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Author Topic: Spot the sim-clue-ationism  (Read 4325 times)
Callan S.
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« on: December 03, 2006, 07:54:00 PM »

Just a funny title refering to the play structure. A pleasurable game, as I focused on enjoying the bredth and depth of the game world. That's because after discussing some gamist mechanics and getting a blank with Dan, then some sim mechanics a week latter and getting enthusiasm, I'm 90% sure he is not gamist inclined as I've thought for years.

The players were Dan (GM for this game), Mathew and Chris. Dan and Mat are brothers, Mat the younger by a few years. Known Dan and Chris since highschool and over time became friends with Mat too. Were playing warhammer (not the newest edition).

Okay, Chris wasn't there at the start, still at cricket training. So we sort of start up casual, talking about how the characters got together. Dan kept skirting around Mat's pit fighters background, saying Mat would tell me latter. He was going to say his pittfighter (and a NPC traveling with him) and my game keeper meet up by the down and out pittfighter hunting on my lands. I kind of find this boring and suggest that the scribe was owed a favour by someone in town, who I also owed a favour to. So I was lumped with these two guys while they were hiding out (law trouble). I didn't expect it to go anywhere, I just found it nifty. Dan accepted that, but really moved on from it rapidly.

Since we were waiting for Chris, I think Dan suggested a bit of more freestyle play after he got through some bookwork. While he was doing that, I thought it'd be neat if we'd all gotten bored of hiding out for ages and had headed to a bar with cloaks over the wanted men AND there were a bunch of braggarts in the other corner of the bar, acting all tough. I thought it'd be funny, cause we had a pittfighter with us. Again, didn't really expect it to go anywhere (had have been happy laughing to myself at their bragging while we drink our beers with killer). Dan didn't go with this at all, which is to say the idea gets aired but then other misc bookwork and stuff comes up and that is pursued. No flat out 'No', just moved past.

Oh, a bit that was pretty yech was Dan saying "Okay, you guys roleplay for awhile" here. You know, you think you understand conch shell play, but when your put there you realise it has even more yucky depth. I'm thinking how to diplomatically parry away this, because its dreadful on so many levels. What am I supposed to say? There are so many things I could say that would be apt and yet dreadfully dull. I don't want to guess an area of interest. Not to mention these guys have said I waffle on - I'm not interested in being given the stage, only to find that if I get into it, it'll be yanked away (and by yanked, I mean if anyone even wishes it's yanked but says nothing, it's already gone). But Mat starts talking in character (after a pause himself) before I can parry this whole thing and doesn't even really pause when I don't respond (still thinking!). So now I can't even parry it starting, cause it's started and I'm stuck in it. I go for a straight block 'Err, I'd prefer to work in actions rather than words'. Dan looks dissapointed and unconvinced, but I find some words to really push it home 'Walk, not talk'. Having been definite now, we move on from this point, but definately with some damage to enjoyment.

Okay, we move on a bit. I can't remember if the other two were leaving on a job offer or what. I think Dan adds something about my PC's lord amidst it, where my PC discovered he was paying me half what he should "So you head out with these two so you can make some cash then come back and pillage his lands" and a few other direct suggestions I'd come back and kick ass. At that mo, I don't really have an issue with him writing out my characters life plan, but I just couldn't buy into that one. He goes on for awhile in what becomes a dead moment, before I pick it up with "How about he's heading out to get fame, cause the even bigger lords like to hire notables so they look cool". He goes with this but again play rolls on rapidly, no mulling on the idea in a pleasant way or otherwise.

So, were heading toward some coachmans inn after traveling for some time. Dan asks in an important voice "SO how do you approach the inn??". And I think "Okay, I'm pretty certain this is sim. And he's just asked a question that promotes the most conservative and boring actions you can make.". I'm thinking whether somehow I can suggest were actually being followed, when Dan goes out to get a beer. I suggest to Mat "It'd be interesting if we were being followed", to which he says "Well your character can think that, mines not!". I let go of that one, but jeez - I saw a love of sim in Mat ages ago. God, he even complains (mildly, but as much as he ever complains) about his players that guess the monster in games he GM's, then do the most effective thing. And here he is being all bloody conservative and effective. Oh, by the way nothing actually comes of approaching the inn. Not even a note to say 'Yup, there was nothing to worry about!'. We get to it, he shows us a picture of the inn from the book and...I'm sure he wants more and I'm thinking of some simple mechanics that would prompt us all add and reinforce the sights, sounds and smells of an inn. I even talk about this latter and he does get some enthusiasm for talking about these details (no much sign about the mechanics I suggested that would bring that talking out). But no, he shows the picture and - onto further find the clue stuff. He even hamstrings himself.

Buying drinks is almost another conch shell moment. A voice is thrown on by Bat for the barman "What'll you have!?". Mat gets something and then I'm looked to eagerly "Something strong". What am I supposed to say - there is no moment here to speak of - when I'm ordering at a real bar, do I say more? What am I supposed to be drawing out of the game worlds ordinary that is so magnificent?

This is basically the start of the game and it was bumpy - I wouldn't say I enjoyed all this stuff. But it got smoother after this, though the use of 'find the clue' structure still added bumps for me. Chris comes in about now and makes a character (initiate) quickly while me and Mat nip out for beer.

Lets see, it got fluid now, but not enough that I could really describe the qualities of it except as a pleasant musing on the details of the world. The structure involved - well, really we'd look for clues and when we couldn't figure it out (bump), we'd get an int dice roll to 'find something'. Or in one case, just head forward, hear a scream and wade into a fight, rescuing the previously forshadowed druid. I think, 'find the clue' is A: out of habit and B: It does work in a weak way to make you really think about the world. Of course the sting of failure is removed by those int rolls. Basically we found a crude man trap, left some stuff to help us track them back to the mountains, headed up there, found the druid. He gave us some magic rings, the good aligned guy got to see the unicorn the druid was healing (I found the presence of a unicorn quite a surprise and fun). We headed to the goblin cave, which was three days away. Took out a guard (after going back and forth with plans), went in, killed wolves, managed to head right to the bosses room by luck and kill him. The remaining fights were handwaved (which I enjoyed in a few different ways, actually) and we rescued a dwarf chick. There's actually some conflict between Mat and Dan about skinning and latter giving the goblin chiefs axe back to the dwarf chick (she was the owner). I'd like to talk about that, but don't want to linger here on it when outlining the pleasurable part of play for me. The dwarf chick gave us all magic stuff anyway and set us on the details of an orc filled mine.

The last paragraph thankfully took up the bulk of the game time, so overall a nice bit of satisfaction.

I'd appreciate some apt questions about that part of play, so I know what to go into detail on.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2006, 06:16:16 AM »

Hi Callan,

I'm a little iffy about when all this took place - recently, right?

Regarding the Creative Agenda, I am surprised to see you narrowing in on particular decisions, particular moments of play - Ephemera, really - and using them as ear-punch identification moments toward particular people. It's totally clear that this group hasn't even managed to get tromping along together in any way yet, if at all, much less complete a reward cycle of any kind. So your thread title and all your Sim/Gamist talk are premature and misleading. I anticipate trouble further in the thread because of this, and suggest you drop it as a topic to help avoid that. I have some further suggestions and points about the CA involved (or not) after we get a full portrait of these play-experiences in Big Model terms.

So I'll glean a thing or two from each level as I can get from your post, and you need to round them out a little or tell me where my perceptions are off-base.

One thing about the Social Contract is evident from the start: if a person hasn't arrived yet, play anyway but don't start anything important until he shows up. I also think that you guys are clearly playing in a high-school context, preserved from years ago, and it might be useful to consider whether your adult relationships now have changed at all from the earlier ones. Playing with one's old high-school buddies has a tendency to include a kind of regression to the dynamics of the old days, even more so when siblings are involved.

And finally, I suggest considering one thing carefully: you have apparently decided that it is OK for you to suggest stuff to the GM about back-story, taking on some of what I have called content-authority. That's a technique, rather than a Social Contract item, but you've realized, haven't you, that unless everyone at the table agrees with you that it's OK, you're being an butt-hole, right? Which kicks it up here to this level.

One thing about the basic Exploration is also evident: no one seems all that interested in the setting. Warhammer Fantasy has a pretty elaborate setting with a lot of stuff going on, and a lot of cultural, colorful context. In my view, it's a bit gaudy and messy, but that's not really a bad thing either, and can be fun. Did you guys discuss anything about the world, setting, cultures, or situations? At all? My guess is not, that everyone just made up characters and looked expectantly at the GM. Related to that, were there any passages or points in the book that anyone identfied as key to the upcoming game? Do you even know where your characters are, using the maps?

Regarding Characters - yeesh! You don't even know why your guy is there, the pit-fighter's past is supposed to be some kind of inter-player secret, and the third one isn't even made up yet during most of what you describe ... OK, since Situation = Characters in a Setting, then Situation is probably going to be bumpy at best. And sure enough, what I'm seeing is ... well, I'm seeing a bit of a mess. Dan doesn't really know how to get you guys into the situation he's prepped and, later in play when all three of you are there, is combining "tell me what you do," with "The reason you're here is ...," and "OK, you have to go here and then here," more-or-less randomly until somehow the planned scenario starts. You in particular seem to be unaware of the basic point he's aiming at, which is to get to the planned scenario and encounters and stop fucking around with maybe-this or maybe-that. This is the murk, up here in Exploration, and it's reflected in almost all the Techniques you describe.

Same thing goes for Color. He has a picture of the inn, and that's the Color, thank you very much. Where do you get off (he may be thinking) suggesting that we turn to all the players for additional details? I'm betting that his notion is that if you want to know what the inn smells like, you ask the GM, period. You also spoke of how once the scenario got started, it included a lot of "pleasant musing" on world details, so I'm thinking that Color is a big deal (no surprise, it almost always is) and wondering whether it's going to be a problem if you keep pushing for your desire to add some.

I seem to have started talking about Techniques already, so to continue with it, I'm seeing a huge clash over character back-story and situational positioning. You and Dan are conducting a major tug-of-war about these things. You say "Hey, we go drinking!" which is not merely an announced action, but rather scene-framing. Same with the "maybe we're being followed" comment, which is flat-out situation-authority. Dan squashes this - he does the scene-framing, and you are poaching on his role. He says "Hey, your guy is in such-and-such a situation," both before and during play, and each time, you grumble and get all pissy because you think you have content-authority over your character, so he is poaching on your territory. Basically, all of this is a Techniques disaster which is interfering with Situation and clearly operating up in the Social Contract level. It may well replace (a) reward system and (b) Creative Agenda, over time. Boy, that sounds fun, doesn't it?

Let's take a look at the real scenario that got played and what you say about it.

Quote
The structure involved - well, really we'd look for clues and when we couldn't figure it out (bump), we'd get an int dice roll to 'find something'. Or in one case, just head forward, hear a scream and wade into a fight, rescuing the previously forshadowed druid. I think, 'find the clue' is A: out of habit and B: It does work in a weak way to make you really think about the world. Of course the sting of failure is removed by those int rolls. Basically we found a crude man trap, left some stuff to help us track them back to the mountains, headed up there, found the druid. He gave us some magic rings, the good aligned guy got to see the unicorn the druid was healing (I found the presence of a unicorn quite a surprise and fun). We headed to the goblin cave, which was three days away. Took out a guard (after going back and forth with plans), went in, killed wolves, managed to head right to the bosses room by luck and kill him. The remaining fights were handwaved (which I enjoyed in a few different ways, actually) and we rescued a dwarf chick. There's actually some conflict between Mat and Dan about skinning and latter giving the goblin chiefs axe back to the dwarf chick (she was the owner). I'd like to talk about that, but don't want to linger here on it when outlining the pleasurable part of play for me. The dwarf chick gave us all magic stuff anyway and set us on the details of an orc filled mine.

Classic by-the-numbers adventure, which by Dan's lights, he's prepped (perhaps with the help of a module; it was certainly based on hundreds of classic ones) and you guys should bloody well respect and follow. You realize that none of that wrangling about the pit-fighter's background and how maybe guys were following him, and any of that crap about your character and lords mattered, right? All of it was obstructive to what Dan had prepped and was ready to do? That you were wasting time as far as his basic expectation was probably concerned, not to mention constantly poaching? I wouldn't be surprised to see you actually phased out of play over the next few sessions; that's what typically happened in the similar situations I've observed.

At the Ephemera level, I'm seeing one of the most common signs of confusion about the larger-scale elements of the model ... a focus on in-character vs. out-of-character voice. When all is murky like this, people tend to focus on small details of play and elevate them into a huge big deal to wrangle over, and in-character speaking is often a candidate. Why? Because it also carries the useful (or so people think) effect of shutting someone up concerning techniques of authority. Like, for instance, you. Yet you seem unaware that your "blocking" Dan's attempt to make you guys talk in character for a while was a clear strike at his face (using the social meaning of the term), saying "I will too talk out of character and will not descend into it to give you a break."

What's all this about skinning? Are you talking about removing the skin of beaten foes? If so, we ought to have a thread about it, or talk about it here; it's the same as the classically-dysfunctional interrogation and torture scene, and involves power struggles over action-announcement, aesthetic appropriateness, lines & veils, and many other things. I'm not surprised to see the conflict between brothers, as that's exactly where I've observed "I skin him!" arguments appear since (let's see) wow, 1978. What happened in the game concerning this, precisely?

I think most readers will also recognize the obligatory argument over the magic axe at the end of the scenario, which is related to the issues that give rise to the skinning-arguments. Both of these are highly-suggestive Ephemera reflecting Techniques-confusion, which itself has everything to do (in this case) with the murky context of establishing Situation.

To repeat, I'm not seeing anything which can be described as Creative Agenda, but I do have some thoughts on why you, and probably others, tend to think of it as Simulationist play, or at least to point to the GM and say "he's Sim." I'll get to that later, but for now, I'd like you to answer some of my questions and generally help to round out the portrait of play. I'd really like to focus on the actual planned scenario (the rings, the goblins, the druid, et cetera) rather than the agonizing beginning you described already.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2006, 11:32:09 PM »

Hi Ron,

This took place last weekend. Also in terms of mentioning sim, I lapsed in saying my interest in it is to help the building of play up to something - ie look at what tells are there, try out stuff that supports that, see if it works, try some more. When I say sim here, I'm saying I think I see some tells in regards to it, and that's the direction I'd try out first. And yeah, happy to leave it on the curb right now.

One thing about the Social Contract is evident from the start: if a person hasn't arrived yet, play anyway but don't start anything important until he shows up. I also think that you guys are clearly playing in a high-school context, preserved from years ago, and it might be useful to consider whether your adult relationships now have changed at all from the earlier ones. Playing with one's old high-school buddies has a tendency to include a kind of regression to the dynamics of the old days, even more so when siblings are involved.
Agreed.

Quote
And finally, I suggest considering one thing carefully: you have apparently decided that it is OK for you to suggest stuff to the GM about back-story, taking on some of what I have called content-authority. That's a technique, rather than a Social Contract item, but you've realized, haven't you, that unless everyone at the table agrees with you that it's OK, you're being an butt-hole, right? Which kicks it up here to this level.
I recognise it enough to actually have anticipated responces on this very point in this thread. I'm not trying to assure you when I say I tip toed very gently in saying these things, trying to say them as mere airy suggestion and even with thoughts of the recent thread on leadership roles.

But from here and latter in your post, I'm detecting judgement in terms of good and bad. It may not be there, but in terms of analysis of this, I want you to just assume I'm prepared to burn down my friends houses and abduct their pets and 'butt hole' has no currency with me. Because I feel (terrible word) that somethings are hitting a nerve in you. It most likely isn't, but while I think something is about pissing off your sensibilities, I'm going to think it's just about you, which will mean your time wasted. I don't know if it can be more objective, but it's a requirement.

That said, yeah, I understand that the suggestions need everyones okay. My method was simply to let the idea die the instant I detected it had no purchase on anyone. Which was almost instantly.

Quote
One thing about the basic Exploration is also evident: no one seems all that interested in the setting. Warhammer Fantasy has a pretty elaborate setting with a lot of stuff going on, and a lot of cultural, colorful context. In my view, it's a bit gaudy and messy, but that's not really a bad thing either, and can be fun. Did you guys discuss anything about the world, setting, cultures, or situations? At all? My guess is not, that everyone just made up characters and looked expectantly at the GM. Related to that, were there any passages or points in the book that anyone identfied as key to the upcoming game? Do you even know where your characters are, using the maps?
Yes, the map was referenced several times, which Dan had scanned and put on his computer, the monitor in really an apt position to show it off. He referered to it several times (and I dig the old worldy look and details to check out - yeah, just colour). He showed where we came from, where we were, another town, the hills the goblins were in, another town which didn't like the one we were from. All spread over the session. Mat prompted some of its use with his questions (can't remember them, but it was to do with our positioning in the world and gobo's I think).

See, I think there needed to be even more excuses for pulling that map out and talking about it, mechanical excuses. I totally agree with players falling back to highschool play and I think that play actually hinders stuff like this, like a snakes old skin that's too tight and needs to be shed. But I can see your analysis going down the path that there wasn't any exploration, rather than old habits were stifling it. I'm sticking with the stifling, particularly how for our last big D&D campaign Mat and Dan made up this huge map for the world with alot of detail, which apparently they made all in one enthusiastic night. Also coming over for the game, Mat reported how he'd finished the main towns map for that world. It was a thing of note. He didn't have it with him, but I think that's because it was a BIG sheet of paper.

Quote
Regarding Characters - yeesh! You don't even know why your guy is there, the pit-fighter's past is supposed to be some kind of inter-player secret, and the third one isn't even made up yet during most of what you describe ... OK, since Situation = Characters in a Setting, then Situation is probably going to be bumpy at best. And sure enough, what I'm seeing is ... well, I'm seeing a bit of a mess. Dan doesn't really know how to get you guys into the situation he's prepped and, later in play when all three of you are there, is combining "tell me what you do," with "The reason you're here is ...," and "OK, you have to go here and then here," more-or-less randomly until somehow the planned scenario starts. You in particular seem to be unaware of the basic point he's aiming at, which is to get to the planned scenario and encounters and stop fucking around with maybe-this or maybe-that. This is the murk, up here in Exploration, and it's reflected in almost all the Techniques you describe.
Slow down, the murk cuts both ways. Why the emphasis on what I don't know and what I was fucking around with? You seem to be implying he was running some elegant, well oiled structure and I'm the only monkey wrench. I'm just seeing car wreck on both sides right now and again seeing judgement of right and wrong rather than scrap it and move on. Go further into the structure you see him using (not what he wants, what structure he applies), since talk about his 'basic aim' doesn't make sense to me (except...in some sort of non peer way. What do you mean?).

Quote
I seem to have started talking about Techniques already, so to continue with it, I'm seeing a huge clash over character back-story and situational positioning. You and Dan are conducting a major tug-of-war about these things. You say "Hey, we go drinking!" which is not merely an announced action, but rather scene-framing. Same with the "maybe we're being followed" comment, which is flat-out situation-authority. Dan squashes this - he does the scene-framing, and you are poaching on his role. He says "Hey, your guy is in such-and-such a situation," both before and during play, and each time, you grumble and get all pissy because you think you have content-authority over your character
Have you added the grumble/get pissy on my part? I remember very carefully weighing my words so my suggestions would not offend - I almost passed on the 'were being followed' except Dan left the room so I let the idea out to Mat (which is just talking to a fellow player, rather than a direct assault on GM authority). I was almost grateful that such little notice was taken (when they didn't fit with anyone) and no bother happend.

Hmmm, got this bad feeling someone will say 'But you were prepared to go behind the GM's back!'. It's just a weird feeling, right? Cause that'd require a very strange social contract to have actually been an issue.

Quote
Let's take a look at the real scenario that got played and what you say about it.

Quote
The structure involved - well, really we'd look for clues and when we couldn't figure it out (bump), we'd get an int dice roll to 'find something'. Or in one case, just head forward, hear a scream and wade into a fight, rescuing the previously forshadowed druid. I think, 'find the clue' is A: out of habit and B: It does work in a weak way to make you really think about the world. Of course the sting of failure is removed by those int rolls. Basically we found a crude man trap, left some stuff to help us track them back to the mountains, headed up there, found the druid. He gave us some magic rings, the good aligned guy got to see the unicorn the druid was healing (I found the presence of a unicorn quite a surprise and fun). We headed to the goblin cave, which was three days away. Took out a guard (after going back and forth with plans), went in, killed wolves, managed to head right to the bosses room by luck and kill him. The remaining fights were handwaved (which I enjoyed in a few different ways, actually) and we rescued a dwarf chick. There's actually some conflict between Mat and Dan about skinning and latter giving the goblin chiefs axe back to the dwarf chick (she was the owner). I'd like to talk about that, but don't want to linger here on it when outlining the pleasurable part of play for me. The dwarf chick gave us all magic stuff anyway and set us on the details of an orc filled mine.

Classic by-the-numbers adventure, which by Dan's lights, he's prepped (perhaps with the help of a module; it was certainly based on hundreds of classic ones) and you guys should bloody well respect and follow. You realize that none of that wrangling about the pit-fighter's background and how maybe guys were following him, and any of that crap about your character and lords mattered, right? All of it was obstructive to what Dan had prepped and was ready to do? That you were wasting time as far as his basic expectation was probably concerned, not to mention constantly poaching? I wouldn't be surprised to see you actually phased out of play over the next few sessions; that's what typically happened in the similar situations I've observed.
The pit fighters background and it's hiding were Mat and Dan's thing, no suggestions from me at all and lots of tip toing around the detail of it from Dan obviously so Mat could do a big reveal. The got busy over it, not me. Dan went into the 'your lord is bilking you so you want revenge' and so on as well, my lord contribution was short. I think you may feel I fit so well into a pattern that your re remembering details so they fit the pattern better. I don't think I'm remembering it differently to fit my pattern, so I'd say your off base here.

That said, OF COURSE the background and lords don't matter! It was just placement and support of character position.

By Dan's lights? I'm not familiar with the phrase? You mean 'in his mind'? That's how I've read it.

Quote
At the Ephemera level, I'm seeing one of the most common signs of confusion about the larger-scale elements of the model ... a focus on in-character vs. out-of-character voice. When all is murky like this, people tend to focus on small details of play and elevate them into a huge big deal to wrangle over, and in-character speaking is often a candidate. Why? Because it also carries the useful (or so people think) effect of shutting someone up concerning techniques of authority. Like, for instance, you. Yet you seem unaware that your "blocking" Dan's attempt to make you guys talk in character for a while was a clear strike at his face (using the social meaning of the term), saying "I will too talk out of character and will not descend into it to give you a break."
Again I'm seeing un-needed judgement. If someones been shot in the head or atomised by an A bomb, I don't see the point of saying "But he was atomised!". He's dead either way. Either way I blocked Dan.

And no, I think he had 'People just roleplay early on' in his mind from the start. I think your way off base - he would have used something like he did with his brother, which was a block in itself.

Quote
What's all this about skinning? Are you talking about removing the skin of beaten foes? If so, we ought to have a thread about it, or talk about it here; it's the same as the classically-dysfunctional interrogation and torture scene, and involves power struggles over action-announcement, aesthetic appropriateness, lines & veils, and many other things. I'm not surprised to see the conflict between brothers, as that's exactly where I've observed "I skin him!" arguments appear since (let's see) wow, 1978. What happened in the game concerning this, precisely?
The goblin guard outside the gobo cave was riding a wolf. After all planning to then killing him (which I'm pretty sure Dan added the idea of wearing lavender to block the wolves scent), Mat wanted to skin the wolf. So not as gruesome as you might be thinking, when you mention torture, etc.
"HEY, can I skin it?"
"Mmm, not really"
"Ah, just a quick one"
"It'd take too long"
"Just a rip!"
"Nah" - Dan moves on to other stuff. It probably went for a bit longer than this. It was an issue.

In the end, I could see no time issue come up in play. Wait, there might have been one - the wolves den only have four wolves, 16 were missing. Might have been some time issue. But we never saw those wolves in the end.

Quote
I think most readers will also recognize the obligatory argument over the magic axe at the end of the scenario, which is related to the issues that give rise to the skinning-arguments. Both of these are highly-suggestive Ephemera reflecting Techniques-confusion, which itself has everything to do (in this case) with the murky context of establishing Situation.

To repeat, I'm not seeing anything which can be described as Creative Agenda, but I do have some thoughts on why you, and probably others, tend to think of it as Simulationist play, or at least to point to the GM and say "he's Sim." I'll get to that later, but for now, I'd like you to answer some of my questions and generally help to round out the portrait of play. I'd really like to focus on the actual planned scenario (the rings, the goblins, the druid, et cetera) rather than the agonizing beginning you described already.
As said, yup , I just find alot of tells that are sim like. Really, there is no agenda, bad title (was just going with spot the clue, at first).

Now, lets see, probably forgeting stuff:
Hired at travelers in for 15 copper a day. Some mention is made of the druid here, but I don't remember too well.
Go have a look around after talking with an NPC, find a crude man trap. Dan includes details about goblins are cunning.
We have no tracking skills, but I can set traps. I leave some reeds across trails to see which break so we get a direction.
We come back the next day and find some snapped, so we a general direction for the hills.
Mat suggests a pit trap so we get a local NPC to do the digging and Mat passes a leadership roll (called by Dan) to get him to do it for free. But it's only knee deep when gobo's attack. We slay them.
We follow the tracks, hear a mans scream.
Find a guy on the ground who's surrounded by gobo's. We slay them. Well, all but one on a wolf who goes to take off, but then the guy on the ground says a word and brambles wrap around the wolves legs. I actually found this a really cool moment when I realised he was the druid because of this. We slay the gobo. We also get a knock out mushroom spore grenade from him, which was mentioned in town before. He'd used one, but only knocked out our NPC scribe (failed to hit roll).
Druid takes us to his place (with a plethora of woodland creatures behind us - all friends) and says how he got caught cause he was excited, as he had the cure for his unicorn mentor/trainer. I really quite dug the unicorn in a way I wouldn't if you just plonked one in front of me.
Druid gives us rings which reduce damage taken by one wound, which is pretty damn good.
The druid shows us the path to the goblins cave, which takes three days to get to.
We go in. Dan has made a map so I do a bit of mapping and by chance we keep taking the right forks in the tunnel, first to the wolves den, then straight to the boss (real luck - it's a fixed map). I get wasted at one point, enough damage to sever my dwarves arm. Even as Dan reads the result he's already saying (for me) "So you'd use a fate point". I have an evil impulse to lose at that point and just say my PC dies, but I know that WOULD be disruptive. Spend a fate point (from the three I have - Dan gave us the max we could roll, automatically on char creation).
We fight the boss. Mat throws a knock out mushroom grenade (we saw the room they are cultivated from earlier in the cave) and manages to knock out Chris and two gobo's. The boss just makes his save (saw the roll actually, very low). But none stay out for more than a few rounds.
We slay them. Cheers! Rest of cave combats are handwaved and I'm too tired to type about the dwarve issue now unless someone really wants more :)
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2006, 05:45:30 PM »

Oh damn, forgot mechanical reinforcement: The dwarf chick, although taking her axe off the pittfighter, takes us back to her place and lets us each choose a magic item for ourselves. There was a bow of true aim (ie, ignore cover penalties), some armour with extra protection, a sword of leaping copper (extra attack), a dragon kiss dagger (+1d4 fire damage) and I think one or two other items. Dan had found pictures to represent each, which were brought up on the screen first. I chose the sword, even though I suspect the bow was made for my games keeper. Mat took the dagger so he could do two handed stuff and Chris took the armour.

Also to skip to before play, something important I forgot, there was something Dan said in a 'this is notable' voice: "So, this game has lots of details, but it's sketchy on story, so the players can make it their own". I think I got down his exact words. I know that could be interpreted alot of ways so any interpretation I made could easily be way off. Which is what I think of, when it comes to murk.

Also I'd just like to clarify the 'burn my friends houses/abduct their pets' angle. Say I were writing a program and it had a bug in it that caused it to crash half way through a mission, losing all mission progress. Here's how two seperate users might respond to the same situation:
Player 1: "Awww" *reloads*
Player 2: "WHAT THE F***!!! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS! THIS IS A SLAP TO THE FACE!"

Regardless of how upset a user gets, it doesn't make that bug bigger or smaller or the user reaction more than a symptom of it.

An omission and support post, hope it hasn't rushed the thread along.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2006, 08:36:44 PM »

Hi Callan,

It's all a "if the shoe fits" thing. I accuse you of nothing; the issue is only whether these things are or aren't going on at the table. Since I'm not there, I have to say, "does this shoe fit," and you tell me, and I accept the answer. The fact I don't do it very gently is just another of my endearing personal traits. I was definitely too pushy with phrases like "by Dan's lights" (which does mean "in his mind") because if I didn't mean the real Dan, I shouldn't have said it as if I did. On the other hand, your defensiveness is really up and running ... you defended yourself against several accusations I didn't make. So I'll be nicer and you'll pull in the spikes, OK?

Your clarifications really help me understand the game better, and I think we're agreeing that CA really isn't occurring, despite the completion of what appears to be an adventure. I'm wondering if perhaps it might show up, but there're some things about the whole social contract that are tricky, as I talked about before. It's hard to generate much of a CA when that much past adolescent-phase role-playing is present as a memory, and when sibling dynamics are involved. I still think that skinning business is an indicator of various aspects of that.

As for Simulationist tells, it's often the case that people are struggling simply to establish Exploration, and therefore a lot of the effort looks like Simulationism because of the attention given to the imaginative process. But it's not a CA unless it's productively firing among the group in a reliable way, via reward cycles. If play continues in the fashion you describe, it'll best be characterized as incoherent - not because of clashes over CA, but rather because a game without reliable Exploration cannot have a CA, much as the way a horse that is missing its neck is, necessarily, also missing its head.

I'm also struck a little by the inconsistency between Dan's "serious talk" about how there's no pre-arranged story, which I tentatively interpret as meaning you can pick and choose your characters' actions freely, and the adventure he actually ran, which as far as I can tell was pretty thoroughly pre-scripted. Any thoughts on that?

Best, Ron
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Larry L.
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« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2006, 09:14:25 PM »

What's all this about skinning? Are you talking about removing the skin of beaten foes? If so, we ought to have a thread about it, or talk about it here; it's the same as the classically-dysfunctional interrogation and torture scene, and involves power struggles over action-announcement, aesthetic appropriateness, lines & veils, and many other things. I'm not surprised to see the conflict between brothers, as that's exactly where I've observed "I skin him!" arguments appear since (let's see) wow, 1978. What happened in the game concerning this, precisely?

Ron, has this been discussed on the Forge before? I've seen it in play many times, and I'm curious where you're going with it.
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2006, 08:54:25 AM »

Hi Larry,

A lot of us have seen it in play many times. Sometimes it's about scalps, sometimes about teeth, but nearly always it's "hiding," or removing a creature's skin. I've observed it suggested or practiced toward the corpses of foes, and also toward prisoners being interrogated. In setting which include less context for skinning (as if the fantasy ones do, but apparently people think so), like modern-day, I observe very similar interactions among the players during interrogation scenes, concerning torture methods.

As a contrast, I remember playing a character in the mid-1990s, a Centauri pirate using the Babyon Project (the spinoff from the TV show Babylon 5). The GM set up a scene in which my character confronted a captive man in the interests of learning something about all manner of back-story hassles which aren't important here. I remember thinking to myself, "I don't want to play one of those scenes," and yet nor did I want to play any sort of one-upman-ship of tedious diceless "role-playing," either. So upon the prisoner's first snotty response, I had the character pull out his gun, shoot the guy in the ankle, then attempt a skill that fit (I don't remember its name, it was Question or Interrogate or something related). The GM role-played him in a panic and shouted out the information; I got the impression that he seemed surprised that I'd left no door open to the kind of interaction that would be about me and him (the real people) in some kind of face-off, but also relieved.

For those who are interested, I didn't experience any catharsis with that scene. It was pretty noisome, actually. Its only virtues were (a) my character was indeed ruthless as I was angling toward a similar gray-morality as the famous canonical Centauri character on the show, and (b) the scene accomplished its purpose without wasting a whole lot of time or meandering into the several possible guaranteed-un-fun avenues it offered.

As I say, I bring it up as a contrast, because my first priority was to avoid any potential power-struggle (over information, et cetera) between me and the GM. What I've observed in all those instances I alluded to was nothing more-nor-less than an arrant power-struggle. Somebody is telling somebody else, "I can make you uncomfortable and get my way, and you can't stop me." Perhaps the GM is doing it with his prisoner who won't talk on the basis that the player won't push it, and the player retaliates with some atrocity to do it back. Perhaps the players are saying to the GM, "fuck your monsters, we skin them." In watching the actual people involved, or especially, seeing their faces when everyone involved is unhappy with it and can't figure out how they got into it, it's always the same. You can practically hear the "snap" of the entire context of play suddenly becoming not at all fun.

It then may descend into an atrocity-fest for the rest of play. Or it might turn into a nightmare debate about whose character would or wouldn't do X, Y, or Z. Or maybe everyone kind of gulps and the scene is basically junked, unresolved, and play moves to the next scene in a hitchy way ("Your boss calls! He knows where the bad guys are! They're in a warehouse by the docks!"), with everyone tacitly agreeing to forget it.

Yet as I just said, such scenes and issues don't leap out of the ether and mug unsuspecting, otherwise functional groups. They arise from play somehow. I think there's a lot of issues about uncertainty about role-playing (how do we play, anyway? how do we get information, how do we get from scene to scene?). I also think there's a lot of issues about petty power and gross-out brinksmanship, especially when siblings are involved, for which the role-playing is merely another arena. Finally, I don't think it has to do with Lines and Veils; once this gets entered into, it's not about establishing or overstepping boundaries, it's about  breaking them as a form of defiance or authoritarianism, or stuff like that.

Callan, here's your summary of the situation.

Quote
The goblin guard outside the gobo cave was riding a wolf. After all planning to then killing him (which I'm pretty sure Dan added the idea of wearing lavender to block the wolves scent), Mat wanted to skin the wolf. So not as gruesome as you might be thinking, when you mention torture, etc.
"HEY, can I skin it?"
"Mmm, not really"
"Ah, just a quick one"
"It'd take too long"
"Just a rip!"
"Nah" - Dan moves on to other stuff. It probably went for a bit longer than this. It was an issue.

I don't know these guys, but to clarify, Dan is the older brother and Mat is the younger brother. They've been playing various fantasy-adventure role-playing games together for a long time, right? Any thoughts on what that issue was?

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2006, 12:54:11 PM »

Hi Ron,

I'll take it as personal trait then rather than overall judgement. Yes, I was definately being defensive - if I had designed a car that then malfunctioned and caused my friend to get a large wound, making a better car and making it up to my friend are things that can't be mixed in the same conversation. I was having two conversations with you at once. That's kind of rife across all RPG forums though - we have words to describe the wounds, but no shared words to describe the broken brake cable.

Your second paragraph I agree with. Though you think the adolescent stuff gets in the way of a coherant CA? Oh. Damn.

Okay, from another thread
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21684.msg222432#msg222432
Quote
Imagine a little platform made of green-painted wood, standing a few inches high off the ground on its little legs. That's Exploration, the necessary imaginative communication for role-playing to occur at all. Perhaps it's a very pretty shade of green or particularly well-crafted in terms of pegs and glue. Doesn't matter. It's not the Creative Agenda.
*snip*
It also so happens that Gamist and Narrativist CAs are always brutally, recognizably distinct from the platform that supports them - made of plastic or aluminum, and always painted a different color or not painted at all. That's why people are always forgetting that no matter what, those agendas need the platform too.
When I read that, it actually struck me that yeah, I had paid all my attention to a gamist agenda and didn't even really recognise any structure below. I don't think I actually know much about exploration. Do any threads come to mind, specifically ones that help exploration to be happening properly? Can exploration be more fluid by some following of procedure?

Quote
I'm also struck a little by the inconsistency between Dan's "serious talk" about how there's no pre-arranged story, which I tentatively interpret as meaning you can pick and choose your characters' actions freely, and the adventure he actually ran, which as far as I can tell was pretty thoroughly pre-scripted. Any thoughts on that?
No, I don't think he means chosing character actions freely - if there's a dragon to be fought at the end, then you will end up fighting a dragon. Here there seemed to be nodes to reach (the man trap, the tracks, the druid, etc), but I think what he means is that the path to each isn't tight - the way you approach each can be from many angles. If we were fighting a dragon, one could approach it from the main door, or from the cliffs above, or from the front door with a maiden to distract it. I can't actually desrcribe why I think that was his intent - I just feel assured it is. Odd. Make of it as you will :). But he's run other games where 'you have to figure stuff out' - where there were more steps/nodes and they had to be followed more precisely. You do stuff to further yourself along those nodes, that's partly why I saw it as a gamist tell before - because you couldn't make your own story, you could just try to do well at finishing his story. Regardless, I think with this game he was saying there were less nodes and more approach vectors to them. I'm not sure that actually works. There were more vectors. But when you don't know what the next node is, the way you find out about it is the vector/way you go to it. Ala the tracks from the mantrap - we follow them. The druid screaming - we rush over. The restriction of information restricts the number of approach vectors that can and will be chosen from. Restricts it down to one approach actually.

On a semi related note, I'd say rather than being close to railroading, that's actually system. Like turn order in combat isn't railroading, its a way of ensuring players have something to do. I think he gets into his story and perhaps sometimes at cost to that system, but it's done with a some clear focus on setting up stuff for players to do. I think I've used the same sort of procedure when prepping games too.

And on torture: Jeezuz, during our teen years I'd see some eyes light up when they'd captured someone. It was sit forward, face eager stuff, as they planned their horrible deeds. It didn't really matter if the GM was going to give it away right after they did something. Years latter I saw it as grasp of story control 'YEAH! Weve really got this pinned down now - time to exert some control via as much force as we like'. There were other teenage male qualties about it, but in terms of the actual game, that's what I saw. Anyway,  I don't think anyone who GM'ed back then held back info (atleast not the big 'where to go next' stuff) - in a sick way, it was player empowerment via grossing out the GM 'Ewww! God, okay he talks so we can get this over with'. Not in an unhappy way, the GM just was admitting he was grossed out (you beat him). Anyway, it wasn't between players - the player would often get so wrapped up in their torture 'moves' you could tell they'd forgotten anyone else was in the room. It wasn't against other players, it was more like overly savouring a moment of power.

Quote
I don't know these guys, but to clarify, Dan is the older brother and Mat is the younger brother. They've been playing various fantasy-adventure role-playing games together for a long time, right? Any thoughts on what that issue was?
Yup, Dan is the eldest. They have played quite a few fantasy games together, but not alot during Dan's teen years (Mats five years younger I think, perhaps four - god I suck with ages ) and Mat GM's his own group where he lives more than playing with us. So not a super shared history.

It may have been the time constraint - Dan might have planned for the wolf pack to be coming back (he alluded to it latter in the wolves den) and if Mat skinned now, he'd get us all killed before we got to the end, in a rather uninspiring 'and err, wolves just appear and attack/kill you'. However, I'm not sure Dan is that into the game world that the skinning time could be shortened enough that we just get inside.

I honestly don't know - I was rather surprised. Perhaps he just said no without thinking, and then became a matter of not taking that back (to his brother).

The dwarf rescue at the end made sense in terms of structure. We rescue her, she gets axe back and gives us goodies. However, Dan announced it was her axe something like 'Its her family axe and so taking it back she goes on to say...'. Personally I think it jarred with Mat's perception of the situation - we were in power, were the rescuers, we decide this stuff. There was a hard to remember back and forth, but I do remember Dan actually saying 'Anywayyyy, she takes the axe off you' and then moving on, which pretty much ended it.
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David Berg
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« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2006, 01:56:30 AM »

For anyone reading who's thinking, "Hmm, torture scenes BAD!" -- I've played plenty of fun ones, spanning several varieties of detail/gloss over and rolling/no rolling.  (Ditto for skinning.)  Though maybe players/GMs predisposed to engage in power struggles or one-upman-ship with each other ought to avoid them...
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Larry L.
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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2006, 08:34:57 AM »

David,

I'm not sure it's so much a "Torture scenes bad" value judgment as much as Ron's calling attention to some weird real-people social dynamics that exist around them.

I can't adequately recall details anymore what was going on at the social level to be able to usefully describe my own experiences with the phenomenon, but there's definitely something about it that rings true, like "Hey, what exactly was going on there?"
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David Berg
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2006, 12:26:49 PM »

Larry,

Right, I wasn't trying to claim that anyone in this thread actually has made that value judgment.  Just cautioning against readers inferring it, cuz I could see how that might happen.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2006, 01:18:03 PM »

Hiya,

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that speaking in behalf of imagined third parties tends to dilute discourse. However well-meant it might be, or however much it might seem like one is preserving clarity, in practice, the opposite tends to occur.

So, back to our discussion, speaking for ourselves, please.

Best, Ron
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Frank T
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2006, 04:00:23 PM »

As for Simulationist tells, it's often the case that people are struggling simply to establish Exploration, and therefore a lot of the effort looks like Simulationism because of the attention given to the imaginative process. But it's not a CA unless it's productively firing among the group in a reliable way, via reward cycles. If play continues in the fashion you describe, it'll best be characterized as incoherent - not because of clashes over CA, but rather because a game without reliable Exploration cannot have a CA, much as the way a horse that is missing its neck is, necessarily, also missing its head.

Excellent.

Frank
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2006, 06:12:01 PM »

Hello,

Callan, I wanted to address one bit in your post:

Quote
you think the adolescent stuff gets in the way of a coherant CA? Oh. Damn.

My answer is "yes," but with two qualifiers. First, I'm saying that on the basis of observing many groups and players, but that does not mean it must apply to you guys. Second, even if it does, that does not mean I'm standing here like some wilderness-wandering wizard with one eye all squinchy, going "Dooooomm! You're all doooommmed!"

Callan goes, Doomed? Really? But -

The non-squinchy eye goes really wide, and I interrupt, "Fools! Didn't you hear me? DOOOMMMMMED!"

Anyway. That's not what I'm saying, is my point. The fact is that if the people at the table share an aesthetic drive and the means to express it, then they'll do fine with getting that CA firing; if they don't, then they won't. I have no idea whether your group features this or not, or if they do, how many sessions it might take to see it reliably.

The thing is, though, that the skinning-thing really does interest me for that very reason. Given the history and events of the past, previous play (with various gross-out skinning, et cetera), only a little bit of a reminder - just mentioning "can I skin it, c'monnn," can be more than its mere mention, if you see what I mean. Perhaps Dan's steamrolling over it was a message, as in, no, we don't go there any more, or maybe the whole thing is a moment's worth of prelude of all kinds of resurrected or restored behavior more suitable to younger days. Who knows? I certainly don't. But I get the idea that you're agreeing with me that, whatever it is, it's not nothing.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2006, 08:15:43 PM »

Callan goes, Doomed? Really? But -
"Oh. Damn." was a moment of quiet, pained acceptance on my part.

Particularly as it's the bright moments of roleplay during teenage years (the good stuff, the coherant moments) that I find motivates further research in better design. The bright moments that are intimately entwined with adolescent stuff. It's...painful to think one will likely never extract them.

Quote
But I get the idea that you're agreeing with me that, whatever it is, it's not nothing.
Agreed. It'd be valuable to know what it was about, but I just couldn't read him on the matter.
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