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GNS Behavior Mapping (Covering old ground, I'm Sure)

Started by deadpanbob, September 25, 2002, 01:04:52 PM

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In the thread about GNS Intent and Motive we have a discussion going on between essentially 3 camps:

Quote from: M. J. Young
I actually see three sides to this debate.

The side that make the most sense to me is that which maintains that conduct is only relevant as it implies motive or intent. Gamism isn't about what you do, but about why you do it. The same is true for simulationism and narrativism.

The side which opposes this maintains that we can't know motive or intent, we can only know actions. This seems to have the stench of Hume about it--we can't know reality, only perception. To take this seriously, it would seem that there are no gamist motives, only gamist actions; no narrativist intents, only narrativist choices.


The third side is represented solely by Ron. He maintains that motive and intent have nothing to do with this whatsoever, as he understands them. They are a taxonomy, like observing the spot patterns on the wings of butterflies. Gamists are gamists because they act like gamists, not because they have gamist motives, and so for simulationists and narrativists. He never slips into letting motive in through the back door.

Thank you M.J. Young for summarizing this so nicely.

Contracycle sums up the idea that looking only at the behavior of roleplayers is a much better choice for applying the GNS model to a given series of Instances of Play:

Quote from: contracycle

Even if the theory is wrong in some siginificant way, going out and accumulating the data which disproves it would lay the groundwork for whatever model, if any, should succeed it.  We will necessarily have to speculate on the motivations of players in this process; we will have to ask questions, discuss our experiences, explore our own motives and those of our players - but to priviliege those aspects above what is observable would be to use the least reliable available data.  When we see behaviour, we are seeing motive expressed - but it is the behaviour which is accessible.

I started this new thread to discuss what behaviors (in the strict abscense of any motive/intent) map to what GNS modes?

These behaviors could be meta-game player behaviors or in-game player behaviors.

For example, Ron noted that:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
When I see Bob the Player say, "Yeah! You suck!" and eagerly grab the dice for his turn as his fellow player laughs ruefully, gazing at his failed saving throw, then I recognize one of the many kinds of Gamism in action ... or at least I'm alerted to keep an eye on how the group reacts over the course of the whole session to this sort of behavior. Three rounds later, the two players cooperate like fiends to double-team the troll wizard and a good roll saves their bacon - they high-five each other, and Sam the Player says to the GM, "Yeah! You suck!" and they all laugh, delighted. OK, I say, point 2 for Gamism goin' on here, and keep watching.

This behavior, to Ron's mind indicates the possibility that Bob the player is engaging in Gamist behavior - and that he might prefer Gamist behavior if enough observations of this type of behavior can be accumulated over time to equal the perponderance of Bob's behavioral pattern.

The whole reason for me to start this thread is: I can't think of a clear cut example for Narrativist play or Simulationist play that doesn't either a: involve explicitly stated motive on the part of the player or b: isn't really talking about the players preferred

Anybody care to take a stab at describing a behavior, in the complete abscense of either imputed or explicit motivation, that would be considererd Narrativist behavior and one that would be considered Simulationist behavior?


"Oh, it's you...

Mike Holmes

I'm assuming that you're looking for observable behavior in play? A tell-tale, as it were? Otherwise I would just say ask the player. They are the best source of information on what sort of decisions they are making.

Lesse. A player has a character who's stated life's ambition is to kill a baby kobold, but he's conflicted about that idea (it does seem reprehensible, doesn't it?). He uses a directorial mechanic to have him run into such a creature in a town square, and kills it. This is Narrativist behavior. The player is addressing his character's moral quandry (resolving it, in fact). It's not "realistic" as kobolds are never seen in this town's central square, and it's not gamist, because the the player is aware that the GM gives no such reward for accomplishing this sort of task and the particular group does not give accolades for such "accomplishments" as this (he might get a Narrativist reward for acomplshing his goal if such a mechanic exists and he qualifies).

This is, like Ron's example, quite slanted so as to make it obvious what the priority is. In most circumstances, it will be nowhere near this obvious. But it can be.

Sim example: player decides upon finding a baby kobold to kill it. He also has a Narrativist premise that he's addressing in game, but it has to do with his father, and as such the kobold seems to be completely tangetial to that. In fact, the player says in character, "Kobold babies are to be slain by order of the King, and as I am his servant I will do so." Recounting an order from the King previously in play (the player was not employing directory stance to create this particular fact). This is Simulationist. The player is pretty obviously doing "what my character would do".

Note above in both examples how the surrounding game mechanics, setting, and other factors can play into doing a "diagnosis" of an Instant of Play". And as with all such examples taken out of context they are fallacious. That is, one could imagine other contextual clues that I've not revealed that would lead one to believe another conclusion. So in addition to the above examples woud be the caveat, "And nothing else present in play to indicate otherwise."

As always, and as with everything, you can't be 100% sure. There is only evidence, and you'll have to judge for yourself the particular instances as best you can. But again, the real value is not in the particular instances, but in looking at play overall. So the first instance is 80% likely to be Sim by your estimate, and the next is 70% Narrativist, but then the next four are again 80% Sim. from this I'd determine that the game was going in a Sim direction. The next question would be whether or not the group was playing with the system, or against it. etc. From this I can perhaps determine that a more Sim system might be in order.

This is how I do GNS analysis. I think this is likely how everyone does it, but who knows.

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Thanks for the reply.  That's about how'd I'd approach it too.  I suspect then, that the only difference that exists between us (vis a vis the motive question) is a semantic one.

Now, as many people know, semantics are the only things worth arguing over, but I'm tired, cranky and busy.

I appreciate the insight.

I guess I just need more practice observing and analyzing Instances of Play with my new found GNS Model.

BTW - Given that with a new hammer, everything begins to look like a nail, I've begun analyzing my coworkers for their G/N/S modes of play.


"Oh, it's you...

Seth L. Blumberg

Indisputably Simulationist behaviors, taken from my own group's Actual Play experience:

Long arguments about the morality of a particular proposed course of action, conducted with reference to the characters' stated belief systems.

Long arguments about philosophical matters such as the nature of reality in the game world.

Long arguments about anything with no tactical significance, really....

[EDITED to comment on the last paragraph above: What I mean to say is, any argument whose subject matter is not related to achievement of a tactical goal points to Simulationism. I'm not implying that my play group argues about everything.]
the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue

Mike Holmes

Those do sound Sim, Seth.

The problem with most extreme and obvious examples is that they are just that, extreme. They tend to make each of the modes sound like a cariacature of its actual existence in play. Just so long as everybody realizes that most play is not so obvious or extreme as the examples given to illuminate it. Right?

For example, Seth, you make your group sound difficult. What's your play peference?

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Paul Czege

Hey Jason,

I can't think of a clear cut example for Narrativist play or Simulationist play that doesn't either a: involve explicitly stated motive on the part of the player or b: isn't really talking about the players preferred

Anybody care to take a stab at describing a behavior, in the complete abscense of either imputed or explicit motivation, that would be considererd Narrativist behavior...?

One thing I'd like to put on the table is the notion that "instance of play" should be considered to include any and all activities and choices that support actual roleplay. This means decisions made during character creation, and choices made during a game session about when to leave the room to take a piss. All such activities point to a player's GNS preference.

So, for example, I'd say that a player who regularly argues for">round-robin group character creation is giving me cause to consider he might have Narrativist preferences.

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans

Seth L. Blumberg

QuoteFor example, Seth, you make your group sound difficult. What's your play preference?
Forgive me if I've misled you. I love my group. My group rocks the free world. I work hard to encourage them in their habit of arguing about these things, by giving them choices worth arguing about. It makes them happy and it's fun to watch--as long as I remember to insinuate an NPC into the scene so I can get in my two cents' worth. (And these examples are not "extreme and obvious"; they are, as I said, from Actual Play.)

My preference is Narrativist with a side order of Simulationist, but the rest of my group seems to be the other way round. This campaign is primarily Simulationist with a focus on Exploration of Situation and Character, but many, if not most, of my decisions as the GM are motivated by Narrativist concerns. Sometimes it borders on Illusionism. (The game is moderately drifted Mage: the Ascension using a mix of Second and Revised Edition and some house rules, by the way.)

Another Actual Play example of Simulationist behavior: Saying "My character is thinking X, Y and Z." (This points to Sim-Char, specifically.)

Actual Play example of Narrativist behavior: Saying "Damn! I wish X had done Y instead of Z, because then I could do W and it would be really cool." (This is from my own frustrating experience playing in a game run by an ultra-Simulationist GM. I have since dropped out, thanks for asking.)

Taking the GM aside and saying "I don't mind if you kill my character, as long as I go out with a bang" also suggests Narrativist priorities.
the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue

MK Snyder

In terms of metagame discussion, I'd expect the Simulationist oriented player to:

*suggest details; be knowledgeable about history or genre

*question outcomes; insist on factual correctness "A horse wouldn't do that!"

*criticise mechanics for "not being accurate enough" or "being too artificial"

I would expect a Narrativist oriented player to:

*be alert to story pacing, "Why did we spend so much time on the description of this stupid town square but so little time on Glimgold's death scene?" (The town square may have been full of point value items important to the gamist oriented player.)

*be interested in world building (Allston's Builder) for an emotional satisfaction of Saga.

*be sensitive to traditional mythic conventions (Joseph Campbell type stuff)

*enjoy traditional story structures (challenges in three encounters before resolution)

*get annoyed or frustrated with less dedicated fellow players (characters dropping in and out of the game to accomodate their players schedules) creating arbritrariness in the narrative.

Seth L. Blumberg

On the one hand, MK, those were great suggestions, and "ring true" for me.

On the other hand, around here we generally try not to resuscitate threads that have been inactive for a long time (over 30 days in this case). We prefer to start a new thread and post a message linking to the previous thread(s) on the same topic.
the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue