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Author Topic: Narrativism and Bobby G  (Read 13942 times)
Marco
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« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2001, 07:28:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-30 09:11, pblock wrote:

This sounds a lot like narrativist play, or a narrativist technique.  Strange because i've always thought the old "set up the situation and then see what happens" deal was a simulationist technique.  I guess it ain't necessarily so.  In either case, it sounds like King would be a blast to play with if you could get past the whole celebrity thing.


It seems like its a very fine line to me too. I think it depends on who's running the world when you "see what happens" (the players or the GM). Ron?

-Marco
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Marco
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« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2001, 07:29:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-30 09:11, pblock wrote:

This sounds a lot like narrativist play, or a narrativist technique.  Strange because i've always thought the old "set up the situation and then see what happens" deal was a simulationist technique.  I guess it ain't necessarily so.  In either case, it sounds like King would be a blast to play with if you could get past the whole celebrity thing.


It seems like its a very fine line to me too. I think it depends on who's running the world when you "see what happens" (the players or the GM). Ron?

-Marco
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2001, 07:54:00 AM »

Marco,

My answer is mainly contained in my reply to Jack a couple of posts ago (bottom of the first page).

I disagree that the issue rests with who controls outcomes, although that is definitely involved. It rests mainly with the source of conflicts, or more specifically, with how Situation is transformed into Premise through the agency of the characters' actions.

I believe that the thread is wandering from its topic: the Bobby G scenario. Others' experiences and judgments regarding this topic are most welcome.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2001, 07:59:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-10-30 09:28, Ron Edwards wrote:

My most serious objection to a Bobby G scenario is that no story of ANY kind is permitted to be created. There is no "emotional journey," as one may insert any PCs into the situation and nothing changes except for coloring-in. Their decisions aside from those that conform to the Bobby G expectations are literally irrelevant; anything they care about besides the villain's Big Plan is so much piffle. The only content of interest becomes the MacGuffins and the details of the villain's Big Plan - although the impacts or relevance of these things to the main characters is always the same, dissipating that interest.

I stand by my original claim. Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to creating stories through role-playing.


I get this: you're saying the story was created by the GM *before* the session. So it's the 'through role-playing' that you're on about--not that 'a story isn't created' (it is created, just not 'through roleplaying') yes?

Ok, with that clarifier, I can agree--but I have some comments:
1. You *defined* a Bobby G. Scenario as one where nothing *at all* (or at very best nothing remotely significant) works beyond the GM's tightly plotted scenario. So yes, that stands to reason.

I the wild, though, if you have a good GM given Bobby G. source material, it doesn't have to work out that way. I submit that you could run a Bobby G. plot that players would find immensely interesting. All it would take is a different set of assumptions.

2. Your stance that player dialog and in-character actions don't "create story" seems a bit like saying dialog doesn't matter in a story like, say, Pulp Fiction. What the character's say doesn't change the plot--but it makes the movie.

3. Ebert says of movies that it isn't what the movie is about, but how it's about it. I think that's brilliant. Bobby G. as source material is netutral. You're down on frustrating gamemastering.

-Marco

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2001, 09:03:00 AM »

Marco,

We're getting better at communicating (or maybe I'm just being more clear) ... yes, I'm "on about" whether story is being created before play or during play.

With respect, I disagree most strongly about the dialogue in Pulp Fiction. The foot massage debate and the eating-pig discussion in particular stand out (although my point applies to what one feels about killing another person, the quality of milkshakes, and others). The issue of the movie concerns loyalty to Marcelus (an evil man who demands that one do evil things), and when it is "OK" to discontinue that loyalty. Nearly every dialogue in the movie is literally about that issue, not just symbolic of it.

Each character's position in each of these dialogues presents, develops, and clarifies his or her relationship to Marcelus - and what he or she is going to do about it when the crunch comes. (Butch defies him almost from the beginning, Vincent stays loyal, Jules shifts from the one to the other.)

For example, "Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I still wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker," is delivered precisely at the moment when Jules decides that he can no longer work for Marcelus, no matter what benefits are used to reward him for it.

And no, this is not "just my opinion." That is, it is my construction (I didn't read it anywhere), but it is incontrovertible to the point and enjoyment of the movie, consciously or not.

How does this relate to the issue at hand? It supports my view that "character" is not some disconnected, floaty, superficial set of details about a plot element with legs. It means that the character IS the plot element, or more accurately, that plot emerges when characters do things - and that what they say is aligned with and integrated with what they do.

Applied to role-playing, this means that the players either do or do not exert control over the characters' key actions. In a Bobby G scenario, they do not. They may "color things in," but they must follow the series of key actions that are predetermined in order to "make the [pre-planned] story happen."

I still disagree that we are discussing GM competence. Either one is playing a Bobby G scenario, or one is not. Similarly, either the GM is skilled/good, or he/she is not.

Bobby G scenario + good GM/group = good play that happens not to be Narrativist.

Bobby G scenario + poor GM/group = poor play that happens not to be Narrativist (and lacks merits regarding other play styles as well).

Other sort of scenario (relationship map, intuitive continuity) + good GM/group = good play that happens to be Narrativist.

Other sort of scenario (relationship map, intuitive continuity) + poor GM/group = poor play that happens to be Narrativist (albeit not of merit).

Best,
Ron
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Don Lag
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« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2001, 01:25:00 PM »

What is being called a "scenario"? is it the execution of the game itself? or just the pre-game info the GM and players have at the beggining plus certain elements the GM would like to include in the game?

Or, more basically.... is it the material printed on the sheets of paper, or whatever was actually played once the game is over?

I'm a little confused about this specifically because of Ron's "Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to creating stories through role-playing.".

So, is BobbyG-ing considdered as a specific type of GM railroading? or is it any (not very original) story in which the characters end up seeking an NPC to enable them to avoid something being done?

I myself consider nothing unethical about the last case, just a little boring most of the time. What I do have a problem with is the former case: GM railroading.

I don't see how a Bobby-G plot in play neccesarily implies railroading, unless the term "Bobby-G" applies to an actual style of play rather than a family of plot ideas (in which case I agree with Ron).

And Ron, I don't see how one could understand anything other than Narrativism=Roleplaying from
Quote

I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2001, 01:35:00 PM »

Quote
And Ron, I don't see how one could understand anything other than Narrativism=Roleplaying from
Quote:

I have often observed the Bobby G scenario to be considered "real role-playing" as opposed to "those awful dungeon crawls," for instance. However, I suggest that this is not Narrativism, not even long long ago nor far far away.


I didn't get "narrativism=roleplaying" from that at all. Are you (& anyone else who saw it that way) ignoring the quotation marks & assuming that Ron seriously meant dungeon crawls are awful & & Bobby G senarios are real roleplaying? I thought it rather obvious that Ron was attributing those quotes to others, saying people think that the Bobby G senario is an example of a better kind of roleplaying than dungeon adventures. I think Ron's past posts have shown that he obviously doesn't see things that way.

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2001, 01:38:00 PM »

Don Lag,

The presence of quotation marks indicates that these are phrases often mouthed by others, BOTH of which I personally disavow.

I'd considered putting a footnote into that post to make that clear, then decided it was unnecessary given my comments in my essay about synecdoche, and have now ground my teeth in frustration regarding exactly the confusion I'd anticipated.

See the forest, gentlemen. I say, repeatedly: "There is no One Way of True Role-playing. Period." Then, in reference to OTHERS who utilize a mode of scenario preparation and execution that I am specifically criticizing, I quote the terms about "real role-playing" that they often use. This does not indicate, on my part, any endorsement of those terms.

Yes, looking at the single tree of my paragraph, it is POSSIBLE to interpret it (given a generous dose of suspicion) as Marco has described. However, without that suspicion, and with a SINGLE GLANCE at the point of my post and the principles I have been at such pains to outline, that interpretation cannot apply.

I've been wrong about things before, but in this case I hold with my position that the readers are projecting meanings where they emphatically do not belong.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2001, 06:22:00 AM »

Right, I'm becoming increasingly confused about just what is meant by narrativism, even more so after reading the vanilla narrativism thread.

Specifically, where Ron says:
Quote

Does your character "care about Stuff," in that you as the player care about how that Stuff works out? Here I define Stuff as things that matter IN GENERAL, like "love," "family," "my people," "my honor," and similar things. If you care about the Stuff that your character is dealing with, and your statements about the character's actions reflect that - well, golly, that's Author Stance and that's a Narrativist Premise. All done. Role-play as usual.


Why can you not have just this experience in the Bobby G scenario?  I mean, my reading of what you wrote in that thread agreed with other posters that it sounded like good Sim gaming to me.  I had also understaood that narrativism incorporated a significant amount of counscious player action, in Directorial mode.  If this is not the case, in precisely what way does Simulationist play differ from Narrativist play?  I don;t see why the statement above is incompatible with Bobby G - it would appear to me that if the player cares about the Stuff apparent in the Bobby G scenario, then the scenario would qualify.  What is it about Bobby G that disqualifies it?

Incidentally Ron, in that pragaraph where you address a narrativist premise, do you mean for just that player?  Would other players have diferent premises?
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contracycle
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« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2001, 06:38:00 AM »

Quote

I didn't get "narrativism=roleplaying" from that at all. Are you (& anyone else who saw it that way) ignoring the quotation marks & assuming that Ron seriously meant dungeon crawls are awful & & Bobby G senarios are real roleplaying?


I did get that impression too, but not from that construction.

Ron says: Bobby G is sometimes described as Real Roleplaying
Ron says: But Bobby G is not narrativist.

Thus: the people who said Bobby G was real roleplaying were wrong BECAUSE Bobby G is not narrativist.

Implication: Real Roleplaying = Narrativism

However, I recognise that this is probably not what Ron meant.  It thus leaves the opening that Bobby G can be "real RPG", merely not in a narrativist format.  Which brings me back to my question above about "vanilla/crypto-narrativism" in which there is no player Directorialism and an apparent inability to distinguish between this behaviour and simulationist behaviour.  If it is possible to be a crypto-narrativist because you care about "stuff", then why does the presence or absence of preplotting matter in the Bobby G scenario?  After all a player/character could reflect upon their "Stuff" while experiencing an objectuve frustration in their efforts to find Bobby G.
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« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2001, 07:02:00 AM »

Folks,

Caring about "Stuff" is not enough to define Narrativism. We are talking about role-playing BEHAVIORS, not internal states. One must have the inclination to comment/act upon Stuff, via one's character's actions. (Note that those actions might not be YOUR actions, or be successful, in order to comment successfully.) For actual Narrativism to be present, those actions are appearing in play.

The frustration in the Bobby G scenario is not referring to anything the characters may be experiencing, but rather to what players who are inclined as described above are experiencing.

The "crypto"-Narrativist tag is not accurate. We are talking about Narrativist inclinations and behaviors (see title of thread). I have described "vanilla Narrativism" as a minimal or foundational style of play, but it is not hidden if we look at the key variable: what the role-players want and do.

I am borderline-disgusted with the entire "real role-playing" issue as raised by Marco, and most especially with the syllogism presented by (although not endorsed by) Gareth. Anyone who perceives me as presenting such a foul view should contact me privately. Bring a baseball bat.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2001, 07:14:00 AM »

Quote

The frustration in the Bobby G scenario is not referring to anything the characters may be experiencing, but rather to what players who are inclined as described above are experiencing.


Allright, let me restate that.  If there were sufficient illusionism present to fool the player into thinking that this was NOT a railroaded gate that had to be passed, but emerged naturally from the context, would the players still feel that frustration?
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joshua neff
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« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2001, 07:48:00 AM »

I've been thinking about this for a bit. Plus, reading Ron's Art Deco Melodrama stuff in the Sorcerer. Reading the relationship map ideas, comparing that to the Bobby G scenario, I think a problem for potential narrativist games is bringing to the table the past RPG scenario concepts. Specifically the idea that there's a mystery that needs to be solved, & solving that will finish the scenario.

Ron & I were talking on the phone recently about dispensing information to players. I noted that, having watched a number of Buffy reruns, it seemed that in some episodes, the story centered around a crucial piece of information that wasn't revealed until the final act. Other episodes, that same crucial information was revealed early on, & the episode wasn't about "what's the mystery?" but "how do we deal with the consequences of the events surrounding the information?".

When I run adventures, I have this tendency to play my cards as close to my chest as possible, trying to keep the players from finding out significant information for as long as possible--because that what RPG scenarios are all about, right? It becomes a game of "what's in my pocket?", as they flounder around, talking to various NPCs, doing research, trying to figure out my mystery. I think a more narrativist scenario would have them finding out all sorts of significant info early on & then spending the rest of the scenario dealing with the consequences. Resolving rather than solving.

The problem with a lot of mystery scenarios is they tend to involve a lot of railroading, because the very nature of mysteries is that information is a rare commodity, not to be doled out freely. The GM has to corral the PCs, so they don't get everything easily, figure out who the bad guy is, kick his or her ass, & all go home. Watch any 3rd rate mystery movie or TV show & watch as the writers do everything they can to keep the protagonists from finding out stuff--if the protagonists got it early on, the mystery would be solved in 5 minutes & the story would be over. Then watch a soap opera for a week & watch as everyone gets information easily, but it gets them deeper into intrigue & conflict--the story isn't over because the mystery is solved, it's only just begun.

Information empowers players. If the GM is tight with the info, there are only so many things the players can do, which makes railroading easier. Empower the players by giving them information early on. Getting the information doesn't mean the adventure is over--okay, so now the know who's sleeping with who, who's blackmailing who, who hates who--what do they do about it? Leave that up to the players. No railroading. And then you've got narrativism.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2001, 08:09:00 AM »

Gareth,

I believe you have restated the question as to contain its own answer: "If the players are not frustrated, are they still frustrated?"

Before addressing this (insofar as it can be), I want to state two things to everyone.

1) I think that the discussion has FINALLY clarified and supported my basic point - that Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to Narrativist play. Period. If anyone objects to this idea, we can continue to discuss it, but at present, it looks as if we've reached agreement.

I would appreciate it if, when a discussion does reach agreement, that people acknowledge that rather than bounce immediately to a related topic or different question about the topic. This is not a bear pit and I am not the bear.

Hence: Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to Narrativist play. Don Lag, Marco, Gareth, etc - if you want to raise another point or inquiry, I want confirmation on that one first.

2) The "real role-playing issue" is and was moot. I didn't say Narrativism is real role-playing. I abominate both that conclusion and the thought processes that would perceive it in what I have written (ever). Again, I want confirmation on that one - otherwise, your input about the continuing discussion is going to be ignored by me.

NOW TO ADDRESS THE QUESTION
I'll re-state it as well as I can to avoid the potential tautology. I'm pretty sure Gareth didn't intend it as such, and I hope I'm according with what is really being asked; correction is requested if I'm off the beam.

"Is a Bobby G scenario/adventure frustrating to the Simulationist player, specifically those engaged in the form of Simulationism called Illusionism?"

My basic answer is "No." Such play may be very enjoyable, considering that the players are either fooled or, more likely, complicit in the Illusion and BY DEFINITION are more interested in "experiencing" the story rather than creating it anyway. The better the prep, it would seem, then the better the experience.

I have both played and GM'd in this fashion, in many cases very successfully. It does work fine (as stated in my essay, Illusionism is functional ON ITS TERMS). If this is where a particular group's play is finding enjoyment, then more power to them.

However, the basic answer is probably not sufficient, given two more factors: time and aesthetic standards. Taking both into account, repetitive Bobby G scenarios have been observed to pall. Why?

Many players may not be interested in CREATING story, but that does not mean that they are content with experiencing a DUMB story, either. The Bobby G story, ultimately, isn't very engaging EXCEPT in terms of the complexity of the hooks and the intrinsic interest of the Villain's Big Plan.

Regarding the complexity of the hooks, it doesn't take but two or three Bobby G scenarios (maximum) for everyone to realize that hooks ONLY exist to get the players to agree to go see Bobby together. I think that after this realization is apparent, few people are willing to enter into the experiential element of role-playing when given a hook - they know what it's for and no longer Explore regarding it. This is when the Panama Canal tactic becomes necessary, providing HUMONGOUS deterrents to keep characters from doing ANYTHING except seeing Bobby G.

Regarding the Villain's Big Plan, The GM often falls into the "escalation" tactic - first the villain is robbing banks; then the villain is poisoning the city reservoir; then the villain is taking over the government; then the villain is aiding the alien invasion; then the villain is "unravelling the very fabric of time and space" ...

Personally speaking AS WELL AS relying on multiple testimonies, both aspects described above become exhausting for the GM, and the payoff in terms of group enjoyment diminishes steadily, as the Illusion becomes very frayed at the edges.

Again, individual groups may be able to avoid this issue - but I suggest it's because they deviate enough from Bobby G type play and hence are NOT DOING IT.

So, to answer your question - no, for this mode of Simulationist play, the Bobby G scenario doesn't AUTOMATICALLY negate enjoyment, but its limitations MAY in the long run do so.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2001, 09:49:00 AM »

Quote

Hence: Bobby G scenario construction is antithetical to Narrativist play. Don Lag, Marco, Gareth, etc - if you want to raise another point or inquiry, I want confirmation on that one first.


Hmm, well, yes and no.  I understand that this is your point, but I am still trying to discover WHY it is antithetical to narrativist play.

Quote

2) The "real role-playing issue" is and was moot. I didn't say Narrativism is real role-playing. I abominate both that conclusion and the thought processes that would perceive it in what I have written (ever). Again, I want confirmation on that one - otherwise, your input about the continuing discussion is going to be ignored by me.


Well, I have some residual concerns that you feel that it is a *better* form of roleplay.  But everyone thinks their politics are the best politicis, that there partner is the most wonderful person on Earth, so rather human all in all and nothing much to worry about.

Quote

"Is a Bobby G scenario/adventure frustrating to the Simulationist player, specifically those engaged in the form of Simulationism called Illusionism?"


No, that missed the point entirely, I said nothing about Simulationism.  Forget that I used the term "illusionism" and default back to Suspension Of Disbelief; if the situation is so compelling, even to narratavist players (vanilla narratavist players, more specifically) that it appears to arise naturally rather than be GM imposed, then WHY would it be antithetical to narrativism?

Seeing as vanilla narrativists do not exercise directorial power, pop in and out of authorial stance, they do not appear to have access to information much beyond what I the GM give them.  It appears to me that the actual physical dynamic between player and GM are almost identical to Sim-Illusion, even if their goals are slighly different.  This to comepletely set aside any concerns abouty overdoing one structure or the illusion fraying; those may or may not be problems, but why is this structure inherently anti-narratavist.



[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-31 12:50 ]
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