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Author Topic: All-out dissection (LONG AND BRUTAL)  (Read 40548 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: May 24, 2001, 08:10:00 AM »

Mike,

"Am I right in saying that what you mean Ron is that there are people who play different styles of play than they really should because they have fears about bad experiences that they've had with those styles? I understand that you were specifically referring to Simulationists, but this is a general principle that can be extended to all three styles, I think."

Yes and no. My original proposal was that Simulationist priorities are DEFINED by a reaction to the other two priorities, in a way that a preference for the other two priorities are not. Therefore Simulationism would be described as essentially an "absence" of the other two, which then gets its own identity via the specific design mechanisms and decisions of that absence.

To repeat: this was a proposal, not a conclusion. I am not convinced about it as a valid generalization, although I *am* convinced that it applies in individual cases I am familiar with.

On the other hand, your re-statement of the matter is certainly valid on its own. Given a stinky experience with a given bias/goal of play, anyone can reasonably be expected to shy away from it. That's why I think we could do well to examine POOR and DYSFUNCTIONAL versions of each goal as well.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #31 on: May 24, 2001, 09:02:00 AM »

Ok, I've read through this thread a couple of times now to make sure I was following it.  I gotta say.  I think the idea that Simulationism is based on fear is way off the deep end.  I was actually rather shocked to even see it because good talking points aside it is exactly the kind of holier than though attitude that gives the model a bad name.

Personally I think that a lot of the problem and apparent lack of fit between simulationist and the other styles are because the category itself is just plain mislabeled and misunderstood.

I think alot of the work that has gone into establishing the model has been done by people who don't fully understand that leg of the triad, and this has led to some assumptions and conclusions that just aren't accurate.

Jester has been pushing his Explorative style as a substitute for Simulation for awhile now.  I was at first hesitant, because it seemed a little like change for the sake of change.  But like I've said in the GO Sorceror forum several times, what is right and wrong for the model depends on what terms and categories are the most useable and useful tools for evaluation.

After several weeks of email with SJ et.al.  I'm now convinced that Explorative is not just better, but a vastly better term to use than Simulationist.  The model that we've been working on actually includes sub categories (so far for Gamist and Explorative only) that help better define the motivations behind the style as well as determining the type of reward system most appropriate.

For Explorative these include Character, Setting, and Situation.  It should be immediately obvious the improved utility these terms have over mere "Simulationist" a term few people understand, and most "laypersons" confuse with over complicated realism.

Someone asked here what type of game Pendragon was, on the one hand its a Simulation, but its certainly not very similiar to most other games that would be called Simulations.

Pendragon is in fact an game about Exploration of Setting.  A far more accurate, compelling, and useful terminology.  Why is it more useful?  I offer the following.  Even Mike Holmes, the self professed "Simulationist" has offered examples which Ron has suggested are Narrative in nature.  In fact, I believe Mike's examples are clearly Explorative.  Exploring the possibilities of "what if".  Also differentiating between Games that Explore Character (which is the category I'd firmly place Sorceror in) and games that Explore Setting allow designers to really fine tune the reward system (or what Jester calls the games "currency").
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2001, 10:15:00 AM »

I agree with Jester's descriptions, they very much describe exactly why I (and my ilk, if I might speak for them for the moment) play RPGs. But I find the reason for changing the term interesting. It seems to me that the idea is that since Simulationist has lots of baggage, use a different term and the baggage will be lost. I understand the motive, but isn't there another way to get the constructive message across other than change the term? The problem with changing the term is that if we do so it'll set a prescedent to change terms every time we want to clarify a definition.

This, of course, would only lead to confusion. I'd only support a term change if it becomes obvious over time that it was really a new thing. Otherwise Simulationist should suffice, IMHO. Ironically, the difference between Setting Exploratory and Character Exploratory seems very similar to the current talk about old Simulationism and E-thing (you're right Ron, gotta write that down; damn those Finns for being so innovative).

Mike Holmes

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-05-24 14:20 ]
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Valamir
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« Reply #33 on: May 24, 2001, 11:29:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 14:15, Mike Holmes wrote:
But I find the reason for changing the term interesting. It seems to me that the idea is that since Simulationist has lots of baggage, use a different term and the baggage will be lost.



I don't feel this is the motivation at all, rather it is just a fringe benefit.  Earlier on this thread Feng Shui was brought up as an example of a Simulationist game.  Ian than asked how Feng Shui could be Simulationist because he always thought that meant hyper realistic.  When the explaination that Simulation does not equal Realism has to be given a zillion times, and every new person who sees the model says "I'm not a simulationist because I hate cludgy games with a ton of charts and stuff", maybe its time to acknowledge that the world "Simulation" already has a definition that is far more entrenched than the definition being used in the model.  It doesn't help the spread of the model's acceptance to have most new people dismiss it as obviously wrong, simply because they don't understand the terms being used.

But like I said thats just a fringe benefit.  The real motivation is that Explorative is just a far more precise term.  Even people who ought to know better get confused with what Simulation means.  Role Master is frequently offered up as an example of a Simulation, as is GURPS.  But are they really?  What does Role Master simulate?  Certainly not realistic medieval combat..."Life in a Fantasy World"?  Heck if ones definition of Simulation is that broad EVERY game is a Simulation.  Sorceror is a Simulation of man's interaction with demons.  D&D is a Simulation of kicking down doors, killing stuff, and taking their treasure, Puppet Master is a Simulation of the life and times of being a puppet.  Obviously the definition of Simulation must be more narrowly defined than that...but what is it?  What is it really?

I think part of Ron's trouble with the term in this thread is a result of this vaguary.  One can come up with a clear definition of what makes a game Gamist.  One can come up with a clear definition of what makes a game Narrativist.  I've yet to see a clear unambiguous definition on what makes a game Simulationist.  Its almost become a catch-all for games that don't qualify for the other two.

On the other hand, Explorative has a very clear easy to understand definition.  It become possible to rule a game (or even easier, a player) as Explorative on their own merits.  Calling Pendragon a Simulation was forcing a round peg into a square hole.  Calling it an Exploration of Setting/Genre is much better fit.  I can't think of any game that's been offered up as being Simulationist that wouldn't as well or better fit as a Gamist or Explorative game.

That frees up the term Simulationist to be used the way the term has been used for years.  Every grognard knows that if a wargame has been proclaimed a "great simulation" that that means it is a realistic depiction of the events being  portrayed.  Every PC gamer knows that the difference between an "arcade" racing or flight game and a "simulation" racing or flight game is that the simulation is super realistic while the arcade game is not.

Perhaps its time for those of us who love this model and understand how powerfully useful a tool it is to change to 1) a far more precise term, and 2) stop trying to usurp a term that already has a well entrenched meaning.
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Logan
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« Reply #34 on: May 24, 2001, 01:42:00 PM »

Valamir,

As far as design considerations go, I think Simulationist is the right term. On the player-behavior side, Explorist (Explorationist, Explorativist, Exploration-oriented... Too many syllables, but whatever you like that includes _Explor_) *might* be the better term. But it might not. The basis of Jester's argument has been that Simulationist players play to experience activities from a different perspective or to just have new experiences. While I think this is certainly part of the lure for many players (regardless of overall G/N/S bias), it's not the only lure. It's also not the only basis for the definition.

I really do think a lot of player bias and player behavior is tied to the player's approach to portraying the character. If a player really tries to "get into the character's head" and have the character do what the character would do in that situation as the primary goal, it's a simulation of that character. This is what the Elaytijists do. It seems to me that they're not really so interested in the experience as they are in simulating the character and helping the GM realize his goal for the game. It says so right in their credo.

To address a few specific points...

I think Rolemaster is a Simulationist game. Its mechanics are primarily directed toward simulating what would happen in their fantasy world. But, as has been mentioned in other places, the approach (with its apparent level of detail and its emphasis on letting actions turn out as they will) makes it an inviting platform for Gamist players who want to play in what is ultimately a "Fair" environment. Jester and I were talking about this by e-mail just the other day. He noted that players in Rolemaster act just like characters in D&D. It's a curious thing, but there it is.

GURPS, in my opinion, with its point-balancing and complicated design systems, is a Simulationist game with strong Gamist undercurrents. It does what it's supposed to do, but its emphasis is a little more diluted than some other games. Basically, Steve Jackson and company recognized what people saw in Simulationist games of the time and made their own system to do it "their way." Love it or hate it, seems to me their effort succeeded.

Now, D&D is an entirely different proposition. Because of the way the mechanics are defined, it really doesn't simulate anything, and it can't simulate anything unless someone goes through and rewrites the game to make it do that.

Sorcerer, for its part, may appear to provide something approaching a simulation of possible interactions between man and demon, but it's pretty obvious from the way the game is presented that any simulation is strictly a coincidence.

Now, about the middle of next week, we'll have an updated faq. I'm not incorporating the term Explorationist in the document, but I will note that this is part of the debate that's brewing. I suggest that everybody who wants to should put in their 2 cents on it. At some point, either we'll arrive at an accord or we should vote to see if there's enough support to make the change.

Best,

Logan
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #35 on: May 24, 2001, 03:38:00 PM »

Val,

Rolemaster has a lot of gamist elements as it is an attempt to "fix" D&D. But what is wrong with D&D that needs fixing? Well, to the designers, it wasn't simulationist enough (not that they had that term, but that was the idea). Did they succeed in making a Simulationist game out of D&D. Not very well. So in a way it is like Vampire's Narrativist intent. They want to be narrative, but, by incorporating mechanics from games that are not, they fail.

GURPS is an interesting case. As I've been advocating lately, it becomes a whole lot less gamist if you just don't use the point system as designed. Otherwise it's very simulationist (Roll to see if your pick is stuck in your opponent! actual rule). : - ) Remember, that these games were constructed without the benefit of G/N/S. So it's a bit more understandable if they mixed their system mechanics up between styles.

Mike Holmes
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Valamir
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« Reply #36 on: May 24, 2001, 05:45:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 17:42, Logan wrote:
I think Rolemaster is a Simulationist game. Its mechanics are primarily directed toward simulating what would happen in their fantasy world.

GURPS, in my opinion, with its point-balancing and complicated design systems, is a Simulationist game with strong Gamist undercurrents.

Sorcerer, for its part, may appear to provide something approaching a simulation of possible interactions between man and demon, but it's pretty obvious from the way the game is presented that any simulation is strictly a coincidence.


I've excerpted the above because you've unintentionally exactly illustrated the problems I was outlining with the term simulationist.

First examine your description of Rolemaster.  Rolemaster is a simulationist game because it simulates the Rolemaster world?  The statement is totally circular.  Thats what I mean when I say that there has yet to be a clear and unambiguous definition of what traits a game has to have to call it Simulationist.  Everyone has this gut feel that says "I'm pretty sure that would be a simulationist game"  but there are no rules to identify one other than the consensus of gut feelings.

In your GURPs point you fall prey to the oft repeated mistake of equating complicated rules with Simulationist.  In other words we (all of us) fall back on the ORIGINAL use of the word simulation which in which enhanced degrees of simulation equate to additional pages of rules and modifiers in a wargame, or the necessity to have a keyboard map guide in a PC game.  Time and time again we hear the *words* that Simulationist doesn't mean complicated, yet time and time again its always the rules heavy complicated games that get the label.  Why?  Because even those of us who've followed the GNS discussions deep down still fall back on what the historical use of the word simulation means.

In your Sorcerer point you again illustrate the problem with the incredible vaguary of the defintion.  Unlike the the other two categories Simulationist seems to be wholely subjective.  Rolemaster is simulationist because it simulates a bunch of stuff.  But Sorcerer is not, because even though it simulates a bunch of stuff you get a different feel for what the game is about.  The distinction is purely a subjective one.

This leaves simulationist as the catch-all name for left over games.  First Pass: "is it gamist"..."no".  Second Pass: "is it narrativist"..."no"..."ok than it must be simulationist".  Since Sorcerer falls into the Narrativist bucket we don't concern ourselves over whether or not its "Simulation of character" qualities should make it a simulationist game.  Since Rolemaster didn't fall into either of the first two buckets it has no where else to go so its "simulation of setting" qualities are cited after the fact as being the reason its a simulation.

Is it any wonder that Simulationist seems to be the odd man out of the triad.  Its a category with no clear identity of its own.

By my way of thinking, a model is "good or bad" based on how useful a tool it is at analysing something...in this case the nature of game playing and game design.  The term simulationist is not useful.  Unlike "Gamist" and "Narrativist", it doesn't offer any insight into the mentality of gamers or methods of game design that can be used to appeal to those.  The category as it stands includes games so radically different as RuneQuest and Pendragon.  There isn't enough commonality there to draw any conclusions whatsoever.

I think the model has gotten this far using the term because the concentration of effort has been by narrativist gamers defining what makes a narrativist game different from a gamist game.  Everyone has this gut feel that know what a simulationist game is ("I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it") so it hasn't been put through the same scrutiny.  My own early exposure to the model was the same.  I was just discovering what this whole narrativist thing was about and my own interest in the model was primarily in trying to understand the difference between narrativist and gamist.

But if you step back and look at it...simulationist just doesn't work.  Its a word that already has a prior definition that is in conflict with the model.  Its a word with no clear definition of what the category is supposed to represent, and its a word that offers no ability to judge the suitability of a particular game design for a particular group of players.

In my oppinion, Simulationist or non Simulationist is a method of approaching a game independent of its style.  In other words, I believe it should be a seperate axis of the model all together.  D&D is a Gamist game with abstract mechanics.  Rolemaster is a Gamist game with Simulationist mechanics.  Pendragon is an Explorative game with abstract mechanics.  RuneQuest is an Explorative game with Simulationist mechanics.  I suspect it may even be possible to have a narrativist game with simulationist mechanics, but I don't really know what that might look like.
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Valamir
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« Reply #37 on: May 24, 2001, 05:48:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 19:38, Mike Holmes wrote:
Val,

Rolemaster has a lot of gamist elements as it is an attempt to "fix" D&D. But what is wrong with D&D that needs fixing? Well, to the designers, it wasn't simulationist enough (not that they had that term, but that was the idea).


Exactly.  To my mind they are BOTH gamist games.  D&D is a gamist game with abstract mechanics and Rolemaster is a gamist game with simulationist mechanics.

I'm not saying the desire for a simulation doesn't exist.  I'm saying it exists independently of the three fold model.
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Mytholder
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« Reply #38 on: May 25, 2001, 04:45:00 AM »

Valamir - I'll do a long reply this evening after work if I can, but I'm off to a con for the weekend, so I mightn't squeeze it in. For the moment, I'll just give a short reply.

Simulationism/Exploration/the e-thing/the third leg of threefold does exist.

Rolemaster is simulationist. So's GURPS. Sorcerer isn't.

All three simulate something, but that doesn't mean they're all simulationist. After all, all three are games, but they're not all gamist, and all three create stories, but they're not all narrativist.

It's intent that matters. Gamist games should provide challenge above all else. Narrativist games should provide a good story above all else. And Simulationist games should be an accurate and consistant model of their world above all else.

If Sorcerer succeeds at "simulating a bunch of stuff" then that's cool, but it's not important to the success or failure of the game. The intent was to create a good story. It doesn't matter if, say, the result of a fight described in the story was completely impossible given the combatants and equipment present, as long as it makes story sense.
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Valamir
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« Reply #39 on: May 25, 2001, 06:45:00 AM »

I hope you can Myth, cause I gotta tell you, I ain't buyin it from this post.  If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...its a duck.

The problem I've having is that its FAR too subjective.  To me intent is not the deciding factor, execution is.  Intent is useful in evaluating a game's design success...a design is good if its execution matches its intent.  But Intent cannot be the primary decision rule, because if it was Vampire would be the yardstick for narrativism.  Its not because the Story Telling system failed to execute on that intent.  Execution then should be the rule.

And how is the telling of stories the primary goal of Sorcerer?  Most of Ron's requests for Sorcerer material concentrates on defining Humanity loss and the nature of demons.  That seems a very simulationist concentration to me.  In fact, I would suggest the primary strength of Sorcerer lies in getting inside the head of a Sorcerer character and asking the difficult questions about the nature of humanity and sacrifices made for power.  In fact, these are the same themes that Vampire was originally supposed to be about before it got taken over by listless goths and undead munchkins.  Calling one a simulation and the other narrative is a purely subjective differentiation.
I don't recall any plot point mechanics like theatrix or retroactive resolution descriptions like in Story Engine.

Now I know that an awful lot of statements have been made by present company that the GNS model isn't an elitist attempt to promote Narrativism as the best way of roleplaying.  But I also know that a lot of people don't believe that, and I've a growing sense of why GNS strikes so many people as elitist snobbery.  I'm sure its unintentional, but the sentiment is there nonetheless.

Its inherent in statements like "Narrativist games should provide a good story above all else", the perceived implication being that other games aren't concerned with good stories.  I see whispers of it in the Alternate Phylogeny thread.  Paul presented a pretty fascinating theory incorporating Turku as an evolution from Simulation placing as the equivent of Narrativism on the evolutionary chart.  Rather than dig deeply into this idea and explore it thoroughly to determine what insights it has to offer, it was dismissed rather cavalierly.  It wasn't stated explicitly, and I certainly won't claim to know what vaious motivations were, but to an outside observer reading the thread for the first time I can tell you what it looked like.  It LOOKED like "how dare you suggest the Turkus are on par with narrativists, they're not, they're just some subset of simulation, and while this discussion is interesting we don't need to continue it because GNS is robust enough as is to not need further development".

Now OBVIOUSLY that wasn't the intent.  I offer it not as criticism, but to point out where some of these accusations come from.  If I, who am a big fan of the model and am thoroughly indebted to Ron for introducing me to it can sense it, what must the gaming public at large detect about it.

I think if we want the model to become more widespread than just a handful of enlightened we need to be very sensitive to things like this.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #40 on: May 25, 2001, 07:48:00 AM »

Heretic!

You realize that you've just claimed that Ron's baby is a bastard? : - )

The way G/N/S is defined is as it applies to the system. What does the system promote? Ron's system promotes storytelling through it's resolution in the middle mechanics, for example. The fact that he's collecting source material for it in no way makes the game more about simulation. The mechanics won't allow for a simulation due to how they're laid out. Don't believe me, go back and read them.

It is you who has the problem with the definition. Others probably do as well, but that isn't necessary. If you read it, you'll find it is very easy to apply. And Ron has gone out of his way to make it even more specific of late. Intentional misunderstanding of the definition to make your point is not good sportsmanship.

Mike Holmes
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Valamir
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« Reply #41 on: May 25, 2001, 08:33:00 AM »

I assure you I have no desire to intentionally misrepresent anything.  Perhaps I have missed some clarification of definition.

As I understand it Ron's definition of Simulation is:
1) no author stance.
2) chronological cause and effect of actions.

Now there are two issues here, how a game is played and what its design mechanics encourage.

Any game that does not specifically include mechanics that require author stance or directoral power can be played in pure Actor mode.  You can play D&D as an Actor or you can use OOC information to your competitive advantage.  Its a matter of play group preference.  Other than a paragraph in the "what is roleplaying" section most games offer no specific mechanical encouragement or prohibition to either stance.

Therefor I contend that "No Author Stance" is an attitude of the players.  NOT a component of game design.  To me admonishment from the author about "staying in character" etc. is not suitable grounds for categorization. 1) such admonishments are even easier to ignore than creating house rules, 2) most of those introductory sections are the usual babble repeated virtually verbatim from one author to the next. Presence of such text is hardly a definitive indication that the author really considered that important or was merely including the usual boiler plate language.  3) most of those types of games were written long before any concrete analysis of game design philosophy or stance were written.  It is unclear if many of those authors even realized at the time there was another way to play.
     Therefor, unless a game specifically includes a mechanic in its game system which specifically mandates Authorial / Directoral (like say Elfs), or specifically includes mechanics which prohibit this, part one of the "definition" is purely subjective.  In the absense of such a mechanic whether or not a particular game is played with or without a particular stance is entirely a function of the game group's style of play not the game.  As I've said its the Execution that matters, not the Intent, especially when (as I mention above) that intent may in fact be wholly inadvertant.
       Now I may be wrong, and if I am please correct me.  But I don't recall the presence of a game mechanic in Sorcerer that requires Author stance.  Barring such a mechanic the game COULD be played Actor stance only, thereby meeting the first requirement for a simulation.  My point here is that the use or lack of use of Author stance is a good criteria to describe a PLAYER or a PLAYING STYLE.  Its NOT a very useful criteria for determining the nature of a specific game.  Its too subjective...and by that I mean it can be categorized one way or the other based on the categorizer's belief as to the most "correct" or common way to play is.


2) Chronological cause and effect of actions.  The vast majority of games ever written meet this criteria.  Only a select few like Story Engine and Hero Wars allow for effects whose cause is entirely undefined until after the fact.  Some games may be in wargamer parlance "Design for Effect" which generally means alot of the complex chain of events is abstracted out (like D&D HPs and AC), while other games might be "Design for Cause" where every step is mapped out with scientific rigor (like Phoenix Command), but almost all have a definite cause and effect relationship.  Now, again I may be wrong, but I seem to remember Sorcerer's combat rules being a fairly involved process of damage and wound effects which strike me as meeting the second criteria for a simulation.

My point here is not to illustrate anything good or bad about Sorcerer, but merely how the definition of Simulation in this context is largely dependent on the perceptions of the individual doing the categorization and thus, too subjective in my oppinion to be effective.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #42 on: May 25, 2001, 08:37:00 AM »

I don't mean to be flip, and I'm not denying that there is misunderstanding. But I'd say that while Simulationist might be more problematic than the other definitions in defining a design goal, they all occasionally suffer from debate over which is more what. This won't be solved by Explorationist. This is an argument more for pitching the whole model than any one spoke.

In fact, I believe that this "new" style is being proposed more as a style of play than a design goal. So could it be that we're comparing apples to oranges all along? IIRC, Ron has stated that his model is only pertinent in the context of it being about design.  If you are considering it from the POV of playing styles, maybe it should be be GED or Gamist, Explorationist, and Dramatist. After all Ron only changed Dramatist to Narrativist when he considered the model in the light of it being about design; all in the context of "System Does Matter".

A lot of IIRC, here, as well as IMHO.

Mike Holmes
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #43 on: May 25, 2001, 08:49:00 AM »

I don't recall the presence of a game mechanic in Sorcerer that requires Author stance.

When a sorcerer character decides to contact and summon a demon, the player invents the demon's stats and selects and customizes the demon's powers. The GM is free to change what the player comes up with, either completely or partially, but I think it's still player Author stance.

Paul
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Valamir
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« Reply #44 on: May 25, 2001, 08:57:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-05-25 12:49, Paul Czege wrote:
I don't recall the presence of a game mechanic in Sorcerer that requires Author stance.

When a sorcerer character decides to contact and summon a demon, the player invents the demon's stats and selects and customizes the demon's powers. The GM is free to change what the player comes up with, either completely or partially, but I think it's still player Author stance.

Paul


I wouldn't say that.  It doesn't seem anything more than a shortcut to me.  i.e. a player could search through a grimoire of dozens of predefined demons to find the one he wants, the very act of summoning simply allows the Sorcerer to specify from the zillions of available demons what type of demon he desires.  The above mechanic is not so much authorship as shortcutting the need to list out the zillion available demons in advance.
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