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Author Topic: Frostfolk and GNS aggravation.  (Read 21555 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2006, 02:16:22 PM »

Hi Levi,

My statement of centrality is taken specifically from your own description. I dislike hurling your own words into your face, but phrases like "that was the stuff that established the game," and your confirmation that you were talking about the strong content of play, do support my point without reaching or projecting.

Quote
It doesn't feel so much like an "Aha!" as a "My, that's seductively attractive.  Our game could
Quote
become
that very easily; we're close enough to it that downplaying the other stuff and focusing on that would be simple."  But the other stuff, which we could downplay to bring that stuff clearer, and to be certain of answering those thematic questions, is of value to the group

Other stuff? What, specifically?

But wait, before answering that, we should check something. Your statement carries a very weird implication. You're suggesting, I think, that the issues that I outlined above, to be a Creative Agenda, need to be so prevalent, so urgent, so explicit as to occupy every second of the group members' in-play attention. There is no such requirement. A Creative Agenda is observable as a unifying thread of enjoyment of attention running through play, not some kind of overriding obsession whose drum-beat drowns out all details.

I'm talking about what can be observed from what's already there, not what "could be there" if only you did nothing else.

So, that stated, and if you'd confirm it, then I'd like to know what you mean by "other stuff."

Beware, as well, your feelings. Memories of feelings are treacherous things. Remember, I'm not talking about checking-in to consult your feelings, but rather your stated description of what was socially enjoyed and acknowledged during play itself. You described the Nod, for example. Stick with those observations, not with whether my proposition "feels right."

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2006, 02:29:40 PM »

Other stuff? What, specifically?

The integrity of the setting, as well as the ability to continue to create it, and and the fun of the system mechanics in and of themselves (in terms of 'playing with a toy' kind-of play) were also part of the "stuff".

But wait, before answering that, we should check something. Your statement carries a very weird implication. You're suggesting, I think, that the issues that I outlined above, to be a Creative Agenda, need to be so prevalent, so urgent, so explicit as to occupy every second of the group members' in-play attention. There is no such requirement. A Creative Agenda is observable as a unifying thread of enjoyment of attention running through play, not some kind of overriding obsession whose drum-beat drowns out all details.

Hmm.  Not quite what I *thought* I was suggesting.

I was thinking more along the lines of "something so prevalent that fun that doesn't tie into it is more often discarded - that is, tends not to become part of the stuff that recieves future attention and focus from the group.

If you mean "is that thread present and linked in", then yes.   But it's not the only thing that ties it together.  It's the question of centrality that's bugging me.  Which may be a false lead to what you're trying to show me, here.

Beware, as well, your feelings. Memories of feelings are treacherous things.

Your point is well taken, there.

(Though I must admit that I heard it in my head, on first reading, in the voice of Yoda).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2006, 03:14:02 PM »

Levi, it's actually pretty important that we don't fire back replies within instants of reading the posts in this discussion.

If you would, come on back in a while and reply, whether only to clarify what you said, or to react differently this time, or whatever.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2006, 05:15:16 AM »

If you would, come on back in a while and reply, whether only to clarify what you said, or to react differently this time, or whatever.

(Side note: No game last night; scheduling near start-of-month is a pain for us.  Next week.)

I'm not really sure there's much to clarify there, but I'll give it a shot.  The reason for the fast response was that my last post was me attempting to clarify something, really - I'm still trying to sort out the scope of Creative Agendas as you see them; in terms of how much mental share (acknowledged or not) they recieve from players.

In terms of the group aesthetic (whether I'm talking about an agenda or not), yes, the thematic questions you've described (with minor, piffling alterations) make sense and are present.  I, personally won't feel entirely satisfied with the game if they aren't resolved - Laura, who is running the game, has also mentioned that seeing such stuff resolved would make the game more satifying for her as well, but isn't overly concerned with the theory of it.

But in the same terms - of larger categories of stuff that unify our play and provide shared enjoyment in that way, there's a lot of time and shared interest in simply building and playing with the setting and mechanics of the game.  The use of the word "play" there is very deliberate; when we deal with these things, it's more fun than satisfying.  It is, though, an essential part of the overall aesthetic of the group as I see it.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2006, 07:56:10 AM »

Hi Levi,

PART ONE: ANSWERING THE DIRECT QUESTION

Quote
]I'm still trying to sort out the scope of Creative Agendas as you see them; in terms of how much mental share (acknowledged or not) they recieve from players.

It depends on what you mean by mental share. To use music as an analogy, there are two ways to look at it, both correct.

1. Every player is focused on playing this song, at all times.

2. Every player is focused on the immediate task at any given time: supportive, facilitative, high-performance, just waiting, acknowledging a fellow performer, whatever.

In terms of current and recalled experience, the person remembers #2. That is, after all, what he or she really did. Feelings, memories, impressions, passions, and so on are all embedded as part of the experience of #2.

But in terms of agenda, what the players came there that day to do, and what is manifestly apparent in the thread running through or the foundation underlying all the stuff in #2, is #1. Without it, the activities of #2 are confused, contradictory, mushy, weird, and ultimately not socially possible.

Did the players have mental share in playing that song? Sure they did. But if you ask whether a given player was totally invested in the whole-song-performance in a fully articulated, thinking-about-it way right when he played particular notes in a particular solo, he’d say “no.” He was playing the fuckin’ solo, with those notes, just “feeling it,” that’s what he was doing. Same goes for a guy who was counting out the measures during his rest - did he stress over whether he was "playing the song"? Nope - he was counting, "thirty-two two three four, thirty-three two three four, thirty-four two three four." That was his mental share at that moment.

But without the shared agenda of playing that great song being invested in by everyone in the group, there would have been no point to playing that solo or counting out that rest, at that time, for that person, and in that way.

PART TWO: AVOID THIS RED HERRING, PLEASE

I am uninterested in personal motivations. That soloist might be a raving egotist who only tolerates the other band members insofar as they give him a chance to solo, or he might be an aspiring and humble youngster, grateful for the chance, or whatever.

Relative to the point I am making, and about Creative Agenda in general, the psychologies of the participants are not part of the analysis. Whatever they might be and whatever they might be impelling the people to do (already, I roll my eyes at the necessary abuse of language in trying to talk about psychology as a causal phenomenon), what I’m interested in is the observable, dynamic, multi-variable interactions which share a common ground and which demand an identifiable outcome.

PART THREE: CHECKING IN TO THE DIALOGUE

What I’d like to examine, as simply as possible, is the point I raised earlier: in this case, the following quote A is not invalidated, challenged, or contradicted by the following quote B.

Quote A:

Quote
In terms of the group aesthetic (whether I'm talking about an agenda or not), yes, the thematic questions you've described (with minor, piffling alterations) make sense and are present.

Quote B:

Quote
But in the same terms - of larger categories of stuff that unify our play and provide shared enjoyment in that way, there's a lot of time and shared interest in simply building and playing with the setting and mechanics of the game ...

Quote B is not a counter-argument against Quote A. It supports Quote A and my current argument in full.

I hope we don’t go on with this issue too long, although I recognize that you need to work through it.

It’s as if I pointed out to a group of bicycle racers that their activity was predicated on competing to win. After some painful dialogue in which they insisted “no! we’re riding bikes!” or “no! we’re being on TV!” and similar, and after I point out numerous details and interactions, they finally grudgingly admit that their shared, common, group-reinforced goal to compete to win does exist, as the central unifying issue of this activity.

But then one says, “wait a minute, I really like the way our bikes work too. So sleek, so well-engineered, and for each of us, so customized to our individual needs.”

And another one says, “you know, picking the right road to race on is a really big deal. We spend a lot of time on that, checking it out and sprucing it up if necessary.”

Then they look at me and say, “Ha! What about that? See, it’s not just about winning!”

That’s what you’re doing with all this talk of setting and system. I used all that jargon in that one post for a reason – not just to listen to the sound of words I happen to like, but because it means something I’d like you to understand. Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color are your materials, your medium. I’m talking about what you, this group, is doing with the medium. Telling me you care about the medium means absolutely nothing as a counter-argument; in fact, in your group’s case, the more you care about it, the more the goal is reinforced.

I dunno, man. This discussion could go south very quickly if this point doesn’t get through. I would point out exactly what you said in your description of what’s important. You would find some facilitative feature of the experience which is (because it’s facilitative) important to the goal, and hold it up as an alternative to the goal. I point out how it’s facilitative toward the goal.

Then you would point out some element of the role-playing medium itself, absolutely necessary for it to occur in any enjoyable fashion, and hold that up as something that your group does successfully. I would identify it as such (like the road in the racing example) and state that it is a requirement for a goal of any kind, not itself a specific goal.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what we came here to do, though, so let me know if this post has helped make that more clear.

Best, Ron
edited because I mixed up my 1's and 2's and A's and B's in the original
« Last Edit: August 04, 2006, 08:00:49 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2006, 01:51:52 PM »

Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color are your materials, your medium. I’m talking about what you, this group, is doing with the medium.

*Blink, Blink*

Excuse me as I shuffle my perspective over a couple of places to where you've been trying to get it...

...

...Okay, I'm with you now.  Consider the entirety of your last post completely confirmed; though I've got to say that this *isn't* the perspective I thought we were looking for.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: August 04, 2006, 03:44:37 PM »

Excellent! I know it might seem like a pain in the ass, because I keep claiming we're about to talk about reward systems, but it might be helpful for you to read over the thread from the beginning, and see what you think about some of the posts this time. Any notions, thoughts, or questions?

I had also planned for us to look again at the later sessions' content, or rather, the whole thrust of where things went with the characters and the tribes, but then realized you guys weren't finished yet. I have to say, I'm a little bummed that you'll only play one more session given the events you described. It seems to me as if the really solid conflicts have only just begun.

Aaaand, finally, I also want to take a good hard look at The Exchange too.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #22 on: August 04, 2006, 07:13:46 PM »

Excellent! I know it might seem like a pain in the ass, because I keep claiming we're about to talk about reward systems, but it might be helpful for you to read over the thread from the beginning, and see what you think about some of the posts this time. Any notions, thoughts, or questions?

Primarily that from this specific viewpoint, it's plain that the group is creating emergent story.  I say "emergent" because there's no guarantee that any specific piece of story will conclude in any specific way.  Moreover, it's presently unclear which of those possibilities will be resolved at all.

Now, that doesn't invalidate a damn thing - it's just that this is there, as a natural thing within the group.  Almost all games follow the basic storyline structure (they have a beginning, rising action, and denoument), but we've loaded the action with potential themes, and in play, things which serve or tie to a potential theme are often those that we, as players, use.

I continue to find it very interesting that, to us, the material we use and the methods we have adopted recieve the degree and kind of attention that they have from us, even from this point of view.  Despite that, it's patently not the thing you were trying to show me.

I had also planned for us to look again at the later sessions' content, or rather, the whole thrust of where things went with the characters and the tribes, but then realized you guys weren't finished yet. I have to say, I'm a little bummed that you'll only play one more session given the events you described. It seems to me as if the really solid conflicts have only just begun.

The next play session is meant to close the arc of "what's happening around us".  At that point, we're expecting to review the game to date, and determine if we'd like to close out there, or if we'd like to continue, and if we'd like to change any characters, move forward in time, change over to anther GM...

...Basically, next game will be the end of the first "season", and we'll then decide if we want another one.

Aaaand, finally, I also want to take a good hard look at The Exchange too.

Love to. 

Though I will note that the engine has been significantly expanded in play - if the changes were codified, it'd add a good two pages more.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: August 05, 2006, 08:19:38 AM »

Hi Levi,

PART ONE: OVER THE FIRST HUMP

I hope it is not too traumatic to look in the mirror and say, "We are playing with a Narrativist Creative Agenda." 'Cause that's what it is, lock stock and barrel, without any complications or confusions.

In my essay Narrativism: Story Now essay, I have a section outlining how often people, in learning about it, must "say it yourself" in order to articulate what this CA is like or about. With this statement,

Quote
Primarily that from this specific viewpoint, it's plain that the group is creating emergent story. I say "emergent" because there's no guarantee that any specific piece of story will conclude in any specific way. Moreover, it's presently unclear which of those possibilities will be resolved at all.

Now, that doesn't invalidate a damn thing - it's just that this is there, as a natural thing within the group. Almost all games follow the basic storyline structure (they have a beginning, rising action, and denoument), but we've loaded the action with potential themes, and in play, things which serve or tie to a potential theme are often those that we, as players, use.

... you have "said it yourself." And I say, high-five, exactly. As far as I'm concerned, this statement is a perfect paraphrase of that essay. Do you see why it's called Story Now? Because the difference between potential and realized theme occurs during play itself - as the point of what play is for.

If you have any questions about what incoherent play or dysfunctional play are, or how Creative Agenda relates to them, feel free to ask, although nothing of that sort applies to this group for the sessions you described.

You also might consider altering your example setting in The Exchange to focus on the thematically-rich conflicts it offers, rather than just the

PART TWO: SYSTEM DOES MATTER

You wrote,

Quote
I continue to find it very interesting that, to us, the material we use and the methods we have adopted recieve the degree and kind of attention that they have from us, even from this point of view. Despite that, it's patently not the thing you were trying to show me.

Well, hold on, tiger. I do want to address that, but it couldn't be done until the whole Creative Agenda bugaboo got clarified. Didn't you know that I always said, CA (or GNS, whatever) is easy, and the real questions I want to discuss concern system? No one could have been more surprised than me to have the GNS thing turn into a tentacled monster that upset people at its very mention - I thought it'd be a big no-brainer and we could move on to talking about how role-playing, you know, functions.

So let's do that here. I'd really like to see the Exchange updated as you described - c'mon, two pages, it can't be hard - and then we'd have the before/after versions as our shared platform for the discussion.

If you're interested in comparisons with other games, I can talk about shared features with Trollbabe, HeroQuest, Sorcerer, and The Pool.

One suggestion regarding the manuscript that I'm seeing now: re-organize as follows ... I think the whole document will be extremely punchy and inspiring if you take the "Characters by Campaign" section on page 2, make it the first section in the "Campaign Summaries" chapter, and then bump that whole chapter into first place, i.e., starting on the current page 2, before Character Creation.

Now! What about system do I want to talk about?

First thing: rewards

In the version I'm looking at, reward mechanics are very, very similar to those in Sorcerer. The point is not necessarily to make the character better at things, although this can happen to a small extent if you really want, but rather to re-position the character relative to existing or potential conflicts.

Sigh ... jargon alert. OK, a character in a role-playing game is always composed of three things: Effectiveness, Resource, and Positioning. The facts that a given number can do double-duty for more than one of these, or that in a given group some of these may be understood or simplified down to the bedrock, are not important. Without these in action, a character cannot exist as a part of the SIS. This applies for all role-playing, regardless of Creative Agenda, regardless of so-called crunchiness, regardless of anything else, yes, even for free-formers (who are not any such thing).

I also like to talk about Currency, which is to say, the means and rate by which "stuff" in these three categories gets traded off and switched around. Reward systems almost always concern Currency.

As a useful contrast, in the most familiar Gamist brand of role-playing, strategizing among options of Effectiveness and Resource is crucial, especially in the long term. One chooses one's race and class, one buys weapons and chooses spells with a specific eye toward efficiency, and one strategizes with (and occasionally against) fellow group members for purposes of acquiring new options, and thus a new platform to strategize from. That's pretty familiar, right?

Whereas in The Exchange, HeroQuest, and in Sorcerer, an increased point adds a modicum of Effectiveness, but the real oomph of that reward system is to nudge or angle the character into a different relationship with "what's going on" in any given way. I could give examples, but I am confident that if you, instead, listed the way every point was spent for every character, from the very beginning to the just-before-done bit (i.e. now), then we'd see exactly what I'm talking about.

Can you do that, maybe for your character during this particular scenario/story? Or anyone else's character? I'd like to see it.

One other point, which I think is most pronounced in Sorcerer, is that one important re-positioning is to remove the character from further conflicts. "OK, he's done," with the option to keep playing in some way or (if everyone's done) to finish up this particular game. This is such a functional and powerful feature of role-playing that we could have a whole symposium session on why it's so rare, and why the default seems to be "Your character dies so you can't play any more" instead, or why reward systems have traditionally assumed continuing play.

The reason I bring this up is that you guys clearly grasp that, in this Narrativist context, situations do get resolved, and the trenchant/potential themes (I call'em Premise) get answered. That's what you're calling a "season" in your post. But how does it strike you to permit a given character, within the context of a season, to have his or her issues "be done" and be removed? Or is it more suitable to say all the characters have to stick with the basic conflict of the scenario, hell or high water?

Either one is good, but I'm interested as to which it should be, for this group and for your thoughts on the game. And I'd recommend making your choice clear in the rules.

Second thing: Lumpley strikes

Long ago, Vincent provided the phrase, "system is the means by which we agree about what happens in the game." I bolded those particular words because people are always mis-reading it with an incorrect emphasis, bolding "we agree" instead.
I think you understand the difference between the right and wrong emphasis because of your phrase in The Exchange:

Quote
This isn't just a debate about who should win.

What I'm driving at is the idea that you guys are using a codified system for a reason, because it facilitates your Creative Agenda, and you've been careful to compartmentalize its functions away from other systems which either facilitate other CAs or are unworkable in some way (i.e. the "rule" in many games about not talking during others' conflicts, which you explicitly exclude from The Exchange).

Everyone else is providing useful information to you as author about the system as it's played, too. For instance, John shows you whether its tactical and quantitative elements can function productively toward the Creative Agenda, and Holly shows you to what extent the system is absolutely necessary (i.e. desirable).

So why can't we say everyone is using different systems? Why am I so casual about saying, "differences shmifferences, you guys are all playing the same thing?"

Vincent helps us here too. I'll take some credit - in Sorcerer and Trollbabe, the standards for rolling dice are extremely solid, but textually, both games suffer a little because the language for explaining it was still being birthed here at the Forge. I called it "Conflict resolution," but this term still encounters a lot of resistance (and even worse, over-extension in mistaken agreement). Vincent turned it around into direct instruction, in the text of Dogs in the Vineyard: "Say yes or roll the dice."

What this phrase means is that the die mechanic is highly focused on facilitating the CA, and as such it is held in reserve until such moments, and not applied semi-randomly to anything and everything in the SIS.

That's what you guys do. At a given set of imagined circumstances for the characters, you (as a group) say "sure, let's move on," and treat it as parameters or setup for a later conflict, or you say, "OK, there's a conflict of interest here that I want to turn over to the dice stuff."

In the broken language of gaming culture, the prior option is "system-less" and the latter is "going to the system." But by the Lumpley Principle, it's all system. Saying yes or rolling the dice is a step in that system you're using.

And, finally, that's why you are seeing diversity among the players concerning when the dice are rolled. Because each person has his or her own way of arriving at the crucial juncture of "roll the dice," which is to say, his or her own way of attacking or addressing the potential-themes (Premise) relative to the whole imagined situation.

How's that work? I really wanted to show how the diversity you described in your first post is not even beginning to threaten or contradict the existence of a shared Creative Agenda, but rather is an expression of it to a significant degree.

Let me know how that sounds.

Best, Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #24 on: August 05, 2006, 01:30:52 PM »

Just a quick note:

I'd prefer to write up that update to the Exchange before replying in detail, and all the stretches of time when I can expect to be able to work on such stuff for more than half an hour uninterrupted (which I'll need) this weekend are largely going to be spent away (or far from sober).  So if there's a few days of pause here, it doesn't mean I've wandered off.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: August 06, 2006, 10:14:54 AM »

All right then! In the interim, while Levi is carousing or whatever it is he's up to, I will now accept five separate posts from five different people, which include specific questions that relate to anything Levi and I have discussed so far. To be clear about that ...

1. Your question may in fact be about your own play-experience with some other game, but the relationship or parallel or contrast to Levi's should be clear.

2. Your question should concern the Big Model, or even Creative Agenda (GNS), in some way, because that's the topic of the thread.

3. It should really be a question and not some kind of praise or condemnation of the ideas or the discussion so far (I ain't paid to read your opinions).

Once five people have posted (and only one post each), I'll provide responses. I promise to be much nicer in the responses than I was in writing this post.

Best, Ron
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Ricky Donato
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« Reply #26 on: August 06, 2006, 04:25:20 PM »

Hi, Ron,

I've been following this thread with a huge amount of interest, and I'm glad that I can finally comment on it. I hope that after the 5 posts, you'll be willing to answer some more questions, because my head is bursting with them.

Can you explain your thought process? More specifically, what clues did you look for to determine that the CA is Narrativism?
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Ricky Donato

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« Reply #27 on: August 06, 2006, 08:20:47 PM »

I'd like to post a question for Levi -

Looking back at your past thinking, I'd like to hear a summary (one or two sentences) of what you thought constituted a Creative Agenda (any one, doesn't have to be connected specifically to your game) - as opposed to what Ron has been getting at.  Something as clear cut as your "emergent story" comment would be ideal.  I'd like to know, because I hear a lot of "But I don't/my game doesn't fit any of those categories" responses to the concept of GNS from gamers I know who aren't into theory and I'm guessing that you were fairly representative of that bunch.
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My real name is Robert.
Caldis
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« Reply #28 on: August 06, 2006, 09:47:46 PM »


Ron, my question goes right back to the beginning of the discussion. 

Levi assumed the differences in player preferences for how things were getting done was a sign of different Creative Agendas ones that he felt were working together.  I feel, and it seems Levi has come to the same conclusion, that you've shown that they weren't different CA' s rather different means of achieving the same agenda.  So what are typical symptoms of actual CA clash and how does that relate to the text you quoted earlier about CA being exlusive in application?
What differentiates an actual conflict of CA instead of just a difference over preferred means or possibly a disfunctional version of the CA, such as a Typhoid Mary GM or Primma Donna player?

Do you have actual play examples that you can share that show this in action, or are your CA clashes so far in your past they're hard to clearly remember :)



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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #29 on: August 07, 2006, 08:22:08 PM »

Hi Ron,

Could you address the difference between the gaining of "social esteem" (as Ben Lehman phrased it on his blog) as the core of GNS Creative Agendas, and the use of medium (as phrased in this thread) to gain that esteem? This social aspect is the key, right? But most people focus on the medium, right?

As a sub-question to that: What about a group that simply doesn't care about social esteem? Have you observed such groups?

In my experience, what happens is the "wandering away" factor: people picking up magazines to read and so on. Or even waiting patiently for their "turn." Does the Big Model really have anything to say about or to these people -- if they are content?

What if simply not being fully engaged with folks at the table for the duration of the session isn't a high priority for people. It may be incoherent, it may not be what you and I would like, but does it necessarily need to be "fixed"?

I assume that you think this is -- well, bad. And so do I. And yet -- I'm hard pressed to say exactly why. If not being fully engaged with someone is -- you know, okay... I don't want it. And from your writings, I know you don't want it. But, geez this is tough...

How about this...

Although the Big Model is only about the activity of RPGs, isn't it actually about the choice to be fully engaged in a social group and a social activity? (The same way, when the pitcher is about to pitch, all the players on the field move as one to "get ready" -- they are engaged... Whereas, some employees, say, at a B&N, seem completely disengaged from their fellow employees and customers?)

If I'm taking this opportunity for the question too far afield, I apologize. But after reading lots of threads around the internet lately, and thinking about how thinking about GNS has changed my point of view on how to conduct myself and my choices outside of RPGs, what is your view that the division between those who see it as a useful understanding of RPGs and those who don't is actually a difference of desire about what people want from what they do with their time with other people?

Because truth to tell, I think there IS something wrong with not being engaged. And I could not tell you why I think OTHER people should be engaged at the table as a group (like the baseball players on the field). The Big Model seems entirely designed to push people toward that kind of engagement. So, what are your thoughts on this idea that this, ultimately, is what the Big Model is all about? That The Big Model is simply the "medium" for being more engaged with the people around you, a commitment to the activity you're sharing with other, and, in fact, a philosophical point of view about how to conduct oneself as a human being?

Thanks,

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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