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Author Topic: Having too much source material too full of rules  (Read 10552 times)
Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2002, 11:42:18 PM »

Very interesting Walt. I have to think about things a little more before I give an in-depth reply to it all. One quick thing I can answer straight away though:

Quote from: wfreitag
So, is the key here simulation or story? That is, do you want the flexibility of choose-any-descriptor mechanisms because it allows more freedom for player exploration, or you do you want it because it allows more story-context-sensitive decision making? If it's the latter, causal constraints become secondary to metagame concerns and you could end up happily with a coherenly Narrativist system.

Good question. I got this idea while editing my horror rpg which definately a narrativist system in the sense that the GM makes decisions solely on what would further the feeling of horror for the players, which isn't what I usually think of when talking about narrativism. I actually thought of that system as an Exploration of Character for the players. "How does it feel to be scared, how does it feel to be a person experiencing horrifying things?"
The GM's task is to fuel this exploration of character by providing a good horrifying story. As far as the GM is concerned, his/her priority is to provide a good story (sim is thrown out the window). On the other hand the players try to pretend everything is real and is happening in order to explore the characters deep in Actor stance.

The stances are different but functionally supporting each other.

Am I going out on a limb if I suggest that functional illusionism is actually a type of play where the players and GM have different priorities that are mutually reinforcing in the manner described above: the GM uses narrativist priorities while the players play using simulationist priorities.

In that case the sim style rules become a guideline for the GM how to bridge his narrativist decisions to the player's viewpoint. The GM uses the sim mechanics to see what is possible to breaking the illusion for the players?

In that case we should really make rules where the GM and the players use different rules. Incidentally, did not even old D&D have that to begin with?

Are we onto something here?
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2002, 06:57:41 AM »

You're analysis of your horror game belies a misunderstanding of the difference between Sim and Narrativism. I think that the game is definitely Sim. The only "Narrativist" thing about your game is that you encourage the players to do "Stupid stuff" and to "get in trouble". But even that's really Sim driftable easily to "Vanilla Narrativism".

Why is it Sim? Because it attempts to create something like a splatty horror film. It's simulating that. A Narrativist game will have mechanics that encourage addressing some Narrativist premise. Your horror game has none of that. What it's likely to produce is players making decisions for the characters that seem to make sense for the characters but at most use Author stance to ensure that the charcter gets into trouble.

Sim exploration of Situation.

I still get the feeling that you are of the opinion that detail is somehow an important part of Simulationism. It isn't necessarily.

Yes, in Illusionism, there is something specific going on, and no, this is not a new revelation. This comes from another source of confusion. Narrativism is defined by the players creating story through their actions. No amount of GM creation of story is Narrativism. Illusionism does not allow players to create story, and as such is Sim. By the definitions of that term.

Seeing as you want Illusionism (assuming that you actually do), the obvious answer to Walt's question is that you must want these mechanics as we've discussed to allow for more in depth exploration of character, setting, and I think most importantly, color. The claim all along has been that by reducing the mechanical elements to a minimum that you can keep that "wonderous" feel better. This is very much color.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2002, 07:21:45 AM »

Hi there,

I agree with Mike, with the minor proviso that Narrativist play includes both GM and players as story-creators (often in different capacities); the point is that the story is neither retro-fitted after the actual play, nor pre-planned prior to play.

Best,
Ron
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2002, 09:38:27 AM »

Ok, disappointed now (that I didn't add anything new I mean) ;)

However, I'm not 100% sure you understand me Mike, partly because you argue against me saying my game is Narrativist which I never say.

What I said was: "I actually thought of that system as an Exploration of Character for the players."" and "the GM uses narrativist priorities while the players play using simulationist priorities"

There is no question about the players. They are play sim.

However I feel the GM's view here is radically different from the players'.

How can we separate say CoC from my horror RPG? In one we have the same mechanics regulating both players and GM controlled entities whereas in the other the GM is explicitly free from them.

I realize that narrativism isn't the right word since narrativism is "producing theme in play" and "the key to Narrativist Premises is that they are moral or ethical questions that engage the players’ interest" I can't say that's supposed to happen in my horror rpg.

What IS supposed to happen though, is that the GM uses the freedom from mechanics to drive a story where details are shaped around player input. Despite the illusionist techniques in play, there is never an attempt to rob the players of their ability to affect the story. However, their inpact is not necessarily a direct one.

We've been over this before with examples of how the players are empowered to control the story without them knowing it.

From what I experienced playing the proto-versions of "The Evil" (or to put it differently, the horror adventures I ran in the same style using stripped versions of other rpgs) the actual outcome of the story is almost exclusively player driven.

For example, I ran the exact same adventure twice with different groups. Second running I tried to borrow some stuff from the first run, but most of it ended up being completely different, including ending, how the monsters acted, how to defeat them and so on.

This is of course mainly due to the improvised play that The Evil takes as standard. Is maybe this what you mean by drift towards vanilla narrativism?

Because despite the fact that almost nothing is decided from the start, there is a seedling of story (decided by the GM) from the start which then is explored. However this exploration IS creating story and setting as it goes along... this is a little like narrativism. On the other hand, the players are not aware of this and keep making sim decisions.

How do we classify this play?
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2002, 10:06:53 AM »

I'm afraid we're getting a little side tracked here. So I'd like to move a part of Walt's text here. This thread keep going back to ygg stuff (probably my fault), so let's move all discussion there instead. I'll stop posting on this thread and move further replies of mine (if they aren't general) to the above mentioned thread instead.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2002, 10:53:31 AM »

Quote from: Pale Fire
However, I'm not 100% sure you understand me Mike, partly because you argue against me saying my game is Narrativist which I never say.

What I said was: "I actually thought of that system as an Exploration of Character for the players."" and "the GM uses narrativist priorities while the players play using simulationist priorities"

There is no question about the players. They are play sim.
Equivocating again. Fine. The GM makes the story. Therefore, Sim. If the players are not making Narrativist decisions, then the play is Sim. Almost evry Sim GM is trying to create a "Story" that is precisely why it's Sim and not Narrativist. Because the players are not making these things happen.

The only "Narrativist Priority" for a GM is to avoid making all the story himself so that the players can do it.

Quote
However I feel the GM's view here is radically different from the players'.
Yes. So what? The GMs view is always different from the players. In every mode in every game.

Quote
How can we separate say CoC from my horror RPG? In one we have the same mechanics regulating both players and GM controlled entities whereas in the other the GM is explicitly free from them.
That's great. Doesn't mean a thing GNS wise. In neither of these games do players ever have the power to alter the plot. Not Narrativism.

Quote
What IS supposed to happen though, is that the GM uses the freedom from mechanics to drive a story where details are shaped around player input. Despite the illusionist techniques in play, there is never an attempt to rob the players of their ability to affect the story. However, their inpact is not necessarily a direct one.
Impossible Thing Before Breakfast. Either the GM makes the story in a particular instance or the players do. Can't both.

Quote
From what I experienced playing the proto-versions of "The Evil" (or to put it differently, the horror adventures I ran in the same style using stripped versions of other rpgs) the actual outcome of the story is almost exclusively player driven.
Strange. All the text in "Evil" seems to be about how to manipulate the plot so that all the characters end up dead. And such. Sure, perhaps you drift from that in play, but again, at best the system would be "vanilla narrativist" after the drift.

Quote
For example, I ran the exact same adventure twice with different groups. Second running I tried to borrow some stuff from the first run, but most of it ended up being completely different, including ending, how the monsters acted, how to defeat them and so on.
Anecdotal evidence. How many others running your system had the same things happen? What was it about the system that made it work this way? That you didn't have to roll dice? That seems to me to make things more arbitrarily the GMs decision, not less. Meaning more GM control, meaning less player ability to alter things.

Again, your rules do not support this. Long ago we discovered the fact that "no-system" or "system-lite" does not equal Narrativism. No correllatioon at all.

Quote
This is of course mainly due to the improvised play that The Evil takes as standard. Is maybe this what you mean by drift towards vanilla narrativism?
What improvised play? And, to the extent that the GM allows players to make plot decisions on their own, then yes, this is Narrativist drift. The rules do not make any provisions for this.

Quote
Because despite the fact that almost nothing is decided from the start, there is a seedling of story (decided by the GM) from the start which then is explored. However this exploration IS creating story and setting as it goes along... this is a little like narrativism. On the other hand, the players are not aware of this and keep making sim decisions.

How do we classify this play?
Sim, Sim, and more Sim.

As long as the players are not involvedin creating the plot, and addressing a Narrativist premise, it's not Narrativism. No matter how much of a story is created by the GM. The amount of plot created pre-play is not important at all. The only thing that matters is whether or not the players are actually making Narrativist decisions.

OTOH, who cares? Simulationism is a good thing in my book. The question is only how to make mechanics that suport what you want. Do you want players to address some Narrativist Premise through their use of magic? If so whqat is it? Or do you wnat them to explore the color of the world through it. I think you want the latter. But who knows?

Mike
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2002, 11:59:25 AM »

Quote
How do we classify this play?


How indeed? Y'know, that was basically the question I posed in my very first Forge post and it still remains unclear. (Warning: that post, though the question it raises is valid, contains many newbie errors and false assumptions along the way.)

Here's what I've come to believe so far about this style of play:

- It's a functional technique.

- It's not all that uncommon, though it's so little acknowledged in general discussion that many of its practitioners believe it to be their own unique invention.

- It's usually arrived at through drift.

- It places high demands on the abilities of the GM, but how much of this is because of the drift factor and how much is inherent in the technique is not clear, since no system I'm aware of has ever been deliberately designed to be played this way.

- The concept of illusionism is not helpful in characterizing this play. For two reasons.

- 1. Illusionism is usually assumed to involve pre-planned story lines. Since whether or not that assumption is inherent in the definition of illusionism has never been resolved, calling this technique illusionism tends to lead some people to a fallacious conclusion. ("Because this style uses illusion, it's illusionism; because it's illusionism, there must be a pre-planned story hidden somewhere even if you don't want to admit it.")

- 2. Illusionism focuses attention on the element of successful deception, which is a red herring here. This play no more requires deception of players about the technique being used than successful ventriloquism requires the audience to truly believe it's the dummy talking.

- The GMs decision-making priorities are not the same as the players'. Whether the GMs' priorities are in fact Narrativist or not, they are different enough from the player's priorities that the GM can be said either to be playing by an entirely different system, or to have abandoned system and be making free-form decisions. In either case, the GM invokes the ostensible system (the one the players are using) retroactively to encode and communicate decsions already made through those alternative means.

- The GM's decision-making does not prioritize in-game-world causality. In-game-world causality is a secondary or supporting priority, which is usually, like the rules system itself, invoked retroactively to justify decisions already made based on other priorities.

- The GM's decision-making prioritizes abstract qualities of the story outcome. (Stanadard disclaimer: "story outcome" doesn't mean the end of the story, it means the entire story that is the outcome of play.) These abstract qualities may include player-character protagonization; classic dramatic structure of rising action, climax, and denoument (also called Freitag's Triangle, no relation to me); dramatic (as opposed to causal) continuity, e.g. causing foreshadowing to "pay off"; metaphor; mood (including horror, poignancy, wonderment); comedy; tragedy; and (as one possible desired quality among many) theme. Fang's terminology groups many of these ideas together as a part of the general concept of "genre expectations," while I've used the term "authorial artifice" to describe them collectively.

- Arguing about whether or not the GM's priorities are Narrativist or Simulationist, based on the previous two points, is an enormous waste of time.

- What is important is to recognize that the vast majority of rules systems or rules styles normally considered to facilitate Simulationist decision-making are useless to the GM in facilitating effective decision-making within this technique.

- Some other type of rule system may be of more help for facilitating GM decision-making within this technique. Such rule systems may or may not resemble straight Narrativist systems. Since as I said before, no system has ever been designed on purpose for this technique, it's hard to say. On the face of it, in general, mechanics usually associated with straight Narrativism appear to be much closer to being suitable.

- Walt
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2002, 12:08:21 PM »

Hello,

Actually, I think Illusionism is a useful term here. I also think people have become awfully narrow in their understanding of the term, mainly through usage and assumptions, and despite at least one very explicit post I made about it on one of the "illusionism bitch session" threads.

1) In Illusionist play, story may either be retroactively pieced together by the GM from the events in a recently-played session or be front-loaded by the GM. The former is the original meaning proposed by Paul Elliott; the latter was added by me. I asked Paul whether he wanted to split the term into two, but received no answer (this was in the forums, though; maybe he never saw it; also, if I'm not mistaken, he has expressed a lack of interest in such topics in general).

2) In either case, an element of deception may be involved, in the sense that the players are under the impression that they are "creating" story, but it does not have to be. If everyone is fully complicit with the process in #1, then it's "participationism" as Mike called it; if few of the players even care (for instance being involved in hard-core Character or Setting Sim), then it's irrelevant.

In this sense, what Christoffer has proposed from the beginning is a game in which the actual rules begin where (as Walt rightly points out) quite a lot of play Drifts to. I think his design spec of prompting Color as a first priority is an excellent way to achieve this goal.

I agree with Walt's points regarding the sorts of systems etc that are most relevant to Christoffer's goals - very well stated.

Best,
Ron
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2002, 12:40:21 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
In Illusionist play, story may either be retroactively pieced together by the GM from the events in a recently-played session or be front-loaded by the GM.


That's fine, but neither of these cases describes or applies to the technique I was talking about way-back-when or what I believe Christoffer is talking about now. Thus we have techniques in which illusion is used, but do not fall under the definition of illusionism. Which is fine, as long as people are aware of that.

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2002, 01:31:50 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
That's fine, but neither of these cases describes or applies to the technique I was talking about way-back-when or what I believe Christoffer is talking about now.


Right. I agree. But this is a phrasological problem if you will. I think (not at all sure) that by the whole "retroactive" example, that Ron means the sort of play where the GM is tweaking in play to make the results into a Story. His claim has always been that this will only be seen as a story looking back on it. Or something. Frankly I've never understood it either.

Butr I would agree with you that Story can be created in play by the GM. Spontaneously. Very much as you describe it above. And I call this Illusionism. My definition is that the GM uses Illusion to give the players the "feeling" that they are creating story simply by playing out the actions of their characters, while in reality the course of events is being determined by the GM. This can mean pre-loaded, but does not have to.

Note the similarity in this definition to the idea of IntCon (Intuitive Continuity) as presented by GMS in Underworld. The difference, if there is one is that IntCon is very extemporaneous, and that the GM tries never to influence player decisions if he can avoid it, simply trying to manipulate other elements such as setting, etc, in such a way as story is created despite the fact that the players are not helping create it, particularly.

Example of Illusionism: Character decides to insult a merchant. The Illusionist GM wants the character to get information from the merchant, so he retroactively reassigns the merchant's attitude from gruff, to easily intimidated, an provides information.

Example of IntCon: Character decides to insult a merchant. The IntCon GM goes along with it, and has the gruff merchant start a fight with the player, or whatever seems "normal". Then he figures out soe way to turn that fight into a story by adding some interesting facts to the merchant's background, and makng them relevant to the character's story.

Illusionism would seem the more reliable method, but InCon can lead to greater creativity. IntCon would seem to be difficult, however, and might result in something a bit more disjointed than can be termed a story (and might look more like a series of interesting events).

Personally, I think of IntCon as a good way to play to get to a point where the layer starts responding in a Narrativist fashion more than anything.

Mike
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #25 on: October 16, 2002, 02:24:20 PM »

This might be best as a seperate thread, but I'm not sure there's enough to it to be worth that.   So I'll just trust the moderators and post here.  I did a fair amount of thinking about these GM-story/player-story/illusion/retroactive issues at one point (when I was first on the Forge, and I think I tried to start a thread on "Player Illusionism" that didn't generate much interest).  Anyway, this discussion gets me to thinkin' again . . .   Let's see - here's the "definition" from Ron that Walt quotes:
Quote from: Ron Edwards
In Illusionist play, story may either be retroactively pieced together by the GM from the events in a recently-played session or be front-loaded by the GM.

Walt goes on to add that this does not describe the technique/style that he and (by his perception) Christopher are referring to.  The question that comes to me is - why not?  What is it that seperates that style from Illusionist Sim, but doesn't (or does it?) quite become Nar?

I'm not sure if this fits with Walt and/or Christopher's style, but here's my thought - the retroactive and/or front-loading of story (real, Premise-adressing Nar story) is NOT restricted just to the GM, it very much includes the players.  Powerfully, though I suppose there are standard GM/Player balance of power variations.  However - it's NOT Story Now.  It's (as described) retroactive and/or front loaded.  It's not quite Mike's Participationism, because the player's aren't just complicit with giving story power to the GM, they have real story power of their own - but not Now (in play).  This is not the Impossible Thing, because while the players do have real story power, the GM is the only one with story power in play.

Problems can certainly happen (often do, in my experience - I think one configuration of my group very much plays this way).  IMO, based on Forge experience and some "real" Nar play, these problems arise at least in part because without Story Now power, the players' retroactive/front-loaded story-desires/plans are easily derailed (deprotagonized, and etc.) by the GM, who does (as an inescapeble practicality) have Story Now power.  The Impossible Thing can rear its' head it that way- the GM CAN very easily (even unintentionally) turn this into plain-old Illusionist and/or Participationist Sim.  But he doesn't have to.

If the GM takes too much advantage of this "favored" position regarding story, players that aren't interested in Illusionism and are unwilling to be Participationist will walk.  This very much happened with one GM in my current play circle - he just wasn't willing/able to share this power as much as another GM managed.  The players have basically chosen the other guy because of this - a phenomena that, until this post, I didn't fully understand, as he's actually very/more talented in many GMing areas.

But in my experience it can work.  In Nar terms it's imperfect, even under this other GM - who sometimes does slip into more pure Nar, with Story Now power given to the players.  It seems especially likely to be succesful when there are clear Setting/Color cues that everyone is working with.  When folks were willing to do standard anime/mech/military-style play, my GM-story-power-centered guy was able to run succesful games that did not feel like pure Sim.  Which may be why Christopher sees such promise for this technique in a horror game.  Seems to me like that might be workable, even if this hypothetical grey area between Illusionist/Participationist Sim and Narrativism is in it's own way illusory.

Hoping that made sense and added something,

Gordon
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #26 on: October 17, 2002, 12:47:34 AM »

The thread kinda wandered of on it's own, but I'm cool with that. Maybe it will tie in with the original questions in the end.

I'm 100% agreeing with Walt's description here and Ron is also right that I want a game where this play isn't due to drift but the facilitated mode of play.

The question is, what facilitates it?

To restate what people already has written, but looking at it from a little different perspective.

First "Who is responsible for the story?"

We can look at the story as actually being created in segments.

Initially the GM has a "set up" which is a very short piece of story.

As the players enter this story, their ideas of future development of the story covertly helps the GM shape the next story segment. (It's actually a continuous thing, but it is a little clearer if we pretend it is discrete). This influence both happens with their in character actions and suggestion as well as ooc stuff.

At the same time the decisions they do, in-character, within the particular segment limits what type of story segments can follow the one currently being played.

However, the GM can use illusionist techniques to nullify this latter effect and effectively choose what the next story segment should look like. Both methods are commonly mixed.

In addition we have dice which may effect the outcome of the in-game events. Again these effects can be cancelled by the GM through illusionism.

Finally the GM can use the dice as a tool to flesh out the next story segment (a really sucky example of using dice as tool in this manner would be D&D wandering monsters). It's entirely up to the GM to decide how much it's used.

So let us sum it up. We have:

* GM as creator of the original story segment

* Players as indirect co-creators of the upcoming story segments (with GM moderating their ideas) through ic and ooc ideas and actions.

* GM as main creator of the upcoming story segment

* Dice as a co-creator of upcoming story segment in its role as a GM story decision tool.

* Players as co-creators establishing the current story segment through the language of the mechanics.

* GM as co-creator establishing the current story segment through NPC and setting interaction with player characters mediated by the mechanics.

* GM as a moderator of the current story segment through illusionist techniques.

* The dice as co-creator of the current story segment through it's use in the mechanic for determining results of actions. It is regulated by the number of occasions mechanics requiring fortune is invoked.

* "Outcome" of the current story segment as a way to determine possible upcoming story segments

* GM as a moderator of the story segment selection through the use of illusionist techniques.


A few other observations:

The players are usually playing in character, under the illusion that all story decisions are made by the GM during pre-play story creation(that is, they operate under the assumption that the original story segment by the GM made is actually the the whole story).

Things making it hard for the GM tend to be games strongly resisting illusionist techniques. If there are no players helping the GM drive the story, or in other words they are "resisting it" waiting for the GM to create it, rather than taking actions themselves, the game is very hard to run.

Active players, really helps this type of play. Players willing to "explore" the situation will probably run into exactly the kind of situation they want to explore. If there is no such thing forthcoming from the players, the GM has to drag the adventure him/herself. It's very hard.

There is probably more to add but I should really get back to studying. What's interesting here is "how do we facilitate it?" The players are actually creating the story with the GM as a moderator and a fellow co-creator, but they are unaware that they have those privileges (and I think this is actually desireable, you'd get another type of play if they overtly drive the narrative). It all comes back to the GM who has a challenging work keeping everything up.

Interestingly I find this harder to run in say fantasy than horror, maybe that holds some clues. Maybe because it's easier to discard in-game-world causality. Here we incidentally have some ties to the "loose and wonderous" rules I'd like for Ygg. Ideally something like this would justify the retcon-ing (I assume you are familiar with that term) of dramatic effects as created by the GM.

The sooner you have to MOTIVATE your story as a GM, the harder it becomes to keep the play rolling. The more constrictons (system, continuity, established setting) you labour under, the harder it is to maintain the flow of the game.

Making sure that ad-hoc story elements can be later justified might possibly help. Defining that the GM and the player positions are unequal, even in terms of system might also assist somewhat but it's not guaranteed.
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #27 on: October 17, 2002, 12:04:55 PM »

Heh. Christoffer, I'm sure you've been here long enough to know that prevailing Forge theory and terminology will take issue with your use of the words "creator" and "story" in your summary.

I've used the phrase "story outcome" to refer to the entire story that is the outcome of play, regardless of literary merit. This deliberately sets the bar as low as it can go. Absolutely every game and every instance of play within a game has a story outcome. Even if it's a game of tiddlywinks. In fact, the word "story" in the phrase is redundant. I might as well call it "outcome." (With the usual caution that "outcome" means the entire sequence of events resulting from play, not just the end state.)

The standard Forge usage of "story" is to refer to a story of literary merit. This doesn't map directly to outcome in any way. Even in focused Narrativist play in which creation of story is prioritized by all participants, it would be an error to equate the outcome with the story. In the vast majority of cases, the literary story is composed of a subset of the events making up the outcome. (There's a similar popular usage. For example sportscasters often say things like, "The score going into the fourth quarter is whatever to whatever, but so far the real story here is the amazing performance of Darrell Neverherdavum, coming off the bench, shaking off that bone-rattling hit in the second quarter, and coming back to make three touchdown passes in a six-minute period to get the Jackalopes back into the game.")

If you're talking about the dice being "co-creators" then what you're talking about being created is clearly outcome, not story in the Forge sense. The problem with focusing on outcome alone is clear in your summary: everything and everybody influences the outcome all the time, and that's equally true in any style of play. Saying that the players or the dice, for example, influence the outcome says nothing useful in distinguishing one style of play from another or illuminating where problems may occur or how play might be improved. If I were to claim that the GM or the players "prioritize the outcome" in their decision-making, it would just underscore how tautological the concept is.

What I believe is useful is thinking in terms of specific desired qualities of the outcome. Once we're talking about a recognizable quality, we can ask whether or not the outcome of a particular instance of play has it and if so, where did it come from. For example, if we want the outcome to resemble a conventional narrative, then we might wish it to have, among other qualities, the quality I referred to before as "dramatic continuity." Looking at my own (inCon, quasi-Illusionist, sometimes vanilla Narrativist) playing style, I can say yes, there was dramatic continuity there, and I can ask, where did it come from?

- From the GM? Definitely yes. In this style, maintaining dramatic continuity is one of my top priorities and one of my most demanding tasks as a GM.

- From the dice? Definitely no. Randomness is antithetical to dramatic continuity. (That doesn't mean that random mechanisms never contribute to the "outcome qualities" I'm talking about. Suspense and humor, for instance, can be facilitated with appropriate use of random mechanisms.)

- From the players? Definitely maybe. If the players are prioritizing exploration, then they are not prioritizing or even contributing to dramatic continuity.

But drift can and does occur. Players can make choices based on outcome expectations. If the basis of player choices becomes "doing what the GM expects in this circumstance," then it's drift in the direction of participationism. But the basis of player choices can also drift toward "doing the kinds of thing that the GM, while not specifically expecting, will be able to use to build the story" and that way leads toward vanilla Narrativism.

What's lacking is game mechanisms that help the GM create desired qualities of the outcome without railroading. There's no shortage of advice for GMs on what desired qualities of the outcome to strive for, but the GM is left entirely to his own devices to make it happen -- and all too often, handed a set of tools (e.g. random encounter charts) that hinder rather than promote its happening. Christoffer's horror game doesn't provide inappropriate tools but doesn't provide much help either. It presents a series of prescriptions for the desired outcome qualities for each stage of play. Which is better than saying, "here's a character stat and task resolution system, now go do a horror game" but essentially the same problem exists on a smaller scale within each of the prescribed stages. I'm sure I could run this with good results. I'm sure most people reading this could run it with good results. But I have an unpleasant suspicton that putting that game into the hands of the "average" GM would have results similar to handing a running chainsaw to a chimpanzee.

There's no proof that system can actually help with such things. But even the most simple steps in that direction have never been tried. Imagine, for example, an encounter chart whose entries include how the character encountered actually behaves. Further imagine organizing that chart based on the intended purpose of the encounter. "Increase suspense." "Complicate an objective." "Test player-character loyalties." "Raise the stakes of a current conflict." "Enhance an eerie mood." "Comic relief." "Cause or reveal a dramatic setback." And so forth. (Not a great list there, but it was thirty seconds' thought. Thirty minutes or thirty hours would certainly produce a more complete and workable set.)

I might be able to connect this back to the original thread topic concerning using open-ended subsystems within an overall conventional Sim system with Simulationist play. Open-ended skill or magic rules require either GM controlling oversight in which the GM must referee each effect, or player-owned protagonism that motivates players to enforce their own limits in order to make their characters and the outcome more interesting. For most of the Sim audience, the GM-referee option is the reality.

Then it becomes a question of what the GM's decision-making basis is. I mentioned before that there were two possibilities in any given instance for the GM's decision: in-game-world plausibility, or desired qualities of the outcome.

To belatedly answer Christoffer's question (in the More Story Please thread in Theory) of what I mean by that, the "fitness" mechanism I described before would be a way to do it based on in-game-world plausibility. The alternative outcome-based priority is just a way of saying that if the intended play style is that the GM should decide based on what the GM thinks should happen to have a desired effect on the outcome, then the system might as well explicitly grant the GM license to do so.

There are two issues involved in doing that. The lesser one is how the process is expected to appear to the players. Are the GM's outcome-based decisions made obvious or disguised as in-game-world factors? This is a matter of social contract and technique. I think, for example, that the "fitness" mechanism would be great for enacting illusionist GM decisions. Especially if the opposing forces were using the point-pool system (a total number of effectiveness points to be expended over the entire episode or encounter to act against the player-characters) rather than specific ability levels. These two mechanisms in combination would allow the GM to shift the odds severely in the direction of the desired outcome without it being too obvious.

The more important issue is can the system aid a GM in making such decisions well? This gets back to the idea of outcome-effect decision-making system tools I was talking about before, like the hypothetical encounter list organized by the intended effect of the encounter. Perhaps within such encounters, GMs are explicitly asked to make decisions based on promoting the encounter's stated effect (so it comes down to essentially a minor trick for keeping the GM focused on the main present priority). To get any more sophisticated than that, we'd be talking about, essentially, mechanical procedures for aiding in creation of desired outcome qualities. A tall order, but perhaps not impossible if expectations are not too high.

- Walt
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #28 on: October 17, 2002, 01:12:19 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
The more important issue is can the system aid a GM in making such decisions well? This gets back to the idea of outcome-effect decision-making system tools I was talking about before, like the hypothetical encounter list organized by the intended effect of the encounter. Perhaps within such encounters, GMs are explicitly asked to make decisions based on promoting the encounter's stated effect (so it comes down to essentially a minor trick for keeping the GM focused on the main present priority). To get any more sophisticated than that, we'd be talking about, essentially, mechanical procedures for aiding in creation of desired outcome qualities. A tall order, but perhaps not impossible if expectations are not too high.

This reminds me of one of the key insights I've gotten from discussing this stuff - a lot of what actually *matters* with RPGs (in terms of good/enjoyable play) is NOT directly addressed by most of the systems out there.  I'll ignore for the moment the "we like it that way" argument, though I can see where too much direct exposure of some of these issues might actually hurt the very experience it tries to help.  But - "mechanical procedures for AIDING [my emphasis] in creation of desired outcome qualities" is very exciting to me.  And I think that we need to start by making at least some of what really matters directly accessible to the participants during play - and frequently, what really matters is not (or not just) the attributes and skills of the character.

Thanks for the discussion, folks - it reawakened a few brain cells,

Gordon
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Bankuei
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« Reply #29 on: October 17, 2002, 03:27:47 PM »

I think that's a great distinction you bring up Walt.  I understood that certain systems seemed to produce more of what I wanted, and others not, but never made the distinction between outcome and story.  

I'd say a significant portion of dissatisfied gaming comes about because people aren't making a distinction between the outcome and their desired outcome(or even being aware of what they would desire in that outcome).
I think one of the first steps towards that has been the idea of writing up how actual play should work(outcome) before designing system.

A prime example is bad D&D.  D&D is supposed to be about adventure, action, and fantasy.  Bad D&D is about checking for traps every 10 ft and getting stuck at a riddle puzzle no one can figure out.  While D&D can drift towards that high adventure, or to meticulous searching, few folks discern what aspects of play, what rules, and what goes into producing one outcome or another.  Instead it's simply reduced to "Good GM/Bad GM".

I'm also excited about this concept, I look forward to seeing to where it leads.

Chris
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