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Author Topic: Can a game have all 3 G/N/S Revisited  (Read 9526 times)
Sylus Thane
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« on: November 05, 2002, 03:07:18 PM »

I was tooling around and came upon this thread and kinda noticed that the original question had kinda derailed. So here it is again and my take on it.

Can a game have all 3 G/N/S?

Answer: Yes, most do.

How? Depends on the group of gamers.

First I'll loosely define GNS how I see in it's base form.

Gamist- A style of gaming in which the player works to win the game.

Narrativists- A style of gaming in which the players enjoys being a part of and creating a story.

Simulationists- A style of gaming in which a player looks for a mechanic which simulates real life actions and their consequences.

Now please remember these are my rough definitions of GNS and I'm sure they will differ from someone elses, but they currently serve my purpose.

Now for purposes of whether a game can support all three I would say yes but only in limited ways. the rest is up to the game group itself.

Can a game support Gamist? Yes, but only through having a reliable task resolution system for fair results. The rest is up to the GM to give gamist a set of goals in which to give them a feeling of accomplishment or winning.

Can a Narrativist? Yes, but only if the setting is engaging enough for the Gm do begin weaving a good tale. In this I mean that the setting should provide a good start for an adventure but not be so static as not to be restrictive to GM and Player story ideas.. But for the most part it relies on the GM and then the Players to weave an entertaining tail. Doing things like saying "OK let's get to the point" or " Ok, so I go in and kill everything then sort the stuff" don't help any kind of narration.

Can a game support Simulationist? Yes, but it relies on the mechanic to give fair and consistent results. The rest relies on the GM and Players to use their common sense when resolving issues that fall in line with the rules at hand and the style of play involved.

These are my thoughts as to whether a game can have all three and to me the answer is yes for pretty much every game out now. The majority of GNS would seem to already exist with all games but require GM's and Players to flesh it out. Anyone else have any thoughts?

Sylus
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2002, 03:15:14 PM »

Hi Sylus,

I think my point #4 in the Seven major misconceptions about GNS thread is relevant to your point, especially the paragraph I pulled from my essay.

What I'm saying is that attention to plausibility is not, all by itself, Simulationism; that attention to theme or "meaning" is not, all by itself, Narrativism; and that attention to tactics or strategy is not, all by itself, Gamism. The key is the difference between (a) attention to something and (b) prioritizing something.

The design of Sorcerer, I think, best facilitates Narrativist play. Is plausibility and causality important to play? Yes, especially the relationship of Binding to further actions in play. Is trade-off among advantageous and disadvantageous consequences important to play? Yes, especially in terms of Humanity.

Does Sorcerer therefore have Simulationist and Gamist elements? No. If anyone is having trouble understanding this point, then I strongly suggest re-evaluating your understanding of GNS from the ground up.

And, as a corollary point, nor do I claim that one game = one GNS mode, necessarily. But to understand what I mean by that, the previous point must be understood first.

Best,
Ron

Best,
Ron
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Sylus Thane
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2002, 03:23:41 PM »

Hey Ron,
I guess my main point is that GNS in itself doesn't mainly rely on the game , but upon the players. To have all three you and your group need to work together to make sure all three modes are satisfied, granted not all games satisfy all needs for simulation, but if you all agree ahead of time that it simulates the reality of the world your playing in and not necessarily only the real one, then you will find more satisfaction in the simulation. i agree with the GNS essay in general but I think it could be further enhanced if you put more emphasis on the roles of the group and how they can bring about all three to further satisfy everyones needs within their game.

Sylus
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2002, 03:36:36 PM »

Hi Sylus,

Ah! There you have it. I agree.

In the draft for the re-write of the Theory material, the whole text begins with the Social Contract explained in detail, and I reinforce the idea that all other elements of play are embedded within that throughout the rest of the text.

I suggest checking out my The class issue thread for an example of this principle, in this case using "roles" (meaning real people, socially speaking) from top down (or outer-box to inner-box).

In reference to your first post, though, and to the phrase in your second one about "all three [modes]," I think you might consider what a game session which includes all three modes as priorities (which is how they're defined) might look like - and whether such a session could be called enjoyable unless every single person was focused on the same mode simultaneously.

Best,
Ron
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Sylus Thane
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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2002, 03:59:04 PM »

Quote
In reference to your first post, though, and to the phrase in your second one about "all three [modes]," I think you might consider what a game session which includes all three modes as priorities (which is how they're defined) might look like - and whether such a session could be called enjoyable unless every single person was focused on the same mode simultaneously.



I think the main one that would have to be agreed on would be simulation. As it is the one I would say is argued about the most, as in people saying "Hey that couldn't happen in real life" or "thats not realistic", If that is decided on ahead of time then I would say that the others are easily attained as long as the GM is on the ball giving the Gamist their goals to achieve so they feel they are winning and giving the Narrativist  a good basis to work a story off of. I think if the Gm is on the ball all three modes can be achieved and be fun for the entire group as well. Who knows, some parts may rub off on others that normally be involved like the Gamist getting into the narration.

Sylus
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2002, 05:21:27 PM »

Ron, talking about GNS as applied to play of Sorcerer said:
Quote
Is plausibility and causality important to play? Yes, especially the relationship of Binding to further actions in play. Is trade-off among advantageous and disadvantageous consequences important to play? Yes, especially in terms of Humanity.

Does Sorcerer therefore have Simulationist and Gamist elements? No . If anyone is having trouble understanding this point, then I strongly suggest re-evaluating your understanding of GNS from the ground up.

Something similar was mentioned in some recent Gamism commentary, and maybe elsewhere.  Seems to me this is a worthy topic to thrash on a bit.  

I think I understand what Ron's saying here, as a result of participating in a lot of discussions (or from re-reading the bloody article too many times).  But I can totally understand someone looking at the statements above and going "Huh?  That makes no sense . . .  you do Sim stuff, and/or Game stuff, but it doesn't have Sim and/or Game elements?  What?"

So let's try and hammer it out.  Checking back in the thread, I see Ron has already added a post with the magic word (IMO) - "Priorities."  Let me see if I can leverage that into communicating my understanding of the distinction between (e.g.) "trade-off among advantageous and disadvantageous consequences" and Gamism.  There's an activity like, say, combat with a certain level of competitive reward/satisfying challenge, that could exist in any RPG, at any time.  A group that wants this can always create it as a social reality.  At this point we are NOT talking about Gamism.  We're just noticing a kind of thing that people do while roleplaying.  Note:  In saying  "the group can always create it" I do not mean to imply that System Doesn't Matter - the rules (System) can have quite an impact as to how likely that is to happen, how "good" it is, and etc.  But the bottom line is that in a particular instant no rules system (including a "no rules" system) can stop people from playing up the competitive reward/satisfying challenge thing if that's what they want to do.

But "System" is an aside - the point is, there is the activity, in and of itself.  But that 's hardly a compete description of what's going on - there's also a relationship to the activity, or a . . . style to how it's conducted.  A "feel" if you will, though only if you mean by that the kind of feel that can be observed and remarked upon.  People may be doing it with great reluctance, treating it as something that merely has to be endured.  Or maybe they are really enjoying it, but carefully making sure it doesn't take too much time.  And a whole host of other bits.

And among those bits, there is the issue of (wait for it  . . . ) Prioritization.  Is the play group treating this as something that is the very reason to play the game, something without which the whole exercise would be somewhat pointless?  THAT'S Gamism.  Play where competitive reward/satisfying challenge is what the game as a whole is all about, as determined by watching what folks actually do while playing.  This becomes especially visible in the (not universal, but neither uncommon) situation where that competitive reward/satisfying challenge flys in the face of Premise-illuminating Story creation and/or plausability, causality and etc.  Choosing the competitive reward/satisfying challenge approach in these situations is flat-out Prioritization, and thus flat-out Gamism.

Another way of putting it - Sorcerer does not include (according to Ron's comments here) Simulationist or Gamist elements because every time a competitive reward/satisfying challenge and/or plausibility/causality/etc. issue conflicts with Premise-illuminating Story creation, the Story creation wins.  Satisfying challenge and plausability can and do occur, but only when they don't (or can be made not to) conflict.

I think the experience of most people at the Forge is that you can actually have two of G, N and S in the same game (both in terms of play and design), but it's best when one of those is somehow "in service" to the other.  Real use of all three is a bit dubious at the moment.  Not because the "raw" behaviors aren't there in all play, but because the Prioritization thereof (which, again, is what it takes to get a G, N or S label) gets conflicting and unsustainable.

And re-reading this post - I think we need a vocabulary to talk about "Sim stuff that isn't Prioritized and thus isn't actually Sim, though it's real and important".  Or, gee, the age-old "Nar(story) stuff that isn't Prioritized and thus isn't really Nar(story), but it is something people like."

Beacuse (he said, hopefully getting more directly on topic again) that's what I'm left asking Sylus - do you mean really all three of G, N and S at the same time, in the Prioritization sense developed above?  If so, I'm not sure that really can be done.  But if you just mean the underlying behaviors of G, N and S without the Prioritization bit . . . hell yeah.

Hope that adds something - I really think Ron's put his finger on an important bit that's easy to miss.  And I'm not sure, Sylus, if you're really agreeing with his point or off at a slight tangent to it.

Gordon
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talysman
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2002, 09:59:49 PM »

just to verify my own understanding of GNS, lemme see if I can take a crack at explaining it. I think my post will be a paraphrase of Gordon's, but let's see if anyone agrees...

there are three elements to role-playing games:

[list=1]
[*]Exploration of a game world,
[*]Premise (a story with a theme,)
[*]Competitive or strategic choices (a chance to demonstrate skill.)
[/list:o]

the elements of GNS are modes of making one of the above elements the highest priority for a given moment of play.

[list=1]
[*]Simulationism places Exploration in the highest position;
[*]Narrativism places Premise in the highest position;
[*]Gamism places Competition (Skill) in the highest position.
[/list:o]

you can't have all three GNS modes in one game because there is only one "highest position"; you can only place one thing there. you can occasionally say something like: "this game places Premise in the highest position; of the two remaining role-playing elements, Explorartion is higher than Competition." in cases like that, play is Narrativist with Simulationism as a second priority in service to Narrativism.

if you place one element at the top and a second element in a supporting (secondary) position, there is only one position left: the bottom. this means you can't make Gamism a "third priority" in the above example. we aleady know Competition is ranked at the bottom in the example, so how can you set it at "third priority"?

GNS is not a set of toggle switches. it's about ranking one game element above another. there are no "Gamist game elements" or "Narrativist game elements", just Competition, Premise, and Exploration. so "Sorcerer" has a Premise, a system to Explore, and a chance for Competition; it must have all three, to qualify as a role-playing game. but it does not have "Gamist elements" or "Simulationist elements".

because games don't make decisions, only people who play games do.
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2002, 06:40:38 AM »

Hi John,

Almost there. Your paraphrases are going to be causing the same troubles for readers that I experienced with my "System Does Matter" essay. The main problem in this case, though, is the whole Exploration issue.

ONE
"Explore a game world" is not going to do as a paraphrase for Simulationist play. Here's why.

1) Exploration, as a term in my essay, is an act that is fundamental to any and all role-playing. It means "to imagine."

2) Simulationism, ditto, is a mode of play in which the Exploration (imagination) is given first priority, about any aspect of the role-playing experience - most particularly over "metagame priorities" (those pertaining only to real-people, not fictional-people/things).

3) "To explore a game world" has shot 'way down the chute of all the Simulationist possibilities, ignoring a wide range of options. For instance, "the world" may not be the topic of choice regarding one's imaginative enjoyment, and that's just one of several possible points.

TWO
You begin your breakdown by specifying that you are talking about "elements of role-playing games." This needs some fixing. GNS does not describe elements of role-playing games. It describes three possible first priorities of role-playing as an activity.

This is a big deal, because lately people seem to have begun repeating some insupportable phrases about "every game has elements of all three" and similar, which I have decided needs weeding.

THREE
Your final paragraph, on the other hand, nails it. You're right - the prioritization is the thing. If you take this specification back to the very definition of "mode and goal of play," which GNS is explicitly about, then your point is solid.

Best,
Ron
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talysman
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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2002, 10:47:33 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

You begin your breakdown by specifying that you are talking about "elements of role-playing games." This needs some fixing. GNS does not describe elements of role-playing games. It describes three possible first priorities of role-playing as an activity.

This is a big deal, because lately people seem to have begun repeating some insupportable phrases about "every game has elements of all three" and similar, which I have decided needs weeding.


thanks, Ron. I went back and re-read your GNS essay after posting that, and realized you were stricter about using the term "elements" than I was. I realized there was a potential misunderstanding, because I was still saying "GNS elements" versus "game elements"; after re-reading the essay, I realized you were very careful to say "GNS modes" to avoid exactly that confusion.

I also realized "explore a game world" would be a problem. in my head, I was identifying "game world" as all the possible elements of Exploration rather than in the common sense of Setting only, but I could see that some people would interpret my paraphrase in the common interpretation and not in the way I intended. I guess I thought I was safe here, since we were focusing on the "multiple priorities" issue.

but then, looking back at my post, I see that I said "let me take a crack at explaining it" instead of "let me take a crack at explaining the issue behind multiple GNS modes in one game"... another mistake. but I'm glad you can see what I meant.
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John Laviolette
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Cassidy
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2002, 07:27:39 AM »

Hello Ron,

I'd really appreciate it if you could elaborate a little on something you said previously in this thread.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The design of Sorcerer, I think, best facilitates Narrativist play.


When you use the word "best" it would seem to infer that Sorcerer 'could' facilitate other modes of play ableit to a lesser degree.

Is this so?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Is plausibility and causality important to play? Yes, especially the relationship of Binding to further actions in play.


In theory, could a GM choose to prioritize aspects of plausability and causality within the game? If so, would the GM then be using Sorcerer to facilitate a Simulationist mode of play?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Is trade-off among advantageous and disadvantageous consequences important to play? Yes, especially in terms of Humanity.


Again, in theory, could a GM choose to prioritize certain aspects of the game to engender a sense of competition among the players? If so, would the GM then be using Sorcerer to facilitate a Gamist mode play?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Does Sorcerer therefore have Simulationist and Gamist elements? No.


I would have thought that the answer to the question really depends on what "mode" of play the the GM wishes to emphasize?
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2002, 09:57:24 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The design of Sorcerer, I think, best facilitates Narrativist play.


When you use the word "best" it would seem to infer that Sorcerer 'could' facilitate other modes of play ableit to a lesser degree.

Is this so?
Players in any game can make decisions that are G or N or S at any time. It's just that the system for Sorcerer isn't as rewarding to players who make G or S decisions as it is to players who make N decisions. It is in this way that Sorcerer can be said to "Best support Narrativism" which is stated in shorthand occasionally (and potentially confusingly) by saying it's a "Narrativist" game.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

In theory, could a GM choose to prioritize aspects of plausability and causality within the game? If so, would the GM then be using Sorcerer to facilitate a Simulationist mode of play?
In practice this is mostly what either Narrativist of Simulationist GMs do. Usually it's the system that will inform the player as to what response will be best rewarded. Though the GM can use social cues as well, and other techniques do apply.

I find that there's little difference in GMing these styles with the exception of how the system is applied. For example, in some Narrativist games, the GM should accept Director Stance play, while in some Sim games, this would be something he'd have to nix. But consistent delivery is a primary GM skill no matter what mode he'd like to see from the players.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Again, in theory, could a GM choose to prioritize certain aspects of the game to engender a sense of competition among the players? If so, would the GM then be using Sorcerer to facilitate a Gamist mode play?
Can't think of any aspect of the system that supports Gamism particularly. OTOH, there's always scenario design. A GM can always create a Gamist scenario. But then that has nothing to do with the system, and as such would be a classic example of what we call Drift. That is, any game can be played any way. But playing it in a fashion that is counter to what the game best supports is Drift from it's design.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I would have thought that the answer to the question really depends on what "mode" of play the the GM wishes to emphasize?
Nope. A GM can Drift from the text, but then he's not playing the game as written but something else. Sorcerer's elements do not support G or S much. A GM can change them, or introduce new elements that do, or better yet ignore the Narrativist mechanics, but then he's playing something other than Sorcerer as written. (Note that Drift is not a bad thing at all, it's just extra work for a GM).

Interestingly, Scattershot is being written to facilitate something like Drift. Since it's actually part of the system, however, it's not really Drift, and Fang coined the term Transition to describe a change in mode facilitated by the rules.

IOW, a game can support all three modes, just not all at once and well.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2002, 10:11:55 AM »

Hi there,

Mike's addressed most of the questions well, I think, but I'll reply too.

It all comes down to this: "Yes," to your questions. Play is play, and text is text, and the latter can only influence the former, not define it.

I'd like to modify your phrasing, though, to "participants" rather than "the GM," in all instances. This is because a GM cannot make players "be" G, N, or S any more than a text can. The whole concept of GNS applies equally to GM and players alike, by any definitions or distributions of the two terms.

Also, your use of "could" (or its cousin, "can") isn't really going to be a fruitful way to discuss these things. In playing Sorcerer, for instance, a group "could" go all Simulationist. Saying this doesn't mean anything; any RPG and any mode of play can be inserted into the same sentence. The question regarding game design is what the rules best facilitate, in which "what" refers to any functional combination of GNS modes (including single modes). My only contention is that "any of'em, any way you want" is not a functional combination.

(Side note: regarding Sorcerer and Simulationism, I suggest that many of the rules will turn out to annoy them and will probably get discarded or replaced by alternates (Drift).)

Best,
Ron
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Cassidy
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« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2002, 12:18:18 PM »

"Does Sorcerer therefore have "Simulationist and Gamist elements? No."

Thanks for responding Ron and Mike, I'd like to think I've got the answer right, so please bear with me.

My confusion I think stems from the fact that I misinterpreted the term "Simulationist and Gamist elements" to mean elements that that 'could' be used to facilitate those modes of play.

Ron's intent (and he'll tell me if I'm wrong) was to design a game which in play was best served by the particpants adopting a Narrativist style of play. I think.

The game elements Ron mentioned like 'Binding' and 'Humanity' are there to help further the Narrativist premise of the game.

If the participants in Sorcerer choose to adopt a Simulationist or Gamist mode of play and make use of those same elements then so be it. The game isn't best served by those modes of play although it's feasible that the game would still work albeit in a different way.

Is that about right?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2002, 12:21:16 PM »

Hi Cassidy,

You got it, in all particulars.

Best,
Ron
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Cassidy
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« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2002, 12:25:32 PM »

Now theres a first.

I'd better go lie down, I'm obviously unwell.
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