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Author Topic: Thematic interaction in roleplaying  (Read 1743 times)
Manu
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Posts: 57


« on: October 15, 2001, 05:57:00 PM »

My latest essay is now online at:
http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shuttle/6021/tiir.htm

Come visit !! :smile:
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Manu
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2001, 10:32:00 AM »

Manu,

A couple of questions.

What you seem to have is a shorthand for describing themes. First off, why the necessity for a shorthand here? The themes are easier to understand, and not too much longer when they are written out as in your example. Also, Narrativists will say that these themes will arise as a result of play, and that they should not or can not be preplanned. Therefore, won't their only use for this be in summarizing the themes present in a game that has already occured?

Was there some other use that I missed?

Mike
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Laurel
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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2001, 01:27:00 PM »

Hi Manu!

I've got a couple of comments too.  I liked the idea of modes for presenting themes within RPGs a lot.  But the way you developed the idea, with the short-hand and formulae seemed a little incongruous with a Narrativist approach, as such mechanics would (at least for me) interrupt the flow of the story/game session.  Or maybe I'm misreading your suggestion in using this as part of Narrativist games.

I'm also confused at to your premise.  I could be missing something (I am so new to this), but it seems like your statement in the first sentence is in conflict with the rest of the essay.  If theme and thematic elements were unimportant in an RPG, why would anyone want to spend the time and trouble to conduct thematic mapping and thematic layering?  I'm asking for the purposes of clarification and not sound negative.  

Finally, at what points in a campaign do you suggest the GM or players as a group sit down and preform thematic mapping,  and is the point of thematic mapping to analyze where a campaign has gone, is going, or should it be to attempt to create a pre-establish course for the events yet to come?  

Laurel
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Manu
Member

Posts: 57


« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2001, 02:37:00 PM »

I'll address both your concerns here; first:

Mike,

This is not so much a shorthand than a tool to help players arrange their ideas; for instance, it is perfectly possible to choose a single concept, then semi-randomly assign to it various modes and interactions with other themes. It might even be a recommended method for players who have trouble with their premises or Gms stuck in a rut; GMs who are afraid of losing track of their initial expectations of the campaign will also find it useful- I must admit i might have over-emphasized the narrativist aspect of my system; It doesn't necessarily add more to a Narrativist game than to any other.It might even be more useful when used sparingly in a simulationnist game...

I also want to point out that the examples I gave in no way reflected the full richness of the situations made possible by the "formula"...I chose the terms in modes and interactions to encompass a multitude of different interpretations, and it's those interpretations that will yield the greatest rewards, when one takes time to look at the formula and derive various premises and setting effects; In fact, my examples might be more limitative than i first thought, as they can lead you off way with my reasoning.Also, the modes and interactions can yield surprising combinations and tip you off to uncommon results.

Narrativists are free to discard this tool if they want; it is only meant to be used to enhance their perception of the story unfolding. Even if they use this only to summarize the themes encountered, it still remains a useful storytelling tool ,I think.

Laurel, this system should actually never hamper the actual game flow - players might choose to look it up once in a while, remember that this can be used to build their premise.

I'm sorry if my first sentence seemed confusing; I meant that theme is so important there's no need debating their usefulness to roleplaying.

As for your final question, I'd say that it's all up to you, your play group and your campaign- players use it to build a coherent premise and build upon it; separately the GM can use it to get a general understanding of the game universe through the tinted glass of my system; separately again, all the group can join together regularly, if they're narrativists, and determine their expectations for the campaign; this somehow goes hand in hand with Ron's comments in his latest essay that too often players are disappointed because they don't hold the same expectations.
Creating a pre-built course for the campaign is indicative of a metaplot or heavy scripting, so this is all left to individuals' desires.

I hope I've answered your questions ,and thanks for your feedback!
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Manu
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2001, 07:31:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-16 18:37, Manu wrote:
As for your final question, I'd say that it's all up to you, your play group and your campaign- players use it to build a coherent premise and build upon it; separately the GM can use it to get a general understanding of the game universe through the tinted glass of my system; separately again, all the group can join together regularly, if they're narrativists, and determine their expectations for the campaign; this somehow goes hand in hand with Ron's comments in his latest essay that too often players are disappointed because they don't hold the same expectations.

See, this is the problem. I think that you're using theme to mean what Ron would call Premise. By Ron's theory, the premise is what sets the expectation. Then the themes are the ways in which the Premise is played out. The staple example of a Premise would be "Whether to go good or evil"? A player who went good might embody the theme of 'staunch loyalty to principle" or something. A player going evil might embody the theme of "going over to the dark side".

I suppose that one could say that given a certain premise that a group of players all could decide before hand to approach that Premise with the same theme. But I think that Ron would say that it would be better to just let it hapen naturally. The Premise will make themes occur, you don't need to prescript them in any way.

Now, if you were to change the word Theme to Premise in your system, I think that the Narrativists might think that you had something there. A shifting Premise might be difficult, but might also be interesting if achieved.

As far as non-narrativists go, how important is theme? The theme for the Gamist is always "play well" or something. The theme for a Simulationist is always "verisimilitude" or something. Sure these games can have other themes, but they won't be the priority, and I don't suspect that you'd have players sticking to them very well.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2001, 08:03:00 AM »

Hey,

In Manu's defense, my split of the usual, generalized use of "theme" into Premise and Theme is highly specialized to GNS theory. I was influenced by Egri in doing so, but even he presents Premises as statements (albeit loaded, touchy ones). Splitting it into question (before and during play) and answer (during later play and afterwards) is specific to role-playing as a medium, and it's easy to see why people are not instantly facile with that split at first exposure.

I've been correcting for that in my mind throughout this thread and am pretty sure that Manu has been discussing "Premise" throughout (in the non-Webster's usage in GNS theory).

Best,
Ron
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Manu
Member

Posts: 57


« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2001, 09:14:00 AM »

Hey all,

I tend to think that if used as a question, my system is a construction kit, and usd as an answer, it's an analysis tool.I'm pretty new to the Forge vocabulary, but when I wrote the essay, I had both Premise and Theme in mind - the GM has a totally different approach to premise, for instance, he doesn't necessarily aim for a resolution, in my opinion.About your example: I think that the theme needs to be a subjective statement, not a question, but the theme examples you give could be premises !!

I'm currently writing a companion article about thematic manifestation, that will maybe help you see more clearly where I'm headed. For example , it talks about how the theme can appear through world events around the PCs - I don't see how that would qualify as a Premise.But I'm growing wary of examples, as they can send you on the wrong track.

Mike, I don't really agree on your idea that only Narrativists can fully use this system - I certainly don't think that simulationists have "realism" has their main theme; that is maybe a player theme/premise, but the character can have some really different premises. A Herowars player deeply involved in Character Exploration can have any Premise he wants, even though the player has "fully immerse myself in the Orlanthi barbarian" as his premise ! Themes represent the story arc(s), and story is after all independent of the GNS model.

Ron, I'd love to hear your opinions on my system, and maybe correct me if I got some terms wrong - I'm not new to RPGs, but new to ths Forge world, with its avant garde thinking :smile:

[ This Message was edited by: Manu on 2001-10-17 13:17 ]
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Manu
Manu
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Posts: 57


« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2001, 12:32:00 PM »

Hello,

I've updated my essay, mainly some clarifications that I felt were necessary, after questions here. Thanks for your input.
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Manu
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2001, 01:05:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-10-17 12:03, Ron Edwards wrote:
I've been correcting for that in my mind throughout this thread and am pretty sure that Manu has been discussing "Premise" throughout (in the non-Webster's usage in GNS theory).


I think that I can agree with that assessment. In that case, what he has is a tool for looking at changing Premises in play. Which I think is interesting. What might be even more interesting is a discussion of when the game might most reasonably shift from one Premise to the next. The obvious example is at some sort of climax (like resolution of a Sorcerer Kicker). But are there other ways that make sense? Otherwise, how do you know when to start focusing on which premise?

And, Manu, as I said, taken from this perspective, I get the idea in general, but I'm still looking for the reason for the shorthand.

Quote

This is not so much a shorthand than a tool to help players arrange their ideas;

Then why bother with the weird notations? To formalize things? Why not just jot em down longhand? I learn conputer languages because they do something functional. I learn math symbology because it enables me to perform manipulations that produce results. Your shorthand looks really cool...what does it do? I can't read it without translation, so it doesn't even work as a shorthand, really.

I do agree that Premise is definitely something that should be considered, and formalizing the denotation of the current Premise might work to ensure that I'm paying attention. Hmmm...

Quote

for instance, it is perfectly possible to choose a single concept, then semi-randomly assign to it various modes and interactions with other themes.

This is one of the things that I first thought that it might be useful for. Why not put these things into some randomizer charts and see what happens? So I choose something about loyalty as a premise, and I roll and find that it is Background. So I choose another one, about Hatred, and find that one rising. Cool. I could go with something like that.

Mike
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Manu
Member

Posts: 57


« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2001, 03:05:00 PM »

Quote
This is one of the things that I first thought that it might be useful for. Why not put these things into some randomizer charts and see what happens? So I choose something about loyalty as a premise, and I roll and find that it is Background. So I choose another one, about Hatred, and find that one rising. Cool. I could go with something like that.


That's totally one way to use it, hence the notation that so scares you :smile: it's just like mathematical signs, like + and - , in that sense. Go read the new version of my essay, you'll see the difference when you spot the updated parts.
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Manu
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