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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: lumpley on February 03, 2003, 12:30:28 PM



Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: lumpley on February 03, 2003, 12:30:28 PM
This is a non-biggie.
Quote from: Ron's Sim Essay (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/15/)
Layering may be employed to establish and identify the character's plausibility in terms of the game-world itself. For a look at the historical differences among games, compare the methods for establishing player-character skill competence in early RuneQuest (Simulationist) with those of Hero Wars (Narrativist). In Hero Wars, the system limits how many of the thirty or so starting abilities are assigned high values (two really good ones and one great one), but not which ones. Whereas in RuneQuest, every skill has a starting-character value based on its commonality and difficulty to learn, and every skill is rated in money regarding learning higher values of competence, based both on difficulty to learn and who teaches the skill. Hero Wars character creation, which is minimally layered, isn't concerned with the implausibility of having a mastery-level in Greatsword be just as "likely" as having it in Farming; RuneQuest character creation, which is maximally layered, emphatically is.

To repeat, the above point is historical. Whether the distinction I've drawn holds for any and all Simulationist play potential, I don't know.

For most of the 90s, I played games like GURPS but don't count points, or Ars Magica but don't count points, or even (implausibly enough) Shadowrun but don't count points.  What mattered there wasn't whether your character was likely in the setting, but whether your character was possible.  That is, the PCs weren't supposed to be a cross section of the general population, they could be exceptional, and so of course you could have mastery-level greatsword if you wanted.  Just meant you were the few, the proud.  We had dogma about how you should get to play the character you wanted - I mean, we're not competing, so why limit points?  Your character would cost more points than mine, big schmeal.  You're further out on the bell curve.

I still think so, when I think Sim.

I can't think of any published games that do it this way, but it has to have been pretty common in drift.  Everybody I knew had thought about it, and most of us played that way.

Just to say that I'm confident that the distinction doesn't in fact hold for all Sim play.

-Vincent


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 03, 2003, 01:49:21 PM
Hi Vincent,

I wish folks would recognize that the term "may," in my prose, is not a wishy-washy qualifier but rather a real and meaningful word. It means that what follows is one way the issues at hand can play out, as opposed to the way it must play out.

In other words, yes - some Sim play/design, not all of it. It most especially shows up in the sort that includes a significant randomized factor in character design, which is why I chose RuneQuest for my example. To a lesser extent, extensive prereq-layering has the same effect in canonical GURPS play, which as Vincent points out is commonly Drifted from.

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: lumpley on February 03, 2003, 01:56:57 PM
Hey, Ron.

Actually it was the "I don't know" that I was taking seriously and responding to.  I was confirming what seemed to be a conjecture or suspicion on your part.

-Vincent


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 03, 2003, 02:18:32 PM
Got it, Vincent!

I seem to be a little spikey today; I'll try to settle down.

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 03, 2003, 08:22:02 PM
This is a "biggie" in my opinion.

That is, for players dedicated to very Sim play, points are a bad thing.

Let me back up a bit. It's explained in GURPS that the designers are aware that the points do not "balance". They say that the point of the point system is to give players an idea of approximately how many points a character should have spent on him to be of a reasonable type for a particular genre. Fanasy heroes have x, "normals" have y, "Supers" have z, etc, etc. Thus, a player is prevented from taking a character that is way off kilter in terms of what he has for abilities by the point limit.

Which seems to make some sense. I'll even sorta buy it for beginners. By which I mean to say, a player who starts out, may not realize that an 18 in a stat is very high for some genres.

But.

That would mean that the player is more in tune with math than he is with reading. A rare state. I say this because on the same page (facing page?) of GURPS that has the charts for points there is a chart that offers descriptions of what each level of stat means. And elsewhere, there's another chart that tells you what level of skill translates to what. So, obviously, a player reading that can make a character from just those descriptions. Assuming he can describe a reasonable human being, or superhero, or whatever is being simulated. Which I have great faith in. If a player can't describe how powerful a superhero is ("he can lift a...locomotive"), I'm not sure he'll like supers play.

Further, there's another problem. In actual use, players are always scrambling to find points to make a decent protagonist. Since there are ways to make a character more powerful than others using the same pool of points, this informs players that they are looking for the most efficient way to spend points. Again, the text admits that this phenomenon exists (this analysis may be in one of the compendiums), and even tries to pass it off as a feature of the game. Anyhow, the text is saying that players should be looking for these efficiencies.

So what's really going on here? The problem is historical. GURPS developed from TFT and Champions and, perhaps, as Ron mentions BRP. All of these, in fact all games at the time (and in fact most games to date), assume a vertain level of Gamism in players. Gamism? In GURPS? Well, of course. It's easy to sit here with all our theory and say, gee, that'd a case of incoherent design. But most designers don't have the advantage of that theory. From their POV, and as Ron points out in his essay, they needed to prevent "creeping gamism". Let's face it, no matter what face they put on it, Point based chargen is an attempt to balance by limiting character effectiveness.

The problem is that creating a group of characters that are all the same "effectiveness" simulates nothing in particular. In fact, it artificially limits players who know better how to create a character that fits a genre. than to just cut him off at a certain number of points. And this is almost all players, or at least any with a true Sim bent.

As such, it's no surprise that players like Vincent and myself see no need for point systems. They are not informative in a useful manner (at least none I've ever seen), and they almost always make creation of the character envisioned difficult.

The bleeding doesn't stop here, however. The reward system gives rewards for play, which is fine. But the rewards are used to make more powerful characters, which again informs that the game is somehow about being powerful. The only use of which that I can see is for the player to be able to use the character to compete more effectively.

Now, some of you may be seeing a big problem comng down the road. And that is that, given what I've delineated, nearly all Sim games suffer from the "problem" of a hybrid Sim/Gamist design. The question is, when is this actually a problem, and when is it a feature? Can one design a Sim game that is not a hybrid? Are there any at all?

And a worse question. What is the reward system in a Sim game? If you give a player a metagame reward, well, that promotes Gamism or Narrativism according to the essay. If you give a character an in-game character improvement, then that must simulate some action that the character takes. If not, then the reward violates causality. If it does simulate some action, then it's just the outcome of the system in application, and no more rewarding particularly than the GM announcing that a character has successfully entered a bar after a player announced his intent that said character was trying to enter.

So is play itself the only reward possible for a player who prefers Sim? Or are all "Sim" selecting players also posessed of secondary metagame goals (which might make those hybrid designs less "problematic" after all)?

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: clehrich on February 03, 2003, 09:15:44 PM
Mike,

Brilliant analysis!  Thanks.

Can I inject a metaphor?  This one is pretty literal, and I don't mean it to be taken much farther than the obvious.

If you think about the hobby of building model ships, there are a series of progressive stages.  Not that everyone has to go through them all, but there is certainly an elitism of "we've gotten to the top, you haven't."  This elitism is based on two factors: kit-building vs. scratch-building, and historical research.  The beginner buys a kit, usually a plastic one, and puts it together according to instructions.  Then he tries a kit where you actually have to rig the sails, but only a basic version --- you don't have to do all the lines and blocks.  And so on, until you have the guy who mills all his own parts out of raw wood, studies every possible detail about one ship, and builds it from soup to nuts with his own hands, every knot, block, tackle, line, halliard, and everything; he even hand-models his cannon, building a wooden mockup on a tiny lathe, then making a plaster mold, and then pouring molten lead.

The point here is this.  To the hard-core scratch-builder who's into heavy research (the ultimate Sim guy, just in a different medium), using a kit amounts to getting someone else to do all the interesting work --- it's missing the point.  Similarly, building a "fantasy" ship is stupid, because unless you actually know a hell of a lot about real ship-building (as opposed to models), you don't know if it will float.

This structure extends into actual sailing ship life.  If you've read Patrick O'Brian's novels, you may remember when Jack was assigned to the Polychrest, which was designed according to "scientific principles" by someone who knew nothing about sailing.  Naturally, it sank at the first really heavy cross-swell.

So I think the Sim guy here allies himself to the "real thing," the sailor (or soldier, or knight, or whatever).  His ideal is a transparent mechanism, as Ron points out, because his ideal is really to live the game in the "dream."  Kits and instructions translate into mechanics: ideally, you don't need them if you're "the real thing."  (This I think is Mike's point about pure Sim.)

The problem is that, and I think this is my essential point for the metaphor, he doesn't trust the other guy.  He "knows" he could do it all without mechanics, but the guy next to him is going to "cheat," meaning he'll build a fantasy ship from a kit, knowing nothing about real sailing.  For the Sim guy, this is anathema, a sin against the hobby.  But at the same time, he's so in love with the hobby that he wants everyone else to come to see it the way he does, to "get it right," because he genuinely believes that if they do, they will love it and get more out of it.

So he designs kits, to get people into it.

Or, to get back to RPGs, he designs systems.

And along the way, of course, he gets so entranced by the excitement of building the perfect kit, the one kit that will really get people to see the real thing without blinders, he forgets that the mechanics were a means to an end.

What I like about the metaphor is that it recognizes the hard Simulationist's confusion, his narrow-mindedness, and also at the same time his really genuine desire to draw others into sharing this wonderful dream with him.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 03, 2003, 09:29:17 PM
Hey,

I wanna hug everyone. We're discussing Simulationism and no one's getting mad.

Mike and I have batted the issue about points around for a while. Another factor to consider is the sheer beauty of a Purist for System design, in terms of points, math, and structure. I've been reading Pocket Universe again and just marvelling at its perfect refinement of The Fantasy Trip and GURPS into a speedboat of play, solving at least six problems inherent to the previous games in interlocking ways.

Although I agree in full with Mike's and Chris' comments above, in fact am greatly appreciative of them, this aesthetic-engineering value can be recognized as a possible goal as well, such that aggressively point-based Sim design might not necessarily be a "poor second" to the pure-transparency unreachable ideal.

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: clehrich on February 03, 2003, 09:51:08 PM
Ron,

What's to fight about?  Nonono -- don't tell me. :)
Quote
Although I agree in full with Mike's and Chris' comments above, in fact am greatly appreciative of them, this aesthetic-engineering value can be recognized as a possible goal as well, such that aggressively point-based Sim design might not necessarily be a "poor second" to the pure-transparency unreachable ideal.

I think you're right here.  This is, I think, what you referred to as the Purists for System, am I right?

My only problem is that I honestly don't get the aesthetics of this.  I understand Sim when it's "let's simulate X genre/world/setting/etc."  At least, I think I do --- I used to think that way myself.  But I don't get "let's simulate everything there could possibly be."

Incidentally, and actually I do think it's related, I recall a discussion on rec.games.rpg (I think it was), about 15 years ago (Hey John?  You don't have a copy do you?), about "the right way to simulate combat."  The usual thing.

So this guy writes a very long post which begins with a stock trope: "Well I once actually did X so I know what I'm talking about better than you."  Only he tells us that he has this one friend who's a blacksmith, and made armor and swords, and another friend who's a SCA fighter and did the fight choreography, and another friend who's (get this) a moritician and provided two dead bodies, and another friend who's a puppeteer and controlled these bodies, and and and and.  It was absolutely hilarious.  The best part was: a surprising number of responders actually took this 100% seriously, and critiqued the methodology at various junctures!

Now my point is (apart from telling a funny anecdote) that I get why people would be totally serious about the right way to simulate combat and death and so forth.  But I don't get why someone would say, "Sure, but your system mechanics for these dead bodies don't take into account the possiblity that it might be aliens fighting, and their bones would be structured differently, and the whole system has to take all those possibilities into account."  This totalism of system has always struck me as odd.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: John Kim on February 04, 2003, 12:11:55 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Now, some of you may be seeing a big problem comng down the road. And that is that, given what I've delineated, nearly all Sim games suffer from the "problem" of a hybrid Sim/Gamist design. The question is, when is this actually a problem, and when is it a feature? Can one design a Sim game that is not a hybrid? Are there any at all?


Well, I would point to Traveller as being designed pretty directly for Simulation-oriented play.  Character generation is actually aimed at simulating something (skill development in service), and doesn't seem to aim much for balance.  Characters can advance only by in-character study.  Other more simulation-oriented game designs that spring to mind for me are HarnMaster and SkyRealms of Jorune.  

I think there is an odd facet of your terminology that you say "Sim" games have hybrid "Sim/Game" design.  I would say that rather they are hybrid in both intent and design.  


Quote from: Mike Holmes
And a worse question. What is the reward system in a Sim game?  ...   If it does simulate some action, then it's just the outcome of the system in application, and no more rewarding particularly than the GM announcing that a character has successfully entered a bar after a player announced his intent that said character was trying to enter.


I think that is exactly the point.  A player who values simulation wouldn't want to collect some sort of arbitrary reward, which seems more of a Game.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: JMendes on February 04, 2003, 12:42:56 AM
Hey, :)

Quote from: After some considerations about the inherent gamism of existing sim designs, Mike Holmes
And a worse question. What is the reward system in a Sim game?


Hmm... This is something we've thrown around before... lemme dig up... ah, here: Is S out of balance with G/N (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=41017)

Mike, in your opinion, do the final points in that thread address this question and your considerations?

Cheers,

J.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 04, 2003, 06:58:57 AM
Quote from: JMendes

Mike, in your opinion, do the final points in that thread address this question and your considerations?

Definitely a maybe. I'd play it, for example. :-)

There are some players, however, who refuse to accept anything even slightly metagame. For these players, perhaps there is no reward except play?

The interesting question is, however, does the fact that I like metagame in my play mean that I don't prefer Sim? If you look at my play, I think you'll see that it's quite Simmy, actually. I'm not looking for some question to answer, I'm just playing the character, and checking out the universe. But somehow, metagame doesn't bug me at all. I switch between Author and Actor stance a lot. The author stance is simply used to do things like looking at the GMs plot and figuring how best to have fun following it (as opposed to authoring theme).

So, am I just one of those players who's confused and should be saying "Shit! I'm playing Narrativist"? Or is the metagame exclusive requirement overstated?

I think that Ron has created a construct that stands only to support his definition. That is, as soon as there's any like of metagame, it's not Sim. But wait, Ron points out that there is a Sim metagame! But then what is all the talk about wedges of metagame agenda sneaking in and such? Well, it seems to me that Ron is just referring to player priorities. That is, a Gamist likes metagame that allows success. The Narrativist likes metagame that empowers his telling of story. And the Simulationist likes metagame that allows versimillitude.

What is the ability to build a universe in those games that Ron states are "interesting uses of director stance", if not exploration empowering metagame?

I guess this is my point. I think the whole metagame issue is a big smoke screen. I think it was simpler, and more to the point to simply say that Sim empowering games gave priority to some sort of exploration. I think Ron's points about Theme are more salient, but I have some problems there as well.

Now, there are some players for whom metagame will be a problem as I've said. There is a subset of players who, like the Turku school, eschew any outside elements. But I say that they are a subset of Sim, not the totality. This relates to simulations in general (I'm not saying that the two are inextricably linked, just that there is a correllation here), in that in a simulation there are internal and external variables. Some Sim players like to only deal with the internal variables, and some like to play with all of them (I suppose the Sim GM could be said to an extent to potantially have a preference for only the external variables).

Anyhow, the "Internal" Sim player will tell you that you get a more powerful experience by locking yourself inside the simulation. The "Internal/External" player like myself will say that one can still have a powerful experience and not limit themselves to just one side. This boils down to simple player preference.

So, for the Internal Sim player, I think there is no "reward" but play itself (or maybe I'm not looking at it closely enough). For the External Sim player, all sorts of metagame rewards, like the ones proposed in the thread mentioned, are completely valid.

At least that's my take on it at the moment.

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: xiombarg on February 04, 2003, 07:04:17 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
As such, it's no surprise that players like Vincent and myself see no need for point systems. They are not informative in a useful manner (at least none I've ever seen), and they almost always make creation of the character envisioned difficult.
Just as a quick aside, I'd like to add a data point to y'all's assertion that Simulationists would rather do without points. When my friend Blade runs GURPS, he has everyone submit a text description of their character, set to match the theme and genre expectations he's given the players. Then he, as GM, stats them. This isn't because he doesn't trust the players, but for the exact reason you mention: To make sure the character fits the shared player/GM vision for the game, and the character is accurately simulated, points be damned. He does use the points as a thumbnail sense of character effeciveness to prevent disfunctional Gamist creep ("I can make a GOD!"), but it ends there.

Also, in terms of reward systems, Blade doesn't really worry about XP... your character simply changes as makes sense within the game world. Very Simulationist. As J says, the reward is screen time: Generally, those character concepts that best fit the game -- and the world -- get more screen time, the reward being "embedded" in play as MK Snyder points out at the start of the thread J mentioned.

Though Blade doesn't know poop about GNS (unless he's been reading the Forge without telling me, which is possible), I think his style is an excellent example of "points free" Simulationist play. (Also, as an aside within an aside, an example of how "wild" a world one can simulate -- one of his GURPS games featured college students in a version of the modern-day world where wildly varied forms magic, pagan gods, and time-travel were known to exist, and featured characters as diverse as an Avatar of Justice and a character sent back in time for his college education -- as that was cheaper than paying for college in his home time.)


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Valamir on February 04, 2003, 07:08:24 AM
Mike I think your touching in a different way on my own thoughts on the matter.  I don't see the Metagame question as a smoke screen, rather perhaps mistaking a symptom for the cause.

In otherwords I do think that by and large there is a pretty widespread resistance to metagame in sims...but I don't think that's because the sim players have an issue with the metagame mechanic itself.  Rather the issue is their fear of what the metagame mechanic might be used for.  You as a sim player have no trouble with accepting metagame in your sims because you are fully capable of using metagame to support the sim rather than tear it down...in much the same way we've suggested the same about Author and Director stance being possible in a Sim.

I've suggested before that truly devoted sim player who are all in tune with other can play full bore sim without any "mechanics" at all.  The entire game can be played on a metagame level because there is no fear of gamist creep (I've seen historical minis gamers play out an entire battle with no mechanics other than their mutual judgement of how a unit could move and the number of expected casualties at a given range...there was debate to be sure, and citations to relevant texts, but not a single chart, table, or die roll).

So I don't think that "no metagame" is part of a definition of Sim, I think it is a common way Sim games defend against non sim creep.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: xiombarg on February 04, 2003, 07:45:51 AM
Quote from: Valamir
So I don't think that "no metagame" is part of a definition of Sim, I think it is a common way Sim games defend against non sim creep.
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 04, 2003, 08:18:18 AM
Hi there,

Mike, I agree with you. It's clear to me that there is a Sim metagame - any behaviors, actions, dialogues, etc, which preserve the integrity of "the dream" and its internal workings. What makes it difficult to discuss is, since Gamist and Narrativist metagames are so recognizable, and so clearly intrusive (even at their subtlest) by comparison, that giving them the "metagame" tag is way too easy to do in dialogue.

My prose hobbles around this issue without managing to pin it. But for the record, I agree with you completely. I also think that discussing the range of "acceptable" Sim metagame activity, rules and otherwise, would help us grasp the issue of acceptable/enjoyable reward systems as well.

For instance, I've been thinking that both (1) the improve-skill through-usage and (2) add-points veeeeery-slowly methods are, in many ways, barely reward systems at all. The former (in the games I'm thinking of) is honed down to an in-game model on a par with damage systems and perception rolls; and the latter is, essentially non-existent except over very large increments (multiple sessions) of play.

So what might be a reward system that really rewards the player? Let's get away, or mostly away, from "character gets better at to-hit." Director power? Feh. Only in a game which has that as an important mechanic, which remains mainly terra incognita for Sim game design at this point. I'm thinking we should turn our attention to the already-existing Metagame component of characters in the first place - their "situated-ness" in the game-world. Contacts, DNPCs (to use Champs talk), Hunters/Enemies, social status, relationships with the law ...

And Pocket Universe hits me between the eyes with its few short paragraphs about its Contacts rules. H'm. I'd like to play this game and never (or hardly ever) use the experience system to bulk up the characters' effectiveness - just pump it all into the Contacts system and watch the social/placement aspects of the characters expand and intertwine ...

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 04, 2003, 08:18:46 AM
Quote from: xiombarg
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?
Sure, theoretically. But it all depends on the particular design. If a metagme mechanic is designed correctly, it can be made such that it requires a lot of effort (if not quite making it impossible), to ignore the Narrativist questions that it posits.

Anyone can play against the nature of any game. Ralph's point from the other thread.

And it's not even a bad thing. If the player prefers that mode, to the extent that they're willing to put in such effort, then trying to change them with a system that promotes something else is a mistake.


Um, what Ralph said, above, regarding the other stuff. Peronally, I like system, and woudn't play without it. It's not a Sim goal to play systemless. But Ralph is correct that a group that preferred to could do so if they wanted. So the point is illustrative in that manner. What it says is that in "pure Sim" the system only supports what the players want to in terms of what is to be explored (including, potentially, the system itself).

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Balbinus on February 04, 2003, 08:31:18 AM
Interesting discussion here, which ties into some concerns I've had for a while with existing sim designs.

Mike gets it spot on with his Gurps analysis.  Continued play is rewarded via a mechanic which increases character power, which has nothing to do with sim play.  How is my exploration of Thirteenth century France improved by the characters all getting steadily better at fighting?  It's a gamist reward, an artefact of gaming history.

For me, a sim reward mechanic would be one which codified in-game benefits in a manner which was not merely reflective of ever increasing power.

Some of you may recall my ongoing interest in codifying relationship mechanics, in advancement through contacts and reputation rather than skill and ability.

That, for me, is a truly sim reward mechanic.  Your character does not necessarily become more powerful but they do become more connected to the setting, more a part of the sim itself.  Reward here would actually reinforce the sim aspects of the game, an ongoing game would be a fuller and richer sim than a one-shot.

As an aside, for me the games which most clearly have a sim advancement mechanic as presently done are Traveller and Castle Falkenstein.  In each there is no metagame advancement, characters improve only if they do things in game which would lead to such improvement.  Purist and very sim.  Sits a little oddly with the rest of CF actually, but that's another debate.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: xiombarg on February 04, 2003, 08:53:46 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: xiombarg
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?
Sure, theoretically. But it all depends on the particular design. If a metagme mechanic is designed correctly, it can be made such that it requires a lot of effort (if not quite making it impossible), to ignore the Narrativist questions that it posits.
Right, then. If that's the case, why did Sim designers feel the need to ignore metagame entirely to "protect" against drift? Why not design a metagame mechanic that is difficult to "drift" for Gamist or Narrativist purposes? Is there such a thing?

Yeah, I know, lots of questions and no answers. Perhaps a "screen time" mechanic, where players can focus the "camera" on certain aspects of the characters or world? Difficult to subvert for Gamist reasons, but it could be subvertable for Narrativist reasons...


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: JMendes on February 04, 2003, 08:56:30 PM
Hey, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
So what might be a reward system that really rewards the player? Let's get away, or mostly away, from "character gets better at to-hit." Director power? Feh. Only in a game which has that as an important mechanic, which remains mainly terra incognita for Sim game design at this point. I'm thinking we should turn our attention to the already-existing Metagame component of characters in the first place - their "situated-ness" in the game-world. Contacts, DNPCs (to use Champs talk), Hunters/Enemies, social status, relationships with the law ...


I feel an urgent need to point out that contacts and reputation are just as valid measures of character effectiveness as to-hit and HP stuff. I have a player in my regular gaming group (L5R) who doesn't give a hoot about combat effectiveness but lives and breathes to increase his character's social standing.

In other words, and of course this is all just in my opinion, rewarding players by giving their characters more contacts is a gamist mechanic, just as much as XPs are. Also, I'll point out that if a player accurately simms the actions of a character who just went through a lonely hike through fearful terrain, rewarding that player by giving the character a new contact is, well, ugly, from a sim standpoint. Again, IMHO.

Lastly, I'd  like to address the following:

Quote from: xiombarg
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?


I thnik we need to distinguish between drift (conscious and within the social contract) and creep (unconscious or breaking/subverting the contract). Or at least, that's how I'm reading these terms. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

On that note, I don't think creep is restricted to sim play. For instance, 'story points' are generally regarded as a pure nar design, but you may well find players unwittingly competing amongst themselves for such points, thus constituting gamist creep.

Hope I made sense. :)

Cheers,

J.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 04, 2003, 09:17:57 PM
Hi J.,

Couple things ...

1) Nothing in any of my theorizing, anyway, relies on a distinction between "conscious" and "unconscious" elements.

2) In the section you quoted, when I'm talking about Effectiveness, I'm talking about something very specific, as outlined in the GNS essay. I'm talking about values or capabilities on the character's sheet which are used for resolution.

Therefore:

- Sword +4 is an Effectiveness value
- Social rank: nobleman is a Metagame element
- Contact +1 (princess) is a combination of the two

I think you're applying the term "effectiveness" too broadly, using it in the common sense of "important" or "useful." I'm using it in the technical sense that I defined, such that I think your friend exemplifies and corroborates my point rather than refutes it.

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: clehrich on February 04, 2003, 09:18:10 PM
These comments about standing and contacts remind me of the AD&D idea of Guilds.  In effect, you had a Guild of each class, and I always had the sense that the level mechanics were supposed to imply some sort of parallel organization actually out there in the game world.  This was made explicit with the Monk class, where there could only be one of each of the highest levels, if I remember correctly (Grand Master of Flowers seems to be caught in the "hooks-and-eyes" of my memory).

So to give Gygax and the gang their due, I wonder if this wasn't part of the idea of levels in the beginning.  You got more powerful in direct combat terms, of course, but your power was "graded" by a more or less shadowy organization of people of your profession.  So when some dude came along to the local Adventurers' Tavern and said, "Hey, I've got this dungeon needs sweeping; big treasure, but some seriously ugly caterpillars," you pass this on to the low-level guys.  When a similar dude says, "Hey, my castle has been taken over by this wicked powerful [sorry, I'm from Boston] lich-lord," you refer the "case" to the big guns.

Now if you think about it, this structure would imply that every profession has mid-level "agents" in any big town, and a whole civil service of such agents in Greyhawk or something.  And now that I think of it, wasn't there some suggestion that precisely this was going on?  So in the straight AD&D Greyhawk world, didn't actual people go around town saying, "Wow, that guy over there looks like a seriously powerful Lawful Evil Fighter, better steer clear of him"?

Of course, it's a weird way to imagine a world in the first place, but I really think they were trying to Sim that very strange world.  In fact, I'm getting all warm and fuzzy about that bizarre world.... <please, this is a cry for help!>


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: JMendes on February 04, 2003, 10:13:29 PM
Hey, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) Nothing in any of my theorizing, anyway, relies on a distinction between "conscious" and "unconscious" elements.


Yes. I myself was a bit fuzzy on what I was thinking as I was typing. Perhaps I should have just said that drift is within the social contract wheras creep is not. Then again, I may be reading the terms wrong and they might just be interchangeable...

What I'm getting at is that, whilst I think that combatting creep makes a lot of sense, combatting drift doesn't seem to. If your design is going to be played by people with different priorities, then it's going to be drifted and that's that.

Quote
2) In the section you quoted, when I'm talking about Effectiveness, I'm talking about something very specific, as outlined in the GNS essay. I'm talking about values or capabilities on the character's sheet which are used for resolution.
<snip>
I think you're applying the term "effectiveness" too broadly, using it in the common sense of "important" or "useful." I'm using it in the technical sense that I defined, such that I think your friend exemplifies and corroborates my point rather than refutes it.


Erm... Lost me there... Could you expand? That is, I understand the distinction you draw between effectiveness and metagame (or so I think - see below) and indeed my usage of the terms was incorrect. But I don't see how my friend's attitudes support your suggestion to reward sim play via in-game contacts and social standings and the like. His seems to me to be an extremely gamist approach, though focused on setting rather than system/situation, which seems to be the realm of most effectiveness-based gamist rewards.

Lastly:

Quote
- Social rank: nobleman is a Metagame element


Just a request for clarification, this is unless the resolution tables actually take that variable into account, in which case it becomes effectiveness again. Correct?

Cheers,

J.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Rob MacDougall on February 05, 2003, 04:51:10 AM
Quote from: clehrich
So in the straight AD&D Greyhawk world, didn't actual people go around town saying, "Wow, that guy over there looks like a seriously powerful Lawful Evil Fighter, better steer clear of him"?
Of course, it's a weird way to imagine a world in the first place, but I really think they were trying to Sim that very strange world.  In fact, I'm getting all warm and fuzzy about that bizarre world.... <please, this is a cry for help!>


I hear your cries, Chris.

I don't know if that's really what they were going for, but it has occurred to me over the years that one good way to play D&D would be to postulate a Greyhawk in which every adventurer and peasant and king and monster has knowledge of the D&D rules and discusses their hit points and armor class and level and alignment quite matter-of-factly. The characters themselves might be Gamist, but the gamers would be Sim. (How's that for a butchery of proper GNS term usage?)

Rob


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: xiombarg on February 05, 2003, 06:35:40 AM
(As a quick aside, in 1st ed AD&D there was such a thing as "Alignment Languages". I dunno if they existed in 2nd Ed, and they're very much gone in 3rd Ed. Every sentient being that was, say, Lawful Good, knew the Lawful Good language, and changing alignment was hard because you had to be "initiated" into your new alignment and learn the new language. So it was very possible for someone to know, say, if someone was Lawful Good -- if they spoke the language. So someone could honestly say, "I'm Lawful Good," tho perhaps only in the LG language -- it was never clear if the alignments called themselves in Common what they were in-game.)


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 05, 2003, 07:38:56 AM
This is an interesting artefact of the nature of the writing of D&D texts. Basically, they assume that people will "get" that the statistics underly the simulation and are not an explicit part of it. As such, many people's early readings of the game were in fact that these things were available to the characters (and, yes, alignment languages are partly to blame).

If you don't believe me, you don't watch enough Japanimation. This effect happened in a strong way in the translation of D&D to Japanese. Such that in anime based on RPGs today you will occasionally hear a charactr say, "We don't want to mess with him, he's a twentieth level Wizard."

This is not to say that this is even common in Japanese play. But just that it does happen. In fact, I think (and some expert should correct me if I'm wrong) that this is seen as a sort of self-depricating humor in the games, and as such only used in some games.

Hard to say, really, as I'm sure the play in Japan is at least as widely varied as anywhere else. But it's an interesting phenomenon.


On the subject of Social Status, and whether or not it's Metagame or not, I sorta agree that it tends to actually be an effectiveness. Consider in Traveller where it soley exists to add to appropriate dice rolls to get in to see upper-class people and the like. I think this is a problem that had long been waiting to discuss.

Take, for example, the bonus dice in Sorcerer. These are a reward to effectiveness, plain and simple. But they are rewarded for metagame reasons. One doesn't get Sorcerer bonus dice for having armor piercing rounds, unless the GM feels that they've been added to the description to give thematic weight to the action. So the idea is not to avoid effectiveness as the reward, but to only reward Narrativist play.

The question becomes: if I am a Narrativist player, why do I want a Gamist reward? Presumably, if I prefer Narrativism, I'm as happy with a negative outcome a positive one, as long as the result keeps the story progressing in an interesting fashion. I've long wondered why Narrativist games bother with any simulation of resolution at all. The resolutions aren't really particularly important themselves. Ron says that they're springboards for creativity, and that's certainly possible.

But the problem remains that the player shouldn't be interested in success, particularly. Only in continuing the story (or perhaps ending it) well.

So, just as much as it seems odd to me to reward the Simulationist player with Gamist rewards, the same goes for Narrativists.

The theory goes, if I'm not mistaken, that one can pander to the closet Gamist in each of us, as long as what's rewarded is the sort of play that the game is supposed to support. If that's true, two questions arise.

First, does this incidentally promote Gamism? Are players informed that the goal of resolution is to "win" if the rewards given help do that in resolution?

Second, does this actually satisfy a Gamist urge? I have to say that I've found it to be cathartic in play to an extent.

Can Gamism be "chanelled" to promote other modes?

If so, this is good news for several reasons, not the least of which is that we don't have to worry about what makes a good "Simulationist" reward. If this is not true, then we have a lot of designs to fix, and I think finding a Sim reward is going to be problematic...

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 05, 2003, 08:06:56 AM
Hi J.,

Oh, first, I need to ask everyone to be very careful about topic-drift in this forum. I've seen a fair amount of it lately and I know all of you know the standards. If something makes you go "spoo!" and wanna talk about it, take a minute to think about whether a new thread would be appropriate - and when in doubt, the answer is Yes, it is.

Back to J. OK, let's see ...

1) "Creep" isn't a formal term. So far, I haven't seen people use it rigorously; sometimes they mean gradual Drift such that the rules come to correspond to the existing GNS consensus, sometimes they mean one or some members of the group subtly breaking the Social Contract away from GNS preferences of the other members, and sometimes they mean God knows what. I have never used the term, as far as I remember. Until it's clear to me that a term is necessary, and until I get some idea of what it's supposed to mean for everyone, then I'm not going to concern myself with Drift vs. Creep.

2) I don't presume to be able to classify your friend's behavior in GNS terms; I don't know the guy. I can only go on the text you provided, which is consistent with the idea that Metagame-components of a character may be a valid realm for reward systems in Simulationist-facilitating games. Whether he personally takes this kind of character-expansion as an indicator of his own "winning-ness" is beside the point.

As a related point, until the Gamism essay gets up and the resulting debates begin, I think people ought to be wary of pegging things as Gamist-type rewards and whatnot. As I've said before, I'm not sympathetic to definitions that rely on "I know it when I see it," and people do that regarding Gamism all the time. My upcoming essay may not nail down all the pegs for everyone, or it might even be all wrong in all sorts of ways, but I'm pretty sure we won't get anywhere about the topic until at least some of the issues have been brought to light in relation to one another.

3) I laid out three options for the Effectiveness/Metagame concept specifically to show that they (like all the components of Currency) are not exclusive of one another but exist in all sorts of combinations. Therefore if "nobleman" were to be accounted for in the resolution tables in some way, then yes, that feature now contributes to Effectiveness as well as (presumably) to the character's Metagame stuff.

Mike, you're making it harder than it is by confounding Effectiveness with "important." Identifying a character-component as Metagame (alone or in combination with Effectiveness, Resource, or both) does not mean that it lacks utility in play. Effectiveness refers to designations of competence for purposes of system-driven resolution.

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 05, 2003, 08:38:32 AM
All right, before anyone throws it in my face, I found the "creeping Gamism" phrase in the Simulationist essay. Yeah, I used it. Right there! When I just said I didn't. So there, to me.

Anyway, it refers specifically to
Quote
one or some members of the group subtly breaking the Social Contract away from GNS preferences of the other members


... as I described in the above post. The quotes in the essay reflect my emphasis here that it is an informal term and not to taken as some specific thing that must be delineated from Drift and Transition and Aunt Lily's false teeth.

I'll have lots and lots to say about this issue in the Gamism essay, and some of you may remember my comments many moons ago about Gamist play's memetic power.

Best,
Ron


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 05, 2003, 09:16:21 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Mike, you're making it harder than it is by confounding Effectiveness with "important." Identifying a character-component as Metagame (alone or in combination with Effectiveness, Resource, or both) does not mean that it lacks utility in play. Effectiveness refers to designations of competence for purposes of system-driven resolution.

Um, huh?

In the name of diplomacy let me retract that portion of my statment. I only objected because I have a dissenting POV on that point; we can debate it elsewhere. But suffice it to say my only point was exactly the same one that you admitted that, in some cases, Social Standing is not completely metagame. I'll even admit that "tends" is probably a bias of mine from playing too much Traveller.

My point has little to do with whether or not SS is metagame, and everything to do with supporting the discussion about whether or not such a reward is a suitable Simulationist reward or not, which is the question at hand. If it increases the player's percieved ability to be effective, even outside the mechanics, it might be considered a Gamist reward. A point which I've left to debate rather than asserted, actually.


On the subject of the term Creep, it's at the very least useful to describe a perception that people have about drift and playing against the grain.

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Walt Freitag on February 06, 2003, 09:31:16 AM
Let me try to bring this discussion back to a simpler plane.

Coherent Gamist rewards, generally speaking, reward achievement of Gamist goals (victory, success) with more of the werewithal to achieve future Gamist goals. That being e.g. character effectiveness scores, new skills, etc.

Coherent Narrativist rewards, generally speaking, reward achievement of Narrativist goals (addressing Premise) with more of the werewithal to achieve future Narrativist goals. That being e.g. units of narration rights or the ability to garner narration rights, packaged as story points, pool dice, bidding tokens, etc.

Coherent Simulationist rewards, generally speaking, should reward achievement of Simulationist goals (prioritized exploration) with more of the werewithal to achieve future Simulationist goals. That being... what?

Character contacts and relationships? Sure.
Character social status? Sure.
New information about the world, situation, or characters? Sure.

And what about character effectiveness? It's sometimes a Simulationist reward too. Consider:

- Magic spells (or tech upgrades, or whatever) that give player-characters access to heretofore inaccessible places or allow survival in hereto fatal environments.
- Experience points in Champions, which have minimal incremental effects on overall character effectiveness but enormous impact on the exploration of system, being the fuel needed to drive the system mechanics for creating bases, vehicles, power modifications, gadgets, etc.
- Combat effectiveness increases, to the extent that the increases represent the ability to explore previously unsurvivable environments or situations.

What might tie all these various reward types together is the concept of adaptation. Exploration and adaptation are closely associated enough that whenever I think of one I think of the other. One adapts in order to explore; one explores in order to adapt. However, in the aesthetics of actual play, adapatation appears to be most prominent in Simulationism. In Gamist play, one typically strives to master or overcome or "beat" the environment, situation, system, etc. rather than adapt to it. In Narrativist play, changes to the character are generally driven by authoring based on Premise rather than by the explored elements themselves.

Example Gamist character effectiveness reward: "If I learn to fight better, I can kick more ass and get more respect."

Example Simulationist (adaptive) character effectiveness reward: "My people are facing a time of tribulation and war. To be worthy to lead them I must become a better warrior."

Too subtle? Are we better off sticking to "character effectiveness rewards are always Gamist"? Not, I believe, if we want to understand practical Simulationist system design in GNS theoretical terms.

But all that might still be missing the elephant. I believe that the most typically Simulationist rewards are plot developments occurring by causal happenstance or authored by the GM. They present new characters and/or new situations and/or new places and/or new color, and/or sometimes new system elements to explore. That, to me, most unambiguously represents "the werewithal to achieve future Simulationist goals." And it agrees with my experiences regarding what I and my players find most rewarding in predominantly Simulationist play.

- Walt


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 06, 2003, 10:59:07 AM
That's sweet, Walt. Can I start a fan club in your honor?

Your elephant comment is well taken. That is, in proposing all these methods for adding areas to explore, we miss the fact that, in theory, the universe of play in most games is presented as infinite already. All the player has to do is to say, "I go around the corner. What do I see?" and presumably the GM has to reward him with a description of a new street to explore. Thus, in such a game, these do not seem to be very potent rewards.

OTOH, if one were to make a game where there were no "corners" to turn with regard to the main area of exploration, then such a reward would be crucial. I can't envision such a game at the moment, so it's highly theoretical. But I think it could be done.

The last part does suggest another Simulatioist reward albeit one with the same limitations. If the player is rewarded by:
Quote
plot developments occurring by causal happenstance or authored by the GM

Well we can't create happenstance (that's a contradiction in terms), but we can give the player points or something that he can use to force the GM to create something. This would be cool because it would mean that the player was indicating in a very direct fashion what it was that he wanted to explore, yet he would still have the experience of discovering it as the GM would have to produce it. Further, by being particularly specific or obtuse the player can control the level of control he feels, and thus limit damage to his sense of "immersion" to a level he finds tolerable.

Again, however, this assumes that the player cannot force the GM to create stuff by simply rounding the corner (making the points unneccessary).

It occurs to me that these sorts of mechanics might be especially useful in very metaphysical settings such as Dreamspire (are ya listening, Matt?), where characters might just exist in a sort of semi-vaccum with only the limited elements that have been created in existence.


On another topic, how does a GM identify when a player has "prioritized exploration"? See, in Gamism you don't reward trying hard, you reward success (cool, no outcome based rewards here). In Narrativism you wouldn't reward basic exploration, but rather when a player addresses premise or something. In Sim, well, you're always exploring or your not playing an RPG. One could reward avoiding Gamism and Narrativism, but that's a negative reward. How do I positively reward prioritizing exploration, when, if done correctly, it's being done constantly?

Seems to me that you have to look at production of the cooler elements of the area to be explored. That is, you reward the player for exploring particularly cool elements that create engrossing moments of play. That's a pretty subjective standard, however (basically the standard, "good role-playing"); which is to be avoided. Is there a more concrete way to determine these things? May be a bad question and one that can only be answered nrelation to the context of the particular things being explored. Hmm..

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Matt Snyder on February 06, 2003, 11:35:42 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

It occurs to me that these sorts of mechanics might be especially useful in very metaphysical settings such as Dreamspire (are ya listening, Matt?), where characters might just exist in a sort of semi-vaccum with only the limited elements that have been created in existence.



Oh, yes, I'm listening. In case you hadn't figured it out (I sorta mentioned this on my Chimera forum), Avatar-13 is a disguise. Think on that, and know that once Nine Worlds is "put to bed" (and we're talking a serious deadline for that one), Dreamspire is up to bat.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: M. J. Young on February 06, 2003, 02:54:11 PM
Yeah, Walt got there first. I guess skipping a day (I was pretty sick yesterday) means I miss a lot of discussion and have to catch up.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
OTOH, if one were to make a game where there were no "corners" to turn with regard to the main area of exploration, then such a reward would be crucial. I can't envision such a game at the moment, so it's highly theoretical. But I think it could be done.


As I believe I indicated on the previously cited Balance thread, you can achieve the same result by having reasonable limitations on the character's movement which are gradually eliminated by advancement. I can imagine characters working on their high school newspaper, then getting a job with the local paper doing local news, then (assuming the paper is part of a conglomerate) being picked up to do county news, and so on until they're international correspondents circling the globe. The world is always infinite from the beginning; the characters can't reach until they've managed to prove their explorative abilities.

Earlier in the discussion, the issue was whether advancement mechanics were inherently gamist. Although several people have effectively addressed it, I should point out that such advancement mechanics might be coherent with narrativist and simulationist designs, in the right context. That is, we're distinguishing between:
  • A character who exists to beat the game world and improve enough to rise to the top;
  • A story which explores the issues of coming of age or advancing in society or other areas (a boy who joins the military, and must wrestle with the fact that he's getting better at killing people, but becoming the sort of person he personally abhors in the process? You could do the same with an advancement mechanic in a political game).
  • A world in which the characters start as novices and move toward being experts through the plying of their crafts.[/list:u]
    Each of these could be served by a mechanic that increased character ability; in each case, that ability increase could be combat-oriented, depending on the characters and the situations. There would, I think, be significant differences between them; but superficially they would be very similar.

    Quote from: Mike also
    On another topic, how does a GM identify when a player has "prioritized exploration"?....In Sim, well, you're always exploring or your not playing an RPG....How do I positively reward prioritizing exploration, when, if done correctly, it's being done constantly?


    I think this is a question that hasn't really been addressed that I've seen. We've previously focused on what kind of reward could you give for simulationist play, but never asked the more basic question: How do you recognize it?

    In my previous newspaper example, you would probably do something about uncovering the good stories and identifying the crucial elements. That's what would matter in real life, so this would be a simulation: good reporters get promoted. (Oh, and you could have others involved, like photographer, assistant, editor.)

    That might work, anyway. If it became competitive, of course, it starts to become a bit gamist; on the other hand, there are areas of life where there is competition, and you can't simulate them without incorporating that into them.

    --M. J. Young


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: contracycle on February 07, 2003, 12:46:02 PM
several random thoughts

Quote from: Mike Holmes

 How do I positively reward prioritizing exploration, when, if done correctly, it's being done constantly?


Maybe its not how, but why.  Which bits do I reward, and for what purpose.  Dunno, thought I'd mention it.

Mike also wrote:
Quote

Your elephant comment is well taken. That is, in proposing all these methods for adding areas to explore, we miss the fact that, in theory, the universe of play in most games is presented as infinite already. All the player has to do is to say, "I go around the corner. What do I see?" and presumably the GM has to reward him with a description of a new street to explore. Thus, in such a game, these do not seem to be very potent rewards.


The rewards might be self fuliflling, in that it might be rewarding to succesfully contrive a way to see something that you would find interesting to see.  The corner to be turned could be a problem, something which obscures the view.

M.J. wrote:
Quote
As I believe I indicated on the previously cited Balance thread, you can achieve the same result by having reasonable limitations on the character's movement which are gradually eliminated by advancement.


It strikes me that this can be literally advancing, as in the "fog of war" of many computer games.  Often, extending to gain vision entails risk, or is problematic, or expensive in some resource (including units).  If places to go and things to see is the limitation, then perhaps maps are the most basic implementation, in both geographic and experiential senses.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 07, 2003, 02:19:41 PM
Gareth has some good points. I'd not be surprised to learn that the only true reward available to a player who prefers Simulationism is the simulation itself. In which case searching is pointless (made all the more likely by the possibilty that there is no "superior" sim play to reward.

Hmmm..

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Emily Care on February 10, 2003, 01:40:29 PM
So, if we let go of the idea of external rewards being useful in sim play, what else would we look to to encourage this kind of play? What structures in the mechanics, what social atmosphere in the gaming group?  My approach to sim play was formed by hours of out of game discussion of in-game-world characters, culture and concepts.  

Also, are we talking about sim as though it is monolithic?  There's a pretty broad range of play that falls under the category.  Each might benefit from a different approach.

Vincent started this thread talking about point purchase systems and how they tend to get thrown out for sim play.  Are we saying now that metagame rewards are at odds with sim play? Drift it to gamist in uncomfortable ways? Sounds like we're talking about what doesn't work to encourage simulationism.

--Emily Care

edited in: if this conversation has gone elsewhere and this thread is dead, I'll play nice and go home.


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Walt Freitag on February 11, 2003, 01:43:43 PM
Actually, Emily, I'm glad you continued this because I for one haven't reached any kind of conclusion here. I'm just being slow to put my thoughts together on this.

My current question is, if all the rewards are "internal"... so what? I'm not convinced that that precludes systematic rewards.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
All the player has to do is to say, "I go around the corner. What do I see?" and presumably the GM has to reward him with a description of a new street to explore. Thus, in such a game, these do not seem to be very potent rewards.


But not all corners turned are equally worthy of reward, and not all answers to "what do I see?" are equally rewarding.

Let me address the second clause first. I believe that "you turn the corner and see another mile of trees and farmland" is almost certain to be less rewarding than "you turn the corner and see a Black Knight and a Green Knight beating the crap out of each other at a bridge."

Furthermore, the latter case is more rewarding in a particularly Simulationist way. Whether or not it represents an opportunity to overcome a challenge, whether or not it will contribute to the aesthetics of the outcome, it definitely represents more interesting exploration options than a tract of currently uninhabited farmland.

The question remains whether a system, a setting, or a GM can control these rewards in any "systematic" way so as to preferentially reward Simulationist decision-making. I believe -- to say in one sentence what should probably be a whole chapter -- that a system could but most don't, a setting can't but most claim they do, and a GM can and usually does but most claim they don't.

- Walt


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Emily Care on February 11, 2003, 02:16:54 PM
Quote from: wfreitag
Actually, Emily, I'm glad you continued this because I for one haven't reached any kind of conclusion here. I'm just being slow to put my thoughts together on this.

Whew. :) Glad to help, Walt.

Quote from: wfreitag
The question remains whether a system, a setting, or a GM can control these rewards in any "systematic" way so as to preferentially reward Simulationist decision-making. I believe -- to say in one sentence what should probably be a whole chapter -- that a system could but most don't, a setting can't but most claim they do, and a GM can and usually does but most claim they don't.


It's the part of gming most easily overlooked: simple everyday description of what the players interact with. Do you mean that a setting can't do it because a setting (per se as a module or game book material, not how that is used by the gm or game participants) is passive?  What would a system look like that does it?  

I have an example of a GM using this technique to discourage egregiously non-sim decision-making.  My friend Oli, had a player who could not be dissuaded from killing every npc that contacted the party.  Many gms came up with responses to this, but I like Oli's the best. There was a half-Troll that the tweaky player's character had fought and lost to named Blorg.  Blorg kicked his ass. So, whenever  that player tried his shenanigans, Oli would say "Hey, wait a minute, you know, you didn't realize it at first, but the person you're talking to is actually Blorg..."  Eventually the player cut it out.

This actually brings up old issues of pre-play-prep vs. in-play development, and player accusations of gm's "cheating".  Since a lot of what a gm does need not be set in stone before the game, there is probably a lot of latitude for response to be molded in this way. But it wouldn't work for all contracts of play. Although there are many levels at which a scene may be described.  Players who prioritize sim could be rewarded with greater or more salient detail.

--Emily Care


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 11, 2003, 02:56:11 PM
First, I don't think your advocating it, but obviously the "Blorg" method of enforcement is nagative reinforcement, and not what we're looking for.

But then, the method where you only give out salient stuff for rewards seems sorta negative, too. That is, it's only possible by lowering the bar some for what normally happens. So I turn the corner and see miles of corn. Well, OK, what about the next corner? More corn? Well, the standard assumption in Sim GMing is that the GMwill throw something at you if you look hard enough. Or even if you don't.

So, are we advocating that the GM only give out boring information about what the player's find? Until they spend some reward point or something? What about logical extension? The PC is in front of the armorer's shop. He has his character enter, but does not spend a reward point. So, there's...nothing in the shop? Or the GM glosses it over? I could maybe see the latter. Basically, the use of the points would be to break into a scene where the GM would be forced to give scene-level details. Until then, all he's required to do is to give "strategic" level detail.

That might work. Still, it means that the GM can do no pre-planning for scenes, as he can never be sure which scenes are going to be at what level. Unless, perhaps he has the ability to say that certain scenes are automatically detailed? But it we're talking Illusionist play, won't the players end up disapointed with their scenes as they aren't integral to the plot? So can this only be used in completely Open Sim (no GM control of plot)?

Sounds exhausting for the GM, potentially.

Or are we talking about something else, and I'm just missing it?

Mike


Title: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)
Post by: Emily Care on February 12, 2003, 07:23:34 AM
I see Blorg as being a fix for a broken player-gm dynamic, so I wouldn't really advocate it.  It may have quite been off from what Walt was talking about. Or represent a far end of the continuum.

The whole question of rewards seems kind of Pavlovian to me.  If it's just about getting a cookie, that undercuts what we're trying to encourage in players.  

What kind of behaviour are we trying to promote? "In character" behaviour? Interaction with world as a more complex system? Letting go of metagame issues such as character level or "winning"? What worked really well to bring me to this point was indoctrination and ongoing discussion. I was involved in world elements, and helped flesh out the world by my questions.  Not everybody has that kind of time to invest, but I guess if I was writing a system that would try to encourage more complex sim playing, I'd start by investing all participants in the world and it's workings.  

Have we talked about the many different types of sim gaming and how needs would vary?

--Emily