 AM »

I can't myself see bricolage as a skewer; that would suggest bricolage would appear only in some sim games.  But, I also do not see why MJ says that accepting the thesis requires the abandoning of exploration of system - to revert to the initial example, nothing about the bricoleurs activity prevents them from flicking the power on and off for the toasters element and thereby learning more about the properties of the objects they find in their shed.  I don't see how or why the bricolage hypothesis contradicts anything.
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