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The Forge Reference Project

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Topic: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As
Started by: Paganini
Started on: 4/25/2005
Board: GNS Model Discussion


On 4/25/2005 at 1:38am, Paganini wrote:
Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

This was also posted on my LJ blog.

A while back on IRC I said something along the lines of "I can enjoy any game, regardless of GNS, providing that the SC is functional, and the rules aren't actually broken." This claim was universally reviled. :)

So, the other night I was talking to Ben (Lehman) about some other stuff (why the current definition of Sim seems to me to have some holes in it) and I realized a better way to explain it:

Basically, Exploration is king. There's a reason it's the biggest layer after Social Contract. Exploration is the fundamental act of role-playing: making stuff up as a group. If you ask someone why he likes to role-play, you'll get a bunch of answers related to Techniques, Ephemera; usually Color and Setting figure highly. But Exploration is where it's at. We play to make stuff up with our friends. If we don't enjoy making stuff up, then we might as well stop now. GNS and all the rest is irrelevant. Exploration is what makes RPGs different from watching movies, from reading books, from writing fiction, from CRPGs. If you grok me here, the rest of this will be easy. GNS is a trivial consideration. It's a classification method. You use it to distinguish among different hows and whys of making things up.

If (some hypothetical) you enjoy making things up, then you will be happy as a weevil in biscuits in any game, regardless of GNS. The caveat is that you have to know what's going on. The game has to be functional. If the game doesn't work on the SC layer, then you never get to the whole "enjoyment of Exploration" aspect. If you go into the game, say, expecting to play Gamist, and two other guys are trying to play Nar, and some other guy is playing Sim - no one communicates, everyone assumes that *he's* doing it right, and everyone else is crazy / breaking the rules / whatever... then there's a problem.

That's where GNS comes in. It tells you what your options are. There's a whole big set of possible "things that can go on in a game." Reading Forge theory and GNS educates you to what those possibilities are *before* you go into a game. It's like manners training. You know how to behave in a wide variety of situations. There is no "GNS preference." GNS preference is a huge red-herring. There is only personal preference in terms of specific combinations of Techniques, Ephemera, Color, Setting, etc. Some biscuits have suger for some weevils. Other biscuits have cinnamon. Some are just plain. But they all taste good as long as the cook hasn't poisoned them.

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On 4/25/2005 at 11:33am, greyorm wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Nathan, you are so bloody wrong. You are obviously a pinko-commie-bastard! You will be shot for treason, you stinking dirty ape! Die! Die! Die! And choke on your own vomit! (Ok, now this is me giving a big, rabid wink to Nathan.)

I get and agree what you're saying, Nathan, with the exception that I disagree with your conclusion about the importance of System.

Even though Exploration is King and you can make a go of a game given the proper SC, I'm not seeing how that makes System any less important in the sense that Ron's essay indicates it is important in. That is, certainly not the end-all, be-all of importance, but damn important to play, since System provides the medium through which the SC is enacted.

IE: The title/idea is that "System Matters" not that "System is All That Matters". Contrast with "System Does Not Matter".

As such, a functioning SC in a non-supportive (right word?) System (for that SC) is going to be troubled and quite possibly nullified (caveat: I'm not even sure one can have a functioning SC outside of actual play, given that the SC only has meaning in play).

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On 4/25/2005 at 11:40am, pete_darby wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Well, if we take system to mean the methods by which the SiS is explored / confirmed / created, then system is the means of exploration, and priveliging the one over the other is like, I don't know, priveliging means of transport over the landscape travelled.

And anyway, the cool kids all say situation is king these days...

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On 4/25/2005 at 11:53am, Ron Edwards wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Hello,

Since I see System as one of the five components of Exploration, I'm kind of puzzled about dichotomizing System and Exploration.

I'm also puzzled about the Creative Agenda point - because yes, it's not role-playing if there's no Exploration ... and hypothetically, it's still role-playing if there's Exploration but no Creative Agenda (see Zilchplay) ...

... but I never said that the presence of a CA is what defines role-playing. So pointing out that role-playing requires Exploration (an SIS) but not a Creative Agenda doesn't seem to me to be refuting anything.

My claim was and is that fun role-playing is best (most reliably) met by arriving at and reinforcing a locally socially-acceptable Creative Agenda. Not that people will be failing to role-play if they don't have one.

So overall, Nathan, it seems to me as if you're beating the shit out of two donkeys - but neither of them are the one I'm riding.

But perhaps I would say that, eh? As the author? So I'll yield the field to other posters for a while.

Best,
Ron

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On 4/25/2005 at 12:48pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Hee hee hee.

Raven, don't, like, take the subject line too seriously. I tend to put a certain amount of zing into these to draw attention to them.

Systems absolutely still need coherent design. But, given a set of coherently designed systems, which one you actually play really doesn't matter that much on anything other than aesthetic principles.

Ron, as far as your comments go, this isn't actually aimd at you very much at all. There are places where I think the theory has holes, but this isn't one of them. This is mostly aimed at the way people use the theory. I'm always encountering people who say "Well, I don't like Sim much, so..." or "My GNS preference is such that Gamism..." etc. I hate that. These are big fat cop outs.

People do not *have* GNS preferences. Personal preference shows up on a way more specific level than the hugely broad GNS.

These sorts of statements usually seem to crop up when people are explaining why they can't enjoy a particular game. Such flimsy excuses displease me. G, N, and S are all fun. They are all cool. They are all good. They are all Exploration. I suggest that if the only reason you can come up with for disliking a game is "because it's Sim," then you haven't actually put enough effort into understanding what's going on in the game to know if you like it or not.

"Because it's Sim" is not an acceptable reason for disliking a game. "Because vampires aren't cool," might be. "Because I don't like Kung Fu," might be. "Because dice pools are more fun than linear rolls," might be.

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On 4/25/2005 at 12:54pm, Victor Gijsbers wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Certainly, if you are exploring a fictional world, with a functional Social Contract, and everyone is having fun - then that's enough. Who cares about the rest?

But that is only because you've already taken everything. You've rolled the huge wooden horse into your city, and GNS is simply biding its time before it jumps out. What makes exploration fun? My Creative Agenda being met. That is nothing deep, it is more or less a truth by definition. What, then, is the kind of exploration I enjoy most? The exploration in which my Creative Agenda is being met, in other words, the exploration which in accordance with my GNS-preferences.

I don't see how you can escape this, except by claiming that either:
1. GNS is either an incoherent, a dysfunctional or an incomplete set of Creative Agenda's. (I am inclined to claim that it is incomplete, but will refrain from doing so here.)
2. Everybody enjoys everything equally.

So I have to agree with Ron.

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On 4/25/2005 at 12:58pm, Victor Gijsbers wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

The joys of posting at the same time. I see you do wish to claim that everyone enjoys all creative agenda's equally.

That strikes me as very strange. Some people like competitive games, some like dreaming away, and others like deep literature. I see no necessity of everyone liking all these equally. Why would roleplaying games be different?

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On 4/25/2005 at 1:22pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Victor,

"Realizing a Creative Agenda" does not determine whether or not Exploration is fun. Exploration is "making stuff up as a group." If I personalize it, I get "I like making stuff up with my friends." This is the base-line, the prerequisite for role-playing. Exploration must be fun for it's own sake in order for role-playing to exist as an entertainment medium.

I think that most people assume that Exploration is "fun neutral," with the funness of a game being determined by what sort of CA is stacked on top of it. This is backwards. Exploration is baseline fun. GNS is fun neutral, because every GNS category can contain many specific combinations that you enjoy, or that you don't enjoy.

The point is that it is impossible to like a "Creative Agenda."

"Creative Agenda" is a broad classification layer. You cannot like Sim. You cannot like Nar. You cannot like Gam. You cannot dislike them, either. They are not entities. They are identification labels assigned to sets that contain millions and millions of specific combinations of the 5 elements, techniques, ephemera, etc.

These specific combinations are what you can like or dislike.

BTW, Ron has not disagreed with me, so far. The stuff that I've posted so far does not contradict the theory in any way that I know of. It contradicts how people apply it.

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On 4/25/2005 at 5:23pm, groundhog wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini wrote:
The point is that it is impossible to like a "Creative Agenda."

"Creative Agenda" is a broad classification layer. You cannot like Sim. You cannot like Nar. You cannot like Gam. You cannot dislike them, either. They are not entities. They are identification labels assigned to sets that contain millions and millions of specific combinations of the 5 elements, techniques, ephemera, etc.

These specific combinations are what you can like or dislike.

BTW, Ron has not disagreed with me, so far. The stuff that I've posted so far does not contradict the theory in any way that I know of. It contradicts how people apply it.


This is perhaps the clearest explanation of how I have been thinking about CAs recently, and I didn't even write it.

This is similar to how when talking about music some of my friends say they dislike Country, Soul, Funk, Jazz, and Blues but they love Rock. There are so many elements in common, so subtle differences, and so many performers and songs influenced by more than one genre that it's impossible to love every Rock song but hate all the genres that cross over so closely. The taxonomy may be accurate, but it's not precise. There are influences found in many songs that require an accurate labelling to include a slash or comma.

Likewise, RPGs are each at least a bit different, and gaming groups are each at least a bit different. It would be impossible to say that any small hint of what could be labelled Gam could ruin a whole session for someone who says they don't like Gamism. Gamism doesn't exist by itself, nor does Sim or Nar. Certain combinations of rules, decisions about those rules, goals, and other factors can be seen along a scale and then labelled as primarily one of the three. Judgements may be made in some cases whether one combination is "more Nar" than another, but both could have some Nar influence and be useful in a primarily Nar session.

In short, I think of CAs more as descriptive than prescriptive terms. That's the point I infer from the quote, too. Please let me know if I'm too far off base.

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On 4/25/2005 at 5:26pm, Gordon C. Landis wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Huh. I'm torn here - 'cause for me you're right, it isn't the Gam/Nar/Simness of play that dictates fun/not-fun, it's details.

But I know people who, if play is going to be all about challenge/competion, will literally WALK AWAY as soon as they identify that. Ditto for Sim/Nar.

So - the far more common issue is the failure to coherently identify and persue a particular CA (so that the details end up not working), but I wouldn't go so far as to say there is NO like/dislike associated with the CA's.

I do tend to be happier in Nar than the others. Which I agree is a very different statement than "I like Nar and dislike Sim/Game," but it also doesn't mean like/dislike of CA is meaningless . . .

Gordon

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On 4/25/2005 at 5:44pm, Eero Tuovinen wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini wrote:
"Creative Agenda" is a broad classification layer. You cannot like Sim. You cannot like Nar. You cannot like Gam. You cannot dislike them, either. They are not entities. They are identification labels assigned to sets that contain millions and millions of specific combinations of the 5 elements, techniques, ephemera, etc.


If this were true, GNS would be meaningless. There has to be some reason for the lines to be drawn in this particular way instead of any other. This reason is the psychological make-up of a human being. GNS is true (that is, GNS incompatibility, the most important result of the theory, exists) if and only if humans really are structured to conform to the classification. Consider: I have a need for moral deliberation, thus I like narrativist games that support it. This is a blanket preference exactly because it's arrived at through motivation - my agenda in playing is to create theme, so that affects my likings greatly. Of course other things affect my preferences, but I fail to see how this agenda preference couldn't exist.

Saying that I cannot like a creative agenda is akin to saying that I cannot distinguish between the agendas in actual play. Nothing is farther from the truth. The whole idea of GNS incompatibility stems from the situation where players are not happy with whatever agenda it is under question. By claiming that people cannot prefer an agenda you claim that there is no GNS incompatibility.


These specific combinations are what you can like or dislike.


On the other hand, if you mean that these specific likes and dislikes would just happen to align with the agendas, then you've just restated the empiristic requirements of perceiving agenda preference - the preference of the player is only perceivable in his attitudes towards ephemera. So if it just so happens that my particular likes and dislikes indicate a particular GNS preference, what would that mean to you? Is it that I like some modes more than others, or is it just coincidence to you?

As for the Exploration stuff, well, of course. Liking Exploration is important, but it's not a very strong requirement - all appreciation of art, both passive and active, is Exploration (what's more, all culture is Exploration), so what you're saying is just that a person has to be able to get a kick out of roleplaying to roleplay. That leaves it completely open yet to define the how of it.

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On 4/25/2005 at 6:06pm, groundhog wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Well, if all the details are geared towards competitive Gamism, and people dislike Gamism, I can see what you're saying, Gordon. In RPGs that aren't geared entirely towards one CA, though, the agreements of the the players about rules interpretations, uses of metagame mechanics, decisions about how often to invoke the rules, and lots of other matters can still come up with something that would be labelled as one of the three accepted CAs.

Something with no fortune mechanic and with conflict resolution could still be very Gamist. Something with few crunchy bits could still be Simulationist, so long as there's enough of the right fairly crunchy bits to make sense. Something with no bidding and with a strict fortune mechanic could still be Narrativist. It's just a matter of the winner of a fortune contest narrating instead of the winner of a bidding or voting contest. Would everyone who "likes Gamism" like having no fortune mechanic? Probably not. Would everyone who "likes Nar" like the storytelling decided randomly? Probably not. Would everyone who "likes Sim" like a Sim game with conflict resolution and only minimal crunchy bits? Not likely. None of these combinations may ever be popular, but that doesn't mean that the combinations can't exist.

Gamism isn't always even about competition between the players, anyway. Some gamist players are just fine min-maxing their characters to make huge shows of killing monsters along side other min-maxers doing the same thing. That's still likely to be labelled Gamist, don't you think? If the central point of the game is to overcome obstacles by making smart use of gamist techniques, I think lots of the details can be different from what you'd consider typical. I think the other CAs could be examples this way as well.

Now, I wouldn't say there's not a tendency in certain people to prefer the combinations that are predominantly labelled Nar, Sim, or Gam. I'm just saying, and I think it's also what Paganini is getting at, that it's not all of Nar, Sim, or Gam that is liked or disliked. At a fundamental level, they all have exploration in common no matter their differences. The details and combinations thereof about what tends to be explored and how are what people really like and dislike. You can say a duckbilled platypus is a mammal which lays eggs, has webbed feet, and has a bill. You could also say that it's a bird with fur that carries its young around after they hatch. It has elements of both. It obviously gets classified as one or the other, since they are different classes by definition (it's officially a mammal that has bird-like traits). If you like the platypus, that doesn't mean you like either birds or mammals. It also doesn't mean you dislike either of them if you dislike the platypus. It doesn't even mean you like or dislike marsupial mammals, or that you like or dislike animals native to Australia. It just means you like or dislike the platypus, and that's all.

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On 4/25/2005 at 6:32pm, TonyLB wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

I may be alone in this, but I don't like just making stuff up in the presence of my friends. I like making stuff up and having that accepted, contemplated and reinforced by my friends. I like my work to be noticed.

CA, to me, has always been about what I'll notice in other people's work, and what they'll notice in mine. If that's mismatched then it leads to a mismatch of techniques and ephemera: If you want to be recognized for exploring the dream, and I want to recognize you for exploring character choices, then you're likely to be upset when I scene-frame straight past all of the lush setting to the stark human conflict.

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On 4/25/2005 at 6:40pm, Valamir wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Basically, Exploration is king. There's a reason it's the biggest layer after Social Contract. Exploration is the fundamental act of role-playing: making stuff up as a group. If you ask someone why he likes to role-play, you'll get a bunch of answers related to Techniques, Ephemera; usually Color and Setting figure highly. But Exploration is where it's at. We play to make stuff up with our friends. If we don't enjoy making stuff up, then we might as well stop now. GNS and all the rest is irrelevant. Exploration is what makes RPGs different from watching movies, from reading books, from writing fiction, from CRPGs. If you grok me here, the rest of this will be easy. GNS is a trivial consideration. It's a classification method. You use it to distinguish among different hows and whys of making things up.


I think I understand what you're trying to say Nathan, but this is not really a very good way to say it. People enjoy different things when the game, that is true. But to say that those different things all boil down to "making stuff up" and then reducing Exploration down to "making stuff up" is a pretty drastic oversimplification of a whole lot of complex factors that are going on.

For some people the right stance is crucial. This isn't just making stuff up...but HOW its made up. You can have exploration out the yin yang but if you ask a died in the wool Immersionist to employ Director Stance they're going to balk. Stance is a technique. Should we there for declare "Techniques are King"? Some people despise dice pools with a passion. If you can twist their arm to even play a game with a dice pool it will start with 2 strikes against it. Rolling dice is part of Ephemera. Should we then declare "Ephemera are King"?

Obviously not, that would be over emphasising a single element and missing the big picture. But that's what I see you doing with Exploration, and from my perspective that's missing the big picture.

Ephemera combine into Techniques. Techniques resolve into System. System effects changes to the SIS on the elements of Setting, Character, Situation and Color. How players choose to employ the system and what changes they want to effect is informed by Creative Agenda and Social Contract.

All of those pieces work together in the Big Model. If you want to say "The Big Model is King" and way more important than Creative Agenda on its own, I'd agree. And I'm 100% sure Ron would agree (because he's been saying that for what...well over a year now...)

But if you want to point to just one particular part of the model and say "That's what its all about, that's where the fun is." No. I don't think that makes much sense.

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On 4/25/2005 at 10:04pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

This thread is all about synechdoche. Everyone who says "I like Gamism," or "I dislike Simulationism," is saying, "I identify certain unpleasant experiences that I have had with Simulationism."

Eero, for example, is saying "I have enjoyed actual play experiences that I identify as Gamism." This is cool. However, it does not mean that "you like Gamism." If I gamed with you for some specific amount of time - say, twice a week for a month - I'm willing to bet that I could design a Gamism-facilitating system that you would not enjoy playing. Does this mean you dislike Gamism? No. It means that the enjoyment of actual play does not depend on the Gamism-ness or un-Gamismness of that experience.

I like what Tony had to say in his post. That is all.

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On 4/25/2005 at 11:45pm, Paka wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

TonyLB wrote: I may be alone in this, but I don't like just making stuff up in the presence of my friends. I like making stuff up and having that accepted, contemplated and reinforced by my friends. I like my work to be noticed.


Rock on, Tony.

Accepted, contemplated, reinforced, noticed and finally, hopefully, mutated, made into something greater, stranger and better through the other players' filters and the filter of the game.

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On 4/26/2005 at 3:35am, Gordon C. Landis wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini,

Take out that "everyone" and change "does not depend" into "does not always and/or only depend" in your last post and I've got much less difficulty with what you're saying. Does it happen that people say "I dislike Gamism" when it would be more accurate to say "I identify x bad experience with Gamism"? Yup, it sure does, way too often.

But what some people mean by "I dislike Gamism" is "I don't like RPG play that prioritizes the competition/challenge." And you know what? They don't. Really, REALLY don't, sometimes. And that's useful, meaningful information. For example, I'm entirely comfortable telling people (in various non-Forgeworded ways, usually) "If you're going for Gamist play, I'm only up for a one/two-shot game." My "dislike" of Gamism in RPGs for more than a brief while is real, and important to communicate to others. Does that mean the slightest wiff of competition possibility or typically Gamist-style Techniques is going to turn me off? No - but trully prioritized competition eventually will. Gamism is not "just" a broad label on a many-varied set of play styles, it is also a very specific behavior profile that it is quite possible - likely, probably - for people to have preferences about.

I'm not sure how much of that is refutation of your claim and how much is simply refinement, but if it is refinement, I find it very, VERY important refinement.

groundhog,

I'm not sure I follow exactly where you agree and disagree in your post. If the point is that there are things (details/techniques/what have you) that aren't strictly G, N or S-related that have an effect on our enjoyment of play - hell yes! No one (especially Ron) has ever said differently. Often those things (distribution of power between players/GM, style of Exploration, etc) are far more obvious and important than GNS stuff.

That does NOT, however, translate into Creative Agenda having no importance to our enjoyment of play. Some folks make errors about in what way or to what degree they impact our enjoyment, but the impact can be real.

Some people can enjoy lots of kinds of play. Others are more picky. This is true across Techniques, across Creative Agenda, across Setting, System . . . all of it. I'm at a lost as to why that should be hard to accept.

Gordon

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On 4/26/2005 at 8:29am, Gaerik wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini wrote: "Because it's Sim" is not an acceptable reason for disliking a game.


Sez who? I've sat down with friends who play Simulationist games and knowing full well what kind of game it is, put on my Simulationist hat. It was a completely functional game and everyone at the table was having fun... except me. It bored me to tears. Why? Because I don't like just "making stuff up". How it gets made up matters to me. Why it gets made up matters to me. I don't like the vast majority Simulationist games. The ones I do like, have Gamist elements to it. I recognize this. Does this mean that I won't sit down and give a Sim game a shot. Hell no! I'll give any game a fair shake and try to play it as it was meant to be played (as defined by whomever the designer is). But at the end of most Sim sessions my response has been historically, "I didn't have much fun. Mostly because it was a game that emphasized a Sim agenda."

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On 4/26/2005 at 12:48pm, Ben Lehman wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Nate --

Have you considered that this might be what you, yourself enjoy in gaming, but not what everyone else enjoys in gaming?

yrs--
--Ben

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On 4/26/2005 at 12:58pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Let me see if I can put this a different way.

Imagine the Big Model. It looks like this:

[Social Contract [Exploration (the 5 elements) [Creative Agenda --> [Techniques [Ephemera]]]]]

Take out Creative Agenda. That gives us some people interacting and communicating (Social Contract) in such a way where each person imagines something and tells it to the other people so that they imagine it too (Exploration). Exploration includes Setting, Character, Situation, Color, and System. The first 4 are "what we imagine" the last one, System, is the nitty-gritty details of how the group imagination process works.

And we stop here. (We can include Techniques and Ephemera as specifications for Social Contract and Exploration protocols if we want, but we don't really need them for me to make this point.)

What we have here is a base-line description of role-playing. This is real role-playing. We can play right now using this construct as a model, and it will be functional. The way it works at this point is that each participant contributes based on what seems cool to him right at this moment. This evaluation of coolness takes place on the "5 Elements of Exploration" level. It's an aesthetic evaluation that has nothing to do with long-term play goals. I guess we could call it "Impulse Play." (Has anyone ever used that term before?)

A lot of Universalis play looks like this. Mike made a post a while back about what happens in a Universalis game when no player takes on a leadership role. That's what this "Impulse Play" is - moment-by-moment improvisation.

Before everyone chimes in with "Bad! Evil! I gotta have my Story! (Or Dream, or Step On Up)" think about this very carefully. This is what role-playing is. Creative Agenda is the icing. The cake is good without it. If you don't like the cake, you'd better look for something else to put the icing on.

Without the cute analogy, what I'm saying is this:

You: "I gotta have my Theme. Exploration by itself doesn't do it for me!"
Me: "Then why don't you go read a novel or watch a movie?"

Exploration *is* where it's at. It's the only thing that makes Narrativist Theme different from Novel Theme or Movie Theme. The same goes for Gamism. You can Step On Up in a boardgame (heck, you can do it in frisbee).

Have I made a point yet? Not really. So far this is all just reinforcing relevant points from the Big Model. Here comes the point:

I see a lot of people saying: "I don't give a crap about the cake, I just eat it for the icing." And: "If you put the wrong icing on, I will flee to the toilet and hurl violently for the next two hours."

The Big Model is like a course in Icing Appreciation. It assumes, with a brief review, that you already like cake. It then explains how icing can enhance or detract from the experience. People read the Big Model and go icing crazy. "Yeah! Icing, I gotta get me some of that!"

Here's me jumping up and down screaming "Cake! Cake! Cake!"

If the icing is so cool, eat it with a spoon.

If you've read "The Model According to Valamir" you may remember that Ralph claims that nearly all of actual play is "Impulse Play." Creative Agenda only activates when there's a conflict that a participant has to deal with. That is, an imagined conflict between imagined elements that correlates with a real conflict between real participants: one participant represents one side of the fictional conflict, another participant represents the other side of the fictional conflict.

I didn't buy this at first, but the more I think about it the more sense it makes.

On the one hand, it simplifies design. In order to facilitate a Creative Agenda, all you have to do is write mechanics for setting up these types of conflicts.

On the other hand, if you're an icing only guy, you're going to spend a lot of boring time pushing cake crumbs around on your plate waiting for the icing to show up.

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On 4/26/2005 at 1:12pm, Gaerik wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Okay, I don't think I'm totally disagreeing with you then but I think your analogy is off. If we're going to equate role-playing with cake then CA isn't the icing, it's the type of cake. CA's simply classify the types of conflicts and decisions that different RPGs emphasize so that I can make a better informed opinion about what I do or do not like and they give me the ability to articulate what it is I do and do not like in my games.

Do I like role-playing games? Yes. Do I tend to like games that enable Gamist play? Yes. Do I tend to like games that enable Simulationist play? No.

Do I like cake? Yes. Do I like Cheesecake? Yes. Do I like Fruit Cake. No.

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On 4/26/2005 at 1:13pm, Gaerik wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

The Big Model = Cake... heh...

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On 4/26/2005 at 3:07pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

:) Yeah, I had fun with that analogy. However, I don't think you've got what I'm driving at yet, Gaerik. You suggest that Creative Agenda is the type of cake.

One of the things in the Big Model that tends to get swept under the rug is that you don't have to have a Creative Agenda to play an RPG. Agenda-less play exists. In fact, Agenda-less play is standard. It's the 90% of play that doesn't have those Agenda-weighted conflicts. That is why I'm calling Creative Agenda "icing." You don't have to have it, ever, to play a functional RPG. When you do have it, most of the time it's not "activated."

The functionality of actual play is not determined by the presense or absense of a Creative Agenda. It's determined by the members of the group having a shared understanding about how everyone will behave.

I'm saying that I enjoy Exploration for it's own sake - I like making stuff up with a group of friends. I'm saying that this is a prerequisite (a synonim even) for liking RPGs. I'm saying that the addition of a Creative Agenda can make this Exploration more interesting, but that if Exploration itself is not something that you enjoy, you should be looking for your Creative Agenda in some other medium. I'm saying that, if you enjoy Exploration, having a working knowledge of GNS will allow you to be a functional member of any group. I'm saying that your enjoyment of such play will depend not on Creative Agenda, but on specific factors of personal preference (frex, whether or not you think Werewolves are cool).

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On 4/26/2005 at 3:17pm, Ben Lehman wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Nate wrote: I'm saying that this is a prerequisite (a synonym even) for liking RPGs.


You're wrong.

Allow me to analogize:

"The basics of reading a book are looking at words on a page, and translating them into meaning. If you don't like translating words into meaning, you don't like reading a book! Therefore, you should be able to have fun reading any book!"

You may like that.

Other people have different tastes.

yrs--
--Ben

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On 4/26/2005 at 3:23pm, Gaerik wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini wrote: One of the things in the Big Model that tends to get swept under the rug is that you don't have to have a Creative Agenda to play an RPG. Agenda-less play exists. In fact, Agenda-less play is standard. It's the 90% of play that doesn't have those Agenda-weighted conflicts.


This I disagree with completely and utterly. Everyone has an agenda when they sit down to play. Everyone. They might not be able to articulate it, which is what theory gives you the language to do coherently. What you are calling agenda-less play, I call incoherent play. It's an attempt to appeal to all agenda equally (generally without even knowing that's what is happening) and thus to take on the appearance of no agenda. I've played with these groups before too and playing in a game like this REALLY sucks wind.

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On 4/26/2005 at 3:33pm, Ron Edwards wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Hello,

I think it might be useful to distinguish between ...

Zilchplay
in which no Creative Agenda is discernible, and quite likely never enters any "capital letter" status (using Gordon's favored notation). Zilchplay is not well documented, to say the least.

Incoherent play
in which no mutually-compatible presence or combination of Creative Agenda receives group reinforcement, characterized by a "switchy" or "confused" aesthetic feel at best, and a "pushy bully" or even "ignore stuff half the time" one at worst.

Nathan, I think Incoherent play is very common, and Zilchplay remains largely hypothetical. Yet it seems to me that you're describing Zilchplay as "root role-playing" as well as very common.

Am I reading you correctly?

Best,
Ron

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On 4/26/2005 at 3:54pm, Gordon C. Landis wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Nathan,

Here's the thing about Creative Agenda. Like shit, It Happens. It springs from being human and Exploring, whether you "pay attention" to it or not. Given that Sim is prioritized Exploration, play without a CA is very, very rare.

In the cake analogy, CA is a basic ingredient - flour, or eggs, or something. It's really hard to make a cake without it (note I'm not saying impossible, just very uncommon). People like their cake with all kinds of different proportions of ingredients, and the number of potentially "good" possibilities in RPGs greatly outnumbers those in baked goods (which is pretty big). But I think seeing it as just icing misses the point.

That said - I think you've got an important charge in there: that "people" (presumeably here at the Forge, and elsewhere) can get all obssesive about particular detailed/peripheral aspects of CA rather than look at the meaty heart that is Exploration. I think that's a valid charge. Here's the thing, though - it's often (again, not always, I'm avoiding absolutes here quite intentionally) somewhere between useless and impossible to talk about Exploration without a CA, because people with different CA's will NOT AGREE about what's important/useful/fun in Exploration. I think we're seeing some of that here in this thread. For Sim purposes, just about everything you said is, well, totally correct. Sim is all about the Exploration, and nothing else.

But Game and Nar aren't. Does that mean that Exploration is unimportant to them? Hell no. As you say, it ain't roleplaying without the Exploration. I'm fine with saying we should talk about that more, but I think CA's will help with that, rather than hurt. At least they should.

Gordon

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On 4/26/2005 at 9:38pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Ron, I believe so yes.

One possible problem is that I've seen the term Zilchplay used with certain undesireable connotations of laziness on the part of the player. What I was calling "Impulse Play" earlier on does not have that. If we agree to discount apathy as a factor in Zilchplay, then yes, definitely. I think that Zilchplay is exactly what's happening in all those "Agenda-less" spaces between the weighted conflicts that Ralph described.

Gaerik,

Well, dude, there's not much I can say to that. I'm coming from a standpoint of the Big Model here. My comments are based on the assumption that it is more or less correct. Like, maybe I don't agree with (or understand) every complete nuance of it. But it's the foundation that this thread is built on. Your statement: "Everyone has an agenda when they sit down to play" is a contradiction to the Big Model. The Big Model includes agendaless play. Agendas do not, in spite of what Gordon said, "just happen," as a result of human interaction.

Gordon,

See, I really do think that what I said *does* apply equally well to Nar and Gam as it does to Sim. I'm not talking about Techniques. I'm not describing a play method or anything. And the whole "Sim is all about Exploration" idea just doesn't wash. That *is* one of the places where I have a problem wiht the Big Model. I get the idea that you've been reading my posts, and plugging "Sim" in every time I say "Exploration." This is wrong. I'm talking about play without Sim, play without Nar, play without Gam.

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On 4/27/2005 at 1:41am, Gordon C. Landis wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Nathan,

OK, this is tricky - sorry to steer us down the unproductive path of Sim as Exploration sqaured. The thing for me is NOT that I initially read Sim where ever you said Exploration, it's that I can only make sense of it in Big Model terms if I go back and add Sim to it. I read the majority of what you say as fundamentally applicable to all roleplay, but it can only be seen as a mostly-full description if we say "Sim" and then look at it like that wasn't a CA (which some people seem to really want to do). For Nar and Game, certainly (and Sim, unless you look at it funny), Exploration is a neccessary and NOT sufficient component of play. Agendaless play, IMO, is a mostly theoretic construct that must sometimes happen, but that is seen very, very rarely. I went out and looked at lot of play over the last few years, and I gotta say - lots of CA, some Incoherence, and no Zilchplay (of either positive or negative connotation). Now, I can't discount observer bias, obviously, but . . . I'd like to think I'm capable of at least some self-correction of that. Most of the time, the CA is your sterotypical Huge Elephant in the room that everyone deals with whether they admit to it or not.

Maybe we're in the old "instance of play" problem - you're pointing at those Agenda-less spaces and saying "see, no CA!" But all I have to do is wait, and those weighted conflicts WILL happen, and I'll see a CA. That it was not obvious in those Agenda-less spaces doesn't mean that it wasn't still there, real, and important.

Now, I'll admit to a possibly-new bias here: I find the statement "I roleplay because I enjoy roleplaying" to be as equally empty as "I roleplay because it's fun." True statements, but lacking in useful meaning. So the degree to which I see your claim "Exploration is king" to be similar to "roleplay is king", I'm biased to not find that very useful. As soon as I start talking the details of how to Explore, how to roleplay, CA is (in my experience) all over the process like a demon after its' Need.

Yet that doesn't trivialize Exploration - hell no. And sometimes people think it does. They're wrong. Because while Exploration might be neccessary but not sufficient, CA is nothing (in terms of RPG play) without successful Exploration.

You can't really take either out of the model, IMO. Zilchplay is recognition that in theory you can take out CA, but not Exploration. But I seriously dobut any group of actual humans does, for any significant length of time.

That said - it would be interesting to see a design that optimized for Zilchplay. I have no idea what it would look like, but it would be interesting.

Gordon

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On 4/27/2005 at 8:44am, Ron Edwards wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Hello,

I'd also like to clarify that the "instance of play" issue is now, in my view, fully resolved. As I now see it, an instance of play is defined by the presence of one or more reward cycles.

A familiar reward cycle might be, encounter creatures, kill creatures and avoid/weather associated dangers, take stuff, level up; go and encounter more dangerous creatures, etc. There are lots and lots of others with very different metrics or procedures.

See how "big" such a cycle might be? In many cases, it requires at least one session of play, and possibly several.

In other words, I've taken the old atomic hassles and just tossed'em out. I don't know why I didn't figure this out earlier; would've saved us lots of hassles. It also solves the circularity problem neatly, because I'm not defining of the unit of the recognition of CA as the presence of the CA.

[I have posted about this before, but usually embedded in other discussions, like this one, or buried in the Glossary, so maybe people haven't processed it well.]

What I'm suggesting for purposes of this thread is that perhaps people are not in tune with the unit of observation and experience which will serve best, or at least not in tune with each other about it. And no, I'm not hinting about you, Nathan - this is more about talking with one another here than anything else.

Finally, a question: Nathan, looking over the last year as of this date, how much of your role-playing has been IRC or otherwise computer/tech mediated, and how much has been face to face? Percentages, please. This is an important question.

Best,
Ron

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On 4/27/2005 at 9:38am, greyorm wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini wrote: "Realizing a Creative Agenda" does not determine whether or not Exploration is fun. Exploration is "making stuff up as a group." If I personalize it, I get "I like making stuff up with my friends." This is the base-line, the prerequisite for role-playing. Exploration must be fun for it's own sake in order for role-playing to exist as an entertainment medium.

Here's the problem as I see it, Nathan: sure you like making stuff up. Everyone in gaming likes making stuff up, that's what role-playing is about. But that act of making stuff up doesn't happen in a vaccum.

You put me and you together in a room and we can "make stuff up" until we're blue in the face and not have fun doing it together unless our reasons for doing it are matching, or at least complimentary to one another.

You can't "make stuff up" in a neutral fashion: there's a reason you're making stuff up, what you want to get out of making up that stuff, something that informs or colors how you go about making stuff up. There is a purpose behind it, be it formed by emphereal aesthetic or deliberate choice. Regardless of CA, this underlying purpose exists in human behaviors and choices.

Exploration cannot exist on its own as a "fun thing" because it doesn't exist on its own; it occurs within a context, and that context (in part) is CA, and for this argument, the mental state, desires, and aesthetics of the individual. That context is the reason why the creative act is engaged in and enjoyed (without enjoyment, which arises from some purpose being met thus satiating desire, you wouldn't be doing it.)

"I like making stuff up" is not a definitive or understandable statement because it fails to indicate anything meaningful about the act. WHY you like making stuff up is useful data...that you do so is meaningless.

Again, you put me and you together in a room and we can "make stuff up" until we're blue in the face and not have fun doing it together unless our reasons for doing it are matching, or at least complimentary to one another.

Simply put, "making stuff up", in gaming, does not happen outside an individual's "Creative Agenda", or whatever we choose to call that thing, subconscious or not, that informs and guides our aesthetic and behavioral decisions.

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On 4/27/2005 at 10:40am, Simon Marks wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

From what I can understand from this is the question of Medium and Message...

Let me see if I can explain how I am seeing this argument.

We have an activity that can be defined as a Medium for ideas - that is RPGs give us a way of talking and communicating with each other to exchange ideas. The 'DFK' is a tool for this and for 'adding external influences' - but in any case RPGs can be seen as a medium.

On the one hand we have the opinion "the Medium is fun, and it is possible to like it for it's own sake."
On the other hand we have the opinion "the Medium only has value in how well it communicates the Message and that without the Message the Medium is just so much wallpaper"

Now, as discussion I personally cannot concieve of how you can enjoy something that means nothing. If it means nothing then you can't enjoy it (surely).

So, 'roleplaying' is fun *because* it means something to you - because it communicates with you. And it is the *something* that is important and the 'roleplaying' either enhances or detracts from it.

If the Medium is 'meaning neutral' then it counts for nothing. Speech that means nothing to you is white noise.

So, 'Zilchplay' is possible (roleplay without meaning) - but I will argue that it is the play that is the most dull and most uninteresting to you. It literally means nothing to you.

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On 4/27/2005 at 10:56am, Gaerik wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Ron Edwards wrote:
Zilchplay
in which no Creative Agenda is discernible, and quite likely never enters any "capital letter" status (using Gordon's favored notation). Zilchplay is not well documented, to say the least.

Nathan, I think Incoherent play is very common, and Zilchplay remains largely hypothetical. Yet it seems to me that you're describing Zilchplay as "root role-playing" as well as very common.


Nathan,

I don't think I'm coming to my view that "everyone who role-plays has an agenda" from outside the Big Model at all. According to Ron's statement above, Zilchplay which is agenda-less play is "largely hypothetical". My view is that it doesn't exist. That's not a view at any significant disagreement with the Big Model that I can see.

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On 4/27/2005 at 12:06pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Gordon,

I don't think we're disagreeing very much after all. I do agree with you that, more often than not, CA does eventually show up. The reason that I'm emphasisizing Exploration and deemphasizing CA in this thread has to do with the big point that I want to make:

I think that any person can enjoy a game where any CA is present.

I'm not saying that theory allows you to enjoy any game you ever play in. I'm saying that you, Gordon, can enjoy some Gam experiences, but not all. I'm saying that you can also enjoy some Sim experiences, but not all. I'm saying that you can even enjoy some Nar experiences, but not all.

I also think that hybrids an CA switching is pretty easy, and pretty common.

Ron,

Almost all of my play has been text-based in some medium or another.

As far as instance of play goes: I think that you assume that CA is a constant. It takes us a while (an instance of play) to figure out what it is, but every instance of play after that it's the same. Am I characterizing you correctly?

I think that, given that an instance of play is as long as it is, many of Ralph's CA activating conflicts will happen in a single instance of play. From my own experience, I think it's very common for each one of these conflicts to activate a different CA. In our Pool games, for example, I think we bump back and forth between Sim and Nar a *lot.* Mike's HQ game is the same, I think. Our Fastlane and Doomchaser games, and a few others, tend to bump back and forth between Nar and Gam.

Raven,

What? You think you could ever get me alone in a room? Bite me, dude!

Anyway, I don't think the reason that goes with "I like making stuff up" is important. At the lowest level, it's really hard to pin down *why* people like things. It usually turns into an endless chain. "I like Nar." Why? "Well, theme is cool." What makes it cool? "Well, imagining people in these situations givse me an emotional response." So you like these emotions? How come? etc...

I think you have to figure out what fun is based on observation. You can't know why Exploration is fun, it just is. For some reason, we like doing it enough that we do it instead of (or at least in addition to) watching movies and reading novels.


Oh, I should also add, I have go to work today, so I won't have regular net access again until Sunday. I'll try to hit the Forge from the library and so on. But just cos I stop posting regularly, don't assume I've lost interest. :)

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On 4/27/2005 at 12:27pm, Paganini wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Raven, it just ocurred to me (I dunno why the good stuff always comes to me when I'm in the bathroom... just one of those things...)

Didn't you say something like this?

"Exploration only takes place in the context of a Creative Agenda. You can't have Exploration just on its own."

But... isn't that exactly what everyone used to say Sim was? Prioritized Exploration?

For a long time, Sim was defined as this annoying catch-all that made no sense when compared to the rest of the model. But now it's defined in terms of causality and genre expecations. I think that this is a good thing. But... what happened to the old "Prioritization of Exploration?" It's still around, we just don't have a name for it. Exploration is the sea that floats the Creative Agenda boats.

What if we never get on a boat? Come on in, the water's fine!

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On 4/27/2005 at 12:48pm, greyorm wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Paganini wrote: What? You think you could ever get me alone in a room? Bite me, dude!

Maybe once we're alone in that room together. Rrrowr!

I don't think the reason that goes with "I like making stuff up" is important.

Well, then, we will have to completely disagree on this point, because as a scientist, as a magickian, as a proponent of self-and-world-betterment through self-understanding, the "why" aspect of the equation is foundational for me, for everything.

I think you have to figure out what fun is based on observation. You can't know why Exploration is fun, it just is. For some reason, we like doing it enough that we do it instead of (or at least in addition to) watching movies and reading novels.

Isn't GNS all about figuring out what we like, answering "why" on some level? Saying, "It isn't enough to make the claim, 'I like role-playing', but that understanding why you do and what you hope to get out of it is necessary to achieving consistently enjoyable experiences."

I think that any person can enjoy a game where any CA is present...I also think that hybrids an CA switching is pretty easy, and pretty common.

Honestly, I agree, 100%. I can't hink of any good reason why either of the above could not be true or would be impossible (note that I am reading certain unspoken qualifiers into the above, without which they would not work; ex: "can" does not equal "would"). Obviously I don't agree with your supports for the argument, though.

Oh, I should also add, I have go to work today, so I won't have regular net access again until Sunday. I'll try to hit the Forge from the library and so on. But just cos I stop posting regularly, don't assume I've lost interest.

You're just running away, you chicken!

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On 4/27/2005 at 2:56pm, John Kim wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

greyorm wrote:
Paganini wrote: I think you have to figure out what fun is based on observation. You can't know why Exploration is fun, it just is. For some reason, we like doing it enough that we do it instead of (or at least in addition to) watching movies and reading novels.

Isn't GNS all about figuring out what we like, answering "why" on some level? Saying, "It isn't enough to make the claim, 'I like role-playing', but that understanding why you do and what you hope to get out of it is necessary to achieving consistently enjoyable experiences."

I don't see it that way, and I've at least heard other people echo this. Really, "why" is answerable only on the Social Contract layer. People will game to get what it does for them as real people. i.e. No one games "to explore" or "to address Premise" or such. Those are at the fictional, creative level. The true "why" is what it does for the real player -- i.e. emotions, social benefits, etc.

So Creative Agenda is really a "what", not a "why". It is what process you are using to get at your "why".

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On 4/27/2005 at 3:39pm, Gordon C. Landis wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Hi Nathan (and all),

Just a quick check on old issues - IMO, Prioritized Exploration is NOT "Exploration on its own." It's Exploration plus Agenda (just like all CA's), where the Agenda largely includes particular aspects of the Exploration. I see causality and genre-cues as fully included in that. The Prioritization is the key, for me, but that's always been my key to understanding/accepting the theory. And it clearly doesn't work for everyone. Not sure what to do about that . . .

So onwards to what seem to be your central points:

1) Any person can enjoy a game where any CA is present.

For me, you are correct - but the particulars vary depending on what the CA is. CA still matters, very much (heh - maybe that's what this thread title should be: Does CA Matter?) For others - like I said, I know people for whom if Gamism is ever an actual Agenda (actually becomes a social priority for the group), they are outta there, pretty much no matter what. A little bit of competition that's not prioritized (small g gamism, as Ron points out I used to say), that's all they want to see.

2) Hybrids an[d] CA switching is pretty easy, and pretty common.

Here's where I part ways in a big, though not absolute, way. As I tried to point out in this unremarked thread here, it seems to me that a big part of why CA matters is that they often (not always - that's me not absolutely parting with you) get in each others' way. Including the little g, little n and little s IS pretty easy and common (basically inevitable, IMO), but Agendas . . . Agendas can get mutually exclusive. Often.

Which you could avoid by not having any Agenda at all. I personally can't imagine actually enjoying such play, but I do acknowledge that people theoretically might. I have participated in and observed play groups that (to the degree they even talked about it) would claim that was what they were doing, but to my eye CA always shows up.

So encourage people to lighten up and enjoy a wider variety of play? I'm all for that, and think it can often work. Try and uncover more detail about ways in which hybrids can and do succede? Sounds great to me (I've been thinking lately that some Mekton Zeta I played years back was an attempt to hybridize Gamist mech fights with Sim?/Nar? character interaction - that failed mostly because the Sim?/Nar? question was never resolved, rather than because hybridizing in the Gamism doomed it).

But stop thinking about CA? Stop making it one of the key components to discussion about RPGs? That doesn't seem like a good idea to me. So to the degree I see you saying that, I'm agin' it.

Allow me to include CA as fully part of what you're arguing for, and I'll join you in that room with Raven. Maybe.

Gordon

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On 4/27/2005 at 3:45pm, Walt Freitag wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

A few comments with regard to Zilchplay as it relates (or doesn't) to the thread topic:

"Just making things up with no Creative Agenda" is not (or at least, not necessarily) Zilchplay as I've tried to define and characterize it. Zilchplay is the absence of interesting contribution on a player's part, with "interesting" given a very specific meaning of "relevant, but not predictable." If a player's contribution is limited to choices that just about everyone would make the same way given the same situation, or to actions that are part of the player's own well-established routine, that player's play is Zilchplay.

The equivalence of this description of Zilchplay to "play with no discernable CA" is based on my own theory, outside of (but AFAIK compatible with) the Big Model, that role players express Creative Agenda by, and only by, such relevant-but-not-predictable contributions.

"Just making stuff up" strongly implies interesting and relevant stuff being made up (as opposed to, say, making up the same "I waste it with my crossbow" event at every opportunity, or making up nonsense). In that most-likely case, "just making stuff up" does have a CA. Something makes the stuff someone's made up interesting to the other participants. Whatever that something is, is the CA. Thus, excepting when the stuff being made up is predictable or formulaic to the point where all players would be interchangeable or the player's contributions could be duplicated by a simple mechanism, I agree with those who've argued that "making stuff up with no CA" is not possible.

If Zilchplay is the absence of interesting contribution on a player's part, does that mean that it's the absence of Exploration (and therefore not role playing at all)? No, because the term Exploration makes no distinction between making stuff up, and listening while others make stuff up. A "Zilchplayer" might very well be paying rapt attention to, and reacting emotionally to, what's going on in the game. Zilchplay does not imply apathy, any more than watching a play without jumping up on the stage implies apathy about the drama being performed.

As to the rarity of Zilchplay: Zilchplay as the totality of play around the table, as the only play going on when all participants are considered over an instance of play -- that is to say, the total lack of a discernable CA in a group -- I believe is indeed rare. In most cases, at least one participant has to be making something up, or at least presenting something that's new to the other participants, for the group to find the activity worthwhile at all. But Zilchplay as a consistent behavior of an individual player is not so rare, Zilchplay by all players other than the GM is not as rare as we might hope, and Zilchplay as an occasional behavior of a player (lower-case-Z zilchplay?) -- that is to say, periods briefer than an instance of play in which a player does not noticeably express a CA -- is not rare at all.

Simon, except for your final paragraph suggesting that Zilchplay must be dull and meaningless to you, I agree with your analysis with regard to Medium and Message. Turn that last point around: when you're Zilchplaying, your actions are meaningless to the other participants. (But not necessarily dull, because for various reasons, you and they might still be having a great time.)

- Walt

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On 4/27/2005 at 4:02pm, Ron Edwards wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

Hello,

Lots of stuff is getting brought in and clarified. Here's one more point:

Gordon wrote,

IMO, Prioritized Exploration is NOT "Exploration on its own." It's Exploration plus Agenda (just like all CA's), where the Agenda largely includes particular aspects of the Exploration. I see causality and genre-cues as fully included in that. The Prioritization is the key, for me, but that's always been my key to understanding/accepting the theory.


And he's right. Just because the phrase "prioritized Exploration" seemed to make no sense as an explanatory device does not mean that we weren't trying to describe something real. All the stuff about celebration of source material (of which genre-focus is only one example) through confirmation of what we put in - that's just a better way to phrase it.

So, Nathan, I think it'd be helpful if you took whatever beef you had with "prioritized Exploration" as a phrase and just shelved it. Your problem was with the explanation, but you're posting as if your problem is with the thing. And as far as I can tell, it isn't.

Best,
Ron

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On 4/27/2005 at 4:04pm, greyorm wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

John Kim wrote: I don't see it that way, and I've at least heard other people echo this. Really, "why" is answerable only on the Social Contract layer. People will game to get what it does for them as real people. i.e. No one games "to explore" or "to address Premise" or such. Those are at the fictional, creative level. The true "why" is what it does for the real player -- i.e. emotions, social benefits, etc.

Heya John, just so we're clear, I didn't say "Creative Agenda" anywhere in the statement you're responding to. So, yeah, exactly. Whether we're talking about CA or not, that "why" needs to be addressed. No one "Explores" just because they like it (whatever that means) -- there's reasons why they like it, and those are going to inform and color the whole act.

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On 4/28/2005 at 6:47am, Silmenume wrote:
RE: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As

There are a couple of topics here that I would like to comment on.

The nature of Exploration –

Exploration is more than just the sharing imaginings; it necessarily includes some sort of formalized system for the acceptance of said imaginings. Also which imaginings are shared is overtly limited in scope. So if Exploration is still considered to be just the Sharing of Imaginings, it is nothing less than a formalized process. Finally, Exploration without a driving aesthetic (CA) is interested only in the Fact Space, not the Affect Space. Thus, Exploration is “meaningless,” which is not the same as to say “pointless.” That is plain old naked Exploration is not concerned with the “meaning” of the content but only that we limit the conversation to certain topics, manner and that it is a structured process – all for the creation of shared Facts.

Creative Agenda, on the other hand, IS concerned with “meaning” and resides in the individual Affect Space. As such CA is an aesthetic that both guides the input and informs the derivation of “meaning” from the shared Fact Space.

Now, regarding the difference between Nar and Sim –

In another thread I claimed that both Nar and Gam are both concept driven processes and Sim is more a signification process. I’ll clarify here. To illustrate the difference of how Exploration fits in, I will try to illustrate some examples by way of analogy.

If Nar were equated to “talking” then the grammar and form of the sentence are subordinate to the purpose of conveying the payload i.e. the concept. That is, the role of this sentence is to convey the “idea” via the careful choice of vocabulary and grammar. String enough of these sentences together and you create a new concept – Theme. What is aesthetically important is how “elegantly the contained argument forwards it point.”

If Sim were equated to “talking” then the content is subordinate to how the sentence is constructed. IOW what is aesthetically important is how “beautiful the form (i.e. vocabulary, meter, rhyme scheme, alliteration, punctuation, etc.) of the sentence while still having content. In this example we are not trying to create new concepts but rather are enjoying the beauty of the grammar and form as a priority over content. However, the sentence must have a coherent content or its not Sim. This is an important concept in that like music, which is all about the structure, we Westerners are not typically steeped in this kind of thinking. How do you describe creating sentences for the aesthetic value of their structure as opposed to their concepts?

If Exploration were equated to “talking” then there would be neither a concept/content nor an aesthetic. Perhaps a less controversial way of saying this would be that there would be neither a concept/content nor an aesthetic worth noting. It could be fun, but empty.

In a strange way Nar might be thought of as a celebration of the creation of a Thesis on the various aspects of a topic while in Sim the topic and it various aspects are the reasons for the celebration.

Moving closer to actual Role-play –

If G/N are said to be a “discussion” about concepts (addressing Challenge/Premise) then I propose that these concepts are “discussed” not by talking about the concepts themselves but rather via the taking of “concrete actions” with the SIS. I also propose that these “concrete actions” are the heartbeat of Role-play. Once we get into the SIS we are no longer speaking directly or overtly about the concepts, but rather are manipulating symbols/implementing concrete actions as the “means of discussion.” In Sorcerer FREX, the Character represents or is a symbol for the Premise issue. How the player manipulates that symbol (The Character) is indicative of his position regarding the Premise question.

How does Gamism work? By way of analogy think of Player playing chess without the board. He calls out moves – makes statements of action (instructions if you will) that he hopes will result in the achievement of agreed upon goals for the purpose of “demonstrating a concept” - Player effectiveness (or guts, strategizing skills, Step On Up, etc.) In role-play these instructions are implemented via the Character taking Concrete actions within the SIS. The Character is the symbol representing the Player.

The Character acting or being acted upon is another way of saying that the objects/symbols are being manipulated. This action of the Concrete using objects/symbols is the essence of Bricolage. However, for this to work, we need a very specific symbol set so that we can be sure that the sought after concepts are represented therein. Gam and Nar use all sorts of “concept tools” in order to seed and arrange the objects/symbols of Bricolage for the richest possible potential before bricolage begins.

Gam and Nar weave the dialogue of ideas between concept discussion and Bricolage signification. The “points” or “proofs” are made by the “concrete actions” of the players within the Fact Space. What no one sees is that what we are doing is really bending over backwards to create this sand box so that we can play with (manipulate) our “meaning” blocks that we so painstakingly and with great mindfulness created for the explicit purpose of placing in that sand box in the first place.

For all the complexities of above, explaining it can all be boiled down to describing the actions as a concept process – addressing the Premise concept or addressing the Challenge concept.

Given that Sim isn’t about “discussing” a concept, then what is Sim about?

Sim is the about the employment of symbols to demonstrate, in an aesthetically pleasing form, our celebration of certain concepts. In Sim, that breaks down to the players using their Characters and using them to take “concrete actions” that symbolize their celebration of pre-established concepts. However, the initial symbol set is not created by the players, but rather mined from some source material. I should note here that the symbols do not just represent things, but also relationships. Not only are the players celebrating the concepts therein, they need to do so in a fashion that respects or keeps intact the pre-existing relationships within the source material. Here in lies the limiting challenge to the players. Thus what is appreciated by the players is the form/shape/structure or manner of the manipulations (concrete actions) that is the core of player input. IOW it how the players celebrate the concept is what is being judged.

This “aesthetic of the how” is a darned hard thing to describe to anyone. It is for this reason I believe that Sim has been so long conflated or confused as Exploration. Sim is clearly not Exploration nor even Exploration squared. Exploration is geared only towards the Fact Space. Sim’s “celebration of concepts and the aesthetic of the how” are clearly beyond the scope of Exploration. They are appreciated in the individual Affect Space which is then shared by the high-fiving, back slapping, congratulations, etc. at the table. I will then close by saying that the Affect Space (CA) shapes how Exploration is pursued.

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On 5/22/2005 at 4:28am, lev_lafayette wrote:
I think the ayes have it...

To respond in brief - you are correct. It's part of the reason that nearly every roleplaying game has the caveat "if the rules don't work, ignore them - it's the exploration that's important". (The other reason I suspect was covering their backsides for sloppy design).

I cannot imagine that many would disagree with your claim. Surely we've all been involved in a game where the system sucked, but the game was magnificant and vice-versa.

Heck, even AD&D 1st ed. noted this, those magnificant final words in the DMG "It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important." etc.

You are so correct I've tagged you on el-jay. But that's getting off-topic.

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