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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Silmenume on October 24, 2005, 09:52:40 PM



Title: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Silmenume on October 24, 2005, 09:52:40 PM
Hey Everyone!

The other day in my AP thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17157.0) Vincent (Lumpley) made the following assertion in response to my claim –

Situation creation Mechanics have little or no place in Sim.

Dude, you create situation somehow. Even in simulationist play.

-  which I found utterly fascinating.  If I am reading Vincent correctly, and Vincent please let me know if I am or not, it seems to me he is claiming that Mechanics, specifically “Situation Creation” Mechanics, are necessary to create Situation.  Here we have one of the premier game designers here at the Forge, (IOW he has good bona fides, he’ no chump!) making a rather strong assertion.  Nothing wrong with that – except that it runs completely counter to the last eight years of my own gaming experience. 

Interesting…

So how do I reconcile these two positions?

One is that I misunderstand what is meant by “Mechanics.”

Two is that Vincent has a very different understanding of Situation “creation” than I do.

Three is that Sim does not require Situation creation mechanics.

So if anyone would care to comment on this, most especially Vincent, I think that an important distinction between Nar and Sim lies in here somewhere and it would be fruitful to bring the distinction to light.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Bankuei on October 24, 2005, 10:07:00 PM
Hi Jay,

"The GM prepares an adventure" is a pretty common mechanic (rule, guideline, whatever) that informs a good many Sim games in play.  Alternatively, "The GM controls the world" without necessarily dicatating prepared events also pushes a lot of Sim games.  These ideas are usually explicitly written in most game texts which subscribe to that mode of play.

Chris


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Josh Roby on October 24, 2005, 11:03:53 PM
What Chris said.  Mechanics are more than rolling dice.  Note, "The GM prepares an adventure" is a pretty terrible rule, with a very low accuracy for hitting the group's goals in play, but is a rule nonetheless.  In a group that been running for a while, it accrues other qualifiers such as "Make sure there's at least one combat ever hour or so."  These rules aren't written down, but they inform situation creation nonetheless.

Also common: "This sourcebook is authoritative.  Pick something from these pages."  Call it the MERP method. 


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: talysman on October 24, 2005, 11:13:43 PM
I kind of think Vincent meant more that creation of Situation (in some way) is absolutely necessary for all manner or RPGs, so even if you have a formal Fortune or Karma-based situation creation system (as opposed to the Drama-based "GM makes something up",) there's no reason why it can't be used in a Simulationist game.

and, indeed, there are some Fortune or Karma-based mechanics used in some Sim games. wandering monster tables in D&D, for example, especially in the last few AD&D1e books, when there was plentiful advice on designing custom wandering monster tables that fit the typical population of an area and matched the rarity of each species.

I consider myself a minimalist Simulationist; I am interested in small rulesets that interact in complex ways to create Sim details of the world. I'm fascinated with Situation mechanics, and don't think they are anti-Sim in the slightest.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: contracycle on October 24, 2005, 11:41:34 PM
"The GM prepares an adventure" is a pretty common mechanic (rule, guideline, whatever) that informs a good many Sim games in play.  Alternatively, "The GM controls the world" without necessarily dicatating prepared events also pushes a lot of Sim games.  These ideas are usually explicitly written in most game texts which subscribe to that mode of play.

I don't think that can realistically be called a mechanic.  You could call it division of labour, but it remains iundeveloped, unsystemised, informal, and ad hoc.  It's not a mechanic - its merely an instruction to the operator.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Bankuei on October 24, 2005, 11:47:02 PM
Quote
Note, "The GM prepares an adventure" is a pretty terrible rule, with a very low accuracy for hitting the group's goals in play, but is a rule nonetheless

Also- usually that idea comes with anywhere from a few paragraphs to an entire chapter of advice and guidelines of how a GM is supposed to do that, which might be as undeveloped as "Well, come up with something interesting" to very explicit and detailed instructions- which might involve making written plot flowcharts, detailing a culture, drawing maps, picking from 36 types of plots, etc.

Chris


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on October 25, 2005, 03:07:32 AM
Jay, I think it would be useful for you to concisely define what you consider to be a mechanic, and perhaps also to provide an example of actual Sim play in which Situation is absent, or does not arise mechanically. You raise at least once question, "do Vincent and I mean different things when we say mechanics?", that canot be answered unless you do, and similarly, I find your assertion about Sim's independence from Situation to be baffling.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: lumpley on October 25, 2005, 06:09:52 AM
Jay, sit down and think about and figure out how you've created situations in your game for the past however many years. (You may need to brush up on "what's a situation?" and "how do I identify situations in my play?" first.)

There are two possibilities. The unlikely possibility is that you've approached each new situation in a wholly unique way, carrying forward NONE of the lessons you've learned from previous situation creation.

The more likely possibility is that there's a body of flexible procedures you've developed over the years, which you apply as appropriate, mixing and matching. Sometimes you'll introduce a new technique, which sometimes will work so well you'll keep it, and sometimes won't so you drop it.

Over time, repetition makes a body of informal procedures, mere hit-or-miss guesses, into an unspoken and unwritten, but reliable, overall process. I'm talking about your situation creation rules evolving, over eight years of trial and error, into unwritten, unarticulated, unacknowledged mechanics.

"The GM creates and plays all the NPCs" isn't a rule; it's the public face of a whole bunch of informal rules, all kept and maintained by the GM and the players - and probably never, ever, ever talked about. These are informal rules like "whenever possible, have Severin mess with Damwild's stuff, not just Soraya's" and "don't pitch situations involving romance to Vincent, they'll dud" and "remember to consider the NPC's family's reactions." I consider these rules to be rules. I consider "mechanics" vs. "rules" vs. "guidelines" to be all the same kind of thing - what matters are the real procedures of play.

So Jay: if you want to understand a single thing I say, you need to understand that I'm talking about what the people at the table actually do, and you need to learn to recognize what, in play, you're actually doing.

-Vincent


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: John Kim on October 25, 2005, 09:05:55 AM


So how do I reconcile these two positions?

One is that I misunderstand what is meant by “Mechanics.”

Two is that Vincent has a very different understanding of Situation “creation” than I do.

Three is that Sim does not require Situation creation mechanics.
There are two possibilities. The unlikely possibility is that you've approached each new situation in a wholly unique way, carrying forward NONE of the lessons you've learned from previous situation creation.

The more likely possibility is that there's a body of flexible procedures you've developed over the years, which you apply as appropriate, mixing and matching. Sometimes you'll introduce a new technique, which sometimes will work so well you'll keep it, and sometimes won't so you drop it.

Over time, repetition makes a body of informal procedures, mere hit-or-miss guesses, into an unspoken and unwritten, but reliable, overall process. I'm talking about your situation creation rules evolving, over eight years of trial and error, into unwritten, unarticulated, unacknowledged mechanics.

A simpler way to say this, Vincent, is that Jay's option #1 is correct.  It seems pretty clear to me that Jay has simply been misled by the relatively unusual usage of the word "mechanics".  Here "mechanic" simply means any particular means of resolving things in game.  In his Provisional Glossary, Ron defines mechanics as "Individual and specific features of System" -- where System is "the means by which imaginary events are established during play".  So if situations are created by whatever means, then those means are instances of mechanics.  cf. the TheoryTopicsWiki entry on Mechanics (http://random.average-bear.com/TheoryTopics/Mechanics). 

Games have a range of situation creation.  Some games have fairly explicit formulas for creating adventures, like certain versions of Dungeons & Dragons, James Bond 007, My Life With Master, and Dogs in the Vineyard.  Other games have some structural advice but broad possibilities within that range, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Primetime Adventures.  Still other games leave it very open, like The Riddle of Steel or The Pool. 

It seems pretty clear to me that Jay is suggesting that explicit formulas for adventures are inappropriate to GNS Simulationism.  I don't really agree here.  That might apply to some forms of GNS Simulationism, where there is a strong objective world which is being explored.  However, recall that GNS also includes many genre emulation styles within the category "Simulationism".  For example, James Bond 007 has a pretty explicit set of advice on reproducing the film plots and pacing -- including an extended set of random tables for adventure creation. 

I think Simulationism has room for all levels of formality in situation creation.  Informal isn't necessarily better -- since a strong formula can make for better understood expectations in play and easier gamemastering.  Conversely, formal isn't necessarily better than informal.  Informal can mean more surprises and unusual structures, which many players may enjoy. 



Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Jason Lee on October 25, 2005, 10:02:52 AM
Jay mentioned mechanics and Vincent replied with a more general statement about system.  I don't feel this invalidates any points, but the scope shift between comment and reply is important to notice.  Anyway... 

The distinction between formal/explicit and informal/implicit system is about perspective, not procedure of play.  If you are suddenly made aware of all the procedures you've been using to create situation, and you keep doing them, then they are all of the sudden formal mechanics without the actual procedure of play changing one whit.  You are still doing the same thing you were before, you just know you are doing it now.  Anything we say about mechanics we should be able to say about system and vice versa, excluding the above distinction.  If you already have a procedure for creating situation then being made aware of it (having it structured/explicit/formalized/written down/discussed/etc) should not impede your play but assist it, which leads us to the idea of intentionally designing games for specific types of play.  I suppose this line of thinking leads into how real the distinction between author stance (meta-game) and actor stance is, but I suppose that's a different topic.

As I read him, Vincent could care less what the players think the the procedures of play are, because what matters is that those proceedures are present.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Josh Roby on October 25, 2005, 11:16:05 AM
Quote
Note, "The GM prepares an adventure" is a pretty terrible rule, with a very low accuracy for hitting the group's goals in play, but is a rule nonetheless
Also- usually that idea comes with anywhere from a few paragraphs to an entire chapter of advice and guidelines of how a GM is supposed to do that...

And said instructions are usually in a vaccum -- they make no reference to the players' expectations or the characters that have been (or will be) created to go through the adventure.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: ewilen on October 25, 2005, 04:03:08 PM
I think what Jay might want to consider is whether, in the games he plays, "situation creation mechanics" are distinguishable from "mechanics", how they're distinguishable, and when they're invoked.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: contracycle on October 26, 2005, 12:04:02 AM
I'm afraid its completely valueless and illogical to claim that "stuff I have done" constitutes a procedure, or that the patterns of habit constitute a mechanic.  In every respect Vincents paragraph about the "mechanics" of situation establishment is wrong; he is not wroing to describe this process, but he is wrong to label it as a process or mechanic.  A process is visible to all users, explicit, and exists external to the people employing it.  A mechanic must be formal, constructed, and organised, otherwise a pile of rocks would have to be construed as just as mechanical as an engine.

This IMo has badly derailed the topic.  The initial claim was, situation creation mechanics have no place in Sim.  The claim was not "there is no situation creation in Sim".  Parseing the statement as the latter meaning renders it valueless; why assume Jay doesn;t know what he is talking about and instead address the issue: are situation creation mechanics[/i] appropriate for Sim?

And in nthis regard I disagree with Jay.  I think Sim would benefit from proper situation creation mechanics, on the understanding that the players (of characters) will not want to engage with these mnechanics; that is, they should serve as prompts for the GM.  And I think this becuase I suspect that the habitual Sim GM thinks very little about the structure of the game as an entertainment, and that this can produce Sim games that are unfocussed and become steadily purposeless.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 26, 2005, 10:37:37 AM
I agree with Gareth, generally. That said, I agree with the conclusions that Vincent was trying to get to with his original assertion. That is, while it's wrong to dismiss Jay's statemements using the term mechanics, the point is that mechanics and more general methodology and proceedure do share some similarities in the context of the discussion. That is, even if mechanics (using the more restrictive meaning that I've always pushed for) are used, that's really not so different from using other procedures for determining what happens in play situation wise.

So there are two topics for discussion here, and I'm not sure which Jay will want to see for the thread:
1. What the definition of mechanics should be.
2. Whether or not mechanics really are that different from less mechanical procedures as regards the context of the original objection. 
3. Both.

Mike


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: ewilen on October 26, 2005, 12:00:08 PM
I was suggesting a slightly different angle.

Outside of roleplaying games, there are certainly games which provide analogies to "situation creation mechanics", as well as games which lack distinct "situation creation". For example, both Titan (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/103) and Victory in the Pacific (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1442) have hierarchical systems in which players first move pieces on a strategic board, then "resolve the situations" created in each location using a subsystem played out in a semi-tactical context. On the other hand, chess has exactly one mechanic which is played out "nonhierarchically" through the entire game; other games have multiple mechanics but little in terms of deep hierarchy. "Situation" in these games is not discrete but continuous, with any new situation evolving out of the same mechanics used to explore and resolve the previous situation. There's no hard and fast division between the opening and middlegame in chess, for example.

What I'm proposing is that regardless of whether we are talking about well-defined mechanics or freeform procedures, it is important to consider whether there is a hierarchy or division that separates "situation creation" mechanics/procedures from "everything that happens in the game". Personally, I think that RPGs tend to be hierarchical in this fashion (regardless of any GNS classification) but the hierarchical depth varies, as does the manner in which play moves up and down the hierarchy.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Josh Roby on October 26, 2005, 12:49:37 PM
A process is visible to all users, explicit, and exists external to the people employing it. A mechanic must be formal, constructed, and organised, otherwise a pile of rocks would have to be construed as just as mechanical as an engine.

So if Thag uses a tree branch and a rock to tip over a boulder, it's not a lever?  Just because it's not recognized does not mean it's not a procedure, and just because it's not named doesn't mean it's not a mechanic.  A procedure is just something that people do.  That's it.  It doesn't need to be recognized as a discrete entity (it may not be a discrete entity), it does not need to be named.  A mechanic is the same deal, it just implies a little more crunch is involved.

For my money, it's probably that implication of crunch-factor that's tripping Jay up.  Nobody's saying that situation creation mechanics need be written down, work off of game terms, or the like.  They can, but they don't need to.  They can be wholly informal and idiosyncratic, even subconscious.  But if they could be described, and if they are even marginally consistent across applications, then it's a procedure or mechanic.

Elliot --

I think, based on roleplaying's wargaming roots, where terrain set up and army selection was certainly a separate step from the implementation of turn-by-turn tactical decisions, that situation and roleplay are traditionally represted by different procedures.  However, as we see with PTA, Universalis, and Multiverser, situation procedures can also be internalized with the rest of the game (minor note: this usually requires distributing power differently).  While doing so will usually result in a simpler game in terms of complexity of the ruleset, I imagine the question of separate versus integrated situation creation mechanics will be determined by the specific and idiosyncratic needs of the game -- Town Creation works very well in Dogs; it would make no sense in, say, PTA.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Callan S. on October 26, 2005, 06:38:18 PM
Hi Jay,

Say we were playing nar and the situation had been created that your murderous brother can be captured by you (but he'll be hung) or you can let him go (he'll murder more people).

What are situation creation mechanics in this instance? Mechanics which create that scene? Or mechanics which determine what happens next, based on the players choice?


Now, for sim, would mechanics that determine what happens next be as out of place? As out of place as any mechanics that make the nar players choice for him? Is that what you mean, when you say situation mechanics are out of place? Because a great deal of situation creation in sim is supposed to come from player address of causality, rather than mechanically determined?

I'm assuming alot, so I'm probably way off.


Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
Post by: Silmenume on October 27, 2005, 01:58:28 AM
Thanks everyone for your input.

I feel terribly embarrassed as I must have posted my original thoughts in a manner which must have been opaque.  Contracycle, you are right, my “initial claim was, situation creation mechanics have no place in Sim.  The claim was not "there is no situation creation in Sim".  You are also correct in rephrasing the question as –

    …are situation creation mechanics appropriate for Sim?
    [/list]

    So it is with the above that I wish to direct my efforts.

    Say we were playing nar and the situation had been created that your murderous brother can be captured by you (but he'll be hung) or you can let him go (he'll murder more people).

    What are situation creation mechanics in this instance? Mechanics which create that scene? Or mechanics which determine what happens next, based on the players choice?

    “Mechanics which create that scene?” – absolutely.  I would call any mechanic which via some meta-game manner lead to that scene a “situation creation mechanic” and something that do not fit in with Sim.

    “Or mechanics which determine what happens next, based on the players choice?” – Depends if such choices are acted out via the Player’s agency within the SIS or using some sort of inter SIS mechanics that is not “connected” with their Character’s action within the SIS.  The former is not a Situation creating “mechanic” while the latter certainly is,” and for that reason I would say it would be conflicting with the Sim CA action.

    Now, for sim, would mechanics that determine what happens next be as out of place?

    Do you mean resolution mechanics, or do you mean mechanics that permit Players to have an influence on the outcome of the problem beyond that of their Character’s/avatar’s?  A regular good old fashioned resolution mechanic is not incompatible with the Sim agenda in my opinion.  However any mechanic that has an effect outside their avatar’s scope of abilities to effect the SIS is something that I believe conflicts with the Sim process of play.

    As out of place as any mechanics that make the nar players choice for him? Is that what you mean, when you say situation mechanics are out of place? Because a great deal of situation creation in sim is supposed to come from player address of causality, rather than mechanically determined?

    Absolutely!  For all your “assumptions” you have certainly nailed the issue right dead on in the 10 ring.  If Situation is the interaction of Character and Setting, as per the Provisional Glossary (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html), then in Sim there never really is a moment that is outside of Situation!  Thus any Mechanic/Technique that allows any player (Gm or not) to alter the Situation in a way that does not justifiably flow out of what already is contradicts the Sim CA process.

    Why does one need a mechanic to do something if it is reasonably justifiable given the Setting and Characters involved?  If it isn’t justifiable given the circumstances then such a Mechanic does pose a problem to the CA expression process.  Given that the combination of both Setting and Character are so infinite, I just don’t see how it is possible to create a mechanic can be constructed that can aid in the prepping of play for the Sim CA.  I believe that there are tools that can spur the imagination, but I don’t believe that fixed procedures (mechanics) can spit out a “situation” that would be relevant for all the various Characters given their various conditions without unduly constricting play (effectively railroading - Force).

    Callan, your assumptions are spot on!  Did you read my mind?

    Hi contracycle,

    And in nthis regard I disagree with Jay.  I think Sim would benefit from proper situation creation mechanics, on the understanding that the players (of characters) will not want to engage with these mnechanics; that is, they should serve as prompts for the GM

    Given your provisos, about the “players” not “engaging” said Mechanics, I’ll have to ponder your suggestions.  I, for example, will typically peruse the list of the 36 Dramatic Situations for inspiration when constructing scenarios for play.  However, I don’t regard them as a Mechanic because they don’t “spit out an answer” as to what to create for a specific night of play.  But, I do agree that such “lists” are extremely useful in inspiring the GM and keeping Sim games lively and interesting.

    And I think this becuase I suspect that the habitual Sim GM thinks very little about the structure of the game as an entertainment, and that this can produce Sim games that are unfocussed and become steadily purposeless.

    Funny you should mention “structure.”  However, I do agree with you on the whole.  But my question is, if mechanics which are inherently restructured and by their very nature do not involve the players, how can they keep track of what the players have already done up to the moment and include such actions in the current output?

    Hey Elliot,

    What I'm proposing is that regardless of whether we are talking about well-defined mechanics or freeform procedures, it is important to consider whether there is a hierarchy or division that separates "situation creation" mechanics/procedures from "everything that happens in the game".

    I don’t believe there is such a hierarchy in Sim play – everything is Situation from top to bottom.  Just like, by way of analogy, your Chess example.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: contracycle on October 27, 2005, 02:17:51 AM
    Given your provisos, about the “players” not “engaging” said Mechanics, I’ll have to ponder your suggestions.  I, for example, will typically peruse the list of the 36 Dramatic Situations for inspiration when constructing scenarios for play.  However, I don’t regard them as a Mechanic because they don’t “spit out an answer” as to what to create for a specific night of play.  But, I do agree that such “lists” are extremely useful in inspiring the GM and keeping Sim games lively and interesting.

    Agreed.  The 36 dramatic situaitons are not in themselves a mechanic, merely a prompt.  But I suggest they can be developed into a mechanic.  Because you can in fact make some statements about what kind of action the game will have to exhibit in order to stay in the framework of the selected dramatic situation.  Say for example we select "the death of a kinsman unrecognised"; we can then identify our dramatis personnae; and having done that, we can reasonably conclude that the game should include at least one scene in which each of those characters is presented to the players for exploration, else the dramatic situation has no resonance.  There's still a great deal of freedom even here though because a story of this nature could start before or after the tragedy just as easily.

    Funny you should mention “structure.”  However, I do agree with you on the whole.  But my question is, if mechanics which are inherently restructured and by their very nature do not involve the players, how can they keep track of what the players have already done up to the moment and include such actions in the current output?

    Through the agency of the GM, which in sim games is equipped with both universal knowledge of the characters and unlimited authority with which to define the world.  Thats why I specifically mentioned character-playing players, do distinguish them from the GM.  The GM is not getting exactly the same exporative buzz as the character-players are, and can therefore utilise techniques that would be jarring to those players.  THe GM can decide that the next scene should be such-and-such Because It Would Be Interesting in a way the players cannot, I think.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Mike Holmes on October 27, 2005, 06:54:22 AM
    Let's try to put this on an easier plane to discuss. Jay, would you say that the player creating the world in any way, other than the impact of the actions he directs his character to take, damage the sim CA? Is that a true statement? If I, as a player, am allowed to create a tower in the middle of a city, that's not simulationism? It has to be narrativism or gamism?

    I'm trying to figure out where you draw the line. Because right now, it's starting to sound like you believe that sim play is equal to Actor Stance play.

    Mike


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: timfire on October 27, 2005, 07:15:30 AM
    ... my “initial claim was, situation creation mechanics have no place in Sim."

    Ditto what Mike said. Also, Jay, I believe focusing on "mechanics" alone (whatever that means) is a red herring. RPG's do not live on "mechanics" alone. You should be considering all procedures of play, both informal and formal. This was one of the points Vincent was trying to make. If you only focus on formal procedures, and ignore the informal ones, you will arrive at bad conclusions.

    If Situation is the interaction of Character and Setting, as per the Provisional Glossary (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html), then in Sim there never really is a moment that is outside of Situation!

    Umm, I believe that for the most part, all roleplaying is "inside" Situation. I find it hard to imagine something that is "outside" Situation.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Josh Roby on October 27, 2005, 09:49:15 AM
    However any mechanic that has an effect outside their avatar’s scope of abilities to effect the SIS is something that I believe conflicts with the Sim process of play.

    That's Actor Stance, not Sim.

    Through the agency of the GM, which in sim games is equipped with both universal knowledge of the characters and unlimited authority with which to define the world.

    That's a typical division of credibility that appears in many games, but again, that is not Sim.

    Perhaps formalized and published situation creation rules are anathema to the way you are used to playing, but your favored methods of play are necessarily going to be more narrowly defined than the vast reaches of Sim play.  On the other hand, I think you certain do use procedures and perhaps even mechanics to create situation in your particular play style.  For instance:

    I, for example, will typically peruse the list of the 36 Dramatic Situations for inspiration when constructing scenarios for play.  However, I don’t regard them as a Mechanic because they don’t “spit out an answer” as to what to create for a specific night of play.  But, I do agree that such “lists” are extremely useful in inspiring the GM and keeping Sim games lively and interesting.

    The procedure you describe is "Reference the list of 36 Situations.  Strike out any that don't fit your setting.  Strike out any that you know won't engage your players.  From what's left, pick whichever one strikes your fancy or you think will engage the players."   The things that you do, the steps that you take, certainly do "spit out an answer" for you -- otherwise you wouldn't have anything to play about for that specific night of play.  You may not recognize it as such, but it's still the things you do and do 'typically'.  Do you consider it not a "mechanic" since it requires input from players/GM?


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Marco on October 27, 2005, 12:18:32 PM
    That's Actor Stance, not Sim.

    Correct, IMO--or more generally, "Immersion." I'd said as much in the actual play thread.

    -Marco


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Callan S. on October 27, 2005, 07:15:51 PM
    Okay I think we should all slow down on the rules and procedures of play talk. For this thread, it's like talking about an address of premise that was made and then asking 'so what procedure or rule did you use when you made up that address'. That ISN'T how address of premise is made, M'kay? :) And nor is an address of causality!

    That said,


    Hi Jay,

    I'm glad I wasn't off base! Now, looking into this...
    Quote
    Given your provisos, about the “players” not “engaging” said Mechanics, I’ll have to ponder your suggestions.  I, for example, will typically peruse the list of the 36 Dramatic Situations for inspiration when constructing scenarios for play.  However, I don’t regard them as a Mechanic because they don’t “spit out an answer” as to what to create for a specific night of play.
    I get the impression that 'mechanic' is very important here, in that it describes how the world works. Normally if you were playing and used a resolution mechanic, that's okay because the player initiated that as part of him saying what would happen.  The mechanics are encapsulated within the players assertion of how the game world works, thus the player is in charge/protagonised. However, scene creation mechanics put the cart before the horse, as the mechanics are in charge of whether the players assertion of how the game world works, does come to pass.

    The difference with the 36 dramatic situations process is that no one has asserted how the game world works yet...so no one's assertion is being screwed with. It's much like proposing to start a brand new narrativist game and saying 'And each PC is a murderer'. No one minds this, because they have made no statements yet about the nature of their characters.

    Basically you need rules that don't screw with player address (which is exactly what the other two agendas need as well). Way off?


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: M. J. Young on October 27, 2005, 09:18:55 PM
    With Mike, I think that Vincent has taken some liberties with the use of the word "mechanic"; however, John has cited the glossary, and if I'm reading the quotes aright, Vincent is using the term correctly. Thus, again with Mike, I'm inclined to wonder whether that is what the term ought to mean. I'm inclined to think of mechanics as discrete aspects which inform system, on reflection to be more on the order of authorities than system itself (in the sense that when you roll a die and check a chart, these are not the decision about what happens but the basis for asserting that decision; the system here is that someone has been given the credibility to translate the die roll and chart reading into a statement in the shared imagined space). That ought to be discussed.

    On the other hand, Jay, you're doing your old synechdoche thing again, imagining that because your play is within the definition of simulationism it is the definition of simulationism. Situation-determining mechanics are very much part of many forms of simulationist play, even if they are not part of yours. Just a few that might be included in a simulationist game:
    • A random events table. "Stranger comes to town," "Letter is received from relative," "Government issues new law," "Natural disaster destroys significant building," and other events which could happen and could lead to interesting play situations might be on that table.  Because these are things that happen once in a while that can't easily be drawn from the ongoing causal chain of play, injecting them from a randomized mechanic makes perfect sense in a simulationist setting.
    • A general effects roll.  Multiverser, of course, uses this to determine whether things are going generally favorably or generally unfavorably for the character. Since our universes have to deal with a certain amount of chaos theory, one can never be completely sure of the effects of any cause.  If the characters attempt to stir up good feelings about themselves, do their efforts actually cause the town to think well of them? For example, let's suppose they throw a lot of money buying drinks for everyone. This is intended to result in the men thinking they're good guys, and so building up a positive attitude about them. It might, however, backfire, resulting in the men thinking that the characters are showing off how wealthy they are, and the women thinking that the characters are trying to corrupt their men and make them drink too much, and the local cleric putting pressure on the town leaders to do something about this corrupting influence. Assuming task resolution (most common in sim games), there is no way to trace the causal chain without making assumptions. The GE roll provides those assumptions: did this work much as the players hoped, or did it backfire terribly? It's still perfectly simulationist, used thus; it just provides the answer to the uncertainty of how an action will be received by the majority of the people.
    • Random dungeon generation. Sometimes you can find these online (although the last one I used seems to have vanished, due I think to the tendency of students to post these on their university web spaces and then lose them when they leave school). These can be computerized, or they can be as simple as the old instant dungeons that used dice to determine what comes next (I recall there's one in the back of the OAD&D DMG, although I never used it). From one perspective, these save the referee a lot of trouble; from another, they remove his biases from the process. They create an objective reality, often on the fly, and so produce situation mechanically.
    Those are just a few examples; I'm sure there could be others.

    Certainly you can play in any agendum without "situation mechanics" of these types; you can also play in any agendum with situation mechanics.

    That's quite apart from the problem that of course in every game, system conspires to create situation, and therefore there are techniques which do so. I think Mike and I agree that mechanics are one class of techniques, but that doesn't appear to be what the glossary says, so either we're misreading it, or it needs to be corrected, or we're mistaken.

    --M. J. Young


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: contracycle on October 27, 2005, 11:57:33 PM
    That's a typical division of credibility that appears in many games, but again, that is not Sim.

    Perhaps formalized and published situation creation rules are anathema to the way you are used to playing, but your favored methods of play are necessarily going to be more narrowly defined than the vast reaches of Sim play.  On the other hand, I think you certain do use procedures and perhaps even mechanics to create situation in your particular play style. 
    Quote

    That division of authority may strictly not "be" Sim, but it is particularly useful to Sim.  The players gain a sensation of an objective world by having it espoused by an objective authority.  I don't really understand your second paragraph, because I have precisely proposed that there potentially can be formal situation creation mechanics and that they may even be a good idea.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Mike Holmes on October 28, 2005, 09:24:10 AM
    Quote
    I think Mike and I agree that mechanics are one class of techniques, but that doesn't appear to be what the glossary says, so either we're misreading it, or it needs to be corrected, or we're mistaken.
    It's just a disagreement on what a useful meaning for the term is. There was a whole long thread that considered terms like Mechanics, Rules, Text, Procedures, etc. I think this thread is moving to the other topic, so if anyone wants to discuss that definition, I think a new thread is in order. But do search up that old thread first if you can!

    Mike


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Josh Roby on October 28, 2005, 10:27:51 AM
    Gareth, the second paragraph was more directed towards Jay than you; on that point you and I seem to be in agreement.  As far as the GM being the sole objective arbiter of the newtonian world, while that may create the sensation of an address of causality, I can't help but think it is in reality merely an address of authority.  There's no reason why a Sim game can't be constituted as an arena in which all player are invited to arbitrate and negotiate causality and/or genre conventions.

    Which, to link this to the thread topic, suggests that a Sim game can employ situation creation mechanics (understanding that 'mechanic' means a way in which player input is communicated, ratified, and/or rejected) in such a situation.  I'd take the stronger case, that any game will utilize a situation creation mechanic, but I'd like to hear Jay's response before pressing on.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: talysman on October 31, 2005, 09:46:06 AM
    Jay,

    I'm not going to restate what I and others have said before about how your preferred method of Sim play is not the same method all other Sim players prefer, since each time I say "I prefer Sim but don't have the same preferences as you do", you state that I am therefore not a Sim player.

    nor am I going to focus on the definition of the word "mechanics". I am going to assume, as you do, that "mechanics" here means some kind of formal, public procedure, such as dice-rolling or point-spending or drama negotiations between players.

    what I am going to do instead is focus on what I see as the root problem of this disagreement, which is best illustrated in this quote:

    Say we were playing nar and the situation had been created that your murderous brother can be captured by you (but he'll be hung) or you can let him go (he'll murder more people).

    What are situation creation mechanics in this instance? Mechanics which create that scene? Or mechanics which determine what happens next, based on the players choice?

    “Mechanics which create that scene?” – absolutely.  I would call any mechanic which via some meta-game manner lead to that scene a “situation creation mechanic” and something that do not fit in with Sim.

    “Or mechanics which determine what happens next, based on the players choice?” – Depends if such choices are acted out via the Player’s agency within the SIS or using some sort of inter SIS mechanics that is not “connected” with their Character’s action within the SIS.  The former is not a Situation creating “mechanic” while the latter certainly is,” and for that reason I would say it would be conflicting with the Sim CA action.

    the key word here is "metagame".

    when Vincent made his initial claim that every RPG needs to create Situation, perhaps he was thinking specifically of metagame mechanics, but I don't know; he didn't say anything about metagame at all, however. and yet, obviously, you are thinking "metagame" ... and more to the point, you are ignoring the fact that Sim has metagame mechanics, too, just not the same kind of metagame mechanics as Gam or Nar.

    the difference is: in Sim, all metagame mechanics receive player input based solely on the SiS and any genre expectations or existing world facts, while Gam and Nar metagame mechanics allow input based on relationships between the players. Gam/Nar metagame mechanics allow the real world to influence the way the SiS develops, while Sim metagame mechanics are designed to *prevent* the real world from interfering with the SiS.

    given that definition of "metagame", there should be no objection to Situation mechanics in Sim as long as they operate in a Sim manner; and there certainly shouldn't be an objection to Situation mechanics if they aren't metagame at all.

    you haven't addressed the examples of non-metagame Situation creation mechanics that I raised before. perhaps you missed them... if there is a mechanic that states "the GM will periodically roll for wandering monsters, on a table that appropriately represents the monster types that frequent the area; this roll occurs more often if the party is noisier or if the dungeon inhabitants are otherwise alerted" that is a Situation creation mechanic. it is pure Sim, it is not metagame, and it's been used for many years. if there is a spell backfire table that allows results like "a demon is accidentally summoned" or "all monsters within range become alerted to the caster's presence and become hostile", this is a Situation creation mechanic. heck, Alignment is a Situation creation mechanic, since it can affect whether an encounter will be innocuous Color or a hostile Situation.

    and Situation can be more than just be more than just violent physical or non-physical conflict; if the players use a tool or device that has a misfire roll that could collapse a ceiling or knock over trees to block your path, that is a mechanic that can create a complication (Situation.)

    all of these are examples of non-metagame Situation creating mechanics that have actually been used in D&D, GURPS, and The Fantasy Trip. early D&D could be played either Gamist or Sim, as could TFT, and GURPS is obviously intended to be strong SIM. there are similar mechanics in other games as well. there's really a very long tradition of Situation creation mechanics in Sim. and, although not every mechanic is suitable for every game, I can't see why any of these mechanics "have no place in Sim"... I could think of specific ways some of them could be used so that they wouldn't fit in Sim (liek soem ways of handling Alignment, for example,) but I have seen them used in a Sim fashion with no Sim objections raised.

    so, Jay, do you agree that your objection to Situation creation mechanics only applies if we're taling about metagame mechanics that ignore the SiS in favor of tactical or premise-related negotiations? if so, I think no one here will really disagree with that, and we can avoid a lot of future arguments.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Silmenume on November 09, 2005, 03:31:15 AM
    Hey everyone,

    I’m going to append this mess with a preamble saying this will probably be the most incoherent reply ever written –

    Hi Callan!

    Okay I think we should all slow down on the rules and procedures of play talk. For this thread, it's like talking about an address of premise that was made and then asking 'so what procedure or rule did you use when you made up that address'. That ISN'T how address of premise is made, M'kay? :) And nor is an address of causality!

    Thanks Callan!  OK everyone, I fully understand that Sim is a troublesome topic, and that plumbing it will unintentionally step on the toes of people who have invested much blood sweat and tears in formulating their own theories.  I readily include myself in that group.  However, lest we never get anywhere, I would wish to quickly bring to mind the On Charitable Reading (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=13096.0) thread.  Twice, civic-minded posters had to step forward to bring this thread back to some form of discussion.

    I get the impression that 'mechanic' is very important here, in that it describes how the world works. Normally if you were playing and used a resolution mechanic, that's okay because the Player initiated that as part of him saying what would happen.  The mechanics are encapsulated within the Players assertion of how the game world works, thus the Player is in charge/protagonised. However, scene creation mechanics put the cart before the horse, as the mechanics are in charge of whether the Players assertion of how the game world works, does come to pass.

    This “feels” about right, but I will have to spend more time pondering to see if I can find more reasons than just a “feeling!”

    Roughly, I believe that Resolution Mechanics are a reflection of the Dream which starts with the source material and grows with the Dream via the growth of the SIS.  So yes they do “reflect” how the world works, they do not prescribe how it works.  Very important distinction – to me at least – at my current level of understanding.  The point is that the Players project forward into the world when making decisions about what to do and what is about to happen and they need the world to work in a “regular/normal” fashion in order to make these projections.  If the Resolution Mechanics support their projections then the Player has demonstrated his understanding of the world.  The protagonization comes from having the opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the world in the first place and not being shut out because some sort of mechanic does not “exist” to cover such a Situation.

    Now, as mechanics are a “reflection” of the world then a Setting Creation Mechanic is definitely a case of putting the cart before the horse.

    Basically you need rules that don't screw with Player address (which is exactly what the other two agendas need as well). Way off?

    Way ON! 

    The thing is, it is the Players who are addressing causality – which displaces mechanics from its frequently misunderstood role.  Only Players can make an address of anything.  IF Sim is the address of Causality*, then the Players in the process of making said address must, ipso facto, be making “statements” about what is being addressed - causality.  And just as the address of Premise is reflected in the evolving Theme, then the address of Causality should then be seen in the evolution of the reflection of that causality - the Mechanics, yes?  This has the counter intuitive effect of having Players confirm the mechanics via play.  It is the Players who understand causality and express that understanding via Exploration which is later reflected in the mechanics.

    *I should note that “causality” probably isn’t the correct word for Sim in the same way that “competition” is not the correct word for Gamism.

    The difference with the 36 dramatic Situations process is that no one has asserted how the game world works yet...so no one's assertion is being screwed with. It's much like proposing to start a brand new narrativist game and saying 'And each PC is a murderer'. No one minds this, because they have made no statements yet about the nature of their characters.

    There is truth to this!  My concern comes from the condition of long running game when an incompatible “result” comes up that conflicts with an existing Character’s background/play history/personality/etc.  However, even here you don’t have Situation so much as Character!  The question that burns in my mind is, if the “Situation Creation  Mechanic” says that in the next scene Aragorn is going to murder someone, how does that come about without railroading Aragorn’s Player?  Or does such a mechanic say a scene is framed in such a way that Aragorn has just committed the murder, despite the Player’s insistence that he would never have Aragorn commit a “murder.”  IOW the Player has just been deprotagonized so that the GM could force a Situation.  I foresee that such a scene set up process, if used mid-game, will in all likelihood break something in the chain of play to force the “mechanic created” Situation into being.

    Upon review, the problem I think I am having is that since “Situation” is a derived quality of the interaction of the objects – Setting and Character – that “creating” a Situation would require some disconnects in the continuity of play in order to bring said Situation into being.  IOW if the Situation could not have arisen from the positioning of the elements within the SIS, but instead requires a “mechanic” to bring it into play, then we have a break in “causality.”

    All in all, I guess I’m with contracycle with the notion of using something like the 36 dramatic Situations to inspire the introduction of dramatis personae with pre-built motivations and relationships but we can’t ever be certain that the Players will respond to the mechanically introduced elements in a way that will create the “desired” Situation.

    Hey Mike,

    So there are two topics for discussion here, and I'm not sure which Jay will want to see for the thread:
    1. What the definition of mechanics should be.
    2. Whether or not mechanics really are that different from less mechanical procedures as regards the context of the original objection. 
    3. Both.

    These are wonderful questions/suggestions and I am sorry that I missed them earlier.  Actually, for this thread I choose 4 – none of the above.  However, I would be very interested in 1 in another thread as I have burned many a synapse churning on that very question while working my way through this thread.

    Let's try to put this on an easier plane to discuss. Jay, would you say that the Player creating the world in any way, other than the impact of the actions he directs his character to take, damage the sim CA? Is that a true statement?

    In the short, I would answer this to be a qualified true.  The more formalized the process that empowers the Player to directly create beyond his Character the more “damaging” it becomes.  This is a dial setting, but I think once it becomes formalized into a “mechanic” then we are deep into “problem waters.”

    If I, as a Player, am allowed to create a tower in the middle of a city, that's not simulationism? It has to be narrativism or gamism?

    The answer to both is no and no.  To me having a Player create Setting during play is the equivalent to a person playing chess against himself.  I would say that it is leading towards incoherent play – that being towards Zilchplay.  I believe that just like Gam and Nar, that the product of play in Sim is born out of the process of addressing the problems posed and answered via the SIS.  If Sim is the dialectic between Setting and Character, as I am proposing, then having a Player on both sides of the dialectic waters down the process as well as product.  Again this is a dial setting locally set, but the more often the Player are mechanically creating Setting then the more watered down the Sim process becomes.

    Elliot proposed an analogy that I think is quite useful for illustrating my idea regarding Situation and Sim –

    "Situation" in these games is not discrete but continuous, with any new Situation evolving out of the same mechanics used to explore and resolve the previous Situation. There's no hard and fast division between the opening and middlegame in chess, for example.

    Exactly!  Unlike Gam and Nar which tend to lend themselves to discrete conflicts Sim does not inherently make that distinction.  The existence of “Situation creation mechanic,” to me, creates a quantization that is at odds with Sim continuity.

    Hey contracycle,

    Funny you should mention “structure.”  However, I do agree with you on the whole.  But my question is, if mechanics which are inherently restructured and by their very nature do not involve the Players, how can they keep track of what the Players have already done up to the moment and include such actions in the current output?

    Through the agency of the GM, which in sim games is equipped with both universal knowledge of the characters and unlimited authority with which to define the world.  Thats why I specifically mentioned character-playing Players, do distinguish them from the GM.  The GM is not getting exactly the same exporative buzz as the character-Players are, and can therefore utilise techniques that would be jarring to those Players.  THe GM can decide that the next scene should be such-and-such Because It Would Be Interesting in a way the Players cannot, I think.

    I agree that the GM in Sim play certainly does not get the explorative buzz that the Players do and is also the best situated to decide about the next scene for the very reasons you stated.  I guess my question falls back to Mike’s earlier question about what makes a mechanic.  Near as I understand matters a mechanic either apportions credibility among the Players to do X, or draws credibility “upon itself” as it were and spits out an answer.  I’m having difficulty seeing how “peruse the 36 dramatic Situations and choose among them and institute the necessary input into Setting to create said condition,” fits the bill as a mechanic.  It neither apportions credibility nor “creates its own output” that would seamlessly integrates into the current SIS circumstance.  I’m not saying you are wrong outright, but rather perhaps I am too thickheaded to see it at the present.  I am interested in where you are going with this and if you prove me wrong – then you are the man!

    Hi Tim,

    Also, Jay, I believe focusing on "mechanics" alone (whatever that means) is a red herring. RPG's do not live on "mechanics" alone. You should be considering all procedures of play, both informal and formal. This was one of the points Vincent was trying to make. If you only focus on formal procedures, and ignore the informal ones, you will arrive at bad conclusions.

    You are correct about focusing on only the formal procedures could lead to bad conclusions, however as the model indicates that “system does matter,” I am delving into what mechanics do and don’t support the Sim CA and how.  In this case I am focusing on “Situation Creation Mechanics” in the same way that at one point someone focused on task resolution mechanics and discovered that they really didn’t help focus the Nar CA in an effective way.  IOW such mechanics were at best peripheral and at worst obstructive to Nar expression.  Great.  I am trying to do the same with the Sim CA and “Situation creation mechanics.”

    As I understand the Model, a well-tuned game is considered well-tuned precisely because the formalized procedures of play are well designed.  Mechanics do matter with regard to CA expression and are the designer’s best efforts at facilitating the expression of a certain CA.  I understand that a CA is not defined by the mechanics, but mechanics can facilitate the expression of a CA.  Some are better than others and some are just plain ineffective with regards to a given CA.

    Umm, I believe that for the most part, all roleplaying is "inside" Situation. I find it hard to imagine something that is "outside" Situation.

    Conceptually I disagree.  Any sanctioned conversation or activity that takes place outside the SIS is by definition outside Situation.  Thus the employment of currency, “raising and seeing,” or any other meta-SIS activity is outside Situation though it may be an important part of the whole of game play.  Defining a Premise is outside of Situation.  Leveling up is outside of Situation. 

    This may sound silly, but anything that is tagged “Color” is outside Situation.  I don’t believe there is such a thing as Color in Sim.  Everything in Sim has the potential to affect Situation.  In fact I think that which is called Color in G/N is a primary driving element of Sim.  Color is not decoration in Sim, it is the aesthetic that the Players are seeking to create/emulate/simulate.  The very existence of Color as a concept implies that there are elements of play that are outside of Situation – at least in G/N.  I don’t believe that Sim (prioritized bricolage) makes that distinction.

    Hello John (talysman),

    nor am I going to focus on the definition of the word "mechanics". I am going to assume, as you do, that "mechanics" here means some kind of formal, public procedure, such as dice-rolling or point-spending or drama negotiations between Players.

    Excellent!  We’re on the same basic page then.

    the difference is: in Sim, all metagame mechanics receive Player input based solely on the SiS and any genre expectations or existing world facts, while Gam and Nar metagame mechanics allow input based on relationships between the Players.

    The problem is that by that formulation such an interaction is not “meta-game.”  If the Players are functioning solely within the SIS, then the Players are not, by definition, operating at a “meta-game” level.

    you haven't addressed the examples of non-metagame Situation creation mechanics that I raised before. perhaps you missed them... if there is a mechanic that states "the GM will periodically roll for wandering monsters, on a table that appropriately represents the monster types that frequent the area; this roll occurs more often if the party is noisier or if the dungeon inhabitants are otherwise alerted" that is a Situation creation mechanic. it is pure Sim, it is not metagame, and it's been used for many years. if there is a spell backfire table that allows results like "a demon is accidentally summoned" or "all monsters within range become alerted to the caster's presence and become hostile", this is a Situation creation mechanic. heck, Alignment is a Situation creation mechanic, since it can affect whether an encounter will be innocuous Color or a hostile Situation.

    I apologize if I did miss your previous postings!

    I do not believe such rolls to be “Situation creation mechanics” in Sim.  Situation is not just the introduction or presence of things, rather Situation is the relationship between Character and Setting.  To me that relationship is up to the Players to decide.  Thus a “Situation creation mechanic” would not only introduce certain physical elements into play (setting) it demands that the Players adopt said relationship between the mechanically introduced Setting elements and their Characters – even if said relationship runs counter to established Character history and Player desire.

    So while I do agree that the GM can use “mechanics” to introduce Setting elements that are could be designed to illicit a response from the Players, the Players should not be obligated to respond in a fashion that is inappropriate to their Characters’ history or personality just to make the GM’s “Situation” happen.  I just don’t think that a mechanic that “creates Situation” in functional in Sim – anymore than “task resolution mechanics” are particularly appropriate for Nar address of Premise.

    if there is a spell backfire table that allows results like "a demon is accidentally summoned" or "all monsters within range become alerted to the caster's presence and become hostile", this is a Situation creation mechanic.

    I don’t know.  I think this is more of a causality mechanic than a “Situation creation mechanic.”  It is entirely up to the Players to decide if this indeed a Situation that is hostile, neutral or beneficial to their Characters.  IOW it is up to the Players to decide if this is something that needs further attention or not, and the manner, if any, of address is again entirely up to the Players.  A GM can’t force a Situation in Sim, but he can present Setting elements that the Players must decide how to respond to.  Their response however may be entirely different from the Situation he was hoping to create.  To me that is the freedom of Sim.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim - split because of length
    Post by: Silmenume on November 09, 2005, 03:31:53 AM
    heck, Alignment is a Situation creation mechanic, since it can affect whether an encounter will be innocuous Color or a hostile Situation.

    History does not beget fitness.  I have long argued that such “personality” mechanics are quite antithetical to Sim expression.  A Player is free to act any way he wants the proviso being that the world will react accordingly.  I have never seen effective use of alignments and I believe to be a relic from the earliest days of “role-play” as an effort to enforce “role-play” in a game not much evolved past tabletop war gaming.

    all of these are examples of non-metagame Situation creating mechanics that have actually been used in D&D, GURPS, and The Fantasy Trip. early D&D could be played either Gamist or Sim, as could TFT, and GURPS is obviously intended to be strong SIM. there are similar mechanics in other games as well. there's really a very long tradition of Situation creation mechanics in Sim.

    I have not played The Fantasy Trip, but with regard to D&D and GURPS I do believe them to be incoherent designs that have not effectively supported the Sim CA.  I think they strive for the Sim CA but have been blindsided by an incomplete understanding of role-play, Exploration and Sim bricolage specifically.  A well designed game trying to facilitate the expression of given CA will not be easily hijacked/drifted to another CA.  That D&D and GURPS are so regularly and easily turned toward Gamism suggests a design that is poorly designed to support Simulationism – such games are obviously more suited towards Gamist supporting play.

    Any who, I have run out of steam here.  Thank you all for your patience.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: LordSmerf on November 09, 2005, 02:57:21 PM
    Jay,

    I think it might be useful to get a clear definition of "situation" on the table.  From the glossary, situation is "Dynamic interaction between specific characters and small-scale setting elements...".  This is, I believe, perhaps a bit confusing in its presentation.  I take you as reading this as being "Situation is the interaction between a character (or set of characters) and the setting."  I, on the other hand, read this as saying "Situation is an interacting involving: a character and at least on other character, or at least one character and the setting."  This means that the fact that two characters are brothers is situation (assuming that it meets the "dynamic" criteria anyway), or the fact that one character murdered another's family, or whatever else.

    Under my interpretation, situation is often generated during character generation, often using the very mechanics of character generation (Think about all those "Has an enemy/ally" traits, that sets up an interaction between characters right there).  These do not seem at all antithetical to Sim play, at least from where I sit.

    In a slightly different direction, and I think this one is important, you say
    Quote
    To me having a Player create Setting during play is the equivalent to a person playing chess against himself.  I would say that it is leading towards incoherent play – that being towards Zilchplay.  I believe that just like Gam and Nar, that the product of play in Sim is born out of the process of addressing the problems posed and answered via the SIS.  If Sim is the dialectic between Setting and Character, as I am proposing, then having a Player on both sides of the dialectic waters down the process as well as product.  Again this is a dial setting locally set, but the more often the Player are mechanically creating Setting then the more watered down the Sim process becomes.
    This seems a bit narrow.  What if I'm the player creating the tower for the benefit of some other player?  What if I'm shouldering, in some sense, the duties of the GM.  I'm clearly not playing chess against myself, and I think the analogy is flawed.  This point doesn't seem to speak to your main point  (That a player can not create a satisfying situation if he is in control of all elements, either by controlling all the characters involved or by controlling the setting and character involved).  With all that in mind, do you see how it's unclear that allowing players to control the setting, at least in certain controlled instances, does not violate at all what you seem to be getting at?  Or have I missed something key somewhere in there?

    Thomas


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: contracycle on November 10, 2005, 04:31:40 AM
    This seems a bit narrow.  What if I'm the player creating the tower for the benefit of some other player?  What if I'm shouldering, in some sense, the duties of the GM.  I'm clearly not playing chess against myself, and I think the analogy is flawed.  This point doesn't seem to speak to your main point  (That a player can not create a satisfying situation if he is in control of all elements, either by controlling all the characters involved or by controlling the setting and character involved).  With all that in mind, do you see how it's unclear that allowing players to control the setting, at least in certain controlled instances, does not violate at all what you seem to be getting at?  Or have I missed something key somewhere in there?

    I think you are right on the money with this.  As you say, in certain controlled instances, the player can exercise quite a lot of control over situation, albeit primarily through the agency of the character in sim games.  Certainly, in my high school AD&D games, there was a lot of designing of castles and so forth with the rules that were found in the DMG.  Now some may point out, this is not strictly situation per se, but lets imagine then that the GM takes advantage of the players development of a castle or similar and then gives them in-game problems to do with bringing this about, then the overall situation established by the players choices and actions becomes the venue for the GM's intervention and plot.

    Another potential case, I think, may be if you wish to use the mechanics to portray social mores for sim purposes.  Perhaps you are playing a character from a society that practices a blood feud, and some relative of your PC has been bumped off.  Now falls to you the duty to avenge their death.  But, being as we are twentieth century  people and creatures of our time, this social imperative is unlikely to be as pressing to the players as it should be to the characters.  So perhaps we might then formalise, through system, a rule that in such circumstances a scene that resolves this blood-feud MUST be conducted.  We can do that without necessarily dictating that the character must seek actual bloody vengeance; but as long as the issue is not shuffled off the board, but is instead addressed in actual play, then the Sim ambition of exploring other realities has been reinforced.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Mike Holmes on November 10, 2005, 11:31:26 AM
    This all flies in the face of every conclusion that this community has come up with previously.

    1. Character means that somebody plays a character. Which can be anything remotely animate, and doesn't mean one-player to one-character relationship.
    2. Stance and mode are not linked. One can play sim as well in director stance as play narrativism. You're calling it incoherent without explanation doesn't refute any of this.
    3. By your definitions tons of functional coherent play is relegated to simply being zilchplay. Exploration of the elements, previously thought to be possible for any of the five elements in any mode (questions of common-ness aside), you're now saying can't happen in some cases. Exploration of mechanics can't be simulationism. Has to be zilchplay. In all cases. Or maybe gamism or narrativism. But not sim.

    This simply seems to be a damaging redefinition of sim that puts a hole in the overal model by declaring whole types of play as zilchplay.

    Mike


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: talysman on November 10, 2005, 12:30:33 PM
    Jay, in light of what people have been saying in this thread, and in particular in relation to Mike's last post, can I ask: is there a particular reason why you are so insistent that Sim play can only be the subset of techniques you use in play? we aren't telling you your play isn't Sim play or that you have to play with different techniques, but you seem to object very strongly to allowing other Sim techniques to exist. why?

    also, why have you redefined what "Situation Creation Mechanics" means, this late in the thread? I didn't see where Vincent or anyone else defined Situation Creation Mechanics to include forcing characters to have specific emotional or other responses to elements introduced during play. why have you added that to the definition?


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Jason Lee on November 10, 2005, 10:21:11 PM
    Jay,

    If you create a definition of Sim that requires the GM to have a different agenda (one that engineers things) than the players, then by the group level definition of Creative Agenda that play is Incoherent.  Meaning, defining Sim as such means coherent Sim play is only possible when everyone is sitting around staring at each other and no one is creating any new elements, and functional Sim play is Incoherent.  Just a little logical trap.

    Color affects Situation in all play.  Many elements we might refer to as genre are classified as color.  Color is instrumental in determining character motivations and how players resolve Situation.  There is no Situation outside color in Nar and Gam either.  It affects all aspects of play, even System.  The divisions of Exploration are purely artificial.  The categories don't actually exist in the sense of having boundaries.

    I get the impression, as I often do, you are seeing Nar and Gam play as having discrete little chunks - Premise over here, Step on Up over there, Situation by the table, Character in the cookie jar...  Then Sim as being more fluid, with play just naturally flowing out of Character and Situation.  I don't know.  Maybe that's not how you see it, but if it is, it's just not true of Nar or Gam.  In fact, Sim has traditionally been regarded as the agenda more amenable to force and manufactured situation.  You may not regard Sim as such, but that’s okay.  It doesn't matter.  The point is that Nar nor Gam are very compatible with force.

    I'm also not getting why this style of play you're talking about has to be called Sim.  Can it be called something else?  I'd just as soon the discovery definition of Sim not be called Sim either.  It's just confounding.  This often leads to "Sim is this.  No it can't be Sim is that" dialogues and no one is even talking about the same thing even though they are all using the same word.   Like saying I have to take my grandma into the shop. What the hell am I talking about?  A car, a piano, the doctor, what?  Even with a different name I would still point and yell "Techniques!", but then I'd at least know if we were talking about causality, bricolage or chicken soup.

    Anyway, I think I'm straying away from topic.


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Marco on November 11, 2005, 06:21:35 AM
    I'm also not getting why this style of play you're talking about has to be called Sim.  Can it be called something else?  I'd just as soon the discovery definition of Sim not be called Sim either. 
    I think a closer term is what, here, was called here Virtuality--the players completely immerse in an highly-internal-cause-based imaginary reality (although Jay leaves the door open for a lot more GM manipulation towards the dramatic than Virtuality did, IIRC). I will note that as contrary to canonical GNS as his take on it is, it's an extremely common interpertation of it--with some of the same conclusions even (GURPS is badly designed for "its own mode of play," players of Sim games have no use for meta-game mechanics, adherence to genre conventions is paramount).

    -Marco


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Mike Holmes on November 11, 2005, 07:13:21 AM
    I think your definition may be good Marco, but as for the term, are you using John Kim's definition? Or is that definition local to this discussion?

    Mike


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Marco on November 11, 2005, 07:37:11 AM
    I think your definition may be good Marco, but as for the term, are you using John Kim's definition? Or is that definition local to this discussion?

    Mike
    I am attempting to use John's definition. John was refering, IIRC, to GDS-Sim wherein:
    1. The game is internal-cause driven.
    2. There is a lack of dramatic coincidence arranged by the GM and (I think) little authorial perspective from the players.
    3. The situation may adhere to genre conventions if the game is "in genre" so long as those conventions are rationalized by the fictional reality (i.e. again, dramatic coincidence, even if in-genre will not be common unless there is some mechanism, like The Force, present in the game's imaginary reality that causes it).
    4. There is a notable lack of meta-game or strong directoral power on the part of the players in terms of their activities (and I would expect actor-stance/immersion/channeling to be a common mode of play--but I have nothing to back that up. It's just my expectation).

    I think where Jay diverges from canonical Virtuality is that he would say the GM is empowered to set up dramatic situations as needed.

    Where Jay diverges from GNS is that Virtuality can be Sim or Nar (although, again, that was hotly contested--including by some long-timers who, I assume, are still not convinced).

    -Marco


    Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
    Post by: Silmenume on November 18, 2005, 04:12:58 AM
    Hi Thomas!

    I think it might be useful to get a clear definition of "situation" on the table.

    Right on!  I fully agree that a Situation can exist between two Player Character’s.  The problem lies in my phrasing.  Much search-fu has failed me, but some months ago I had made a proposal about the various Elements of Exploration.  Since I can’t find the post I’ll try and recap as best I can.

    From an individual Player/Character’s perspective all that matters is self and not-self.  Self is one’s Character/Avatar/whatever at the moment.  Setting, by default, would then cover every thing else within the SIS.  This would include other PC’s, NPC’s, animate and inanimate objects, sentient and nonsentient beings.  I know this particular formulation may seem a little odd but stay with me a moment.

    Within the SIS there is that which “I am” and that which I can try and influence/interact with via the agency of what “I am.”  That can be PC on NPC, PC on PC, PC on bear, PC on avalanche, etc.  From a theoretical point of view it does not matter what we are interacting with but rather that we are interacting and the nature/quality of said interaction. 

    That “interaction” is Situation.  That “interaction” is the “dynamic” referred to in the glossary – at least as I understand it.  The nature of that interaction can be viewed via various lenses including Premise, Challenge or the aesthetic of the Sim game that is being celebrated.

    This particular incarnation of “Situation” is highly fleeting and is something that can only happen during Exploration.  This is - when you have real people sharing their imaginings right now.  Its not something on a piece of paper, its not in a mechanic, its what is going on between the Players via the SIS during actual play.  We can label that interaction, we can quantify it, we can talk about it, but it ain’t Situation unless it’s the Players dealing with it right now.  Story Now!  Challenge Now!  Bricolage/Structure/? Now!

    Quote
    To me having a Player create Setting during play is the equivalent to a person playing chess against himself.  I would say that it is leading towards incoherent play – that being towards Zilchplay.  I believe that just like Gam and Nar, that the product of play in Sim is born out of the process of addressing the problems posed and answered via the SIS.  If Sim is the dialectic between Setting and Character, as I am proposing, then having a Player on both sides of the dialectic waters down the process as well as product.  Again this is a dial setting locally set, but the more often the Player are mechanically creating Setting then the more watered down the Sim process becomes.
    This seems a bit narrow.  What if I'm the player creating the tower for the benefit of some other player?  What if I'm shouldering, in some sense, the duties of the GM.  I'm clearly not playing chess against myself, and I think the analogy is flawed.  I'm clearly not playing chess against myself, and I think the analogy is flawed.

    If you don’t have a Character that is in the current location or cannot come across it at some point in the future then there is no problem.  First the player is indeed donning the role of GM at that moment and second he is not “playing against himself.”  If both of these conditions are met then indeed there is no “watering down” other than the role of GM certainly carries far less “buzz,” as contracycle coined the term, than for that of a non-GM role bearing Player.

    But to go back to your question, “What if you’re the player creating the tower for the benefit of some other?”  Indeed.  What if you were creating a tower - just chock full of magical item goodness – and you had a Character in the campaign that was friends with the Character you’re creating the tower for?  Conflict of interest, maybe.  If you had a Character right there were you going to sit out the tower and anything that might happen as a result of it?  Would you create a tower that contained almost Certain Death® for said Character and would that be seen as a benefit to the other Player?  And while these may seem like Social Contract issues, they really mess with the Players ability to sift through the unfolding events for structure, meaning and causality.  IOW these issues can deeply interfere with CA expression.

    Have I addressed your concerns?  Let me know…

    Hey contracycle,

    I think you are right on the money with this.  As you say, in certain controlled instances, the player can exercise quite a lot of control over situation, albeit primarily through the agency of the character in sim games.

    Not only do I not disagree that Players can exercise a lot of control over Situation but I believe they exercise an enormous amount of “control” precisely because it is how the Players react to the Setting elements that determines what said Situation ends up being.  This is based upon my reading of Situation as being the dynamic of right here right now.  That being the case of course Players, via their Characters, are going to have an enormous say.

    Certainly, in my high school AD&D games, there was a lot of designing of castles and so forth with the rules that were found in the DMG.  Now some may point out, this is not strictly situation per se…

    Which it isn’t; strictly speaking…

    Quote
    but lets imagine then that the GM takes advantage of the players development of a castle or similar and then gives them in-game problems to do with bringing this about, then the overall situation established by the players choices and actions becomes the venue for the GM's intervention and plot.

    I don’t see this as an issue.  Because they “play” said castle into being via the SIS then they have bricoled said castle into play.  The castle did not exist until the Players’ Characters went through the in game process of building said castle, etc., which is not in conflict with the Sim CA.  Actually similar things happen all the time in the game I play in all the time be it creating a new culture or a new type of Character or what not.  We’re always bouncing ideas off the GM between games.

    Quote
    Another potential case, I think, may be if you wish to use the mechanics to portray social mores for sim purposes.  Perhaps you are playing a character from a society that practices a blood feud, and some relative of your PC has been bumped off.  Now falls to you the duty to avenge their death.  But, being as we are twentieth century  people and creatures of our time, this social imperative is unlikely to be as pressing to the players as it should be to the characters.  So perhaps we might then formalise, through system, a rule that in such circumstances a scene that resolves this blood-feud MUST be conducted.  We can do that without necessarily dictating that the character must seek actual bloody vengeance; but as long as the issue is not shuffled off the board, but is instead addressed in actual play, then the Sim ambition of exploring other realities has been reinforced.

    Again I don’t see this as a deal breaker either, as I understand things.  Point in fact; I think that such in game “social issues” are a vital part of Sim.  The Jedi have their code of conduct, the Federation has its prime directive, the Istari have their own restrictions on the use of their powers and their role in Middle Earth, etc.  These “codes of conduct” as it were, are structures as well are right at home in bricolage.  In fact, myth, (a bricolage-like process) frequently results in just such “social modes or demands on individual and group behavior/responsibilities.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying that there can’t be such “social rules,” I’m just saying to be “Sim” they need to be “socially enforced” within the SIS – not by a mechanic that lies outside the SIS.  Given your example of the “blood-feud” issue, I have faced that very problem in the game I play in.  I HAD to deal with that problem, but the manner in which it was “enforced” was via the consequences within the SIS.  If I did not pursue my filial responsibilities I would have faced all sorts of negative consequences that went any where from tribal expulsion, humiliation of my family, to the loss of my status as a man and a warrior in my tribe, to constant and relentless hazing from other member within my clan to loss of status in the tribe as a whole to the possibility that since I wasn’t willing to avenge my family that my whole family might be killed along the reasoning that if I didn’t value my family enough to avenge its loss – then no one else ought to value it either.  Such situations are just bursting at the seams with possibilities!  This is where things really start to get juicy – and this is exactly where one’s skills as a bricoleur really come forward.  To go to a “mechanic” to resolve or enforce this type of issue is to gut the game just as its starting to get hopping.  Using a mechanic to enforce a behavior at this moment seems to me to be the equivalent of rule forcing a chess player to “play” right in the middle of a game.  It’s exactly here that things are just getting at their juiciest best!

    If one doesn’t want to face the “blood-feud” issue that’s to me like saying one doesn’t want to face Premise or Challenge.  Why bother playing at all?  Or why bother playing this culture at all?  If one is “celebrating” barbarian culture by playing a barbarian then such a “blood-feud” responsibility is all part of the cultural package, yes?

    I do think that the Character must seek bloody vengeance, but that does not mean he will do it.  However, there will be dire consequences for failing to do so – and that is exactly the complications (read – entailments) one faces with any type of decision.  There is lots of pressure, but the decision is ultimately up to the Player but no matter which way he goes there will, nay there MUST be repercussions of some sort or it won’t be bricolage.

    Hey Mike,

    This all flies in the face of every conclusion that this community has come up with previously.

    No.  Every conclusion this community includes myself and I have not concluded one and the same with every conclusion “this” community has come to.  Nor have other prominent and long time posters.  Sim has not come an effective or useful “conclusion.”  However, you’re arguing straw men for the following reasons -

    1. Character means that somebody plays a character. Which can be anything remotely animate, and doesn't mean one-player to one-character relationship.
    2. Stance and mode are not linked. One can play sim as well in director stance as play narrativism. You're calling it incoherent without explanation doesn't refute any of this.
    3. By your definitions tons of functional coherent play is relegated to simply being zilchplay. Exploration of the elements, previously thought to be possible for any of the five elements in any mode (questions of common-ness aside), you're now saying can't happen in some cases. Exploration of mechanics can't be simulationism. Has to be zilchplay. In all cases. Or maybe gamism or narrativism. But not sim.

    1.  This argument is based on a number of assumptions that have not been fully argued out to “conclusion” regarding the Sim process which has not been ironed out.  It is a category error to firm conclusions about something that is not well understood.  I fully understand what a “character” means.  I don’t know how you fail to recall that I have agreed, many times in the past, that Character can mean anything remotely animate.  I have NO issue with that.  How many times do I need to defend myself on this issue?  Nor am I particularly sure what you mean by the notion of Character doesn’t mean one-player to one-character relationship?  I can fully understand how that works out when addressing Premise.  I can even understand how that can work when addressing Challenge if one considers “the Party” as a single functional “entity.”  Everyone at that point can be discussing the various means their various Characters can work together to address Challenge X.  Both of those modes of play have been “proved” as functional as a result of examining what the driving aesthetic interest is and demonstrating how such player-Character relationships can be altered without causing difficulty to the addressing process.  In fact through some particularly insight designs games have been produced where “many address one” has been proven to be highly functional.  Sim is not a focused addressing process.  In fact I think Sim process is exactly the reverse of G/N – which is one of the reasons why Sim has proven so stubborn to classification.  I think Sim is “one faces many (at the same time).”  And right now there is absolutely no reason in the Model to say why this cannot be.  None.  I think this is a worthy direction of investigation and simple gainsaying isn’t going to prove me wrong - it’s only going to slow down the investigation process to see whether my thesis has any merits.  The current dogma of Sim is as shaky as was Ptolemy’s model and merely pointing to it more emphatically isn’t going to make its shortcomings go away.  The data isn’t agreeing with the model and the model is inconsistent to itself.

    2a.  I agree Stance and mode are not linked.  I have never argued stance equals mode.  Period.  Another strawman.  I have argued that in bricolage the Player’s INPUT is limited through their agency/avatar/Character but NO WHERE have I said that one must “never talk out of Character” or one “must immerse into Character.”  By the logic argued so far I could be talking about 2 stances – actor and author/pawn.  How come no one is accusing me of arguing pawn stance?  Because, people want to see me as arguing for “one specific stance as CA” because it makes a wonderful target for broadsides.  Hell, the only stance I can legitimately be accused of actively referring to is an argument against director stance in Sim.  Now that assertion is certainly open to debate but this bullshit of accusing me a saying Stance = CA needs to stop here and now.  Would it be easier if I put a disclaimer in my sig?

    2b.  “One can play sim as well in director stance as play narrativism. You're calling it incoherent without explanation doesn't refute any of this.”  What do you mean I haven’t explained why this is incoherent?  I have argued and argued and argued that the Sim process of play is bricolage – which I have then argued puts the Player in the position of having to use ONLY what already exists as part of that aesthetic.  You may disagree with my definition of the Sim process and propose another process in its stead, thus also keeping with the Model, but to say I have not explained my assertions is again complete and utter bull.  I HAVE explained why I think the “definition” of Sim is incoherent – or at least have made numerous efforts to do so.  I must say it is rather difficult to “refute” the current “definition” of Sim simply because there is no “encompassing” process definition of Sim to refute.

    3a.  “By your definitions tons of functional coherent play is relegated to simply being zilchplay.”  I think this statement is also specious.  First is that many descriptions of Sim play are frequently lumped into the category of “30 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of playing.”  Second there is the idea that has been floated a number of times that functional Sim game are rare.

      That throws a lot of observed play into non-GNS land: Incoherence at best, Zilchplay as well (and for the life of me I don't know why I resisted the concept of Zilchplay for so long when it's patently obviously common). A lot of what I might have tagged as Sim play four years ago, I would now call Incoherent, Ouija Boarding, Zilchplay, or Bitterest Gamer.

      So yeah, I wouldn't doubt that a lot of people don't "find" Sim. Its functional manifestations are probably quite rare.
      [/list]

      3b.  “Exploration of the elements, previously thought to be possible for any of the five elements in any mode (questions of common-ness aside), you're now saying can't happen in some cases. Exploration of mechanics can't be simulationism. Has to be zilchplay. In all cases. Or maybe gamism or narrativism. But not sim.”

      For the most part that is correct.  Oh it can happen, but it’s not an expression of CA.  Given that Exploration is defined as the “sharing imaginings” using a specific set of tools (the elements of Exploration) then Exploring the Elements of Exploration is a nonsensical statement.  Furthermore the definition of Nar roleplay is the addressing of Premise via the vehicle of Exploration and the definition of Gam roleplay is the addressing of Challenge via the vehicle of Exploration.  Exploration is the means by which a CA is expressed.  Exploration is a tool used for the service an aesthetic end beyond itself – CA.

      Exploration of mechanics can’t be Sim.  Absolutely.  It is Zilchplay if it is the mindful subject of the Exploration process.  In all cases.  Certainly neither Gamism nor Narrativism can “Explore mechanics,” simply because they are clearly defined as the mindful process of addressing Challenge or Premise.  I mean, what “imaginings” could be “shared” about mechanics (a credibility distribution system) via a Player’s Character actions within the SIS as he dealt with some conflict?  Is that even possible?

      This simply seems to be a damaging redefinition of sim that puts a hole in the overal model by declaring whole types of play as zilchplay.

      Damaging?  Are you kidding?  It would finally allow Sim to drop all the dead weight, which it has languished under, and finally be invigorated.  It would be to Sim as dropping the notion that Nar play is “about” a Story.  Also I don’t think, given the recent quote above, that Ron has too many troubles with the idea that a lot of play is indeed in non-GNS land.  I fully agree with his assessment.  What you call damaging I call liberating.  CA != fun.  Zilchplay != dysfunction.  Part of the reason that Sim hasn’t been able to be identified as a process is precisely because so much “play” has been lumped in with it that is not relevant to the “process.”

      I guess your right; such a formulation would “damaging” to the current definition of Sim.  But then that’s like saying chemotherapy is damaging to cancer cells or liposuction is damaging to fat cells.  Yes, to that which is chaff, it would remove it from GNS land as per the definition of the Model.  But to what remained it would be clarifying and liberating.  Again this smacks to me of a straw man argument.  To actual Players such a reclassification within the Big Model would mean absolutely nothing.  To game designers it would help a huge amount.  It’s a win/win proposition.



      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on November 18, 2005, 04:13:50 AM
      Hi John,

      Jay, in light of what people have been saying in this thread, and in particular in relation to Mike's last post, can I ask: is there a particular reason why you are so insistent that Sim play can only be the subset of techniques you use in play? we aren't telling you your play isn't Sim play or that you have to play with different techniques, but you seem to object very strongly to allowing other Sim techniques to exist. why?

      I am not insistent that Sim play can only be a specific subset of Techniques.  Simply because bricolage is not a Technique – it’s an approach to problem solving just like addressing Premise or addressing Challenge are approaches to solving problems.  To classify bricolage as a “Technique” is to commit a category error.  In fact at this point in time I would have one hell of time just trying to figure out just what a “Sim Technique” just might look like at the moment.

      I cannot answer your “why” because the question itself is illogical and makes incorrect assumptions about my aims and inaccurate claims about my actions.  I have no interest in arguing CA via Techniques, as Techniques do not define a CA.  Nor am I arguing such a thing.  Complete waste of time.

      also, why have you redefined what "Situation Creation Mechanics" means, this late in the thread? I didn't see where Vincent or anyone else defined Situation Creation Mechanics to include forcing characters to have specific emotional or other responses to elements introduced during play. why have you added that to the definition?

      Because the definition of Situation was in question and I clarified my position to line up with that of the glossary.  If you go back through this entire thread you will note, as I made that very effort myself to double check my claims, I have not made nor implied a single argument about “emotional” responses.  I fully stand by my position, as I have argued above, that Situation is a derived quality of an interaction and cannot be something manufactured or declared.  I do not believe this to be at odds with the glossed version of Situation.

      Hey Jason,

      If you create a definition of Sim that requires the GM to have a different agenda (one that engineers things) than the players, then by the group level definition of Creative Agenda that play is Incoherent.  Meaning, defining Sim as such means coherent Sim play is only possible when everyone is sitting around staring at each other and no one is creating any new elements, and functional Sim play is Incoherent.  Just a little logical trap.

      Not in the least.  To save myself lots of what little grey matter I have left, I will simply quote from Chris’ Bricolage Applied thread -

      There are always, somewhere deeply embedded in the vast nightmarish mess of little fiddly bits of a game as it gets actually played by actual people right here and now, a great many possible ways to chewing-gum-and-twine any disagreement whatever without referring upward in the hierarchy.  Many of the GM techniques discussed here over the years clearly demonstrate this.  The GM, in such a formulation, is emphatically not merely an arbiter, the mechanics guy who decides the implications of a higher-level set of concerns to the lower-level specifics of the moment.  Rather, the GM becomes a facilitator of ongoing bricolage.  His job, and it is a difficult one, make no mistake, becomes rather to see in every disagreement the possibility of a choice: to refer up, or to tweak across.

      Red highlight added

      Players “create” Situation through their actions as they interact with the Setting and the GM’s job is to facilitate their bricolage efforts – and that can certainly mean he is adding new Setting elements to the SIS/bricoleur sheds.  A Gamist GM is not typically in direct Step on Up with his Players, so why is it incoherent for the GM in Sim to make available the various “objects” that the Players could potentially use?

      Color affects Situation in all play.  Many elements we might refer to as genre are classified as color.  Color is instrumental in determining character motivations and how players resolve Situation.  There is no Situation outside color in Nar and Gam either.  It affects all aspects of play, even System.
       
      In Nar and Gam color is specifically something that does not have an effect on Situation –

      Quote
      Color
        Imagined details about any or all of System, Character, Setting, or Situation, added in such a way that does not change aspects of action or resolution in the imagined scene.

      Color can amplify and enhance the game experience as a whole, but it is by definition inert with regards to Situation.

      The divisions of Exploration are purely artificial.  The categories don't actually exist in the sense of having boundaries.

      What’s ironic here is that to the bricoleur you a correct.  Everything is open to use and change and makes no distinctions about what is open to use – via the bricolage process.  However, theoretically I think you are in error.  System cannot be mistaken for a Setting element right?  My Character cannot interact with a System element can he?  Nor is my roll of a die to distribute credibility among the Players with regards to a damage amount to be confused with Color, is it?  You’re right in that during role-play itself the totality of all the Elements of Exploration is certainly greater than the sum of the individual parts, if that is what you are getting at.

      I get the impression, as I often do, you are seeing Nar and Gam play as having discrete little chunks - Premise over here, Step on Up over there, Situation by the table, Character in the cookie jar...  Then Sim as being more fluid, with play just naturally flowing out of Character and Situation.

      I think as long as the Players are facing relevant conflicts they are always Stepping on Up or getting Story Now.  But in the Gamism essay Ron makes many references to “Go Lengths” and in the Narrativism essay he frequently talks about rising tensions, ticking time bombs and climaxes – all things that suggest a certain quantization.  This is not to imply that Step on Up or Story Now happen at discrete moments during play, far from it.  What it means is that these modes of play do have certain inherent boundaries/delimitations that do have significance on the overall play process.  All I’ve been saying is that Sim does not have these inherent delimiters.

      In fact, Sim has traditionally been regarded as the agenda more amenable to force and manufactured situation.

      Well while that idea has held sway, Sim has also been described as the least satisfying mode of play and with such notions floating around its no wonder.

      The point is that Nar nor Gam are very compatible with force.

      …….hmmmmm.  Not that I’ve read.  Sure it can happen, but compatible – I don’t think so.

      I'm also not getting why this style of play you're talking about has to be called Sim.  Can it be called something else?

      Beats me.  You’ll have to ask Ron that one.

      Hey Marco!

      I think a closer term is what, here, was called here Virtuality--the players completely immerse in an highly-internal-cause-based imaginary reality (although Jay leaves the door open for a lot more GM manipulation towards the dramatic than Virtuality did, IIRC).

      Just a quick point of clarification.  When I describe Sim as bricolage, I am most certainly not arguing for immersion as definitional.  Heck, there’s all sort of out of Character things going on at the table, its just not effecting, interfering or competing with the Exploration at hand at the game I play.  We just don’t let such activities interfere with whoever is Exploring/on camera at the moment.  However, if I read you correctly and at this hour I’m not sure that I am, I do agree that it is a common interpretation the Player’s “must” immerse, but I don’t believe that is definitional or strictly necessary to the process of Sim.  My main point is that in Sim, as a bricoleur, one’s hands into the SIS are limited to those of one’s Character.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: LordSmerf on November 18, 2005, 12:07:12 PM
      Quote
      Just to be clear, I’m not saying that there can’t be such “social rules,” I’m just saying to be “Sim” they need to be “socially enforced” within the SIS – not by a mechanic that lies outside the SIS.

      Given your example of the “blood-feud” issue, I have faced that very problem in the game I play in.  I HAD to deal with that problem, but the manner in which it was “enforced” was via the consequences within the SIS.  If I did not pursue my filial responsibilities I would have faced all sorts of negative consequences that went any where from tribal expulsion, humiliation of my family, to the loss of my status as a man and a warrior in my tribe, to constant and relentless hazing from other member within my clan to loss of status in the tribe as a whole to the possibility that since I wasn’t willing to avenge my family that my whole family might be killed along the reasoning that if I didn’t value my family enough to avenge its loss – then no one else ought to value it either.  Such situations are just bursting at the seams with possibilities!  This is where things really start to get juicy – and this is exactly where one’s skills as a bricoleur really come forward.

      To go to a “mechanic” to resolve or enforce this type of issue is to gut the game just as its starting to get hopping.  Using a mechanic to enforce a behavior at this moment seems to me to be the equivalent of rule forcing a chess player to “play” right in the middle of a game.  It’s exactly here that things are just getting at their juiciest best!

      Now, I've split your one paragraph into three parts.  Parts one and three go together, and part two is anecdotal, and I think very important.

      Jay, I think this is where most of the confusion is coming from.  What you keep seeming to say is that "each player (including the GM) has absolute control over their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it the fun is reached through some means other than mechanics."  But "Each player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.  We tend to call it "fiat" or something like that, but it turns out that it really is a formalized way of interacting with the game in the exact same way that Universalis' "You have (almost) absolute control of the components that you pay to have control of." is a mechanic.

      You keep saying "You can't have mechanics interfering", and then seem to turn around and say "Unless it is this specific set of mechanics."  Now, you're a smart guy, and I think you've got some good ideas, but you're presenting this one in a terribly confusing manner.  You say on the one hand that there should be no mechanics intervening in these circumstances, but then you present an actual play incident in which the situation is constructed out of a set of mechanics (namely fiat*).

      While you say "There are no situation creation mechanics in Sim" you also seem to be saying "The GM creates situation" which seems to be a mechanic.  This is where all the confusion is for me, it sounds like you're saying that it's only Sim (or perhaps Sim is always best realized) if it uses this narrow set of mechanics for situation creation, and that strikes me as simply untrue...

      Thomas

      *Note: Despite its often negative connotations, I do not intend "fiat" in any negative way.  Most games have it somewhere, and that's okay.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Mike Holmes on November 18, 2005, 01:12:48 PM
      Note: crossposted.

      \
      This all flies in the face of every conclusion that this community has come up with previously.

      No.  Every conclusion this community includes myself and I have not concluded one and the same with every conclusion “this” community has come to. 
      By this statement, we have concluded nothing as a community, as there's bound to be somebody who disagrees with everything one might throw up as a conclusion. I'm saying that the majority of the community has come to agree on this.

      Quote
      Sim has not come an effective or useful “conclusion.”
      That's your opinion. It works as defined just fine in my estimation, and have provided arguments as to why. From what I can tell, the only problem with the definition is that it doesn't empower a small minority here who would like to have a mode to call their own.

      Quote
      I don’t know how you fail to recall that I have agreed, many times in the past, that Character can mean anything remotely animate.  I have NO issue with that.  How many times do I need to defend myself on this issue?
      Only once. I'm only responding to what I believe I've read. Apparently I didn't understand what you'd written.

      Quote
      Nor am I particularly sure what you mean by the notion of Character doesn’t mean one-player to one-character relationship?  I can fully understand how that works out when addressing Premise.  I can even understand how that can work when addressing Challenge if one considers “the Party” as a single functional “entity.”  Everyone at that point can be discussing the various means their various Characters can work together to address Challenge X.  Both of those modes of play have been “proved” as functional as a result of examining what the driving aesthetic interest is and demonstrating how such player-Character relationships can be altered without causing difficulty to the addressing process.  In fact through some particularly insight designs games have been produced where “many address one” has been proven to be highly functional.  Sim is not a focused addressing process.  In fact I think Sim process is exactly the reverse of G/N – which is one of the reasons why Sim has proven so stubborn to classification.  I think Sim is “one faces many (at the same time).”  And right now there is absolutely no reason in the Model to say why this cannot be.  None.
      That's a lot of text sans argument. I understand what you're trying to say. But we've argued a lot about this, and came to the conclusion that character doesn't have to mean one-to-many. Could you either refute our arguments or provide one of your own? Why must this be so? Yes, I'd agree that GNS doesn't say it must not be so. The burden of proof is to prove that there's no form of sim that includes multiple character play, since that's the prior conclusion.

      If you've made such argument before, just point me to it.

      Quote
       I think this is a worthy direction of investigation and simple gainsaying isn’t going to prove me wrong
      Nor is you gainsaying us. Our argument is the same one we've been making with you for a long time now. Would you like me to refer back to it's many instances? I'll reiterate it here in short form.

      The GNS model has a certain predictive value that's valuable, and part of that is based on the modes in question following Ron's description of them as decscribing all of RPG play in three broad categories. Your definition takes a portion of functional play and says that it has no mode. Wrecking the functionality of the model. Your have not said why this is either not so, or why the replacement is superior enough to ignore this. The only answer we get is that it makes more sense to you without argument.

      If we can't get past the defintion of sim, then all of the questions of how things like character relate to it are going to be meaningless. That is, we're going to disagree perforce until there's agreement on the original problem. To say that we're not making arguments against your position is to willfully ignore the arguments made.

      Quote
      - it’s only going to slow down the investigation process to see whether my thesis has any merits.
      I see, we should merely accept what you say because you say it. To do otherwise is obstructionist. I see.

      We've more than charitably read your posts. And have provided arguments that say why we disagree. To say otherwise is insulting.

      Quote
      Hell, the only stance I can legitimately be accused of actively referring to is an argument against director stance in Sim.
      That's what I was refering to. As in...

      Quote
      2b.  “One can play sim as well in director stance as play narrativism. You're calling it incoherent without explanation doesn't refute any of this.”  What do you mean I haven’t explained why this is incoherent?  I have argued and argued and argued that the Sim process of play is bricolage – which I have then argued puts the Player in the position of having to use ONLY what already exists as part of that aesthetic.
      This is a tautological response. Sim is bricolage, which doesn't allow for director stance, so therefore director stance cannot support sim. As I've said, prove that sim is bricloage.

      Quote
      I HAVE explained why I think the “definition” of Sim is incoherent – or at least have made numerous efforts to do so.  I must say it is rather difficult to “refute” the current “definition” of Sim simply because there is no “encompassing” process definition of Sim to refute.
      You've refuted the essay on sim? There is, in fact, a definition of simulationism that's widely agreed to and functional. Just because you don't like it, doesn't make it not agreed to, or non-functional. I use it daily, as do many others here. Do I have to provide examples?

      Ah, but we're just deluding ourselves. I see.

      Quote
      “By your definitions tons of functional coherent play is relegated to simply being zilchplay.”  I think this statement is also specious.  First is that many descriptions of Sim play are frequently lumped into the category of “30 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of playing.”  Second there is the idea that has been floated a number of times that functional Sim game are rare.
      Not by anyone that I credit. This does happen. And it's a sign of the narrativism bias that this site has. The people who say this stuff are demonstrably wrong.

      All you're doing here is proving that you have an axe to grind. "I play sim, people are saying sim is bad, therefore they must not be defining it right." Attack the notion that sim isn't fun. Not that the definition is wrong.

      By the way, your definition of sim sounds like 5 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of play to me (whereas the other sim stuff that you leave out from your definition is fun when I play it). That's just my preference, however. Doesn't mean that it's not fun for others.

      That throws a lot of observed play into non-GNS land: Incoherence at best, Zilchplay as well (and for the life of me I don't know why I resisted the concept of Zilchplay for so long when it's patently obviously common). A lot of what I might have tagged as Sim play four years ago, I would now call Incoherent, Ouija Boarding, Zilchplay, or Bitterest Gamer.

      So yeah, I wouldn't doubt that a lot of people don't "find" Sim. Its functional manifestations are probably quite rare.
      "A lot" is not the same as "All Sim" and these forms of play are not what I'm talking about in my definition. Ron also admits that there are bad forms of gamism and narrativism. Are you going to say that nobody who ever persued a sim agenda ever failed to do it well? That's all that Ron is saying.

      Quote
      3b.  “Exploration of the elements, previously thought to be possible for any of the five elements in any mode (questions of common-ness aside), you're now saying can't happen in some cases. Exploration of mechanics can't be simulationism. Has to be zilchplay. In all cases. Or maybe gamism or narrativism. But not sim.”

      For the most part that is correct.  Oh it can happen, but it’s not an expression of CA.  Given that Exploration is defined as the “sharing imaginings” using a specific set of tools (the elements of Exploration) then Exploring the Elements of Exploration is a nonsensical statement.  
      Er, that would be exploring the element of mechanics. Which is not non-sensical. You're basically saying that system is not an element of exploration here. From what I can tell.

      Quote
      Exploration of mechanics can’t be Sim.  Absolutely.  It is Zilchplay if it is the mindful subject of the Exploration process.  In all cases.  Certainly neither Gamism nor Narrativism can “Explore mechanics,” simply because they are clearly defined as the mindful process of addressing Challenge or Premise.  I mean, what “imaginings” could be “shared” about mechanics (a credibility distribution system) via a Player’s Character actions within the SIS as he dealt with some conflict?  Is that even possible?
      CA isn't only about the imaginings, but all of play. That is, in determining incoherence it's not merely what's produced in the SIS that's important, but how it's produced. Expoloration of system, as opposed to, say, exploration of color where you wouldn't use system mechanics, is one way to do this.

      I think it may be pricisely in focusing only on the SIS as the only determiner of Creative Agenda where you go wrong. Certainly some players will object to some mechanics in some games (you say that sim rejects mechanics generally, so this must be true). So that's Creative Agenda in action.

      Quote
      Also I don’t think, given the recent quote above, that Ron has too many troubles with the idea that a lot of play is indeed in non-GNS land.  I fully agree with his assessment.
      I don't disagree either. Just because zilchplay exists, doesn't mean that the forms of play that I'm describing must be zilchplay. I'm talking about fun, functional play. Which must have a CA by definition.

      You simply won't address that I have not only been a part of, but seen tons of examples of this sort of play that were fun. If they weren't sim, what were they? If "zilchplay != fun" then they couldn't be zilchplay. So what are they?

      Or am I lying to you?

      Quote
      I guess your right; such a formulation would “damaging” to the current definition of Sim.  But then that’s like saying chemotherapy is damaging to cancer cells or liposuction is damaging to fat cells.
      Do you even read what you're writing? You absolutely hate the current definition. How can you be objective? I don't have the slightest dislike for your definition - it just isn't a step forward from what I can see.

      Quote
      Yes, to that which is chaff, it would remove it from GNS land as per the definition of the Model.  
      Well, if you think we're beyond redemption, then write this as a manifesto and revolt. Seriously. One of two things will happen. Either people will agree with you and follow you, or they'll agree with us.

      Of course, then you'll claim that the following is institutional...odd, though, that "Indie-rpgs" would be seen as "institutional." When we throw each other into the fire on each alternate Thursday. But if that's your POV...

      Mike


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Jason Lee on November 20, 2005, 03:26:51 PM
      Drilling down here.  The other stuff I either don't disagree with or looks like a sentence structure miscommunication (the force thing).

      In Nar and Gam color is specifically something that does not have an effect on Situation –

      Quote
      Color
        Imagined details about any or all of System, Character, Setting, or Situation, added in such a way that does not change aspects of action or resolution in the imagined scene.

      Color can amplify and enhance the game experience as a whole, but it is by definition inert with regards to Situation.

      The divisions of Exploration are purely artificial.  The categories don't actually exist in the sense of having boundaries.

      What’s ironic here is that to the bricoleur you a correct.  Everything is open to use and change and makes no distinctions about what is open to use – via the bricolage process.  However, theoretically I think you are in error.  System cannot be mistaken for a Setting element right?  My Character cannot interact with a System element can he?  Nor is my roll of a die to distribute credibility among the Players with regards to a damage amount to be confused with Color, is it?  You’re right in that during role-play itself the totality of all the Elements of Exploration is certainly greater than the sum of the individual parts, if that is what you are getting at.

      Greater than the sum of the parts isn't what I was getting, at least that's not how I would word it.  I mean each element isn't actually distinct from another in play.  I'm thinking of paints lightly stirred together in a pot - invididual colors are discernable, but without boundaries.  Sure, players may make characters, choose a setting, pick a rule book, and setup a senario all as separate tasks, but once those elements hit play they fuse.  The Setting, System, Situation and Color all become part of the Character, and you can't just pull the character out of the game, stick him in another game, and have him be the same character.  The same is true with any element.  When System sets the feel (like swashbuckling versus gritty action) it defines Color, it sets the effectiveness of characters and makes actual statements about who those characters are, it defines the physics of the world and hence Setting, and so forth.

      As I read the quoted definition of Color, I'm wrong.  That might be because this part: added in such a way that does not change aspects of action or resolution in the imagined scene, is just trying to say "Color is a different category from System and Situation" and not "Color is inhert in regards to Situation."  I could very well be wrong, and the definition does mean Color is inhert.  I which case, I think that definition sucks and I reject it based on Actual Play.

      However, as we are working within the context of the Big Model, I can't reject it.  He's the rub though, you can't then reject it either when describing Sim.  Creative Agenda is contained within Exploration, Nar/Gam are defined under Exploration, and saying Sim is not using the same definition of Exploration makes it no longer a Creative Agenda.  In other words: to reject my view on Color, which shows this unique property you attribute to Sim is not unique, is to reject that that property exist, and hence can't be part of Sim.  Catch 22.  That definition of Color doesn't do either of us any good and matches with neither of our play experiences.  So, we're probably misreading it.

      The above is similar enough to the logical loop the exploration squared/dream/verisimilitude/causality definitions get stuck in to make me think the play you are trying to describe is similar enough to the play the dream definition is describing that you're just rewording the dream definition in terms of techniques.  That's just kind of a hunch though - not a point I would bother to defend.

      Quote
      I get the impression, as I often do, you are seeing Nar and Gam play as having discrete little chunks - Premise over here, Step on Up over there, Situation by the table, Character in the cookie jar...  Then Sim as being more fluid, with play just naturally flowing out of Character and Situation.

      I think as long as the Players are facing relevant conflicts they are always Stepping on Up or getting Story Now.  But in the Gamism essay Ron makes many references to “Go Lengths” and in the Narrativism essay he frequently talks about rising tensions, ticking time bombs and climaxes – all things that suggest a certain quantization.  This is not to imply that Step on Up or Story Now happen at discrete moments during play, far from it.  What it means is that these modes of play do have certain inherent boundaries/delimitations that do have significance on the overall play process.  All I’ve been saying is that Sim does not have these inherent delimiters.

      I think this is a good place for me to agree to disagree.  Take my view on Exploration above and apply the same logic to theme and challenge.  Would it make sense that if I see the same lack of delimiters in all play that I would be of the opinion that you're not getting Nar and Gam if you feel that that fluidity is a distinction between them and your play?  When I watch a movie, like Braveheart (because it's been on my mind for some reason), I don't see the theme as separate from the character motivations, or that the characters are defined independent of the setting, or that the moral of the story is driving the situations.  I don't see those nice little chunks in my play either.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: contracycle on November 21, 2005, 08:14:43 AM
      Sil wrote:
      Quote
      Just to be clear, I’m not saying that there can’t be such “social rules,” I’m just saying to be “Sim” they need to be “socially enforced” within the SIS – not by a mechanic that lies outside the SIS.  Given your example of the “blood-feud” issue, I have faced that very problem in the game I play in.  I HAD to deal with that problem, but the manner in which it was “enforced” was via the consequences within the SIS.  If I did not pursue my filial responsibilities I would have faced all sorts of negative consequences that went any where from tribal expulsion, humiliation of my family, to the loss of my status as a man and a warrior in my tribe, to constant and relentless hazing from other member within my clan to loss of status in the tribe as a whole to the possibility that since I wasn’t willing to avenge my family that my whole family might be killed along the reasoning that if I didn’t value my family enough to avenge its loss – then no one else ought to value it either.  Such situations are just bursting at the seams with possibilities!  This is where things really start to get juicy – and this is exactly where one’s skills as a bricoleur really come forward.  To go to a “mechanic” to resolve or enforce this type of issue is to gut the game just as its starting to get hopping.  Using a mechanic to enforce a behavior at this moment seems to me to be the equivalent of rule forcing a chess player to “play” right in the middle of a game.  It’s exactly here that things are just getting at their juiciest best!

      You've leaped to an assumption - nowhere did I mention the use of force, in fact I specifically excluded it.  But that wasn't really the point I wanted to address.

      You see, you say here that these issues were dealt with within the SIS.  Well, I'm sick to death of doing that.  The problem is then that I-the-GM have to do even more thinking for the player, second guessing for example, how much they even know about the blood feud principle. 

      Previously, you suggested that players engaged with a particular topic can be taken to know something about it, but why should this be?  Surely, people primarily try to explore things they do not already know - or they explore things they do already know in search of unexpected and unpredictable emergent phenomenon.  So not only do I think it is unsafe to assume the players are well equipped regarding the topic of exploration, but worse, its probable they will be badly equipped.

      For this reason I think having a systematic intervention can work as a representation of social expectations and mores.  Lets say my player balks at the taking of revenge and says seomthing like "violence doesn't solve anything".  My problem then is this: that sounds like such an ahistorical position to take, what does it mean?  doe it mean the player is knowingly violating the social mores to see what happens?  Or does it mean the player simply doesn't understand those mores?  I can;t tell, and so its difficult to judge how to procede.  But if this expeation were mechanically articulated, that confusion would evaporate - the players statement will HAVE to have been informed that a certain course of action is demanded by the setting.

      Thats the kind of explicatory role I could see such mechanics serving, and I would suggest they would arguably be more valuable in sim than for any other agenda, as it is the agenda in which people are most likely going to be exposing themselves to unusual inputs, I would think.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: M. J. Young on November 24, 2005, 04:53:12 PM
      Let me take a step back in this.

      Jay, you seem to be under the impression that several of us (Mike and me, at least) are not listening to you, or at least are not giving due consideration to the possibility that your definition of Simulationism as Bricolage is the correct piece that makes sense of the entire agendum.

      You are only partly right. It is not that we are refusing to listen to your revised definition of simulationism. It is that we listened to it, gave it serious consideration, turned it over with what we knew of simulationism, and rejected it as not matching the data we knew.

      Mike and I are among a handful of people here who claim (and are recognized as claiming correctly) that we have played in simulationist games and enjoyed them. Thus some credit must be given to our assertions that your definition does not match our experience.

      It certainly is not fair, however, for me merely to say that your proposed definition does not fit my experience (even if Mike and others who claim to have enjoyed simulationist play are saying the same thing) without giving more of an answer. I object on two fronts.

      The first is that I have seen a great deal of quite enjoyable simulationism in which no one is trying to add anything or build anything from the elements provided. It is entirely about trying to experience what is known. What is it like to live in Arthurian England? Pendragon attempts to provide that experience, and no one who plays that game is trying to make Arthurian England anything other than what the book describes. Many, many people play simulationist games with the objective of experiencing a different world, or being a different person. Much genre-emulative play is geared to giving the players the experience of being there, whether it is noir or space opera or fantasy. Perhaps my understanding of "bricolage" is flawed, but I don't see how it relates to this kind of play, which is a valid and (for those who enjoy it) fun kind of play which has a clear agendum which has always to this point been identified with simulationism. If I were to accept your "bricolage" definition, I would have to discard this (and several other forms of play, such as Ralph's exploration of system by testing what actually happens given the mechanics rules) and begin the search for a new agendum which fits what it is these players--including I--are seeking.

      More fundamentally, though, I cannot escape the impression, despite your protestations, that bricolage is a technique. Agenda are what it is you want to get; techniques are how you get it. In Narrativism, the agendum is to get ongoing story with dramatic tension and meaning. The use of techniques such as scene framing, director stance, premise questions, and other narrativist-facilitating mechanics are ways we can get that, but they are not exclusive ways. In Gamism the agendum is to show off, and the techniques involved in gamble and crunch are merely ways to provide the situations in which we show off. I am not going to attempt to give one simple phrase to define the simulationist agendum, since that is in part what is at issue. However, the problem with bricolage is that as it has been presented it is not the desired end but the means to the end; it is a process by which play is conducted; it is, in a word, a technique--what you do to get whatever it is you want.

      Mike and I know what that "thing" is that we want. Ron calls it "The Dream". I call it "Discovery". In general, we agree that it is characterized by play that seeks to create a context and then experience it--but that the objective is not the creation of the context but the experience that comes from it. Bricolage is all about the process; agendum is about the desired outcome.

      Thus experientially I find that there is simulationist play that is quite satisfying that involves nothing at all that fits what I understand to be your definition of "bricolage", while at the same time theoretically my examination of the process of bricolage suggests that it is a technique, not an agendum, a means and not an end, and so excluded from any definition of agenda, since it is established that agenda are independent of method.

      I'm certainly willing to once more read through any explanation of Bricolage you would care to compose (although if you quote one from elsewhere I will probably only skim it, as I've read them all before). However, I can see only two possible outcomes. Either you will define bricolage in a way that completely removes the process elements from it and thus makes it nothing more than "experiencing what we have created"--not at all different from any other definition of what simulationism seeks--or you will repeat your assertions that the process is the objective, a position we have already considered and rejected and would rather not waste time considering yet again.

      I hope this clarifies the situation. I certainly am not saying that bricolage is not simulationist; think it most certainly is consistent with simulationism (but not excluded as a technique from other agenda). I am saying that simulationism is not bricolage, because there is much that is good and valid simulationist play that does not at all mesh with what I hear you describing.

      --M. J. Young


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on November 26, 2005, 01:00:57 AM
      Hi Thomas,

      Jay, I think this is where most of the confusion is coming from.  What you keep seeming to say is that "each Player (including the GM) has absolute control over their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it the fun is reached through some means other than mechanics."  But "Each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.  We tend to call it "fiat" or something like that, but it turns out that it really is a formalized way of interacting with the game in the exact same way that Universalis' "You have (almost) absolute control of the components that you pay to have control of." is a mechanic.

      Anything that demonstrates where the source of confusion is taking place is extremely valuable – so good call!

      Let’s look at the Glossary here first and then take a look at where I am at odds with the common understanding.

      Quote
      Mechanics

        Individual and specific features of System; Mechanics in text form are "rules."

      System

        The means by which imaginary events are established during play, including Character creation, resolution of imaginary events, reward procedures, and more. It may be considered to introduce fictional time into the Shared Imagined Space. See also the Lumpley Principle.

      Techniques

        Specific procedures of play which, when employed together, are sufficient to introduce fictional Characters, places, or events into the Shared Imagined Space. Many different Techniques may be used, in different games, to establish the same sorts of events. A given Technique is composed of a group of Ephemera which are employed together. Taken in their entirety for a given instance of role-playing, Techniques comprise System.

      Just a quick comment – I think that Mike was, and is, prescient in noting the difficulty associated with the term, “Techniques.”

      …It's just a disagreement on what a useful meaning for the term is. There was a whole long thread that considered terms like Mechanics, Rules, Text, Procedures, etc. I think this thread is moving to the other topic, so if anyone wants to discuss that definition, I think a new thread is in order.

      However, my error was mentally equating/conflating “Mechanics” with the “Lumpley Principle.”  So let’s take a look at what I thought I was saying!

      Quote
      Lumpley Principle, the
        "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play." The author of the principle is Vincent Baker, see Vincent's standard rant: power, credibility, and assent and Player power abuse.

      Given the above –
      • 1.  I acknowledge my incorrect usage of Mechanics.
      • 2.  If anyone wishes to be charitable, go back through my posts and re-read them and substitute “those Mechanics specifically involved in the distribution of credibility with respect to statements directly meant for the SIS only,” for “Mechanics.”

        For the purposes and duration of this thread, and for lack of imagination, I will make all further references to the above as Mechanics-SIS
      • 3.  For further clarity with respect to this particular thread – I had also had been functioning under my understanding that any “Mechanic” which did not function in the role delimited in #2 above was a “meta-game mechanic.”

        For the purposes and duration of this thread, and for lack of imagination, I will make all further references to the above as Mechanics-MG.

      It is not my intention to try and create a “global change in the definition of Mechanics” at the Forge in this thread.  I do like Mike’s idea of breaking off a thread on that particular topic, though.  The purpose of the above was to clear up a terrible confusing mess that I had created.  I should also note that I am not trying to redefine the Lumpley Principle either.

      So let’s go back and parse out Thomas’ comments –

      Quote
      What you keep seeming to say is that "each Player (including the GM) has absolute control over their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it the fun is reached through some means other than mechanics."  But "Each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.

      I am going to borrow your phrasing here, if you don’t mind too much, and make the necessary changes to reflect the ideas I have been trying to get across.

        each Player (including the GM) has
      absolute say over their statements of intention regarding their pieces of play, and that when it really comes down to it what determines what statements get into the SIS is through some means other than mechanics-MG or mechanics-SIS.”[/list]

      So I am not saying that Players have absolute control over their pieces of play – that’s a category error for Sim.  Things not only happen to their pieces of play that are not desired or initiated by the Players, but it is fundamental and necessary to Sim play that the undesirable/unplanned does happen with regards to the Players stated intentions, though not all the time.  What I am saying is that the spheres of direct input are divided up – GM Setting/Player Character.  The interaction between the two spheres gives rise to Situation.  The aesthetic that governs the creation of the result (Premise, Challenge, the aesthetic contained within the source material) is that which would normally be described as Color in G/N, yet is originally found in the source materials.  The result/product of that interaction is the creation and expansion of the Dream.

      After looking over the above I am intrigued by the notion that the resolution Mechanics-SIS in Sim while looking like task resolution actually fill the role of manifesting risk, not the arbitrating of outcome.  IOW though the resolution mechanics resolve at the task level (which is why they look like task resolution mechanics and why such “Sim” game designs are so easily drifted towards Gamism) they function like conflict resolution mechanics in that we are not arbitrating the fitness of the Players statements but rather were just checking to see if the Players intention go awry of their intended goal.  (Would that be FitM with the GM providing the outcome? …hmmmm.)

      On the next –

        "Each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play" is a mechanic.

      This is interesting.  Factually you are correct.  Given my efforts above I would call that Mechanic-MG. 

      I should note, however, that I never said or claimed that “each Player has absolute control over their pieces of play.”  In fact, this is quite contrary to the nature of bricolage.  If I have my Character throw a rock, have I not exerted some form of control over the Setting?  Conversely, if the GM has an orc shoot my Character in the leg, despite my interests to the contrary, has not the GM exerted some control over the nature of my Character?  Rather I am saying that each Player has a specific means of input into the SIS.  Each Player has a primary means of direct input and through that input may attempt to have indirect input on anything else in the SIS.  I do think that it is important to the Sim agenda that a Player have ownership of Character (I will try and argue this in the future, however this does not mean that a Player cannot have more than one Character!), yet he most certainly does not have control as to what happens to said Character.

      Quote
      You keep saying "You can't have mechanics interfering", and then seem to turn around and say "Unless it is this specific set of mechanics."  Now, you're a smart guy, and I think you've got some good ideas, but you're presenting this one in a terribly confusing manner.  You say on the one hand that there should be no mechanics intervening in these circumstances, but then you present an actual play incident in which the situation is constructed out of a set of mechanics (namely fiat*).

      Another excellent, and embarrassing, point!  Again, allow me to borrow you construction and make the alterations that should more effectively communicate what I am trying to say.

        "You can't have
      K/F mechanics-SIS, K/F mechanics-MG interfering,  because it is up to the Players to interpret the current state of the rules that have been created/modified by the Bricolage process as to the validity of the input – i.e., is the proffered statement consistent/structurally similar with the Dream?  Given the construction of the Big Model it follows that such a resolution process might be called ‘Drama Resolution’, but I think that said term does a disservice to the enormous amount of structure querying that goes on behind said resolution."[/list]

      Thus its not fiat that I speak of, but Drama resolution as informed by the whole of the structures of Dream.

      Now to the last piece that I hope to clarify!

      Quote
      While you say "There are no situation creation mechanics in Sim" you also seem to be saying "The GM creates situation" which seems to be a mechanic…

      The conundrum regarding your first sentence is easily resolved if one considers that a GM cannot create “situation.”  Situation is the dynamic interaction between Character and not-Character.  It takes two to create Situation – and it this flame that makes role-playing so utterly unlike any other activity.  That flame is what it’s all about!  Thus it follows that no mechanic can create a Situation, that is a condition that arises from the interaction between the Players (which includes the GM).

      Quote
      This is where all the confusion is for me, it sounds like you're saying that it's only Sim (or perhaps Sim is always best realized) if it uses this narrow set of mechanics for situation creation, and that strikes me as simply untrue...

      I think Sim is best (not only) realized when there aren’t any K/F mechanics employed in “Situation Creation.”  What is left is the whole vast panoply of the “rules” contained within the source material and those that have been created/modified through the bricolage of play itself.  This does not mean that the GM can’t place elements in the SIS that aren’t designed to provoke a response from the Players, rather such choices should not be determined by a non-sentient disinterested device – as it were.

      I am not unaware of the implications of my thesis and after numerous conversations with Chris I think I will be able to address this in full soon.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on November 26, 2005, 03:36:54 AM
      Hey Mike,

      Quote
      Sim has not come an effective or useful “conclusion.”
      That's your opinion. It works as defined just fine in my estimation, and have provided arguments as to why.

      As I have as well.  The most damming is that the current definition of Sim does not describe a process of play nor a define the product of play.  This condition fails the Model which is process driven.  I propose that Sim is Bricolage which is a process that creates a product and solves two major problems that currently plague the given understanding of Sim - 1.  No definition of process.  2.  No definition Product.  Now I may be wrong with bricolage, but it does more than what is currently offered with regards to satisfying the Model.

      Quote
      Sim has not come an effective or useful “conclusion.”
      That's your opinion. It works as defined just fine in my estimation, and have provided arguments as to why.

      If you could point out the threads (2-3 will be very helpful) to me please which rigorously define and describe both the process and end product I would be most grateful.

      Quote
      But we've argued a lot about this, and came to the conclusion that Character doesn't have to mean one-to-many. Could you either refute our arguments or provide one of your own? Why must this be so?

      I am again at your mercy, and ask you to provide some links that “proves” that Sim can allow “many Players to one Character” so that I can read and then engage said arguments?

      Quote
      The GNS model has a certain predictive value that's valuable, and part of that is based on the modes in question following Ron's description of them as decscribing all of RPG play in three broad categories. Your definition takes a portion of functional play and says that it has no mode. Wrecking the functionality of the model. Your have not said why this is either not so, or why the replacement is superior enough to ignore this. The only answer we get is that it makes more sense to you without argument.

      Indeed, that there is a flaw in a segment of the Model is exactly what is being investigated.  The flaw is a logical one in that the Model requires both a definition of the process of play and the created product of play, but one mode of play lacks a rigorous definition of both.  IOW the definition of Sim does not meet the requirements of CA.  So either the definition of CA is incorrect or the definition of Sim is not correct.  Given that the definition of CA has worked so beautifully with G/N logically we are left with the possibility that there is currently a flaw in the definition of Sim.  Bricolage meets both requirements.  This does not mean bricolage is the answer, but I am waiting for any process with a better fit to the data that also satisfies the Model to be offered in the stead of bricolage... or show how Bricolage fails to satisfy the Model.

      Quote
      If we can't get past the defintion of sim, then all of the questions of how things like Character relate to it are going to be meaningless. That is, we're going to disagree perforce until there's agreement on the original problem. To say that we're not making arguments against your position is to willfully ignore the arguments made.

      I will happily surrender my efforts if someone offered a more rigorous definition of the process and product of Sim than bricolage.  If this has already happened please give me a link so that I may read up on it!  Quite frankly the desert out here is quite lonely and forbidding.

      Quote
      Quote
      - it’s only going to slow down the investigation process to see whether my thesis has any merits.
      I see, we should merely accept what you say because you say it. To do otherwise is obstructionist. I see.

      Absolutely not!  I would prefer that someone did engage my arguments of process and product and demonstrate how they fail the definition of CA.  That has not happened.  Many times the argument has been raised that my proposed definition of bricolage will exclude forms of functional play from the rubric of Sim, but that’s a non-argument as the issue is process and product.  Other arguments have been raised that what I am saying contradicts what has currently been offered as the Sim definition in the Model and thus I what I propose is ipso facto flawed.  However, that also does not hold water because the current definition does not presently meet the requirements of the Model for CA (process and product).  Continually raising these points is to not engage in the issue that does need to be resolved – process and product.  To continue to do so in such a manner I would call obstructionist.

      Quote
      And have provided arguments that say why we disagree. To say otherwise is insulting.

      I’m not saying you haven’t provided arguments; I’m saying that my proposition (process and product) hasn’t been addressed.

      Quote
      As I've said, prove that sim is bricloage.

      I’m doing the best I can to work on it!  I know that I have solved two deal breakers already – process and product, yet I know I still have more work to do.

      Quote
      You've refuted the essay on sim? There is, in fact, a definition of simulationism that's widely agreed to and functional.

      Actually it’s not functional within the Model because it provides neither a rigorous definition of the process nor a rigorous definition of the product – it doesn’t meet the requirements for CA as per the Model it was written for.  As a result it is not possible to design anything based on the article simply because the core process has not been illuminated.

      Quote
      Ah, but we're just deluding ourselves. I see.

      Engage in ad hominem all you want, I’m still gonna keep plugging along working at process and product while you take digs at me.

      Quote
      Quote
      “By your definitions tons of functional coherent play is relegated to simply being zilchplay.”  I think this statement is also specious.  First is that many descriptions of Sim play are frequently lumped into the category of “30 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of playing.”  Second there is the idea that has been floated a number of times that functional Sim game are rare.
      Not by anyone that I credit. This does happen. And it's a sign of the narrativism bias that this site has. The people who say this stuff are demonstrably wrong.

      I’m not certain how to read that as it was Ron whom I quoted originally.

      Quote
      All you're doing here is proving that you have an axe to grind. "I play sim, people are saying sim is bad, therefore they must not be defining it right." Attack the notion that sim isn't fun. Not that the definition is wrong.

      More ad hominem.  Sim typically isn’t fun as Sim games have been designed and have been taught to be played.  I credit that to an incomplete understanding of Sim play.  As the current definition has no predictive value I see no reason to leave it be.  What’s particularly interesting is why you keep pointing a finger at me, has not Chris Lehrich posted as I have, only much more coherently and eloquently?

      Quote
      By the way, your definition of sim sounds like 5 minutes of fun crammed into 5 hours of play to me (whereas the other sim stuff that you leave out from your definition is fun when I play it). That's just my preference, however. Doesn't mean that it's not fun for others.

      One, I was quoting others when I made that remark – so it wasn’t fun for others.  Two, I wasn’t referring to what was fun, just that to said poster the play was mostly dysfunctional.  A data point.

      Quote
      "A lot" is not the same as "All Sim" and these forms of play are not what I'm talking about in my definition.

      Indeed.  Quote me where I say “All Sim” is dysfunctional.  However, “a lot” is still a serious problem.

      Quote
      Are you going to say that nobody who ever persued a sim agenda ever failed to do it well?

      Seeing as I have never said any such thing, I am rather baffled how you come to such a position. 

      I’m rather confused here.  Could you please explain to me how me arguing something about theory means I am saying people aren’t having fun?  Could you make that connection for me please, because I’m not seeing it?  All these absolutes are rather disconcerting, especially since they are being attributed to me – and I don’t remember making them!

      Quote
      CA isn't only about the imaginings, but all of play.

      Quote from:
      Creative Agenda (CA)
        The aesthetic priorities and any matters of imaginative interest regarding role-playing. ... Creative Agenda is expressed using all Components of Exploration, but most especially System.

      My reading is that CA is the nature of the aesthetic priorities which govern the Exploration process.  CA is expressed using the Components of Exploration, but it does not prioritize them.

      Quote
      That is, in determining incoherence it's not merely what's produced in the SIS that's important, but how it's produced. Expoloration of system, as opposed to, say, exploration of color where you wouldn't use system mechanics, is one way to do this.

      The problem is that Exploration of “mechanics” does not meet the definition of CA.  What’s even more confounding is that CA is expressed using the Components of Exploration while focusing that effort on a process other than itself.   (Address of Premise, Address of Challenge, Bricolage).  To use Exploration to “explore Exploration” is akin to using an X-ray machine to x-ray itself or a hammer to hammer itself.  One needs other tools to delve into and mess with the internal components of Exploration – like the Big Model.

      Quote
      I think it may be pricisely in focusing only on the SIS as the only determiner of Creative Agenda where you go wrong.

      Maybe.  But as CA can only be diagnosed after, at the minimum, an entire instance of play it certainly suggests to me that the SIS is extraordinarily important.  Given that mechanics are geared towards facilitating Exploration and their effectiveness is determined only after Exploration has commenced strikes me as pretty strong evidence that the SIS is where its ultimately at.  Even the rewards systems function based upon what the Players did in the SIS.

      Quote
      I'm talking about fun, functional play. Which must have a CA by definition.

      Not that I can find.

      Quote
      You simply won't address that I have not only been a part of, but seen tons of examples of this sort of play that were fun. If they weren't sim, what were they? If "zilchplay != fun" then they couldn't be zilchplay.

      I don’t know what you’ve been a part of.  I wasn’t there, how can I address it?  Where is it written that "zilchplay != fun?”  Hell people can have fun throwing bottle caps at each other.  Not having a theoretically recognized or designated CA does not in any way “mean” people aren’t having fun.  That’s conflation.

      Quote
      Or am I lying to you?

      OK – this has to be an absolute low point in this or just about any thread.  That’s just down right silly.  How would I know?  I don’t have any reason to believe so, and that argument certainly is not germane.  I’m not lying either, does that make my thesis correct? 

      I’m utterly dumbfounded here. 

      How does your assumption on my view on your veracity relate to the issue of process and product and procedures that interfere with said process?

      Quote
      Do you even read what you're writing?

      Given the above - I ought to ask you the same question in return.

      Quote
      Well, if you think we're beyond redemption, then write this as a manifesto and revolt

      Ad hominem, yet again.

      If you feel it is important to put words into my mouth feel free to do so all you wish, but it does not address the core issue of process and product.

      Quote
      Of course, then you'll claim that the following is institutional...odd, though, that "Indie-rpgs" would be seen as "institutional." When we throw each other into the fire on each alternate Thursday. But if that's your POV...

      Look ma, ever more ad hominem and more false attributions!

      Can we do away with the personal slights, attacks, and comments and address my question of process and product and procedures that interfere with said process?  Five pages of dealing with off topic notions…


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: LordSmerf on November 26, 2005, 04:01:19 AM
      Quote
      As I have as well.  The most damming is that the current definition of Sim does not describe a process of play nor a define the product of play.  This condition fails the Model which is process driven.  I propose that Sim is Bricolage which is a process that creates a product and solves two major problems that currently plague the given understanding of Sim - 1.  No definition of process.  2.  No definition Product.  Now I may be wrong with bricolage, but it does more than what is currently offered with regards to satisfying the Model.

      I realize that this wasn't in response to me at all, but I do want to address it: It is not at all clear to me what the prodcut of bricolage is.  So while you may have a process you don't really have a product here.  On the other hand, it's not clear to me what the "process" of Nar and Gam play are.  Saying that the process is "Addressing Premise/Challenge" isn't going to cut it either.  That tells me precisely zip about the process involved, or at least it tells me nothing more about what's going on than saying that the "Product of play is X".

      So it strikes me that your "solution" doesn't actually solve the problem.  This is especially true as the generally accepted "product" of Sim play is the nebulous "Dream" (or as MJ says, "discovery").  So we do have a product, one that, perhaps, is not as well defined as Premise or Challenge, but one that we do acknowledge nonetheless.  I think you would serve your position by laying out precisely what you think the product of bricolage is without referring to the process (saying "the product of bricolage is the thing that bricolage produces" is about as helpful as saying "the process of creating Premise is the process that creates Premise").  Alternatively, explaining what you understand as the process(es) behind Nar and Gam play so that we can compare those processes with bricolage might be valuable.

      Thomas


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on November 26, 2005, 04:16:12 AM
      Hi Jason!

      …When System sets the feel (like swashbuckling versus gritty action) it defines Color, it sets the effectiveness of characters and makes actual statements about who those characters are, it defines the physics of the world and hence Setting, and so forth.



      However, as we are working within the context of the Big Model, I can't reject it.  He's the rub though, you can't then reject it either when describing Sim….

      Its almost spooky how closely you zeroed in on what I was planning to go into in a future thread!

      I was going to argue that while Color is “inert” with regards to aspects of action or resolution in the imagined space, in Sim it is as you have described above.  IOW in Sim what was shunted aside as Color in G/N saturates the whole of Sim play and becomes one of the guiding priorities of play such that it has a profound impact on “the effectiveness of characters and makes actual statements about who those characters are, it defines the physics of the world and hence Setting, and so forth.”  Roughly speaking.  This is a thesis I am playing with and am as yet uncertain whether it will hold up.

      I think this is a good place for me to agree to disagree…

      Right on!

      Quote
      Would it make sense that if I see the same lack of delimiters in all play that I would be of the opinion that you're not getting Nar and Gam if you feel that that fluidity is a distinction between them and your play?

      I’ll certainly consider this.  Actually I don’t think that one “feels” the fluidity as it is such an ingrained part of play.  FREX – look at Polaris.  The Characters are going to die, that a given part of the game.  That they die is an import part of the addressing process.  Once a Character is dead his Story is done.  In Sorcerer when Humanity hits zero, and it will hit zero, that Character’s Story is done.  This is an expected and designed in part of the play process.  Conclusions.  They don’t have feel like a denouement and from what I understand and frequently don’t – yet the highest high usually comes at precisely this point.  On another hand the sweeping of a dungeon, the killing of the dragon, the killing of the BBEG usually results in a big reset in play.  Going back to town, resting and refitting, leveling up, etc.  The nature of addressing Challenge usually ends in the defeat of a Challenge and then a taking of stock which is typically preceded by planning and strategizing.  Can you see there is an implicit even if not noticed cycle here?

      Does this make any sense?  I accept that I might be wrong but have I at least effectively communicated my thoughts?

      Quote
      When I watch a movie, like Braveheart (because it's been on my mind for some reason), I don't see the theme as separate from the character motivations, or that the characters are defined independent of the setting, or that the moral of the story is driving the situations.  I don't see those nice little chunks in my play either.

      Agreed, but I’m talking from an analytical and not a perceptual point of view which hopefully will lead ultimately to improved game design!

      …and game design was why I had brought up the topic in this thread to begin with!


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on November 26, 2005, 04:42:49 AM
      Hi Thomas,

      I realize that this wasn't in response to me at all, but I do want to address it: It is not at all clear to me what the prodcut of bricolage is.  So while you may have a process you don't really have a product here…

      Sure we do, myth.

      On the other hand, it's not clear to me what the "process" of Nar and Gam play are.  Saying that the process is "Addressing Premise/Challenge" isn't going to cut it either.  That tells me precisely zip about the process involved, or at least it tells me nothing more about what's going on than saying that the "Product of play is X".

      OK – lets start here!

      Quote from:
      Story Now requires that at least one engaging issue or problematic feature of human existence be addressed in the process of role-playing. "Address" means:
      • Establishing the issue's Explorative expressions in the game-world, "fixing" them into imaginary place.
      • Developing the issue as a source of continued conflict, perhaps changing any number of things about it, such as which side is being taken by a given character, or providing more depth to why the antagonistic side of the issue exists at all.
      • Resolving the issue through the decisions of the players of the protagonists, as well as various features and constraints of the circumstances.



      How is this done, actually, in play? It relies on the concept of something called Premise and its relationship to an emergent theme.
       
      I already snuck Premise past you: it's that "problematic issue" I mentioned…

      …But Narrativist role-playing is defined by the people involved placing their direct creative attention toward Premise and toward birthing its child, theme.

      Red highlighting added.

      So here we have both the “process of Address” and “the definition of Premise” and that the process of Addressing Premise gives birth to Theme.  Process and Product.  I am growing tired, but if you ask I will pull up the definition of Challenge if you wish.

      So it strikes me that your "solution" doesn't actually solve the problem.  This is especially true as the generally accepted "product" of Sim play is the nebulous "Dream"


      I am and have proposed that the Dream is the myth that is created as a result of play (bricolage).

      I think you would serve your position by laying out precisely what you think the product of bricolage is without referring to the process (saying "the product of bricolage is the thing that bricolage produces" is about as helpful as saying "the process of creating Premise is the process that creates Premise").

      LOL.  Yes, you are most correct.  I am working on it but I have proposed myth, as defined in Chris’ threads and article.  You are right though, that this is a most subtle and difficult topic.

      Alternatively, explaining what you understand as the process(es) behind Nar and Gam play so that we can compare those processes with bricolage might be valuable.

      I know this probably sound extremely lame, but I will in the near future.  It’s been something that has been brewing in the ol’ brainpan for sometime and this thread is my trying to work out some issues. 

      Thank you for your constructive engagement!

      M. J. and contracycle; I have not forgotten your posts and I will respond to them next!


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on November 28, 2005, 03:05:40 AM
      Hi contracycle,

      You see, you say here that these issues were dealt with within the SIS.  Well, I'm sick to death of doing that.  The problem is then that I-the-GM have to do even more thinking for the player, second guessing for example, how much they even know about the blood feud principle. 

      Previously, you suggested that players engaged with a particular topic can be taken to know something about it, but why should this be?  Surely, people primarily try to explore things they do not already know - or they explore things they do already know in search of unexpected and unpredictable emergent phenomenon.  So not only do I think it is unsafe to assume the players are well equipped regarding the topic of exploration, but worse, its probable they will be badly equipped.

      Actually, these are some very incisive questions.

      From the paradigm I’m working on, bricolage, that the Players need to know something about a “particular topic” is akin to the Players needing to know something about the rules and stakes in Gamism and needing to know something about the Premise and the stakes in Nar.  These are the very objects, tools, which the Players need to know something about in order to effectively engage in that particular CA.  IOW without such knowledge effective CA expression becomes very unlikely (not impossible).

      To be an effective bricoleur said individual should have a decent working knowledge of the objects he’s likely to be employing.  Social structure is one of those categories of objects that the player will be faced with.  Such knowledge certainly does not need to be complete by any means, but to play without a basic understanding of the more salient social structures does severely restrict the options available to the Player when faced with a problem.  How does one justify a barbarian, FREX, not being familiar with the customs and mores of his own culture?  This runs a huge risk of breaking the Dream!  Just like a Player in Nar not grokking the Premise or a Gamist not grokking the mechanics the game runs a serious risk of stalling and losing momentum.  Why bother Playing a barbarian, FREX, if one does not make the most basic of efforts to become familiar with that which the Player will be representing/simulating/celebrating in play to the other Players at the table – thus running the risk of breaking their Dream as well.

      To address your, I am assuming, complaint about you-as-GM having to do “even more thinking” is a little alien to my recent game experiences.  In the game I play in, which I am only offering as an illustration, any new player who wishes to continue to play with us is required to read the LOTR before 6 months is up.  If they don’t make the effort, then they are not “pulling their weight” as far as the Players in the group I play in are concerned.  This, to us, is the exact equivalent of a Player being required to learn the mechanics in a hardcore crunchy/pervy Gamist group.  If the new Player wants to continue to play, he should make the minimum effort to be familiar with the basics!

      I know that probably sounded odd, but I included it as an example of the ideas I am trying to communicate.  You may disagree, and that’s totally fine, but I am trying very hard to give you and all some insight to what is going on in my mind.  See, I think that the heart of Sim lies in the source material, not in the mechanics.  IOW I think, and I may be completely wrong, that most people (not all) who want to play “Sim” do so because they were inspired by the desire to continue the experience of some setting they had seen/watched previously.

      Now, it is certainly possible that a Player can come to a game where they don’t really know much about the Setting and “learn” their way into the world – just set them up as an outsider to the local culture.  You know, the ol’ fish-out-of-water routine!  Think Antonio Banderas in The 13th Warrior.  In this case the Player doesn’t need to know anything a head of time, nor is there any expectation that he would know anything about said culture, he just learns as he goes along – but it will be a bumpy and quite possible dangerous ride.

      In your example, I don’t think as a GM you have to second-guess what the Player does nor does not know.  Just have the NPC’s react as they would given their culture and leave it up to the Player to try and muddle his way through – thus learning about the fictional culture (Setting) in the process of play.  This can be very interesting play as well.

        ”Surely, people primarily try to explore things they do not already know - or they explore things they do already know in search of unexpected and unpredictable emergent phenomenon.”

      I agree that we frequently seek the “novel,” as it were, but I don’t think that is the same as the Players being completely ignorant.  Much of Sim role-play, if one speaks of bricolage, is the accounting for and making sense of the hither to unknown.  Your phrase “unpredictable emergent phenomenon” is particularly interesting because therein lies an implied baseline from which the Players are operating.  I love emergent phenomenon, but it does require a certain already existing/known baseline of behavior from which the new behavior could not or was predicted.

      In my experiences, which I fully understand are not universal by any stretch of the imagination, when encountering a completely new culture it usually leads to more interesting play if that culture is Explored from the outside first rather than thrusting a player into the role of “creating a new culture from the ground up.”  However, certain experienced Players can certainly do this, but it is very very difficult to pull off effectively without running the risk of breaking the Dream.

      I should also note that such a case of a Player being unfamiliar with the local customs such as “blood feud,” is a prime example of Situation just aching to be dealt with/Explored.  This is an example of how one learns while still being an active participant in the process – Exploring the unexpected!  It just needs to be justifiable (bricolage).

      For this reason I think having a systematic intervention can work as a representation of social expectations and mores.  Lets say my player balks at the taking of revenge and says seomthing like "violence doesn't solve anything".  My problem then is this: that sounds like such an ahistorical position to take, what does it mean?  doe it mean the player is knowingly violating the social mores to see what happens?  Or does it mean the player simply doesn't understand those mores?  I can;t tell, and so its difficult to judge how to procede.  But if this expeation were mechanically articulated, that confusion would evaporate - the players statement will HAVE to have been informed that a certain course of action is demanded by the setting.

      That problem is easily solvable by having a village elder or a sibling or a parent or a spouse or a friend approach and lay out the parameters.  If, however, the Player continues to balk because the Player doesn’t believe in “violence,” then one would have to wonder why said Player even chose to play a barbarian in the first place.  IOW he’s breaking the Dream in a manner that would be identical to a Player in Sorcerer balking at using sorcery in the game because he personally finds it offensive to his belief system to even fictionally play with the idea of binding demons.  The game session is broken at a very baseline Social Contract level.  If on the other hand the Player is balking because it makes interesting play then more power to him, but he should understand that he is in for a whole 6 pack of trouble!

      All that being said, I don’t think it is all the difficult to decide how to proceed.  Proceed and see what happens.  Give the Player a problem (Situation) and let it ride.

        ” …the players statement will HAVE to have been informed that a certain course of action is demanded by the setting.”

      As I understand Sim, action is always demanded by Setting.  IOW that is a basic tenet of the Creative Agenda.  The challenge to the Player, where he is tested, is in the determination of just what his response will be.  This is partly why I don’t think that “Situation Creation” mechanics are necessary.  Situation will arise naturally enough if the GM throws socially based problems at the Players feet, which are grounded in the local conditions.  The Dream, in order to expand and grow, requires the Players to bump into such problems and their efforts to deal with them based upon their Character’s own current conditions and cultural norms contribute to this very growth.  This growth cannot happen if a mechanic “resolves” the issue in lieu of the Player’s own creative input.

      However a Player who has made the effort to read the source materials should have a knowledge of such cultural concerns.  It’s amazing how creative Players get when death is hanging on the line.  Such matters as cultural norms I do not consider rules/mechanics but Setting material.  And what’s particularly intriguing is that these cultural norms are plastic and can change over time under the right conditions – which is another reason why I think that ossifying them into actual “rules/mechanics” prevents this very evolution from happening.  IOW it is likely to interfere with the evolutionary effect of the bricolage process.

      Thats the kind of explicatory role I could see such mechanics serving, and I would suggest they would arguably be more valuable in sim than for any other agenda, as it is the agenda in which people are most likely going to be exposing themselves to unusual inputs, I would think.

      I fully agree that such knowledge is most critical to Sim play, but not in the form of mechanics, but in the form of background material.  That very material which is being celebrated – or conversely such knowledge can be learned through actual play once again obviating “the need” for such a mechanical enforcement.

      You don’t have to agree with my position, but have I at least made my position more understandable to you?  If you have any further questions or comments please, by all means, let me know!  Thank you for your interesting and challenging questions.

      M. J. I have not forgotten you!


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Mike Holmes on November 28, 2005, 02:49:01 PM
      I've gone off list to discuss with Jay. In case anyone wonders why I've failed to respond here. I think I'm pretty much done here.

      Mike


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: contracycle on November 29, 2005, 04:25:45 AM
      Quote
      To be an effective bricoleur said individual should have a decent working knowledge of the objects he’s likely to be employing.

      "decent working" <> "encyclopaedic and comprehensive".  And anyway, I would suggest that if the bricooleur really does have a perfect understandoing of the materials and tools, they then transform into an engineer.  That is, the make do and mend approach is in contrast with comrepehensive knowledge, which tends to permit more purposeful and econoomic interventions.

       
      Quote
      Social structure is one of those categories of objects that the player will be faced with.  Such knowledge certainly does not need to be complete by any means, but to play without a basic understanding of the more salient social structures does severely restrict the options available to the Player when faced with a problem.  How does one justify a barbarian, FREX, not being familiar with the customs and mores of his own culture?

      Enslaved by Romans as a baby.  Raised by wolves.  Shipwrecked and adopted.  But even more importantly: the purposeful stranger-in-a-strange-land character.  I'vre seent his happen frequently and regard it as a recurrent pathology of Sim: the player who selects an Outsider character precisely so their unfamiliairty weith the local culture is mirrored in their character, and so they are excused the need to accurately represent the culture.  While an understandable defence mechanism, I feel it produces distance and alienaiton from the topic at hand.

      You've also shifted your terms of degree slightly, first saying knowledge does not have to be complete but then attacking the straw man of "a basic understanding".  The problem is, what is it that constitutes a "basic" understanding, and how does one determine if your understanding is sufficient without some sort of reference to compare yourself against?  Probably, most people familiar with the stories of CuChulain consider themselves to have a "basic" understanding of Celtic culture, but that would not at all imply they would unerstand why the Fir Fothlach, the "man of going forth", operates as an insitutional element of destabalisation in this socio-economic system.

      And, seeing as multiple participants probably have different understandings, the problem is multiplied.  So it seems to me you are assuming that the players come pre-equipped to understand the Dream, and then simply enact it, rather than actually Explore it in an inquisitive mode.  The coherence of the SIS has been offloaded onto player preparation.

      Quote
      I know that probably sounded odd, but I included it as an example of the ideas I am trying to communicate.  You may disagree, and that’s totally fine, but I am trying very hard to give you and all some insight to what is going on in my mind.  See, I think that the heart of Sim lies in the source material, not in the mechanics.  IOW I think, and I may be completely wrong, that most people (not all) who want to play “Sim” do so because they were inspired by the desire to continue the experience of some setting they had seen/watched previously.

      I think thats valid.  Very frequntly the desire is to keep playing in some environment the players have experienced, be that via books or movies.  And I certainly agree that games that are properties of existing works probably do have a head start on getting congruence between imaginary spaces and so forth.  But even so, unless you restrict yourself to vairtual reenactment of the movie or book, you are going to have to go "off piste" into areas that were not covered, if the game has any  longevity.

      Quote
      In your example, I don’t think as a GM you have to second-guess what the Player does nor does not know.  Just have the NPC’s react as they would given their culture and leave it up to the Player to try and muddle his way through – thus learning about the fictional culture (Setting) in the process of play.  This can be very interesting play as well.

      I fear this is a recipe for failure; to be more specific, I have in the past backed off from doing this becuase it would have ended the game by killing the characters.  Sometimes, the "realistic" result is not the most desirable result.  And that sort of impasse is precisely what I want to avoid.  A thematically True game can still be no fun if the Trueness mitigates against the Funness.

      Quote

      That problem is easily solvable by having a village elder or a sibling or a parent or a spouse or a friend approach and lay out the parameters.

      No thats not viable in practice, IME - partly because its obviously a GM intervention which can itself break the dream; partly because it presupposes that the character in question has such friendly advisers, which is not a given, and it further assumes that the characters are in some place proximate to these advisers, rather than out in the bush a hundred miles away.

      Quote
      As I understand Sim, action is always demanded by Setting.  IOW that is a basic tenet of the Creative Agenda.  The challenge to the Player, where he is tested, is in the determination of just what his response will be.  This is partly why I don’t think that “Situation Creation” mechanics are necessary.  Situation will arise naturally enough if the GM throws socially based problems at the Players feet, which are grounded in the local conditions.

      Situation may arise without the players understanding it or knowing how to react to it in a thematically appropriate manner.  Surely part of the exploration is not just what the setting is like, but also what the people in that setting are like, including the players character?

      Quote
        The Dream, in order to expand and grow, requires the Players to bump into such problems and their efforts to deal with them based upon their Character’s own current conditions and cultural norms contribute to this very growth.  This growth cannot happen if a mechanic “resolves” the issue in lieu of the Player’s own creative input.

      Straw man - not only have I specifically NOT said anything about system resolving anything, but I have specifically said that system can be used to LAY OUT choices, not to impose them.  That is, the system is serving as an exposition of the setting.

      Quote
      However a Player who has made the effort to read the source materials should have a knowledge of such cultural concerns.  It’s amazing how creative Players get when death is hanging on the line.  Such matters as cultural norms I do not consider rules/mechanics but Setting material.  And what’s particularly intriguing is that these cultural norms are plastic and can change over time under the right conditions – which is another reason why I think that ossifying them into actual “rules/mechanics” prevents this very evolution from happening.  IOW it is likely to interfere with the evolutionary effect of the bricolage process.

      The problem with this is that the bricolage process is likely to take a very long time - for example, the material culture of Mesopatamia exists virtually unchanged for some 2000 years.  Now, social systems, even nominally voluntary ones, are likely to pre-exist the birth of the individual - and as a result, the individual experiences them as objective facts, just as they experience a tree or a rock.  The fact that the social formation may, in the grand sweep of history, eventually change does not imply that the processes and norms present in a society are anything other than concrete, as the people themselves experience them.  Thus it seems to me entirely appropriate toi systemise society into a mechanical expression, becuase that is how it will operate in then characters terms.

      Quote
      I fully agree that such knowledge is most critical to Sim play, but not in the form of mechanics, but in the form of background material.  That very material which is being celebrated – or conversely such knowledge can be learned through actual play once again obviating “the need” for such a mechanical enforcement.

      I would suggest, rather, that such a degree of knowledge would obviate the need for exploratory play.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Silmenume on December 01, 2005, 02:36:48 AM
      Hi M.J.,

      Thanks for your patience and thoughtful input.

      Jay, you seem to be under the impression that several of us (Mike and me, at least) are not listening to you, or at least are not giving due consideration to the possibility that your definition of Simulationism as Bricolage is the correct piece that makes sense of the entire agendum.

      You are only partly right. It is not that we are refusing to listen to your revised definition of simulationism. It is that we listened to it, gave it serious consideration, turned it over with what we knew of simulationism, and rejected it as not matching the data we knew.

      This is certainly a possibility.  I’ll have to spend some time re-reading previous postings with this in mind and see what happens.  I would also like to say that while I am certainly (over) championing my thesis, I am partly motivated to by seeing just where it falls apart.  The problem as I am perceiving it, is that the counter-arguments are not being made on the same level – IOW we have this apples and oranges conversation going on.

      Mike and I are among a handful of people here who claim (and are recognized as claiming correctly) that we have played in simulationist games and enjoyed them. Thus some credit must be given to our assertions that your definition does not match our experience.

      See, this is perfect example of the apples and oranges conversational mismatch that I am talking about.  1.  I am not talking about “enjoy-ability.”  I am talking about theory construction and analysis.  2.  Given that I am talking about theory I’m not exactly sure how a theory construct can be said to impinge upon “your play experiences.”  I’m trying to analyze and make explicit what is happening during “Sim” play.  What I am most certainly and explicitly not trying to do is make a value judgment about the worthiness of said play.

      The first is that I have seen a great deal of quite enjoyable simulationism in which no one is trying to add anything or build anything from the elements provided.

      Again, “enjoyableness” is a subjective term that is neither germane nor descriptive of process.  Essentially what we have is a tautology - “Sim is what I play,” thus “What I play is Sim.”  Now, the same charge has been leveled at me, which I suppose is reasonable.  However, what I wish to discuss in not whether such play is “enjoyable” but rather to formulate a definition of the Sim CA that fits within the Model as a whole.  In order to accomplish that a process must be part of the definition.  What I am looking for is a refutation based on process failure, not subjective arguments based on value judgments.

      I’m totally OK with someone demonstrating a process of play that better accounts for the observable behaviors of players during play, but arguments like “you’re excluding whole segments of play,” or “I play this way and that is Sim,” are not arguments but are rather pleas that have the effect of deferring the dialogue away from the topic of process.

      If I were to accept your "bricolage" definition, I would have to discard this (and several other forms of play, such as Ralph's exploration of system by testing what actually happens given the mechanics rules) and begin the search for a new agendum which fits what it is these players--including I--are seeking.

      This is very intriguing to me as I ask myself, “Why is this an issue?”  Why do you as a GM or a Player have to discard anything because of a theoretical construct?  You don’t have to do anything.  If the style of play you enjoy is functional – then God Bless!  By all means keep doing what is and has been successful and enjoyable to you!  But that does not illuminate what is going on as a process during CA expression as the Model has been formulated.  The Model is a theoretical construct that tries to explain observed human behaviors expressed during play – it is not prescriptive.  You can still continue to seek that which you enjoy in your games – my arguments have nothing to do with that at all.  That particular concern is a non-issue.  Conversely if it can be effectively argued that “bricolage” is something that is truly unique to a given CA and thus deserves it own “CA designation,” I have no problem with that either.

      More fundamentally, though, I cannot escape the impression, despite your protestations, that bricolage is a technique. Agenda are what it is you want to get; techniques are how you get it.



      However, the problem with bricolage is that as it has been presented it is not the desired end but the means to the end; it is a process by which play is conducted; it is, in a word, a technique--what you do to get whatever it is you want.

      Bricolage is no more a Technique than “addressing Challenge” or “addressing Premise” is a Technique.  It’s an approach to solving problems.  The major difference between bricolage and Challenge/Premise is that Challenge and Premise are merely categories of approaches or points-of-view employed when creating and dealing with “problems,” while bricolage is much wider and could be said to be category-less with regard to problem solving.

      I agree that from a Player’s point of view Agendas are “what you want to get,” but from the Model’s point of view Agendas are strictly concerned with observable behavior – i.e. what the Players are actually doing at the table and most emphatically not about their internal desires.  I am solely trying to bring to light observable, quantifiable expressed patterns of behavior.

      Bricolage is all about the process; agendum is about the desired outcome.

      Actually that is not correct.  Bricolage also encompasses the desired “end.”

      Essentially a structure is two things.  First of all, it is a pre-made machine, already pretty well tuned and running just fine.  We can slap it into any machine we want to build and know it will run in particular ways.  Second, it is the abstract formulation entailed by the machine.  This is the hard part.



      So in addition to structure being a quality of the machine, it’s also an aesthetic constraint on what the machine ought to look like.  This has many, many layers—which we can roughly break down into those functions (practical, psychological, social) and some intellectual and aesthetic ideals of how we like things to be.

      Red highlighting added.

      I just re-read your point about not quoting what has already been said.  Sorry, I defer to Chris because his descriptions are far more concise and eloquent than anything I could hope to compose.  IOW - I’m saving you from the incomprehensibility of my own writings whenever and wherever I can.

      Nevertheless bricolage does encompass the aesthetic or end of the process as well.  This is incredibly important to understanding what bricolage as applied to role-play means.  Bricolage does not seek to make a point, but rather to demonstrate that which it is constructed from was already complete and whole – even as it encounters and absorbs new objects!

      I hope this clarifies the situation. I certainly am not saying that bricolage is not simulationist; think it most certainly is consistent with simulationism (but not excluded as a technique from other agenda). I am saying that simulationism is not bricolage, because there is much that is good and valid simulationist play that does not at all mesh with what I hear you describing.

      Again I would like to point out that I not making any value judgments about people’s play.  The term “good” has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments.  I am trying to illuminate the process of play which includes and accounts for player input, just like the definitions of the Creative Agendas of Gam/Nar demand.  No more.  No less.


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Valamir on December 01, 2005, 09:04:01 AM
      Jay, let me posit you the following, I'll start with some establishing background:

      We have the big model.  It has many layers.  The all encompassing social layer where werein lies the groundwork for how human beings are expected to interact with each other on a personal level at the table.  Creative Agenda which encompasses our underlying expectations of why we're playing in very broad terms.  Techniques which are the specific methods, conventions, and ways of applying (or choosing not to apply) mechanics and rules.  And finally ephemera which is the basic unit of action at the table such as speaking words or rolling dice or crossing off boxes.

      Each of these layers are a collection of possibilities.  Each possibility in a layer can encompass a variety of different sub sets in the layer below.  "Make a skill check to determine if the character succeeds at a specified task" is a technique.  There are a lot of ways to accomplish that technique in a game.  Which dice to roll, what number to roll against, and whether high numbers are good or bad are all ephemera.  There is a virtually unlimited number of combinations of different ephemera that can produce that desired technique.  "Acting in character" is  technique.  Speaking in first person, affecting a specific accent, speach pattern, or mannerism while "in character", using props, getting up and moving around are all ephemera that can be combined to accomplish that technique.

      Why one is using that technique instead of another, what purpose that technique is serving for play, how and when the technique is applied and what players are hoping that application will accomplish is all informed by the Creative Agenda.  Just as any given technique can have many different flavors depending on what combination of Ephemera are being used, so can any given Creative Agenda have many different flavors depending on what combination of Techniques are being used.

      Techniques are an important layer of the big model, because it is the layer that is most easily seen and the layer that we most directly and obviously experience.  Ask any typical gamer how they like to play and what you'll get as an answer is a laundry list of their favorite techniques and assorted ephemera.  The danger here is to mistake the parts that are easy to identify (the obvious and readily visible techniques) for the underlying Creative Agenda. 


      So enough background, I'll now get to my point.

      I don't agree with MJ that Bricolage is a Technique.  As you rightly point out there's alot more going on in there then just a Technique.  Theres a certain approach to what's important, there's a certain shared aesthetic.  Bricolage, as you've described it is a far more complex thing than just a Technique.

      But its also not a Creative Agenda.  As one example of why its not consider the following: You go to great lengths to describe as part of the process of Bricolage that its important that the players ability to have an effect on the game world be limited to the sort of inputs their character would have. Great, that's important to know.  But that's a Technique...its a Technique we already have a name for and have been discussing for some time called Actor Stance.  This particular Technique is essential to the proper functioning of Bricolage and that alone disqualifies Bricolage from being a Creative Agenda.  If Bricolage were truly a Creative Agenda I should be able to Bricol away with any combination of Actor, Director, or Author stance I choose (because Creative Agenda are not single technique specific).  I'm not going to use up space by listing a bunch of others, but there are a number of other essential features of the process of Bricolage you've described that are similarly specific Techniques.


      So what Bricolage is, is an overall reason for playing combined with a certain subset of very specific Techniqes and Ephemera carefully chosen from all possible techniques and Ephemera to produce a highly desireable but very narrowly defined play experience.  You have an overall definition of what play looks like from what you (and your group) want to get out the experience, you know how you go about accomplishing that in play (which includes not only what you DO do during the game but what you WON'T do as well).  All of that, soup to nuts: Agenda, Combination of Techniques, Collection of Ephemera together rolls up into the play experience you label Bricoloage.

      Fortuneately we already have a word to describe what that is, and its a word that we've been using for years...its called a Skewer.  If you visualize the big model like little discrete elements arranged into a stack of layers, a Skewer then is a particular combination of those elements that penetrates down through the layers skewering the desired elements from each layer and leaving the rest alone.  Bricolage is a Skewer.  Yes it skewers through the Simulationist Creative agenda, but then it goes on to skewer a very specific combination of Techniques and Ephemera unique to Bricolage.  The Simulationism that Mike and MJ have been describing is a different Skewer.  One that also passes through the Simulationist Creative agenda, but goes on to spear a completely different comination of Techniques and Ephemera that makes it look very very different from Bricolage.  Both, however, fall under the Sim Agenda.

      I've long said that Skewers are the most interesting conclusion of the model and long felt that we can consider the structure of the model largely correct and complete when we can stop talking about how to define GNS and start talking about Skewers.  Noone plays Sim, or plays Gamist, or plays Nar...what we play are Skewers.  Like a good Shish Kabob we all have our favorite ingredients that we like to have stuck on the stick whenever we light up the grill...and those are our play preferences.  For some Immersion is an important ingredient on their skewer.  Some won't eat the kabob if its got percentile dice (Ephemera) on it.  Others really love to throw a huge hunk of Director Stance on the end.  After that the ingredients are pretty interchangeable.  Every game we play is a different Skewer because at the very least its got a different set of Ephemera (3d6 vs. a d20)...which is kind of like having the same main ingredients but varying the condiments.  Playing the same game with a different group (even 1 player different) is a different Skewer because what we spear through in the Social Contract layer will be different.  Hell, playing the same game with the same group on a different night may wind up with a different Skewer because of social events that just happened that color play that night (how charred is the mushroom this time around).

      How we actually play...you, me, Mike, Ron, anybody...is a Skewer.  Skewers are fun.  Skewers are interesting.  Skewers are IMO the only thing left worth talking about in the Big Model*

      Bricolage is a Skewer.  A very explicit combination of Agenda, Techniqes, and Ephemera elements that all combine together for a very specific play experience.  I'd also add, given the unique social situation of the play group from which you are drawing your experience from, quite a lot of Social Contract in the application of Bricolage as you've described.  Quite probably the first fully described, fully realized Skewer presented on the Forge congratulations.

      I think the whole concept of Bricolage becomes much more useful, productive, and exciting as a Skewer and I hope you'll agree and begin to present it as such rather than try to stuff it in as a Creative Agenda where in just doesn't fit.

      ---------
      *In my opinion Skewers are one use only items.  Any single individual Skewer exists only for that single specific instance of play and then is gone forever.  The next instance of play will be a brand new unique Skewer with subtle differences to the Social Contract Layer (a little more salt here, less pepper there) as the social dynamic within a group (even within a single play session) changes (in that sense Skewers are more like Fondue than Kabobs perhaps).

      What we then more rightly talk about are families of Skewers...which are like recipies in that every time you make the dish it's going to be a little bit different, but still similar enough to recognize as that dish.  Bricolage is a family of Skewers.  Not only is how someone else experience Bricolage going to different from the way Jay experiences it because they're group will have a different social dynamic but they might also swap out a few other ingredients as well yet still have something identifiable as Bricolage.

      Identifying the core specific elements that absolutely positively have to be on the Skewer along with commone variant ingredients is a fascinating subject.  Like a recipe, just how much can you change the ingredients for Aunt Edna's Rhubarb Pie and still be able to call it Aunt Edna's Rhubarb Pie...How can we come to recognize when its become Cousin Frieda's Rhubarb Pie instead...



      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: M. J. Young on December 01, 2005, 06:04:57 PM
      Quote from: Mike Holmes
      Ah, but we're just deluding ourselves. I see.

      Engage in ad hominem all you want, I’m still gonna keep plugging along working at process and product while you take digs at me.
      That actually was not a dig at you; it was a touch sarcastic, but it was self-referential. The idea is that we claim to have fun, but you claim we are not having fun. More on that in a moment.

      Quote from: Jay
      Could you please explain to me how me arguing something about theory means I am saying people aren’t having fun?  Could you make that connection for me please, because I’m not seeing it?....

      Quote from: Mike
      I'm talking about fun, functional play. Which must have a CA by definition.

      Not that I can find.

      The problem here is that creative agendum is rather broad and rich conceptually, and covers a lot of ground that's hard to describe concisely without risking misunderstanding. The agendum is the "why" of play, in the sense of "what we expect to get" from play. That means that "agendum" is "this is the thing that will make play fun, if we can get it". Play that has no "thing that will make play fun" by definition cannot be "fun".

      Thus--
      Quote from: Jay
      ...people can have fun throwing bottle caps at each other.  Not having a theoretically recognized or designated CA does not in any way “mean” people aren’t having fun.
      --misses the point. "Throwing bottle caps at each other" has an agendum that makes it fun. It does not have a creative agendum because it is not a creative activity. Creative agendum means whatever it is about our mutual creative activity that makes it fun. Without that, the act of creation is not fun.

      Hence, genuine "zilchplay", if it exists, would indeed mean play devoid of any fun or even of any genuine expectation of fun.

      So, too, whether we have engaged in "enjoyable" play is very much part of the issue at stake. If play was fun, then it was so because we got whatever we were seeking from it, and what we were seeking is our agendum, and since we were seeking it through the creation of the shared imagined space it was our creative agendum. If we had fun roleplaying, we met our creative agendum. That's fundamental to the model. If we had no agendum, we could never have met it, and so could never have had fun.

      I'll gladly concede that there might yet be another agendum, but to date everything I have seen that has been included in concepts of "fun simulationist play" shares a common nature I call discovery and Ron calls The Dream. I don't see a compelling reason to split that, to say that some of what we have to date called simulationist play is really seeking one kind of fun and some is seeking another, even if (as happens in other agenda) players are seeking that same kind of fun in different ways. The difference between gamblers and crunchers is one of how we are seeking; the difference between gamists and narrativists is a difference in what we are seeking. Simulationism is a "what we are seeking", a creative agendum. Bricolage still seems to me to be a "how we are seeking", technique, or if you want to suggest something broader than technique (more akin to the gambler/cruncher distinction), methodology.

      If I were to accept your "bricolage" definition, I would have to discard this (and several other forms of play, such as Ralph's exploration of system by testing what actually happens given the mechanics rules) and begin the search for a new agendum which fits what it is these players--including I--are seeking.

      This is very intriguing to me as I ask myself, “Why is this an issue?”  Why do you as a GM or a Player have to discard anything because of a theoretical construct?  You don’t have to do anything.  If the style of play you enjoy is functional – then God Bless!  By all means keep doing what is and has been successful and enjoyable to you!  But that does not illuminate what is going on as a process during CA expression as the Model has been formulated.  The Model is a theoretical construct that tries to explain observed human behaviors expressed during play – it is not prescriptive.  You can still continue to seek that which you enjoy in your games – my arguments have nothing to do with that at all.  That particular concern is a non-issue.  Conversely if it can be effectively argued that “bricolage” is something that is truly unique to a given CA and thus deserves it own “CA designation,” I have no problem with that either.

      I apologize for this; I was not sufficiently clear in my statement. By "discard" I meant "remove from the category of simulationist play" and possibly "remove from the category of fun functional play because it is lacking that which makes play both fun and functional, a creative agendum". It is on the theoretical level that this "discard" would occur, in that it would say in essence that although people claim to have had fun roleplaying in these various ways, since there is no creative agendum behind such play they were only fooling themselves into thinking they were having fun, because they were supposed to be having fun. I'm sure that happens, but I'm not prepared to throw entire categories of play into that dustbin.

      Oh, and you can quote Chris anytime, as long as it's in small doses. The man is brilliant, and I cherish his insights, but I have to spend many hours trying to digest anything of his that's longer than a paragraph before I'm sure I've got it. (That's only slightly exaggerated, and I do love his stuff.)

      In reviewing that, though, I'm going to agree with Ralph that Bricolage is a skewer. I hesitated to do so for one reason, but I've decided he's right for another.

      My hesitation arises from the realization that I'm not sure Chris, as he used the term, ever meant that bricolage as either process or product was exclusive to simulationism. I believe he was attempting to elucidate the essential concept of exploration, that in all role playing we use elements provided (within the general scope, as another recent thread might have put it) to create new elements. What elements are permitted is controlled by creative agendum and techniques and ephemera and indeed by social contract itself, but all role playing, by Chris' description, entails bricolage as he identified it.

      Further, I see what you're saying about what really amounts to dual meanings of the word, that bricolage is both the process and the product, not because the same thing is both, but really because the word has two meanings. (That's confusing, and you really should figure out whether one of those two meanings can be given a different label if you want the term to be useful.) There is a process called bricolage, and the product of that process is also called bricolage, but the product is not the process nor the process the product. The product bricolage is the result of the process bricolage, and in discussions to this point I have not perceived that distinction. However, even with that distinction, what you've got (admittedly I'm putting it less eloquently here) is "we use an agreed collection of objects to make something, and the objective is to have made whatever it is we make." If that's what it means, that's the definition of "exploration", the box into which all creative agenda fit. In order for it to become the definition of creative agendum, it's got to describe whatever it is we're making in a way that explains why we want to make that instead of something else. Story Now is a possible product of bricolage; so is Step On Up. What is it about the simulationist product of bricolage that defines it as distinct from any other potential product? What are we trying to create, and why do we care about it? These are the questions Creative Agendum answers.

      You are correct that the model is based entirely on observed behavior; yet Story Now and Step On Up are not observed behaviors, but inferred motivations/objectives from those behaviors. We observe that players take risks and conclude that they are thereby showing off their courage. We observe that players address premise and conclude that they are thereby attempting to create significant story. What is it that bricolage is trying to create, besides that it is trying to create what it does create? What is that product, other than the product of the process? Saying that bricolage creates what bricolage creates gets me no closer to understanding why people play like this. Why do we want to create that? Why is it fun? What do we get out of it? I realize that at some level you can't analyze "fun" any more completely, but right now I don't see anything here that gets beyond dumping junk parts on the floor or throwing paint on the wall. There must be something about that which is being created that is desired by the creators, and that's where you're going to find the agendum.

      All that said, in a way Ralph has really hit the nail on the head: you've co-opted the term "bricolage" to describe a particular set of skewers which include simulationist agendum and a number of techniques. You're not using it in exactly the same way Chris is (because his use would not have been limited to simulationism), and in your usage it covers a particular collection of items from different boxes that makes it always simulationist.

      Thank you, Ralph, for recalling that concept; I had forgotten it, and it fits quite well here.

      --M. J. Young


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: Supplanter on December 01, 2005, 08:45:47 PM
      I've long said that Skewers are the most interesting conclusion of the model and long felt that we can consider the structure of the model largely correct and complete when we can stop talking about how to define GNS and start talking about Skewers.

      Hear to the hear to the hear hear hear!

      And for my money, the "constructive denial" formulation gets us there. (For others it will have happened long since.) There's no further reason to worry the issue of "sim qua sim" - or even "nar qua nar." As you point out, "sim" and "nar" don't exist except as a layered meal. My personal skewer bundle is a kind of vanilla narrativism, or maybe "French Vanilla Narrativism" or what Ginger Stampley and I have taken to calling aerobic narrativism. Other people will have "virtual nonfiction" sim skewers etc.

      I do think that among actual gamers, their bedrock demand, the thing they insist MUST be on the kabob no matter what, may not come from the creative agenda layer but from the social or explorative or technical agenda levels. It's a cliche that people come to the Forge and complain about players they've known who "only want to have meandering in-character conversations." If these talkative players gravitate to sim games (campaigns and systems), and I think they do, it's because a lot of sim games serve their technical agenda of going to town with actor stance, not that actor stance serves their sim goals. My sneaking suspicion is that there are players out there attracted to nar games with heavy director stance options because they like director stance more than because they like narrativism. Etc. Not sure if this is currently controversial or settled doctrine.

      So I think this thread identifies a non-coincidental association of sim with a forebearance/abhorrence regarding distributed metagame situation-creation mechanics - it's what I was talking about in the AP Transhuman Space thread. A lot of sim has historically been virtual biographers finding virtual historians; or virtual amusement park directors attracting virtual riders. Then Ron's "testing of the resistance" occurs. It's harder to immediately see where the testable resistance is if you hand the situation and setting-creation tools to everyone. Not impossible: it's even sort of how Ars Magica has often been played, right? But even there IIUC the common practice was to parcel out "territories" (literal or otherwise) to different participants. That way every piece of it was still "testable" by non-creators.

      Best,


      Jim


      Title: Re: "Situation Creation" mechanics - and Sim
      Post by: contracycle on December 02, 2005, 03:58:57 AM
      I can't myself see bricolage as a skewer; that would suggest bricolage would appear only in some sim games.  But, I also do not see why MJ says that accepting the thesis requires the abandoning of exploration of system - to revert to the initial example, nothing about the bricoleurs activity prevents them from flicking the power on and off for the toasters element and thereby learning more about the properties of the objects they find in their shed.  I don't see how or why the bricolage hypothesis contradicts anything.