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Author Topic: Non 3fold-based play analysis  (Read 5182 times)
Ben Lehman
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« on: July 26, 2003, 01:48:51 PM »

Saw this thread, which prompted the whole thing:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7307

This is a short essay outlining a new method for discussing playstyles which is not directly derived from the Threefold model, which I believe to have fatal flaws.  For what it's worth, it seems to essentially be what people are discussing on the Forge, with the tags sanded off.

Play style is determined by two things:

Exploration:  An element of any RPG is exploration, so what is being explored in play?  What explorations are fun, what aren't, and what are you so-so about?  I think of this as a big box.
Common Exploration Goals:
   System
   World
   Character
   Premise
   Moral
   Color
Etc.

Competition:  At what level is there competition between participants.  I think of this as a slider, but there are other dimensions as well.  Are participants grouped into teams (for instance, all against one is a classic scenario, with the one as the GM.)  
   There is also a binary here:  Some games have zero-sum competition (you benefit if other participants are doing poorly) and others have "potlach competition," in which you win competition by assisting others.  I think that many "non-competitive" RPGs are actually potlach competition games -- the participants compete to see who can generate the most fun material.  I don't know if it is entirely possible to have a strictly non-competitive game.
   So the questions about Competition are how much, In-game or Out-of-Game, among which participants, for what, and zero-sum or potlach.

Note that this is different from:

Step on Up:  The degree to which the game calls upon its participants to meet certain challenges, in and out of game.  Sorcerer, for instance, has a huge Premise based Step-on-Up in the form of Kickers.  The questions about Step on Up are Howe Much, and To What?

I think that this is sufficient to cover most what GNS does, but without the broad brush problems.  In addition, I would add:

Credibility Distribution:  Who has the authority to say what about the gameworld, and how to they obtain it?  How much power is concentrated in the controlled characters, and how much is metagame?  This step includes resolution mechanics.

System Weight:  This is NOT how much credibility the system carries (that is covered under credibility distribution) but it is simply a matter of system search and handling time, as well as the mathematics involved.

I think that these are probably all the dimensions necessary to get a good picture of someone's or some group's play style.

Does any agree?  What are the problems with this?

yrs--
--Ben
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Caldis
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2003, 08:48:32 PM »

I really think that by skipping GNS or the GDS of the threefold you are missing a step.  Those three letters tell you a huge amount about what someone thinks rpg's are all about to them.  Someone who has a gamist bent is going to explore character in a far different way than a simulationist, even if all the other factors you listed are the same.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2003, 12:58:48 PM »

I agree with Caldis in general. That is, if there was a player who played to the what we describe as the Sim goal, how would you describe it in terms of these elements that you put forth? I mean if a playstyle is intent on being "accurate" or somesuch, where does that come in?

Also, "system weight" cannot be part of a playstyle. Unless playstyle doesn't mean the same thing as mode does in terms of GNS (how players make decisions). Because the amount of a system in play has nothing to do with the decisions that the player makes for the character in the end. No matter how much system is included, or how little, any decision making style is still possible.

GNS seeks to address a certain problem. Does this model attempt to address the Incoherence problem? Because if not, then it's not a replacement for GNS (and I'd ask what the model is for then). If it does intend to address the problem, then, again, how does it account for things like Sim play, and why does it take system weight into account?

Mike
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Hunter Logan
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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2003, 07:10:46 AM »

I'm not so sure there is a great or pressing need to replace GNS. It is what it is. Obviously, it works for some people and not for others. If it works for you, GNS is fine. If it doesn't work for you, it's worthwhile to refine your own views.

That said, roleplaying has depth. You can find all sorts of relationships to work with, analyze, and contemplate. Some will fit under the GNS umbrella, some won't. This much is certain: The whole of GNS is a rather large, thoroughly contemplated, and extensively debated piece of work.

I think any proposed alternative would have to be explained in some detail and written with its own clear definitions (largely free of GNS/GDS terminology). This is a practical requirement so the work can stand on its own, survive inevitable comparisons, and transmit its message to anyone who reads it. Even doing all that, a person can't realistically expect to propose an alternative and have a large group of people suddenly flock to the newest banner.

Edit: Fixed a typo
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2003, 08:19:55 AM »

Quote
That said, roleplaying has depth. You can find all sorts of relationships to work with, analyze, and contemplate. Some will fit under the GNS umbrella, some won't.


Quite. If this model is not a replacement, then I'm fully willing to look at it in those terms. But what's not included above is what the theory is supposed to be about overall, what it's for, or what problems it addresses. Ben, can you expand upon that? Is it a replacement? If not, what does the theory address?

Mike
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2003, 02:46:58 PM »

First statements:
I do not intend this to serve as a full replacement for GNS.  GNS is useful because it is simple, quick method of sorting and labelling common playstyles.  GNS is also, I believe, flawed because it is a simple, quick method of sorting and labelling common playstyles.

This is intended to be a more complicated, full-on bells and whistles approach to look at play style.  It is motivated by the fact that much of my own play is not adequately described in GNS terminology -- it walks a fine line between Sim and Narr in assorted ways.

In general, as well, Sim is not a functional GNS category -- in that a game can be strictly Sim and still be incoherent as far as player goals and in game decisions (Imagine a game where one person thinks that they are playing Rolemaster, and the other person thinks that they are playing Toon.)  GNS assumes that each type gets along with members of its own type, and not with others.  This is a good approximation, but I am interested in the boundaries -- how different to two players have to be before they can be said to have similar "styles?"

The basic goal of the presented theory is to serve as a complicated theory which can speak to individual play styles and from which GNS can be derived.  The theory could then be used to examine boundary conditions, odd playstyles (humor, say), and differences within GNS categories.  I don't know if this is sufficient, but I think such a theory would be very useful, and as such I would like to let this be a challenge to readers here to think of more complicated gaming theories.

For an example, let me discuss the GNS styles in terms of this theory.  I use the term "Classic" to mean what I see as the most archetypal form of that GNS mode:

(for a definition of "collusion," see the reply to Mike Holmes, below)

"Classic" Gamism:
High exploration of system, Low exploration of premise, setting, or character.
High competition (of either type) of a group of players against a single GM and/or high step-on-up to in game victory.
Strong system based credibility distribution, ususally in non-meta-game methods.
Medium to high collusion.

"Classic" Narrativism
High exploration of Premise, mid-to-high exploration of character, low exploration of setting and system.
Medium to high potlach competition among all participants.
Mid to high Step on Up (to story generation)
Medium system based credibility distribution, often in meta-game methods.
High collusion.

"Classic" Dreamer Simulationism
High exploration of Setting, mid-to-high exploration of character, low exploration of premise, next-to-nil exploration of system.
Low competion.
High step on up (to Avatar stance)
System distributes credibility based on character ability, credibility also distributed by rules and setting lore.
Low-to-nil collusion.

Now something that isn't GNS:

Slapstick Humor Gaming (TFOS style)
High exploration of Color and Humor, low exploration of character next-to-nil exploration of setting, premise, or system.
High potlach competition for humor generation.
Mid-level step-on-up to humor participation.
Most players are high credibility, provided that such it is used for funny purpose.  Otherwise, the GM has most credibility.
High collusion.

Now, some specific replies:

Quote from: Caldis

I really think that by skipping GNS or the GDS of the threefold you are missing a step. Those three letters tell you a huge amount about what someone thinks rpg's are all about to them. Someone who has a gamist bent is going to explore character in a far different way than a simulationist, even if all the other factors you listed are the same.


BL>  You could be saying one of two things here, and I have difficulty picking out which one you mean.

The first is that, because Gamism has a higher competition element and a different step on up element than Simulationism, the exploration of character will be carried out differently.  This is true.

The second is that a Gamist would explore his character by making him as powerful as possible.  This is not exploration of character.  This is exploration of system as it regards PCs.

Which of these are you saying?  Or are you saying something else?  If you are, could you please express it in non-GNS terms (perhaps give an example)?

Quote from: Mike Holmes
"system weight" cannot be part of a playstyle. Unless playstyle doesn't mean the same thing as mode does in terms of GNS (how players make decisions). Because the amount of a system in play has nothing to do with the decisions that the player makes for the character in the end.


BL>  This is likely true.  As such, this largely only applies to the GM, and only in one case -- a GM who has a low-system weight preference may, if running a high system-weight game, ignore rules in pursuit of other goals -- which can cause conflict with the play group.  This is a pretty rare event.

So consider it struck from the theory.

Additionally, I think one more scale needs to be added:  Collusion.  Collusion is the willingness to cooperate on a metagame level to achieve results at the in-game level.  All games have some collusion, but certain games have more than others.


So, to summarize, I'm not attempting to replace GNS, but I'm attempting to gather and summarize the more sophisticated analytical tools that the Forgites have developed.  What emerges, I think, supercedes but does not replace GNS, much in the way that most analytical theories do not replace one another.

yrs--
--Ben

that "or" was supposed to be "and/or"
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2003, 11:26:30 AM »

OK, that's much more clear. I'll have to ponder some on this.

But the preliminary thought is that you're just talking about the Creative Agenda in it's non-GNS parts. Which could be interesting to talk about, certainly; I'm just trying to get a handle.

For example, I'd say that TFOS can be analyzed in GNS terms (Sim with heavy exploration of situation; heck it's a sitcom). But it can also be analyzed in terms of all this other stuff in the manner that you have, which, along with GNS, would together be the Creative Agenda. Is that clearer?

OTOH, I instantly caught on to the collusion idea. At first I wanted to say that it's just "that which is not competitive", but I think that there could be neutral play as well, perhaps. In any case, I'd like to see that explored some more.

Mike Holmes
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2003, 12:44:47 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
But the preliminary thought is that you're just talking about the Creative Agenda in it's non-GNS parts. Which could be interesting to talk about, certainly; I'm just trying to get a handle.


BL>  I think that my point is that the sum of these parts is the GNS part.  Can you give an example of something not covered above that is covered by a GNS tag?

Quote from: Mike Holmes

For example, I'd say that TFOS can be analyzed in GNS terms (Sim with heavy exploration of situation; heck it's a sitcom). But it can also be analyzed in terms of all this other stuff in the manner that you have, which, along with GNS, would together be the Creative Agenda. Is that clearer?


BL>  But, if you look above, you will see that TFOS (at least, as I have experienced actual play of the game within my play group) has little or nothing to do with classic Sim.

Classic sim explores Setting and Character, TFOS explores neither.
Classic sim is low competition, TFOS is mid competition.
Classic sim steps on up to avatar, TFOS does not
Classic sim distributes credibility based on character ability and lore, TFOS distributes credibility based on the participant's comic ability.
Classic sim is low collusion (in fact, given Ron's "right to dream" essay, I would say that low collusion may be the defining feature of classic sim play), whereas TFOS is very high collusion.

In fact, it is much closer to classic Nar because although classic Nar explores Premise and TFOS explores Humor and Color...

Both are mid level potlach competitions
Both step on up in similar ways to similar goals (one to generate of story, the other to generation of humor)
Both are very high collusion.

As far as I can tell, GNS is a manner of classifying participant's decisions during play.  This is also that, but larger and more complicated.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  As a brief response to Hunter Logan, I certainly don't expect this to be a "replacement for GNS" nor do I expect people to "flock to the banner of a new theory."  This is merely a "Let's work on ways of analyzing play decisions that do not directly involve GNS" thread.  Clearly, it is wildly undeveloped and, perhaps, misguided.  But it still might generate interesting conversation, and I think that, given that no theory is perfect, GNS will eventually need replacements, and conversations such as this are therefore useful to have.

(P.P.S.  To give a long overdue answer to Mike, 1870 all the way.  You?)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2003, 08:25:42 AM »

Hi Ben,

I wholly agree with you regarding proposing new explanations and ideas.

However, I think your analysis is pretty flawed.

1. You're mistaking Step On Up for a feature which it happens to share with Story Now - the social pressure to perform. Step On Up is defined, within this context, as concerning guts and strategic acumen. Story Now, also within this context, is defined as addressing a Premise.

So no, Narrativism does not contain Step On Up. You're mixing up a feature for a definition.

2. Humor is not a topic - it is a layer over a topic. If I were to know more about what the humor in your game concerned, and how you folks as a group approached it, then I think GNS analysis would do the job nicely, in terms of classifying your priorities/goals.

I also think that most people are grossly under-prepared to discuss the variety of play, both potential and historical, that falls into the Narrativist category. That means they're also under-prepared to discuss the variety of play which is story-oriented, does involve multiple collusive input, and is not Narrativist.

So with your permission, I'll just say, "See upcoming Narrativist essay," and leave it there unless you want any specific further discussion.

Best,
Ron
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