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Author Topic: What is the Dream?  (Read 28135 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #30 on: January 13, 2004, 02:08:41 PM »

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for reminding me about that thread.  I had forgotten about it.

That said, I think the thread you referenced addressed a different issue than what I was trying to bring up here.  The other thread was about issues of scale, breadth and length of the tale.

What I was tryingt to get at here was that no matter how long the story, different people play for different reasons, and those reasons often have to do a lot to do with their expectations.  And often, we bring to RPGs expectations of different kinds of stories we've read or seen.  And often people say, "But this story..." or "that story..." missing the fact the different stories where built with completley different tools, techniques and priorities.  Thus, when John reference certain novels showing what he means by options for the Dream, I think its prudent to point out that differnt forms of fiction use details to different ends.

In short, what the writer does with the details, and how they serve the story.  Or not.  Sometimes, just building a big complicated world that all fits together really cool is cool... And you just need a few characters to wander through it, so the reader has a POV to experience the cool world and delight in its complexity.

Of course, what a writer's priorities are will affect which techniques he uses, and produce different kinds of results.  Thus, there are different forms of story telling.  Thus there are different styles of RPG play.

Which is a long way of saying, your post was great.  I didn't go into all the different techniques between playwrighting, screen writing and writing novels...  And I shouldn't have.  But your thread illustrated how the specific differences in techniques for people of different taste and expectations prioritize different forms of play and produce different results.

And that I thought was great.

Take care,

Christopher
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #31 on: January 13, 2004, 02:36:24 PM »

Christopher,

That all makes great sense to me - thanks.  In particular, I want to emphasize your notion that we take expectations from a novel (or movie, or play, and etc.) and try and map them into our RPG play - I think that "story forms expectations, expectations then brought to RPG" model creates a separation between a story-work and a RPG that is very, very important, without destroying the clearly real association between the two.

For purposes of this thread, I find that important because those expectation issues seem to me mostly independant of GNS issues - sometimes overlapping a bit, but often not, and never fully equivalent.  So - cool stuff, IMO,

Gordon
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #32 on: January 13, 2004, 03:23:31 PM »

"....mostly independent of GNS issues..."  

Absolutely.  

Something I'm always aware of, but, I realize, not always clear about in my posts.  I assume anology and influence between *all* media is constant, valuable and natural.  I also assume everyone knows I'm not assuming a one to one ratio when identifying anologies between media.

The fact that people look for a one to one ratio when I refence between media always catches me off guard.  I could say, for example, I know my screenwriting is getting better because of my study of drawing and efforts to clearly commnicate human anatomy on a two dimensional surface to a viewer.  But am I saying a drawing of a human being is a screenplay?  No.  

My concerns in these anologies are *always* about the process, technique, priority and disciplines involved with the media.  It's all the underground wiring, nuts and bolts stuff --- not what on the surface.  I think the more people playing RPGs know about the nuts and bolts of different kinds of media they love, the nuts and bolts of different kinds of stories they love, they'll have a better chance to find anologous nuts and bolts to apply to their sessions.  And I think that applies to people's expectation of "detail" elements and exploration of setting (whether that be the detailed environment of John Varley's "Titan" books or the bare bones sketch of a setting in the movie "Aliens".)

So, sorry if it looked like I was trying to yank the thread earlier.  Not my intent at all.

Take care,
Christopher
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #33 on: January 13, 2004, 08:58:53 PM »

I apologize for missing yesterday; I had a headache when I awoke, and it only worsened during the day, so I gave up somewhere in the midst of my e-mail and took the rest of the day off. (Does that make it a mental health day?) I do hope there isn't a "thread closed" tag at the end of all this, because there's so much here that I've had to start composing responses only part way through reading what's written.

Thank you, Ian, for calling attention to the agendum/agenda usage.

I also apologize that in my very long post, in using a book as an illustration I failed to mention that I was invoking it by analogy. I do not think that Perelandra or any other novel is simulationist; I was distinguishing those sections as being like simulationism. To expand this, and simultaneously respond to something later in the thread that I've misplaced for the moment:
    [*]If you were to play a game based on Perelandra in which the focus was entirely on the conflict between the player character and the villain Weston, and the outcome of the debate and the battle, that would be gamist.[*]If you were to play a game based on Perelandra in which the focus was entirely on the moral issues of choice in an unfallen world, that would be narrativist (even if as part of that a fight broke out between the player character and Weston).[*]If you were to play a game based on Perelandra from which you removed Weston entirely, such that all that remained was exploring the vast strange unfallen world of floating islands (with or without the presence of the lady), that would be simulationist.[/list:u]
    Lewis is of course primarily interested in his theme; these chapters are wonderfully expository of the alien world in which he is setting his story, but they are mostly setting and color--and I'm going to come back to that.
    Quote from: Jason
    Suffice it to say that we start with the assumption that Sim has something for a meta-game agenda. My question is, is this something unique to Sim? Or is it present in Nar, even if it is 'quieter'? If so, I think the inconsistencies that spring from point five remain.
    Gordon has, I think, nailed this with his comments about prioritization; I'm going to bring out three aspects I think are important.

    The first is that prioritization can show itself in discovery. A gamist may be involved in the sort of discovery about the world that seems to suggest simulationism, but while he is so involved he is using that (at some level) to prepare himself for the challenges ahead. Similarly, a narrativist may be picking up a great deal of information about setting and situation through exploration, but this information ultimately serves the address of premise, and does not exist for its own sake.

    The second is that drift might be happening in any game. Players don't necessarily always prioritize one thing constantly. The Vinland game could very well be drifting between moments of discovery of the nature of life in that world and moments of serious address of premise. It is doubtful that they are doing both at once, but they might be moving between them.

    In this regard, I'll observe that John is a very experienced gamer/referee who may well navigate such drift by the seat of his pants without any thought to it.

    I'm currently reading someone's excerpts and comments on Aristotle's Poetics (I wanted the original, but apparently this was what was available). I've realized that a lot of the things I did in writing Verse Three, Chapter One and in drafting the subsequent books were very much in accord with what Aristotle described as good drama--but I wasn't thinking of it that way at the time. When we feel at home in a medium, we tend to use it well without considering what we're doing, so it's quite possible to drift games without thought. I know that I did it for years in running OAD&D and Multiverser, in response to player actions and interests, without ever realizing that there was a difference between the combat in the dungeons, the complications of whether good characters can torture suspected assassins to get information, and the exploration of how to conduct a trial in a medieval world. This makes analysis of games difficult, because whatever is happening right now might not be happening at another time within the same game.

    The third point has two parts to it: the creation of fictional worlds, from a dramatic point of view, is always flawed; those flaws are a good thing. Someone has cited Hitchcock's (?) suggestion that if there's a shotgun over the fireplace in the beginning of the movie, it has to be used by the middle of the movie. That may be true for cinema, and I think Aristotle would agree--but for books and role playing games, I don't think that's true. I'll pull an example from my book.

    There is a moment in which a secondary character gives one of the protagonists a bag containing five objects, all magical. When I wrote that scene, one of those five objects was clearly important in my mind, and was going to be used in the events immediately ahead; the other four were there precisely because if that one object was the only one in the bag, it would have called undue attention to itself as "the thing that matters here". I had no immediate idea what the other four would be or do, or how I would use them. Before I'd gotten much further, I devised functions for three of these, but two have never been used, and the third is not used until the second book. The final object I realized while writing the second book was going to be a major piece of a puzzle I was building, to be finally understood in a major climactic moment in the third. Yet through all that, there were still two objects in that bag that have not mattered at all, beyond being color--and yet they did matter very much at the moment they appeared, because their presence takes your eyes off the two objects that are important, and prevents it from feeling contrived.

    Hitchcock and Aristotle, both of whom would be wonderful narrativist referees, would shudder at the idea that I wasted any time on a couple of objects that have no place in the core drama of the story. Anything that is mentioned in the story should matter to the story. Some narrativist play may be like this, so completely focused on premise that nothing exists without reference to premise. Some gamist play may also be like this, where nothing matters other than that which can be used tactically. Yet most play includes the exploration of elements which will never matter to the premise or the challenge. This is good, in game play. It is good in part because we don't know which elements might be useful to serving our agendum; when I threw those objects into that bag, I didn't know that the character would use one of them extensively in the second book, or that one of them would come to have such a central role in tying together the first three--nor did I know that two of them would lie around unused through three entire novels. It is good in part because the presence of details that don't matter, that we never bring to bear on our creative agendum, negates the feeling that this is all contrived and railroaded. There were things that might have mattered but didn't. We explored them, but never found any use for them.

    Thus exploration of detail does not demonstrate simulationist play, even if some of the detail is never part of gamist or narrativist agenda.

    I think Jack may have highlighted this: those information dumps give us data, much of which is not really useful; but often the answers we need for the story are buried in that data. If Crichton gave us only the data we need, it would seem like he was telling us the answer; if he never gave us the data we need, we wouldn't get it when the answer came. By giving us more data than we need, he assures that we get the information we need without calling attention to it.

    I'm going to tip my hat to Rowling on this. Her Harry Potter series is our current bedtime story reading, and it's my second time through. As I now have a much better notion of what's going to happen (I don't remember all of it), I'm seeing the ways she provides the bits and pieces that are necessary to understanding the end without calling attention to them, by dressing them as mundane details, bits of conversation, miscellaneous events, information learned in class, and other minor ordinary things. So, too, in play we may explore much detail that doesn't matter to our CA in order to pick up and identify the things that do matter without making them seem artificial.
    Quote from: Thus in regard to what John
    I am not very satisfied with this. It makes Sim-vs-Nar into a sliding scale of how much detail you would like. However, outside of RPGs many stories have much more detail than is necessary to understand the plot (like Perelandra, Moby Dick, and Lord of the Rings.)
    I was a bit unclear, I suppose, on this. It's not how much detail you have; it's the degree to which the detail matters for its own sake, as opposed to mattering in the pursuit of premise or challenge. If you have said that the thing that matters is wrestling with the moral issues, the opportunity cost is that the exploration of the detail does not matter in the same way; if you have determined that the understanding of the setting/situation is what matters, then the moral issues become interesting asides to be resolved in whatever way fits the world and then left behind as background in the interesting place you are discovering.

    Looking back to Perelandra, there were a lot of details in the world description that didn't matter at all. To some degree, none of them mattered to the theme, beyond the fact that they defined the stage on which the theme would play. Yet some of those details did matter, as they defined the limitations and obstacles that Ransom would face, within which he would have to overcome evil and protect the unfallen world. Lewis doesn't tell us which will matter later; when they matter, we accept them, because they're part of the established description of the world. That kind of detail (and I suspect Melville is similar in this regard, although it has been far too long since I had a copy of Moby Dick) establishes the reality sufficiently that when the action occurs within it, we as readers, or as players, know the parameters that matter as they arise. Thus not all the detail served the theme, but the presence of the detail served the theme by providing the context within which the important bits were conveyed to us.

    Sorry for another long one, but there's a lot in this thread.

    --M. J. Young
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    John Kim
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    « Reply #34 on: January 13, 2004, 11:18:07 PM »

    Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
      To take an example (and yes examples are always a bit problematic) from John's Vinland game, and think about it from an S-standpoint: the insight about the size and type of living space due to the change in availability of timber.  How wonderful, say (in various ways) the people playing!  This means that visitors from Iceland are going to feel uncomfortable here.  Oh, their temper's may flare - things may get interesting in Vinland soon.  That detail might even have been introduced to support a thematic issue - the conflict of tradition with progress, say.  But in an S-Priority it drives the evolution of imagined events, rejoicing in the creation of more and more imagined space, simply because it is a joyous thing to do - including the issues around tradition and progress, as neat explorative elements.  

    I sort of agree with you here -- but I suspect that you're missing a big piece here.  The reason why this came up in-game was because of Kjartan's marriage.  Kjartan had just married a wealthy young woman, Thjohild.  The question is whether they would have a private bed-closet within the family longhouse.  Within Icelandic tradition, only the head of the family would tend to have a private bed-closet, while all others slept in the common area.  So it's a question of whether he has to have sex with his wife with thirty other people around, or whether they can have sex in private.  

    Now, if they do get to have their own bed-closet, then that becomes an extremely visible change of living for Thjohild -- who like all unmarried children had been sleeping in the common area of her home.  That affects their relationship.  And that is why Kjartan's player was interested in the question.  

    Now, was she thinking "Ah, this question is important for the Premise of progress-vs-tradition?"  Well, no.  She was thinking "Dude, are we going to have to do it in front of everybody?"  And that made it important for how she imagined Kjartan's life.  

    Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
      As far as I can tell, the people playing in the S-approach can still "learn" something about the issue itself.  I'm just saying that they aren't looking at it as such while they play.  By not seeing it as an issue itself, but rather "just" an element of the imagined world, they gain a purity of exploration that going Nar would of necessity lose.  Any "learn about the issue" payoff must explicitly be outside play.  Or if they do see it as such, and sacrifice that purity, they are doing Nar.  

    Here I think I agree with you.  It's impossible for issue-learning to be entirely outside of play -- but Simulationism (at least Threefold Simulationism) at least de-emphasizes it.  The issue-learning is meta-game and thus shouldn't be used for in-game-world decision-making, so it will tend to be put off until after the game.  People will always analyze on some level, but techniques can suppress that.  Like Stephen King's suggestion for novel writing, finding the story is something that comes after creating the story.  

    Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
      To which I supose you could say that we need to learn about rejecting G and N for them to be absent.  Or UNlearn our compulsion to persue them.  Chicken and the egg problem perhaps.  But stretching metaphors (applying GNS to the "root" action of imagining rather than applied imagining in an RPG), I'd guess that the Dream (in the simple sense of idle daydreaming) happens at a very early age, and it is only later that we learn to use it towards a goal.  Maybe if it wasn't useful for anything, it would not persist - but in our earliest experiences with the impulse behind the Dream, there was no priority, only the Dream itself.  As we learn, we become increasingly aware of priority, perhaps even realizing that we are incapable of operating without a priority - so we make the purity of the Dream a priority in and of itself.  

    I think that is pretty insightful.  Threefold Simulationism is definitely about un-learning our compulsion to say "what should the story be?"  -- and instead just tap into what we imagine and going with that.   What I find strange is that many posters think that pure imagination (i.e. "idle daydreams") lacks issues or meaning -- that issues have to be forced into  our imaginings by System, because otherwise it would be "just dreams".  To me, dreams are overflowing with issues, and the more raw and unquestioned the dream -- the more meaning it has.
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    Jason Lee
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    Posts: 729


    « Reply #35 on: January 14, 2004, 02:29:35 AM »

    We've got good posts from Gordon and M.J. pointing to what I think is the same answer:

    Quote from: Gordon
    First, though, what do we call "it"? The Dream, Exploration? MJ throws in discovery, and I'll add creation, or invention - all possible descriptions. All terms for a thing that G and N can be said to use in pursuit of their goals. But only S sees it (under whatever name) in itself as the point of play (note - not "with no interest or emotion," or at least not as a requirement). The relationship that S has with "it" is different than the relationship that G or N has with it - that's what defines S. For some people, the experience of Exploration Squared (the Right to Dream) is profoundly different than the experience of Exploration (the Dream) on its' own - and for GNS, what we see when Exploration is Squared is very different from what we see when it serves G or N.

    [snip]


    Quote from: M.J. Young
    The first is that prioritization can show itself in discovery. A gamist may be involved in the sort of discovery about the world that seems to suggest simulationism, but while he is so involved he is using that (at some level) to prepare himself for the challenges ahead. Similarly, a narrativist may be picking up a great deal of information about setting and situation through exploration, but this information ultimately serves the address of premise, and does not exist for its own sake.

    [snip]


    What seems to be said here (I think Gordon really focused on this in his post and it made sense to me) is that the answer to John's original option two:

    Quote from: John Kim
    2) Simulationism gains something other than the Dream. So both Narrativism and Simulationism fully maintain the integrity of the Dream, but Simulationism gains a different quality.


    is yes.  Yes, Sim gains something else.

    I'm going to think out loud now, so bear with me.

    Just this Monday we had a kind of choppy, and for me, irritating combat.  A few hours ago I was talking to Tara about it and she says, "I think the problem was we all, and I mean everyone, had different goals.  We all wanted the combat to evolve and end differently."

    I go off on a little tangent and bitch about GM force, but she eventually drags me back to the point.  While we're trying to figuring out what everyone's goal was she asks, "What do you think my goal was?  I just want to know if you understand why I do the things I do."

    (What she did in the combat was walk out of the subway train, get shot in the chest, and then proceed to bleed on the floor.  Later, still bleeding on the floor and barely conscious, she shot the guy who was strangling my character through the throat. There was also some "Ugh, I've been shot", and some "Don't worry about me", and a little "What's going on?".  BTW - It was her choice to get shot, and she actually had quite a bit of fun in the combat.)

    So I say, "Ummm... you wanted people to be concerned about Jeremiah?"

    She says, "No.  I thought you'd say that.  I wanted to convey the image of what I think a gunfight is.  If you get shot you should be hurt, that should mean something, it should seem real."  (She keeps expanding on this for a while, talking about realism, detail and her mental image.)

    In my head I'm thinking "Wow, that's all just exploration stuff.  That's so Sim. Huh... that doesn't make sense.  There's no way that's why she did it - she's about as Nar as it gets."

    Out of my head I say, "Believe it or not, I'm going to disagree with your opinion about what you want."  Insert that, 'this better not be one of your condescending moments' look.

    Here I go, "Ok, but why are wounds being serious more interesting?"

    She thinks about it and says, "If everytime they get hurt they just shrug it off, or have it healed right away they begin to seem immortal.  Then they begin to even act like they are immortal when they should be concerned for their health.  It does nothing to express how fragile their lives really are.  It waters everything down."

    I get all excited and say, "Ah!  There it is that's the theme!"

    We talk for a while more, and come to the mutual conclusion that this is her addressing the mortality themes she's been into as of late.  Stuff about living life to the fullest and how wounds lacking lethality blocks addressing that, because then mortality does not exist in the game.

    Before I asked "Why?" all we had was exploration.  I think on this and what's been said in this thread, and it seems to me that Creative Agenda is simply 'why you play.'  So Sim, or any other Creative Agenda, has precisely dick to do with detail, verisimilitude, creation, invention, discovery or whatever else we want to call Exploration; it isn't even slightly about Exploration.

    Why do you play? (What Sim gains in answer to John's option two.)
    Nar - To make a statement.
    Gam - For the challenge.
    Sim - For its own sake.

    If I say "Why did you climb that mountain?", and you say "Because it was there.", then I give you an irritated look and say "You didn't answer the damn question".  Doing something for its own sake doesn't seem like much of a reason.  This is hypocritical behavior on my part because I'll say "knowledge is an end unto itself."  I'll have to think on this a bit and decide where I stand, but at the moment I don't see any particular argument that falsifies doing something for its own sake.  Hence, the Sim agenda holds.

    I know the concept that Sim has nothing in particular to do with Exploration (it is not Exploration squared) is really contrary.  Then again, that would explain why Creative Agenda is the "doing", because it is the 'why' behind the actions.

    Though, the problem I see here is that I can't figure how doing something for its own sake conflicts with doing something for one of the other reasons.

    I'm not certain if this solves anything, helps anyone, or is even remotely correct, but it has given me something to think about and doesn't seem to conflict with the established model.
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    contracycle
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    « Reply #36 on: January 14, 2004, 02:52:59 AM »

    Hmm.  I sympathise with that description of the significance of combat as given; I'm not inclined to see it as theme at all.  That is, the sanitisation of violence that occurs in most media gets on my nerves as a fact quite independant of any RPG.  Thus, when I engage in RPG, my own act of creation, that "error" is one I consciously "correct".

    Now, perhaps it is true that that for this specific player, there was a theme they were in fact addressing and the Sim rationale was just that, a rationale.  But its so closs to one of my own bugbears, I wonder.

    Therefore I disagree that sim is unconcerned with detail with and verismilitiude, but instead use "becuase its there" in a different way.  I think that all games are a sort of self-teaching behaviour; the importance then of coherence and realism is to make that learning experience valuable, something that I can generalise into my own, real, life.  If the rules are teaching me Wrong Things, then my behaviours and responses are being trained to those Wrong Things through the reward/feedback structure.  Potentially, this can be worse than useless, it could be dangerous.  All of ewhich is to say that I think there is a valid defence of Exploration for its own sake as a play-motivating goal.
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    Ian Charvill
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    « Reply #37 on: January 14, 2004, 05:12:17 AM »

    Jason

    I think it might be interesting to turn this one around.  If narrativism is about making a statement - then why not just have the ethics discussion?  Why go to all the trouble of engaging with all of the imagined elements if all you're interested in doing is making a statement.

    By roleplaying you're getting 'making a statement' plus X - however you define X.  Standard answer as per creative agenda is exploration.  If the statements you want to make are insufficient to hold your interests by themselves then you must really like some effect that the X has.  You could express simulatinism merely as liking the effect of X more than you like the 'making a statement'.

    In order to have imaginative play by human beings that doesn't make a statement you would have to have narrativist play - because only by constant attention to premise could you ensure that theme did not emerge.  Human beings have no choice in a shared imaginative arena but to draw from their experiences - and what experiences do they have if not human ones - and what can they do but express those in ways that are comprehensible to other human beings - otherwise, what else is being shared.

    Only narrativist play could reliably exclude theme - simulationist and gamist play will, by necessity, be lousy with it.  Hence John's comment:

    Quote
    What I find strange is that many posters think that pure imagination (i.e. "idle daydreams") lacks issues or meaning -- that issues have to be forced into our imaginings by System, because otherwise it would be "just dreams". To me, dreams are overflowing with issues, and the more raw and unquestioned the dream -- the more meaning it has.
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    John Kim
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    « Reply #38 on: January 14, 2004, 11:11:42 AM »

    Quote from: cruciel
      She says, "No.  I thought you'd say that.  I wanted to convey the image of what I think a gunfight is.  If you get shot you should be hurt, that should mean something, it should seem real."  (She keeps expanding on this for a while, talking about realism, detail and her mental image.)

    In my head I'm thinking "Wow, that's all just exploration stuff.  That's so Sim. Huh... that doesn't make sense.  There's no way that's why she did it - she's about as Nar as it gets."

    Out of my head I say, "Believe it or not, I'm going to disagree with your opinion about what you want."  Insert that, 'this better not be one of your condescending moments' look.

    Here I go, "Ok, but why are wounds being serious more interesting?"

    She thinks about it and says, "If everytime they get hurt they just shrug it off, or have it healed right away they begin to seem immortal.  Then they begin to even act like they are immortal when they should be concerned for their health.  It does nothing to express how fragile their lives really are.  It waters everything down."

    I get all excited and say, "Ah!  There it is that's the theme!"  
    ...(brief skip)...
    Before I asked "Why?" all we had was exploration.  

    OK, I don't know if this applies to you, but I have been pretty annoyed by similar conversations in the past.  It seems to me that you had an answer which you were looking for (theme), and when the first answer didn't fit you poked and prodded until you got something which was vaguely like a theme -- then you quickly declare that you have found the real answer, and that the first answer was mistaken self-deception.  

    I don't think that's right.  You can always poke and prod at any story or RPG play, and you can come up with an explanation -- i.e. a theme.  But if you poke and prod some more (or if someone else pokes and prods), you might find a totally different explanation -- a whole different theme.  In a good story, you will find many different (and contradictory) explanations for what it means.  But the story isn't any of those explanations.  The story is itself, and it is more than any single moral metaphor which you tease out of it.  

    Quote
      Why do you play? (What Sim gains in answer to John's option two.)
    Nar - To make a statement.
    Gam - For the challenge.
    Sim - For its own sake.

    If I say "Why did you climb that mountain?", and you say "Because it was there.", then I give you an irritated look and say "You didn't answer the damn question".  Doing something for its own sake doesn't seem like much of a reason.  This is hypocritical behavior on my part because I'll say "knowledge is an end unto itself."  I'll have to think on this a bit and decide where I stand, but at the moment I don't see any particular argument that falsifies doing something for its own sake.  Hence, the Sim agenda holds.  

    Well, here's my two cents: four-word answers for "why" are never true.  Human motivation comes from a million different factors.  Ask me why I like chocolate, or why I like hiking, or why I like singing -- and I can't give you a short sentence which conveys my whole reasons.  For one thing, I don't know my whole reasons.
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    « Reply #39 on: January 14, 2004, 11:27:43 AM »

    Heh.  This last exchange between Jason and John hits exactly on something I've said for awhile and IMO it boils down to "you're both right".

    I'm not a believer of the "there is no intent behind Creative Agendas" theory.  In fact, I think that Creative Agendas are primarily about intent.  Jason's probeing questions are an attempt to get to the intent...the "why" behind the creative agenda...and I fully agree and believe there is a "why" there at the root of it all.  

    But I also fully agree with John, that attempting to assertain the "why" is completely fruitless.  A person is rarely cognizant of all of the reasons why they do something or all of the nuances of their preferences.  People are also capable of prodigious feats of self delusion so even if they think they know the why it isn't necessarily so.

    Therefor attempting to use intent or questions designed to elicit why is doomed to failure.  Alls you'll wind up getting is a lot of circular talk and very little definitive anything (I think Johns commentary here on asking leading questions is not only telling, but quite common in this sort of thing).

    This is why so much effort has been expended to keep intent and why out of diagnosing Agendas.  Its completely and utterly futile.  I won't agree with the position that some take that it isn't there.  But I will agree that there or not it does us no good to look for it.
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    Blankshield
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    « Reply #40 on: January 14, 2004, 12:47:54 PM »

    Quote from: cruciel
    Why do you play? (What Sim gains in answer to John's option two.)
    Nar - To make a statement.
    Gam - For the challenge.
    Sim - For its own sake.


    This struck me as really getting to the crux of it, but I think you're short-changing Sim in your followup comments.  Play for it's own sake is I think much more a real motive (and much more common) in gaming than you seem to imply.  A quick aside - I've only been reading seriously on the forge for a month or so, so if I'm missing some big chunk of the model, or rehashing old ground, feel free to squash me like a bug. :)  I'm also thinking aloud a bit as a write, so forgive me if I wander a bit.

    In a lot of the stuff I've been reading here(this thread and its progenitor specifically), it seems like Sim is getting a bad rap.  Either it's classed as Nar without Story Now, or it's the servant to either Game or Nar, and in and of itself is of little purpose.  This seems really counterintuitive to me, because there are scads of things out there that aren't roleplaying that strongly support Game or Nar agendas (boardgames and theatre being two obvious examples) - so if Sim in and of itself holds little appeal, why are we trying to make RPGs fit those agendas instead of going to things that are Game or Nar right from the get-go?  It seems obvious to me that we're ultimately here for the Sim.

    So if Sim is that pervasive, isn't all play to some degree hybrid play?  That brings us back to the root question here, which, in the context of what I've just written, becomes: "What is Sim being when it isn't being something else?"

    I think that playing Sim is actually fairlystraightforward - We're looping back to the 'why do you play' question and I'm going to modify cruciel's three answers slightly:

    Game: Because it's fun and challenging
    Nar: Because it's fun and makes a statement
    Sim: Because it's fun.

    Which is not to imply that people playing mainly Sim can't enjoy challenges or make statements, but that's not a big part of why they're at the table.  I suspect people are playing Sim most of the time, but it's hard to see from the table, just like it's easy to see trees but hard to see the forest.

    If I pick up a gaming book in the store, flip through it and say "this looks cool" buy it and and play with my friends - we're playing Sim.  We're mostly exploring System and Setting (and probably Color), since that's typically what a gaming book provides.  If we like the game and keep playing, our play might drift, but it will drift because of *why* we like it - and if why we like it is "because it's a fun game", we may not drift at all.

    Right now I'm playing in a MLwM game(*) that is overtly Nar - we sat down before the game and discussed CA (about the first or second time our gaming group has done a serious CA, historically it's been mostly subtext), and we came up with strong premise(s) that we are exploring fairly distinctly.  But I would argue that the game is at least half Sim, possibly more, because a large chunk of why we're playing it is because Harlequin said "this looks like fun, lets try it" and we said "OK."  Half the reason we're at the table is to play with the system and see how it meshes with our group and our Social Contract, but at the same time we're exploring our premise(s) and holding to them very closely.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Sim play isn't about The Dream.  A group playtesting a new system - especially in the early stages - is going to have to routinely throw The Dream out the window.  They will need to drop out and discuss mechanics, or push into hardcore Game to see if the game's layering and currency is "broken" [aka: obvious dominant strategy].  However, while they are doing that, they are still at the table, still (presumably) having fun, still roleplaying.  Still doing Sim.  Exploring System and Setting for it's own sake.

    If a label must be attached to Sim play, don't make it The Dream - The Dream can be Sim, sure, but it's fairly tightly tied to Sim-Color and Sim-Setting, and sometimes Sim-Character.  If I were to give Sim play a label, I would say that while Game is about Step On Up and Nar is about Premise, Sim is about Concept.  You are playing Sim when your focus is not on "why are we doing this" but on "what is this that we are doing".

    Flweh.  I didn't realize I was going to be so long-winded.  Sorry. :)

    *At Seven Bells, run by Harlequin.  He's been posting on it over in the Actual Play forum
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    Ian Charvill
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    « Reply #41 on: January 14, 2004, 02:16:42 PM »

    Hey Blankshield, welcome to the Forge!

    You seem to be fairly solidly on beam, except for where you're conflating exploration in support of Narrativism/Gamism with Simulationism.  For all the electrons we spill over it here, for large portions of most game sessions no conflict over creative agenda would occur, because actions would be congruent for all three agendas.  It's all exploration.  Which is where we came in on the thread - the question of sim is exploration plus what?

    As far as Concept goes, it's a fair enough term.  When I think of Sim, I think of Invention, the power to make stuff up (TM).  When Ron thinks of Sim he thinks of the Dream.  When you think of Sim, you think of the Concept.  It's all good, I feel.  None of these terms really contradict each other, there just different takes on the same broad idea.

    (and the sheer breadth of each of the three agendas, in terms of play styles, is something that took me a while to catch hold of)
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    Ian Charvill
    Jason Lee
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    « Reply #42 on: January 14, 2004, 02:21:13 PM »

    When I think out loud it doesn't have all those nice qualifying statements so often needed for online communication.

    First off, the direction I've taken with the previous post is contradictory, mostly, to what I've been saying in this and the parent thread.  I don't know if I agree with it, but Gordon and M.J. seem to have provided an answer of 'yes' to option two and I'm seeing where that takes me.

    Quote from: contracycle
    mm. I sympathise with that description of the significance of combat as given; I'm not inclined to see it as theme at all. That is, the sanitisation of violence that occurs in most media gets on my nerves as a fact quite independant of any RPG. Thus, when I engage in RPG, my own act of creation, that "error" is one I consciously "correct".

    Now, perhaps it is true that that for this specific player, there was a theme they were in fact addressing and the Sim rationale was just that, a rationale. But its so closs to one of my own bugbears, I wonder.


    Quote from: John Kim
    OK, I don't know if this applies to you, but I have been pretty annoyed by similar conversations in the past. It seems to me that you had an answer which you were looking for (theme), and when the first answer didn't fit you poked and prodded until you got something which was vaguely like a theme -- then you quickly declare that you have found the real answer, and that the first answer was mistaken self-deception.

    I don't think that's right. You can always poke and prod at any story or RPG play, and you can come up with an explanation -- i.e. a theme. But if you poke and prod some more (or if someone else pokes and prods), you might find a totally different explanation -- a whole different theme. In a good story, you will find many different (and contradictory) explanations for what it means. But the story isn't any of those explanations. The story is itself, and it is more than any single moral metaphor which you tease out of it.


    This is definitely something specific to this player.  In my post I cut the conversation after I got to the 'why' part and summed up.  When we wer talking about it we bounced it around for a while, made connections to other stuff, and talked about where the hell she's been going with the character in general.  It wasn't particularly difficult to get to the theme because she's got a good sense of what she's trying to say, but it wasn't terribly obvious either.

    I did the same sort of thing in the previous session, for a totally-different-but-still-Nar reason.  A while back my character accidentally killed someone with magic.  Since then she's been suppressing it - not using it.  She got shot in the leg and I assigned it to an artery.  The tricky part is, because of the suppression I had her bleed fire.  Rather hard to stop the bleeding when it's on fire, isn't it?  So I had her almost bleed to death.  In this case my preference for a lethal bullet wound was because I was addressing a theme about denying yourself and how it's doomed to failure.

    Someone else would have a different answer for 'why'.  If that answer comes down to 'just because', instead of 'blah theme' or 'blegpth advantage', I'd say Sim and probably be confused.

    Quote from: John Kim
    Well, here's my two cents: four-word answers for "why" are never true. Human motivation comes from a million different factors. Ask me why I like chocolate, or why I like hiking, or why I like singing -- and I can't give you a short sentence which conveys my whole reasons. For one thing, I don't know my whole reasons.


    I won't disagree.  Those were concise example statements only.

    Quote from: Ian
    By roleplaying you're getting 'making a statement' plus X - however you define X. Standard answer as per creative agenda is exploration. If the statements you want to make are insufficient to hold your interests by themselves then you must really like some effect that the X has. You could express simulatinism merely as liking the effect of X more than you like the 'making a statement'.


    Where this goes doesn't seem to disagree with you.  If Sim is 'The Right to Dream', then the Creative Agenda is 'The Right'.  Nar and Gam have an equal right to the dream, but Sim takes the right 'just because'.  It's the answer to "Why do you like X?"

    Quote from: Ralph
    I'm not a believer of the "there is no intent behind Creative Agendas" theory. In fact, I think that Creative Agendas are primarily about intent. Jason's probeing questions are an attempt to get to the intent...the "why" behind the creative agenda...and I fully agree and believe there is a "why" there at the root of it all.

    But I also fully agree with John, that attempting to assertain the "why" is completely fruitless. A person is rarely cognizant of all of the reasons why they do something or all of the nuances of their preferences. People are also capable of prodigious feats of self delusion so even if they think they know the why it isn't necessarily so.


    I'm in agreement with both of those statements as well, and I agree that asking 'why' is just trying to dig out the intent.  Where I've gone with this is that Creative Agenda is simply the intent, and that Sim's intent is 'just because'.  Sim has no more reference to Exploration than any other Creative Agenda.  If Sim is fundamentally about Exploration, then I end up circling back to my earlier arguments about how Exploration is not an exclusive priority.

    EDIT:Little side note:  We were analyzing the combat to determine where the fun went (why it was dysfunctional).  When it came down to it she had fun because she was getting a chance to address her theme, and I didn't have fun because I wasn't getting that chance.
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    Gordon C. Landis
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    « Reply #43 on: January 14, 2004, 02:29:57 PM »

    Hmm, this may just be a rephrase of what Ralph said, but let me try anyway - for GNS purposes, "why" is not important.  CA does not ask "why" you play, it asks where does play demonstrate your focus to be.  

    What matters is what actually happened.  Did (per the e.g.)  Tara's portrayal of an injured PC contribute to play that reveled in the Dream?  Did it help in imagining what happens in a gunfight as fully as possible, such that the group as a whole got a buzz off the thrill (in whatever form) of it all?  Or did it contribute to Story Now in a way that made everyone feel comfortable with the "shape" of the imagined situation, such that they could - and DID - communicate something about the premise effectively?

    (A Gamist explanation could also fit here, of course - either directly to Step On Up or through the Explorative elements)  

    Sometimes what play demonstrates will line-up with a statement about why, and sometimes it won't.  If they don't line-up, that MIGHT be a sign that there's a GNS problem in play - but not neccessarily, the whole why thing can get really complicated and it may be that the mis-match is just personal taste/interpretation on basically satisfying play.  For Tara in the example, if what she wanted was to emphasize issues of mortality and provide herself and others an opportunity to address some sort of premise about how to live life when confronted by the ultimate unavoidability of death  . . . sounds like it didn't work.

    As an instance of play, it sounds like the subway shootout wasn't enough to draw a strong GNS conclusion - that's OK.  It's also OK if an instance does show a strong Sim conclusion even though the folks involved like Nar.  People may be OK with that for any number of reasons.  But when over time they feel the need for that like of Nar to match up with play, staying in a Sim-instance will NOT be fun.

    Moving back to what John said - it doesn't look to me like your details of what was "really" going on with Kjartan and room-size change anything.  It looks like a group reveling in the creation/exploration/discovery as a thing itself.  The only caution I'd add is that the rgfa-metagame issue isn't really the GNS-Sim issue.  Reveling in the Dream *can* happen with what folks call metagame, and N or S can be quite metagame-averse, though perhaps not with the purity that some rgfa-Simfolk look for.  As I think I and others have said in other threads, "Metagame" is an independant variable closely associated with personal taste - though if your taste is particularly extreme, you might find it hard to do anything but Sim in GNS terms.

    And "meaning" in raw and unquestioned dream - also a matter of taste.  A Sim- or Game-prioritizing approach can care or not care about meaning being present for examination after play.  GNS just says that if during play you focus on dealing with that meaning, you are doing Nar.  

    Oh, and I'll just add - great discussion, all.  Thanks,

    Gordon
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    Gordon C. Landis
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    « Reply #44 on: January 14, 2004, 02:52:22 PM »

    Hi Blankshield -

    Welcome to the Forge!  I'm gonna address a couple of things that seem a bit "off" (from a GNS-understanding) in your post - but overall, you seem to have a good grasp of a lot of the issues.  Just didn't want you to think that your whole post was wacky beaucse I pick on the pieces that look like they need clarifying . . .

    First of all - "just" because it's fun isn't going to cut it as an explanation for anything - one of Ron's earlier essays makes that pretty clear.  Second, "System" is one of the five explored elements that are part of the Dream - any impression that the Dream is equivalent to "realism" or living in the imagined world without metagame is NOT valid, as I just tried to make clear with John.  Exploration is EVERYTHING we do when we imagine together.

    So . . . I'd change your last entry (caveats about four-word summaries and GNS-is-about-what-we-see taken as given, I hope) to "Sim:  Because it's fun to Dream, as a thing itself."  The "thing itself" part (or something like it, such as changing the entries from "because it's fun to . . ." to "the priority of play is to  . . . ")  is needed because everyone thinks the Dream is fun.  It's only some people (a good number of 'em - Sim's not meant to be a "lesser-child" in GNS) that want it to be all about the Dream.

    Gordon
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