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Started by Ron Edwards, August 31, 2004, 11:00:47 PM

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Ron Edwards

New rules for the GNS forum


As of October 1, a new forum will begin at the Forge called "Introduction to the Big Model," or something like that. This forum, meanwhile, is going to be on a kind of probation. Whether it will remain or get shunted to the Inactive forums, I don't know. I kind of hope not, but that will be partly a matter of how much the new forum eclipses its topics and partly a matter of how we do here, through September.

So the following is a series of etiquette points and conceptual points which I would like to see adopted by all of us here. Bluntly, without these in operation, I don't really see any reason for this forum to continue. Addendum: actually, I'm not that much of a hard-ass. Input/critique about these guidelines is a fine idea, but please not in the abstract. Let's try actually to make'em work and modify to suit as time goes by.

Concerning me as author and discussion participant

At this late date, and with this many people involved from so many different perspectives, it has become impossible for me to balance two distinct roles on the fly. One of those roles is the guy who wrote the essays this forum is about (i.e. at the time of writing each one), and the other role is best understood as fellow seeker, peer, or determined thinker.

The problem is that once a damn essay is written, the guy moves on. Sometimes just writing them leads me to move on into a zone of inquiry, with things that were assertions in the essays now suddenly becoming questions. But simultaneously, sometime what I write nails down the coffin lid on certain topics, and moving on involves not needing to deal with that issue any more.

So it seems to me that from now on, we should all focus tightly on how "GNS" is being addressed in this forum, because there are willy-nilly several Rons. One of me was grappling with some particular set of people and ideas when he wrote the essay. One of me hit the final "save" button and said, that's that, to that particular essay, and dealt with responses to it. And one of them moves on, in a variety of ways, described above, and that's the one who's going to be actually interacting here.

Therefore, in addressing a point in a given essay (which includes the glossary draft), state which "me" you really want to be responding to you. It's really easy to identify which one if you take a moment, and believe me, it will make discussing any of this way, way more easy. I hope I've demonstrated many times that I'm able to modify my thinking on the basis of valid objections, but I bet that many such opportunities have been missed because I was trapped between defending why I wrote something as I did vs. what I think now.


I've decided that a number of intellectual tactics (or rather, anti-intellectual tactics) need to be avoided with great care in this forum, and identified rather sternly when they appear. These tactics became wearily familiar to me during my career in academics and all represent abuse of one form or another, despite their outward oh-so-highbrow trappings.

a) paraphasing others' points without confirmation that your paraphrase accurately reflects them

b) citing one's expertise in other fields as a validator of a point in a current debate

c) shifting ground, which is to say, changing one's position in the middle of an intellectual exchange without acknowledging it, thus forcing the other person to guess what they're arguing against

d) (related to c) adopting the position that the other person is taking, thus forcing them to argue against themselves

e) inventing novel terms in the midst of a discussion about something else

Someone who does any of the above as a routine strategy to protect himself or herself from ego-damage, to manipulate discussions in order to be in the right, or to inject confusion is clearly a poisonous presence in the forum. Fortunately, I don't think we suffer too badly from this. However, it's possible for one to be engaged in what seems like a perfectly reasonable discussion and have every intention to be adding to it constructively ... yet inadvertently carry out one of these obfuscatory tactics. How can that be? It's a matter of two things - the nature of our minds, which are constantly re-tooling ideas in our heads, and the nature of the internet medium, which clearly is exceptionally poor for certain kinds of discourse unless we practice a hell of a lot of self-moderation.

I'm serious about this. I really think that a lot of people who participate in this forum do these things regularly, either because their heads and fingers lead them into it by accident, or because it's a defensive habit of interaction which was implanted in them during some godawful academic experience, and which, heaven help them, they became good at. We have all absolutely got to try to review our posts and their role in an entire thread or family of threads before putting them into the discussion.

So that led me to propose the next section, which is intended to help all of us from accidentally perpetrating these obnoxious behaviors (which, by the way, are especially nasty because they're contagious.)

Basic symposium dynamics

1. State one's topic clearly. This is composed of identifying what point you're referring to, making sure that you demonstrate you understand what it is saying or why you can't figure out what it's saying. Then your particular position relative to that point can be articulated.

2. Introducing new terminology is a wonderful thing. However, a given term needs to be proposed and chewed over on its own before it is employed in a larger discussion. If you're wavin' it around in some way while everyone is simultaneously trying to figure out what you mean and to grasp how it fits into the current discussion, then a great fog descends.

3. Stay short. Focus on communication, feedback, and confirmation. This isn't supposed to be a Usenet in which everyone scores by waving a flag as often as possible. Unless you've achieved a meeting of minds at a very personal level, whether to agree or disagree, all that verbiage is so much wasted space. In this forum, you win when the other person understands you. This means that each post should actually contain a single nugget of information or argument - not a huge essay of interlinked points.

4. Don't spread out over several threads at once, which often happens here - everyone should consider putting his or her best effort into a given thread topic. Since we should also be careful to stay on topic, though, that might seem contradictory. The answer is to slow down. If thread X is about topic X, and you are still wrapped up in it but are also suddenly jazzed about topic Y, then say this: "I'll follow up on Y in a new thread. Meanwhile, back to X, here's what I'm thinking." Finish up with X, and put your thoughts on Y into a file or something. Then later start it up.

5. Learn to let go. When another person really has presented an argument that seems to make more sense than your position, then say so. Or if that's too much for you, say "I have to think about that," and go off to do so. If you have some agenda which prevents you from ceding points, then your every post is a flame, no matter how polite or how couched in gorgeous logic.

6. Requesting clarification and objection are two different and distinct things. If the topic is "what the hell is illusionism," that's not the same as "illusionist techniques do not automatically connote a Simulationist priority." This is one of those Geek Fallacy things, in that many people actually argue and try to stake out intellectual turf in order to fit in. This is a really bad idea, frankly. It's way better to assume that you don't get it, and will benefit from communicating with others about it, and that then any objections can be brought in. Even if it turns out that you did understand it well enough to object all along, no harm has been done and your comprehension has been validated to everyone else.

And finally, all of that that leads me to this section.

Getting up to speed

This is an advanced forum. It's not a place to dive in. It's not a place to bring one's concerns. It actually plays a powerful and constructive role at the Forge if we all recognize that it's a second-order activity, and relies on being properly situated in our activity on the other forums. Here are some things everyone should recognize are necessary starting points for

1. Grasp the history of the ideas in question. I cite the Threefold in every essay, so you check out John Kim's excellent website and learn more about the original discussions which inspired me to start writing my own stuff. I hope people can quickly grasp that the issue of "play style" in the Threefold is not the same as Creative Agenda in the Big Model.

2. Recognize the historicity of the essays I and others have written, most especially that most of them were not written as entry-point texts, but rather as responses and summaries of a set of discussions, involving a very specific community of people.

You should know where and how System Does Matter was published. You should know when the "GNS and related matters" essay was published. You should be able to browse back a few pages in this forum and identify which essay was under way while those threads were going on.

3. GNS is now actually a nearly-obsolete term, now replaced by the concept of Creative Agenda, which itself is a key component of what I guess we're all calling The Big Model. Therefore, if you barrel in with a load of comments and objections and demanded clarifications of (e.g.) Gamist play, with a heavy emphasis on techniques, then you're actually demonstrating that you're still kinda stuck without a Big Model. (Is the Big Model inviolate? No. My point is that your points about CA/GNS, to be valid topics, need to be properly situated in it.)

Also, getting really hung up on which CA means what relative to what other CA is - as I see it - nearly a dead issue. For some people, oddly, it's the only issue because it seems to be wrapped up their sense of self-validation as a role-player and perhaps even as a person. For others, they simply might find it interesting or would like to revise the internal construction of the various proposed CAs out there.

However, now that we've established that G, N, S, etc, are types of Creative Agenda, and that techniques are not wedded inextricably to each one, most of the CA vs. CA discussion is rendered irrelevant, and figuring out (e.g.) whether Simulationism has some special role toward the others is just not as deal-breaking an issue as it used to be.

I urge that all of us recognize that once you situate a given issue or problem regarding a Creative Agenda into an actual-play situation or a comparison among them, that nearly all of those controversies disappear. The ones which remain can then be given full attention and a really good airing.

4. (related to 3) Get your ass over to Actual Play. This forum works best when we come over here from discussing real play. Discourse here works best when we all know one another as fellow role-players as well as possible, including how we play, whom we play with, what games we like to use, for how long, and so on.

Anyway, that's it. Them's the new rules.



Hi Ron,

I think this is straightforward and clear.

A few questions and suggestions:

To be explicit, the two Rons are 1) author of the essays and 2) explorer of ideas, right?  Requests for clarification of the article texts should be addressed to author.  Speculations on distinctions, expansions, applications, and consequences would go to the explorer.  What about questions about the validity of statements in the articles, or assumptions behind them?

The description of the forum purpose and the urging to use the forum to discuss things that came from actual play would be read more often if summarized right at the top.
- Alan

A Writer's Blog:

Ron Edwards


Alan, you asked

QuoteWhat about questions about the validity of statements in the articles, or assumptions behind them?

Seems to me that's exactly the sort of thing the asker needs to specify - what did you mean then, what do you think of it now? Pick one or ask both, even.

I think all the authors of articles here will agree that specifying that will make discussions much much better.



Following up from Alan's questions, I want to point out that this distinction between Ron-the-essayist-then and Ron-the-guy-now is going to need careful handling on all sides.  It's not just a question of whom one is addressing, but also of who is speaking.

For example, suppose someone writes a piece arguing that X small part of the model, as explained in the most recent essays, is problematic.  We're not talking about picking nits in phrasing, but something serious.  Presumably such a post belongs on this forum, not the new Intro forum.

Suppose Ron replies, "I don't think that any more, so your point is moot."  This is ground-shifting, "c" of the "Graduate-itis" poisonous tactics.  So clearly Ron can't reply this way, and presumably won't.

What that means is that we all have to police the forum, in effect.  I'm not talking about moderating, but about care and precision.  If Ron appears to be ground-shifting in this sense, we have to call for clarification immediately, because there is probably a shift of voice or persona rather than of ground.  Without our being very scrupulous about this, the model itself will end up appearing to be something that Ron won't allow to be criticized, and that will just encourage the old cheap stereotype of the "cult of Ron."

One of the things Ron has said many, many times is that we really need to slow down, and here is yet another reason to follow that principle.  It's going to be very difficult for Ron to keep these personae distinct, as he says, even with these changes.  He's often going to be skating very close to ground-shifting himself.  It is important that we all keep this forum honest, which means we allow no such tactics by anyone, but it is also important that we not jump down his throat every time there is slight grounds for question.  The care and precision that will be needed, by everyone on this forum, to avoid spiralling non-communication, will take a great deal of time devoted to thought that should happen before hitting the Reply button.

Ron sets the rules here, but I'd like to suggest a principle.  I think that nobody should post to a given thread more than twice a day.  Thread-starters can maybe do somewhat more, but not too many.  Moderators are obviously another thing entirely, but their posts will indicate that they are moderator-talk, as Ron has always done.  At the least, about a half hour should pass between reading a post and hitting the Reply button.

Just a cautionary note.
Chris Lehrich

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Well, September is over now.

I ... um, I dunno what to say. This forum has returned to being my favorite one, because it seems like a whole new place as of the last couple of weeks.

It's now a place where I can participate instead of overseeing or defending all the time.

What do you folks think? Better? Worse? Problems with the hats? Etc? Let's use this thread for a little reflection & processing.

Here are some options for the next step.

1. Wave bye-bye to this forum and start a new one called "Big Model Critique" or something like that.

2. Change this forum's name to a new one, as above. No new forum, no changes.

3. Do nothing.

Any thoughts on this?



Quote from: Ron Edwards
Here are some options for the next step.

1. Wave bye-bye to this forum and start a new one called "Big Model Critique" or something like that.

2. Change this forum's name to a new one, as above. No new forum, no changes.

3. Do nothing.

IMHO, I'd go with a variation on Option #2.  Since the discussion has moved to encompass larger considerations that GNS, and since "GNS" itself is actually an obsolete term, it seems that a title change might be in order.

I suppose that, at this point, it might be possible to merge this forum with RPG Theory.  I know that the original reason for having the separate fora was to allow for discussions on RPG theory to transcend "just" talking about GNS.  However, since the Big Model includes everything from Social Contract down to Ephemera, having them together makes a certain measure of sense.  This might also help deal with issues of forum confusion:  "Should this go in RPG Theory?  GNS?"

At the same time, there is a certain critical mass that has been achieved in this forum, and relocating it or merging it with another forum could disrupt the social connections that have been established here.

"Go not to the Elves for advice, for they will say both no and yes."--J.R.R. Tolkien

Anyways, if ya'll keep the two fora, it would be good to have clear distinctions between this forum and RPG Theory, preserved for posterity in forum stickies and cross-linked.  Something like "This forum is dedicated to blah blah blah.  If you're wanting to talk about these other topics, check out the RPG Theory forum at (link here)".  Might not be bad to put variations on this in every Forge forum (as opposed to the game-specific fora), but this would be especially important to assist folk who are trying to choose between the two theory-based fora.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

Ron Edwards


Defining RPG Theory better is another ongoing process. My hope is that the two fora can profitably cross-link, but that a certain focus over in Theory is also required. Haven't quite figured out how to phrase it yet.


Mark D. Eddy

I'd suggest going with #2, personally. Unless the old forum is kept archived for reference purposes and September's threads go with the new forum, in which case option #1 might be less confusing. But the lesson I think I've learned is that the rules that are up-thread here are very important for keeping things from getting out of hand.
Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."

Emily Care

I'd also toss my cents in a serious way toward changing the name, but keeping the content.  

Changing the name would reinforce the fact that we can get beyond just GNS, and retaining the old threads would make it easier for new folks--and everyone else--to get up to snuff.

The big model is founded on all the gns discussion that's gone on in the past, so the continuity is important. The new name will help demarcate the change both in the theory and in ettiquette for the forum.

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games


Yup, I'm with Emily.  Change the name of the forum but maintain the continuity.  I'd think "Big Model Discussion" is a pretty minimal change and might get us out of the bad old habit of thinking that GNS is the whole shebang.

RPG Theory is and should stay a different forum.  There is valid reason for having discussions of RPG Theory that have nothing to do with the Big Model, not least of which is proposing completely new models or styles of model.
Chris Lehrich

Clinton R. Nixon

I'll throw my hat in the "change the forum name" ring as well. I think a continued label of "GNS" suggests an unwillingness to change, and is a cancer of stagnation on this forum.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


I think it should be "Model Theory" (or something like that)--see, the Big Model is only one of the things that gets discussed there. If I *want* to discuss a scientific model that touches on the why-people-game rather than "how much handling time is too much" then it needs a home.

And the Big Model won't encompass that. It also doesn't do GDS or the 3D model etc.

JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland


Quote from: clehrichThere is valid reason for having discussions of RPG Theory that have nothing to do with the Big Model, not least of which is proposing completely new models or styles of model.
Emphasis added.

This is interesting, because that's not where people go to discuss alternative models. They come here to the GNS (soon-to-be "Big Model"?) forum.

Hopefully this isn't off topic, but I would like the "Big Model" forum to soak up a little more of the theory discussion, and I would like the current "Theory" board to discuss more design principles.
--Timothy Walters Kleinert


Quote from: Ron EdwardsHi there,

1. Wave bye-bye to this forum and start a new one called "Big Model Critique" or something like that.

2. Change this forum's name to a new one, as above. No new forum, no changes.

3. Do nothing.

I think the best solution would be a combination of numbers 1 and 2.

You have many posts throughout the forums which point to threads in the "GNS" forum -- using that specific term.

Perhaps the best idea would be to lay the "GNS" forum to rest in the inactive Forums and begin a new Forum with the most recent active GNS threads (or the ones that relate to the Big Model).

Those are my thoughts....

"We know what we know because someone told us it was so."


Quote from: When IThere is valid reason for having discussions of RPG Theory that have nothing to do with the Big Model, not least of which is proposing completely new models or styles of model. Emphasis added.
Quote from: timfireThis is interesting, because that's not where people go to discuss alternative models. They come here to the GNS (soon-to-be "Big Model"?) forum.
I don't want to derail things here, but I think this is important.  If the idea is to have a single forum in which the Big Model is discussed but also placed in a sense toe-to-toe with completely different models, that's going to be very tricky.  

I should note that by new models I don't mean like the Beeg Horseshoe; I mean like (to take a relatively extreme example) the thing I did about ritual, or one of those occasional manifestoes that turns up in RPG Theory, or something like that.  Something that has relatively little obvious conversational equivalence and comparability to the Big Model, although in fact it may cover extremely similar ground upon closer inspection.

At any rate, I'd like to see the Big Model Forum be focused on the Big Model, although I do think that including variations and what we might call parallel tracks and epicycles around its orbit (e.g. Beeg Horseshoe et al.) belong here.  I think RPG Theory is a better place for pretty much everything else.  Of course, it's not exactly certain how things like the rgfa Threefold falls, but I think we can probably do that by feel.

Timfire, am I missing your point?
Chris Lehrich