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Author Topic: Incoherence is Fun!  (Read 14347 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2003, 08:18:19 AM »

Quote from: xiombarg
...what I'm driving at is I'm not sure why it's not possible for a system to support all three GNS modes without incoherence - that is, a game where all modes are of equal priority

Well, the where all modes are of equal priority is a sticky issue. It has been said with Hybrids that we can have two of the three modes represented, but it tends to work functionally with one mode being dominate and the other playing a supplorting role. So I could see a hybrid with all three represented, but one would be dominate and the other two playing a supporting role. I can see that as possible. But all three equally prioritized? That's a tall order since we can't seem to have two modes equally prioritized.

Maybe not at the same time. At certain situations prioritizing a mode, like Gamist in combat and Sim out of combat. Maybe. I'm not sure how functional this would be. My game group does this. See the threads in Actual Play.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2003, 01:40:24 PM »

I think the problem, Kirt, with supporting multiple GNS goals was expressed long ago in a currently unavailable GO forum post Ron kept referencing as Where the Rubber Meets the Road. The three questions he asked are preserved in my http://www.mjyoung.net/rpg/gametype.html">Gamers Preference Quiz (and before anyone comments, Ron does not believe the quiz is useful).

The point is that a game cannot support one mode of play without inherently (if nothing else, by opportunity costs--which oddly is the subject of my Gaming Outpost Game Ideas Unlimited article for tomorrow). To use the three questions as examples (although they may be a bit simplistic):

If it's the final combat of the game, what matters most? Do we want to streamline events so that this combat runs smoothly and comes to the outcome which makes the best story? Do we want to pay strict attention to the detailed rules of the combat system, so we can fairly and accurately determine exactly who would win in this situation? Do we want to emphasize the combat strategies inherent in using game mechanics to character advantage? These three choices are not compatible. A game cannot support all three at once in any primary sense. Either you want to know who would win, or you want to choose who would win, or you want the challenge of trying to win. In that sense, you can't do all three. You can do any one and probably slip in influence from the others, but only one can function as primary at this moment.

If the prep materials say that the characters travel via a risky form of transit, and the rules state that a survival roll must be made for each character, what do you do? Is this plot exposition, explaining how the characters got to the starting point, and so assuming that they all got here alive? Do you make the roll because the rules dictate it, and let a player character die before the adventure really begins? Do you give the player some outside chance to save his character by some second roll? Again, you can't do all three. You can respect the rules of the simulation and have the character die; you can accept that the story doesn't begin until they're ready to start; you can make it something else to overcome. At this moment, you have to choose your poison.

If the character is thrown in prison, sentenced to some extended (but not interminable) jail term, how do you play it? Is this a challenge, so that like Monty Cristo you're going to find a way to escape? Is it an opportunity to explore the gritty realities of an imprisonment in this milieu? Is it a part of the story, through which your character will learn and grow and build toward that future climax? This one might be blended to some degree; but in the end, one of those will probably dominate.

(There are three other questions on the quiz, but these will suffice.)

Now, on those questions, I'm simulationist on the first (I expect the combat to run very much by the rules, especially when the ultimate outcome is on the line), narrativist on the second (that's plot exposition; characters don't die in the backstory), and gamist on the third (escape would be the first thing I'd examine). So it's quite possible for a player to exhibit different modes of play. It is also quite possible, in my perhaps not so humble opinion, for a game to be simple enough (not a rules length or complexity issue, but in terms of core mechanics structures) that it does not get in the way of any one of these.

However, the moment you insert rules that are functionally supportive of one or another mode of play, you create incentive to play that way--and disincentive to play in the other modes. As has been said of D&D, any time you negotiate and don't kill the monster and take the treasure, you've cost yourself experience points (not to mention treasure), and so not improved your character on the only track the game provides. It costs you to play that way; and if you're playing with people who don't play that way, you get left behind.

I think perhaps there might be three ways that a functional hybrid cold be achieved.[list=1][*]The game does not support any one mode of play, but does not interfere with any one mode of play either, such that players, referees, and module designers can impose their own preferences on the engine in play. Such imposed preferences would have to be consistent between the parties involved; if the referee is imposing narrativist preferences on players attempting to run gamist play, play becomes incoherent.
[*]The game provides optional rules which ultimately represent three related game engines, one of which supports each mode of play, such that narrativist players and simulationist players would be playing different games that were superficially similar. Which engine was used would have to be agreed before play, so everyone was using the same concepts.
[*]The game provides optional rules that permit transition during play. This would seem like drift, but could be incorporated into the rules system by allowing players and referees the power to determine when to use which rules.
[*]The game specifies transition between different modes at identifiable junctures, such as gamist combat in an otherwise simulationist model. These would have to be clearly delineated to avoid incoherence, and might well be incoherent anyway, particularly at the transition points, and especially if the players had contrasting preferences.
[*]The game provides alternate engines that are nominally compatible with each other, such that narrativist, gamist, and simulationist players each use those rules that appeal to them. Whether such a system can be designed that is coherent is doubtful, but hasn't to my knowledge been proven impossible--just awkward.[/list:o]
I think those are the possibilities; they might not all be feasible, and they are all challenging. If I am correct that Multiverser supports multiple modes, it does so by permiting transition through optional rules at the discretion of the referee. If Scattershot does so, I think it does so by providing related game engines from which the players choose when play begins. Fang will probably amplify that.

I hope this explains why hybrids that support conflicting play modes don't work, in the general sense. Anyway, if not, maybe someone can clarify my points.

--M. J. Young
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2003, 02:59:18 PM »

Dag, M. J., that did the job as far as I'm concerned.

Best,
Ron

P.S. "Dag" is a childhood expletive immortalized in the cartoons of Lynda Barry.
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clehrich
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« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2003, 10:23:21 PM »

Er, ditto on dag for me too.

Could some kind soul direct me to threads analyzing the question of Transition?  It seems to me, from reading the Scattershot stuff for example, that the whole question of keeping a hybrid game from going incoherent is the ability to Transition among GNS priorities gracefully.  I presume this has already been discussed at length --- where?
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Chris Lehrich
xiombarg
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« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2003, 08:34:06 AM »

Excellent post, M.J. Stuff to chew on. I'll have to mull it over, perhaps come back in another thread.

I think, however, this answers my question: It's not that a functional three-mode Hybrid is always incoherent, but that it's difficult for it to NOT be incoherent, which, actually, is more or less what I thought at the start of this thread: I never said such a Hybrid would be easy to create.
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contracycle
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« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2003, 12:05:50 PM »

I think the situation on transition is more like: its been proposed as a theoretical possibility, its occassionally been chewed over whether its feasible, and Fang's Scattershot is probably the best standing example of an implementation.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2003, 02:30:16 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
I think perhaps there might be three ways that a functional hybrid could be achieved.[list=1][*]The game does not support any one mode of play, but does not interfere with any one mode of play either, such that players, referees, and module designers can impose their own preferences on the engine in play. Such imposed preferences would have to be consistent between the parties involved; if the referee is imposing narrativist preferences on players attempting to run gamist play, play becomes incoherent.
[*]The game provides optional rules which ultimately represent three related game engines, one of which supports each mode of play, such that narrativist players and simulationist players would be playing different games that were superficially similar. Which engine was used would have to be agreed before play, so everyone was using the same concepts.
[*]The game provides optional rules that permit transition during play. This would seem like drift, but could be incorporated into the rules system by allowing players and referees the power to determine when to use which rules.
[*]The game specifies transition between different modes at identifiable junctures, such as gamist combat in an otherwise simulationist model. These would have to be clearly delineated to avoid incoherence, and might well be incoherent anyway, particularly at the transition points, and especially if the players had contrasting preferences.
[*]The game provides alternate engines that are nominally compatible with each other, such that narrativist, gamist, and simulationist players each use those rules that appeal to them. Whether such a system can be designed that is coherent is doubtful, but hasn't to my knowledge been proven impossible--just awkward.[/list:o]I think those are the possibilities; they might not all be feasible, and they are all challenging. If I am correct that Multiverser supports multiple modes, it does so by permiting transition through optional rules at the discretion of the referee. If Scattershot does so, I think it does so by providing related game engines from which the players choose when play begins. Fang will probably amplify that.

Okay, okay, I've been putting off this one for a while.

(First off, those "three ways" seem to be five, but I won't quibble because I see to be involved in two of them.)

In #1, I believe a lot of older designs depended upon the participants orchestrating all of this with the social contract, at least in reductive-designed games.  So many unwritten expectations went into those games that I think, if 'system matters,' they won't work.

The way I intend to primarily vend Scattershot is in something of a Splat-book/Genre Expectation cycle.  Each would function very like M. J.'s #2 with the caveat that much of what I call "Mechanix" are concurrent throughout ('all three "engines"' in one perhaps?), but what I call "Techniques" are what get switched.  In GNS terms, the Mechanix are designed primarily to support Simulationist play (perhaps with a focus on System, I'm still working on that) and the Techniques drive play into alternatively Gamist or Narrativist realms by partial amplification of parts of the Mechanix and through reorienting the rewards system.

I believe that qualifies for 'optional rules' in M. J.'s post, dropping Scattershot into his #3 when you use more than just a single Genre Expectation as your source.  Hopefully, I will be able to illustrate the actual orchestration of an in-game Transition in the 12 core books that bring out a set of 'umbrella' Genre Expectations.  In order to facilitate this I created the Approaches to help 'advanced' players become sensitive to their needs and aware of how Scattershot can Transition to those.  I worry about the line, "when to use which rules," because it may imply frequent reorientation, something I'm not entirely sure is possible, comfortable, or feasible.

That's why I'm a little unsure about #4 altogether, only a clean hybrid like The Riddle of Steel does well at that shifting back and forth; isn't it a necessity to use Spiritual Attributes at certain obvious junctures?  A game that doesn't compel things in this fashion would clearly suffer from incoherence due to the momentum of habit.  (You habitually play Simulationist with a large part of such a game, but then jump to Gamist at every combat?  There'll be a habitual 'thinking like a Simulationist' when that happens won't there?)

I don't do #5.

And let's remember, while I do seem to be making progress, it is always possible that I may simply discover that such a beast (the 'Transitional game') may in fact be impossible.  I've a long way to go and progress very slowly.  Right now I'm concentrating on whether the Techniques really will support a mode within a single Genre Expectation.  (And doing that blinding slow.)  Provided that works, I need to ramp those up to 'Intermediate level' to determine if the Mechanix 'engine' will be robust across most (and specifically Simulationist) incarnations.  Once there, I can begin to explore how to successfully Transition in small increments (like from Simulationist to a hybrid with limited Narrativist presentations and so on).  If those work, it'll be on to mapping out as many 'in between' nodes as possible to begin to get an idea of 'the lay of the land' for full-on Transition to be created in.

If it works.

Fang Langford
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