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Narrativism and Premise: a question or two

Started by szilard, November 22, 2002, 06:31:56 PM

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Okay... I'm still new here. I've read the GNS essay(s) and been reading through some posts.

I am still not sure I understand the model. I understand that Narrative games need to have a Premise. My question is, is it necessary for the game to be designed with a single such Premise in mind, or can a game be designed such that there can be multiple possible Premises (perhaps decided upon by the players before the game begins) and still be Narrative? In that case, I assume the game play would be defined as Narrative (since there would be a Premise), but what about the game design?

Another question: is it possible for there to be separate Premises for separate players in a Narrativist game? One concern of mine has been facillitating there being multiple protagonists in a single game - and my thought was that if each such protagonist had his or her own Premise to explore... they could each potentially be the star of their own story in a very real way.

My very own">game design journal.

C. Edwards

Perhaps Mike Holmes' latest post in this thread will be of some help to you.




The key is to remember that GNS applies to decisions made during actual play, not game design.  To say that a system is a Narrativist game means that the rules facilitate making Narrativist decisions during play.  Not that the rules ONLY allow Narrativist decision or some how MANDATE addressing Premise.

So theoretically, a game design could facilitate addressing multiple Premises as chosen by the group.  I think some examples might include The Pool or even Story Engine as these games do not get in the way of Narrativist decision making but do not, themselves, address or present any kind of Premise.

As for having a different Premise for each PC, I personally think of the Premise as what binds the "group" together even if physical location or common goals do not.  I think you have to think of each PC as addressing a specific refinement of a GENERAL Premise.  For example, in the game Sorcerer it is generally assumed that the Premise is: What are you will to do for power?  But each PC is refinement of that.  Why do they want the power in the first place?  What form does the power take?  What kinds of prices does this power come with?  And so on.

Hope that helped.


Ron Edwards


Here's some Forge browsin' for ya:
Problems with term "premise"
Multiple premise?
Is Narrativism rightly restricted to Premise?

The last thread, especially, addresses the concerns you raise, I think. Let me know if I've missed something, though.




Okay. I think I'm getting a better picture here. I think I was thrown off by all the posts in the Indie Game Design forum which seem to presuppose (a) that a game can be Narrativist by design and (b) for a game to be Narrativist by design it needs a built-in premise.

Instead, I take it that games may have a default premise built in to them so as to facillitate Narrativist play, but that is by no means a requirement for Narrativist play... or even a game that facillitates such (since a game can be designed to facillitate such play in multiple ways, possibly even some that have nothing to do with premise directly). Is that closer?

My very own">game design journal.

Mike Holmes

Dead on.

It's my opinion that mechnically reinforcing a specific Narrativist Premise is only one way to promote Narrativist play. But you do have to support players addressing such a premise somehow, or you aren't supporting Narrativist play by definition. There are multitudinous ways to accomplish this, however. See InSpectres for a good example of how to get such play by well designed uber-situation.

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