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Death & GNS

Started by Judd, November 07, 2002, 02:02:09 AM

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okay, one moment, let me get this straight in my head:

In Gamist terms the game is about winning and death would probably mean losing.

In Simulationist terms the game is about making the session as much like what youa re trying to emulate, be that a period in history, a fantasy book or an alternate dimension, so death is a part of making the game real.

In Narratavist terms the game is about telling a story.  Death, therefore, is a dramatic tool.  

Am I right or wrong, then in thinking that the players often have control of when, how and where their deaths happen in N games?

So, in GNS lingo, Dust Devil's mechanic for death uses a Narratavist approach to Simulate the idea that guns killt folk in the old west.


Okay, I am going somewhere with this.  Am I right in saying that in many Narrativist leaning games death doesn't generally happen against Player wishes because there is an emphasized shared authorship between the GM and the Player.

Is there a way to have death in a game, not necessarily exactly how or where the Player wants it but still retain Narratavist qualities?

This is my first foray into GNS posting, so if I've made a terrible muddle of this whole deal, just lemme know.

Tim Denee

You should probably define 'death' as a term. I assume you mean the uncompromising finish to a character's part in the story (at least in any active way).

But it definitely seems to be possible to remove a character from the story "not necessarily exactly how or where the Player wants". Schism, for instance, (as I understand it; I haven't had time to read it yet), has characters die when they reach zero humanity, albeit with player control of the circumstances of the death.

I think any mechanics in a narrativist game (ideally) serve to guide what kind of story is told. If there are hard mechanics detailing death, then death should be an important part of whatever stories the game is supposed to be about. In other words, you can include random or semi-random death in a narrativist game, but it must be an integral part of the premise (Premise? I always get those two mixed up). Otherwise it seems superfluous and tacked on.


There is alot of dramatically engineered death scenes found in Narrativist play, yes.  Unlike gamist play which often centers on the character as one of the ways to measure "success" or sim play which often focuses on prolonged character exploration, in narrativist play addressing the premise is more important than preserving character life and therefor I think there probably are more examples of players actively seeking a particular fate for their character in death.

Ron Edwards


In order to address this topic properly, we need to distinguish two things from one another very cleanly.

1) The fictional character dies a fictional death.

2) The real-life player is prevented from participating further.

The two are often associated in role-playing, but they are not the same thing. I think that any discussion of how this issue relates to GNS is going to have to specify what particular relationship exists between these things, for the instance being discussed.