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Author Topic: limitations on creative agenda  (Read 3550 times)
talysman
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« on: February 20, 2004, 12:35:12 AM »

here's an idea I've had floating around in my head for a couple weeks. recent discussions in the thread about Mike's Standard Rant #7 prompted me to post about this and see what other people think.

Ron has, in several of the GNS essays, explained that there is no such thing as a Narrativist technique, a Gamist technique, or a Simulationist technique. a technique in isolation has no special GNS meaning. instead, combinations of techniques can encourage one the modes. however, there's not been much said about specific techniques/combos that encourage specific modes, aside from reward systems.

we know that certain games are Incoherent or Abashed, with major or minor technique conflicts that handicap attempts to play in a specific mode. we also know that historically, the flavor of game texts exhibited "Simulationist creep" in the '80s, and that additions to the rules of '70s game systems backed up this increasing interest in Simulationism.

it occurred to me that how a technique affects Creative Agenda is not just by encouraging one mode but also by discouraging the "wrong" modes; Creative Agenda is mainly supported by putting limitations on inappropriate CAs. this is why most of the rules added to games experiencing "Simulationist creep" were mainly ways to prevent Gamist/Narrativist behavior.

incoherence, in this viewpoint, occurs when the rewards system encourages play that is simultaneously limited by another rule, or when the designer mistakenly takes the viewpoint that you need "something for everyone" but can't let the players get "out of control".

comments?
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2004, 07:55:08 AM »

Hi John,

Everything that you're saying works for me.

Minor point: I'm not sure that the Simulationist creep of 1980s games represents a specific interest in such games at the market level, but that issue probably isn't going to be resolved through debate.

You wrote,

Quote
there's not been much said about specific techniques/combos that encourage specific modes, aside from reward systems


Part of the reason for that for my essays is that, for six years now, I keep getting sidetracked by objections to the basic idea of Creative Agenda in the first place, whether reasoned, hysterical, or a combination of the two. With any luck, the current three essays will go a long way toward diminishing this within a certain community (on-line RPG debate), and with further luck, I can write up something that is readable to an outsider community eventually.

On the other hand, I think that there now exists an immense set of resources that address the very issue you're talking about. It's represented by two approaches:

- Game authors who have tried very hard to explain how their Techniques-combinations help achieve a given Creative Agenda, although typically they don't use that terminology (why would they, after all). Speaking for myself, I think the Sorcerer supplements represent a pretty coherent effort along these lines.

- The Actual Play discussions here at the Forge. In my view, this forum is both under-represented and under-utilized. I always visit it first and consider it and Publishing to be the absolutely most important forums here - RPG Theory, Indie Design, and GNS Model are only meaningful in reference to them. Perhaps now that Techniques combinations are starting to be better understood as such, we can see more topics in Actual Play which address them specifically.

Best,
Ron
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james_west
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2004, 09:30:29 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
In my view, [the Actual Play] forum is both under-represented and under-utilized.


You're showing your bias in favor of raw data, rather than Aristotelian debate, here, Ron !

I think the reason that Actual Play doesn't generate as much discussion is because it -is- raw data, rather than an opinion, and thus doesn't invite much debate; since people don't see themselves getting much in the way of replies, it makes them think they're talking into a vacuum, and so they become less inclined to post.

I suppose that the most helpful thing to do - and perhaps I'll try it soon - is to attempt to disect peoples' reported experiences a bit.

- James
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2004, 09:43:16 AM »

Hi James,

I agree with you - the minor problem is the failure to post one's play experiences; the major problem is the lack of "reaching up" to principles-based discussions when they do.

Actually, though, this does occur to some extent - although unsurprisingly, the first and most usual cause of both problems and triumphs are found at the Social Contract level. If we can also specify that, when appropriate, to Social Contract About What (Creative Agenda) and Creative Agenda in Action (Techniques), then I think people will be astounded at what patterns of Techniques will start to appear.

Best,
Ron
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Andrew Norris
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2004, 10:18:57 AM »

Hi Ron, I'd like to jump in with a few thoughts.

That's an interesting point, and I know I would also prefer to see actual play experiences related back to principles-based discussions. (I'm currently running a game and having a blast doing it, but the player's primary interest seems to be Sim/Exploration of Character, so I'm not sure how much my experiences add to the discussion.)

I personally devour all the Actual Play threads I can get my hands on, here and on other boards, although my experience with them on other boards is that (as you say) almost all of the dysfunctional behavior that comes out of them is due to social contract issues. I wonder how much of that is due to the natural human tendency to gripe, of course -- on other boards, the most likely reason to see an Actual Play thread is to solicit advice about inter-player conflict.

It seems that most of the Actual Play threads I read at the Forge could be grouped into either (a) "I played, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to do, it was great", or (b) "We had a lot of dysfunction." I wonder (and this is simply my own curiosity) if the Actual Play discussions that would bear the most fruit in being related back to GNS theory are those which almost, but not quite, worked exactly as expected. Is that the level at which, say, small difference in CA would be worth discussing? I'm just trying to get a handle on what kind of raw data would be most useful to the Forge.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2004, 10:39:53 AM »

Hi Andrew,

It seems to me that "any and all of the above" is probably my only answer. I think it'd all be useful.

Best,
Ron
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Emily Care
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2004, 12:53:36 PM »

Quote from: talysman
Ron has, in several of the GNS essays, explained that there is no such thing as a Narrativist technique, a Gamist technique, or a Simulationist technique. a technique in isolation has no special GNS meaning. instead, combinations of techniques can encourage one the modes. however, there's not been much said about specific techniques/combos that encourage specific modes, aside from reward systems.


Funny. I had a long conversation with Vincent on a topic similar to this, just last night.  

We can look at g, n and s as different ways that people generate meaning through exploration.  The meaning produced is Step On Up, Story Now, and The Dream.

It is common, however, in current theoretical conversations for s to end up being seen as either a) essentially identical with exploration and thus redundant, or b) the squelching of meaning being produced (ie the Dream ends up simply being the negation of Step on Up or Story Now).   The problem going on is that any meaning generated in simulationism is seen as the addressing of premise! That leaves no good reason to play sim.  And it doesn't leave much for room to acknowledge the value people find in the processes we generally associate with that type of play.

V. made a good distinction here between GNS simulationism and RGFA simulationism--which I will botchedly paraphrase as: "RGFA simulationism does not preclude the adressing of premise since it was primarily a description of techniques used rather than a categorization of the goal of play."

Which brings me to this thread.  If we do look at g, n and s as group of techniques commonly used to a certain type of meaning, then would we still have such a hard time defining sim?

Regards,
Emily Care
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2004, 01:26:16 PM »

Quote from: Andrew Norris
"I played, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to do, it was great"


These post do not generally generate discussion.

Quote from: Andrew
"We had a lot of dysfunction."


These tend to generate a lot of discussion.

Does this sync with Forge goals?  I dunno.  Just an observation.

*****

Quote from: Emily
Which brings me to this thread. If we do look at g, n and s as group of techniques commonly used to a certain type of meaning, then would we still have such a hard time defining sim?


The direction that some have recently taken with Sim helps define it (discovery/understanding as opposed to previous definitions dependent upon Exploration and causality).  The real problem for me at this point is exclusivity of Creative Agenda.  If Sim has to be not-Gam and not-Nar, then it runs into problems.  If we abaddoned exclusivity, my argument with Sim would probably disappear.  In addition, this would open the door to Z, X or whatever play - a can of worms indeed, but...

I think you'll run into this same barrier created by exclusivity if you look at CA as grouping of Techniques.  Plus, grouping Techniques introduces all sorts of new variables, and hence more points for the logic to break.
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- Cruciel
talysman
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2004, 11:27:29 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care
We can look at g, n and s as different ways that people generate meaning through exploration.  The meaning produced is Step On Up, Story Now, and The Dream.

It is common, however, in current theoretical conversations for s to end up being seen as either a) essentially identical with exploration and thus redundant, or b) the squelching of meaning being produced (ie the Dream ends up simply being the negation of Step on Up or Story Now).   The problem going on is that any meaning generated in simulationism is seen as the addressing of premise! That leaves no good reason to play sim.  And it doesn't leave much for room to acknowledge the value people find in the processes we generally associate with that type of play.

V. made a good distinction here between GNS simulationism and RGFA simulationism--which I will botchedly paraphrase as: "RGFA simulationism does not preclude the adressing of premise since it was primarily a description of techniques used rather than a categorization of the goal of play."

Which brings me to this thread.  If we do look at g, n and s as group of techniques commonly used to a certain type of meaning, then would we still have such a hard time defining sim?


an interesting question, Emily, although I'm not sure how to answer it. I'm beginning to have some ideas about what the "something different" about Sim is that makes it not just Exploration or a negation of Step On Up and Story Now. I started with the idea I expressed earlier about Sim being a change of focus from personal issues (Step On Up/Story Now) to impersonal concepts (the characters, setting and situations of the Dream,) but it's leading me to a couple ideas about Simulation I don't feel I'm ready to talk about yet, since it involves using dirty words (dirty to the Forge.) perhaps after I've thought about it a while...

one safe conclusion I think may be that the idea that Sim is just anti-Gamism + anti-Narrativism comes from these limitations that Sim designers inserted to prevent what they saw as bad play.

Cruciel: it should be pretty easy to abandon the exclusivity of Creative Agenda, at least in terms of Sim, because I think the current emerging opinion is that Sim *can* co-exist in support of Gamism or Narrativism, but those two modes are so strong, Sim will always be subordinate when they are present.

Ron:

Quote from: you

Minor point: I'm not sure that the Simulationist creep of 1980s games represents a specific interest in such games at the market level, but that issue probably isn't going to be resolved through debate.


I agree. I was only pointing out that the game texts showed signs of Simulationist creep. to my knowledge, the only reason for this was bias on the part of the designers, not some kind of trend in the gaming community. since you pointed out in the Narrativism essay that Nar may be more common than popularly believed, and since Gamism still seems to be pretty popular (although it may have shrunk with the development of detailed computer games,) the three modes may have actually remained more or less equally common throughout RPG history.
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John Laviolette
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2004, 01:59:55 PM »

Quote from: talysman
Cruciel: it should be pretty easy to abandon the exclusivity of Creative Agenda, at least in terms of Sim, because I think the current emerging opinion is that Sim *can* co-exist in support of Gamism or Narrativism, but those two modes are so strong, Sim will always be subordinate when they are present.


Hmmm...

That emerging opinion (Beeg Horseshoe or other Sim-Hybridization) is in conflict with the other emerging opinion ("it", Discovery).

I was talking about it being legal for Creative Agenda to be:  Gam, Nar, GNS Sim, RGFA Sim, Dramatism, Interpersonalism, and Whatever-else-ism.  Do those CA overlap?  Sure, but that's ok.

That's what would vaporize the issues with Sim, but it has too many problems of its own.  Like the never ending addition of CA's, and the fact that it would probably ruin CA conflict diagnosis (making the whole thing sorta useless).

Bad idea really, but it points out why that exclusivity barrier exists.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2004, 04:15:28 PM »

Hello,

If I'm not mistaken, the topic of this thread is about techniques and how, in combination, they help to focus Creative Agenda. I'd really like to stick with that - we already have a really extensive series of threads on Simulationism per se. I can see how it's related ("If we don't know what Sim is, then how can we talk about promoting or not promoting it"), but perhaps this thread could focus on unambiguous cases of the phenomenon, not the hard ones.

People including myself have been asking the exact question that John raised for years, and inevitably it gets sidetracked into hairsplitting theory. Can we work very hard actually to get some mileage out of this one instead?

Oh, and John, I have a question: what does the title of the thread mean? By "limitations," do you mean "defining," "focusing," and similar ideas? Or?

Best,
Ron
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talysman
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2004, 11:15:47 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Oh, and John, I have a question: what does the title of the thread mean? By "limitations," do you mean "defining," "focusing," and similar ideas? Or?


hi Ron,

I meant literally limiting, as in a rule that prevents or hinders a specific agenda. in terms of general operating procedure, suggestions that GMs should strip PCs of their magic items in fantasy games could be seen as a rule that prevents or limits Gamism. a hardline attitude towards some form of personality/behavior mechanic that forced players to make a saving roll to avoid anger or love might be considered limiting for Narrativism, since it prevents players from choosing character behavoirs that fits their desires. that sort of thing.

of course, technique combos that encourage (focus) CAs would be interesting to catalogue or analyze as well. but I was specifically talking about "antifocus", I suppose.
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2004, 06:26:39 AM »

Hi John,

Ah ... and that raises a bit of a problem, you see. For instance, I can see both of the following quite easily:

- a "strip'em" process in unabashed Gamist play which only serves as a motor for "get'em & use'em." (Tunnels & Trolls has a lot of this going on)

- behavioral mechanics about XYZ issues which are fixed by dice outcomes, reserving player-judgment for ABC.  (My Life with Master has a lot of this going on)

In other words, I'm still saying, "Don't focus on single techniques." I don't see either of your examples as actually limiting Creative Agenda, just honing it.

Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by "combinations." For me to be relatively secure in talking GNS and techniques, I need to understand at minimum:

a) The big picture composed of the character creation and reward systems

b) Every bit of DFK and IIEE in the resolution system

c) Any and all (if any) character-behavioral mechanics

d) Any and all "metagame mechanics" (to use that term), which is to say, ways to adjust (b) above

Once I have all of those down, then any particular Technique can be discussed in that context, and I think we'd have a basis for talking about specific-CA-facilitating or not.

Best,
Ron
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xiombarg
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« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2004, 06:50:26 AM »

As a quick aside, I'll note it has also been my experience that posts in Actual Play rarely generate debate, even when debate is requested.
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