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Author Topic: The impossible challenge before breakfast  (Read 16370 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2005, 08:05:12 PM »

Hi Mike,

All I'm seeing above is a case of the GM playing sim, and the players playing nar, and the incoherence causing the typical problem. If the GM were exploring with an agenda that matched the players, then the problem would not occur.
The GM is sim?? He's made an address of premise. I've had this happen in gamey/simey play, where the player just turned around and threw a big choice in an NPC's face. It shocked me so much I wrote an actual play account and no one refuted what had happened. Here it is.

Now, that example is where the player intended to push a thematic problem onto me (so he was being part of a nar agenda). However, I'm talking about where the players as part of another agenda entirely, by accident pushes a choice onto the GM which hits a narrativist nerve. Or just as easily, a sim nerve.

Quote
You seem to be saying that sometimes GMs fall into sim without recourse - they can't control themeslves? Actually I know that's not what you're saying, but I still can't make heads or tails of it. Is it that, not understanding mode, they have "sim moments?" Heck, I understand mode and still have all sorts of "Sim moments." So? Does that make my play simulationism? No.
Yup, that's exactly what I'm saying - they can't control themselves. And yes, it doesn't make play simulationist play...if it did and everyones on the sim bandwagon, that'd be great, no problem at all. Are you only going to agree there can be a problematic sim element, if play is simulationist (because address of causality can only exist in a sim agenda/sim play)?

Now, what I mean by control is - ah shit, here comes analogy - a person can date someone of the opposite sex, get married, have kids, and still be completely gay. You can control what you do...doesn't mean your controlling what you care about. Just because everyone has declared they want to play gamist, doesn't mean you've stopped being interested in simulationism. It just means your trying to concentrate on how you enjoy gamism. And sometimes, simulationism is just going to be more interesting than gamism.

I think we may be hitting a terminology problem here, in that gamism or simulationism denote the entirety of play. So I can't talk about one being (inappropriately) inside the other - since the jargon doesn't allow for anything but ONE agenda existing through all players through the entirety of play.
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contracycle
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2005, 04:34:25 AM »

I think we may be hitting a terminology problem here, in that gamism or simulationism denote the entirety of play. So I can't talk about one being (inappropriately) inside the other - since the jargon doesn't allow for anything but ONE agenda existing through all players through the entirety of play.

I don't think thats true.  We discuss CA's as if there were unitary and all encompassing, but this is not how they actually exist.  If you recall the discussions of "an instance of play", and the methods for identifying a mode, the duraiton is vague and the observation of a mode must appear several times to say a player favours that mode.  That does not mean that the player never has or never can employ other modes from time to time.

I think, based on personal experience, it is quite possible to be a habitual gamist and suddenly be struck by some game event in the way a Narr player is struck by a premise, and then enact it much as a habitual Narr player would, and then revert to default gamism.  In this regard I quite agree that the GM in your scenario "cannot help themselves".
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2005, 12:49:19 PM »

I don't see "address of causality" as being definitional of simulationism, nor do I see its presence in simulationism to be any different from its presence in gamism or narrativism. I will agree that the importance of causality is more likely statistically to be found in simulationist games, but many gamist and narrativist games are quite clear about the importance of causality, and some simulationist games toss it out the window almost completely.

You're getting hung up in a misunderstanding of what simulationism is, such that you appear to think that anything that revolves around "what would actually happen" must be simulationist. It's not. Sometimes in any agendum "what would actually happen" is ignored, and most of the time in every agendum "what would actually happen" is followed. It does not make play simulationist if anyone falls back on causality to determine what happens, and it does not make play non-simulationist for causality to be ignored.

Does this clear up anything?

--M. J. Young
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2005, 07:33:42 PM »

Hi MJ,

So far I've given several clear references to the player/GM getting really excited about saying what happens next, rather than saying it in a 'couldn't care less one way or the other' manner. A connection between "What would happen next" and sim is not being drawn. A connection between "What I'm really excited to say would happen next" and sim, is.

Based on that idea I'm focusing on how, during what is supposed to be a gamist agenda, the GM can get really excited about saying what would happen next. Which was of course, ironically, triggered by the players address of challenge.


Hi Contra,

Your first paragraph is basically what I was trying to say in the quote. Sorry to be confusing. I agree! And your second paragraph is what I'm getting at. :)
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2005, 08:40:46 PM »

Ah, I see what you're getting at now. My apologies for being so obtuse.

My inclination is to write it off as ordinary appreciation of aspects outside the agendum of play. After all, I've been in gamist sessions where people have suddenly made cool contributions to theme because they could, but never really let go of the primary focus on showing off their ability in the challenge.  I've seen simulationists be impressed by a brilliant strategy without stepping outside the framework of their exploration. There's no particular reason why someone couldn't admire a "simulationist moment" within gamist play, and as long as everyone is still supporting the gamist hope to show what they can do, that does not derail gamism.

It's kind of like stopping to admire the flowers when you're at the Olympics. You're not there for the flowers, but you can still appreciate them.

--M. J. Young
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Callan S.
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« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2005, 06:23:08 PM »

Cool, understanding is underway! :)

Your right, MJ, each guy can admire the other. But what I'm getting at is when both parties are looking for admiration from the other at exactly the same time - and we get a mexican stand off. Say the olympic athlete is looking for admiration for his achievement, from the gardener. And at the same time, the gardener is looking for admiration from the olympic athlete for his gardening. Niether is giving understanding, because their sitting their waiting for it to be given to them.

This standoff can be regularly triggered because the address of challenge requires someone (typically a GM) to think ahead. Although most of the time the GM might say what happens next in a 'couldn't care less' way, there's a good chance that he'll think up something that excites him and he'll be excited to say what happens next. And looking for appreciation of that, while at the same time the gamist player is looking for appreciation of what he just did.

So who goes first? Who stops looking for appreciation first and instead gives to the other guy? My idea above is a clunky turn based solution to it, but I feel it'd be draining to use it more than a few times in a session (just too much perceptual mode switching, IMO).

Side conjecture, rambling: One of the worst things, I think, is that when the GM gets excited about what happens next it makes the richest gamist experiences (you really feel your taking on the world - what a challenge!). However, the lack of appreciation for what he says, penalises him for doing it. I wonder about the term 'Hard core' and rather it really about a lack of understanding, rather than a lack of exploration. With an old actual play account, I noted how I left the second poison save to the GM to remember, rather than applying it to myself. At the time I considered it an act of exploration based on his skill...if he forgot to mention the second save, that spider musn't have injected a full dose, or was low on venom since there were NPC victims when we got here. The interpretation of play events into the game world, creates exploration. Whereas, perhaps I was supposed to understand the GM's assertion that if you get poisoned, then causally in a minutes time you make another save and that's how the game world works. Frankly, I had zero understanding of anything like that.

Okay, that side note could get in the way of understanding. Please ignore if it does!
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NN
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« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2005, 06:22:35 AM »

Can you give an example of a GM 'gamistically' appreciating a players address of challenge?

Other than
a) Great, your plan works!
b) Great, your plan is good, i'm giving you big bonus(es) to the resolution roll(s)!

What else is there?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2005, 02:20:58 PM »

Hi NN (No Name?),

There's thinking what you would do, if you were in his shoes. Would you come up with a plan that good? How do your tatics match with his? Are yours better? Perhaps better for this situation? Or can you learn something from his tactics? ETC.
Note: Your not asking yourself these things like it's a chore - if your playing gamist, then your so excited about his address, these questions start going through your head naturally.

But instead of thinking this, the GM is thinking of what happens next. Once he's done, he might start thinking the above, which is good. But if he's gotten excited about what happens next, he wont. He'll be looking for understanding himself.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2005, 06:42:40 PM »

It's a small point, but generally the referee and one player are not alone at the table.  Even when I run Multiverser games, I've got two to six players going, and each of them appreciates different things about each others' play. Thus given the social context of the game, it's entirely possible that some of the players are admiring the player's moves while others are admiring the referee's construction.

Apart from that, I do run a fair amount of one-on-one play, and I think that there is this mutual appreciation happening in those situations.  I can remember running Kyler through the terrorist tower (mentioned most recently on the Illusionism etc thread), and laughing aloud as he took on a terrorist several times his size and proceeded to destroy the guy with his martial arts skills. He knew I was impressed by what he did there. At the same time, I knew he was enjoying the unfolding of the scenario, which requires a lot of work from me in terms of timing and setting the scenes as they unfold. I don't have to stop appreciating what you're doing to wax in the appreciation you have for what I'm doing.

I am not saying that the dysfunction you cite doesn't happen, only that it is not, I think, inherent to the process.  It is more likely to be a problem if the simulationist referee thinks that the gamist player is "playing wrong" because he's not contributing to the dream appropriately but is trying to get glory for himself by doing things the character probably would not have done "if it were real".  In that case, the referee probably feels that the player doesn't appreciate what he's doing because the player isn't thinking in those terms at all, and the player certainly feels that the referee doesn't appreciate what he's doing because, frankly, he doesn't.  Even if the other players support either or both of these agenda, you've got a split table, and classic dysfunction revealing itself at a critical juncture. Dysfunction always is most evident at those moments when agendum is most important.

--M. J. Young
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Callan S.
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« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2005, 07:48:12 PM »

Hi MJ,

I agree with the first paragraph. I'd considered something like it as another type of solution - two players are supposed to be gaming sim with each other, using actions of the gamist as fuel for that. While two gamists use the sim players reactions and try to impress each other with how they can use that to best advantage.

On the second paragraph...I need more info. In nar, for example, you can challenge other players perceptions of a character and they become impressed. I remember an example of Tony's, where the other player set up the superhero to face off with his mind controlled love of his life. And he smashes her across the face. "Whoa, that's quite a statement" I think the example ended with the other player saying.

I think simulationist play can challenge perceptions in just the same way
"The strong beat the small"
"Ah, but look here, small and talented beats the strong!"
"Whoa, that's quite a statement!"

So I'd need more info on that to be certain it was an example of mutual agenda appreciation.

On the third point, I think if a rule set asks players to shift agenda, that rule set is drawing all the problems of a split agenda closer to happening. That sounds similar to what your saying. I think that good players and GM can get around that, but much in the spirit of the 'system does matter' essay, I'd prefer them putting their efforts into forfilling agenda.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2005, 02:47:07 PM »

I thought of another seperator: have the players write down a secret goal of their own devising that the GM doesn't know (they do show their fellow players). The players then try to achieve this in play, while keeping it secret (at the end of the session they show the GM their goal).

This means the two agendas simply can not merge to become just sim play. If you don't know the goal of the other person, you can't structure the game so as to fit their goal into a stimulating simulationists layout. You can't push for drift*. So the GM just arbitrates along, without really knowing what's important to the players. That way he can't start to structure play so that the important thing just happens to be at the end of a big simulationist exploration.

I imagine that could be quite shocking "But how do you co-operate to make a story then!?" and I'd reply "You don't. Yay!"

Once the sessions ended, you could go back and piece together a story from game events. But that's very different from making story creation a primary goal of play.

* The push either results in everyone going over to sim, or agenda clash as players push against each others wishes.
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Marco
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« Reply #26 on: November 01, 2005, 04:31:30 AM »

In most of the games I play in I either have some fuzzily defined goals or more concrete goals that are unstated.I don't see how this impacts the play especially: GMs, IME, are usually able to figure out what my characters are trying to do to some extent--or the situation is such that there are clear forces at work on my character and while the outcome of the events won't be specified by any one agency the dynamic is usually pretty easily understood.

1. I think you can get stories out of situation and character pretty reliably without needing active assistance on the part of the players during play. Wanting to produce a story during play has special meaning in this context but if what I want is a game-narrative with meaning and structure as in a story, I can get that reliably and from actor-stance if the characters and situation are properly designed. I don't see where your methodology precludes that.
2. The dynamic can still be cooperative or antagonisic or neutral (and, in fact, it can be, in some senses two of those at once--a GM can have sympathy for a PC's or player's desires while running hard-core opposition or making a random roll for the outcome).

I'm not sure hidden goals accomplish anything unusual--I think they are pretty much a default for many groups.

-Marco
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: November 01, 2005, 08:01:59 PM »

Hi Marco,

I agree, GM's usually work out what the players in game goals are. And GM's usually do try to figure it out. But why is the GM trying to figure it out? What's the motive behind that?

My suggestion makes the divide explicit. Sure, you could try to figure it out, secretly. But that's really against the spirit of the rule the group has agreed to.

Quote
or the situation is such that there are clear forces at work on my character and while the outcome of the events won't be specified by any one agency the dynamic is usually pretty easily understood.
Not sure what you mean, could you describe that again?

1. I think your right. You could shape a nifty story where at the end the princess is saved (where the player decided to talk with the dragon). However, while your crafted story might be about a princess saved, the players completed goal was to make an ally out of a dragon and he doesn't care that much about the princess.

Stories usually resolve around what the protagonists cares about. Your going to have a tough time story making, when you don't know what the character/the player is actually invested in.

2. I'm not sure how you mean it could still be co-operative or antagonistic play on the part of the GM. If you don't know someones goal, it's very hard to foil it or help them with it. Are you saying this in conjunction with the idea that the GM will figure out your goal?
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Marco
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« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2005, 04:11:21 AM »

Hi Marco,

I agree, GM's usually work out what the players in game goals are. And GM's usually do try to figure it out. But why is the GM trying to figure it out? What's the motive behind that?
I don't think there's a motive per se. I think it's something that usually just happens. In most cases I can think of, player goals tend to be fairly grand things on the large scale and fairly simple on the small scale. "Firguring this out" doesn't require much beyond paying attention and seeing what someone is trying to do.

Quote
Quote
or the situation is such that there are clear forces at work on my character and while the outcome of the events won't be specified by any one agency the dynamic is usually pretty easily understood.
Not sure what you mean, could you describe that again?
Sure. If I start a game being given the one-ring and am told the world will end and everyone I care about will die horribly if I don't throw it into a volcano, my motivations will (usually) be pretty clear. This is an extreme (some would say railroaded) case--but I think in many less severe cases this is equally clear (the player has made a treasure-hunting, monster-slaying warrior and goes into the tavern and asks after rumors of treasure and monsters).

Quote
1. I think your right. You could shape a nifty story where at the end the princess is saved (where the player decided to talk with the dragon). However, while your crafted story might be about a princess saved, the players completed goal was to make an ally out of a dragon and he doesn't care that much about the princess.

Stories usually resolve around what the protagonists cares about. Your going to have a tough time story making, when you don't know what the character/the player is actually invested in.
By definition traditional stories usually resolve around what the protagonists care about. Gaming is a slightly different dynamic: elements in the game may or may not interest the characters/players because of the more-than-one-person-making-it dynamic.

I expect that in most cases, if the player wishes to make an ally of the dragon, it will become pretty clear pretty quickly whether that is a realisitc expectation or not (assuming the GM has a characterization of the dragon in mind before the player starts the attempt).

Gaming optimally should revolve around what interests the participants (otherwise, why do it?) but the mechanism that guarantees that in traditional writing is simply not present (or not present as strongly) in most gaming.

Quote
2. I'm not sure how you mean it could still be co-operative or antagonistic play on the part of the GM. If you don't know someones goal, it's very hard to foil it or help them with it. Are you saying this in conjunction with the idea that the GM will figure out your goal?
IME cooperation is an attitude. If I run things "straight" I can still cooperate or not with the player. An example is how I *explain* and *describe* the world. If I say "The merchant seems abrupt but is clearly looking for a deal" that conveys different information than simply doing the merchant's harsh dialog.

Neither is necessiarily more player-goal-oriented but our method of interaction can be more or less illuminating. Also: as the GM, *I* may enjoy the game more when:
1. The players are clearly happy.
2. *I* have proven my intellectual superiority over the players.

If I have the second goal, no matter what my understanding of the goals of the characters or players are in the game, I expect people will find the game less "cooperative" than if I have the first.

-Marco
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Callan S.
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« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2005, 10:43:14 PM »

Quote
I don't think there's a motive per se. I think it's something that usually just happens. In most cases I can think of, player goals tend to be fairly grand things on the large scale and fairly simple on the small scale. "Firguring this out" doesn't require much beyond paying attention and seeing what someone is trying to do.
Ah, gotcha. I should have made it explicit in the idea...the player doesn't just hide his written goal from the GM. Sorry, I thought that the rule would indicate play style as well - you don't hide something only to reveal it five minutes into play by your actions. Instead players should go to deliberate lengths in play to hide his goal from the GM. For example, he might go to steal a car and the GM thinks "Oh, he wants a car". But really the player wants a car alarm to go off as a distraction for something else.

The players should keep missdirecting until the GM just quits trying to guess their goal. When I asked what the GM's motive is in trying to find out the goal I mean, why does he still try in the face of resistance?

About the ring example, I don't think that sets the players goal. Lets say the players secret goal is to have sex with hot elf chicks. Say he does that and it gets in the way of throwing the ring in mount doom and everyone dies. The GM can yell YOU LOSE! But the player will just turn around and say 'No I didn't, I met my goal'. The GM's heavy emphasis didn't mean the GM knew the players goal.

About story writing, I think I get what you mean. I guess what I mean is that it doesn't get in the way of story making so much, but instead it gets in the way of story making as a player goal shaping tool. "The impossibly beutiful princess has been captured and must be rescued" is too often a "this is the goal you have to have" statement, by making the story revolve around that.

Quote
IME cooperation is an attitude. If I run things "straight" I can still cooperate or not with the player. An example is how I *explain* and *describe* the world. If I say "The merchant seems abrupt but is clearly looking for a deal" that conveys different information than simply doing the merchant's harsh dialog.
That can't be co-operation unless A: You know the players goal and that is to get a deal or B: You want to offer the player a deal and are saying it quite explicitly to aid in that.

However, it isn't co-operation if you say "The merchant seems abrupt but is clearly looking for a deal" and the player responds "Okay, while I've got him distracted, Keith the thief nips in and takes all his stuff!". Certainly not the co-operation you intended.

Basically the secret goal is there to get rid of co-operation like this. Because the game shouldn't be going as the GM intends.
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