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sanity check on G vs. S

Started by Matt Wilson, September 11, 2002, 11:36:04 AM

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Matt Wilson

Some days I feel slow... check my math here, someone?

Shadowrun supports gamist play because it's mostly about "missions," where the players go nuts with tactics of all sorts and so on.

GURPS supports simulationist play in its breakdown of, for example, how hollow point bullets are different against this and that.

Ron Edwards


It's a bit more global than that.

In Shadowrun play (or in a lot of it), there's a clear sense that the players, through their tactics and knowledge of the rules, win or lose a given scenario. The characters complete or don't complete the mission; they do or don't realize the employer has set them up to be screwed (if he is); they do or don't survive; they do or don't make money.

Note the difference between the players and the characters implied above. The players' skills are what's being "judged" regarding how well they use the game/characters in a metagame-level problem or trap.

In GURPS play (or in a lot of it), there's a clear sense that the players' satisfaction arises out of how well the system models how that setting & characters in it function. Is the detail right? Is the causal event right? Does it "work" such that I can get into the genre-feel as desired?

Note the importance, in this case, of the GM in ensuring consistency and within-game causality so that the players are "secure" in their experience of these things.

"Gun detail" may well factor into the Gamist play of the Shadowrun scenario, if it plays a role in the tactical decisions of the players. (Just think of the old-style D&D player, debating on whether to spend the starting money on the silver arrows or not.) So it's not the gun detail that makes the GURPS play Simulationist, it's the role that the detail is playing in the players' decisions and experience of play.

Similarly, "missions" may well factor in the Simulationist play of the GURPS scenario. (Just imagine classic Call of Cthulhu play, which is all about being in a particular kind of "mission," so much so that bucking the setup means not being able to play.) So it's not the mission that makes the Shadowrun play Gamist, it's the role that the mission is playing in the players' decisions and experience of play.

The examples above are written to illustrate local versions of Gamist and Simulationist play - not to exemplify the modes in all their possible range and diversity.

Let me know if any of this helps.


KAR 120 C

The distinction taht's always bothered me is the distinction between Narrativism and Simulationism where what you're simulating is a specific narrative style.


Quote from: KAR 120 CThe distinction taht's always bothered me is the distinction between Narrativism and Simulationism where what you're simulating is a specific narrative style.

It's a difference in setup and in execution.

Simulationism says:

- Here's a world.

- Here's the assumptions this world runs on.

- Here's some things happening in the world.

- Let's see what happens when we let the PCs loose.

What you're "simulating" in simulationism is what will happen in a certain world with certain assumptions if we let things happen the way we'd expect them to happen, rather than the way which makes a better narrative.

Narrativism says:

- Here's a theme for a story.

- Here's a setting we can explore the theme in.

- Let's, as players, explore the theme.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Minor clarification to Arthur's post: I avoid saying "explore the theme," for two reasons. (1) "Explore" does not carry the dynamic content that Narrativist play relies on - a better word is "create" or "provide." (2) Instead of "the" theme, I'd say, "a" theme, because many people read the "the" to mean "pre-established."

Kar 120 C, welcome to the Forge! We've discussed this issue quite a bit, but few people are good at explaining it to others.

Let's take a Call of Cthulhu scenario as usually played. In this scenario, the players are well aware that some awful Thing is doing something Awful. The point is to enjoy the characters stumbling onto it and encountering their various fates (madness, being shot, barely surviving, etc), as well as to appreciate (a) the Lovecraft material per se and (b) whatever imaginative or historical oomph the scenario provides.

All of the "story elements," which is to say the protagonists' personal issues, decisions, and passions, are subordinate to this pre-planned structure, including the nature of the confrontation at the end. To fail to participate in that structure (specifically, by defining one's character's passions in some incompatible way for it) is to opt out of playing at all. The conflict and resolution of the scenario are not created during play at all; they are Situation in which the role-playing (enjoying being there) occurs.

A typical Feng Shui scenario is very similar. The "goal" is to get into as colorful and mixed-up combat as possible and to enjoy all the nifty things your character can do. The GM and players cooperate, so to speak, to get this to happen. Sure, there are story-elements, as in, (1) the characters are threatened or intrigued, (2) they realize that bad guys are doing something awful (or innocent guys are inadvertently causing trouble) and (3) a big fight ensues.

Again, the actual effort of the role-playing during the session, the imaginative decisions, if you will, uses this structure as a chassis for the purpose of enjoying the big fight. At no point does anyone but the GM concern himself or herself with literally creating (from nothing) these story elements in any emotional way, and the GM did it largely before play begins.

Narrativist play, on the other hand, is concerned largely with providing meat and back-story for the protagonists' passions to generate the conflict right there during play. It's more open-ended in terms of what the story is about, because defining that "about" is part of the role-playing process (rather than the prep process). That open-endedness means that the GM is more facilitative than over-ruling in terms of the overall structure of the story that emerges.

Simulationist play with a heavy emphasis on Situation means that "the story" is produced either pre-play in the GM's prep (which is what you're asking about) or post-play retroactively (a related form of the same idea). Narrativist play produces "the story" through protagonist decisions by players and GM who are committed to that process during play itself.