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Author Topic: Egri & the "Lumpley Principle"  (Read 10277 times)
Paganini
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2003, 06:36:03 AM »

Quote from: Alan

I see a couple underlying assumption, which I think are misunderstandings of Ron's description of Narrativism.

First, as Ron's describes it, all GNS decisions are specifically made in play.


Just one interjection here... IIRC, Ron has said before that he considers the pregame to be actual play under certain conditions, even though most people make a separation between preparation and play (as I've been doing). I would argue that premise-creating decisions that take place during pregame are Narrativist decisions. During play, narrativist decisions look like "how can I address the premise?" Before play, narrativist decisions look like "how can I create a good premise to address?"

(Of course, this is all theory and conjecture on my part. Ron has never said this. It makes sense to me, though, and seems consistent in the conetext of other GNS discussions.)

So, keep this in mind as you continue reading below. The idea that I'm presenting is that a certain kind of narrativist character creation (one that produces thematicaly strong characters who have difficult decisions to make and are strongly opposed) will remove the need for active prioritization of premise during play - that play with such characters will *have* to be premise addressing, assuming that it is consistent with what is established before the game.

Like Vincent said... you make thematicaly strong characters, point them at a premise, and let them go.

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When an event happens in the game, the player has a choice of methods to address it.  Each time he chooses to address a narrativist theme, he's making a narrativist decision.  So one can't have narrativist play without narrativist decisions during play.

The realization that character creation can set up narrativist premise remains important, but such design will actually increase the incidence of narrativist decisions during play not eliminate them.  From the player's point of view they will grow naturally from his character design.

Second, I percieve another assumption: that narrativist decisions always require some decisions counter to what the character would do.  Is this true?  


No, I know that decisions that are consistent with a character concept can be narrativist. It has to do with intent.

Think of it this way:

1 - A player can make a narrativist decision that happens to be in keeping with his character concept, and therefores need no retro-justification.

2 - A player can also make a consistent decision that happens to address a premise and produce dramatic results.

The players motives are different in the two cases, but the result is the same: a causal decision that addresses a premise. The game I'm thinking about would encourage decisions of the second type. This game would not be specificaly narrativist. Decisions in the game might appear to be narrativist, because they address premise. But that would be a side effect of character creation, not a priority of the players.

Please note that I'm thinking about a specific style of play geared for a specific type of player (me!). I'm not saying that this is what narrativism is, or that this is what smulationism is. I'm saying that this is a really cool niche that I think would perfectly suit my gaming desires, and I hope others as well.

I don't particularly want to have to think about premise and story while I play. In this game, all I want to think about is playing my character consistently. But I also want to be wowed by the drama that is produced from such play. Vincent's post opened up a great possibility for how to achieve this specific style of play.

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Or is your insight above that one can design a character so narrativist decisions are also in-line with the character concept?


(Sorry for the single line chopping, I felt like these needed separate replies.)

Almost. You've got the inverse of what I was thinking. "Narrativist decision" implies that the players are actively, consciously seeking to address a premise. What I'm imagining is more like this: during play, participants make decisions that prioritize character consistency, but because of what happened during character creation, those decisions also address a premise!

It's like a booster shot. You inject the game with premise during character creation by setting up characters who are strongly opposed and have difficult decisions to make. During play the participants never need to think "how can I address the premise?" or "what would be best for the story?" Once character creation is over with, all they have to do is ask "what would my character do?"

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*Author Stance*

If I understand correctly, you're saying that Author stance requires some element of going against "what the character would do."  


Not that it *requires* it particularly. Say rather that it *allows* it, with or without retro justification. If a design goal is to promote consistency, then author stance would be something for the mechanics to discourage, rather than encourage. In the play style I'm thinking of, you'd specificaly *not* need author stance.

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Keep in mind that in both Author and Actor stance, the _player_ is actually the brain making the decision.  The funning thing is that both the Actor-stance player and the Author-stance player have to make up details retroactively to explain their decision.  When asked why, the Actor-stance player says "Lhug saved the child because that's what he would do.  See, in my character background, it says he was rescued as a child."  The Author-stance says "Lhug saved the child because it let me explore the theme of innocent and protector.  I guess Lhug was once protected from raiders when he was a kid."  The only difference I see between Actor and Author stance is the motive of the _player_ - ie what reason he gives for his choice.  In both cases, it is only "what the character would do" because the player decided it was.  In both cases, consistency leads to a greater sense of verisimilitude.


Interesting. This is not quite how I view the dichotomy between the two stances. I don't think of it so much as *why* a player makes a decision, but *how* he makes a decision. A train of thought, rather than a reto-justification.

Actor stance involves examining the existing information about a character and making a decision that fits in with it.
Author stance involves examining some meta-game concern (like Premise) and making a decision that will best serve that concern. It really doesn't matter if that decision is consistent with existing character information. If it is, fine. If not, find some justification for it (or don't, in Pawn Stance).

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Perhaps that is what you're looking to avoid: loss of verisimilitude.  Narrativist decisions, while they can be consistent with a character concept, need not be.


Exactly right. That's why causality and consistency are important.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2003, 09:17:56 AM »

Hi Nathan,

Seems to me you're just talking about Narrativist play. Your perception of Narrativist play as requiring (as you call it) conscious attention to Premise is too narrow. I don't care whether it's "conscious" or not for definitional purposes.

Let's say you set up this Premise-heavy character prior to play. Then you play him or her without any internally-verbalized "correction factors" at work; voila, we look at what you do during play, and you and we get all excited about "that guy" doing "that stuff" now that "the crunch has come."

I got a horrible secret for you: that's Narrativist play. It's not a side-kinda Narrativist play, that's the animal itself right there. No one ever said anything about constant, ongoing, "oooh, gotta address the Premise" reminders to oneself (or to anyone else) during play. We're talking about doing so. Which is all you are doing.

People never frigging understand what I mean by "decision." Never mind any assumptions of consciousness, or out-of-character, or "breaking" play so you can "decide" things. Fuck all that. I'm only talking about whether, in play, we get pumped about that Premise regarding that character, especially without verbalizing it at any point.

That's narrative (technically speaking). That's why it's Narrativism.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2003, 01:06:43 PM »

Hi All,

A note in reply to Tom's post about backstory.

Some stories load a lot of backstory.  Dramatic Narrative often doesn't.  For a lot of complex reasons I find the closest model for RPGs is Dramatic Narrative.  For this reason, I think there are lessons to be learned about this.

In the original Aliens script, there's a scene where Burke, having tracked down the fate of Ripley's daughter who was on earth while she was floating through space for 57 years, tells her what happened to her child.  She died of cancer some years earlier.

This, apparently sets up the link with Newt later in the movie.  (And this is what got Weaver, apparently, to sign to the sequel.)

But the scene isn't in the movie.  Why?  In my view because it explains too much.  It removes the mystery and discovery of what will happen between Newt and Ripley.  ("Ah, I see, a new daughter for Ripley.")

Instead, we get Ripley forging a relationship with a young girl.  She starts the movie in isolation refusing to get involved with the plight of the colonists, and then ends up fighting like hell to save the last colonist.  That's all we need.  We don't know jack about her, and don't need to.

The current assumption of backstory I believe (and no, I don't have a doctoral thesis on this, but I'm just riffing off my own reading and instincts), is a beast born of the 20th centuries mythology of childhood pscyhology.  We were once ruled by daemons, then passions, now the first three years of life with our parents.  This too shall pass.

I'm much more interested in what I *do* now, and dramatic narrative is much more interested in what characters are doing right now.  Backstory is where the character is at the start of the story.  You can add more... But you might be well be mucking up your screenplay -- or RPG session.

A novel can handle big gobs of backstory -- because of length and interior character life.  But dramatic narrative is about behavior.  That's who the character is.  And as we sit around a table revealing our characters by what they say and do, we're in the same boat.

This goes back up to "ramping up" to story thread a while back.  The story begins, in some sense, the moment the story begins.  After that we put greater and greater squeeze on the character so we see more and more of the character -- maybe it's backstory, maybe it's not.  But mostly its reaction to the current events and the desperate efforts to succeed at all costs.  The job of the dramatist (and, I suggest, PC players), is to reveal not who the character was, but who the character is now.

Take care,
Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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Paganini
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2003, 03:17:18 PM »

Ron:  

This is drifting a bit from the character creation discussion, which I want to stick with, but, you're right, I didn't understand what you mean by "decision." I got the definite impression from the GNS essay that narrativism requires that players prioritize (implying a action taken by conscious choice) addressing a premise. So, by decision you just mean "what happens during play" rather than "here's what I'm gonna do?" Maybe answering in a separate thread would be good... or is there an old thread where this was already hashed out?

Back to the topic... However the idea fits into the GNS boxes, I still want to make a system that works like this. We've got some definite requirements for output:

Characters created by the system are faced by one or more difficult decisions and balanced oppositions. Characters must be thematicaly strong - they won't walk away from the situation. Either way, they'll see it through to the bitter end.

In order for this to drive the game, I think there needs to be some way to tie these into the resolution mechanic that determines who narrates, and what the limits on the narration are.

I'm also noticing that if players are going to create opposition for their own characters they will need to be able to create NPCs. Opposition might not always take the form of other characters, but I'm betting it would most of the time.

A while back I remember someone proposing that the entire resolution mechanic be based on a giant R-Map; something along those lines might be useful here. Anyone remember who that was, and the name of the thread?
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2003, 09:58:08 PM »

Paganini, I am far from an expert on stance, but it seems to me that your distinction is not the one I would have made
Quote from: when you

Actor stance involves examining the existing information about a character and making a decision that fits in with it.
Author stance involves examining some meta-game concern (like Premise) and making a decision that will best serve that concern. It really doesn't matter if that decision is consistent with existing character information. If it is, fine. If not, find some justification for it (or don't, in Pawn Stance).

I don't see author stance as necessarily involving metagame concerns; it only necessarily involves non-character perpsective.

Today in my forum game one of the players decided to take advantage of the fact that the story on which his current scenario is based is published, and read it. He now knows the solution to the problem; his character doesn't actually know it, but has been in the room where the clues have been made available. The player has decided that the character will go confront the NPC who is responsible for the problem he needs to fix, because the solution lies there.

Now, he could have looked at the papers on the desk, read the last journal entry that was prominently displayed, and understood the problem; then his character, acting entirely on character knowledge, could go confront the man and try to solve the problem. That would be actor stance. Instead, he told me that having read the story he wants to resolve the situation rapidly and go explore other parts of the world, so he's going to have his character confront the guy and resolve the problem as directly as he can. That's author stance: the character is doing exactly the same thing, but in this case because the player knows something the character doesn't know.

It could be as simple as choosing to go left instead of right because the player knows what is in one or the other direction. In that case, it might be that the character would flip a coin, or go right because "we always go right" or because "we went left last time", and so actor stance would take you to a somewhat random outcome where author stance, recognizing that it doesn't matter to the character which way he goes, would have him go in the direction that seems best to the player.

I know someone is going to say that there is no difference between the thoughts of the character and those of the player; I understand what that means, and I think it blurs a significant distinction. As mentioned on the Game Theory forum, I am quite capable of taking psych tests as one of my characters and getting a different result from when I take them as myself. Yes, all the thoughts are coming from me; but in constructing a character, I have created someone whose thoughts and choices may be different from my own, and committed myself to thinking like that person for the duration of play. It is here that actor and author stance start to have greater meaning; but they always mean whether or not out-of-character knowledge is part of the decision process.

--M. J. Young
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bluegargantua
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« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2003, 11:22:22 PM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik

Some stories load a lot of backstory.  Dramatic Narrative often doesn't.  For a lot of complex reasons I find the closest model for RPGs is Dramatic Narrative.  For this reason, I think there are lessons to be learned about this.


I think that the original concepts under discussion won't slot so neatly into dramatic narrative (although there may be very dramatic moments within it).

Quote

In the original Aliens script, there's a scene where Burke, having tracked down the fate of Ripley's daughter who was on earth while she was floating through space for 57 years, tells her what happened to her child.  She died of cancer some years earlier.

This, apparently sets up the link with Newt later in the movie.  (And this is what got Weaver, apparently, to sign to the sequel.)

But the scene isn't in the movie.  Why?  In my view because it explains too much.  It removes the mystery and discovery of what will happen between Newt and Ripley.  ("Ah, I see, a new daughter for Ripley.")

Instead, we get Ripley forging a relationship with a young girl.  She starts the movie in isolation refusing to get involved with the plight of the colonists, and then ends up fighting like hell to save the last colonist.  That's all we need.  We don't know jack about her, and don't need to.


And this is all great.  But I think that the story ideas which Vincent was originally laying out had a longer lead-time.  Yeah, I could be wrong, but my impression was one where characters and their antagonists had very deep ties to one another.

In Aliens, the antagonist(s) are the xenomorphs.  They're a very basic form of antagonist -- they don't have a lot of personal ties to Ripley, they just want to ram their ovipositors down her throat and infect her.  There isn't some deep problem to be resolved between the two of them, it's just a straightforward clash of the species.  In this instance, the xenomorphs are little more than a force of nature -- they're like a metor strike or hurricane or tornado.  So it's great dramatic narrative, but not quite the deep, intertwined relationship that I envision from Vincent's original posts.

Quote

The current assumption of backstory I believe (and no, I don't have a doctoral thesis on this, but I'm just riffing off my own reading and instincts), is a beast born of the 20th centuries mythology of childhood pscyhology.  We were once ruled by daemons, then passions, now the first three years of life with our parents.  This too shall pass.


I think backstory gets used a bit more than that.  The various Dumas novels have a great deal of backstory going into the whole deal.  Heck, Ulysses has backstory from The Illiad which has more than a few mythic backstories behind it.  I suppose this may be seen more as sequals to the mythic stories, but the truth is, all that stuff sets up what happens later.  Icelandic sagas are dense with backstory.  The family feuds build up and up and up over time.

Quote

I'm much more interested in what I *do* now, and dramatic narrative is much more interested in what characters are doing right now.  Backstory is where the character is at the start of the story.  You can add more... But you might be well be mucking up your screenplay -- or RPG session.

A novel can handle big gobs of backstory -- because of length and interior character life.  But dramatic narrative is about behavior.  That's who the character is.  And as we sit around a table revealing our characters by what they say and do, we're in the same boat.


"The past is prelude"

What you do now is a fuction of what you've done (and what's been done to you) in the past.  The longer and more convoluted that past has been, the more powerful and climactic the final battle will be.  And this can happen in RPGs no matter how closely they hew to dramatic narrative.  If there's an opponent who you regularly confront, your current behavior will be strongly influenced by the behavior and decisions you made in the past (and your opponent's behavior/decisions).  If it's the right kind of antagonist, then each encounter will become more dramatic than the last.  Each encounter may play out in a dramatic narrative format, but you are slowly and steadily building a deeper backstory each time you go another round with your foe.

I think that what's under discussion here is a method of character creation whereby a great deal of this backstory gets set up from the outset.  So you go into the situation saying "Yeah, me and the Emperor Skarlak have had a lot of battles over the years, but this time it's for all the marbles!".  Actually, that's probably too simplistic for the whole thing.  Perhaps a better example would be "He thinks those photos can still ruin my political career, but he's not blackmailing another red cent out of me!".

later
Tom
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2003, 05:48:51 AM »

Doggonit. This is a fairly interesting thread but I really have nothing to add to it because I have a different way of thinking on the subject. That is, I believe that whatever you find interesting or cool in the game should, if at all possible, come about during play. This includes things like backstory in my mind. Would I have like Star Wars as much as a child if I knew Vader was Luke's father in A New Hope? Would that reveal have carried that same punch? I think that the backstory can be revealed through play as much as any other element and it can still work. How many movies or books hinged on the backstory being revealed slowly over the course of the story? This just is not for every game, I suppose.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2003, 07:06:04 AM »

Hello,

I'm afraid this thread has exploded in too many directions for it to continue.

1) Back-story relative to Premise

2) Premise-heavy character creation

3) Aliens and the role/nature of the antagonist

4) Narrativist play and the overall meaning of the word "decision"

I'm pretty satisfied that the original topic was well covered. I ask that any of the above discussions or anything else that's been spawned be taken to their own individual threads.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2003, 09:43:07 AM »

Ah, Ron, you beat me to it.

I was going to come on and suggest I gather up my backstory concerns for another thread.  I'll pull something together soon.

Take care,
Christopher
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