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Author Topic: Vanilla Narrativism vs. Simulationism  (Read 2157 times)
jburneko
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« on: October 31, 2001, 10:51:00 AM »

Hello All,

Given the discussion down in the Bobby G thread and the Vanillia Narrativism thread there seems to be some confusion over what exactly the differences are between Vanilla Narrativism and Simulationism.  I thought this was worth it's own thread because it's a line I have trouble seeing myself sometimes.

In fact I'm having trouble articulating the line right now.  So I'm merely going to open the thead with just this question:

What exactly is the difference between Vanilla Narrativism and the various brands of Simulaitionism?

Jesse
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joshua neff
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2001, 11:12:00 AM »

Off the top of my head, I want to say "railroading". For a game to be narrativist, the story has to be generated by the players through play. Anything else is not-narrativist.

But then I look at that & think, "It looks like I'm saying all simulationism is railroaded play", which is nonsense. Can simulationism bleed over into narrativism? I can't see why not. Do the lines tend to get fuzzy at the borders? Sure.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2001, 11:25:00 AM »

Jesse,

The problem with your question is that Simulationism is too big a comparative term. I think you should specify down to "Simulation with strong Exploration of Situation," such as might be found in a Call of Cthulhu scenario, or perhaps as might be found in an adventure published as part of an ongoing metaplot.

This mode of Simulationist play, after a session or whatever is concluded, looks very much as if "story was created through play." It is the basis for Illusionist role-playing, or rather, Illusionism refers to the specific techniques that support this mode of play.

I believe I have provided the distinction between this mode and "vanilla Narrativism" in full on a previous thread.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2001, 12:05:00 PM »

A discussion of flaws with the GNS model on RPG.net suggested that the problem with GNS is that the S-box is too big. Maybe that's what's going on here.

A lot of what I've read seems to *indicate* that sim = railroading (although it's clear no one's standing behind that).

Narrativst seems to be defined by two or three things:
1. What people want (a story that's relavent to them as a character) described in Ron's Premise section as reading as Lit-themes.
   a. I would expand this to being relevant to both player and character (possibly in different ways)
2. The ability to make major plot distinctions.
3. Player narration of events (this is dropped for V-N)

Therefore:
A dungeon crawl would have to satisfy 1 (hard) and 2 (easy) to be Narrativist play. I'm not sure how 3. would pertain to a dungeon-crawl scenario.

A Bobby-G type plot would have to satisfy 1 (easy--if the players and characters are into hunting the villain) 2 (where the Ron's Bobby-G defintion fails) 3. This would likely break-up the railroading stipulation of Bobby G.

Sim-play requirements might look like:
1. The story (lit 101 sense) fits a specific genre
2. The events make sense from a given-assumption stand-point (i.e. the story should appear logical to the reader)

Maybe Gamist play would fit here:
1. The players participate in some struggle.
2. There is a sense of accomplishment or triumph built into the scenarios.

So VN is sim-play where the players get some say-so in the plot and get to address themes (lit 101-sense) that they think are interesting.

I think all the rail-roading stuff is a different matter entirely.

-Marco

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2001, 06:56:00 AM »

Marco,

I was doing fine with your post until I hit this:

"So VN is sim-play where the players get some say-so in the plot and get to address themes (lit 101-sense) that they think are interesting."

??

Impossible. The essence of sim-play is that everything after the "where" is absent, if plot and theme are given central and capitalized value (i.e. put a capital-T "The" before each term).

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2001, 07:23:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-01 09:56, Ron Edwards wrote:
Marco,
Impossible. The essence of sim-play is that everything after the "where" is absent, if plot and theme are given central and capitalized value (i.e. put a capital-T "The" before each term).


What Ron is pointing out here is that what you are describing, Marco, is actually players shifting between Simulationist and Narrrativist play. At the moment the player is making his decisions based on plot, he is playing in a Narrativist fashion. At the moment he is deciding what the character will do because "it is what the character would do" he is playing in a Simulationist fashion. Players can shift back and forth here decision to decision, and telling which type it is from the outside can be difficult. Often the decision made will be the same in both styles of play. Not always, however.

This can become really blurry when the game is about Simulating something that seems very literary or movie-like. As in Feng Shui, where the game is about melodramatic HK Action. If you properly simulate these sorts of characters and events, you may end up with a good story of the sort promoted by the game. If you play such a game in a Narrativist fashion you will have more success in this, as by it's definition playing in a Narrativist fashion is simply making decisions based on what would be good for the plot primarily.

Lest somebody think I am favoring Narrativist play here, the problem is, of course, that some players don't like making decisions based on plot. They prefer to make them from the vantage of the character (for a mltitude of reasons, Immersion, realism, etc). So Narrativism may just not be a viable option. And as Mr. Sorensen points out of late, "story" as such can be overrated.

Mike
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Marco
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2001, 07:50:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-01 09:56, Ron Edwards wrote:

Impossible. The essence of sim-play is that everything after the "where" is absent, if plot and theme are given central and capitalized value (i.e. put a capital-T "The" before each term).



Hi Ron,
Note that you're disagreeing and citing definition. This happens a lot here.

By 'sim-play' I meant it in the context I defined (points one and 2 under sim-play). That is: the plot simulates a genre and the storyline makes sense to the reader (you don't have characters doing things wildly out of context from a plot (lit 101) sense to keep story in line).

But on a larger note, what could you object to: in a computer simulation (like EverQuest) players are free to attack Bobby G, aren't constrained by a GM-plot, and get to decide where they go and what they do.

It seems that all the VN hoopla is about doing this with a theme. By 'say-so in the plot' it just means that if they decide to go to Nova Scotia, get interested in the fishmonger, or attack Bobby G. the GM says 'okay' and then runs it. I was NOT implying that for VN or sim-play the players would author their own plots.

What do you object to?
-Marco
[ I know it's the defintion--what do you object to with regards to, say, the ever-quest analogy. ]
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Marco
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2001, 08:00:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-01 10:23, Mike Holmes wrote:
Quote

On 2001-11-01 09:56, Ron Edwards wrote:
Marco,
Impossible. The essence of sim-play is that everything after the "where" is absent, if plot and theme are given central and capitalized value (i.e. put a capital-T "The" before each term).


What Ron is pointing out here is that what you are describing, Marco, is actually players shifting between Simulationist and Narrrativist play. At the moment the player is making his decisions based on plot, he is playing in a Narrativist fashion. At the moment he is deciding what the character will do because "it is what the character would do" he is playing in a Simulationist fashion. Players can shift back and forth here decision to decision, and telling which type it is from the outside can be difficult. Often the decision made will be the same in both styles of play. Not always, however.

This can become really blurry when the game is about Simulating something that seems very literary or movie-like. As in Feng Shui, where the game is about melodramatic HK Action. If you properly simulate these sorts of characters and events, you may end up with a good story of the sort promoted by the game. If you play such a game in a Narrativist fashion you will have more success in this, as by it's definition playing in a Narrativist fashion is simply making decisions based on what would be good for the plot primarily.

Lest somebody think I am favoring Narrativist play here, the problem is, of course, that some players don't like making decisions based on plot. They prefer to make them from the vantage of the character (for a mltitude of reasons, Immersion, realism, etc). So Narrativism may just not be a viable option. And as Mr. Sorensen points out of late, "story" as such can be overrated.

Mike

Hi Mike,

What I was describing is what sim/nar/gam play would look like (my conclusion that VN being play that simulates a genre, has little character-acts-out-of-character-to-save-plot in it, and addresses a theme (lit 101 sense) the player finds interesting).

Sure, people might shift back and forth. I'm sure most people do. I wasn't discussing how you get there or what was going on in the heads of the people doing it.

-Marco
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2001, 10:08:00 AM »

Marco,

What do I object to? Please state my objection that you are referring to. I believe I am entirely unaware of what case you are making, in reference to what, and, in fact, what the hell we are talking about. If I'm not mistaken, there is nothing that I am "objecting to" at all, in a general sense.

My point in raising the issue of Vanilla Narrativism was specifically to clarify some misconceptions that had arisen among Forge members. I have accomplished that goal - which was, indeed, a matter of restating and reinforcing existing definitions.

It is entirely unclear to me whether you are NOT COMPREHENDING the definitions, in which case my restatement of them is NOT disagreeing with you, but clarifying what is being said; or you are DISAGREEING with my definitions, in which case I will be glad to defend them on grounds beyond re-stating them.

Please clarify. Our interaction on this thread seems to have moved from the first to the second, but I am not sure if this is so, and if so, what your specific disagreement is.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2001, 11:13:00 AM »

Hi Ron,

1. I said: observed VN play seems to look like standard sim-play with themes (lit.101) and that you'd observe that the characters got do do things of their own volition that were specific to them. (paraphrase--but the same intent).

[I don't see how illusionism is inherent in sim play ]

2. You said (objected? I thought so): Impossible--that's Narrativist play.

3. I said players getting to pick their plots sounds a lot like Ever-Quest which is, if anything, a simulation. The presence of themes seems to me to be what would distinguish VN from Sim.

Cheers,
-Marco


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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2001, 11:34:00 AM »

Hello,

Whew! Oriented.

Seems to me that the issue rests on WHAT is being picked/determined/etc by players. To say "actions" is no more nor less than what happens in just about all of role-playing. To say "plot" is tricky, as that word gets bandied across at least three meanings. To say Premise is far more sensible, in that in Narrativist play, what the players are doing is ADDRESSING PREMISE as they see fit. It's not a matter of going left or right at the crossroads; it's a matter of deciding whether the king should or should not be deposed.

Thus scenario construction that BEGINS with the idea "The characters shall attempt to keep the king on his throne" is already taking strong steps away from this goal of play. Similarly, to ask, "When Bob has Bartholemew go left instead of right, isn't that creating story?" is missing the idea that stories are about something.

(You are not specifically being tagged as saying these things; I am describing them in order to illustrate the point.)

Narrativism occurs when the players may exercise judgment in addressing the issues of the Premise, through the actions and experiences of the characters. The GM's role is to facilitate the process, which - as I've described earlier - MAY include massive GM input, or may not.

That's why Vanilla Narrativism - which DOES have these features - cannot be confused with Illusionist Simulationism - which does NOT.

I apologize if this seems as if I'm repeating myself. To sum up, it appears as if we AGREE about the themes being the distinguishing feature of Narrativist play, most specifically the players' "right" to develop and finalize those themes.

One other point: illusionism does not have to be present in all Simulationist play (far from it!), but illusionism IS an option or form of Simulationist play.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2001, 11:39:00 AM »

A clarification.

Illusionism is not inherent in Simulationist play. Illusionism is a tool often used by Simulationists like myself to try and create story out of the Simulationist play of the players.

Also, players almost always have some power to affect portions of the plot (given that they at least usually control their own characters actions). The question is how they use it. To use your analogy, in Ever-Quest, if a player uses their power (which as you points out allows them to do anything within the engine's capabilities) to do "what my character would" that's Simulationist play. If the player does something that he feels would make a better story that would be Narrativist play. Remember calling something a Simulationist system or Narrativist system means only that it promotes that sort of play. Not that all play in that game must be S or N (or G).

Getting anywhere?

Mike

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-11-01 14:42 ]
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