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Author Topic: Illusionism etc  (Read 10420 times)
jmac
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« on: October 14, 2005, 08:35:59 AM »

I've looked through the forum and found few discussions about this kind of play. The topics found were either old, or opinions expressed were of a recognizable kind. It looks like followers of this approach are not many here. I wonder if I'm wrong, anyway I have a bunch of things to discuss, those hardly appropriate to other kinds of games, like:

- hard in-game tasks and staying in character - dividing the brain and who wins

- with resolution objective enough, how can players think about the story at all?

- prediction is appropriate, not control or force

- Is playing characters of different psychological type possible?

...
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Ivan.
Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2005, 08:45:47 AM »

Ivan, you might want to read this article, by M. J. Young. He goes into illusionism and participationism, and I think it might address the broader issue of preferring illusionist play, though not your specific points. I just thought it might be good background material.
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jmac
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2005, 09:02:39 AM »

I've read it, Andrew, thanks for the link. The four things described there are really too Platonic :)
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Ivan.
Adam Cerling
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2005, 09:04:13 AM »

If you want to start a discussion, go ahead. Take one of the talking points you've outlined, explain your viewpoint, and ask some questions.

Be prepared to field criticism, however. I suspect you've seen few threads on illusionism here because many folks feel like it's inherently problematic, if not outright dysfunctional.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2005, 09:17:30 AM »

Time for a bit of history, the term Illusionism was coined in response to this thread here: http://www.gamingoutpost.com/discussions/index.php?showtopic=28594

(They've changed the format over there again at GO, so I had to search it up again, and it's good to post the original link where people can get to it)

Paul Elliot noted that he used tricks reminiscent of a modern day magician, illusions, to force plot to happen as he'd pre-determined it, but in such a way as that the players felt as though their decisions were causing the events of the game to occur as they were.

I quibble with MJ's article in that I'd say that by his definitions almost all Illusionism is somewhat participationism. That is, I think there's a spectrum of visibility between the two. Effectively players understand that it's likely at least that the GM is forcing plot, they just can't tell where or how particularly. Basically, like someone who goes to see a magic show, nobody is fooled into thinking that there's actual magic going on. We all know it's an illusion. But the fact that we can't tell how it's done makes it feel "magical enough." The idea with functional illusionism is that the players want the GM to enforce an interesting plot, but they want to not know when it was them, and when it was the GM that caused it to happen.

And I'd disagree that completely covert illusionism is dysfunctional automatically, it's just that it likely is, because the break in the social contract is likely to become visible at some point. I don't advocate anyone trying to "get away" with illusionism against their player's will. But I think it illustrates the point about illusionism to point out that, with perfectly indetectable illusions, nobody would be dissapointed.

The main criticism leveled at functional illusionism to the extent that it exists is that it's hard. You have to, like a magician, have an ability to deliver lies deadpan. And not many people can do that well. You have to know all of the various tricks. Worse, you're going to mess up from time to time, and that can lead to all sorts of problems when you do (especially if the illusionism contract is, as I think it almost always is, not overtly created).

This is why many of us see allowing players to actually have control of plot is better. Its likely that illusionism developed as a response to problems of conflicting agendas from earlier play (in both specific cases, and as a gamer phenomenon). That is, the GM noting that the system in question, likely supporting gamism, was not prompting the players to do anything remotely like creating a plot, decides that it has to be his sole duty to do so. But not wanting to appear to be railroading, he inserts the illusion that the players still have some semblance of control.

When, in fact, if you have an agenda shared by all of the players, this is largely unneccessary. That is, if you have a gamism agenda, or a sim agenda not aimed at producing plot, or if you have a narrativism agenda, then you can hand over power to the players, and they'll create something satisfiying. If you want plot, however, and you want sim play from players, then you have to use either illusionism or participationism or somesuch. Pretty much by definition of these things.

Mike
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2005, 09:43:28 AM »

I'll concur with Mike.  Illusionism isn't necessarily broken or dysfunctional, but it is indirect.  I'll try and diagram in ASCII:

Illusionism goes like this:
Player Desires --> GM Understanding --> GM Fiat --> Events in the Game

That is, the Players will want X (more likely they'll want X, Y, Z, and Q).  The GM somehow has to figure out what that X is.  Then the GM needs to figure ways to make X happen by his fiat.  Then he has to do his legerdemain to make his fiats look like they were the results of player actions.  If everything works out, the Events in the Game match Player Desires.  Each one of those arrows in the diagram is problematic to some extent -- the GM is often called upon to use his psychic powers to know what the players want, the GM is rarely given explicit tools on what things he can do to produce given effects, and the GM has to be very good at his legerdemain to make it look like he's not forcing things.  The situation is fraught with potential screwups.

(Not to mention that a lot of Illusionist GMs don't understand that Illusionism doesn't start with "the story I want to tell" like they think it does.  Illusionism will only work (ie, satisfy the players) if "the story I want to tell" also happens to be a story that the players want to hear.)

Non-Illusionist games that empower the players, on the other hand, go like this:
Player Desires --> Events in the Game

The GM step is not necessary (I mean, look at Capes!).  The players can directly steer the game to address what they're interested in.  This is not without its own consequences, of course.  The players have to know what they want, and this requires a lot more effort on the part of the players.  This is not a passive experience by any stretch of the imagination, while playing in an Illusionist game can be profoundly passive.

I happen to think that the 'streamlined' nature of non-Illusionism is one of the reasons the gamebooks turn out so short -- there's fewer rules because there's less happening from a procedural point of view.

Also, I've got to say that the vast bulk of the Illusionism threads are sincerely hampered by posters who haven't ever played outside of that style of play.  If you possibly can, gather round some friends and play Capes Lite or something (it's free) to at least get a taste of what playing outside the box is like.  Maybe you won't like it, maybe you will.  But it will give you a much better perspective on the thing that you've been doing for the past ten or twenty years.
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jmac
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2005, 01:56:51 AM »

There is a little sense in discussing things I mentioned in the first post, if the approach itself is questionable.

I see it like this:
players play sim, 100%. GM exerts no control on their actions or outcomes, everything GM does is done through NPCs or changes to game world virtually unnoticeable by player characters. GM prepares 'story' elements - preplanned only those that cannot be influenced by the PCs (very few, in fact), other preparations are all used in beginning or are themselves getting ready game world to react to PC actions. If nothing happens or game ends early (like everybody dies or something) or is somewhat unsatisfying - it is discussed and changes to system are made after the session is finished and before another one, no metagame is acceptable during play.

It is not dysfunctional if characters are prepared and generally "fit" prepared story, outcomes are objective enough, and system rewards players for good sim play. These are all parts of social contract and details are discussed before each game. It quite hard to meet all these conditions, but I guess it's worth it.
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Ivan.
Marco
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2005, 04:21:31 AM »

I see it like this:
players play sim, 100%. GM exerts no control on their actions or outcomes, everything GM does is done through NPCs or changes to game world virtually unnoticeable by player characters. GM prepares 'story' elements - preplanned only those that cannot be influenced by the PCs (very few, in fact), other preparations are all used in beginning or are themselves getting ready game world to react to PC actions. If nothing happens or game ends early (like everybody dies or something) or is somewhat unsatisfying - it is discussed and changes to system are made after the session is finished and before another one, no metagame is acceptable during play.

It is not dysfunctional if characters are prepared and generally "fit" prepared story, outcomes are objective enough, and system rewards players for good sim play. These are all parts of social contract and details are discussed before each game. It quite hard to meet all these conditions, but I guess it's worth it.

This sounds like fairly standard play to me--where do you see the "illusion" in this? I think that illusionsim (as usually described here) is somewhat dysfunctional since the overall impression of it is:

1. Total. MJ recounts a game where everything that happened was under the GM's control. It wasn't just a few things (which some people might find acceptable) that were manipulated without anyone's knowledge--it was everything.

2. It involves an inherent lie to the players because of its totality. The fact of the matter is that in the "illusionist game" the players aren't going to make any difference. Therefore, if this was said out in the open, players would have a chance to consent to that or not--but because it's covert, I don't think especially highly of it.

NOTE:
(a) People talk about "illusionist techniques" outside of "illusionist games"--so if the GM just decides that wherever the players go in the deep woods they'll first run into the woodsman that may or may not be considered manipulation (especially not if the GM doesn't perscribe what the outcome of the encounter is).

(b) The issue, like all of these to some degree, is terminological in the extreme. There's a mode of play called No Myth that more or less fits what I'd have called Illusionism in a functional form before it got its own name. MJ has made a case for illusionism-games being totally, but covertly, GM controlled and, to have a useful definition of it, I'm inclined to agree with him.

-Marco
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2005, 08:07:17 AM »

players play sim, 100%. GM exerts no control on their actions or outcomes, everything GM does is done through NPCs or changes to game world virtually unnoticeable by player characters. GM prepares 'story' elements - preplanned only those that cannot be influenced by the PCs (very few, in fact), other preparations are all used in beginning or are themselves getting ready game world to react to PC actions. If nothing happens or game ends early (like everybody dies or something) or is somewhat unsatisfying - it is discussed and changes to system are made after the session is finished and before another one, no metagame is acceptable during play.

Does the system ask the GM to interpret dice rolls? Does the system ask him to set difficulty levels, or apply circumstance modifiers? Does the system ask the GM to call for dice rolls when he thinks it's appropriate? All of these are a means for the GM to exert control on the PCs' actions and outcomes.

I played a Star Wars d20 game recently. It was Illusionism for most of the players (and Participationism for me, since I knew what I was getting into). At the end, our party made it to the ship and rocketed away. Our goal was to escape the star system. On the ground behind us was a Sith Lord, launching her own ship. Our GM got to make all the following decisions:

a) Does the Sith launch her ship in time to catch up to us? (Yes)
b) How many turns do we need before we can kick our ship into hyperdrive? (Three)
c) We want to evade her with Piloting rolls. What's the difficulty? What are the modifiers? (These, I don't remember, but they were all the arbitrary choice of the GM. Even if they were based on the Sith's Piloting skill and her model of ship compared to ours, it was the GM who had chosen her skills, her model of ship, even our model of ship.)
d) If we fail a roll, what will that mean? Damage to the ship? To the hyperdrive? Does she cut us off? Board us? (We made all three Piloting rolls, so this didn't come up.)
e) Does she use her Force powers to mess with us? (No. Why not?)
f) Are there reinforcements nearby? (No. Again, why not? It's an Empire planet.)

Do you see how all of these decisions imply GM control over our actions and outcomes? He was well within his power to give different answers to any of them. If he wanted us to get caught, he'd have required more turns for us to get into hyperdrive, required higher difficulties, or had the NPC use her Force powers. He decided not to do any of these things, so we managed to get away -- and it never felt to me as though we had accomplished our own escape. The GM had accomplished it, simply by the way he directed events. If the other players at the table felt like they had anything to do with that victory -- that's the illusion.

Of course, you talk about "outcomes being objective enough." I don't think I've seen a Sim-enabling game short of historical miniatures that accomplished that. Few systems remove the opportunity for the GM to make arbitrary decisions that limit the players' actions and outcomes to what the GM wants. Is there a system you have in mind that you think suits Illusionism particularly well?

Separately --

"No metagame during play" isn't a technique that's tied to Illusionism in particular. Illusionism functions without obstruction even if players are discussing the game rules in every other sentence. "No metagame during play" is more of a technique associated with Immersion, which, according to the Glossary, could mean any of "(a) undivided attention to the Shared Imagined Space, (b) the absence of overtly stating features of Social Contract and Creative Agenda, (c) strong identification with one's imaginary character."

I just want to make sure -- you're not saying "Illusionism" when you really mean to talk about "Immersion," are you?
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Adam Cerling
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2005, 10:56:04 AM »

Yeah, what these guys are saying jmac. That is, what you describe sounds like "open simulationism" to me, which is identified distinct from illusionism. If the players control events such that, for example, the game might fall apart from disinterest, then it's highly unlikely that illusionism is going on.

Here's a practical illusionism example. The GM needs the PCs to find a bit of information so that they know how to get to the dungeon. So they've been lead to the library, and make some skill rolls to find the information. The GM looks at the rolls sees what the highest roll is, and retroactively sets the difficulty of the roll to make it so just that one PC got the information in question. He doesn't let on that he's doing this, he just does it in his head (he might just look for the highest total roll, for instance). So he announces that the PC in question found the information in question. This illusion makes it seem that character ability matters to where the plot goes next, when, in fact, it's irrellevant.

Another example, the PCs come to a fork in the road, and to give the players a sense of control in decision making, he allows them to chose which way to go. But whichever way they choose to go, the GM describes it as leading to the next scene he needs the players to go to in order for his interesting pre-designed story to come off right.

In another circumstance, the players are in a fight that they must lose, so that the very dramatic jail scene that comes next in the GM's plot will happen. The players come up with a clever way to avoid the fight, however, so the GM has them fall into a pit trap instead so that they still get captured.

See what we're getting at? Illusionism is the GM using his authority to manipulate things so that his vision of what's interesting in terms of plot happens. But it's done in such a way that the players may feel that they're actually causing the plot to come out the way that it's coming out. Now, whether or not the plot is written down by the GM, or he happens to be making it up as he goes along but is making dramatic decisions as to where it should go is irrelevant, actually. The only question is whether or not the GM is controlling the plot.

If, in fact, the player decisions can change the course of events, then it's either open simulationism, or narrativism, or many kinds of gamism. But not illusionism driven sim.

Now, also pretty obviously, a GM can switch back and forth between these methods. That is, he might only use illusionism on certain occasions, and perhaps, play open the rest of the time. In fact, this is generally automatically true on the micro scale. That is, GMs don't usually use illusionism to control the micro-details of play. It is possible using some of these techniques to, for instance, even get players to say near precisely the dialog you want them to say. But that's not usually the level at which things are controlled. Most often its only practicable and usefull to control events at the "plot" level. That is "what are we going to do next" sort of stuff.

Now, when this is seen as railroading, and when it's seen as functional illusionism can vary between people. For instance, there's a very bad illusion that GMs use all the time called Hobson's Choice. This is where the GM gives a plot lead, and the other choice seems to be "Or we don't play." No player "falls" for this illusion, it's always accepted by convention, and often it's allowed only once per session right at the beginning. As my player Dave always used to say at this point, "Aha, tonights adventure." In theory the player can say, "Nope, my character's not interested" and walk away. But in practice since there's nothing else interesting to do, this is not done. Or, if it is, you have dysfunctional incoherence. That is, the player is basically saying that this is, for him, railroading, and the GM is taking away control of his character at a level that the player is not comfortable with, despite the supposed illusion.

Illusionism isn't automatically dysfunctional, at least not in theory. It usually ends up being dysfunctional because it becomes the GM's style of play to avoid certain problems. That is, the players have not actually joined into making a contract with the GM to play this way. The only way that Illusionism is functional is if the players have actually agreed. Often after playing this way a long time, without knowing the details on the level we're discussing them here, players come to understand the incohrence, and acceed to the "neccessities" of this style of play. Like my friend Dave who would allow this one very unsubtle illusion once per game understanding that it was a neccesity of the play style.

Again, however, other methods pioneered by people like Gareth Michael Skarka with his Intuitive Continuity idea have since lead to other methods of play that don't have the potential troubles that illusionism has. Basically these are either GMs "Following" the player leads and making their input into interesting stuff after the fact, or players and GMs collaborating together to create plot.

Now, the theoretical problem with the latter, though it sounds good, is that some players apparently don't want to be saddled with helping to create the plot, resorting to "I just want to play my character" as their role in the game. So, for these players, perhaps illusionism (or IntCon) is the only way to go. But the question is how much have players been trained to expect this level of interaction. Because it does seem that if you merely expect a more equal participation that most players are quite up to the task (and, indeed, this can mostly be done by simply controling the characters reactions).

So it's not a done deal that illusionism is a bad thing. For those who seem to like it, they point out that the potential problems are worth the benefits. And that other styles have their own problems. So I at least am not denying this - just pointing out what I see as the problems and why the benefits can be had with other styles of play.

Mike
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timfire
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2005, 11:16:06 AM »

Now, also pretty obviously, a GM can switch back and forth between these methods. That is, he might only use illusionism on certain occasions, and perhaps, play open the rest of the time... Illusionism isn't automatically dysfunctional, at least not in theory.

Real quick, I want to draw a distinction. There are illusionist techniques, and then there's the play style Illusionism. Illusionist techniques are used all the time, by all CA's, for all sorts of functional purposes. But the play-style, Illusionism, is defined by the GM hiding the fact he's using illusionist techniques to maintain control over the game. Illusionism is usually considered to be inherently dysfunctional.
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Halzebier
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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2005, 11:22:06 AM »

Illusionism goes like this:
Player Desires --> GM Understanding --> GM Fiat --> Events in the Game

Non-Illusionist games that empower the players, on the other hand, go like this:
Player Desires --> Events in the Game

I think that's an excellent diagram! I've tried to explain the concept, sort of, to a fellow roleplayer in more muddled terms, and his reaction to the second concept pictured above was as follows:

"But that's boring! If my Elven ranger falls in love with the NPC princess and I, the player, get to decide the feeling is mutual, that's boring."

The thing is, the player doesn't get to make up an outcome favorable to his character, but (a) gets to make the game be about the princess' feeling for his character and (b) in many (narrativist) games gets at least a fair chance of the favorable outcome happening.

In The Pool, for instance, I could just call for a roll to make the princess genuinely fall in love with my character. My roll my fail - there's the tension! -, but either way, the game is about the relationship between my character and that princess. So my player's desire will be fulfilled, if not my character's.

Regards,

Hal
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Halzebier
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« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2005, 11:34:05 AM »

[T]he play-style, Illusionism, is defined by the GM hiding the fact he's using illusionist techniques to maintain control over the game. Illusionism is usually considered to be inherently dysfunctional.

It's about as functional as cheating on your wife.

That can function for everybody involved as long as she does not find out. But the situation is inherently fraught with the risk of dysfunction (she could sense something is amiss, suspect or find out) and thus, arguably, "inherently dysfunctional".

Many GMs have been doing it for years (though most of their players know, but try to look the other way, i.e. hold up their end of the illusion, as it were).

Regards,

Hal
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jmac
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« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2005, 12:11:43 PM »

Oh my goodness, I wonder if I would got rid of those terms if I were you :)

So lie is really a distinction between using ill.techniques and ill.style? hmm...
(But what is lie?)

Does the system ask the GM to interpret dice rolls? Does the system ask him to set difficulty levels, or apply circumstance modifiers? Does the system ask the GM to call for dice rolls when he thinks it's appropriate? All of these are a means for the GM to exert control on the PCs' actions and outcomes.
Most of time - yes, GM does. It's impossible to be really objective, GM should be just objective enough - enough to be credible for these players (should the difference between this "enough" and objectivity be considered lie?).
GM is only one allowed to look from "outside" and to make some "drama-based" stuff to make things interesting, not just sitting and talking "but very credible and realistic", GM can use aforesaid tolerance to do this.
Players shouldn't think about if this thing for them to accept is realistic or it is part of a railroad or of a plot - or should they?
If it's too weird - of course it's hard to accept and it breaks the play, but, you know, man is measure of all things.

Quote
I just want to make sure -- you're not saying "Illusionism" when you really mean to talk about "Immersion," are you?
I though Immersion is out of question considering Sim play for the players.

When I play, how do I really know if my character's actions affect plot or story or whatever?

Another example, the PCs come to a fork in the road, and to give the players a sense of control in decision making, he allows them to chose which way to go. But whichever way they choose to go, the GM describes it as leading to the next scene he needs the players to go to in order for his interesting pre-designed story to come off right.
This one is really hard :) who really knows where was one place and where the other, where actually was that NPC waiting for them etc.
Hardly we can talk about lie, if truth does not exist.

Quote
Now, the theoretical problem with the latter, though it sounds good, is that some players apparently don't want to be saddled with helping to create the plot, resorting to "I just want to play my character" as their role in the game.
wait, I thought, simulationism (ill. is kind of it, right?) is not about plot, its about simulation and Exploration?
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Ivan.
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2005, 06:24:19 AM »

Tim, I think that's generally accurate, but I'd like to clarify that:
A) While illusionist techniques can theoretically be used in any CA, that's not to say that they're used in all play. I don't think you mean to imply that, but just to be clear, a lot of play occurs sans any illusion at all. And

B) The question of whether or not play is illusionism as a subset of simulationism is a matter of identifying an overall creative agenda. Which means that the use of techniques is part of that identification, but not the whole of it, of course.


Hal, to extend your metaphor, the theoretical functional illusionism is where your wife says, "Go ahead and sleep with other women, just don't let me find out about it." Does that make it more clear? All this talk about "lies" is confusing the issue because the term is being bandied about without context. Again, again, again, it's about having a social contract that allows for illusionism. I'd agree that in many cases you don't have a contract at all, in which case, yes, if/when you get caught cheating, you're going to have a problem. Note that all my theorizing about such dishonest play being functional is not condoning it. I'm merely saying that, for understanding's sake, that you should note that illusionism is functional even when not a valid part of the social contract up until the point where it's discovered. Which I think is almost certain to happen. So no, don't ever do this, despite the possible temptation.

The second condition is where the social contract becomes forged sorta "accidentally" or at least tacitly. That is, the GM starts using illusionist techniques a little here, a little there, and the players are aware that it's going on, if not precisely where it's going on. And over time they don't complain about this, and eventually come to accept it as part of the contract. This would be like a wife noticing her husband's dalliances growing in intensity, but simply deciding not to complain about it. This situation is of dubious merit, but not automatically dysfunctional at any particular point.

What I'd advocate, if one really wants to have illusionism, is that it be negotiated up front. "I'm going to use these tricks, and when those occasions occur that you guys see what's really going on, you promise to ignore it."

All RPG play is, in some ways, a lie. So I don't have a problem if everyone agrees to be lying to each other this way. I think it can be quite functional (if, as I've said repeatedly, also problematic) in theory. That is, it's just another creative agenda, all of which are functional to the extent that people are making an informed choice as to what they're agreeing to do together.

Uh, consenting adults and all. :-)


Ivan,

You seem like you're making a lot of judgment calls in your post. Which sounds like you're talking about your prefered way to play. That's fine, but it doesn't mean that other people can't have fun playing other ways. I'd drop talking about "Immersion" here, since that's a largely undefined term that tends to take on whatever meaning is assigned to it by the person using it. If you have to use it, please define it as you use it. In any case, I think that almost any meaning for the term doesn't have anything to do with anything we're discussing here.

The lie in the case of the "Magician's Force" example of the fork in the road is not that the destination lies down one road or another. As you say, that's a fiction in any case. The lie here is that you're implying that the player's decision has an impact. You're saying, "If you go one way, you'll get to one destination, if you go the other way, you'll get to a different destination." When in fact, no matter which way they go, they'll get to the same destination.

Quote
wait, I thought, simulationism (ill. is kind of it, right?) is not about plot, its about simulation and Exploration?
There are a lot of misconceptions implicit in this statement. Too many to deal with in detail here. But it should suffice to say that all CAs can create plot as output, and most seek to do so in some measure. Even in gamism, the "gamists" point out that the decisions of who to attack when, etc, create a sort of drama all it's own. The rising tension near the end of a battle has it's own dramatic pace. So plot and drama are often sought in this sort of play. But as a side effect. That is, creative agenda is about priority. In gamism the priority is on winning (OK, address of tactical player challenge), and not on creating plot with decisions. In simulationism it's about making decisions that are internally consistent with what we know about the in-game situation. Which, again, given the right genre expectations, and situations will produce plot. As a side effect. Narrativism is the player prioritizing creating plot over "winning" or creating a "good conclusion about what would happen based on in-game circumstance."

Illusionism specifically seeks to do three things as a subset of simulationism:
1. Allow the players to play only to causality, and not overtly consider plot ramifications.
2. Allows the GM to seem to play only to causality, when in fact he's playing to drama.
3. Make it seem like the drama that's occuring is a product of the player's decisions.

Put another way, simulationism is about trying to keep the impression that everything is occuring from an in-game rationale, and that player whim is not part of what is making things happen. Impression is the operative term here. What's really going on is that the GM is, in fact, using his whim to decide what happens in order to keep play dramatic. But he's doing so in a way that attempts to conceal his conscious meddling in cause and effect.

So the goals of illusionism are to make play dramatic while not letting on that anyone is acting to make play dramatic so as to maintain the illusion that the game world has a reality and in-game causality of it's own. Everyone seems to be just arguing from cause to effect from things that already exist, but in reality the GM is being allowed to manipulate things behind the scenes so that things turn out in a dramatic fashion.

Narrativism in most cases simply brings this process above the table, and shares it. What's lost in narrativism (to the "illusionist") is the sense that there's a "hard" in-game world to explore that has it's own rules and reality and that does not bend to player (the GM in this case) whim.

Open simulationism means that there is no illusion going on, that everything the GM presents is as it is. If he says that there are two destinations, one down each road, there are two destinations, and the player's choice will determine which the character gets to. There's enough "unknown" about the world that, yes, in fact a GM can create things as he needs to in order to make this sort of play dramatic. This is "Intuitive Continuity." What he can't do, however, is force play to stick to a pre-selected plot. He'll have to improvise mightily to make play dramatic after the fact.

It is, in fact, this generally accepted GM obligation, to make up things that are not already decided upon in terms of the setting as needed (because no setting can be "complete" in these terms), that is the root of illusionism. That is, the GM simply extrapolates that all he has to do is to say that the setting material in question is notional, and not set until it's broght up in play, that allows him the "right" to use illusionist technique. "No Myth" play, play in which everyone understands that nothing is set until it's seen in play, is, again, an overt recognition of the usefulness of the idea of non-solidity by both the GM and the players, who accept in this case that there is nothing set in-game, other than what's been established. This is participationism play if the players abdicate their right to create plot then, or narrativism if they take up the obvious reins of power that this shows them. 

OK, I'm rambling on now. But the point is that it's important to understand these distinctions because so much of dysfunction does occur because of incoherence in these styles.

Mike
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