Barf Forth Apocalyptica

barf forth apocalyptica => roleplaying theory, hardcore => Topic started by: Paul T. on July 30, 2015, 01:49:45 PM

Title: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on July 30, 2015, 01:49:45 PM
Vincent,

You've mentioned elsewhere that you feel it's time to put some of the Big Model in the dirt, and to move on to better ways to understand games.

What was the turning point, in your mind, on this topic? When did you start feeling this way and why?

How much of it is a problem with the Model itself, and how much of it is a problem with the conversations it generates?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on July 31, 2015, 10:54:27 AM
Oh sure.

So the Big Model is full of little taxonomies, right?

DFK. People said, "what about [this rule], is it D, F, or K?" The correct answer is: who cares? D, F and K are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is the actual working of the rule itself.

Now, DFK is trivial, so it was easy to realize the correct answer. People only bothered to ask for about a month, and then everybody realized the correct answer and nobody asked after that.

IIEE. People said, "what about [this rule], is it II*EE, IIE*E, or what?" The correct answer is: who cares? I, I, E and E are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is the actual working of the rule itself.

FitM/FatE. People said, "what about [this rule], is it FitM or FatE?" The correct answer is: who cares? FitM and FatE are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is the actual working of the rule itself.

Stances. People said, "what about [when I did this], was it Actor Stance, Author Stance, or Director Stance? Or maybe Pawn Stance?" The correct answer is: who cares? the stances are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is what you actually did.

Authorities. People said, "what about [when I did this], was I exercising Content Authority, Backstory Authority, or what?" The correct answer is: who cares? That list of "authorities" is obviously just a placeholder for the interesting thing to examine, which is what you actually did. (And furthermore, casting it as a question of authority in the first place is a bad idea. It's the worst idea in RPG thoery. Yes, worse than "if the GM can't arbitrarily kill any PC with no warning, it's not really an RPG," or any other bad idea you care to mention.)

For a long, long time, maybe embarrassingly long, I thought that GNS was an exception. That G, N, and S were "observed," true categories of play. I'd say things like "you know how most of the taxonomies in the Big Model are just, like, placeholders for the interesting things? GNS is the exception. G, N, and S are for real."

But one day, maybe 4-5 years ago, I caught myself, and said, "self, are you positive?"

And I concluded that when people say, "what about [this time we played], was it G, N, or S?" the correct answer is: who cares? That list of creative agendas is obviously just a placeholder for the interesting thing to examine, with is the actual working of that time you played.

Interpreting it into a box is not the same as understanding it, and, in fact, might be the opposite of understanding it.

So that was the turning point for me.

I'm saying that the model itself is obsolete. It is 100% about the Big Model itself.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on July 31, 2015, 11:53:44 PM
This is totally fascinating to me, because I'd always assumed that the "G, N, and S" modes *were* effectively placeholders.

Kind of like how you can have an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. We can all describe features those three things generally have, but still end up being wrong about any particular dish.

I suppose I'm beginning to realize that this conceptualization might not have been as "kosher" as far as the Big Model went as I thought.

All those other things, in the meantime, I took as being a little more "solid", in effect. And, looking at it now, there's no reason to see it that way: of course the same kind of logic applies.

Now, next question:

Given that this kind of understanding is, by definition, limited, what's the next step?

I would imagine you would still agree that these placeholders and concepts allowed us - as a hobby - to make great strides, both in design and in conversation, from where those thingss we were fifteen years ago.

How do we move forward, if we are to discard so much potentially useful jargon?

And is that, indeed, something you are recommending?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 02, 2015, 08:50:55 AM
We're already moving forward. We have been for years! There's no "next step" but to keep playing, making, and talking about games.

What I'd say is that the Big Model busted some designers (including me) out of some bad conventional thinking, in approx 2002-2007, and then spent approx 2007-2012 bumping up against its own limits. When the Forge closed in 2012, the Big Model was declining in energy and relevance and had been for a few years.

So it's up to Big Model theorists to catch up with what's happened since, if they care to.

The old jargon won't help them do it!

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on August 02, 2015, 08:32:33 PM
Thanks, Vincent.

I think a lot of us find some of the ways of thinking (and related vocabulary) from the Forge discussion very useful. Where do we go looking for new ways of thinking and new vocabulary?

I'm not particularly aware of any, with, perhaps, the exception of some of your "lumpley" discussions on game objects and so forth. Is there anyone else out there you think is worth checking out?

Also, how did the Big Model's proponents end up "butting up against its limitations"? Can you see some design features which you see as being symptoms of that problem? How did those designers move past those limitations?

Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 02, 2015, 10:57:33 PM
Right now the best thinking on RPGs is happening in the OSR and in the PbtA design movement. You might not recognize it as RPG theory, though. It doesn't look like the Big Model at all. Few essays, little wrangling, no glossaries. Mostly design and play, play and design.

If you're looking for a new Big Model, you won't find one any time soon. We're in an expansive phase, with a bunch of individuals and small groups developing in a bunch of different directions. We'll compare notes and learn from each other as we go, but my guess is that it'll be comparing notes, not model- or vocabulary building, for at least another 5-10 years. Conceivably, forever more.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 03, 2015, 10:20:04 AM
Oh and the freeformers, American- and otherwise. They're kicking our butts pretty well right now.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on August 05, 2015, 08:51:51 PM
Well, now, that all makes a great deal of sense. I understand where you're coming from, now. Thanks!

Are you interested in having the more detailed, technical discussion (as you hinted at Story Games)? I'm curious about that, as well, but I'm not sure what questions precisely to ask.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Borogove on August 06, 2015, 06:08:05 PM
Right now the best thinking on RPGs is happening in the OSR and in the PbtA design movement. You might not recognize it as RPG theory, though. It doesn't look like the Big Model at all. Few essays, little wrangling, no glossaries. Mostly design and play, play and design.

Any instance of play is seen by only a tiny fraction of the community; any instance of design maybe a larger fraction. Is there value in having a common glossary to refer to, which includes summaries of the discoveries which came from those plays and designs?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 11, 2015, 11:41:49 AM
Any instance of play is seen by only a tiny fraction of the community; any instance of design maybe a larger fraction. Is there value in having a common glossary to refer to, which includes summaries of the discoveries which came from those plays and designs?
I doubt it!

My guess is, any glossary that you or I could make or contribute to would be seen by a smaller fraction of the community than a good game design would.

Way better than a glossary, I think, if someone's looking for theory work to do, would be a series of theory-minded game reviews.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on August 11, 2015, 02:30:54 PM
That's an excellent suggestion.

Vincent, what about my question, re: the more technical discussion? That's still interesting to me, but I don't want to twist your arm.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 11, 2015, 03:53:07 PM
Oh, sorry! Sure thing, if you want, but I don't know what questions you might like to ask either.

When I talked about this on G+, I found myself working harder to explain the Big Model than to explain why I think it's obsolete, and that was funny but not much fun, so don't ask me to do that if you can help it.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on August 12, 2015, 08:27:05 PM
No problem!

I don't think a rehash of the Big Model is necessary here at all. (And if someone's reading and needs a refresher, please ask elsewhere.)

You've already described how you think a lot of Big Model terms were placeholders, and simplifications of more complex issues.

In what ways do you feel the Model might actually be incorrect or misleading? Or some parts of the Model actually likely to lead people down the wrong road? (Either as players or as designers.)

Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 17, 2015, 11:35:20 AM
So, right. Narrativism, Story Now, is the core principle and rallying cry of a pretty cool design movement, and I have no complaint about that at all. It's the design movement that Apocalypse World comes out of, for instance, as well as all of my games before it, back to Dogs in the Vineyard. It's lost a lot of momentum, but new and interesting games come out of it every year. GNS' obsolescence as a taxonomy of play doesn't diminish Narrativism's value as an inspiration for design. You can still create great games by democratizing story creation at the table.

As it happens, there is a part of the Big Model that I think is terrible, though, which is its placement of authority at the core of the act of roleplaying. This is an appalling inversion of the reality, which is that agreement is at the core of the act of roleplaying, and authority is just one way of many to negotiate agreement. I blame this bad idea for all of the Narrativist design movement's lost momentum.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Munin on August 17, 2015, 04:49:29 PM
All of it? Really? Couldn't some of it be that much of the "novelty" of the Narrativist idea has worn off? And by "novelty" I mean only this - when you are designing a game that uses certain elements central to the Narrativist idea, you sometimes come up against the idea of "OK, but this has been done by this other system over here, so why am I re-inventing the wheel?" And so, by "worn off" I mean only that many ideas there were "new" have now already been explored in some depth by games that have come out in the last decade or so.

In some sense, I think it's why there are so many hacks of AW - that game does a really good job of mechanically capturing so many of the interesting elements of Narrative play. So absent some "new" aspect of Narrativism to explore, why go through the effort of changing the central mechanics that already give you so much of what you want? Make thematic changes around the edges, sure, but the central ideas end up being very similar. Why fix what ain't broke?

Also, I don't think about "authority" AT ALL when it comes to thinking about game design. I think about shared responsibility. The two are very different. But at some level, there are only so many things going on in an RPG for which responsibility needs to be doled out and/or shared. You could get all sorts of crazy and push the envelope on any subset of them, but in many cases the results feel kind of contrived. Like novelty for novelty's sake. "Look at my new system, where the character you play is completely created by the other people at the table and your motivations are randomly determined!" OK, cool, whatever, but does completely abdicating a player's responsibility for character creation/motivation actually add anything to the game? It might be interesting as an improv acting exercise, but is it fun for the players? Does it result in cool stories? Meh.

Is this making sense?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 18, 2015, 11:43:19 AM
I'm going to stick with all of it, yeah.

Responsibility is a little better than authority, in that coming to group agreement by a process of taking responsibility is more subtle than coming to group agreement by a process of taking authority, but still, taking and assigning responsibilities is just one way of many to go about fostering agreement.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Munin on August 18, 2015, 02:18:10 PM
So is your central premise then the idea of "who does what in the game" (which is how "authority" is usually couched) is a distraction that is preventing the Narrativist movement from, well, moving?

OK, I'll drink your Kool-Aid for a while. That being the case, what should designers be focusing on?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on August 18, 2015, 02:41:38 PM
Sure!

"How do I get people to say interesting things?"

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Munin on August 18, 2015, 05:56:43 PM
I think your own "ask them provocative questions" advice is a good place to start. "Take a shot of vodka before speaking" would probably also accomplish what you seek, at least as the game progressed.  ;)

In some sense this is a loaded question, as "interesting" is a value judgment. Given the particular character I'm playing and the head-space I'm in at a particular time, I might be ALL ABOUT whatever intrigue/plot/scheme/conspiracy you're talking about. Or if I'm not in that headspace or playing a character who doesn't care, I might not.

OR, I (the player) might find it "interesting" in the abstract, but may have no way to interface with or build on what it is you are saying. In your parlance, there may be no cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-dice arrows.

But if we cycle back to the idea that "system matters," then it seems sort of obvious that the way to get people to say interesting things is to incentivize the saying of interesting things. Introduce a fact about your character or the world or whatever into the "cloud"? Get a token. Every time it gets used in play? Get another token. Build on someone else's fact? You and she both get a token. Stuff that "the table" deems collectively "interesting" is more likely to get used in play, and is thus rewarded. Conversely, ideas that are less interesting are left alone and not built upon (or maybe the group circles back to them later as peoples' interests change organically).

Holy shit, it could be like a creativity pyramid scheme!
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Jonatan on August 19, 2015, 04:08:47 AM
I feel that idea conflates "that's a cool thing, I love this game" and "that's important to the plot (or story) and will come up again later".

You could argue that to some extent they should be one and the same. But I'm thinking of, for example, interesting colour about a character or a place or whatever, that maybe doesn't come up again. Or rather, should I as a player optimise for how likely other players are to build upon this, or how much they will enjoy it right now, or something else?

It's easier to come up with the opposite example: a really boring macguffin that keeps getting referenced, farming tokens for its creator, because the plot dictates that it's really powerful or something.

And then there's the thing (I'm really lazy now and not looking up how well-established this "truth" is) about extrinsic rewards diminishing the intrinsic fun in doing fun stuff. If you start handing out tokens for describing your character well, the joy some players ordinarily find in coming up with and sharing interesting tidbits might be diminished, since it now feels like work.


Another way to attack the problem is through setting design: "how do I steer the contents of the shared fiction so that, when the players talk about it according to some agenda (e.g. make my character survive) the things they say are often interesting?"
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on August 19, 2015, 01:30:31 PM
Vincent,

That's very interesting, thanks. I can see how the idea of "authority" is a bit misleading in a medium which depends upon group buy-in.

Can you give an example of how working from a concept of "authority" might result in bad design, and how thinking differently (which I'm still not 100% sure how to do, except for discarding the concept of authority) could fix such a design?

(I can certainly see how your games are often designed to encourage agreement, by aligning players' interests with what's happening. For example, the "seduce/manipulate" move, rather than giving a player *authority* to say something is true, rather allows them to give another player an incentive or to create a cost for saying something is true. That's a very different dynamic!)
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on August 19, 2015, 04:19:26 PM
Vincent, while you're answering all of the above, can you mention how you see John Harper's 'Crossing the Line (http://mightyatom.blogspot.com/2010/10/apocalypse-world-crossing-line.html)' intersecting here, if at all? (Or John, by all means please dive in; I addressed Vincent only because he's been doing the talking).

As an aside, I noticed the other night that some of the Dogs character creation rules focus on assent. Specifically, your starting equipment and its quality/size/crapiness are, per the rules, dependent on the other players' assent as opposed to your authority. The Hx rules in AW also (like, in the example a player tells the MC the story behind his Hx with another PC, then asks that PC if that makes sense to them). Are there a lot of other rules (or whole games, even) out there already that explicitly point to assent instead of authority/responsibility?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on September 04, 2015, 02:06:16 PM
Vincent,

I wonder if you're still watching this topic!

If you are, please say so. If not, hopefully you're doing something much more fun. Cheers!
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 05, 2015, 03:16:49 PM
Paul T: I'm here. You pretty much answered your own question, though, didn't you?

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on September 06, 2015, 02:38:27 PM
That's fair, Vincent!

How much work would be required to rework the Big Model on the basis of assent?

In other words, is this a foundational difference (the Model is barking up the wrong tree) or is it a question of preference in game design (preferring assent-based procedures to authority-based ones as a question of taste)?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 06, 2015, 03:28:26 PM
I'm sorry, Paul! Your question makes me think you may have lost the thread of my criticism. I'll recap and it'll probably answer your question.

According to the Big Model, authority is fundamental to the act of roleplaying. Roleplaying is based on who has the authority to say what, about what, and when.

I think that this is badly incorrect.

I think that negotiated assent is fundamental to the act of roleplaying, and that authority is just one way of many to negotiate assent. A very useful way, important to basically all roleplaying and basically every game's design, but not uniquely useful or important and not fundamental at all.

Some people prefer games whose designs make extensive use of assigning authority, and that's just fine. Why shouldn't they? It's a legit way to negotiate assent.

However, I think that the Big Model chained a stone around the neck of the narrativist design movement when it said that assigning authority was the basis of good rpg design. It limited the movement's audience to only those people, and then complained that everybody else was suckered by poor design.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on September 09, 2015, 06:12:50 PM
Vincent,

That's very interesting, thanks.

I don't think I misunderstood you, but that clarification is really helpful.

I can see how the emphasis on strong authority was necessary for a certain school of design popular at the Forge, but how it also limits the scope of possible designs (compared to something like Fiasco, which generally ignores the issue of authority altogether, and expects the group to find its own way through assent).

That certainly answers my question, I think.

When you originally commented on this at Story Games, you said you had a whole long, technical explanation you wanted to go through for those interested. I'm interested, although I'm not sure what to ask you about it (since you didn't really say much more that that about it in the first place.) What was that technical topic you wanted to broach? Surely this is the most appropriate place for it.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 09, 2015, 08:27:43 PM
Oh lord no, Paul! I didn't say I wanted to! I said that if Big Model theorists want to check my work, I'll lay it out for them. That's to fulfill a responsibility I have to the Big Model and to my old comrades, not because I want to.

As it happens, a couple of them took me up on it on G+, and it was, yes, long and technical, and it was also kind of an ordeal, but I do feel good about having fulfilled my responsibility to them.

If any questions do come to you, I'll be happy to answer them, now or whenever. But there's nothing I'm on fire to say on the topic.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on September 12, 2015, 12:35:36 PM
I see! Thanks, Vincent.

Is it fair to say that our discussion here is a shorthand of that technical discussion, or is it a different topic altogether?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 14, 2015, 11:36:48 AM
Paul, check this for that technical 'check my work' discussion:
https://plus.google.com/+VincentBaker/posts/atC8kDhSQjU

Of particular note to your questions, maybe:
Quote from: Vincent
If it were my job to bring the Big Model current, here's what I'd do:

1. Replace every taxonomy in it with the process or structure that the taxonomy illustrates.

For most of them, this would be pretty easy. Most of them are either trivial, like DFK, or transparent enough, like IIEE. There are only a couple of troublesome opaque ones, like GNS. Maybe only the one!

2. Replace the idea of creative agendas with one that actively resists both taxonomy and RPG exceptionalism.

In this thread I haven't done the work this would require - and if you thought I would, you were dreaming - but I've put forward my candidate and shown that the work is possible.

3. Take the idea that roleplaying depends upon a distribution of authority by the hair, drown it in the mill pond, sink its body with stones, and bring in a cranky New England witch to curse its soul to thereunder remain until Doom's final trump.

This is the easiest of the three, and by far the most important.?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 16, 2015, 01:51:32 PM
Paul T: I'm here. You pretty much answered your own question, though, didn't you?

-Vincent

Man, I don't see that parenthetical as an example of assent, except trivially. Seduce/manipulate explicitly grants authority to the player of the target PC -- 'What they do is up to them.' A lot of other moves in AW explicitly grant authority as well -- most of the time to the rolling player, but sometimes to that player's target or to the MC. How much assent is built into AW's system, as opposed to authority?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 16, 2015, 03:48:48 PM
I describe a hierarchical relationship and you understand it as a dichotomy. I don't know how to say it clearly enough to overcome this.

You're thinking of assigning authority AS OPPOSED TO fostering assent, and that's not how it is. Assigning authority is a perfectly sound way to foster assent. You see it all throughout all kinds of games, including Apocalypse World and all of my games, and in any number of other social circumstances.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 17, 2015, 02:55:36 PM
Bad phrasing, Vincent. I'll try again.

Seduce/manipulate is assignment of authority, not the 'thinking differently' that Paul T was looking for, so he didn't really answer his own question as you indicated before. Assume we agree that, per the relationship you've described, any element of system that assigns authority is, by definition, an element of system that fosters assent. You'd know better than me, obviously, so I happily defer to your expertise here. But AW looks like it makes heavy use of assigning authority as the primary way it fosters assent. It actually looks like assigning authority is fundamental to how AW carves up the conversation -- the PCs' responsibility is to say what their characters do, the MC's is to play the world, and sometimes the MC turns questions back on the PCs, etc.

So, what if any assent-fostering elements of AW don't boil down to assigning authority? I listed the Hx rules of character creation as a possible candidate because the rules and examples make explicit that the PCs should work out their shared history together instead of one person just dictating that she left you bleeding or whatever. So there's one, assuming you agree with that assessment. That's tiny, though, and it's pre-play, while I'm looking for stuff geared towards in-play.

If it's not something that can be parsed down into individual elements (like, if it's a confluence of different bits of the system that fosters assent without assigning authority), just say so.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 17, 2015, 04:50:26 PM
Both the carrot and the stick leave the player the authority to decide what their character does, yes, but change the context in which the player exercises their assigned authority. Assigning authority is one piece of what Seduce & Manipulate does.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 17, 2015, 04:57:36 PM
Here, look. In which pieces of Apocalypse World can you identify assigned authority? Basically all of them. What else can you identify in them?

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 18, 2015, 11:08:21 AM
First: I'm sure it doesn't, but if this whole conversation is dependent on the Big Model's conception of specific kinds of authority (eg, content vs situation vs whatever the rest are), then fine. I'm not committed to how it partitions up pieces of authority.

Here's the incomplete list you suggested of ways a game can foster assent:
Quote from: Vincent on G+
Provoking a contribution
Assigning responsibility
Providing constraint
Asking a question
Inspiring a contribution
Assigning authority
Helping form a contribution
Providing instruction
Providing a model to follow
Granting permission
Making a suggestion
Interrupting your contribution
Anticipating your contribution
Calling for affirmation
Holding your contribution in suspense

I see prompts and constraints all over the place in AW with tags, size, wants, surplus, obligations.

On the MC side, things like tell them the consequences and ask or turn their question back on them angle towards provoking a contribution, providing constraint, interrupting your contribution, granting permission...

But I can't let go, man! The running thread through these, the thing they are all predicated on, is assigning authority. The MC decides what the possible consequences are. The MC decides when to relinquish her authority and ask the players what the burn flats look like or whatever. Furthermore, we agree it's at least a piece of pretty much all the components of AW, and you've further agreed it's an important piece of pretty much every game ever. How is that not devastating to the claim that assigning authority is not a uniquely useful or fundamental way of fostering assent? I mean, I get that you don't accept my claim that these things are predicated on assigning authority (that's literally the substance of your claim). But how is that? Are you willing to, you know, show your work on this one as you did with GNS?

PS -- I know you're likely tired of this, and you've elsewhere indicated this is a super busy time for you, so if not then just say so and I'll stop bugging you. This is genuine confusion and a desire to understand on my part, not some attempt to get you riled up and certainly not to undercut what you're doing.

Paul T: Fiasco doesn't exactly ignore authority altogether. Doesn't it care about who establishes a scene and who resolves it? Doesn't it even go so far as to care about who decides who will establish and resolve?
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 18, 2015, 11:18:21 AM
Oh wait! Some more tricksy assent-fostering but not strictly authority-assigning stuff:

__ First session MC stuff basically says 'Take what the table has contributed during character creation and run with it'.
__ Ask provocative questions and build on the answers too, same thing.

They still assign authority (in both cases, to the players), but they're tricksy about it. So there's that.

(Of all the great stuff AW has, the first session stuff is some of the best, to me. Being able to show up to a game basically cold and walk out with tons of material is priceless).

Back on topic: I'm really not satisfied with the conflict I see between 'Basically every piece of AW has assigning authority in it' vs 'AW's conversation isn't predicated on assigning authority'. Sometimes, maybe many times, pieces of AW assign authority and do other things as well (eg, your comment that assigning authority is a piece of Seduce&Manipulate). But, like, there's no 'other thing' common to every piece like assigning authority is.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Ricardo Tavares on September 18, 2015, 02:52:52 PM
In my understanding, RPGs, as a conversation between us, really need several ways for me to know that you know what I just said and the same goes for you. That's why simply having the authority and saying "this is how things are" doesn't really go anywhere if there is no assent. I shouldn't have to wait for you get to your turn wielding authority to know if the things I said actually have any meaning for you.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 18, 2015, 03:30:10 PM
ColdLogic: Does it help if I restate it like this?

I think that, contra the Big Model, assigning authority well is not sufficient for good design.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 18, 2015, 03:46:34 PM
Oh! Yeah. So it's not that assigning authority isn't necessary, it's that it's insufficient?

That's crystal clear. Thanks.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 18, 2015, 04:03:49 PM
Cool.

Now look again at Seduce & Manipulate. That move doesn't work by reassigning authority over your character, right? It leaves your authority intact, unchanged, and works by instead changing the pressures on you and the game-mechanical context in which you're exercising the authority you held all along. See it?

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on September 18, 2015, 04:18:55 PM
I do.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on September 18, 2015, 04:28:21 PM
Cool! That's it.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Ricardo Tavares on September 19, 2015, 04:31:22 AM
Structurally, I have the impression that Apocalypse World always relies on the MC's authority to decide which player gets to say what they do. Of course, there are guidelines to follow, but managing the spotlight can be an issue that is mostly left to the MC's judgment.

On the other hand, In A Wicked Age for example, this decision tends to just happen on the first scene (which is still very important) and afterwards the "MC" mostly just controls multiple characters and plays to their best interests. Prevalent PvP has its advantages I guess.

Way better than a glossary, I think, if someone's looking for theory work to do, would be a series of theory-minded game reviews.
I've done a few of those reviews for my Portuguese podcast and I found that I am more interested in taking some theoretical topic and seeing how a handful of games respond to it. It's something that Boardgames with Scott used to do for his last videos.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on September 22, 2015, 02:09:12 AM
(Just wanted to post to say thank you to Vincent for responding to this series of questions. I'm not 100% sure how looking at assent rather than authority can completely render something obsolete - as opposed to, say, "Hey, here's a better way to look at this thing, because it gets us closer to the truth of the matter" - but I'm working through the G+ discussion and will think on it further.)
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: ColdLogic on October 19, 2015, 01:30:31 PM
Haha Jesus F, Vincent! Why did you let me waste yours and everyone's time with the above interrogation when it was here all along: http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/466
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on October 21, 2015, 03:53:13 PM
That's a great link on the whole authority/assent issue. I'm firmly with Vincent, and have always been, I think.

Oddly enough, I'm only now realizing that my own understanding of "GNS" has never been exactly canonical (the slightly twisted understanding I've been using in my own thinking is closer to Vincent's view here than the Big Model view, it seems).

In any case, these are worthy conversations to be having.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 13, 2016, 05:01:25 PM
Vincent,

I have a follow-up question on this topic - which I hope will somehow come to your attention.

You have said that the Big Model was, ultimately, held back by its use of taxonomies, which might have limited thought about the underlying process which each of its taxonomies was pointing to.

However, for a long time, you thought that was not the case with GNS (Creative Agenda modes); that was a true taxonomy. (Or something of the sort; I'm not trying to put words in your mouth.)

A. Why is it that you felt Creative Agenda modes were not a "false" taxonomy like the others, but somehow more fundamental or tangible or irreducible? Where does that assertion come from, and why was it convincing to you?

B. What, ultimately, changed your mind on this issue?

Thanks! There's been lots of good discussion about this, and I appreciate that very much.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 14, 2016, 08:40:09 AM
Oh man, Paul. I can't agree. There hasn't been any good discussion about this yet. I don't imagine that there ever will be.

These are demanding questions and answering them seems fruitless to me: what on earth difference does it make to you, me, or anybody why I thought it and what changed my mind? For whose benefit are you asking?

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 14, 2016, 02:10:41 PM
Sure, I can answer that.

For myself, personally, this has been an interesting line of discussion, because I *always* interpreted GNS as another taxonomy - certainly useful sometimes, but not necessarily *fundamental* or *atomic*. I took it as a simplification for a model - like the other taxonomies - and assumed blurred lines at the edges.

So, I was quite surprised to see - because of this very conversation we have had here - that my understanding wasn't "kosher", according to the Big Model.

However, there are still some (many?) smart and experienced players and designers whom I respect who hold that view: that there is something fundamentally different about Creative Agenda modes. You're the only person I know who has apparently been "on both sides" of this question at one time or another, and so I believe you may have some special insight. I've often found that you are able to "cut through" matters of theory in an interesting way, and your posts about the Big Model and GNS way back when were very useful to me.

I think that a lot of people will be curious to explore this further and to make up their own mind about this. You certainly don't owe anyone an answer - as always! - but I'm also sure I'm not the only one who is curious to hear more.

In short, I follow most of your theory-talk and theory-think, and it makes sense to me. But, when you say that you considered GNS to be fundamentally different from other taxonomies in the Big Model, I have no idea what you mean by that or where you are (or were) coming from. That's interesting!

Thanks for the quick reply; I appreciate that you're still keeping an eye on this, even if it's something you're hesitant to discuss.

(Also, if you think I'm alone in having an interest in this, and hesitant to get into a big old discussion in an online forum about Apocalypse World, I'd be happy to chat with you privately, instead. Just let me know!)

Title: Bringing it back to GNS (was: Moving on from "GNS")
Post by: Rafferty on November 14, 2016, 04:13:41 PM
I would say that the GNS criteria are still worth observing, if not a be-all, end-all.

One problem with the model has been a confusion over what "simulation" vs. "narrative" means. Are we simulating a story, or are we narrating a story?

For example, many OSR games had a morale mechanic -- when 25%, 50% or more of the bad guys get taken out, there's a random roll to see if the bad guys flee. Fair enough. But the question is, is this morale rule a SIMULATION (that people who take heavy losses would be inclined to run away) or a NARRATIVE (that it makes sense in the story that Bulk & Skull would run away once it's clear they're out-matched).

Many early games were obsessed over "realism." If you read D&D 2e, there's long screeds in it about what the Olympic weightlifters could lift, therefore we made our encumbrance rules this way ... or once somebody survived falling 17,000 feet, therefore our falling damage rules make sense, etc. Many game design decisions were justified about how they were supposed to simulate reality.

Reality-simulation didn't last very long. The World of Darkness games preferred narrative over everything, with players encouraged to make their own backstories, motivations, and histories, going above and beyond any numbers. D&D3 introduced "extra-ordinary" feats -- abilities blatantly labeled as not even remotely realistic. D&D4-5 don't even bother labeling them as such.

For what it's worth, video games also wandered from realism. Grand Theft Auto characters regularly take 20 bullets to the face, get hit by a car, and then wander off to a hot-dog cart to regenerate all their HP. Richard Hillman of EA used the term authenticity instead of realism, to describe the simulation that he thought the users would be expecting, not the simulation that was realistic.* You see this often in video games: of course you just shove another clip in there. Of course, these guns make these precise sounds, whether they're the correct ones or not. Of course rolling on the ground briefly makes you invincible to all harm, etc.

When it comes to authenticity, then are we talking about something that is authentic to a fun GAME, or something that's authentic to a fun SIMULATION? Or are we talking about something that's true to the kinds of stories we would tell... something authentic to the NARRATIVE? Yowsa.

So let's back up a bit. What if we use GNS to refer to how do you resolve a situation in the game. Do you:

A discussion of GNS is better if there's some definitions of what GNS is not.

Naturally, there's some wiggle room here. For example, using story points to change the environment or to produce new elements could be said to be "high-gamist, low-narrative.".

The GNS model is very much keeping in mind when writing PbtA games. PbtA games tend to be gamist first, narrative second, and simulationist last.
Vincent's post on design theory** follows this model. If a player has an ability, they should be allowed to use it, in this moment. What's going on right now, the decisions the player wants to make (the game) is considered top priority, moreso than a long, drawn-out discussion over whether it's better for how the history of events would permit this (the narrative) or how something might actually be possible given our logistics (the simulation).

When designing your own PbtA game, it's a good idea to remember this priority list of "game first, narrative second, simulation third". The purpose of GNS is to give vocabulary to these decisions, and to guide you in the right direction ... not as a precise taxonomy or a check-list. If we can keep in mind how GNS applies to design theory, then it's still very useful.

* http://famousaspect.com/what-is-game-design-with-rich-hilleman-part-1/ (http://famousaspect.com/what-is-game-design-with-rich-hilleman-part-1/)
** http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/466 (http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/466)
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 14, 2016, 07:04:58 PM
Rafferty,

I really don't want to derail this discussion with a "GNS" analysis of AW or its hacks (especially since Vincent is no longer advocating the model; I'm sure he's not interested in that).

(It doesn't help that, as far as I can see, your analysis is using the "Threefold" theory, which predates the Big Model. The Big Model dealt with game theory in a very different way - in many ways entirely contradictory to the way you're looking at things in your post, above.)

I can't authoritatively speak for Vincent, of course, but I'm pretty sure that this is precisely the kind of discussion he doesn't want to be having (and perhaps a strong argument in favour of his position).

I still like chatting about the Big Model, of course, so if you'd like to discuss further, contact me elsewhere (or in private)!


Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 16, 2016, 11:29:15 AM
... I *always* interpreted GNS as another taxonomy - certainly useful sometimes, but not necessarily *fundamental* or *atomic*. I took it as a simplification for a model - like the other taxonomies - and assumed blurred lines at the edges.

So, I was quite surprised to see - because of this very conversation we have had here - that my understanding wasn't "kosher", according to the Big Model.

Yep. Over the years, a lot of people have been pretty surprised - and sometimes annoyed and resistant - to learn that they don't understand what the Big Model says after all. When I try to explain why I consider it obsolete, the main obstacle I face is that first I have to explain what the Big Model even says.

So, on your question (A), how much of your own research are you willing to do?

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 16, 2016, 12:02:09 PM
Paul, as for your question B, here goes:

1. Every game text has to communicate the game's creative agenda - taken to mean G, N or S, here - to its audience, without relying on its audience's knowledge of other games or of the Big Model.

2. This is super easy, a matter of just a couple few sentences. The game texts that do it aren't special or accomplished; the game texts that fail to do it are poor.

3. The game texts that do it, do it by summarizing the game's color, the formal creative relationships between its players, and the workings of its highest-level repeating systems.

4. Anybody who understands the Big Model can see immediately why this must be so.

5. Then, what happens when we compare those particular descriptive texts - and the structures they describe - directly, instead of categorizing them?

As this approach bore more and more fruit for me, the categories gave place. At some point I recognized this as the same thing that happened with DFK, IIEE, and FitM/FatE.

That's my answer!

But like I say, only a few people can make that leap in step 4. Those who can't, what on earth difference does it make to them whether the Big Model is obsolete now, or ever wasn't? They didn't know what it was for in the first place. I'm at a loss.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 16, 2016, 03:50:38 PM
Vincent,

That's a great answer, thanks!

I think I'm finding this difficult because I *always assumed* the Big Model worked like your answer to my question B). So it's a bit of a surprise to me to see that this is not/was not a common understanding.

I know a number of highly intelligent and well-informed people (including you, Vincent, circa however many but not SO many years ago) who hold CA modes not just as a useful taxonomy, but something fundamental and/or atomic, however.

So I was quite struck by your comment that you also had held CA modes as a different "kind" of taxonomy than the others in the Model, whereas most of your design efforts seemed to be heading towards this current understanding for quite some time. The only good explanation I've heard of the more strict or "dogmatic" position so far relies on assuming psychological modes (such as the innate drive for competition, for instance) pre-empt aesthetic concerns (like Colour), and therefore are a more solid starting point for finding common ground in a game.

(Presumably the argument here is that two players trying to find a Gamist reward in play - but disagreeing on content, Techniques, or Colour - will have an easier time appreciating each other's efforts, and thereby providing social reinforcement and finding a functional mode of play, than two players who agree on content, Technique and Colour but are looking for different creative payoffs, like one being interested in competing whereas the other one is not.)

Like I said, you're the only person I know who seems to have been on both sides of this debate and is well-informed about the issues, so I'm very curious to hear your answer to my question A). I'd go to someone else, if I knew who that was, and leave you to your design work! :)

In answer to your question, I'm willing to do my own research within reason - I'd happily reread your articles on this topic, or the Forge articles. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to find a cogent and up-to-date articulation of many of these concepts. Sorting through the entire Forget Theory archives, for example, is entirely beyond me.

I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of the Big Model, but with gaps - I wasn't around the Forge for the entirety of its existence, so many historical applications of the theory would be foreign to me. I suspect that precisely the part I'm asking about might be in one of those gaps - how did people come to feel so certain about the existence of CA modes and the various coherency claims?

I'd always assumed it was just armchair speculation (i.e. Ron laid out a model, and those who agreed stayed to chat about it), but it sounds like there was some more serious background there, perhaps based in Actual Play analysis as well as after lengthy theory debates at the early Forge (which I missed).
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 16, 2016, 05:14:09 PM
It's a party trick. Given any instance of play, you can sort it into G, N, or S. You can learn to do it yourself. I did it a lot. It's easy(ish), reliable, and satisfying.

I don't reject GNS because it fails. There aren't any "blurred lines at the edges." There isn't CA-mixing or an unknown fourth agenda or any such counterexample. Nobody's ever brought forward any instance of play that disproves GNS in any way.

My friends who are still into GNS are still into it because it works. It used to work, and nothing's changed about roleplaying or about it. Of course it still works.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 16, 2016, 06:49:04 PM
That makes sense, too. Believe something strongly enough and you can spot it anywhere you look.

But that's why I wanted to ask you - not "why is this right or wrong?" - but, quite specifically, what made you think it was *different* from other taxonomies? Is there something about the nature of Creative Agenda (other than, in your view, its questionable utility) which made it seem different to you? That's the part which is mysterious to me. It may have something to do with the application of the "party trick", the particular ways people went about it, perhaps, but I can only speculate at best since, apparently, I never shared this view.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 16, 2016, 07:02:51 PM
That makes sense, too. Believe something strongly enough and you can spot it anywhere you look.

This is absolutely not what I'm saying.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 16, 2016, 08:29:01 PM
Ah! Sorry. I'm not sure what you mean by "party trick", then. I may have been reading into the phrase!
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 17, 2016, 06:57:48 AM
I'll restate!

G, N, and S are real. You can take any instance of play and sort it into one of them. You can take any playable game text and sort it into one of them. GNS never failed, never will.

Nobody's ever brought forward an instance of play or a rpg that has contradicted GNS. The people who've thought they have, really honestly haven't.

That's why it was convincing.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 17, 2016, 12:02:21 PM
Hmmmm.

I'm not sure if you're saying that this is what it IS (e.g. your last post) or that it is what it LOOKS like (e.g. the term "party trick", or your earlier quote: "I'd say things like 'you know how most of the taxonomies in the Big Model are just, like, placeholders for the interesting things? GNS is the exception. G, N, and S are for real.' ")

Is your position that the Creative Agenda modes *are* real, observed, and distinct, but that we might nevertheless get more mileage (as players and as designers) out of considering a more fluid, less categoric view of Creative Agenda? In other words, this part of the model isn't "obsolete" in the sense of being in any way wrong or misleading or limited or whatever, but obsolete purely in the sense that some other tools and vocabulary might now suit us better?

I hope I'm not being entirely obtuse here. It's a little confusing! (Also, I'll reiterate again the offer to take this to private channels if you prefer.)
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 17, 2016, 04:06:59 PM
Yep, real. Or rather, because these are patterns we identify not objects we examine, reliable. We honestly can sort every instance of play cleanly into one of them, just as the Big Model asserts. We honestly can sort every non-poor rpg design cleanly into one of them. Trying to mix them in play honestly does reliably mess up people's enjoyment, you can watch it happen every time.

I've never seen or heard anything that makes me think otherwise.

It's ALSO limited and misleading, from my view. But it's not wrong, just obsolete (a word I have always chosen carefully).

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 17, 2016, 04:28:07 PM
Oh, and Narrativism is additionally the spec and rallying cry of an rpg design movement. As a creative agenda, it's obsolete, but as a design spec and rallying cry, it remains fully current and fruitful.

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 17, 2016, 10:31:54 PM
Vincent,

That's much more clear to me. Thank you very much for engaging with my questions!

I'd be very curious to hear what you think of people who assert, "My gameplay is Incoherent, and I like it that way!" But we can save that for another time.

Thanks again!
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 18, 2016, 06:29:09 AM
It's not lengthy! I don't mind.

"Incoherent roleplaying" in the Big Model means that you fight about how to play, and even if you keep trying, you don't manage to resolve your creative differences. Like how we used to keep inviting Mitchell to play with us in high school, out of social obligation or whatever, even though he hated the games we played and the rest of us didn't look forward to trying to play them with him.

If there are people out there who prefer that, cool. But I bet that the people you're thinking of mean something else by "Incoherent."

(When those games with Mitchell were fun, which they occasionally were, it was because we managed to come together creatively for once. Come together creatively = cohere, see it?)

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 18, 2016, 07:46:44 PM
Thanks, Vincent.

I suppose the real question is, indeed, what DID they mean by that?

One random thought:

We know that activities which are intermittently rewarding can be more "addictive" or have a stronger draw than something with consistent rewards. Perhaps a form of gaming which is occasionally "cohering" and, at other times, not so much, could have a powerful effect on the players, too, in that different kind of way.
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 29, 2016, 03:28:20 PM
Vincent,

I believe you have said that you feel the categories of "G/N/S" are a sort of taxonomy, and therefore suffer from all the limitations of taxonomical categorization. In addition, you've said that you "[...] don't think that the idea of Creative Agendas stands up after all, let alone G, N, and S as its representatives". Nevertheless, you do feel that the three modes are something real and can be used reliably (in this thread). I find it a little difficult to follow how something can be real and reliable, but yet simultaneously misleading and outmoded, or "stand up at all". I get the impression that you don't have more to say on this topic, however (although, if you do, please do!), so I can let that lie for now. (Perhaps you are talking about its utility to designers in the above quote, instead of its role as a theory?)

Here's my next question - and, hopefully, it's an area you will find more interesting to discuss, as well. It seems to me that you have moved from the idea of Creative Agenda, to a new paradigm - or, at least, are trying to do so. What is the successor to the idea of Creative Agenda? Or do you feel that abandoning it altogether is more fruitful?

In the Story Games thread about the Big Model (whence comes the quote, above), you said that you see the RPG theory world as having moved from "What is the point of playing an RPG?" (i.e. all RPGs are the same) to "Is this game G, N, or S?" (i.e. there are three types of RPG play) and now you are talking about the "object" of a game (which is unique to that game, and, further, applicable more widely than to just RPGs).

Is this your current "state of the art" on this issue? Is the "object" of a game (with the caveat that a game often has multiple objects, if I understand you correctly) the new "Creative Agenda"?

If so, how does thinking in terms of an "object" offer better tools for design (and play)?

I find it interesting that Creative Agenda was formulated as a social phenomenon - what is this group doing at this point in time with this particular activity? - whereas the idea of a game's "object" seems to be more closely linked to the game itself ("this game's object is to [...]").

Is thinking in terms of a game's design more fruitful for you (as a designer, after all!) than considering the creative priorities of the participants playing a particular game? The former seems to be focused on actual play and the individuals or groups involved (1), whereas the "object" view, perhaps, lends itself more to discussing the game itself and its constituent parts.


(1) My understanding is that the whole Creative Agenda model stemmed largely from an interest in resolving conflicts of interest and "fixing" instances of play which weren't working to the participants' expectations. I remember various Forge folks often saying that talking about Creative Agenda clash is a fruitful thing when you aren't happy with your game (to diagnose a problem or mismatched expectations); but, if you are happy with your group's play, you may be better off focusing on other things. It seemed to be framed - often - as a troubleshooting tool.

Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: lumpley on November 29, 2016, 09:14:22 PM
The successor to the idea of creative agendas is the idea of playing to find out. Of play to find out X.

I hope you can see that the idea of playing to find out applies equally, and variously, to the game's design, the group's creative interests, and the game in play case by case, all three.

("The object of the game" is the same idea, aggressively framed. Don't let it distract you. Stick with playing to find out.)

-Vincent
Title: Re: Moving on from "GNS"
Post by: Paul T. on November 29, 2016, 11:41:02 PM
Interesting! I'll ponder. Thanks.