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Author Topic: The whole model - this is it  (Read 54475 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: November 11, 2003, 03:49:15 PM »

Hello,

All the following material is supplemental to the existing essays, but it also overrules them as well as any of my previous comments in forum discussions at any point of contradiction.

In other words, all of the following is the straight dope as of this writing. If a particular term or concept isn't mentioned here, then the pre-existing material stands; ask about it if that material isn't clear to you. If I haven't defined a term (and I define very few here), that means that the current definition is intended to stand.

My plan is to hammer out any necessary hassles about this material in this thread, and then rewrite the whole damn thing in "nice and friendly" prose, which as far as I know is pretty much the first time that will have been done. For a sample of the tone/logic I'll be using, see GNS - what is it?.

THE MODEL ITSELF

[Social Contract]

Social Contract encompasses everything about role-playing, because it is the sum of all interactions among the people involved. If these people happen to be role-playing together, then Social Contract crucially includes "Let's play this game." This crucial element is what's further subdivided throughout the rest of this model.

[Social Contract [Exploration]]

The above two terms do not constitute a dichotomy. Exploration ("imagined stuff," "shared imagined space"), as previously defined in my essays, is an expression or application of that particular group's Social Contract. One cannot say "That's just social" when discussing some aspect of play, nor can one write off Social Contract as "just being polite" with actual play being something else.

Exploration is usually described as merely a list of Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color. But it does have more internal/imaginary structure: Character + Setting make Situation, System permits Situation to "move," and Color affects all the others. This concept applies only to the imaginary causes among the elements, by the way; the actual effort, priority, or cause among these things, in social/creative terms, varies widely.

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda]]]

Creative Agenda is the blanket term for any and all GNS modes or priorities of play. The Venn diagram is supposed to indicate that any Creative Agenda is an expression or application of Exploration among the real-people group. Since Exploration necessarily includes System, that means, as soon as we start talking about Creative Agenda, "play has begun."

On paper, I draw this terms as an arrow, labelled GNS or Creative Agenda. This arrow is very important - this "step" or "level" in my model shifts out of the abstract and solidly into this group, playing this game, this way, at this time. The model instantly ceases to be a broad overview or comparative panoply, and starts to be a diagnostic or description of a real play-experience among real people. Unless you are thinking of such a case, you will be left flailing at this point in the discussion.

For purposes of explaining the overall model, I'm profoundly uninterested in discusing the nuances, internal relationships, definitions, or anything else about the internal content of Creative Agenda. All I care about, at this point, is that people recognize that role-playing requires such a thing to exist.

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda --> [Techniques]]]]

To understand this part, again, recognize that Creative Agenda and the arrow symbol are supposed to be the same thing, not two things. That means that we are talking about some actual play. The panoply of Techniques being employed in that instance, over time, either satisfy or fail to satisfy one or more Creative Agendas.

It's not too off-the-wall to think of Techniques as being a direct expression of the more abstract concept of System (way up in Exploration), except that System doesn't exist all by itself - it's fully integrated with all the other components of Exploration. But if you keep that in mind, then yes, the arrow represented by Creative Agenda can indeed be "shot" from the bow of System.

Techniques include IIEE, Drama/Karma/Fortune, search time & handling time, narration apportioning, reward system, points of contact, character components (Effectiveness, Metagame, Resource), scene framing, currency among the character components, and much more. Each of these terms represents a range of potential play-methods. I consider the two most important Techniques to be reward system and IIEE.

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda --> [Techniques [Ephemera]]]]]

Ephemera is a new term, indicating the smallest-scale interactions and activities of role-playing: anything that gets factored into or is expressed by play in the space of a few seconds.

Although fleeting, Ephemera are emphatically not trivial. As with every level/box so far, fairly extensive combinations of Ephemera express or apply one or more Techniques. They are the internal anatomy, if you will, of Techniques and hence (conceptualizing upward) of System.

Ephemera include individual Stances, in-character vs. out-of-character diction and dialogue, referring to texts, sound effects, taking or referring to notes, kibitzing, laughing, praise or disapproval, specific dice or other system-based outcome interpretations, showing pictures, and anything similar.

Clarification
Some related topics are out of the scope of this discussion. I'm happy to discuss them in other threads if the person is completely able to demonstrate understanding of the material presented so far. However, none of them are going to occupy a whole lot of my emotional attention, at least not until the Narrativism essay is done.

- The relationship of S to N and/or G, or any other nuances of GNS definitions or combinations within the [Creative Agenda] level. With any luck, all three essays will do a good job of at least making myself clear about this stuff. Whether that will mean a damn thing in terms of resolving anything for anyone else, I can't say.

- Incoherence and/or dysfunctional play based on GNS incompatibilities. This one will be a big deal for some, but I suspect it's a matter of defensiveness in many cases: "You say it's incoherent but we have fun!" To which I can only reply, "Sounds coherent to me," or, "I suspect your 'fun' isn't as 'fun' as you think, for everyone." I've been saddened by how often the latter response has proved accurate in the long run.

- Commerce of any kind, especially in terms of "success." This discussion, unfortunately, will have to await a much broader understanding of game marketing and commerce than I think is the case, currently. Recent threads at the Forge reinforce my impression about this.

Instead of going into stuff like the above, this thread is devoted to clarifying any aspect of the Big Picture as presented here, especially inter-relations among the levels, and how they are to be assessed and discussed. I'd especially like to talk about combinations of Ephemera relative to one or more Techniques, and combinations of Techniques relative to one or more categories within Creative Agenda.

DESIGN, RULES, AND TEXTS

Design, when all is said and done, means authorship of a rules text. "Rules" aren't part of the model any more. As I now see it, rules texts are not and can never be "role-playing," but rather are recommendations regarding the model, if you will, in hopes (shared by the readers) that people who read it can get that version of the model into action.

Therefore the goal of design, it seems to me, is to make sense to the reader in terms of the whole model. It's like a musical instrument, or several of them, as well as instructions for how to play them, and finally some music or chords to work with. Seems easy? Well, here are the usual problems I see with role-playing texts, now that I have this "model" thing setting next to me as I type.

Problem 1 = Simply leaving whole levels out, assuming that readers already know and agree exactly where you're coming from for those levels. It's conceivable that, for instance, a panoply of Techniques are simply so powerful in reinforcing some subset of Creative Agenda that stating the latter would be redundant, but as far as I can tell, most rules-sets aren't that lucky.

Problem 2 = Problematic combinations of Techniques which lead to confusion about Creative Agenda, which in turn means a whole lot of local construction about "why we play." If you want to call this "incoherence," you can - it's what I originally meant by the term, which I'm considering retiring from use. And although I stand by my point that this issue usually is a genuine problem for role-players, don't get me started on early Champions or Amber, both of which turned out to benefit greatly from the very same phenomenon. Whole 'nother essays, waiting to happen.

Problem 3 = Plain bad system design, which is to say, unsatisfying at the group level for any particular Creative Agenda. If a given rules-loop allows an "automatic win" in Gamist play, if it jars the Dream inconsistently with other features of the game, if it locks down Premise too tightly ... any of these "break" a game relative to a given goal of play. Such games tend to be instantly discarded or instantly repaired, often covertly (people insist that the "right" way to play just happens not to be textual).

Problem 4 = Nonsensical prose, which might accompany perfectly good rules. This is far more common than is good for any hobby, I think. It's often associated with Creative Agenda issues, but also with many aspects of character creation.

Here's also what I see when looking at each level of the model and thinking about rules texts.

Social Contract and rules: This is where all those "What is Role-playing" sections fall flat on their face. Just to pick the most glaring example, I'm here to say that role-playing is not, and never was, "cops and robbers with dice to resolve disputes." Going by the model, people roll dice (or whatever) because they agree about the imagined events, not because they disagree. It might be interesting to see whether anyone could write an introduction to a role-playing game that really did specify Social Contract issues in a way which set up all the following material in the game. Everway, perhaps? Universalis?

Creative Agenda and rules: Most role-playing texts are emphatically silent about Creative Agendas, especially in the model's context that it's an expression of imaginative Social Contract. Often, especially when Gamist priorities seem to be invoked, one can parse out the GNS recommendation by looking at key words and phrasing ("When your character dies, you have lost the game."). The more emphatic Simulationist texts (Arrowflight) are often clearer, but whenever the term "story" gets thrown around in a vague, "You know, the story" way, I think the text becomes dramatically less helpful. I'm very impressed with the introduction in the Marvel Universe RPG, which provides an amazing textbook piece on the differences between Gamist ("The Brawl") and Narrativist ("With great power comes great responsibility") play, emphasizing that a group does well to decide which they would prefer to do when playing the game.

Techniques and rules: Here's the most solid correspondence; I don't think it's difficult to see how most rules are in fact instructions for Techniques. The problem is that, according to the model, Techniques alone do not a role-playing game make.

Ephemera and rules: Here's another tricky one - as with Creative Agenda, you have to find key phrases or little snippets scattered around the text in order to see whether any Ephemera are being explained or (more likely) assumed to be already standard for the role-players. The most explicit example I can think of are the frequent exhortations toward Actor Stance in so many games, as well as the implicit content of a "GM only" section.

DISCUSSING THE MODEL

I am listing some of the issues that people bring to discussing the model here at the forums and elsewhere, and including some points of interaction with the inherent stumbling blocks. The stumbling blocks usually arrive from people employing one or more of these approaches:

a) reaching understanding through paraphrasing and correction,

b) denying understanding as a means of defending oneself from a perceived threat,

c) desperately trying to present one's own developed notions of some kind, and

d) arguing in order to fit in, a common behavior among members of a somewhat socially stunted subculture.

Role-players often arrive at the Forge in an advanced state of frustration regarding either play, talking about play, or both. Since there's no way to control (or on my part anyway, no desire to control) what people want when they arrive, I think it's important for everyone to consider all of the following points about discussing the model.

Point #1: Nearly everyone who first encounters the theory is predisposed to discuss Ephemera. They are also emotionally tied to various Ephemera, especially those combinations which reinforce certain Techniques, and it's hard to get people to let go of that commitment long enough to look at the variety available. They are often convinced that even looking at alternatives will destroy the entirety of whatever play-profile (real or idealized) that they currently hold in highest esteem.

Required point of discussion: Get them up to Techniques, which is what they really want to discuss. The key is to validate the Techniques they're trying to reinforce, and to acknowledge to the person that they are, indeed, making sense in these terms. After that point, the diversity of Ephemera can be discussed without the person going into protective-mode regarding what Techniques they prefer or are used to.

Point #2 (related to #1): People may also take a Reductionist approach to trying to understand the model, which is to say, they would like the "particles" of (say) Stance to be themselves little chunks of GNS, and GNS as described simply to be collections of these chunks. This is not the case. Instead, for every box in the model, a category or type of "outer box" is always expressed/applied as a combination of terms/categories within the inner box.

Required point of discussion: It's best to speak of combinations within an "inner" box in terms of how it affects or is affected by its "outer" box or boxes. Resist the extreme temptation to identify any one Technique, for instance, with a particular GNS category, or any one Ephemera-type event with a particular Technique.

Point #3: Creative Agenda is the "verb" of the model. As a generalized topic, without an actual group or any role-playing to discuss, GNS priorities are incredibly vague and abstract, to the point of being uninteresting.

In application, however, they are extremely concrete and easy to recognize. As I wrote in a recent thread,

Quote
The only variables that really make sense, in discussing GNS, are the social interactions and communications that go on among the real people at the table, during play.

What is reinforced among them? Who praises whom, for doing what, and how often? When is a stated or proposed action disallowed, often in very subtle form? What gets everyone listening with undivided attention to a single person's announcements? When do people laugh? When do they not laugh, or socially squelch someone else's amusement?

All of those things, and more, are the only valid variables for assessing a GNS profile for a given instance of play. (And by "instance," I mean a lot of play, at least a session, probably more.)

I wish I'd made this point earlier. It's a big deal. The definitions of GNS are not the same variables one uses to assess GNS in action. Since GNS is a subset of Social Contract - indeed, it's the application of Social Contract to the imagined material ("Exploration") - its identity for that group can only be assessed in social terms.


Furthermore, in application, a given Creative Agenda category is also extremely diverse in terms of possible Techniques, which is what my current three essays (two down, one to go) are mainly about. M.J. Young made a very good point recently when he said that within-Agenda categories (e.g. specific types of Gamism, etc) lead to more rancor and "not-us" distinctions among people discussing role-playing than among-Agenda categories, in most cases. Or to put it differently, people are highly committed not to "Gamism" but rather to "Gamism our way." Or to put it in terms of my essays, within-category synecdoche seems to be an extremely heartfelt, hotly-defended problem.

Required point of discussion: Don't get sidetracked into definitional descriptions when discussing actual play. If a person really is interested in examining the Creative Agenda(s) of his or her role-playing, or more accurately that of his or her group, then focus on social interactions, the real-people approval and disapproval during play itself, as quoted above.

Point #4 (related to #3: Creative Agenda is the most troublesome level of the model for people to discuss, because many folks would very, very much like Techniques to construct a satisfying GNS-profile for them, without explicit reference to Social Contract. To link [Social Contract [Exploration]] causally downward into [Techniques], emphasizing personal responsibility ("You get what you play for"), is frightening and unwanted. They want what they want without wanting (a) to say so or (b) actually to do that thing. Or if they are getting what they want, it's often through Social Contract manipulation and they don't want to endanger their carefully-constructed power-play.

Here's the biggie: people have often come to idealize "rules" or "lack of rules," whichever, in order to cement into play the Techniques that they are used to or that they think will get them what they want. This is the source of Rules and/or Setting Fetishim, as well as the source of System Doesn't Matter. It's also the source of the failure of both tactics, neither of which stand up well in the long term. Cries of "it's just a game" or "I just play to have fun" are signs of these tactics in a state of final breakdown. Excessive arguing about details of GNS-stuff is sometimes a defense mechanism.

Required point of discussion: Stress Creative Agenda as the absolutely necessary bridge from "we all like Star Trek" (Exploration) to "this is how we role-play Star Trek" (Techniques). And just as importantly, be prepared for the possibility that the person may not be coming from the position described in this point, and may well be perfectly comfy with the concept of Creative Agenda once they get it properly explained in terms of the levels of the model. So over-defensiveness on your part should be acknowledged as a potential problem too.

Point #5: Techniques express and satisfy Creative Agenda, whether unsuccessfully or successfully. However, the relation between these levels is not a tautology. You cannot discuss some abstract "real Simulationism," for instance, in terms of Techniques which define it, and especially not in terms of whatever the imaginary characters did to or with whomever they fictionally encountered. Instead, you must investigate whether X Techniques as applied and socially reinforced in Y role-playing group are coalescing around (e.g.) a Simulationist aesthetic. This is related to Point #3 in that applying Creative Agenda is highly specific to a group of people: their personalities and interactions, and their habits of play. But my current point is that Techniques don't "compose" a Creative Agenda in a definitional way.

Required point of discussion: Details of Creative Agenda may not be the necessary point of discussion anyway; it might just be a matter of letting the person know you get where they're coming from. For point #4, getting GNS into the light is crucial. For this point, however, you just might need to acknowledge that the Techniques being described, by this person, do nail the GNS priority he or she prefers. It's very similar to the "wants-Techniques, talks-Ephemera" issue mentioned for Point #1. In this case, it's "wants-GNS, talks-Techniques." Again, the point of discussion relies on acknowledging the person's valid combination so they know they are being heard.

Also, a person who's confounded over this issue probably needs to hear that Creative Agenda categories (GNS) are not principles to live up to, but rather just a vocabulary that helps describe the whole-model profile for that particular group (or rather, an instance of that group's play in action).

Point #6: Rules, Techniques, and System are now carefully distinguished from one another in the model. System is a fairly abstract term that indicates that the imagined Situation and other elements actually change through the activity of role-playing. As a term, I suggest thinking of it as "a or any system" rather than "the system." Techniques are extremely concrete and observable methods of actual play. Rules are textual guides or instructions about any aspect of role-playing at any level of the model.

Required point of discussion: It's going to take some work to help people understand that "rules" are not part of the model at all. People usually say "rules" when they mean Techniques or System. Instead, they are texts, used to greater or lesser extent as a way to establish any aspects of the model that the group wants to be established. This is the Lumpley Principle in action. Discussion of the Principle got a little wonky when I was working out "rules" vs. "system," but now I think it's nailed.

Point #7: In discussing Techniques, one person's mind-blowing, door-opening example is another person's ho-hum or still another person's deal-breaker. One of the most difficult problems with a multi-user forum discussion is when Person X explains something about the GNS-level to Person Y using a specific Techniques example, and then person Z gets the idea that this Technique is the GNS term. And if they hate the Technique, then they fall right off the cognitive mountain, sometimes irretrievably.

Required point of discussion: Fear is a serious problem when dealing with a third-party's reaction to these discussions. It's very common for someone literally to flip out when reading a Techniques example, as the example may represent (rightly or wrongly) everything that is Horribly Wrong with Other Role-Players in this person's mind. Whereas for the person to whom the example is addressed, the Horribly Wrong Thing might be just what they're looking for; or more likely, the Techniques example only works in the very localized context of that person's game being discussed (which is why it was used as an example in the first place). So managing these third-party reactions can be a major issue and take a lot of time.

Some final bits about discussion ... we are not talking about minor issues at the Forge. We're dealing with how people socialize, how they express their creative drives, and how they self-identify in a highly technical subculture. The very fact that people register and post denotes that they feel a need to communicate about it. So the main watchwords are care, and yet also, detach. The times to detach are easy to recognize - whenever any of the following phrases start getting thrown around.

- "But my character would do this ..." Characters are fictional and cannot make decisions in the absence of a real person's creative input.

- "System doesn't matter, all you need is a good GM / group" ... All role-playing utilizes System, and "good" in this context usually means "what I want."

- "That upsets balance ..." Balance is a red herring unless it's defined in highly specific terms. See my Gamism essay for details.

- "That's not realistic!" Realism cannot be mandated by "rules," and like balance, must be locally defined with care. No one "just knows" what realism is, in actual play.

- "The Storyteller Golden Rule ..." This rule is a big puff job, because it leaves "fun" undefined, nor does it specify who can mandate when a rule is to be ignored.

However, rather than using these responses as comebacks, use them as a foundation from which to defuse the potential fight. And make no mistake, when a person says stuff like this, they're almost certainly fighting, in response to being upset with you or with someone from the past. The only solutions involve removing the confrontation, rather than meeting it - all that'll get you is a headache.

WRAP-UP

Any ideas for this section, anyone? I have some, but I thought I'd save'em until you all stomp and shatter all of the above material into more useable form.

Best,
Ron
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2003, 04:11:21 PM »

Thanks.  That clears a lot up for me.  Still needs more digestion, but at this point I can say that this matches my beliefs pretty closely...  Still many quibbles about other (not included in this post) details, but that's what makes life interesting, isn't it?

A few points and questions:

1)  Is Stance a technique, exploration, or social contract level issue?  I was under the impression it technique-level, but it seems to me that it might be higher than that, particular with regard to Lumpley and Emily style play, where it seems imbedded in the social contract at the highest level...

2)  I think that discussion of Ephemera is VERY important, because it is where the rubber hits the road in terms of actual play.  Saying that it should all "be a discussion of techniques" seems a little strange to me.

3)  The particular layout of this explanation (as a manual for an apologist {in the Catholic sense}) is slightly disturbing to me.  I would change it if you want this to be a reference document for people who do not understand your theory, which it is excellent at doing.

Thanks again.

yrs--
--Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2003, 05:11:39 PM »

Hi Ben,

Quote
1) Is Stance a technique, exploration, or social contract level issue? I was under the impression it technique-level, but it seems to me that it might be higher than that, particular with regard to Lumpley and Emily style play, where it seems imbedded in the social contract at the highest level...


Don't forget that every single level exists within the levels above it - those brackets are a big deal. If you touch "Stance," you're reaching through Social Contract, Exploration, Creative Agenda, and Technique to do it.

Apparently for you, tracing the patch of that "reach" or "touch" is very easy and even essential. For others, Stance variations may be nearly a complete non-issue.

Quote
2) I think that discussion of Ephemera is VERY important, because it is where the rubber hits the road in terms of actual play. Saying that it should all "be a discussion of techniques" seems a little strange to me.


I'm not sure you're representing my view correctly. Don't I say, at one point, that I'm interested in discussing combinations of Ephemera and how they represent or affect Technique? Seems like that would satisfy your outlook. I can't see anywhere that I say "Techniques are the only thing to discuss."

As for what level is most important, I guess I'll have to say it now: no one of these levels is The Level for discussing role-playing. It's all role-playing. I bet this is going to be one of these things I have to say over and over and over.

Quote
3) The particular layout of this explanation (as a manual for an apologist {in the Catholic sense}) is slightly disturbing to me. I would change it if you want this to be a reference document for people who do not understand your theory, which it is excellent at doing.


I have no idea what you're talking about. Not a bit. Rather than immediately explaining, are you sure this is something worth discussing in the first place? I mean, before everyone gets their oars into the water regarding the basic points?

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2003, 06:33:22 PM »

I'm still digesting it. I think it's an excellent effort. I'll have to consider it more before having a real, cooked, response.

I would separate the "problems in design" and "discussion or entry points" for another document, possibly with the section on incoherence being left in as a historical note.

I would religiously avoid using words like "desparately" and "fear" in the description people who approach the theory.

I would remove the "literally" from the "flip-out" section unless ... well ... yeah.

-Marco
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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2003, 07:18:05 PM »

Wonderful document, Ron; I look forward to the completed piece.

I think Ben's point was that this starts out as an explanation of GNS theory and then becomes a document about how to deal with people who don't understand it. A solid concise explanation of the theory in present form--a sort of revision of previous documents to incorporate developments from forum discussions in a concise reference document--is definitely needed at this point (there are just too many places at which we're saying, read this article, but understand that the use of this word has changed since it was written), but referring newcomers to a document which also discusses how to deal with newcomers isn't the best approach.

The latter half is also important; but it might work best if it were changed from telling us how to do it to attempting to do it through example.

I'll follow this thread with interest; unfortunately, I'm staring down the barrel of a long away game at Rochester's UNY-con, so I'm going to miss several days of posts and have to catch up again--but I've managed to catch up before, so it shouldn't be too problematic.

--M. J. Young
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2003, 09:00:16 PM »

Hello,

Thanks folks! (Although "... excellent effort ..." isn't a phrase I associate with much merit, being a prof and all. Digression; ignore.)

I should clarify: the eventual document I'm thinking about will encompass only the first section, the model itself, and maybe a very friendly section on rules/design, with examples of text. The current post is not an outline for that document - it's intended to set up our understanding, now, of what the hell I am trying to say.

So don't worry about the eventual newcomer to the Forge and what that person may or may not think of some version of the post. Just read the post and tell me what does or doesn't make sense to you.

Or rather, that's what I'm hoping for. If you want to contribute to the thread in some mind-opening fashion that I haven't anticipated, please feel free.

Best,
Ron
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2003, 12:36:10 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

So don't worry about the eventual newcomer to the Forge and what that person may or may not think of some version of the post. Just read the post and tell me what does or doesn't make sense to you.


Makes perfect sense to me, I've been hoping for a concise overview of the main points in one place. I'd like to pick one specific place in the text that delighted me especially:

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Design, when all is said and done, means authorship of a rules text. "Rules" aren't part of the model any more. As I now see it, rules texts are not and can never be "role-playing," but rather are recommendations regarding the model, if you will, in hopes (shared by the readers) that people who read it can get that version of the model into action.


This is something that has for a long time been a crucial part of my personal interpretation of roleplaying texts. I absolutely love seeing it in writing by one of my favourite rpg theorists. I'm firmly convinced that my first published game will carry the words "Guide to roleplaying in [something]" on the cover.
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Marco
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« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2003, 08:07:47 AM »

By excellent effort, I meant "looks good, I'll have to put some real analsis in to see how successful at hitting all of its goals I think it was--It'll take me some time." Not: 'nice try, try again.'

I think the post is (at least in proto-form) exactly what GNS needs. Splitting the content into a few documents is a good idea too. That wasn't clear to me until you said it.

On splitting them up:
I would formally separate theory,  ramifications for game design, and utility and implementation from the basic theory meaning:

1. Have a section on the theory very similar to the first part of what is there, if not identical.

2. Have a secion on GNS analysis of play (I'd be interesting in seeing what the purpose, value, and method of GNS analysis of play is)

3. Have a section on "this is what I/we think the ramifications of GNS are for game-design" (using what's up there)

4. Have a secion on "Here's how I/we think this perspective could be used to help solve what I/we think are some common problems during play." (with the perspective and vocabulary notes and a discussion of dysfunction seen from a GNS POV).

This write up does most (or at least some) of this very well already--separating them formally would help to see what pieces are seen as theory and what pieces are seen as ramification or utility (I see the mxing of these as a major stumbling block to the understanding of GNS as a whole).

Also:

I need to carefully examine the arrows in the Venn Diagram. I get thay they mean sort of "follow from" but I'm not sure how that's different than "composed from."

And:
For each section maybe a formal:
Description [what's there]
Example: ["Fortune resolution, for example, rolling the dice to see if an action is judged successful by the group is an example of a technique." ]
[/b]Definition of important terms[/b] [Karma, Drama, and Fortune, discussed in depth here are three major techniques for outcome resolution.]
Caveats: [Note: there has been discussion of GNS modes lining up with resolution techniques so that one would say "Narrativist mode is best facilitated by Drama Technique." While that may sound reasonable for a variety of reasons, examination of the that theory has shown it to be false. A given Drama technique might or might not be good for Narrativist play-mode--but so might any other technique. Thus Techniques are said to be node-agnostic."]

The Creative Agenda section isn't clear to me (which, I think is my fault--I'm not saying it's not clear or poorly written). I'm not sure who you're talking to when you say you're profoundly uninterested in discussing nuances: me as someone reviewing the document or me as someone coming to it at the first time. If the latter, I'd change it. To me that section looks like a placeholder for a real description of G/N/S modes.

Also: There's an issue of GNS as a description of play (we watched play and this is what it looked like to us--we saw three basic categories). For me (and maybe only me) there's a lot of question about that (as I've said, from an internal standpoint the theory makes a lot of sense to me--from an observational standpoint, it's not as clear to me).

A discussion of that in the Creative Agenda session would be good (I see the three essays speaking to internal intent--I don't know what step-on-up looks like distinct from exploration of situation and character but I can tell when I'm doing it--and maybe no one has a clear textual discription (although I'd be surprised if that's the case)--but addressing that would help with the GNS-is-about-intent/no-it-isn't issue).

-Marco
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2003, 08:20:09 AM »

Ron says:

>>(snip) I'd especially like to talk about combinations of Ephemera relative to one or more Techniques, and combinations of Techniques relative to one or more categories within Creative Agenda.<<

Neato. This (I think) is what I’ve been trying to get some input about, although I didn’t say it quite like this in my recent thread. Specifically, I’m looking for hard and fast guidelines to facilitate this ‘stuff’ in such a manner that it fits our troupe’s style of agreed play. Now, is that goal realistic considering the vast potential for various in game outcomes when you start mixing and matching all of these elements together? I firmly think so, although I may not know how to do that just yet. This is why I’ve been taking a hard look at communication techniques that would yield specific results (those results being ‘the game’ that we’ve all agreed we want to play.)
I know that in RL, certain words used in a certain order will result in a very specific outcome. Politicians are masters of what we typically call spin. For instance, if you hear a politician say, “If we do not win the war on terror abroad at all costs, then we will become victims of fear in our own homes, our country will falter.” What he’s really just done is employed a conversation technique called a Closing Triplicate of Choice. Really, when you hear that, what automatically happens is that you run through the options and pick the lesser of the evils. ‘Hmmm…I don’t want to be a victim; I don’t want the country to falter, so I guess we have to win the war at all costs.’ That way of conversing is designed to put your mind in a specific frame of thinking. This kind of communication is far from new, but it works to provoke a specific response, (in this example, support for an agenda.) Could the same be done for creating an atmosphere where a game stays on track? Again, I think so.
Now, I’m not saying that I want to have to use a script to run or play in a game. Blah, boring. It would, however, be helpful to have something firm to refer back to in order to keep a game from identity crisis.
I think about this topic a lot lately.
;)

I'll be interested to follow this discussion and see where it leads.

Warm Regards,
Lisa
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Warm Regards,
Lisa
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2003, 09:30:26 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Quote
2) I think that discussion of Ephemera is VERY important, because it is where the rubber hits the road in terms of actual play. Saying that it should all "be a discussion of techniques" seems a little strange to me.


I'm not sure you're representing my view correctly. Don't I say, at one point, that I'm interested in discussing combinations of Ephemera and how they represent or affect Technique? Seems like that would satisfy your outlook. I can't see anywhere that I say "Techniques are the only thing to discuss."

As for what level is most important, I guess I'll have to say it now: no one of these levels is The Level for discussing role-playing. It's all role-playing. I bet this is going to be one of these things I have to say over and over and over.


BL>  Yup.  Imagine so.  On reread, I think I misread some stuff.  Apologies.

Quote
3) The particular layout of this explanation (as a manual for an apologist {in the Catholic sense}) is slightly disturbing to me. I would change it if you want this to be a reference document for people who do not understand your theory, which it is excellent at doing.


I have no idea what you're talking about. Not a bit. Rather than immediately explaining, are you sure this is something worth discussing in the first place? I mean, before everyone gets their oars into the water regarding the basic points?
[/quote]

BL>  Your own later posts regarding the "mission objectives" of this layout cleared things up a bit.  MJ expressed my viewpoint much better than I ever could.

yrs--
--Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2003, 09:47:34 AM »

Hello,

Further reflection has clarified my own goals for this thread.

You know, I think that I'm not interested in suggestions for editing and presenting. That was a bad thing even to mention.

I'm interested in whether you, the Forge folks, understand what I'm saying. If there's anything you need clarified about the model as presented, or anything you think doesn't hold up, then now's the time to say it.

I'm very committed to reviewing and refining the material in the Discussing the Model section. Those are phrased as recommendations for a reason, and presented in the post for a reason. I would very much like to get confirmation and/or attempts at refutation about all seven of the points.

I don't mind mentioning that quibbles about internal issues of Creative Agenda are right out the window. I'm profoundly sick of GNS talk, frankly. I'm convinced that once the model as a whole is better understood, then dozens upon dozens of "GNS issues" will simply evaporate.

I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.

I'm also interested in what I mentioned in the essay about Techniques-to-Creative Agenda, and Ephemera-to-Techniques. Lisa's post is, in my view, the most valuable one so far to develop in this thread. I have plenty of thoughts on this issue and would appreciate some input about yours.

So from now on, please, no more editing or presentation suggestions. Talk about the material. This thread is not about what some hypothetical other people will think and feel about the model, but about you. Say, "YES, I AGREE, ESPECIALLY ABOUT X," or, "NO, YOU MAKE NO SENSE AND HERE'S WHY," or "GEE, WHAT ABOUT THIS PART HERE." That sort of thing.

Without that kind of dialogue for a while, I'm considering closing up the whole forum. That's not a threat, but rather a statement that I don't see any point to public/forum GNS-wrangling without a strong and easily-reinforced shared understanding of the big picture.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2003, 10:08:33 AM »

Quote
I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.


I think you rightly point out that this is the crux of the entire model.  I don't think you'll find anyone who games (even without spending much time thinking about it) who will disagree with the idea that social issues impact game experience.  I don't think you'll find anyone who hasn't found mechanics and techniques that work profoundly well (and others that work poorly) to deliver the kind of game they want.

The issue then is this idea of a Creative Agenda beyond simply "having fun sharing a hobby with my friends" and much deeper than "I don't like dice pool mechanics or hard scene framing".

I think the fact of the existance of "something" going on in that Creative Agenda space is pretty irrefutable.  Enjoying RPGs must require something more than the sum of Social conciderations plus Techniques or there wouldn't continue to be dysfunctional play.  If all that is required is selecting some powerful favorite techniques and then making sure everyone at the table is on good civil terms and committed to each others enjoyment...then nearly every game would be a rageing success.

Clearly there's something else going on there, and for purposes of this model we call that something else "Creative Agenda".

I'm particularly impressed with the fact that this format of presentation (speaking of the article overall here) is quite powerful at identifying and seperating out the component part.  At being able to set aside the specifics of the component parts altogether and just talk about the processes of the model.

This enables us to look at and "approve" (if you will) of the overall framework of the model, without getting caught up (again, and again, and again) in debating trivial nuance ad naseum (guilty).  It focuses attention on the "forest" so we can all agree that we are, indeed, looking at a forest, before delving deep into the individual trees.

I'm envisioning the final version of this document as a sort of master article that we can be reasonably confident is about as final and finished as likely to get.  Each box on the Venn can then be hyperlinked to an article talking deeper about each item, and ideally serve as a place to list links to appropriate threads on the topic.  In this way the sub articles can be more easily updated to reflect "current thinking on the nature of Techniques.  See also <these 6 threads> for additional thoughts and the development of the concepts.

To make Mike happy these sub articles could be ideal to set up as a Wiki where it becomes trivial for various parties to submit links and add to content (supposedly...I can't figure the think out), with links from them to other articles (such as the 3 GNS ones, etc.)
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C. Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2003, 10:19:40 AM »

Hey Ron,

Looks great to me. It's nice to see so much of the current thought all together on the same page. I particularly like that you repeatedly point out that System reaches down and through the lower level boxes. (I've been thinking of it like the funnel of a tornado.)

Oh, have you considered changing the name of the model? The current moniker seems to cause quite a bit of focus on particulars of Creative Agenda, often resulting in tunnel-vision in regards to the model as a whole.

-Chris
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Lxndr
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2003, 10:54:07 AM »

I am very glad to see "Creative Agenda" replace "G/N/S".  Granted, I'm aware G/N/S is still a popular construction, but your new Venn Diagram allows for alternative theories on Creative Agenda in particular (like the ever-popular "Beeg Horseshoe") without implicit contradiction.

That said, I agree with Chris that it'd be nice to see the entire theory no longer be called "the GNS model" since, well, the name itself brings an unhealthy amount of focus on that one part of the model...
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2003, 11:19:39 AM »

Quote
I'm specifically interested in whether Creative Agenda, as the bridge from [Social Contract [Exploration]] to [Techniques], is acceptable as an absolute necessity in understanding role-playing. Realize that this claim was and is absolutely anathema among most vocal participants and publishers in the hobby.


Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. In light of my own group's recent discussions, this was the key issue. While I don't expect my fellow group members to be able right now to write an essay on Creative Agenda, I do think they have recognized their right and need to understand just what exactly it is we as a group are going to sit down and do for our enjoyment.

I'll say that again. Each person who choses to play a role-playing game with other people has a right to understand just what it is that he will be doing when the group actually plays the game. Similarly, with right comes responsibility. It is a person's responsibility to recognize what his group's Creative Agenda is. Failure to do so absurdly risks one's enjoyment, and one's right to enjoyment.

While many publishers aren't, to my mind, openly fighting against that right, what they are doing is either clumsily ignoring that right OR disingenuinely undermining that right with inconsistent positions on what the act of role-playing is versus the act of maintaining the industry and/or culture is.
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