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Author Topic: GNS, Transaction, and Game Design  (Read 6191 times)
Mark D. Eddy
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Posts: 157


« on: June 15, 2002, 06:31:27 AM »

Well, the follow-up point wasn't really addressed, mostly because we went from a generalization to specifics without passing Go and without collecting $200.

However, the discussion has led me to a clarification of my thought/point: Under transaction theory game design, incoherence may not be undesirable, and in fact may be thoroughly desirable, because it allows for more flexibility of transaction. So a 'transactionist' game may be deliberately designed incoherently, with a toolbox that includes explicit enablers for all three styles of play, and explicit instructions on how to tailor a character more coherently.

Does *this* make any sense, or is the fact that I'm working on about four hours of sleep mean that I've just had a blinding flash of idiocy?

Also, shold this be under a seperate catagory of GNS, Transaction, and Game Design?
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Mark Eddy
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"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2002, 06:37:45 AM »

Hi Mark,

Well, the only quibble I have is that a game which reliably produces Coherent play (as I define it), without Drift, is not Incoherent in terms of design.

It seems to me that you're labelling any game which isn't One-True-GNS-Mode "incoherent," and that's not how I defined the term.

Also, what you're describing has been claimed for a few games, among them Multiverser. To turn to the main commercial examples, though, I think the usual trend for such games is incoherence, meaning that so much subtraction and (often) modification is necessary for enjoyable play that you basically have two or three fuzzy-defined different games smushed together, with the transactions ending up being themselves specialized.

Champions is my main example for this, up through third edition. Everyone "loved Champions," and to this day people claim with passion that you can "play it any way you want," but in practice every game group is forced to Drift its actual mechanics and Currency drastically.

In theory, what you describe is possible. [To return to the issue of actual play for a minute, it seems to be the claim of Robin's Laws that a GM's goal is to manage transactions such that any game is treated as if it were like this.]

Best,
Ron
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Mark D. Eddy
Member

Posts: 157


« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2002, 07:39:11 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Mark,

Well, the only quibble I have is that a game which reliably produces Coherent play (as I define it), without Drift, is not Incoherent in terms of design.

It seems to me that you're labelling any game which isn't One-True-GNS-Mode "incoherent," and that's not how I defined the term.

Also, what you're describing has been claimed for a few games, among them Multiverser. To turn to the main commercial examples, though, I think the usual trend for such games is incoherence, meaning that so much subtraction and (often) modification is necessary for enjoyable play that you basically have two or three fuzzy-defined different games smushed together, with the transactions ending up being themselves specialized.


Perhaps I should have used the term 'non-coherent.' As a chemist with some physics background, I think of Coherent (lased) and  Incoherent (broad-spectrum) light. It seemed that that was how the term was being  used in the discussion at large. Under my definition, anything that waas designed to include stylistic transactions would need to be non-coherent. Is this fair, or am I missing something still?

(I have snipped an example about Champions.)

Quote from: Ron Edwards

In theory, what you describe is possible. [To return to the issue of actual play for a minute, it seems to be the claim of Robin's Laws that a GM's goal is to manage transactions such that any game is treated as if it were like this.]

Best,
Ron


I would think that if a game were deliberately designed in what I am calling (for now, and until something better is devised for the idea) "non-coherent" (ne incoherent) style, and included explicit transactional  guidelines, it could be more useful than a single-style system, especially to more casual groups of gamers (e.g., at a convention or public playing venue.
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2002, 09:50:08 AM »

Hi Mark,

"Non-coherent" still strikes me as not the best term ... how about something like ...
- GNS-universal?
- Tri-modal?
- Full-transitional? (to make use of Fang's excellent use of "transition")
- or ...?

Whether such a game design, assuming it's possible, is truly more "useful" than a single-mode or (better) focused-Coherent design, is a highly debatable question. You are assuming that such a thing would be more accessible to a broader range of people, but I think we should consider that the population of players is encountered in small (possibly randomized, possibly-not) groups.

In your scenario of a convention, con play is mainly used for promotion, aimed at sales. It would be interesting to see whether people would be more attracted to a game that nails personal interest among a fairly focused group, or to a game that "can" do so for a more diverse group, given a significant amount of social effort on their part.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2002, 01:26:58 PM »

Hey Mark, Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
- Full-Transitional? (to make use of Fang's excellent use of "Transition")

Actually, from here it sounds very like Mark is asking if a Transition is possible.  Since he's only read the essay, he hasn't seen anything about Transitional games (games specifically designed to facilitate intentional 'drift' - which isn't drift if it's intentional).

Now if we're talking about a game that can Transition as fast as play changes from speaker to speaker, I have no idea whether that is possible or desirable.  (Well, it's likely possible, but you'd need a robust Transitional game that can take that kind of 'stress test.')  I've read Laws' work and I can't say that it's more than a wonderful dream without significant support (and sacrifice) on the part of the players.  But then if the players are going to make such a sacrifice anyway, drift, Transition, and 'multi-mode' games aren't really needed; things function just fine (and need no help).  These tools are to facilitate difficult play, not aid play that everyone is happy with, right?

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2002, 05:24:02 PM »

Hey Fang,

Full agreement.

Another factor to take into account is that, while role-playing as an activity, everyone has at least the potential to be the audience for everyone else. A GNS-diverse group, to the extent that requires extensive (and repeated) transactions, would - I think - decrease the audience-enjoyment factor.

I think that's what's happening in such groups when some members "check out" during combat or negotiations or whatever.

Best,
Ron
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Walt Freitag
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Posts: 1039


« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2002, 07:29:52 PM »

Hi folks,

It sounds to me like what Mark is describing and we're groping for a term for (non-coherence? rapid-fire-transition?) is very similar if not identical to what I described as "asymmetrical play" in the "Narrativism hold the Premise" thread. That thread is here, but since there's a lot of other stuff going on there, allow me to quote myself from the relevant post:

Quote from: Walt
I think the realm of asymmetrical (in the GNS sense) play is fertile and largely unexplored. I'm looking at GNS as a potential tool for characterizing the asymmetry. There are six asymmetrical GM-player combinations before even considering drift, transition, and variant styles within modes. GNS meets transactions?

...In a transactional model asymmetry fuels transactions, and symmetry can stall them. If everyone in the cafe wants to recite poetry and no one wants to listen to poetry, no one's going to be very happy, unless they break the symmetry by dividing things up to create local asymmetries that get things moving again.


I was mostly thinking in terms of straightforward and time-stable combinations like "simulationist GM, narrativist players," but the poetry cafe analogy also suggests the time element in the form of either cyclical asymmetry (a participant prioritizes one goal at some times, another at others, not haphazardly but in an organized way that serves a purpose), or useful asymmetry deliberately created by subdividing time (everyone shares S and N goals, but they deliberately take turns prioritizing one or the other while others do the opposite). For any given combination, we should ask: what is necessary (in terms of social contract, expectations, and technique) for this combination to be functional?

I've found previous discussion of transactional models, here and on RPGnet, unstatisfying because they tend to stop short of actually enumerating the commodities being transacted, which is the point where I believe such models would become useful. It's a mistake, I believe, to focus excessively (or entirely) on the "audience" commodity. That's important, but it's not the only important commodity. And a situation in which people take turns being the audience, not because any of them want to be the audience but because it allows them an occasional turn to perform (the poetry cafe scenario), is barely functional. Healthier transactions are giving everyone something they want almost all the time.

Some other things that I believe can be transacted between participants in functional play (this is by no means exhaustive):

- World objectivity, in the form of description and/or cause-effect determinations that make the world the player-characters inhabit feel more objectively real.

- Creative leadership. Carrying the story forward when I currently don't have any good ideas or can't decide where to go from here. (This is why I'm wary of carrying hands-off-my-character or hands-off-my-character's-protagonism principles too far.)

- Situations, opportunities to express one's character's protagonism; this includes challenges, in Gamist play.

- Narrative outcome.

- Coordinated noise. Sequences of choices and events that are not entirely purposeful but not entirely random either. The raw material for story creation by intuitive continuty.

This last one is of particular interest to me. When I GM in a vanilla Narrativist fashion, I'm doing it because I can create stories that way that I cannot create otherwise. I don't need the players as an audience; they're usually the same people I could rely on to read any story I sit down and write by myself. They're providing me something that I can't easily get out of my own brain, and I think "coordinated noise" (a concept from information theory; a signal generated by a chaotic process is one example) describes what that thing is. The point is, players provide that commodity to me whether or not they are consciously prioritizing Narrativist goals themselves. Thus, a robust profitable Sim-Nar transaction is possible: I as GM provide narrative outcome and world objectivity (or the illusion of the latter) to primarily Sim or Gamist players, and they're giving me the stochastic noise that for me is ideal raw material for shaping narrative.

Um, I rather ran on there. I guess I should take a breath and get a reality check from Mark. I want to join Mark's topic, not hijack it. Am I on the right wavelength to continue on this thread, or should I take some of these ideas to a new thread?

- Walt
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Mark D. Eddy
Member

Posts: 157


« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2002, 08:06:46 AM »

Quote from: wfreitag
Hi folks,

It sounds to me like what Mark is describing and we're groping for a term for (non-coherence? rapid-fire-transition?) is very similar if not identical to what I described as "asymmetrical play" in the "Narrativism hold the Premise" thread. That thread is here, but since there's a lot of other stuff going on there, allow me to quote myself from the relevant post:


I've snipped the actual quote, because the thread is what got me started thinking about this in a game-design sense, so Walt is more or less spot-on. The problem I have with "asymetrical play" is that implies a winner and a loser. "Goal Transaction Play" is perhaps more satisfying to me.

Quote from: wfreitag
I was mostly thinking in terms of straightforward and time-stable combinations like "simulationist GM, narrativist players," but the poetry cafe analogy also suggests the time element in the form of either cyclical asymmetry (a participant prioritizes one goal at some times, another at others, not haphazardly but in an organized way that serves a purpose), or useful asymmetry deliberately created by subdividing time (everyone shares S and N goals, but they deliberately take turns prioritizing one or the other while others do the opposite). For any given combination, we should ask: what is necessary (in terms of social contract, expectations, and technique) for this combination to be functional?


And this was where I was trying to focus -- not everyone is always pure Gameist, and so on. This gives a game designer an opportunty to provide for an exchange of goals/airtime among all of the players and the GM. I've been doing this in games I've run as a Game Master, but my level of attention to these sort of things is definitely not universal.

(I've snipped quite a long list of good ideas)

Quote from: wfreitag
Um, I rather ran on there. I guess I should take a breath and get a reality check from Mark. I want to join Mark's topic, not hijack it. Am I on the right wavelength to continue on this thread, or should I take some of these ideas to a new thread?

- Walt


I certainly think that all of what you had to say is on *my* interpretation of the topic. I've got to go now, but more on this later....
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
Mark D. Eddy
Member

Posts: 157


« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2002, 02:58:42 PM »

Here are a few transactions that can occur between *players*:

-The Gamist runs the tactics of a battle so that the Immersive Simulationist can remain in-character.

-The Narrativist provides a story/premise that the Explorer Simulationist can run out consequenses for.

-The (Immersive) Simulationist provides in-character motivations that the Narrativist can exploit to explore a premise/theme. (Obviously, a Gamist of the combat monster type could be exploited by a Narrativist in a similar, but more direct, fashion.)

Do these sound familliar/reasonable?

Here are a few things I've done as a GM to facilitate transactions:

-An Immersive Simulationist brings up an idea that a Gamist picks up on, and I allow the Gamist to obtain a competitive advantage from that idea.

-A Gamist decides to initiate an intra-party competition, and I give a narrativist a few cues that bring a simmering rivalry (from his character's Premise) to a satisfying climax and resolution.

-A Gamist has worked himself into a no-win situation, and a narrativist suggestion is made (oddly enough, by a player that is usually a Simulationist) for a plausible Deus ex Machina, and I produce the appropriate last-minute rescue. (Obviously, a non-plausible D. ex M. would be Gamist, but she came up with a story-arc related reason.)

Now, here's the fun part: any of these can be facilitated on a case-by-case basis, by a sufficiently dedicated set of GM and players; how do we work up a system that allows these sorts of transactions to occur, if not effortlessly, with the least amount of stress tto the system?

(edited for punctuation)
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
Thededine
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Posts: 21


« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2002, 11:05:34 AM »

Quote from: Mark D. Eddy
Now, here's the fun part: how do we work up a system that allows these sorts of transactions to occur, if not effortlessly, with the least amount of stress to the system?


I'm not sure what you're asking here, because I get caught up on two possibilities:

(a) transaction facilitation within the game system (such as 7th Sea's Drama Dice, which allow for limited sharing of narration)

(b) habitual practices that can be applied by any playgroup to any system (my group has signals for when their attention is waning)

The former, I think, could provide a great deal of discussion, but I'm not sure the latter would really generate anything useful for people who aren't in your playgroup, with its specific composition and interrelationships.
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-- Josh
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