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Author Topic: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?  (Read 17903 times)
deadpanbob
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« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2002, 11:29:04 AM »

Mike,

Thanks for the link.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2002, 10:04:33 PM »

I, too, want to thank Mike for providing the link. I try to get here once a day, but it seems everyone else is much more immersed in what's happening on these forums than that.

If there are questions about Multiverser, I do frequent these forums (I'm new here, having been more involved in the discussions maybe two years back when they were elsewhere), trying to keep pace presently with Indie Game Design, GNS Model Discussion, and RPG Theory, so I'll answer anything asked here. There are advantages to asking things over on our official forum at http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?Action=ShowForum&ccurrentforum=83">http://www.gamingoutpost.com/forums/index.cfm?Action=ShowForum&ccurrentforum=83; I get there first every day, pay a bit more attention to every thread, and there are at least a few people there who are also familiar with the game (although I'm not certain how familiar any of them are with the GNS model). You can also reach me by e-mail, ICQ, and AIM; on the last two, I should warn that if I'm here I'm busy doing something, and you probably won't get as full attention as you'd get by other methods.

I would agree with Ron that games which do support all three modes (or goals) do so by shifting between them, hopefully in response to player expectations. Although Multiverser was written without the benefit of GNS discussions, it incorporates a level of flexibility within the rules and relies on the referee often to choose which of several means of resolution will provide the needed balance between accuracy and speed in this particular situation. As a result, it tends to drift between modes in response to player choices. Some of my players are extremely gamist; they only ever play D&D, Multiverser, video games, and MUDs. When they play, they often push the envelope to bring greater challenges, and then scramble to find ways to overcome them--and the game tends to respond to their hopes. Others take a much more story-oriented approach, becoming involved in the lives of the people they meet, finding conflict and resolution in the personal stories. Several are more like me, shifting from one concern to another as the nature of the events move. We run a game on the forum. One of the players, finding himself in the post-war world of The Postman, has built a dam and a sawmill, encouraged others to restore technology in an environmentally sound way, and is currently working on a steam engine and an airship. What happens in the game worlds is very responsive to player choices and expectations most of the time.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
MJ, early on, claimed that his design encouraged all three simultaneously. I cannot remember the full course of the discussion, but his argument had to do with the ingenious structure of the game which the players switch worlds when they die (hence the title). In any case, it's the only case that I know of where anyone has suggested that the Setting (or metasetting in this case) was designed to accomplish this functionally.


It's been a while, and I'm not certain I can remember the details of that discussion myself. However, I should clarify that if "the Setting...was designed to accomplish this" is taken to mean we did so intentionally, that would be overstating things. It would be better stated that the two of us, working from completely opposite poles but having enjoyed gaming together, bumped heads rather solidly in trying to devise a game system that met our goals and stumbled into one that adapted itself, both enabling us to support our own modes of play and causing us to support others. E. R. Jones was very much an illusionist and narrativist when he ran games; although I played with a strong narrativist streak, I tended to run games with strong simulationist and gamist underpinnings. Working together, we learned a lot about how each other thought and how each other did what we did, and although we're still very different as referees, we've come to drift more, and the game reflects that. So if you mean "as designed, the setting supports this", I think that's correct; but we had no idea about GNS at the time and can't be credited with having attempted to do this.

Multiverser also supports rules changes in play by allowing it to interface with other game systems. Because of copyright and trademark issues, we don't do a lot of this publicly; but it is part of the system that a Multiverser character can become a character in any other game system, and thus be governed by the rules of that game while in that world. Multiverser rules remain in effect to fill any "gaps" in the system, but in the main the character is translated into the game world until he dies and so moves on.

In a very real sense, the game is more focused on the characters than anything else. The setting keeps changing, and often several settings will be in play at once. The characters provide the continuity in the game; the stories are very much about them. Because of this, it is often the case that one player will be pursuing very gamist goals while another pursues narrativist or simulationist ones, even in the same place and time, without undue conflict. It may be partially because of that unwritten social contract; it may be partially because everyone enjoys everyone else's adventures. I think largely it's because the game allows every player to make his character whatever he wishes, if he's willing to put the time into doing so.

I had no idea I was going to say this much when I started; but then, in my   mouth all stories are long stories. I hope something here may be helpful.

--M. J. Young
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2002, 07:52:04 AM »

Quick point to M.J.,

Regarding "designer intent," your second description is absolutely on-target in my view. Nothing about GNS relies on the authors using or thinking about the issues at all - my claim is that the issues operate regardless of the authors' awareness of them.

Hence Tunnels & Trolls = astonishing Gamist design; Prince Valiant = astonishing Narrativst design; Jorune = astonishing Simulationist design. Or to take it in another direction, Champions (3rd) = Driftable Incoherent design; Shadowrun = Gamist + Simulationist-helper-hybrid design. I imagine that any of the authors would regard my theorizing as at best interesting, and at worst pinheaded and intrusive ... but I still claim that I'm describing what they're doing very accurately.

Best,
Ron
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #18 on: September 11, 2002, 10:06:38 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Hence Tunnels & Trolls = astonishing Gamist design; Prince Valiant = astonishing Narrativst design; Jorune = astonishing Simulationist design. Or to take it in another direction, Champions (3rd) = Driftable Incoherent design; Shadowrun = Gamist + Simulationist-helper-hybrid design. I imagine that any of the authors would regard my theorizing as at best interesting, and at worst pinheaded and intrusive ... but I still claim that I'm describing what they're doing very accurately.


Ron,

Having only recently begun to understand G/N/S theory, perhaps you could help with something?

When you rate games (FREX: T&T = Gamist design), do you have a quick shorthand rubrick?

Do games with lots of meta-game tactical chocies, for instance, tend to support Gamist play, while those with lots of defined internally consistent lists of skills and their uses tend to support Simulationist play?

If that's the case, would having both of the above (a Gamist resolution mechanic and a detailed skill and use list) nec. lead to an incoherent design?
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #19 on: September 11, 2002, 11:40:19 AM »

Thse things are subjective to an exent. One can discuss and come up with a consensus on what sorts of mechanics support what modes, but only in looking at a game as a whole can one determine what it supports. And that is so compex that subjectivity is unavoidable. That said, one can argue points about a particular system. But defining a particular system with any certainty can be problematic. OTOH, some systems do have a more obvious slant than others.

The criteria you're using sound good, actually, but again would only make sense in the context of analyzing a particular game.

And, as always, remember this is shorthand. When Ron says Gamist design, he's saying a design that best or most consistently supports Gamist play. Not that it can't do other play or anything.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: September 11, 2002, 11:54:23 AM »

Hi there,

What Mike said, pretty much. Plus these points ...

1) I'm not sure it's "subjectivity" so much as difficulty with (say) my perceptions and ability to understand a given system. Ideally, we'd have a lot of people with a strong shared understanding playing a lot of these games, and discussing them with one another, in order to hammer out what the system does and does not facilitate.

2) On the other hand, quite a lot of game-play and some design turns out to be so GNS-focused that all our usual provisos are unnecessary. Wham bam, T&T is a very focused (specific) Gamist design - anyone who thinks differently is probably misunderstanding the game (ie confusing their own Drift for "the game") or misunderstanding GNS.

As Mike says, this assessment arises from observing a variety of aspects of the game system, and most especially their interaction with one another.

3) I've played a lot of RPGs, very critically and also with a strong intent to have a good time. Whether this has left me with a good 'eye' for GNS issues in design, well, that's something everyone who reads my stuff with have to decide for themselves. I can't claim any kind of infallible GNS-o-meter ability. Again, what I'd really like is for folks to compare instances of play and talk about them with GNS (and other) stuff in mind, which is pretty much how the Actual Play and RPG Theory forums can reinforce one another.

4) I try to avoid classifying a game without playing it - any time I mention a game, and if someone asks, and if I haven't played it, then I have to say, "All this is speculative." The more play, the better for the assessment, of course, especially if I'm being careful not to tweak things more to my liking.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #21 on: September 11, 2002, 12:15:42 PM »

Quote
The more play, the better for the assessment, of course, especially if I'm being careful not to tweak things more to my liking.


This last point is especially important, and the primary reason why many "Game X is _____-ist" discussions wind up more arguementative than fruitful.

All of us have our favored games, and all of us have our favored ways to play, and so all of us (especially those of us who are often GMs) drift our favorite games to suit our preferred style of play either overtly (with houserules and the like) or covertly, often without even realizing we do it.

In other words what you play when you play Game X may be noticeably different from what I play when I play Game X, both of which may differ significantly from Game X "as written".

Its usually best to try and discuss a game "as written" because that's the only standard that everyone has equal access to, but its often hard for favorite games to seperate that out.

But, barring all of the difficulties, such discussions can provide interesting insights...especially as to the nature of drift.  If we can agree that "as written" Game X best supports A-ist play, but you've managed to drift it successfully towards B-ist play, and I've managed to drift it successfully to C-ist play (or drift it unsuccessfully) than some interesting discussions can be had.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #22 on: September 11, 2002, 12:29:55 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Quote
But, barring all of the difficulties, such discussions can provide interesting insights...especially as to the nature of drift.  If we can agree that "as written" Game X best supports A-ist play, but you've managed to drift it successfully towards B-ist play, and I've managed to drift it successfully to C-ist play (or drift it unsuccessfully) than some interesting discussions can be had.


This is an interesting point, as it brings the discussion around full-circle.

My hypothesis:
A game can be focused, or unfocused. Note that neither of these categories require the author's knowledge of GNS - solely that the author either focuses a game towards a certain play style or not.

Coherence does fit into this - an unfocused game will almost always be incoherent. However, an incoherent game can be focused on one play style for the majority of it, and then have some incoherent rules jammed in it. (I think Dying Earth is a prime example of this sort of game.)

Anyway, the games that we normally think of as commercially successful are often unfocused. By not concentrating on any play style, they open themselves up to be drifted easily into a play style. As I often do, I'd use D&D (3rd edition) for an example of this. It doesn't really have a play style, and in fact gives options on several parts of it to support various play styles (read the experience section of the DM's Guide - traditional D&D experience vs. story awards.)

I can pretty much guarantee that no two games of D&D are played exactly the same, barring some RPGA madness. It's easily driftable, and is thereby giving a better chance at success when success equals "a lot of people playing it." Whether or not those people are happy with it is a different issue (and in that arena, I'd wager highly focused games are more successful.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2002, 02:14:18 PM »

Sorry this is so late (everybody else posted their games' descriptions earlier).  Better late than never.

Scattershot

The overall game is based on what the group expects from the genre the play in (the Genre Expectations) and the desires of the players for their characters (Sine Qua Non).  Both literally drip with player-engaging character and go so far as to fuel and respond to the Experience Dice Mechanix.  One of the best effects of the Genre Expectations is they give play an 'instantaneous reading' of what level of 'epic scope' it is running (this keeps things 'on track' especially during things like pulp fantasy continuous escalation).  And Genre Expectations go a long way towards eliminating the 'this game is so huge, where do I start?' problem

The game also offers personalized versions of the Genre Expectations that can afford things like Destinies or personal Motifs (the forgetful spellcaster who constantly remembers just the right spell at the last moment or a character who constantly benefits from their alliances).

Scattershot uses a sometimes-aggressive Design-in-Play feature.  Players can give or take advantages and disadvantages to their characters at almost any time.  This can be long forgotten alliances or newly gotten friends, it can be recently acquired artifacts or sudden inspirations or 'hidden talents,' it's all moderated by the expenditure of Experience Dice.  (Note: to 'buy off' a disadvantage requires appropriate In-Character activity and development in the Sine Qua Non.)

What Makes It Go?

The 'motor' that make Scattershot run is the Experience Dice Mechanix.  There are five ways to get Experience Dice, Keepers, Gimmes, Freebies, Loaners, and 'Buy Back.'  Keepers come when you do something 'cool' in the game or 'drive play' into the Genre Expectations; these you can keep and use later for anything you want.  You get Gimmes when your character suffers from one of their disadvantages, the Genre Expectations are supposed to dump on the character, or you 'catch someone out' at following the Genre Expectations (if you 'fix the problem' In-Character, you get even more as Payback); you keep these too.  You get Freebies to use whenever your character is at the advantage (as listed on their character sheet and in their Sine Qua Non) or when you 'go with the flow' of the Genre Expectations; they can only be used at that time.  Loaners come out your 'karmic bank account' and those you use them 'against' must save them and use them 'against you' later.  You get 'Buy Back' when you can 'buy off' an advantage or disadvantage during the game; each point becomes one Experience Dice (this relates directly to the DiP features).

Part of the Genre Expectation involves what kind of Approach is expected 'at the table.'  If you're using the GNS, then aggressive competitive play could be part of the Genre Expectations when using Gamism.  People are expected to use their Experience Dice to further their goals; you can play for a lot of Experience Dice (monty haul style) or for a little (just to 'see them sweat') as noted in the group's play style.  On the other hand, if you're going Simulationist, expect the Experience Dice to flow in that direction (if hardly at all, depending on what kind of Simulationism you're following).  Finally, if you want Narrativism, just think of every Experience Dice as your own personal plot device (a handful then becomes deus ex machina).  Really, how you use them is that flexible and largely covered somewhere in the Genre Expectations.

Now the Mechanix Ron referred to (I think) are the Critical Threshold number Mechanix.  The Critical Threshold is chosen at the beginning of play; what it does is limit 'how big' a result gets (in the resolution Mechanix) before the game 'jumps' to player-defined-Detail mode.  For example, if you roll to see how well you cook a meal and you exceed the Critical Threshold in the positives, you've just blown the socks off your audience (and like everything else in the game, they have to decide what effect that has beyond the numbers).  Let's say you exceed the Critical Threshold (positively, this called a Telling Blow) with an attack in combat; now the victim is compelled to describe in Detail some kind of lasting impact that the blow delivers (beyond just the damage done).  What if you exceed the Critical Threshold picking a lock negatively?; they you describe exactly what happens as a result of the "Catastrophic Failure" (it might even include incarceration).

Now the 'either-or' effect Ron mentions works something like this.  If you crank the Critical Threshold number up high, it rarely comes up (and when it does you can do things like convert some of the effect number, called a MIB, into things like crippling injuries and such) and things tend to get a little Gamist.  If you turn the Critical Threshold way down, it comes up a lot; this compels lots of 'significant effects on the character' and that's often good 'grist' for the Narrativist 'mill.'  However, these are merely tendancies; I've seen one group (while doing the 'test to destruct' on our combat system) playing arena combat with the Critical Threshold really low to get lots of blood and 'crits.'  Likewise, as I've pointed out on a number of occasions, exceeding the Threshold only compels narrative interpretation (as opposed to numerical); actually, you can do the same any time your character is on the receiving end of anything.

Conflict

While I am going to describe this in the familiar terms of 'combat,' Scattershot's Conflict resolution scheme works just as well for car chases, court cases, and military engagements.  Most playtesters use this at the single-action, first-person level, but the system is designed to allow both of these divisions to be broaden (all the way out to multiple-war, national level).  Most melee is handled at the single-action, first-person level, also called 'blow by blow' combat.  Scattershot is set up with three levels of Mechanix to allow for more user flexibility without the runaway effect of multiple 'optional rules;' they are Basic, Intermediate (also called Tournament level), and Advanced (not terribly surprising, but that's part of the charm).

Basic Scattershot combat is largely defined, from engagement to engagement, by whoever gains or maintains Combat Advantage (the method of tracking situation-based residual penalties).  Few choice Flurries of Actions are listed (such as Parry/Riposte) and Hit Location is completely abstracted.  The effects of damage are completely up to the victim.

Intermediate Scattershot combat is largely defined, from engagement to engagement, by whatever Actions were performed earlier in a 'flurry.'  Flurries of Actions are the primary concern at this level, allowing almost instantaneous trading of multiple blows (treated as a singular action).  The functional 'body postures' are dependant upon the most immediate prior engagement.  Martial Arts 'scripts' for flurries, where available, are at more of a menu approach, if any are given.

Advanced Scattershot combat is largely defined by some extra attention to how blows affect the victim (rather than the damage).  Also the various Martial Arts have limited sets of potential Following Actions (conforming to listed scripts or menus) with an accent on cinematic combat.  While hit location is tracked for shock, pain, sudden death possibility, and loss of Combat Advantage, in the form of residual penalties, the exact nature of wounds are still left to the imagination of the victim.

All levels of Scattershot Combat afford a player two Actions (per Turn) to manage.  The complication lie in the choice of Forfeiting one's Action to respond in defense (to an engagement) or falling back on 'Free Actions.'  Order of Turns is rigidly around-the-table (the needs usually fulfilled by complicated initiative systems are met by the Combat Advantage Mechanix); this simplifies greatly what becomes complicated or tedious in some games.  And Hit Points don't track alive-or-deadness, but the capability for physically intense actions; what actually 'knocks ya down' is a combination of proprietor choice and using up-front group chosen conditions.

Only as much detail is used as the group decides when they first begin to play the game or between sessions as their Approach to play and group style develops.  One of the guiding principals has been to work towards a high degree of 'immediacy' to engage the players.  The different levels work based largely on the group's needs for Detail and how well they 'internalize' the 'earlier' information.

The attack/defense dynamic is driven by how players choose to respond to Actions resolved prior to their turn (by Forfeit or Free Action) as well as what kinds of Combat Advantages are in effect.  This causes the players to do the thinking rather than letting the dice do it for them.  Currently I am seeking consultants that I may make the Martial Arts descriptions and scripts as accurate as possible; we are also working with a number of sources to group medieval weaponry by historical use rather than arbitrary choices.

One thing that comes back, again and again, is how flexible the Experience Dice Mechanix are.  In combat, they can be used to simulate passion or drive, dramatic intensity/necessity, or just plain player-competitiveness; it all depends on what kinds of Approaches are being explicitly practiced and that gets rolled into the Genre Expectations or group play style.  Taken with detail similar to The Riddle of Steel, Scattershot could theoretically support any GNS mode tendancy.  It still depends on how well I design and write it.

Fang Langford
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2002, 05:12:33 PM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
Sorry this is so late...

...Scattershot could theoretically support any GNS mode tendancy.  It still depends on how well I design and write it.

Fang Langford


First, don't be sorry.  Per your suggestion I took a look at the stuff you've posted so far in the Indie Design forums.

It looks really good so far, at least conceptually.  It definitely has the feel of a game that could be both coherent, and focused, and potentially encourage all three modes of play.

I'm looking forward to seeing your progress.  I know it will be slow going, but try not to let that get you down.  I'm working on a game too, not nearly as ambitious as yours, and real life keeps intruding.  If only my hopes of acheiving the Myth of roleplaying design hadn't been skewered by that crunchy bits article...

Cheers.
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2002, 05:27:36 PM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon


Coherence does fit into this - an unfocused game will almost always be incoherent. However, an incoherent game can be focused on one play style for the majority of it, and then have some incoherent rules jammed in it. (I think Dying Earth is a prime example of this sort of game.)...

...Whether or not those people are happy with it is a different issue (and in that arena, I'd wager highly focused games are more successful.)


Clinton,

So wouldn't it then be possible to create a game that is unfocused (in the narrow sense of not zeroing in on full on support or preferential support of any of the three G/N/S modes) and yet still coherent?

This is where the critical language breaks down for me a little bit.  I know that the core hypothesis of the G/N/S model is that all games - as written - tend to support certain modes of play overall.  Also, that only games that are focused on supporting (either consciously or unconsciously) a single mode of play are truly coherent.

But if a designer goes into the game with the intention of trying to provide mechanical support in equal measure for each of the three modes of play, couldn't they manage to make a coherent game in the broader sense of the term? (in this sense I mean internally consistent, logically constructed, deductively presented)

I mean, I look at all the material for Scattershot, and it seems like a lot of these core ideas are there.  Same could be siad for Multiverser.  I havn't purchased Multiverser yet, but I probably will.  Scattershot isn't really written yet, so it remains to be seen.  But nonetheless, it seems at least like there are some people who frequent the Forge who are trying to overcome the G/N/S divide - in a sense, to those of us who are latecomers here and don't know the timing of things, they seem to be rising to an unspoken challenge in Ron's essay: you can't create the universal roleplaying game, so don't try.

Again, I'm trying to write a game myself.  Until about a week ago, when I stumbled on the Forge, I thought I was writing a 'universal game' with some pretty innovative ideas.  Hah!  Looking through some of the stuff and discussion here has really opened my eyes.

Not that I've decided to wholheartedly adopt the G/N/S theory, but if I did, I have to now classify my game as heavily Narrativist and heavily Gamist, with little in the way of satisfying or rewarding mechanics for simulationist.  And that's a change from two or three days ago, when upon my second read of G/N/S I realized that what *I* was thinking of as simulationist was actually gamist in the terms of the theroy!

But I still don't want the universal dream to die.  I am about 40%N/40%G/20%S in my personal play style.  I want a game that can handle all three, to at least this degree.  My main goal, in fact, is the ability to use my homebrew system for the majority of my RPG needs.

Sure, I'll never give up on buying new games (the feeling of making a new character for the first time in a brand new-to-me RPG...almost nothing like it...)

Well, I've rambled enough...so I'll close with this: the dream of making a universal roleplaying game that will garner me the respect of millions of adoring gaming fans is sooo seductive that I may be unable to relenquish it from cold, bony hand...

Cheers.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2002, 05:57:06 AM »

Quote from: deadpanbob

So wouldn't it then be possible to create a game that is unfocused (in the narrow sense of not zeroing in on full on support or preferential support of any of the three G/N/S modes) and yet still coherent?
Absolutely. Look at, say, The World, The Flesh and The Devil by Paul Czege. Absolutely coherent Narrativist design, but does not focus on anything. Any "generic", "universal", or "premise injectable" game is likely "unfocused". That is, the mechanics do not look at any one thing very specifically.

Coherence refers to GNS. Focus refers to subject matter. Does that help?

Quote
But if a designer goes into the game with the intention of trying to provide mechanical support in equal measure for each of the three modes of play, couldn't they manage to make a coherent game in the broader sense of the term? (in this sense I mean internally consistent, logically constructed, deductively presented)
Not by these definitions. One could make a very focused, yet very incoherent game. That would be a game that, for example, looked very closely at being a spy in a world of international intrigue, and ignored that which wasn't about being a spy n such a setting. But then had rules that support Gamism and Simulationism in equal amounts, perhaps. That would be Focused, but Incoherent. Note how Focused means "Ignoring that which does not pertain" as much as looking at the subject matter in detail.

Quote
I mean, I look at all the material for Scattershot, and it seems like a lot of these core ideas are there.  Same could be siad for Multiverser.  I havn't purchased Multiverser yet, but I probably will.  Scattershot isn't really written yet, so it remains to be seen.
These are both Unfocused designs. Multiverser is arguably incoherent. Both however, have elements of Transition. Which is an attempt to make Incoherence more functional.


Quote
But nonetheless, it seems at least like there are some people who frequent the Forge who are trying to overcome the G/N/S divide - in a sense, to those of us who are latecomers here and don't know the timing of things, they seem to be rising to an unspoken challenge in Ron's essay: you can't create the universal roleplaying game, so don't try.
Oh, there is certaily a will to create this Uber game. I myself am subject to such ideas. The question is not whether or not people want such a game; they do. The question is whether or not such a game can be made, and made functional. Such that people enjoy the play, and in fact enjoy it more because of the nature as the Uber game.

Note that Universal, is definitely impossible. I'll bet you can't make a game that accurately portrays the Way that Fromabits Comnbabulate the Scovulator. There will always be something that your system does not do satisfactorily for some player. And as the definition of Universal (per GURPS) means supports ALL styles of play, then no game is truely Universal.

Which is not to say that I'm against "Universal" style games. Um, that's what Universalis is to an extent. It's just that I recognize that such games are inferior to games that are focused on specific things when playing about those specific things, and that the play produced by such games is not in actuality "Universal". Moe likely it's Generic, meaning able to be used at least somewhat effectively in any "Genre". If not most effectively.

The Usefulness of such Generic games is in allowing the GM to pick a focus, one that may not exist in other games. And to a much lesser extent the idea that you don't have to reteach rules (this is not, IMO, a big asset).

Quote
I am about 40%N/40%G/20%S in my personal play style.  I want a game that can handle all three, to at least this degree.  My main goal, in fact, is the ability to use my homebrew system for the majority of my RPG needs.
Well, try the incoherent design, and let us see what you have. We can point out what might be the pitfalls of such a design. OTOH, if it's just for personal use, it might serve you perfectly well designed that way.

Mike
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« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2002, 06:07:38 AM »

Hey 'bob,

Quick clarifier - you wrote:
"Also, that only games that are focused on supporting (either consciously or unconsciously) a single mode of play are truly coherent."

Ah, nope ... nope, that's over-stated. Coherence includes functional hybrids. The most extreme I'll go is to say (1) single-mode GNS focus is more reliable toward generating Coherence, and (2) all-three mode GNS "focus" usually breaks apart very quickly.

Another point is that strictly speaking, Coherence and similar terms all apply to actual play, rather than to design. I'm assuming everyone in this thread is mentally editing "facilitates Coherence during actual play" onto "Coherent" when we talk about design.

Now, as to your point, I'm on record for while now in saying that a lot of Gamism and Narrativism have huge areas of functional/play/rules overlap. That's not hard to understand, because these modes of play are defined by "real person agenda" at the metagame level. If mechanics exist to permit that agenda to "interfere" with in-game-world events (some of my language here is a bit Sim), then shifting agenda with the same mechanics isn't very hard.

So Scattershot's customization-potential regarding Gamist and Narrativist play makes perfect sense to me. However (and pending more info abou the game), I wonder whether Scattershot can "cohere" toward or into Simulationist play, rather than spin off into Gamist or Narrativist play. I grasp how it can do the latter (and in fact I rather like its sneakiness in doing so), but the former still seems pretty iffy to me - what an evolutionary biologist would call an "unstable strategy," without self-sustaining properties.

Best,
Ron

P.S. "Focus" as a term seems to have crept into discussions lately without the loincloth of a definition to hide its bare ass. Mike seems rather certain of its definition, but perhaps that's worthy of a thread in Theory some time.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2002, 06:47:36 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
Anyway, the games that we normally think of as commercially successful are often unfocused. By not concentrating on any play style, they open themselves up to be drifted easily into a play style. As I often do, I'd use D&D (3rd edition) for an example of this. It doesn't really have a play style, and in fact gives options on several parts of it to support various play styles (read the experience section of the DM's Guide - traditional D&D experience vs. story awards.)

I can pretty much guarantee that no two games of D&D are played exactly the same, barring some RPGA madness. It's easily driftable, and is thereby giving a better chance at success when success equals "a lot of people playing it." Whether or not those people are happy with it is a different issue (and in that arena, I'd wager highly focused games are more successful.)


I agree with your conclusion, but not with how you got there. That is, D&D is almost necessarily drifted. And not easy to drift, either. It's done because without drifting, some peeople are guarunteed a bad time. But it's horribly difficult to do, IMO. Almost any other system is more easily drifted, IMO. That is because the origianl incoherency is so deeply embedded that it often takes a lot of work and or attempts to make the changes necessary to get the mode you want. Often the results, in the interrim are worse than the "undrifted" version.

This isn't to say that people haven't become rather adept at drifting D&D, in fact, they have. But again, this is a result of its popularity, and the fact that people cling to it beyond all reason. D&D is not popular because it's design is easily driftable, but in spite of it.

The popularity of D&D comes from the fact that it was first and has since been the beneficiary of the "Incumbent" effect. That and the strange assumption that people have that D&D is an easy system. I can personally think of few as complex. What it is, is familiar. People who have invested themselves in being good at D&D don't want to have to switch systems assuming (incorrectly) that they will have to invest as much or more effort into learning the new system. The perspective that Other games are more complex occurs because people are so canalized into D&D terminology and thinking that they actually do have trouble assimilating new systems.

All eroneous thinking, IMO.

D&D does what it does fairly well, IMO, but if you want to play in a different mode, it is much easier to switch systems than it is to drift D&D. Ayhow, the outcome is the same as what you describe, displeased players. My theory explains why, however.

Mike
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2002, 07:07:58 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hey 'bob,

Ah, nope ... nope, that's over-stated. Coherence includes functional hybrids. The most extreme I'll go is to say (1) single-mode GNS focus is more reliable toward generating Coherence, and (2) all-three mode GNS "focus" usually breaks apart very quickly.

Another point is that strictly speaking, Coherence and similar terms all apply to actual play, rather than to design. I'm assuming everyone in this thread is mentally editing "facilitates Coherence during actual play" onto "Coherent" when we talk about design.


Ron,

I'll get there eventually in my understanding of G/N/S as a critical taxonomy.  It may take me several years, but I'll get there.

But, your response raises a couple of other questions - specifically this notion of "facilitates X during actual play" bothers me a bit.  Unless we limit our discussions to also include "as written" tags or "as played by me" tags, we can introduce some confusion, can't we?

I mean, the critical language of G/N/S doesn't preclude me from having the opinion that when I paly Champions that it facilitates Coherence during play, as I play it - even if everyone else on these boards feels otherwise.

It's difficult for me to seperate out these issues: how my personal preferences/filters/experiences/skills as a GM (mostly) and a Player tend to facilitate Drift within a given game toward my favored mode(s) of play for any given instance of play vs. how the mechanics of the game as written tend to facilitate these things.

I have read many posts by individuals here stating that G/N/S evaluation of rules/mechanics are dicey (excuse the pun) at best when attempted without the context of a Premise.  However, I keep going back to the idea that certain mehcanical structures within the game explicity support a given mode of play, as written in the game.

These mechanics may do so incoherently, or in a way that lacks focus, or they may be clunky, poorly executed or have loopholes large enough to drive a truck through - but I can't see a meta-game mechanic of any sort supporting Simulationist play.

I am sure it is merely the limitations of my own stunted intellectual horizons, but I'm stuck thinking that a realtively objective rubrick for judging how mechanic x support play style y should be acheivable.

Cheers,
Jason
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