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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default GNS revisited: A Summary

    .
    Alright- this will be my last essay on the subject for the forseeable future, intended to give a broad general overview of GNS theory and some general summaries of the subject. If I had realised at first how much confusion these would cause, I'd have done this one first... although, maybe that'd make no difference. There's a link to my older, embarressingly crude, essay on the subject here, and the paladin-specific thread here. For the remainder of the essay, I'll try to be as down to earth and unpretentious as possible. Of course, to compensate... I will be quoting poems.



    Some Introductions Are In Order

    GNS theory is the idea that human beings- at least when it comes to their approach to role-playing-games, can be roughly broken down into three broad categories- Gamists, Narrativists, and Simulationists- and that RPGs are most enjoyable for their participants when they specifically cater to one of these three groups, or their associated creative agendas.



    Think of this as a kind of psychological profiling of players, if you will. Of course, before we can discuss the subject further, some terms and definitions need to be laid out.


    Gamism: Prove Yourself

    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
    -Alfred Lord Tennyson


    GNS revisited: Gamism
    Gamism: Step On Up

    The key human urge at work here is the drive to win! To prevail, to succeed, to compete, to rule, to dominate, to master yourself, to achieve.

    Does this mean that Narrativist or Simulationist play can't have conflicts? No, but it will be the means to other ends- a side-effect, if you will, rather than the main creative focus of play. A Simulationist player gets into fights because it "makes sense at the time"- the IC data and formal motives pertaining to their character said so. A Narrativist player gets into conflicts because that showcases the character's development or capacity for sacrifice, and highlights an emerging theme.

    Even within conflicts, Simulationist players will look for different qualities- genre accuracy or realism, rather than strict equality in terms of tactical tradeoffs, or even survivability. And Narrativist players care more about the stakes of conflict- the end result- than the details of resolution.


    Narrativism: Say Something

    I get down on my knees and do what must be done
    And kiss Achilles' hand, the killer of my son.
    -Michael Longley

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    -Robert Frost


    GNS revisited: Narrativism
    Narrativism: Story Now

    The key human urge at work here is the desire for meaning. To send a message, to address premise, to prove a point, to convey a theme, to explore morality, to foster drama.

    Does this mean that Gamist or Simulationist play can't have 'a story'? No. But it won't be the primary focus of the players' contributions. It'll either have been shaped by one player only- the GM- or players will be left free to go in any direction they please. In the former case, story is present, but players have no input, and in the latter, players have input, but no compelling story is likely to emerge.

    It is perfectly possible to become swept up in story-as-artifact- as in films and books and TV shows- but as finished products, meaningful thematic interaction with them is impossible. And because theme is inherently a series of aesthetically pleasing yet statistically unlikely coincidences, unconstrained Sim or Game concerns will almost never yield it. Either approach can be perfectly functional, but it is not, and never can be, collaborative authorship of a compelling story.


    Simulationism: Be There

    'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
    -John Keats


    GNS revisited: Simulationism
    Simulationism: The Right To Dream

    The key human urge at work here is the need to understand. To relate and unify, to be curious, to follow consistent cause and consequence, to immerse oneself in a self-contained cosmos.

    Does this mean Gamist or Narrativist play can't have rich worlds, compelling role-play, and at least some degree of plausibility? Sure- but they won't be the primary focus of the players' contributions. In Narrativist play, the world and characters revolve around the players, rather then modelling each as independant entities. And Gamist play demands parity of resources, attributes and tactical options in a way that tends to misrepresent, e.g. a game-world's social fabric or kinetic physics.

    Gamists role-play mainly for the sake of colour- a witty one-liner or cool outfit- and might suffer ethical restrictions in the same way they'll take -2 to Str for halfling characters. Narrativists role-play to 'send a message'- to make some judgemental point that is essentially higher (or lower!) than pure self-interest. These metagame concerns can mingle, but eventually separate, and neither accords well with exploring a character 'for itself', without extraneous agenda.


    People aren't like that!
    Each GNS mode generally refers to what is going on, on average, during entire sessions of play. Not within a single moment, or in a single player's head, but what can be seen as the clearest overall priority of play. The terms can also be used as shorthand for individuals inclined toward a given mode of play, but I'm not claiming that every individual human being is either 100% Gamist-inclined, 100% Simulationist-inclined, or 100% Narrativist-inclined. However, this doesn't invalidate the key predictions of the theory, for the following reasons:

    1. The demands of one mode of play, in practice, still actively conflict with another, which means that each mode can demand very different techniques.
    2. Most people do express a distinct effective preference for one mode or another. (Many can still adapt themselves to other modes, but only if given unambiguous signals to do so.)
    3. Role-playing is not a solo activity. Even if you are flexible enough to enjoy any mode of play, consider how likely it is that you will casually bump into 4 or 5 other players that are equally accomodating?


    Can't we all just get along?
    In my experience, when players are talking about 'compromise', what they're actually talking about is one mode cleanly prevailing over the others. By way of example:

    "Okay, we'll let people play elves and dwarves and hobbits, but they can't have attribute modifiers other than +/-2" is not a compromise between Gamism and Simulationism. That is Gamism winning, getting everything it wants, and leaving Simulationism with the leftovers.

    "Okay, we'll make up bits of the setting as we go to fit the story, but they need to be more-or-less plausible" is not a compromise between Narrativism and Simulationism. That is Narrativism winning, getting everything it wants, and leaving Simulationism with the leftovers.

    "Okay, yeah, combat can happen, but you have to remember that wizards are supposed to be more powerful than fighters" is not a compromise between Gamism and Simulationism. That is Simulationism winning, getting everything it wants, and leaving Gamism with the leftovers.

    "Okay, the GM can put players in dramatic situations, but we can't break character and gotta use IC information" is not a compromise between Narrativism and Simulationism. That is Simulationism winning, getting everything it wants, and leaving Narrativism with the leftovers.

    "Okay, I'll script in plenty of combat and puzzles, but you have to remember to stick to the campaign storyline" is not a compromise between Gamism and Narrativism. That is Gamism winning, getting everything it wants, and leaving Narrativism with the leftovers.

    "Okay, I won't dictate the plot, but you'll mostly get into trouble over your character's dreams and beliefs" is not a compromise between Gamism and Narrativism. That is Narrativism winning, getting everything it wants, and leaving Gamism with the leftovers.

    Is it possible for people with a relatively mild hunger for a given mode, or able to subsist in part on other modes, to be satisfied with 'leftovers'? Sure. All of the above can absolutely be perfectly functional approaches to play. But they do not represent compromises, and they certainly don't represent two or more modes simultaneously firing on all cylinders, (for reasons I've covered in detail under prior essays for each mode.)

    Problems, in practice, mainly arise when parts of the rules-as-used-in-practice express one preference, and other portions express a contradictory preference, and different players latch onto different portions of the rules and cling to them for dear sanity- The result of such mismatching has a cumulative psychological effect which feels remarkably like this:



    When inconsistent priorities are expressed in play, the result is almost certain to leave all players equally dissatisfied. This is known as incoherence. Players might never realise the tacit misunderstanding underlying play here until tempers flare and fallings-out occur. Even in the best-case scenario, scenes, techniques, or gimmicks that particularly appeal to the Gamist, Narrativist or Simulationist player are likely to bore at least one of the others, leading to a listless and dissatisfied feeling in play.

    It's not that simple!
    People often criticise the tendency to lump RPGs with vastly different emphases in terms of genre inspiration and rules-complexity into a single GNS bracket, but the thing to bear in mind here is that player incompatibilities along those lines are easily discerned. They don't require much prior discussion, and are resolved through a clean parting of the ways. You like high fantasy, I like gritty cyberpunk, you like party games, I like hundreds of pages of setting description- nobody gets confused about those differences, and you can spot the differences a mile off. They're either not a problem, because you share tastes, or an obvious problem, in which case, have a nice game with your own group.

    The problem is that everybody says they want a say in the story, and everybody claims to want visceral conflict, and everybody prefers things to "make sense". Yet very few understand the degree to which these things, in practice, will conflict- or are prepared to make active contributions along each front. GNS theory is expressly concerned with the underlying frictions of the hobby that are not easily spotted, that cannot be reliably resolved in a casual fashion. To an extent, it's true that RPGs are defined, in many ways, as being the intersection of cooperation/competition, storytelling, and mechanisation- but therein lies the danger. RPGs bring together disparate fields of human interest that for the overwhelming bulk of history have had very little to do with eachother. We're still learning how to minimise the disagreements.

    Some players seem to object to GNS on the grounds that trying out a more coherent design might entail the loss of players within an individual's already limited social group. I'm afraid I can't offer any clean solution for this problem, except to suggest that remaining players might wind up having more fun for your efforts. Or... you could always go bowling?

    Finally, intractable problems with real-world relationships and downright pathological behaviour are not something any amount of sound design can ultimately help to fix, and fall outside the scope of the discussion. The problem is when real-life problems or 'being a jerk' are blamed for what is actually perfectly normal behaviour within a given mode of play.

    Drift- a halfway solution
    If a game design is only mildly incoherent, players may well be able to patch over the rough spots using official or unofficial house rules, a process known as drift. Drift is also an excellent method for dealing with the relatively mild frictions between preferences within a given GNS mode- e.g, between focus on tactics and focus on strategy- provided everyone is willing to compromise slightly. The problem with this approach, however, is that when players with radically different agendas are present in the group, the overall focus of play can drift into the stormy waters of incoherence. Here again, being able to identify the underlying agendas of each player is a valuable tool for heading off these problems before they start.

    But we don't use house rules!
    Any consistent behavioural convention not expressed in the original game text is a house rule. Even if you never write them down. Even if you never formally articulate them. Even if you never consciously realise you're playing by them. "Don't use polymorph all the time" is a house rule. "If you're playing a wizard, please don't hit your win buttons too much" is a house rule. "Don't stick a monk in the same party with a druid" is a house rule. No group I have encountered has managed to thoroughly enjoy play of an incoherent system without, in effect, extending, rewriting or ignoring substantial portions of the game text to conform with the needs of their peculiar creative agenda.

    Worse yet, players- particularly Simulationists stuck using RPGs that do cater reasonably well to a different GNS mode- can be mired for years in attempts to adapt the game to their own tastes, developing thick tomes of addenda and exceptions that do nothing but crack open further points of vulnerability within the design. What we need to avoid wastes of time like this for all concerned is greater familiarity with the real diversity of RPG design, and a better understanding of the diversity of motives within our hobby.

    It's a cult of personality surrounding an abrasive jerk!
    Untrue, and irrelevant either way. Yes, Edwards' early attitude to Simulationism in particular can only be described as a heady blend of incredulity, bile and contempt, but I can only conjecture his attitude must have softened considerably over time- to the best of my ability to judge, his major essays on each mode have been as even-handed and magnanimous as could reasonably be expected of a person who frankly prefers one mode of play. Clearly, the man is not impervious to argument. Nor would any indictment of personality constitute a substantive attack on the theory as presented. There is no substitute for actual experience of other RPGs.

    Yes, GNS is mainly based on anecdotal evidence. I can only ask that you consider carefully how well these predictions correlate with your own observation of player preferences, and perhaps experiment tentatively with other styles of play, other rule-sets, and even other players. Make of it what you will.

    But this survey from a decade ago says that...
    I could say a good deal more on the subject, but I will simply point out that if Wizards of the Coast believed their own hype, subsequent editions of D&D would have moved in a more general, jack-of-all-trades direction, rather than a conclusively Gamist one. The latter is what actually happened.


    A Personal Word

    My goal in writing these essays has been to (A) help clarify and collect my own thoughts on the subject of RPG design, particularly through feedback from readers, which has been invaluable, (B) provide a more accessible and concise practical reference to the broad essentials of GNS theory than I feel is available on The Forge, (C) help highlight RPGs that cater well to a given mode of play, and (D) provide homebrewers or aspiring designers with some tips that could help avoid friction in their designs. We're all still learning here.

    For my own part, I've found that the Threefold model, GNS theory, and the Big Model have been very useful in pinning down a certain sense of... vague unease toward many RPGs that I've crossed paths with down the years, but had never previously been able to precisely articulate, and the attempts to cope with which prompted a great deal of fruitless effort on my part. For that, I feel personally indebted to everyone who contributed to these theories' development over the years, and I hope I've passed on a small share of those insights to new readers.

    Yes, there is a great deal of intimidating jargon and cluttered text to wade through, but if you have practical questions about how to improve on a nascent design prototype, the Forge is a great place to go to for advice and discussion. They can give you down-to-earth suggestions and constructive criticism far more ably than I (they're also a far friendlier bunch.) And if you have experiences of play that you want to share- or that you think would shed new light on the debate over creative agendas- I'm sure they'd love to hear it.

    .
    Last edited by Samurai Jill; 2009-09-16 at 02:37 AM.
    The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast- "The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists." Widely repeated across many role-playing texts. Neither sub-clause in the sentence is possible in the presence of the other.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Zincorium's Avatar

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    The things you are calling incoherent are people's thoughts and preferences.

    How do you expect to make progress when you won't stop dismissing people's input?
    "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
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    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Quote Originally Posted by Samurai Jill View Post
    Some Introductions Are In Order

    GNS theory is the idea that human beings- at least when it comes to their approach to role-playing-games, can be roughly broken down into three broad categories- Gamists, Narrativists, and Simulationists- and that RPGs are most enjoyable for their participants when they specifically cater to one of these three groups, or their associated creative agendas.

    You might claim that it's breaking things down into broad categories, but what it's actually doing is defining three extreme positions and insisting that reality needs to fit its definitions.

    Then it labels everything else (you know, the actual games that people happily play and enjoy for a mixture of reasons) as incoherent because they don't fit into it's narrow definitions of what a game "should" be like.

    It's like saying that some people have sex as an expression of their love for someone, some people have sex in order to procreate, and some people have sex to ease the physical urge - and any sex that happens for a mix of these reasons is "incoherent" and less enjoyable than it "should" be to the participants.

    It's like saying that some people eat dinner together to fulfil a social role, some people eat dinner together in order to assuage their hunger, and some people eat dinner together because they enjoy the taste - and any dinners that happen for a mix of these reasons are "incoherent" and less enjoyable than they "should" be to the participants.

    It's like saying that some people play soccer to have fun with their friends, some people play soccer to keep fit, and some people play soccer to win - and any soccer games that happen for a mix of these reasons are "incoherent" and less enjoyable than they "should" be to the participants.

    Etc.

    Basically, GNS theory is pseudo-intellectual pop-psychology twaddle of the highest order.

    Rather than looking at the reasons people play role playing games - which in reality form a mixed continuum rather than well defined poles, with people's attitudes and reason for having fun varying from session to session and even from scene to scene within a game - and then trying to describe them, it defines its playing types first and then tries to insist that if people should Stop Having Fun Guys and play according to those types then the games would run more smoothly.

    And it even has the cheek to point out its own gaping flaw - that it only describes a few extremes of playing style - and claim it as a virtue by telling people that the vast majority that don't fit into those extremes are doing it wrong.
    Last edited by Roland St. Jude; 2009-09-16 at 09:03 PM. Reason: fixed link

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    I believe it is quite easy to have compromises. This isn't an all or nothing. It's about seeking solutions that fit multiple parts, and avoid conflict between them.

    A gripping, compelling story of sacrifice and growth from a reasonably and sensibly portrayed outcast from society, who takes up the way of the blade to avenge his fallen master...

    Gamist view: The most effective abilities will be on my sheet.

    Simulationist interpretation: It makes sense for people, by and large, to stick with what works. Thus, you'll see more effective abilities than otherwise.

    Narrativist take: The best way to be a part for a compelling story is to stay alive. Survivability will even serve deaths, by making them more dramatic. Further, working with the gm and players to draw the disparate elements of the character into a compelling part of the story is good. The above elements can be explained, and that can be the basis for where I start. From there, we'll see where it goes, but it's as good a place to start as any.


    Does one take priority? At any one time, perhaps. But as the story progresses, the prevailing type can change.

    Simulationism and Narrativistic play can work hand in hand, provided you avoid drama for drama's sake. Give meaning to the growth, and give it sense. Receiving your toast overcooked need not be a major character alignment shift.

    People are what they do, not what class they are. A samurai can (and many have) turned their back on their master. That isn't "breaking character", provided the decision makes sense, and is believable.

    A samurai can be driven to success. That's logical. Life is competitive, and this also is realistic and makes sense. There are limits, obviously, but it's not an all or nothing thing. Because you choose not to have your Samurai travel to the Western continent, a voyage of 9 years, to enroll in an order that gives you a +2 to your attack ability, that doesn't mean you're not a gamist. It doesn't mean you are a simulationist. If you approach each decision from the perspective of "what makes sense, given that this character is driven and motivated, and prefers survival to dying, and has access to this"... Then you can serve all three styles, over a campaign.

    I love me some combat. I love crunching the numbers and winning.

    But if that's all a game is, I don't like it.

    I love staying in character, and using my wits to figure out how to use my character's resources to achieve my goals.

    But if the whole game is that serious, I don't like it.

    I love a gripping story. I love exploring who my character is, and who he becomes.

    But if it's all story, I'll get bored.

    A great game (to me) serves all three, sometimes at different times, sometimes in different measure. But all three have a place, and all three make a game good. Missing one? It's like a tripod without a leg.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Well, I have to say, this whole thing has certainly been educational. I'd always been a bit dubious about GNS theory, but I'd never realised just how fundamentally dysfunctional it was until now.

    I can see now why GNS theory has got such a bad reputation. All the jargon is there to disguise the fact that the whole theory is built upon one assumption - "games can only cater to one play style, and if they don't they're bad because they're 'incoherent' " - which is not only wrong, but which manages to be a backhanded insult to anyone whose games don't fit neatly into the GNS categories. No wonder it's so widely disliked.

    However, there's one question that remains unanswered, Jill. Why are you doing this now? This pattern you're using of trying to spread GNS theory by posting discussions and long essays on the target forum was standard practise for Forgies . . . four years ago. You are very late to the party. So what's the deal? Are you a new convert, or an old one?

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    I really do appreciate your summaries, Samurai Jill. They are a lot more accessible than Edwards' essays.

    My main problem with GNS (in particular) is that it attempts to be primarily normative, rather than descriptive like the older Threefold, and yet does not lay down a strong case for the normative portions of its theory. What I mean is, it does a good job laying down G, N, and S, and showing why there is tension, but it seems to have as a premise that *this tension is intractable.*

    This is where GNS fails for me. I have not seen a good case to be made where a group of socially functional, relatively reasonable, moderately mature people would fall so squarely into one of those modes that a system/campaign can't bounce around between their primary preference and those of others.
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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    No Saph, it was not common only four years ago: in Italy it is a common forgite practise even now.
    Actually, it started roughly two years ago as a way to promote the forgite games that were translated in Italian. And so far has caused one of the greatest italian RPG's communities, where even D&D's Italian editors posted on regular basis, to became a "forgite's pulpit" with some noobs and a few other users.

    If a group has a particular forma mentis, and uses particular practises, its member will always use them. In my country, to sell some products; here, for an unknown reason.

    PS: in all the "GNS" threads I am just lurking and not posting because I was made too angry against forgites by their way of acting. I prefer to hold myself back.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Ah, didn't know that. Well, that comes with not speaking Italian.

    But on the English-speaking RP boards, as far as I know, there's been a lull in GNS advocates trying to make converts for a while now. Jill's an anomaly. That's why I'd like to hear from her why she's restarted it.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Reading these threads I can't help but to think that GNS theory is exactly backwards.

    A good game will include Gamest, Simulationist, and Narrative elements so that all three will be in roughly equal proportion.

    So in other words the more incoherent a game is, the better it is.

    I also notice that GNS theory does not include any of the Rule of ...

    I'll bend plot, world building, and character sheets into a pretzel if it makes me laugh, for example.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Yeah, I'm of the camp that the problem is what you make of it.

    I've played in groups where the GM was a hardcore narrativist. People were punished for character optimization, every skill and feat had to be justified via RP and story, or it was vetoed.

    This is an example of a Narrativist with conflicting views on the others. I tend to see more narrativists do this than simulationists and gamists. I believe narrativism lends itself more to extreme followers, though Gamism and Simulationism certainly have devotees. What I've noticed, however, in all but the most extreme cases, Simulationists and Gamists can harbor dissenting views in their games.

    For me? D&D isn't as serious as all that. It's an excuse to get around a table with friends, eat pizza, drink dew, and have fun. I cater to my players, I give them elements that they want. When I focus on a gamist-oriented player, I give them combat, puzzles, goals that are winnable. We got to that point by following the arc of the narrativist, developing their character, and we do so in a world that follows the rules, and is believable. If a simulationist joins, I do research, I make it not only believable, but thematically accurate as well.

    But everyone gets their moment to shine, doing what they love most.

    And that's why I have players who have been loyal to my game for over 15 years.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Ah, didn't know that. Well, that comes with not speaking Italian.

    But on the English-speaking RP boards, as far as I know, there's been a lull in GNS advocates trying to make converts for a while now. Jill's an anomaly. That's why I'd like to hear from her why she's restarted it.
    It's also worth nothing that Edwards himself has abandoned the theory in favor of The Big Model, which is another kettle of fish altogether.
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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Well, I have to say, this whole thing has certainly been educational. I'd always been a bit dubious about GNS theory, but I'd never realised just how fundamentally dysfunctional it was until now.
    Yeah, I have to give these threads credit for that. I had honestly never heard of GNS theory before these threads popped up here, but now I know that the whole thing is nonsensical trash.

    However, there's one question that remains unanswered, Jill. Why are you doing this now? This pattern you're using of trying to spread GNS theory by posting discussions and long essays on the target forum was standard practise for Forgies . . . four years ago. You are very late to the party. So what's the deal? Are you a new convert, or an old one?
    I admit being curious about this, too. It does seem... odd... given how very much aware many people are of the crippling problems GNS theory has as well as the tactics proponents have used in the past.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixRivers View Post
    I've played in groups where the GM was a hardcore narrativist. People were punished for character optimization, every skill and feat had to be justified via RP and story, or it was vetoed.
    Actually, I get the impression a GNS advocate would call that Simulationism, not Narrativism.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    I think GNS makes sense.

    I myself am a gamist with slight simulationist tendencies and no taste at all for narrativism. Even before I had heard of the GNS system I had become aware of that sort of differences, having gamed in a group with a simulationist DM who put simulationist houserules on top of D&D. For example, I thought keeping track of which skills had been used and could be increased on the next levelup was too much work for questionable benefit and would have preferred the unrealistic situation where you can learn to cook by killing a bunch of orcs.

    Then there was that one session where we did a trip around the wilderness and all we killed was some rabbits for our meal. We didn't meet any of the lizardmen we had came to find as we consistently rolled high on our random encounter rolls. A non-simulationist DM would have just used DM-fiat to put some lizardmen or something else in our way to make things interesting, but since the dice said "no lizardmen" and the map said "nothing much here", it was a rather pointless session.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Quote Originally Posted by Monkey Pants View Post

    It's like saying that some people have sex as an expression of their love for someone, some people have sex in order to procreate, and some people have sex to ease the physical urge - and any sex that happens for a mix of these reasons is "incoherent" and less enjoyable than it "should" be to the participants.

    It's like saying that some people eat dinner together to fulfil a social role, some people eat dinner together in order to assuage their hunger, and some people eat dinner together because they enjoy the taste - and any dinners that happen for a mix of these reasons are "incoherent" and less enjoyable than they "should" be to the participants.

    It's like saying that some people play soccer to have fun with their friends, some people play soccer to keep fit, and some people play soccer to win - and any soccer games that happen for a mix of these reasons are "incoherent" and less enjoyable than they "should" be to the participants.

    Etc.
    I was about to post an analogy when I saw this. I'll post it anyways:

    It's like saying that there's three flavours of icecream (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla) and that anyone mixing them is having an incoherent bowl of icecream and will find it less tasty.
    Truth resists simplicity.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    the GNS theory reminds me why i dislike alignment... you can't shove things in neat little boxes and say they're incompatible and should never touch. it's the stereotypical "YOUR PALLY MUST ACT LG 100% OF THE TIME OR FALL!" attitude except the LG you're supposed to act is a biased and very loaded LG where you are destined to fall.

    things, and people, are usually much more complex and will often borrow heavily from the other boxes as the situation needs to offer a more rich experience. to back to alignment, IMO, it is best used as a very brief shorthand and part of the character's personality, not his be-all end-all descriptor. lord knows i've played sessions of D&D where description fueled what happend without touching a die and had a blast doing it.

    same with GNS... i would wouldn't have so much an issue with it if it didn't say "if you're not playing by my rules, you're playing it WRONG" then proceed to plug it's ears, but use fancier language.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zincorium View Post
    The things you are calling incoherent are people's thoughts and preferences.

    How do you expect to make progress when you won't stop dismissing people's input?
    I should have posted this earlier, but in Jill's defense, "incoherent" is not necessarily a slur. People by nature are incoherent, as are a lot of things we think, do, and like.

    For instance, a good parent wants their kid to learn to eventually think and act for themselves. At the same time, a good parent sometimes needs their child to listen to them *right now* simply trusting in their greater experience and knowledge of the world (don't touch that hot stove, don't drink that bleach). Taken to extremes, these goals of good parenting are incoherent. (This is not the best example I can think of, but the best examples I can think of are all political.) The incoherence comes when one refuses to acknowledge trade offs (kind of like GNS' core assumption).

    OTOH, I think GNS tends to use the term as a derogatory, so reacting to the term negatively might be appropriate here.
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    The bottom line is that this theory does not A) match up with the majority of the data we have, B) fails the test of parsimony and C) is a circular argument.

    A) The vast majority of people here, AND the available survey data indicate that compromise does occur regularly, and that gamer concerns are not the 3 arms of the theory. Simply because 4E went a certain way within the theory's descriptive model means very little since that can be attributed to a very vocal portion of the player base on the internet.

    Attempting to dismiss this compromise by claiming "its not really compromise" is simply denying the possibility of compromise in order to make the theory work, because it says that compromise is 'incoherent'.

    Furthermore, the conflicts between styles rest on extreme examples of players from each arm. One example was a 'simulationist' player who supposedly 'wouldn't have fun' if he had to compromise on his vision of his character at all in order to promote harmony among the players and move the game forward. Even if he were asked to change ho he envisioned his character that would be 'not fun' because he was so dedicated to his original vision

    The problem, of course, is that a person unwilling to compromise his own wants at all for the benefit of his peers (and for their compromise in return) is essentially a childish boor who we probably wouldn't want to play with at all. It speaks to a definite maturity problem. If the theory relies on the assumption of selfish, childish extremes, it fails to represent actuality in most circumstances.

    B) It fails at any test of parsimony. The narritive arm of the theory requires not just narritive focus, but narritive focus with all the players contributing equally to the development of a plot that's unknown at the start. It further obfuscates this by misusing words such as "protagonist" and "interactive" and slinging words that have pejorative connotations such as "illusionism".

    The problem, of course, is that these "wrong" ways of playing based on a narritive get shoved into the other 2 categories despite not really fitting in with anything else found there, and for no reason at all. There is consistently no explaination of WHY narritives primarily driven by the DM aren't 'narritivist' other than that 'set plots aren't interactive' and games are interactive. The problem, of course, is that this uses a false dilemma of 'if a plot isn't created by equal collaboration it's completely set and non-interactive'. The silliness of this should be evident; there's no reason all have to contribute equal effort. In fact, in games where it claims there's equal collaboration a close examination of any game would probably discover more effort by some people and less by others simply based on creatie ability and relative dominance of personalities.

    C) The theory is a circular argument. Ultimately what it says is "The playstyles are fundamentally incompatible because they are defined this way by the theory, and they are defined this way because they are incompatible." This is why when it's pointed out that people compromise, its claimed that "no, the really aren't" and then it's pointed out that one side or the other 'wins' on minor details. This, of course, ignores the fact that compromise IS one side or the other winning each detail so that each side ultimately wins and equitable protion of ALL the details.

    In short, the theory is basically Ron Edwards's way of pontificating at everyone else about how to play and essentially saying "make games that fixate on one thing or the other so I can play only the games I want with the people I want, excluding anything I don't like". It's nothing more than pretensions to intellectual sophistication, with a poor understanding of the scientific method, hypothesis formation, and human behavior. It should be noted that in thiswhole discussion, NO serious academic support from an accredited institution is to be found for this theory.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    I read up on the last thread, and this thread here, and I have a few thoughts I felt like writing down because, well, I'm not 100% certain, but I think these posts offend me.

    It seems to me that these 'GNS' posts have not been made as an attempt at discussion, but instead attempts at 'teaching' people and 'correcting' people. There has been no conversational aspects of the posts I've looked through where people who disagree with the theory have their concerns/complaints adequately addressed. This isn't exactly a flaw of those arguing, but instead a flaw of the argument. The argument has the inherent design in it that anyone who disagrees with it is wrong and will either eventually come around, or continue to think they're wrong. Trying to bring something like this into a forum of open discussion is beyond rude in my opinion.

    It would be like making a post that says 'The number 5 is a more precious number than the number 7. Any arguments that oppose it are nonsensical, and stem from peoples lack of understanding about the numbers 5 and 7.'

    If your argument has a built in clause where you can never be wrong, then attempting to discuss it is kind of rude in my opinion.


    As far as GNS itself though, I have to say that after reading this post and the last one, I don't really have any arguments worth making against it. I read it, and I laugh then think to myself, "....no...". There is no point in arguing it, because the theory itself attempts to trump any argument before they come up by dismissing them.

    For those that agree with the theory good on you, and if that's how you want to think about people around you, then good for you, but I sincerely doubt that people who disagree with GNS will ever ever be swayed, and attempting to convince us is just going to cause disagreements without resolution.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    I honestly take offense to the concept that Narrativism and Gamism (as you insist on calling them) are entirely incompatible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    I honestly take offense to the concept that Narrativism and Gamism (as you insist on calling them) are entirely incompatible.
    I wouldn't bother; Narrativism isn't much like what you probably care about in your own games.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    I wouldn't bother; Narrativism isn't much like what you probably care about in your own games.
    ...and you know what I care about in my games?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    ...and you know what I care about in my games?
    I mean that Narrativism isn't something many people anywhere likely care about in their games. Saying that Narrativism and Gamism are incompatible isn't the same as saying that you can't care about game and story at the same time, because Narrativism and story have little if anything to do with one another.

    I wouldn't presume to know what you care about in your games, but I can guess that on sheer numbers you're unlikely to care about Narrativism, because in all the descriptions of it I've read it comes off as a very niche concern.

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    Default Re: GNS revisited: A Summary

    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    I mean that Narrativism isn't something many people anywhere likely care about in their games. Saying that Narrativism and Gamism are incompatible isn't the same as saying that you can't care about game and story at the same time, because Narrativism and story have little if anything to do with one another.

    I wouldn't presume to know what you care about in your games, but I can guess that on sheer numbers you're unlikely to care about Narrativism, because in all the descriptions of it I've read it comes off as a very niche concern.
    +1.

    Narrativism could be more appropriately described as "anti-everything else". If the only way to be a narrativist is to enjoy being put into situations where you must abandon all other things important to you, or suffer greatly for it?

    Where I come from, that's called masochism.
    Last edited by PhoenixRivers; 2009-09-16 at 09:26 AM.

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    ...and you know what I care about in my games?
    Well, do you like having only one Cause that is important to you and the rest of the game focused on trying to subvert your devotion to that Cause?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylarra View Post
    Well, do you like having only one Cause that is important to you and the rest of the game focused on trying to subvert your devotion to that Cause?
    My characters possess goals and motivations, and from that have their own causes to champion, yes. It is not the center of the game, but that's because everyone's characters also have similar motivations.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    My characters possess goals and motivations, and from that have their own causes to champion, yes. It is not the center of the game, but that's because everyone's characters also have similar motivations.
    That's not Narrativism, though (unless Samurai Jill wants to correct me). Having goals and motivations is just part of Simulationism according to GNS. Narrativism would require the focus of the game to be on how your character chooses between his causes and ideals when they come in to conflict, and this would be the sole driver of all story in the game. Having your character simply react in accordance with his established personality to events in the world determined by the DM is, as I understand it, classed as "illusionism".

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    That's not Narrativism, though (unless Samurai Jill wants to correct me). Having goals and motivations is just part of Simulationism according to GNS. Narrativism would require the focus of the game to be on how your character chooses between his causes and ideals when they come in to conflict, and this would be the sole driver of all story in the game. Having your character simply react in accordance with his established personality to events in the world determined by the DM is, as I understand it, classed as "illusionism".
    Man, this whole GNS thing is a load of bollocksism, you ask me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Man, this whole GNS thing is a load of bollocksism, you ask me.
    Hence my suspicion that you were being insulted less than you may have supposed (but having your time wasted more than you may have realized).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    But on the English-speaking RP boards, as far as I know, there's been a lull in GNS advocates trying to make converts for a while now. Jill's an anomaly. That's why I'd like to hear from her why she's restarted it.
    Jill is unfortunately not an anomaly, at least not at the present time. There has been a recent surge in Forgey activity lately, including all the old tricks like butting into debates and turning everything into GNS, filling up forums with their talk in their secret moonman language, and telling people they are badwrong if they disagree.

    I know I'm talking about it like it's a Sectoid invasion from X-Com, but seriously. It is baffling where these people are sprouting from, whether this new surge is another attempt at invasion, whether they're new or old, and why they're using the outmoded GNS instead of following Edwards' lead into the conclusion of crazy that is The Big Model. And in essence, even if it isn't a very competent sectoid invasion now, it was at one time.
    Last edited by Meek; 2009-09-16 at 09:50 AM.

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