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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: When the Narrativist is dysfunctional  (Read 4811 times)
Stuart DJ Purdie
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« on: December 17, 2002, 07:48:35 PM »

This is a bit of a retrospective look back over a few games, going back about 6 years or so.  I've been playing in a stable group, with a few long running campaigns.  It's worth noting that I'm the only one aquainted with RPG theory of any sort, so application of jargon comes from me, not the other players.

We've been playing for a long time, so it's not a surprise that it's mostly fun, and that there have been problematic moments.  However, a while ago, I felt bored with them, and since reading the Forge, I realised that I was looking for Nar play, and everything was Sim.  And once that happend, I accepted it as such, and things were better.  But there were still days where I was wondering why I bothered.  I think I've identified the problem.

We've got a group of players, and most tend to aim to Sim.  However,   one player in particular is the source of friction, I belive.  I think that this is due to his being a 'frustrated narativist'.  Whilst blaming someone else is a dangerous route to go down, I belive this is as an objective analysis as I can achieve.  Whats interesting is that he doesn't do things in the style that I do.  Indeed, it wasn't till I read Pauls thread
the importance of Sim-like gameplay to the Narrativist
that I realise he was what Paul called a type 2 narrativist.  In a Sim game, this is dysfunctional.  He typcially generates a large numnber of NPC's around his character at chargen, and writes chunks of history for his characters to discover, which can be at odds with the GM's.

Having identified a GNS mismatch, I'm going to do my best to highlight the issue, and hope that we'll see the matter resolved.

As an aside, the particular player GM's in a very SIm, very railroaded, manner.  The only connection between the two that I could see is the strong use of Director stance to write histories.

To take this forward, I'm going to get the players together.  Given that some have left for winter break, that'll probably have to wait for the new year with everyone.  It is possible to get part of the group together, but I'm not if that would help or hinder in the long run.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2002, 07:52:18 AM »

Hello,

Well, hey, I think I might be able to contribute to this discussion, because for years, I was that player, with exactly that sort of GM. The net effect, from the GM's point of view (and that of his GNS-aligned players), was that I was "trying to take over" the game. From my point of view, and from that of one of the other players, I was literally playing and the others were merely present.

The solution back then, in the late 1980s, was very limited: pretty much a shadow-war between me and the GM, such that eventually the group started playing with me as GM instead of him. It was an ugly war - it involved complex sexual and romantic maneuvering (two of the players were female, two male, and the GM was a guy), certain game design aspects (Rolemaster vs. Champions), and to some extent, a showdown between who was the better "storyteller." I look back on all of that with a fair amount of dismay.

In retrospect, I realize that we really just replaced dysfunction with slightly-more tolerable dysfunction, which is to say, grossly railroaded Illusionism (which is no Illusion at all - I'm in full agreement with Marco, here), to functional Illusionism that still broke the Contract with one player, my fellow Narrativist.

My point: that on the surface it looks as if a Narrativist-Char player and a Situation-Sim, Illusionist GM would get along fine - they're both highly committed to in-play Exploration, both highly interested in themes emerging from play, etc ... but the truth of the matter, I think, is that they are pure poison in combination, just as bad as a committed and enthusiastic Gamist player would be with that same GM.

Best,
Ron
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Eric J.
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« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2002, 07:36:21 PM »

(While this may me inappropriate I due this with the assurance that I won't be held accountable for this act by the Forge Guidlines.)

Whoa.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2002, 08:49:32 AM »

Quote from: Eric J.
Whoa.


Could you elaborate?

Mike
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Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2002, 10:07:59 PM »

If the player is heavily into precreating his character's background and environment, and this is in odds with the GM's desire to do the same (If I'm understanding correctly), why does he not simply colaborate with the GM?

The Sim GM is obviously going to hate "Suprise! This is different about your world now!".  However, if the player is doing prep work, it seems to me like they could simply communicate; it would grant the player his authorial ability and provide the GM with more plot hooks; looks like happy and beneficial drift to me.

If they cannot work together, then I'd say you have more of a people problem than a priority problem.

BTW - I have a similiar dysfunction pop up in our primarily Sim game.
I thought it was a Nar priority (player wants to control environment/history to protagonize the character), but I believe now it is a Gam priority (player wants to control environment/history to gain an advantage that did not exist previously).  With things like 'Suprise! I do have a rope!' it can be a subtle difference (change for spotlight/change for victory).  This may not apply to you.
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- Cruciel
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2002, 09:07:55 AM »

Hi,

Overall, I do agree with you, cruciel ... but there is one tricky issue in practice with your point.

H'm ... OK, first, yes, if the basic problem is communication of any kind, then we're in trouble. But let's say that the people are at least reasonably able to present what they want to one another.

My claim is that priority-problems can be very, very savage even in this case - that "communication" (that often-invoke Universal Panacea of the 90s) is not actually enough. Not all conflicts are solvable by communication, and the Nar/Char player in the Sim/Sit GM's game is a pretty good example.

Why? As you say, intuitively, it seems like a match made in heaven. However, in practice, here's what happens over time.

1. The GM anticipates "story" outcomes in upcoming sessions, either at the scene level or at the relationship level. No matter how "open to whatever" he or she starts, as long as Situation is important to this GM, plan-ahead railroading will start to creep in, as the GM anticipates who will fall in love with whom, who will reveal what at what time, and so on.

2. And it is railroading, to this player. To the Narrativist, especially of the heavy-character stripe, character decisions are the whole point of play. Without the freedom to make them in play (never mind pages of pre-play prep), and without the observation that these decisions really drive "what's happening," this player perceives the above GM behavior as fundamentally intrusive.

You see? They both want "story." They both want "character." But according to the GM, he or she is rightfully providing the former so that the player may "bask" in the latter; and according to the player, the GM is reaching across the table, seizing the character, and shoving it about (making decisions for it). A tug-of-war over "story" and "character" will ensue, and without some GNS-type vocabulary to work with, I have never seen or experienced any version of this situation that wasn't a disaster.

Communicate as they will, they'll go around in circles unless they talk about priorities. Since the very concept of different priorities, to many role-players, is associated with "good/bad role-playing," well ... you can see where that will lead. So yes, I think this is a GNS issue from hell, perhaps one of the most serious ones.

A much better match, by the way, is a Sim/Char GM with a Nar/Char player. These folks can get along, I've found, as long as the GM is really not especially committed to specific confrontations and outcomes, and as long as the player doesn't mind that he's not going to get as much social feedback as from a fully-Nar group.

Best,
Ron
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Tony Irwin
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2003, 07:08:50 AM »

Quote from: Stuart DJ Purdie
However, one player in particular is the source of friction, I belive.  I think that this is due to his being a 'frustrated narativist'...  He typcially generates a large numnber of NPC's around his character at chargen, and writes chunks of history for his characters to discover, which can be at odds with the GM's.


Quote from: Stuart DJ Purdie
As an aside, the particular player GM's in a very SIm, very railroaded, manner.  The only connection between the two that I could see is the strong use of Director stance to write histories..


That's fascinating Stuart as I can identify with the situation very closely. I recently choked to death playing in a friend's game. I was looking forward to real narrativist play but found my character was just there to get pushed around his game-world as bystander to the themes he as gm wanted to explore. I was miserable

When he turned up in a game I was GMing I took the chance to give the players all the freedom they needed to explore the themes their characters were written for. I was secretly hoping to demonstrate an alternative type of play in the hope that he'd enjoy it and implement it in his own games. What stunned me is that he took to it as if he'd been playing that way all his life. He created his own NPCs and narrated for them, asked for particular scenes that would be relevant to his character... what I realised is that he isn't about Sim or Narrative, he's about Director Stance and he wants it whether he's playing or GMing.

Scary thing is, its the same for me! If Im not running L5R then I can play it as Narrative (the burdens of duty and honour) but I also love playing it as Sim (just the thrill of pretending to be a Samurai living in Rokugan).  But either way I'll boil and fume if the GM interferes with what Im trying to with my character. I think Universalis helped me realise that what I really want out of role-playing is director stance. Some nights my character is pursuing a tragic story about revenge, other nights Im just enjoying meeting NPCs and bowing to them and speaking to them with proper ettiquette, but either way I want to do it on my terms!

Well its not quite like that, but I do get real peeved when the GM stops collaborating with me (and everyone else) as an equal partner in the game.

Anyway not much to add, except that yeah its interesting how "player-power" players can simulataneoulsy be rail-roading gms. Perhaps because its director stance (other than any particular type of play) that they want.

Tony
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2003, 07:52:11 AM »

Hello,

Well, there's a month between the last two posts, but I think I'll let it slide this time. Strong issue to consider, after all.

Here's the question I have for Stuart and Tony - what game systems are we talking about?

Best,
Ron
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Tony Irwin
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2003, 08:04:33 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Well, there's a month between the last two posts, but I think I'll let it slide this time. Strong issue to consider, after all.

Here's the question I have for Stuart and Tony - what game systems are we talking about?


I apologise for that - I'll be sure to check the dates in future.

Well for myself, I was playing in my friend's Vampire game (a long running group I joined for a couple of sessions). He was playing in my L5R game (again, a long running group that he joined for a session).

Tony
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