More DMing analysis from Lewis Pulsipher - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olgar Shiverstone View Post
    I take issue with the idea that those labels lie along a continuum, which implies that they are exclusive or near-exclusive elements.

    Instead, I see all of those elements present in all RPGs, to varying amounts.
    I agree very strongly. I feel an important aspect of game design is how much of these elements you mannage to squeeze into your game without making it mechanically cumbersome. A good design has more of both G, N, and S (or whatever metrics you choose to measure it by). A poor design is either overloaded and becomes cumbersome, or too lightweight in some aspect I feel is needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olgar Shiverstone View Post
    I take issue with the idea that those labels lie along a continuum, which implies that they are exclusive or near-exclusive elements.

    Instead, I see all of those elements present in all RPGs, to varying amounts. Some games may stress the novel over simulation, or the absurd over the game mechanics, but all games must account for all of these elements to some degree or another.
    Quote Originally Posted by Starfox View Post
    I feel an important aspect of game design is how much of these elements you mannage to squeeze into your game without making it mechanically cumbersome. A good design has more of both G, N, and S (or whatever metrics you choose to measure it by). A poor design is either overloaded and becomes cumbersome, or too lightweight in some aspect I feel is needed.
    You two seem to be talking about the design of an RPG.

    Pulsipher (and also Edwards, to whom I drew a comparison) is talking about playstyle - with an assumption that is the GM, first and foremost, who drives playstyle.

    When you are talking about what it is that is prioritised by a particular GM, it's hard to prioritise (say) realism-simulation and (say) absurdity at the same time.

    I explained in the OP what I think a game looked like that tried to prioritise story together with wargame-style player agency (ie Story Now).

    Are their other particular combinations that are viable?

    You can't prioritise wargame (skill) and absurdity (luck) at the same time. They're in opposition.

    Wargame and realism-sim are possibly at odds, for the reasons that Pulsipher gives. I think those reasons apply to Runequest, for instance. I tried to explain in my OP how I think it is that RM can be used to try and support both at once - but it's still an issue even using that system (eg "realistic" crit roles are a much bigger burden on player agency than D&D's hp system; I gather many pre-Saga Star Wars players had the same problem with wound/vitality).

    I don't think you can aim for both absurd and novel/story, because luck and randomness are at odds with storytelling.

    That leaves realism-sim and the novel/story style. I think these are very deeply at odds, because fundamental to stories is contrivance (which in RPGs means metagame), whereas fundamental to realism-sim is the absence of contrivance/metagame. But I think my view on this point is contested by some, perhaps many, who think that you can get a novel/story game out of realistic sim. I think experiences playing Traveller or RQ could shed light on this (I've played both, but haven't tried to get novel/story style play out of either).

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    Thanks.

    GNS "simulatinists" includes (but isn't limited to) Avalon Hill/SPI simulationists. DragonQuest, RQ, Rolemaster, C&S, HARP, GURPS - all are example of what Edwards call "purist-for-system" simulation.

    Self-proclaimd simulationists on these boards probably do sit mostly in the "wargame" camp, but most of them are not simulationists in the GNS sense (at least, not purist-for-system sim). For instance, they tolerate hit points as a health mechanic and turn-by-turn initiative as an action economy - whereas I think it is probably universal across purist-for-system simulationist RPGs is getting rid of these D&Disms.
    There is little benefit to arguing about what GNS means versus what I'd call dictionary defined simulation. Personally I the they aren't that related.

    I have quit calling myself a simulationist because there is so much confusion whether it is mine or others doesn't matter. The word repeatedly fails to convey what I mean and it represents all kinds of things to other people some of which have to be confused since they don't agree.

    My own playstyle is primarily focused on maintaining actor stance as much as possible. I also want narrative mechanical unity. I want to avoid dissociative mechanics and if anyone wants to argue that I'm fine for purposes of my game defining it as anything I say it is. My players and I all agree on what it is anyway so we are good.

    I prefer a well designed living world that the players discover. I do not want players creating the world as the game unfolds. I want a DM empowered game with an open ended system.

    So however you want to define me is fine. I know what I want and it is great fun for me and my players. We are not bound at all to playing a "supported" game.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    You two seem to be talking about the design of an RPG.
    Well, yes. I was talking about which playstyles (creative agendas in Forge-speak) a system can support. Which was at least an angle in the original quotation, as it was mentioned that Chivalry and Sorcery supported playstyles that DnD did not.

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    It's funny, I recall a lot of old articles about types of players or DMs - what today we'd call playstyle - and they didn't generally call out this or that game as an appropriate place of exile for a disfavored one. It's interesting to see this one case where the author does just that: he exiles simulationists to C&S. I had recalled articles like this being in the context of a single game - usually D&D, though there was a good one for Champions! that I recall, too - and painting a picture of many types of players & GMs using that game.

    I thought the idea that stylistic preferences should break up groups, sub-divide fanbases, build echo chambers, and segregate gamers into various option ghettos was a very new one, a child of the Edition War. I guess not. Rose colored hindsight and all, I suppose.



    Quote Originally Posted by Emerikol View Post
    I have quit calling myself a simulationist because there is so much confusion whether it is mine or others doesn't matter. The word repeatedly fails to convey what I mean and it represents all kinds of things to other people some of which have to be confused since they don't agree.
    Probably a good idea. A simulation isn't even a game. In a game, the goal is to have fun. In a simulation, the goal is to be accurate. They're often incompatible goals.

    My own playstyle is primarily focused on maintaining actor stance as much as possible. I also want narrative mechanical unity. I want to avoid dissociative mechanics and if anyone wants to argue that I'm fine for purposes of my game defining it as anything I say it is.
    Lol. Give up on 'simulation,' and GNS but add in another forge theory, and 5 more words that people are going to have quibbles with over the definitions.

  6. #16
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    More recent points of view

    Always interesting to read something I wrote more than 30 years ago. These days I wonder whether I'll agree with stuff from my "Game Design" book published in 2012 when I read it again, let alone the 30+ year stuff.

    Some styles are certainly at odds. For example, "game designer" and "fiction writer" are opposite ends of a spectrum. See my recent screencast http:[two slashes]youtu.be/Gl9EMszhYNo . Also see http:[two slashes]youtu.be/tZV8GGP5sio (Interesting Decisions vs Wish Fulfillment).

    While an individual role-playing game can support many styles, if the referee chooses, some games fit a particular style more than others. See "Cinematic RPGs and Huge RPG Books"
    http:[two slashes]pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2011/10/cinematic-rpgs-and-huge-rpg-books.html

    Lew Pulsipher - sorry ENWorld won't let me post actual links

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    That leaves realism-sim and the novel/story style. I think these are very deeply at odds, because fundamental to stories is contrivance (which in RPGs means metagame), whereas fundamental to realism-sim is the absence of contrivance/metagame. But I think my view on this point is contested by some, perhaps many, who think that you can get a novel/story game out of realistic sim. I think experiences playing Traveller or RQ could shed light on this (I've played both, but haven't tried to get novel/story style play out of either).
    I think the realism-sim + novel/story style might be CoC.

    Now the (possibly inevitable) progeny of the triumvirate of wargaming + realism-sim + novel/story style has to be illusionism. As a natural (and consistent - this is important) outgrowth of actual play, wargaming + realism-sim + novel/story style literally cannot simultaneously produce:

    1) Player agency and legitimacy of the action resolution mechanics

    2) Off-screen evolution of setting elements that are constrained by fidelity to (a) resolution of player-declared actions, (b) objective modelling of a stochastic system (such as a living, breathing world), and (c) the interest of dramatic conflict and its climax and denouement. A-C absolutely push against each other so they are impossible.

    3) Assured dramatic on-screen conflict and in-kind dramatic outcomes.

    So, I think the only way the perception of those things come together is if the GM suspends 1 (secretly) when required to attain 3, and suspends some or all of (a) or (c) in 2 as required to maintain the overall illusion of the three agendas working in harmony (rather than the total discord that inevitably emerges as they push against each other).

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by lewpuls View Post

    While an individual role-playing game can support many styles, if the referee chooses, some games fit a particular style more than others. See
    "Cinematic RPGs and Huge RPG Books".

    Also see

    Lew Pulsipher - sorry ENWorld won't let me post actual links
    Tried to fix that for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    Now the (possibly inevitable) progeny of the triumvirate of wargaming + realism-sim + novel/story style has to be illusionism...
    Illusionism is somewat derogatory; I prefer protagonism. Basically it is the same thing, but openly declared; "We're going to play out this story, please make this kind of characters and I might give you pointers now and then if the story derails". Most of my games are like this, and most of the games I've played in, with a fairly sandboxy setting. You can do whatever you want within the constraints of the agreed-upon story. I use a story (like an adventure path) as the basics and then add "filler" either at PC request or (much more common) that fit the situation. My players know this is how it is done and agree to it.

    The Paizo adventure paths, and specifically the players guides that come with them, are very much in this vein, so I think it can be said to be pretty mainstream.

    Basically, I am saying you're right, and that it is not a problem.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    So, I think the only way the perception of those things come together is if the GM suspends 1 (secretly) when required to attain 3, and suspends some or all of (a) or (c) in 2 as required to maintain the overall illusion of the three agendas working in harmony (rather than the total discord that inevitably emerges as they push against each other).
    I played in that game on Friday night.

    Funny thing is that I knew that going in and was okay with it, but the DM made it difficult: I had a pretty good idea of where he wanted to take his story, and I was cool with that, but he kept bringing up 2.b (maintaining the fidelity of the world) in a way that made it difficult for me to go along with his dramatic pre-set plot. And then he'd throw in 3 in a post-hoc way.

    The game was d20 Modern. I was played a WWII vet who ended up in the Groom Lake airbase in 1948 and witnessed an extra-dimensional attack. I knew the story required my PC to head through the portal from which the aliens were attacking, so I tried to get my motorcycle on their ship in a pretty crazy manoeuvre. The DM didn't think that would work. Which left me confused - I knew he wanted me to act like a hero and do stuff like that, but then he made it impossible. Then he contrived to have an alien pod-ship crashed on the ground with all its occupants killed but somehow the pod-ship was perfectly fine.

    I thought that was a very strange decision on the DM's part. I've run games like that before - Star Wars - but I think you need to make sure that, as the DM, you work with the players (and vice-versa). When they jump into the river you carry them along the current, you don't trap them in an eddy.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    It's funny, I recall a lot of old articles about types of players or DMs - what today we'd call playstyle - and they didn't generally call out this or that game as an appropriate place of exile for a disfavored one. It's interesting to see this one case where the author does just that: he exiles simulationists to C&S.

    <snip>

    I thought the idea that stylistic preferences should break up groups, sub-divide fanbases, build echo chambers, and segregate gamers into various option ghettos was a very new one, a child of the Edition War. I guess not.
    I think you're looking at this too pessimistically.

    While there was a reasonable amount of simulation snobbery of C&S, RM etc players against D&D, I think it was also healthy that there were flourishing systems and fanbases to support a variety of playsytles. I certainly read a lot of posts from self-describes "sim" D&D players (mostly 3E) on these boards and wonder why they aren't playing one of those other systems (HARP is probably the simplest of them currently on offer, at least of the ones I know, and it has a simple Fate Point mechanic to mitigate the worst excesses of random crit rolls against PCs).

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    A simulation isn't even a game. In a game, the goal is to have fun. In a simulation, the goal is to be accurate. They're often incompatible goals.
    This is a little unfair. I've never played C&S (though I have a copy of one of the later editions). But I've played RQ, and I've played a lot of RM. Pulsipher's characterisation of those systems, and also his comment that D&D can't deliver that, fits accurately with my experiences. And I know from experience that those systems can be fun!

    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    I think the realism-sim + novel/story style might be CoC.
    Interesting. As I said in my OP, I've tried to use RM for that, but there are problems. I can see how CoC avoids them: because the players aren't meant to exercise must agency, the fact that the system overrides that agency isn't a problem. And that loss of agency is precisely the story that is meant to be produced.

    Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
    Now the (possibly inevitable) progeny of the triumvirate of wargaming + realism-sim + novel/story style has to be illusionism.

    <snip breakdown>

    I think the only way the perception of those things come together is if the GM suspends 1 (secretly) when required to attain 3, and suspends some or all of (a) or (c) in 2 as required to maintain the overall illusion of the three agendas working in harmony (rather than the total discord that inevitably emerges as they push against each other).
    Looks right to me!

    Also, @LostSoul, I've probably been guilty of being that GM on occasions in the past - especially in my early RM days - as I haven't known properly how to keep all my balls in the air!

    Quote Originally Posted by Starfox View Post
    Illusionism is somewat derogatory; I prefer protagonism. Basically it is the same thing, but openly declared;

    <snip>

    The Paizo adventure paths, and specifically the players guides that come with them, are very much in this vein, so I think it can be said to be pretty mainstream.
    I think you are correct that it is pretty mainstream. I think that mainstream-ness may be what informs your post upthread (and also @Olgar Shiverstone) saying that a good RPG should do all 4 playstyles at once.

    I guess my question is, in what sense is this sort of play really giving you wargaming or realism-sim? If the GM manipulates action resolution to produce the plot-appropriate outcomes, where is the wargaming? And how is the game being run as a sim? Those aren't rhetorical questions, they're genuine. But they're also sceptical to this limited extent: that when I've seen, or played under, GMs running this sort of game, it plays out pretty much as Pulsipher describes in his article: player skill and choice is subordinated to the GM's priorities.

    But I'm sure I haven't seen everything there is to see under the sun!

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