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Author Topic: Simulationism and Party-dynamics.  (Read 2867 times)
sirogit
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Posts: 503


« on: January 09, 2004, 10:52:33 PM »

I'm formulating the opinion that simulationism has very little appeal in a situation where the characters are not expiereincing each other(Such as if they're apart.) alot of the time where as a Narrativist game can be perfectly functionial.

Going beyond that, I guess if you wanted to be metaphorical, you could say narrativism is like a shakespeare play, simulationism is like a rennasiance fair, and that simulationism has much less foundation to be intereasting to the audience.

It should probably be noted that I'm something of a frustrated narrativist, seeing that as my primary intereast in games and the majority of gaming that I've done, even when being started with the intentions of being narrativist, having undergone serious Sim drift. but I do enjoy playing Sim.
 
In simulationism, I can't see the intereast in watching another person who my character is not interacting with partake in his version of the shared reality. I mean, it could be intereasting if I was studying an element of it such as simulationism in general, or trying to see their technique so that I could try applying it myself, but besides stuff like that, it doesn't effect my character because they don't see it(There'd be an exception for simulationism that centers on world shattering buisness, I guess.) In simulationism, I see that part of my job is to "riff" off of what's going on, what is going on outside of my characters expiereince is a dead element. In the simulation games I've been in, the point was to expierence the shared reality, not observe others expiereincing the reality.

In another essay, it said that Narrativism doesn't need the characters expiereincing each other because any scenes that are being played out address the premise, and that is what we're here to see, scenes that address the premise. Not only that, the premise is changed with every actions of the characters, and in the scenes that involve my character, I have to think of where the other characters mutated the premise, even if my character has no knowledge of it. Also, I think anything that anyone does impacts the pacing of the story as well, so the other players would do good to take it into account.

Now, if simulationism players, by and large, are intereasted in seeing other people interact with the shared reality, than this post simply doesn't apply to them. There would also be a large excepetion for any game without a tradionial character-to-player structure.

I think this ties into another issue, which is save for a few varieties of shared reality (Conventinial superheroes, Organization(Such as the police)-based), there needs to be a good reason for the characters to be together, lest the fact that they are always together damage the shared reality. And that usually requires substantial planning beforehand. Now, there is a slight amendum to this about large-number-of-player games, such as LARPs, but the basic idea implies, it's just more flexible as you just need a reason to be around somebody.

Therefore, through some possibly loose arguemenets, I'm stating that (My expereince with Sim requires IC Party-intereaction) + (Random party interaction is likely to damage Sim with a few execptions) = (Have a good reason for people to stick together before doing Sim.)

Does this coincide with most Sim expiereince?
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2004, 11:52:40 PM »

It makes a lot of sense to me.

Since Sim is about experiencing the Dream, and you can only activate the Dream by being in a scene, then the more scene's you're in, the more you're dreaming.  (Hence the ubiquitious Sim battle cry: "I'm there.")

By jurry-rigging the situation, no matter how odd or ludicrous or like a chain gang the excuse is to keep the "party" together, its a small price to pay to keep the dream alive for as many people at the table as possible instant to instant.

This may also explain why, in a style of play so eleaborately trying to get the world and details "right," the hoary custom of the "party" is glossed over without a batting of the eyes.  It looks nutty to me, but for those who need the "party" to avoid a taffy pull of "scene stealing, it's a non-issue.  Who cares about the illogic of the party when it it's the best way to meet the priorities of the greatest number of people at the table for the greatest amount of time.

Off this point, then, I'd add the following to your last point: Sim players need an excuse to hang the party on, but probably don't need to stress on the reason as much as custom usually dictates.  "Reason enough," is proably where the very Sim boundry can be drawn on this one area of reality slipping slightly to the side, so the rest of the session can proceed smoothly.

As soon as players start asking, "Why am I with this guy, instead of over here?" a narrativism crack has probably appeared in the dream.  A *choice* of what matters is on the way -- and that's leading us toward Premise.  It's not enough to demand drift, but it might lead to it -- or at least disfunction.

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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pete_darby
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2004, 03:05:57 PM »

I think it co-incides with most sim experience, but probably on for historical, rather than CA reasons. Ars Magica introduced troupe play to ameliorate the situation, frex. Universalis allows vast edifices of explorable material to be developed, with explicitly no one to one mapping of player to character.

Where's the anti-adventuring party thread when you need it (search-fu drained...)?
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Pete Darby
jdagna
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2004, 08:41:30 PM »

I would have to disagree that split parties are worse in Sim play than in Nar play.  For one thing, anyone not actively involved in exploration isn't really a player, they're part of the audience.  But that doesn't really address the issue, which I've seen in action.

Look at it this way: in Nar play, the focus of play is on the premise/theme so that everyone is basically exploring the same thing - even if the characters are apart.  You are certainly less active than when the camera is one you, but you still have to be involved so that you know how the premise is being developed.  Since each person also has opinions and feelings about the premise, they have a strong reaction to how it develops.

Now, in traditional Sim-party splits you don't have this.  Each person creates his own little compartment of exploration with the GM.  Furthermore, Sim play usually insists on Actor stance, which prevents the players from using any of the information they overhear.  In fact, I know Sim players who prefer to leave the room during party splits.  And, to top it all off, Sim play rarely gives you a personal, emotional reason to invest in the exploration.

However, this is just a tradition.  There's no reason the results of exploration in one area can't deeply affect everyone else.  There's no reason you have to use actor stance.  There's no reason you can't develop something with real emotional interest for the players.

Consider this for an example: the characters are politicians trying to enact some policy change.  The players have feelings about this policy, just like they would about a premise.  Furthermore, they have no hang ups about using information gathered by other characters (whether by ignoring Actor stance or using wire taps or something similar).  Now you have a whole new level of involvement for players as they watch each other negotiate and deal for the issues.

As another example, you could imagine the interest of characters investigating a murder who also can share information.  Or characters involved in a first contact scenario with an alien race.

I will also suggest that split-party Nar play also works mostly thanks to tradition.  What if you had a split group where half of them wanted to explore themes about the value of sacrifice, and the other half wanted issues of predestination.  They're not going to have that same level of interest and I'd wager it would be less than the interest showed by the first type of Sim group.  The difference is that Sim groups do fine with little shared interest while Nar groups addressing different premises are going to conflict frequently.

So I think the difference stems from tradition and not necessity.  That said, I've never been a fan of splitting groups in any sense though it still happens pretty regularly in my games.  This just goes back to my original point: RPGs really aren't a spectator sport.
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com
M. J. Young
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2004, 08:21:26 PM »

Thank you, Justin, that is so what I wanted to say.

Ron has labled Multiverser simulationist, and although I was surprised when he did so, I've realized how right he is. It easily drifts in and out of narrativism and gamism, but at the core it's about exploring the unimaginably vast number of universes that can be imagined.

Player characters are almost never together; the game puts them in different universes, has them creating completely independent stories.

Players sit on the edge of their seats sometimes, watching each others stories unfold. What's going to happen in his world next? He's got an idea for dealing with this situation--is it going to work, or explode in his face?

To some degree, RPGs can be a spectator sport: to that degree in which the creation is worth watching. The big secret that took me several years of work to understand about Multiverser was right here: everyone is interested in everyone else's story. Maybe it will give me ideas for what to do in my situation; maybe I'll see a fabulously ridiculous botch, and be laughing for months about what one of the other player characters did; maybe there will be a glorious success, a moment of triumph. These are all interesting stories, and as much as I want to move my story forward, I also want to see what happens to everyone else.

I suppose that the reason you don't have that experience is that you don't have interesting enough simulationist adventures. If one of my players is the double for the King of Zenda, and one of them is trying to rescue three princesses from demons, and one is a crewman on a rebel spaceship, and one is studying magic with an oriental sorcerer, all four of them are in situations that are interesting to all four of them, and they'll want to sit up and take notice.

There's more than that going on, of course; but really, that's a major part of why the game works.

--M. J. Young
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sirogit
Member

Posts: 503


« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2004, 04:25:02 AM »

Christopher: I would agree with you, and say that if any issue can be fully ignored by everyone, than it will no doubt make the reality more coherent and consistant than if the issue was addressed at all. In the groups I've been however, people simply wern't able/willing to, something always made them go back to wondering "Why am I with these people?".

pete_darby: If you mean simulationism is like this because of traditionial -systems-, paticularly the traditionial system of Player's controling PC's and not other characters, than I would agree wholeheartedly. In Universalis you're always in the scene because you can always create components to impose your will on the story.

Though, I'm not sure if it's appropiate to bring it up because to my understanding Univeralis is very largely a Narrativist focused system, though I did play it Gamist once. Strange night that was. But if you've played it with a large focus on sim that's it's perfectly relevant.

What does CA stand for?

Jdagna: Now, I will give to you that Simulationism can easily be emotionially investing if it has themes that grab people and build on the players ability to see the game world as a real thing. I think it would be very difficult if the person was just a member in the audience.

By intereacting with the world, you make it more 'real' to you by several degrees more than esquisite simulationist design would. Without this element, I'd say it's incredibly difficult to make it emotionially engaging. If you could make a complete non-participator emotionially involved to the level of say a good movie, if that person was interacting with the world like the active players that person'd be moved to tears. You would just have a very large case of diminsihing returns that seems pointless to include.

I always been an amused spectator of Gamism on a number of occasians. I think it works a lot better as an audience participation because you're watching real people who you find intereasting make real tactical descsions. It's not something I'd do on a regular basis but I can imagine waiting for my turn in one.

Now, on your example... if a character had a wire-tap, than there's alot of possibilities for the player to play out simulationism. Let's get rid of the assumption that my post had Actor/author stance prejudice. In actor stance, he could cognate thoughts as his character as he's hearing the wire-tapped conversation. In author stance, he could think of ways for how his character would react, ways that contribuite to the shared reality.

Either way he is very much -playing-, as in scenes where his character cannot observe he is not.

Now, in your example of play in which the characters are supposed to have kowledge of what the other players are doing, AND the focus of play is what they do with that knowledge, seems like it would be quite engaging. I guess what I said about PCs should be together can be re-written as PCs should interact with each other's actions, which atleast 90% of the time means being in the same physical area.

On split Nar play: Players working with entirely different themes is something that happens completely seperate from whether or not the characters are expiereincing each other. In my opinion, narravitism only works if we're all working on the same story. Could be like four different people on different planets, each player running their side stories that never have effect on each other, but somehow, the sum of these parts has to mean something to be a good Narrativist game. It was my assumption that this is how the Nar portion of Multiverser works, the part that makes it functionial with split parties, even if the game's main focus  is Sim. Never having played Multiverser, could be wrong.

M. J. Young: Hmm... You could be right that my expiereince with Sim is mediocre, even if I did enjoy it.... To anyone who has great fun being an audience to Sim players, the only thing I would theorize is that the moments that your character is not expiereincing is not helpfull to your own playing, if that playing needs no help, than it isn't an issue.
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jdagna
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2004, 04:57:57 PM »

Quote
On split Nar play: Players working with entirely different themes is something that happens completely seperate from whether or not the characters are expiereincing each other. In my opinion, narravitism only works if we're all working on the same story. Could be like four different people on different planets, each player running their side stories that never have effect on each other, but somehow, the sum of these parts has to mean something to be a good Narrativist game. It was my assumption that this is how the Nar portion of Multiverser works, the part that makes it functionial with split parties, even if the game's main focus  is Sim. Never having played Multiverser, could be wrong.


Sirogit, this is pretty much my point exactly:

Narrativist players exploring the same theme = fun play
Narrativist players exploring different themes = not fun play
Simulationist players exploring the same thing = fun play
Simulationist players exploring different things = not fun play

So the solution is to
1) keep the PCs together (the traditional Sim approach).
or
2) make it so that they're exploring the same thing in different places (the traditional Nar approach, which can also serve Sim goals well).

#2 is harder in Sim terms because you need a thing that is universal (like a theme).  That's why politics or mysteries or first alien contacts work well: the ideas, mysteries and cultures are not geographically confined, so the PCs don't have to be either.  If exploration focuses on a dungeon, then you all have to pretty much be in the dungeon to explore it.
[/quote]
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2004, 09:25:59 PM »

Hi there,

Just wanted to point out that I've done very well with separated-in-space characters in Simulationist play, as long as any of the following apply:

a) a shared mission

b) a shared interest in a specific unknown thing

c) shared emotional ties among characters

My current multiple-session game is Pocket Universe, and we're playing it pretty solid Sim; it's a cop procedural and serial-killer scenario. Most of the player-characters' action is carried out separately among the characters.

Best,
Ron
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Walt Freitag
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Posts: 1039


« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2004, 08:15:29 AM »

Just to second (or third) what Justin and Ron just said, Ron's a, b, and c are also design staples for Simulationist LARPs in which not only the characters but often the players are separated in space much of the time.

- Walt
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Wandering in the diasporosphere
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