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GNS and player rewards

Started by JMendes, November 01, 2002, 02:21:08 AM

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Hi, all, :)

Appols if this has been asked and answered (in which case check out this thread replies are appreciated).

Anyway, how does one reward players in the various GNS modes?

(Ex. would be: a gamist mode rewards a player by awarding character advancement; or, a gamist mode rewards a player by tallying problems successfully solved, thus allowing said player to bask under the glory of said tally; or something else entirely...)


João Mendes
Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon Gamer

M. J. Young

It's not so cut-and-dried as that, I think. There's a sense in which the rewards can be almost anything and fit any type of play; it's more a matter of how they're earned than what they are--although yes, there are some rewards that fit some kinds of play better. But maybe I can provide an outrageous example.

Multiverser has no "reward system" at all; there is a sense in which nothing is rewarded and nothing is given as a reward. Yet people play it, and find rewards, because the rewards are inherent to the experience.
    [*]To the Gamist, the ultimate reward is that feeling that you just won, that you beat the odds or overcame the enemy or solved the problem in a significant way. I'm currently playing in a Multiverser game in which I was engaged in a battle of magic (and my character was completely new to magic, making it up as he went along). The attacker fled; the attacker's conjured assassin was driven away. I had beaten the enemy, I had won the conflict. The gamist reward here is phenomenal.
    [*]To the Simulationist, reward is a lot more subtle. It involves feeling like you've entered another reality, in some sense, that you've explored a possibility and discovered something about it. In that same game world, my background in law convinced the local prince to assign me the rather complex task of organizing his judicial system and creating a legislature as a way to bring his medieval princedom toward a modern democratic citystate. I've spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to organize a dozen judges into a tiered judicial system with an emphasis on precedent, and more on devising a bicameral legislature in which one house represents the fading nobility and the other the mostly illiterate peasantry (how do you arrange elections for representatives when the electorate can't read and write?). I'm watching the world evolve, and I'm involved in the center of it. There is a great reward in being part of something like this.
    [*]To the Narrativist--well, there are a lot of ways to say it that will lead someone to object to the terminology, but let me suggest that the reward for narrativists is the creation of something of a morality play; that is, we've created a story which is about an issue. In that same world, the man who appointed me his head justice required that I "swear fealty" to him, and I in essence did so: I told him that I didn't promise not to argue with him, but in the end I would recognize he had the right to decide what the law was. But this man has closed all the churches in the princedom. It was his opinion that the religious people were fighting with each other to the detriment of the community, so he made public religious ceremony illegal. My character is very religious; and since he has taken his position he has discovered that one of the major religious groups which have been "shut down" is essentially agreed with his own faith. He is now in a position in which he has sworn obligations to uphold a law that could easily be used to persecute people who share his religious beliefs, which indeed could be used to accuse his self of treason. The tension here is a wonderful narrativist premise, as the character must wrestle with whether he can serve as the chief jurist in a legal system that oppresses his own faith, or whether he can from his position of limited authority make it possible for that faith (and others?) to continue to be practiced and encouraged in the city despite the strictures placed upon it. The reward here comes from resolving those tensions in one direction or another. Narrativist rewards can in some ways be the most interesting. My character could be the deliverer who puts the crack in the wall that ultimately admits the flood, such that the prince is forced to permit faith again to be expressed and practiced openly. He could instead be the martyr whose death galvinizes the people to stand up for their freedom. There are great story possibilities here, and the realization of those story possibilities is itself the reward.[/list:u]

    Now, there's a lot of talk about how mechanical reward systems can be gamist, narrativist, or simulationist; but what that means ultimately is that the rewards encourage one kind of play--they are given for actions of a particular type, and/or they are in a currency which can be used for actions of a particular type.

      [*]A character earns experience points for beating the odds, whether that's for killing monsters, solving riddles, capturing enemy spies, disarming explosives, or any other in-game challenge. That experience is then spent to make him better at killing monsters, solving riddles, capturing enemy spies, disarming explosives, or some other in-game challenge. This is a palpably gamist reward system, because rewards are given to reinforce the inherent reward of winning, and are a type which help the character win over greater odds in the future.
      [*]A player recognizes that his character has values which could easily be brought into conflict. He moves that character into a place where the conflict will be forced upon the character, where he will have to choose between one value and another, and in doing so is given a credit. He may then use the credit to purchase something to add to play that will help resolve this conflict one way or the other, such as bringing another character into the scene, or placing a previously unmentioned object within reach. This is an arguably narrativist reward system, because it gives rewards for the creation of premise-enhancing situations which are of a type which helps the player advance the core of the story. (This is more difficult, as a very similar reward system could be used in a simulationist exploration of character/situation game; it's just the best I could produce at the moment.)
      [*]A character in a new city takes a job as a stablehand. The player puts effort into describing the life and activities of a stablehand, and his character's feelings about this; he controls the character to be a good stablehand. A tally is kept of the time he spends at this activity, with extra credits for doing it well. When a predetermined score is reached, the owner of the stable approaches the character and offers to promote him to work as a groom. This is arguably a simulationist reward system, as the rewards are given for playing appropriately in the context of the setting and lead to new opportunities to explore other aspects of the setting.
      There are countless ways to do reward systems for each sort of play. I suspect that the way to get at it, though, is to begin with an idea of how the game works without any reward system at all, to determine what sort of play you want to encourage, and then create a reward system which gives the players currency in response to the sort of actions desired which can be spent to make possible more of that sort of actions.

      Does that make sense?

      (And anyone who wants to suggest a better example of a narrativist reward system--or any other--please do so.)

      --M. J. Young


      Quote from: M. J. Young
      Does that make sense?


      For me, the key to rewarding players is essentially knowing what their premise is and making sure that it's fulfilled.

      I can only relate my own experiences but for players with a narrative slant I very often let them assume the role of significant NPCs in the game.

      Mercenary Leader, Religious Zealot, Cowardly Nobleman, you name it, I've had them play it.

      It obviously takes a lot of setting up and discussion one-on-one with the player concerned prior to play which in itself is rewarding for the players concerned.

      For players coming from a simulationist angle, if the setting, characters, conflicts and situations within the game are engaging enough and really grab their interest then playing becomes it's own reward.

      The players like that in my group really don't give a hoot about experience points, story points or whatever in fact I never use experience points as such.

      The odd ad-hoc change in an ability from time to time as a consequence of a characters experiences in the game works well enough. It makes sense to me and more importantly it makes sense to the players. It's never a player initiated thing, it's just something that I mention to the player in passing when I feel the change is warranted. The player  modifies their character sheet and thats all there is to it.

      The problem I have most is satisfying players with a gamist premise.

      Winning and losing in RPGs is something that I've never been able to get my head around. Maybe it's just my own experience but the players in my group who play the the game from a gamist standpoint only seem to come alive when there is something to hit.

      They really appear to have little interest in exploring the setting or involving themselves in situations that don't have an element of combat associated to them.

      The only reward they are interested in is "improvement" of their characters abilities and a desire for more combat in the game.

      Combat for combat's sake bores me. Unless the characters are in a truly threatening situation and they stand a real chance of dying then it appears to be a real waste of time. I can't do that every session.

      Conversely, a session without combat is often seen as boring or unrewarding certain players in my group.

      I do run my games primarily from a simulation/narrative angle and I do introduce combat intensive scenes as a means of presenting the group with a dramatic life or death situation.

      I just feel that I can't satisfy the players in my group who play from an apparently gamist standpoint because I think the type of game they want to play isn't really the type of game I want to run.

      MK Snyder

      I think that given an awareness of what style of play is most satisfying to the player, and having the play tailored to that style by the GM or group or at least respectfully ackowledged as a desire and given a share of the session form and focus (turns), that players are rewarded by play itself.

      Conflict and frustration are lessened as players are not attempting to force/encourage one another into playing to misunderstood and possibly conflicting standards.

      It enhances the process of play. Mechanical/ design changes may not be necessary.

      In other words... if the players are having more fun because what they like to happen is happening, they don't need no steenkin XP's to sweeten it.