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Author Topic: Clarifying Participationism  (Read 15233 times)
Caldis
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« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2005, 08:42:33 AM »



Hey Callan

The problem with causality is that it's not a binary thing, there's never a single accurate response to a given situation.  If you're playing a game set in the Star Wars universe standing out in the open and crying about a fallen comrade while dozens of enemies fire at you is going to give you a different result then one set in Saving Private Ryan.  The GM is in charge of maintaining that tone and can fully claim to be responding to causality and following his plot design, genuine sim includes play with story used in such a fashion.  The plot design is the basis of causality.  Play where sim players are free to move about the environment is just a different type of plot, more of a travelogue than a recreation of drama, yet they still remain the same the gm controls what the players encounter and they participate in his vision. 


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Silmenume
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« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2005, 11:37:33 AM »

Just my quick 2 cents here from the peanut gallery –

Given the example of the fork in the road, Mike if you don’t mind too much, I’d like to reexamine it as such:

Participationism GM: "There's a fork in the road. The city is to the left, so you go that way."

Illusionism GM: "There's a fork in the road, which way do you go?"
Player: "We go left.  We hear there’s a city on the right that we’d like to avoid."
Illusionism GM (ignoring map subtly): "You end up at the city."

Stock GM scene creation: "There's a fork in the road, which way do you go?"
Player: "We go left.”
Stock GM scene creation: (ignoring map subtly): "You end up at a city."

The difference between Illusionism and GM scene creation is that in the former the Players were making a specific choice about something they had some knowledge about and thus had stakes in the outcome – which the GM nullified by fiat.

In the latter case, since the Player’s have stated no intent about destination then it does not matter where they end up – there are no stakes and thus nothing to deprive the players of.  All the players have done is to make a choice between right or left which they were granted full freedom to choose – they did not make any specific mention of their intention or goals for making such a choice.  They made their choice, but it had no real bearing on their desires so nothing was deprived to them by the GM fiat.  No Force, no Illusion – just the introduction of new Setting elements.
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Jay
Marco
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« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2005, 02:26:04 PM »

The difference between Illusionism and GM scene creation is that in the former the Players were making a specific choice about something they had some knowledge about and thus had stakes in the outcome – which the GM nullified by fiat.

In the latter case, since the Player’s have stated no intent about destination then it does not matter where they end up – there are no stakes and thus nothing to deprive the players of.  All the players have done is to make a choice between right or left which they were granted full freedom to choose – they did not make any specific mention of their intention or goals for making such a choice.  They made their choice, but it had no real bearing on their desires so nothing was deprived to them by the GM fiat.  No Force, no Illusion – just the introduction of new Setting elements.
I agree 100% with this. In order for Illusionism or Participationism to have real meaning there must be some player-stakes involved. Now, if there's an acutal map and the Players have a "stake" in the GM objectively presenting the world as described in that map, then that's a stake.

But if there's no map and the PCs are just traveling down the road and the GM determines what's ahead (based on some method that doesn't conflict with the player's desires) then I think it's just stock-standard gaming.

One other caveat: a player might very legitimately hold a stake in the game that says "don't ask me too many meaningless questions"--in other words, if I were asked to make a number of choices and the GM didn't use any of that data in their description of the game, I might feel .. manipulated.

On the other hand, if the GM is not doing it often and is simply providing some versimilitude or providing open-ended possibilities (i.e. "you see a trail"--but even the GM has not decided what, if anything, is down it) then I think that's got to be a pretty standard part of game-mastering and playing in general.

-Marco
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2005, 08:09:39 PM »

Hmmm, good point, Jay. I agree. And handily, it answers my question.
In participationism, there's no veil at all.

Illusionism GM: "There's a fork in the road, which way do you go?"
Player: "We go left."
Illusionism GM (ignoring map subtly): "You end up at the city."
What is it when the player gives a rather convincing explanation of why the city would be on the left road, and the GM quietly shifts the city to that side to reward the explanation or be in synch with that?
If the player is invested in the idea that the city is in the position the map says it is, then this is illusionism. The player is invested in this, despite how much he's sure his convincing arguement is true and is also invested in that.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2005, 12:39:07 PM »

Callan, I'm not sure what you're describing, and see even less how it's pertinent.

We're talking about gross methods of play that seem to constitute, whole subcategories of sim play.

I agree that it's a question of whether or not the players know when the GM is using Force. I should simply refer back to the original discussion, but there are two axes by which you can look at these types of play. The first is whether or not the GM is using "Force" meaning authority to make the player's characters do what he wants them to do. Secondly, are the players aware of when he uses this ability? This gives us three types of play:

Visible Force = Participationism
Hidden Force = Illusionism
No Force (in which case it can't be hidden) = Open Sim

I agree with Callan in disagreeing with the idea that one has to have illusion. One does not. That is, a GM can play "honestly" at all times and never Force the PCs to do anything, always leaving play open. I think true open sim is rare, in part because if players aren't charging around creating action themselves for their characters, nothing happens. And if they're really playing sim, then they probably shouldn't be noted at least shoving their characters around. That is, if nobody is intent on creating drama, it probably won't get created.

I ran this way for a while in a standard fantasy campaign, and my players ended up having their characters buy a house together, settle down, get jobs, etc. Dull, dull, dull. Which is not to say it can't work for others.

Does it require "stakes?" Well, that's a loaded term because of it's recent use with Conflict Resolution. But I think I understand the point. And I'd agree. But I'd say that the "stakes" in this case can be the feeling of an objectively real world. That is, if the illusion is botched, then the feeling is lost in theory. Let's say we have the illusionism GM using Force to get the PCs to the town and he says, "OK, left, goes to the forest. Oh um, wait, no, um, yeah, left goes to the city" as he's checking his notes and picking up the map he didn't want the players to see, and obviously has down that he needs the players to go to the city.

That is, the players seeking this feeling have a contract with the GM to maintain the feeling of an objective world either via actually telling the "truth" about how the world is laid out, or using illusion to change it without the players noting the change.

So, yeah, the example could be trivial, but even if trivial, it's still indicative of the sub-modes in question. There could be better examples, and ones that would cause more problems with the CA if detected, but even just the potential break in the illusion being a tiny bit dismaying is enough to display that there is such a CA going on.

If the argument is that this "objective world" thing isn't important enough as a goal for people to play this way, then I'd like to hear what it is that other people think is the motive behind this sort of play. Note that the "objective world" idea is synonymous with the desire that a player has to feel that his decisions for his character are having a "real" effect on the plot, or course of action of play. Because it's only in a world devoid of GM motive to control this sort of thing that such is actually possible.

Mike
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Silmenume
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« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2005, 06:17:13 PM »

Hey Callan,

I’m a little lost too.  Mike was certainly correct to raise some warning flags about the term “stakes” with regards to Sim, but I don’t have another appropriate word yet.  However, its not enough that the Player “wants/desires” the city as per the example to someplace, but rather whether the city is there or not and that condition has consequences for the Character.  The in game consequences to the Characterof the city being there or not is what is at “stake” to the Player.  IOW if the Character has nothing to lose (has no vested or compelling interest) about where the city is located, then there is nothing to potentially take away or cheat the Player out of – Force is not possible.

If I recall properly, Force deals with important CA relevant decisions and an effort to try and steer them one way or the other against the wishes of a Player by another Player (including GM).

Now if the Character “knows” (i.e., Player knowledge is “limited” to what the Character knows) that there is a city at such and such a location and has a vested interest as to whether or not he gets to the city – changing established SIS facts to get the Player to do something he’s chosen not to do is Force.

If the Player knows there’s a city someplace but his Character is ignorant of said knowledge then the Character cannot have a “vested interest” in the choice of where to go with regards to said city simply because he has no knowledge and thus no “destination,” that is “the consequence of his choice,” that is being deprotagonized.

You know, I think I just talked in circles…  Let me know if I need to clarify the above.
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Jay
Callan S.
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« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2005, 07:24:35 PM »

Those last two sentences could have been seperated better, but this is where were getting a disjunct:
Quote
I’m a little lost too.  Mike was certainly correct to raise some warning flags about the term “stakes” with regards to Sim, but I don’t have another appropriate word yet.  However, its not enough that the Player “wants/desires” the city as per the example to someplace, but rather whether the city is there or not and that condition has consequences for the Character.  The in game consequences to the Character of the city being there or not is what is at “stake” to the Player.
What's at stake will be what the player has decided is at stake. You've just given one possible example of a stake, rather than what all players have their stakes revolve around (ie, the PC). What I previously wrote is the players investment in the GM following the map he has in his hands. It's all a real world investment with no reference to characters or such. Rather it's an investment in the real world procedures that creates game world events. It's just as much an investement as the idea the GM wont fudge dice rolls.

Now to fudge or change where the city is, even if it betters the game, is illusionism. Because of that investment.


And the second sentence? Well, what I meant is that the player is really convinced that their conclusions about where the city is. But they are also invested in the real world procedure of reading the map as writ. Let me put it into numbers, with ten being the highest level of excitement and investment.
Certainty about conclusion: 8
Investment in procedure: 5

You see, what you've got here is a real temptation for the GM to 'do what's the most fun' and forfil that player conclusion. Certainly that conclusion is what the player is most invested in, currently. And what's wrong with just doing the most fun thing? Nothing...assuming you like illusion.
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Caldis
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« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2005, 07:31:31 PM »

In the latter case, since the Player’s have stated no intent about destination then it does not matter where they end up – there are no stakes and thus nothing to deprive the players of.  All the players have done is to make a choice between right or left which they were granted full freedom to choose – they did not make any specific mention of their intention or goals for making such a choice.  They made their choice, but it had no real bearing on their desires so nothing was deprived to them by the GM fiat.  No Force, no Illusion – just the introduction of new Setting elements.

I have a different view.  If the players are playing without desire or intentions then they are acquiescing to the GM's wishes and participating in his plot or design for the game.  The GM has the power and is fully in control, the players are exerting little control over what happens in the game the gm has all power in his hands.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this, it's a necessary step for anything to happen in the game someone has to decide where the game goes and if it's not the players by default it will have to be the GM (or possibly the system if you use random generation tables).

The reason participationism is closely associated with Sim play is because it allows for this. Sim play accepts that the players are not controlling the story, that they are exploring what is laid in front of them.   Nar play however is about the players controlling the story whether through showing up front what the game should be about with issues like in PTA or by giving the player control of the story such as monologues of victory in the Pool.

  
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Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2005, 07:47:07 PM »

Hi Mike,

Quote
That is, the players seeking this feeling have a contract with the GM to maintain the feeling of an objective world either via actually telling the "truth" about how the world is laid out, or using illusion to change it without the players noting the change.
Are you saying that the player seeking this objective feeling, are always seeking a mix of either truth or illusion?
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2005, 07:15:25 AM »

Callan, not precisely. I'm saying that there are two ways to get the objective feeling, and if that's the only goal, then either may suffice (note "may," not "must").

One is for the GM to be relating some agreed to "truth." The oddity here is that this is acually an incomplete fiction. For example, a map is not a real world, nor does it show everything in the world upon it. But the idea is that what is on the map is reflective of the reality of some objectively real world. So if the character is in that world, they must see what the map would indicate that they see. If the map says that they city is to the left, then it's to the left. In any case, the map is only a part of this agreement, which overall is that any fact established about the setting prior to play is not subject to change in play.

The second method is to use illusion. That is, to portray the world as being "hard" like relating it above would indicate, but to be altering the details behind the scene as neccessary in order to ensure some other effect like dramatic events, or a continuing plotline.

Now, for some wanting a really objective world, illusionism will not be acceptable. Because, as stated, honest illusionism doesn't misinform the players about the fact that it's happening. I hesitate to get into this, because it's a mostly unimportant distinction, but when I created the model of these forms, I also included yet another axis. Which is the "agreement to play this way" axis. This is not the same as the "visibility" axis that differentiates illusionism from participationism. Let's look at the two "forms" this creates.

The first is where the GM uses force, the players can see it, but they don't agree to it's use. This is a dysfunctional form of play that is usually refered to as railroading (meaning, of course a dysfunctional removal of player ability to affect the game in the manner that they wish to), though that term can be used to mean a lot of things. The other is illusionism used without the consent of the players who think they're playing in an open sim world. This is "Secret Illusionism" which becomes railroading the moment the players detect that it's going on, and is dishonest.

So let's provide the complete list, including a couple that haven't been discussed here so far.

  • Illusionism (Force, Relatively Invisible, Agreed To) - which can be functional.
  • Participationism (Force, Relatively Visible, Agreed To) - theoretically functional much like having a story told to a person. But in practice I've never met a player who indicated that they like this, nor a GM who admits to using it.
  • Secret Illusionism (Force, Relatively Invisible, Not Agreed To) - kinda functional until discovered. Then it's revealed as railroading.
  • Sim Railroading (Force, Relatively Visible, Not Agreed To) - quickly dysfunctional.
  • Open Sim (No Force - Visibility of Force Irrellevant, Agreed To) - theoretically functional, but likely drifting to some other sort of play or players tend to find it dull. [/li]
  • GM Not Doing His "Job" (No Force - Visibility of Force Irrellevant, Not Agreed To) - this is dysfunctional because the players are expecting the GM to use Force to make the game interesting, when he's "just playing the world."
  • Trailblazing (Intermittent Use of Force, Any Visibility, Agreed To) - MJ's addition. Where the GM uses Force to get the PCs to some location where he then switches to Open Sim play. The classic example being forcing PCs to a "module" but then allowing it to be explored in any fashion one likes.
  • Intuitive Continuity - this is illusionism, but back-ended illusionism. This is yet another axis that we discovered. Basically instead of using Force to head characters to adventure, the GM uses his authority (not precisely Force per the definition) to tailor the world as it comes to the players so that it is dramatically interesting as they encounter it. The "fork in the road" example, sans context, could be Int Con depending on whether or not the GM had a pre-planned plot.


Jay, Callan is right. For purposes of CA, characters don't matter. You don't even have to have a character. Remember, that the GM is playing using the CA, too. Bringing character goals and such into the equation always creates problems with the definition of CA. CA is about how players (including the GM) make decisions. So, yes, even if it doesn't make a whit of difference which way the city is to the character, the player can still object to it being placed using GM authority, and not by following the "objective world" protocol. In fact, what I'm describing is not too uncommon - not a theoretical phenomenon, I've seen players object to the use of illusionism in actual play.

And I've also seen players demand illusionism. I had one player tell me, "Go ahead and manipulate things like that, but just make sure that I only know what my character knows." The point is that these are about how we decide what gets into the SIS, what's agreed to, and what's seen as objectionable.

Mike
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: October 25, 2005, 07:33:16 PM »

Hi Mike,

Good post! I agree for the most part, but of course I have questions. Intuitive continuity is what I was refering to, but I notice you don't have any braket after it which indicates force use, visibility level and agreement.

I think the Int Con your refering to is intermittent Use of Force, nearly invisible, agreed to.

I think the Int Con I'm refering to has a really ambiguous 'agreed to'. For example, if something makes you happier than following procedure does AND you did agree that your playing for fun, then perhaps you have agreed to any means which brings you more happyness (like Int Con) than the agreed procedure. Can you be really sure of what you want, when your excitement runs high?

Also I think it's harder to detect force when it actually brings you happyness. This furthers the illusion...kind of like how the magicians sexy assistant will tend to distract you from trying to figure out what's actually going on.

From a personal standpoint, I really find this type of gaming unsatisfying. Even though, if I just didn't think about it too much, I'd find it extremely fun (just like a magic show is fun).

So what would you call that?
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2005, 06:36:22 AM »

Good post! I agree for the most part, but of course I have questions. Intuitive continuity is what I was refering to, but I notice you don't have any braket after it which indicates force use, visibility level and agreement. I think the Int Con your refering to is intermittent Use of Force, nearly invisible, agreed to.
Now we're opening up a whole 'nother can of worms.

Here's the problem. The definition of illusionism above is based around the use of Force. There is another GM technique that can be brought to bear that is not Force by the definition that Ron has settled on. Basically the ability that the GM has to determine what exists in the world. My original definition of the term Force meant to include this tactic. The problem, and Ron's right to point this out, is that the GM authority in question seems to be present in almost every game (he's called it "just what GMs do" or somesuch). So saying that you're using this authority as part of the definition blurs the lines.

But I think understanding it is key to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon as a whole, and that we can break it up into two parts for discussion. For the sake of discussion, I'm going to call this GM Authority, or GMA. GMA, again, is the authority that the GM is given to create whatever is neccessary to fill in the blanks in the world. By some definitions of RPG play, this general authority (no matter what sort of player it's assigned to - doesn't have to be a GM), is what makes a RPG a RPG. Without the ability to improvise the world, you get something more like a CRPG, or the like.

Anyhow, in IntCon, very technically, the GM does not use Force. Part of the IntCon CA is that the player always gets to decide his character's actions, and the GM will follow along. The "intuitive" part is that the GM should try to make sure that he uses his GMA to ensure that wherever the player has the character go, or do, that when they get there, the situation is what the player hoped for.

Let's put this in the context which Gareth Michael Skarka invented the concept - the game Underworld. In that game, you have this sort of generalized map that included locations, but the connections between the places are sort of fuzzily defined in most cases, being a 3D world of underground sewers, subways, and such that have a mystical nature. Much of it, then, is left undefined. So, basically the GM is supposed to dangle setting information out in front of the players about a conspiracy in this part of the Underworld, or a monster that needs to be dealt with in another part, and lots of these sorts of ideas, and let them decide what they want to respond to. This is the first use of intuition, trying to think of several grabby ideas that might attract the player (and the Underworld setting provides lots of this stuff to select from, and inspires even more). Once the player does move towards one of these, the next part of the intuition is to try to determine why the player is going after a particular rout, and providing grabby ideas once he gets there. Each time using GMA to come up with what's at the destination (or the result of any decision) so that the game continues on entertainingly.

Note how this is very similar to some techniques for narrativism. This is why "Force" cannot include GMA. Because if it does, then much narrativism technique could be considered Force, and you couldn't separate out the simulationism from the narrativism sub-modes. Some of these forms would straddle the sim/nar line. So, instead we have to consider GMA separately.

Now, that said, IntCon could probably easily shift into a form of Nar play, but is defined as Sim, because the method of determining what comes next is more about what to have happen in-game, and less about creating a premise for the player to address. That is, it's precisely the dangling of several things in front of the players that's all about ensuring that there is less sign of the GM's hand in the plot. Yes, its still there in terms of the fact that the GM provided only so many options, but the "illusion" in this case is that, if the player has many options, then he selected which way the story goes. Basically it's a lot like reading through a "Choose Your Own Story" type book, but the GM is making up the nodes as he goes along based on player feedback.

In "Sorcerer Standard" narrativism methodology, by contrast, the GM uses a lot more GMA to set up situations, but the player knows that he is allowed to then go off in any direction from there. He has actual control of the plot, because he's not selecting from a set of options (even when dichotomies are presented, the player should feel free to come up with third options as long as they are an address of premise).

So we have GMA used to provide points of departure for a player (narrativism), and we have GMA used to create a set of selections for the player (IntCon). There's lots of other uses for GMA, BTW, it's just important to recognize the difference between these two uses for purposes of this discussion.

Now, here's the thing - Illusionism uses the same branching techniques that IntCon uses, too. GMA used to create sets of selections. That is, sometimes the GM is just creating background on the fly to make things interesting for the player in the short run. Or like the old Traveller "Node Presentation" for adventures where there are several scenes that can happen (some "key" that must happen), in any order, for the plot to come to a conclusion. Lots of other ways Illusionism uses GMA without it being technically force as part of the overall agenda to get to the end result desired.

The key difference is that plot is "front loaded" in the case of illusionism. That is, the GM has decided on what the plot will be, and is using the techniques to ensure that even if it appears that branches are there, that, in fact, "All Roads Lead To Rome," or that generally in the end, the adventure will climax as planned. With IntCon, the plot is still created by the GM, it's simply "back loaded." That is, the GM is creating it as a result of earlier player choices and their input into play. (These are the terms Ron used)

So, no, technically no Force is used in IntCon. IntCon, then is somewhat like Open Sim, but not truely "open" because the GM is still heavily manipulating what the players encounter. With Open Sim, on the other hand, the GM generally relies on a detailed description of the environment such that player decisions will inevitably run the player into some pre-existing encounters. That's why I've refered to it as "Pinball Sim" before. The setting is like a giant pinball machine, and the player characters are balls inside it. The players decide what direction the balls go, but what they run into is depends entirely on what the layout is like.

Here's what Open Sim looks like:
Player: Is there a smith in town?
GM: Roll your Know Town.
Player: Ragnar failed.
GM: You don't know.
Player: I ask a passerby.
GM (rolling on random passerby chart): Lucky you, a merchant comes by and he, of course, knows if there's a smit in town.
GM (checking map description): He replies that, yes, there is a smith in town, and further points you where to go.
Player: I go there.
GM (checking his description of the smith): This smith is a small man, and seems surly. He asks you what you want as you approach his outdoor forge.

Later the character learns from the smith that there's a troll in the woods outside of town (there is a 30% chance that anyone in town knows this), and the player goes out to confront it. You remember this form of play, it's very typical of D&D play, except that the gamism has been stripped. Instead it's about exploring the environment and seeing what happens along the way.

In some ways this is precisely the same as IntCon in that no Force is being used at all, and the GM is "making up" everything. In the case of Open Sim, however, the options presented are, theoretically, unlimited - you can do "anything" that the character could in the setting as presented, and presumably the GM has lots of detail to run into (ever seen the old Judges Guild maps where the books just listed what monsters could be found in each hex of the map?). In IntCon, the only options are the potentially dramatic ones that the GM has selected from amongst the theoretically infinite (though practically restricted by setting description) options of the Open Sim style.

Quote
I think the Int Con I'm refering to has a really ambiguous 'agreed to'. For example, if something makes you happier than following procedure does AND you did agree that your playing for fun, then perhaps you have agreed to any means which brings you more happyness (like Int Con) than the agreed procedure. Can you be really sure of what you want, when your excitement runs high?
I think that acutally, given that IntCon is written up very tightly in a text, that it's less likely to be subject to this. But its true of all CAs that they often formed this way. Illusionism especially. Almost every game gives the GM GMA. From GMA, it's a short hop to Force. Follow the logic:

 - I'm allowed to create whatever I need when I need it to fill in gaps.
 - Where there's nothing agreed to, I can create what I need in a way that is more interesting. Why not?
 - Plot is interesting, so why shouldn't I create things occasionally such that even though the players think they're controling what their characters are doing, I'm really controling it so that a more interesting plot gets created?
 - Hey, if I just don't establish much ahead of time, or just alter such stuff on the fly, I can make things up as I need them such that player action will look as if they're controlling the plot, but I'm controling it instead, in almost every circumstance.

Basically I think Illusionism is arrived at when the following conditions are agreed to:
 - The players will "just play their characters."
 - The GM plays "the world."
 - A story or plot is supposed to emerge from play. And the GM is told it's his responsibility.

Sound familiar? It's The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast if you read "players just play their characters" as the players having some real input into how the plot goes. And most players do. Rather, they feel that if they don't have some sort of control over events that they're being railroaded. So you have this problem - the players want to be able to affect plot, but the GM feels that plot is his responsibility. Worse, the players, not understanding that they're supposed to create plot, create events with their characters that don't lead to anything like a coherent plot.

So the GM sees the players not creating plot, has been told that he's supposed to, and yet doesn't want to be accused of railroading. But if he just manipulates things in a way that the players can't see...aha, now the GM has control of plot, and the players think they are making decisions with their characters that drive things.

After doing it, then, for years possibly, the players catch on to what's going on, and accept the "neccessity" of this. Possibly. This is how functional illusionism gets going in most cases, I believe. Which means that just as often, or more often, it breaks down.

That all said, there are rare occasions where game texts make illusionism plain as the CA intended. I haven't read it, but I've heard that Arrowflight does this? So these forms can probably all be functional. But they get there often via a torturous methodology that starts with the GM testing the boundaries of the CA agreement without player knowledge.

Quote
Also I think it's harder to detect force when it actually brings you happyness. This furthers the illusion...kind of like how the magicians sexy assistant will tend to distract you from trying to figure out what's actually going on.
Well, sure, but I think this is a truism. That is, all players are more willing to do what a form of play takes if it works for them.

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From a personal standpoint, I really find this type of gaming unsatisfying. Even though, if I just didn't think about it too much, I'd find it extremely fun (just like a magic show is fun).

So what would you call that?
Illusionism? I'm not seeing your referent.

Mike
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2005, 08:19:04 PM »

Hi Mike,

Thanks. Now, that differentition between int con (and it's lack of force) and illusionism uses this foundation:
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But I think understanding it is key to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon as a whole, and that we can break it up into two parts for discussion. For the sake of discussion, I'm going to call this GM Authority, or GMA. GMA, again, is the authority that the GM is given to create whatever is neccessary to fill in the blanks in the world.
Now, I agree, if the GM is given authority to do this and 'backloads'* the story as you latter mention, there is no force.

But in regards to the players investment in following the map and your comments on the short hop from GMA to illusionism, let me add three crucial steps to it.

 - I'm allowed to create whatever I need when I need it to fill in gaps.
- The players don't know whether there's a gap here or not (in regards to which road leads to the city).
 - Where there's nothing agreed to, I can create what I need in a way that is more interesting. Why not?
 - Plot is interesting, so why shouldn't I create things occasionally such that even though the players think they're controling what their characters are doing, I'm really controling it so that a more interesting plot gets created?
 - Hey, if I just don't establish much ahead of time, or just alter such stuff on the fly, I can make things up as I need them such that player action will look as if they're controlling the plot, but I'm controling it instead, in almost every circumstance.
- I'm genuinely not interested in determining where the city goes myself. Instead, because the player is so invested in the left road leading to the city, I'm putting it on the left.
- However, the reason I'm putting the city on the left is that, although I'm not interested in controlling where the city is, I am invested in controlling how happy the player is. Not in an evil way, I just want to use this control to make him have a fun game.

It probably sounds like an ideal GM'ing method, so what I'm going to say next may sound ghastly. If a player is invested in following the map as printed, this GM method is exactly the same as always ending up at the city because that's what the GM is invested in, regardless of players investment (ie, illusionism). Except here you always end up a happy player, because that's what the GM is invested in, regardless of player investment.

For this example the important thing is, as a player you know that your investment in using the map as printed means this: you might end up not being happy (GM "The city isn't on the left", Player "DAMN!"). And you DIG that. Having the posibility of disapointment is what's really important...more important to you than always being happy.

But the GM is putting his 'Run a fun game' investment ahead of what the player is invested in. So it's illusionism.

Note: I'm mostly thinking about gamist players having this investment. In regards to this, there is a very problematic middle ground player who is invested in the possiblity of disappointment, but screams blue murder and blames the GM when it happens ( This is a recent actual play example). This probably drives many GM's to this sort of illusionism. Certainly that thread contains many suggestions which support this type of illusionism.

Is that description fairly clear...I rather hate having to use the same word (investment) over and over?


* Because of Jays post, I'd say backloading actually means 'base the in game events on what's important to the players'. While frontloading means 'base the in game events on what's important to me, the GM, despite what's important to the players'.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #28 on: October 27, 2005, 06:45:09 AM »

You dig some deep philosophical holes sometimes Callan.

- I'm genuinely not interested in determining where the city goes myself. Instead, because the player is so invested in the left road leading to the city, I'm putting it on the left.
- However, the reason I'm putting the city on the left is that, although I'm not interested in controlling where the city is, I am invested in controlling how happy the player is. Not in an evil way, I just want to use this control to make him have a fun game.
I'm not sure that's Force, or Illusionism. Player wants his character to go to the city, the character goes to the city. How has the GM forced the character to do something here that the player didn't intend? How is the player not controlling what happens here? This is an illusion, but not the Illisionism one. That is, in this case illusion is being used to give the player control, instead of taking it away. Quite the opposite effect. Illusionism is making changes to make it seem like the player has control of where things are going, when in fact the GM has this control.

Note that all Force comes from a use of GMA. It's a subset of GMA. Occasionally the authority in question is not granted by the players, but assuming an agreed to Illusionism CA, the GM used valid GMA to create the illusions. That is, part of his GMA is that he can change anything he wants without informing the players that he's making the change, so long as the change doesn't contradict previous play in a damaging way. Doing so to control the results of character action is Force. Otherwise use of GMA to just have what the players get to be interesting is IntCon.

Again, look at Underworld. The reason that the world is largely undefined, especially the paths between places, is so that the GM can make up what he needs in regards for getting places. Oh, the player went left to get to the city? Well it turns out that from this junction, there's a collapse that forces players down a level and back to the right (subtle, they won't even notice that it's happening). So there is a lot of GMA being used to "fudge" reality into what it needs to be to be interesting when players arrive at a place. The players are still making choices that are not being twisted about the GM using Force.

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For this example the important thing is, as a player you know that your investment in using the map as printed means this: you might end up not being happy (GM "The city isn't on the left", Player "DAMN!"). And you DIG that. Having the posibility of disapointment is what's really important...more important to you than always being happy.
"Happy" and "Dig" are pretty undefined here. What you're saying is that the player has to enjoy the feeling of OWD more than the feeling of control. Pretty simple. So there's no illusionism going on. What you're proposing is a difference in CA, using illusion to hide that. Which is a different phenomenon.

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Note: I'm mostly thinking about gamist players having this investment. In regards to this, there is a very problematic middle ground player who is invested in the possiblity of disappointment, but screams blue murder and blames the GM when it happens ( This is a recent actual play example). This probably drives many GM's to this sort of illusionism. Certainly that thread contains many suggestions which support this type of illusionism.
Yep, I think that's a common source of illusionism, too. Basically yet another case where CA incoherence is "fixed" by drifting play to Illusionism.


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* Because of Jays post, I'd say backloading actually means 'base the in game events on what's important to the players'. While frontloading means 'base the in game events on what's important to me, the GM, despite what's important to the players'.
No, not at all. In both cases, the GM controls what the plot will be, and he does it (assuming this is a coherent CA), for everyone's enjoyment based on what he thinks will be entertaining for all. The difference between the forms is that with Illusionism the players only have an appearance of control of plot, and actually have none, while in IntCon, the players intermittently get to select between a set of choices created by the GM based on their previous choices. The GM still creates all the choices possible, the players simply select from the limited set the GM provides.

As opposed to narrativism, where the players select where to go at decision-making points based on their own whim. Often surprising the GM.

Yes, it's quite possible that, in fact, what GMS was describing was narrativism technique, and it is just it's inclusion in an otherwise sim supporting game that prevents us from recognizing it as such. Rather, it's a very small drift from IntCon to Sorcerer-style narrativism technique.

Mike
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #29 on: October 27, 2005, 08:42:30 PM »

Isnt a certain amount of participationism / illusionism inherent in functional sim gaming?  Or at least at natural offshoot of it?

Sim play by it's nature sets up a system that controls so much of the tone and theme of the game that controlling the plot seems like a simple step forward.  The DM in the typical sim game already controls the game world, decides what the players encounter and what the repurcusions of said encounters are.  I think the players are deluding themselves if they believe they have control of where the game goes.  With sim what is hoped for is that the gm and players have an agreed upon destination for where the game is going.  That's why they require the detailed modeling.

I think Jay (Silmenume) is right in his asssertions about sim play.  I dont like the term bricolage but I do believe that sim play is about seeing what you can make of the system, setting, characters, situation, theme, by taking them as predefined and trying to blend them together.  Participationim is just a part of that blending.
Two responses to this.

First, in the parent thread it was, I think, established that illusionist techniques are commonly used in all agenda, and that illusionism is problematic for all agenda.

Second, the form of simulationism you describe is just that, one form.  There are many different scales on which simulationism is adjusted, including how fixed the reality is before it is discovered (e.g., is the referee required to have maps and descriptions that are unalterable), whether the players have the freedom to ignore whatever the referee had planned for them (open play instead of trailblazing), and more.

As to Jay's distinction between Illusionism and Stock GM Scene Creation, it's still the use of illusionist technique to move the city.

I don't see how telling the players that their characters are going to the city is really anything like an illusionist technique; it's outright force. That's not a criticism of the technique, but merely a category statement. For participationism to be illusionism by agreement, it would seem to me that something of the veil has to be in place--as others have suggested, that we players are being manipulated, and although we know we're being manipulated if it works well we don't see it happening.

However, moving the city (or placing it after the fact, No Myth style) is still an illusionist technique, as it gives the players the impression that they arrived at the city as a result of their choice, when actually they arrived at the city because that's where the referee decided they should go.

I will agree that for the game to be Illusionism, player stakes have to be involved in the choices overridden (which is why I have no problems with moving the city when it is part of the original setup for a scenario--the illusionist technique brings the player to the starting point). Not every use of illusionist technique is illusionism, even in an illusionist game.  Illusionism involves overriding player efforts to engage in creative agendum by controlling all relevant outcomes; merely moving the city tells us nothing, even if we know that the players were trying to avoid it, as we don't know why they were trying to avoid it.

Mike, I'm completely shocked by your distinction of "Illusionism" from "Secret Illusionism". For as long as this term has been in use, my understanding has been that "Illusionism" inherently meant that the referee controled everything of importance and the players did not know it. We think we're making meaningful choices, but we're not.

What you're describing as "Illusionism" on your list, what I might accede to as "Open Illusionism", is exactly what I understood Participationism to be up to this point: that the players know that they're being manipulated, but that's fine with them, as long as they don't see it happening.

What you're now describing as Participationism is so unlike illusionism that I don't see the connection. It seems not different from railroading but for player agreement. You've got me imagining game sessions in which the referee dictates which opponents each character engages, what weapons and tactics they use, and how the fight progresses.  I see the scene in Zoolander where someone explains that male models make the perfect spies because they'll do whatever you tell them. "No we don't," Zoolander objects. "Yes, you do," the other says, and that's the end of the discussion. You're suggesting a mode of play in which the referee tells the players what their characters are doing. Illusionism and participationism, to my understanding, revolve around the referee subtly manipulating the players into making the decisions he wants them to make, or carefully undoing any wrong decisions by alterning the circumstances sufficiently that they change their minds.

I'll note that the distinguishing factor in Trailblazing is the commitment by the players to discovering and following the trail set by the referee. From the referee's perspective it is open play, in that he will not interfere with their choices; from the social contract perspective, the players are violating the game agreements if they fail to make every effort to follow that pre-planned adventure based on the available clues.

I'm rather confused by a lot of what has been said on this thread, because it seems that there's a big gap between my understanding of some very basic concepts and the way Mike uses them. I hope it can be resolved.

--M. J. Young
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