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the importance of Sim-like gameplay to the Narrativist

Started by Paul Czege, December 12, 2002, 02:20:18 AM

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Mike Holmes

QuoteIf you've been saying this for a while, I'd like to see some links.
I've been saying it, but I've been quoting you. Basically, I've been of the belief that the problems that you had with TWTFTD, and maybe more importantly, "Chalk Outlines" was proof of your basic point here, waaaaay back when those reports came out. And I've been reporing such since then to all who would listen. I think I felt your concern here intuitively (as a heavy type 2 person), and felt the need for tighterr controls instnctively.

As far as needing to have some structure to effectively limit control of stuff, amen. The "boxes" that I refer above are the concept that I've been promulgating in suggestions to designers in relation to Directorial mechanics. Basically, that you only allow Directorial power within very well defined boxes. An easy example is to allow description of event resolution. That's a small and effective box, from what I've seen. Larger boxes are possible, but they need to be ever more well defined as they get larger, I imagine. As you point out, The Pool has a very large, and fairly poorly defined box for the MOV. Basically, it's "do anything you want until the social contract kicks in, and we stop you". That's not a box, really, as it basically ceases to be a mechanic, and just falls to your other control, the Social Contract. My point is that you can create good mechanical controls for this sort of thing as well if you just work them out, and discover functional limits.

None of this is to say that Social Contract and other stuff such as Setting or Situation can't be used as well. Just that I think there are a lot of ways around the problem, and some are mechanical.

To offer my own annectode, in my PBEM playtest of Synthesis I told my players that I wanted them to have more directorial power than they would normally in order to facilitate play. That is, I wanted them to be able to create environment, etc, such that they would not have to ask me about everything before describing an outcome or scene, whatever. Further, Synthesis has a provision for players to be able to create their own Conflicts, essentially, in that they can choose something that would obviously exist, choose a difficulty for the action, and perform the conflict. For example, if a player wanted to show off his strenght (and get some trait for doing so), and he was standing in a field, the game allows the player to "discover" (create via directorial mechanics) a boulder of whatever size, and attempt to lift it.

The point is that I intended these abilities to enable the player to describe their character, and his immediate surroundings so for various reasons. Well, I didn't do a good enough job of describing my intended limits, and Nathan, at one point directed an NPC to do something totally out of character. He thought that his directorial power extended quite far, and was engineering a whole scene and conflcit using pre-existing NPCs. Which made a shambles of my Type 2 backstory (actually I'm overstating, but you get the idea).

The point is that I should have been more careful. By sloppily apportioning power on a pro tem basis, I caused exactly the problem that you note, Paul. That said, I then made it clear what the limits were to be, and the problem went away for me.

Along with some of Nathan's interest in the game, however; turns out he's very interested in Director Power. As such, he won't be interested in Synthesis's particular limits. But that doesn't mean that we can't satisfy him either. Basically, challenge mechanics (such as you find in games like Baron Munchausen, SOAP, and which we used in Universalis) are a formalization of the Social Contract method of limiting player power in a coherent manner while allowing the largest box possible. There may well be other mechanics that I'm not thinking of, or have not been discovered that limit a player effectively.

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