At the Intersection of Skilled Play, System Intricacy, Prep, and Story Now

Yora

Legend
No.

Could we have this conversation in simple English, using terms that are commonly used by GMs and players?

Abdul's point about the rules not giving the players agency was one of the few things in this thread I actually understood.
 

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No.

Could we have this conversation in simple English, using terms that are commonly used by GMs and players?

Abdul's point about the rules not giving the players agency was one of the few things in this thread I actually understood.

You're playing a game about gun-toting paladins who are meting out justice, rooting out Sin, and upholding the Faith in a wild west that never was.

The Faith is real. Sin is real. Sorcery/demonic possession is real. The King of Life (the deity) is real.


The point of play is to do the thing in that first bolded sentence and find out what happens when your characters collide with all that stuff. You've got all the agency in the world within the constraints of the above two bolded sentences.

You don't get to play an anti-paladin who opposes the Dogs and wants to expose The King of Life as a sham. You have a huge amount of freedom, but your freedom ends when you want to go outside of the above two bolded sentences. So we accept the premise of the first two bolded sentences (which limit our freedom to do whatever the eff we want) and its "game on."
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
D&D's problem fundamentally is weak guarantees towards the player's ability to really contribute meaningfully. Its process typically makes the fiction all belong to the GM by default, though in practice there can be a fairly wide range of divisions.
This doesn't address my point, which was that regardless of GM storytelling the D&D player can just direct their character into fitting your expansive definition. I can craft an internal narrative of character regardless of external narrative and achieve your bullet points. At no point is the D&D character being discovered or tested in play, they are just being authored. Your test allows for this pure authorship to be included.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I don't get what incentives you are speaking of. All @pemerton stated was that he felt it was likely that some people had attempted to play the game while holding a different agenda, in this case a Gamist one in GNS-speak. While I'm not super up on MLWM, Pemerton's description jibes with what I remember. Its basically a story arc, you play a certain sort of character (minion to an evil master) and do genre-appropriate things. Each player kind of just decides for themselves what sort of story they would like to get out of the play of their minion, that is what epilogue they wish. I guess you might also aspire to save your love and kill master perhaps as independent personal goals, though these things have definite impact on your attributes, and thus ultimate fate too (I don't recall all the details of the various effects and whatnot). In the end Master dies, and maybe you get the ending you wanted, or maybe not, depending on luck and how the various players wangle their calls for certain scenes. Really there isn't any strong reason for the PCs not to work together and plot out how to all save themselves, which seems like one of the more likely sorts of directions things can go, but as a Minion, you also have to contend with what Master wants, and how that plays out! So, things can go topside down, etc. Overall my impression of the game is you're all creating the story of the downfall of a great villain, from the perspective of the little guys, and acting it out in the process.
You start by saying you don't see the incentives and then provide an escape of such. The game rewards play towards Gamist ends by delivering the desired outcomes of played towards them. That you can lose doesn't remove incentives. I can, with my play, increase the chances of getting a desired outcome and the game enables this by having narrowed outcome space and tools available to game towards desired outcomes.
 

My two core points remain:

1. Consensus resolution requires compromise with protagonism.

They don't remain, because they were never established. To recap:

1. What you are calling 'consensus resolution' in Fiasco is - in GNS terms - called 'drama resolution.' And drama resolution is, like karma and fortune, just as good for Story Now play as anything else. Well, according to everyone else.

2. If you believe that consensus 'resolution' requires compromise with protagonism, you must also believe that the social contract - which is a pure form of consensus resolution - also compromises protagonism. And then you have a problem. Because if you believe that, then you are proposing a douchebags charter, a Story Now version of 'this is what my character would do'. Yet if you don't believe it, then the social construct must be compatible with Story Now play. At which point, I can say 'Story concerns are part of our social contract' and we play, fully protagonised Story Now play.

3. Even without that, you haven't begun to demonstrate - or even attempted to - that good story and good protaganism must force a compromise in a player's mind. Pure empty assertion. I've never compromised my conception of my character in a game of Fiasco, and we've ended up with great story. You claim this can't happen, but done nothing but assert it. Since I've done it, the only one of us that can be wrong is you. Rpg theory has to be descriptive of experience. But go ahead, demonstrate that I must run into such a conflict of interest in play.

As an 'argument' it fails on all counts. Definitionally, logically, experientially.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
They don't remain, because they were never established. To recap:

1. What you are calling 'consensus resolution' in Fiasco is - in GNS terms - called 'drama resolution.' And drama resolution is, like karma and fortune, just as good for Story Now play as anything else. Well, according to everyone else.
Firstly, I started this complaint with the consensus resolution for Montsegur 1244, not Fiasco. Fiasco was an example of a different system with similar but not levitation the same problem. Fiasco outright encourages choosing story over protagonism.

On point, fom Edwards:
  • Drama resolution relies on asserted statements without reference to listed attributes or quantitative elements.
  • Karma resolution relies on referring to listed attributes or quantitative elements without a random element.
  • Fortune resolution relies on utilizing a random device of some kind, usually delimited by quantitative scores of some kind.
Each one of Drama, Karma, and Fortune deserves massive dissection. My on-line discussion of Fortune-in-the-Middle as a facilitator of Narrativist play is a good example; so is my comparison of flat/linear curves with separate/incorporate effects.

These three types of resolution may be combined in a near-infinite variety across the various elements of RPG design; few or no RPGs fail to make use of at least two of them. I also claim that they may be combined in near-infinite variety across the various GNS goals. No particular one of them corresponds to any (entire) one of the GNS goals. Most importantly, I do not think that Drama methods necessarily facilitate Narrativist play. However, I do suggest that a game system may be organized such that a GNS subset and developed Premise are more understandable; this topic is developed further in the next chapter"

Emphasis mine.
2. If you believe that consensus 'resolution' requires compromise with protagonism, you must also believe that the social contract - which is a pure form of consensus resolution - also compromises protagonism. And then you have a problem. Because if you believe that, then you are proposing a douchebags charter, a Story Now version of 'this is what my character would do'. Yet if you don't believe it, then the social construct must be compatible with Story Now play. At which point, I can say 'Story concerns are part of our social contract' and we play, fully protagonised Story Now play.
The social contract does do this, but it does it once, at the beginning, whereas consensus resolution does it every single resolution. Clearly the social contract constrains available play! It also enables play because you can hash out of themes are available or not and everyone is on the same page.

For example, when I played The Between, the system has a heavy dose of sexuality baked in. We agreed to avoid this and so built characters that did not feature over sexuality as part of their protagonism. This is clearly an additional constraint and impacted play, but did so at a high level. It still did so. With consensus resolution you have to balance consensus against social contract agreed protagonism because you cannot have everyone win at protagonism if there is a conflict. You are now pressured to choose for the story.
3. Even without that, you haven't begun to demonstrate - or even attempted to - that good story and good protaganism must force a compromise in a player's mind. Pure empty assertion. I've never compromised my conception of my character in a game of Fiasco, and we've ended up with great story. You claim this can't happen, but done nothing but assert it. Since I've done it, the only one of us that can be wrong is you. Rpg theory has to be descriptive of experience. But go ahead, demonstrate that I must run into such a conflict of interest in play.

As an 'argument' it fails on all counts. Definitionally, logically, experientially.
I believe you believe that. That you cannot see that having to come to a consensus agreement with another player over a conflict means that one or both of you is choosing to no longer engage in full throated protagonism for their PC so that a compromise solution can be achieved is a bit of a blind spot.

Like how in the Fiasco game I referenced before, I chose to resolve a scene with my guitarist character in a bad way (he took possession of a load of coke knowing the cops were on the way and got busted) because it made for good story, especially since it allow another PC to advance her plans. That it was in character was not really that important -- Fiasco allows for lots of post-choice rationalization of acts as in character and never really acts to put pressure on what aPC cares about. Also it meant everyone would give me a delicious black die to go on my accumulating pile of them.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Fir Fiasci,in a given round of play, it works like this -- one participant frames the scene, the other resolves it. In between it's improv theater -- 100% consensus free-form play. At resolution, the understanding is that it should follow from that free-form play, but there's a huge area here where the resolving player can narrate an outcome. There's very little that actually puts pressure on who PCs are -- in large part you have total PC ownership much like in D&D.
 

Necessary does not mean sufficient.

Except that's not what's happening. I have no problems with consensus resolution. I'm not arguing this from a position of disliking consensus resolution. I'm pointing out that consensus resolution requires compromise and that means that a player cannot fully advocate for their character. That consensus resolution also strongly pushed towards choosing for better story rather than character dramatic needs. It's that simple. You cannot both push for your character's dramatic needs and compromise those for another players.
I don't agree with this view of the world that is so 'zero sum' where you are either serving your own interest OR compromising with someone else. Cooperation has value, at the VERY LEAST if the choice is between half a pie and none, holding out for the entire pie is just stupid, it can hardly be called 'advocacy'. I surely won't try to project this little lesson out onto the sad state of today's world, but 'my way or the highway' sure ain't got a good look nowadays.
I'm not defining my preferences. I don't think games are good or bad because they enable a given kind of play. I'm not at all a purist for any kind of play. No effort on that here, you've badly mistaken where I'm coming from and chosen to attack my character rather than engage my arguments. If you pitched me Montsegur 1244 as Story Now and then explained consensus resolution and randomized prompt driven scene framing, I'd absolutely be thinking this isn't Story Now but I wouldn't dislike the game because of the mistake in categorization. That would be silly.
Well, in light of what I said about the first part of your comment, will you come around to the view that it is at least POSSIBLE, maybe even pretty cool, to find out what happens when all the players strike a bargain? IMHO you reject the possibilities here too easily.
 

Ah, another ad hom. I made clear points. I'be explained, in detail, my reasoning. You've apoealed to authority, insulted me, and now are committing a generic galaxy on top of an ad hom. Which is funny because you've liked plenty of my posts where you agreed with me despite however recent my experience was.

My two core points remain:

1. Consensus resolution requires compromise with protagonism.

2. Forced end states put pressure on protagonism and pacing by introducing Gamist incentives.
Never played Fiasco, but I would think that the constraints imposed by interacting with the other players largely takes the place of 'the fiction' in terms of shaping how your PC's action is constrained. I mean, it isn't really SCENE FRAMING, as you have pretty great control over how that goes! I mean, genre and such certainly define the overall realm of what is possible, but beyond that ANYTHING can happen! So, yes, its a differently structured game in which some things take on roles different from what they would in a PbtA type game or FitD kinds of games, most likely. Yet the same core model exists, you address the premise (which is partly built in and I am guessing also partly supplied by the player) and SOMETHING constrains your options and 'pushes back', generating conflict and thus drama. I think that overall these games all share a LOT in common. I mean, sometimes you all hair-split things to a degree that I barely comprehend, but in some general sense, all of these games are far more similar than they are like, say, 5e D&D!
 

I have no idea what The Dying Earth is, and cannot respond to those points.
You are hereby commanded to read ALL OF JACK VANCE, do not skip any! ;) I think starting with The Dying Earth is probably drinking the cream off the top of the cup, but the guy never wrote anything subpar. Certainly Cudgel the Clever is very fine and silly character.... and makes an excellent model for a PC in an RPG. I've not actually played the game, though I have read it.
 

Players can have as much freedom and agency as the GM gives them.
The issue is that for the last 30+ years, published D&D material is teaching GMs to give them little to none.
Part of the problem is you publish a module, and its hard to devise it such that the GM doesn't have to deploy sufficient force to move the PCs through it all and not miss anything. That's what I see, for instance, in 5e, a game system that is optimized for module play. And at that modules that are largely 'paths' of some sort (though some do take on a bit more of the character of sandboxes). Even assuming a module took on some strong themes and challenged the PCs with them, it would still obviously have the character of largely the GM's story. There are other elements to classic D&D that contribute, like task-based resolution, fiction at the end, etc.
 

You start by saying you don't see the incentives and then provide an escape of such. The game rewards play towards Gamist ends by delivering the desired outcomes of played towards them. That you can lose doesn't remove incentives. I can, with my play, increase the chances of getting a desired outcome and the game enables this by having narrowed outcome space and tools available to game towards desired outcomes.
Agenda, Gamist or Narrativist, is simply a CLASSIFICATION of goals. Skilled Play works for either one, but they are still different games, and which type of goal is catered to by a given game design is obviously up to the details of that design. In the case of MLwM I think its a Narrativist game design. It would be wrong to say that because people are playing well (in a skilled way) that that implies Gamism. Of course we are then brought back to RE's observation about these two classes of agenda, that they share a lot in terms of having similar mechanical needs. I think the reward system in the case of MLwM makes it more Narratively focused though, but I'm kinda guessing, having little play experience with it.
 

I believe you believe that. That you cannot see that having to come to a consensus agreement with another player over a conflict means that one or both of you is choosing to no longer engage in full throated protagonism for their PC so that a compromise solution can be achieved is a bit of a blind spot.
I still think you're too 'zero sum' here. The intersection of the needs of the two protagonists could turn out to create a really interesting and "greater than the sum of the parts" outcome! Frankly, this is the sort of thing I'm aiming for when I GM a game like this, that the story address all the players at once (as opposed to the alternative where you kind of awkwardly weave plots together, or PCs go off on their own all the time).
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Agenda, Gamist or Narrativist, is simply a CLASSIFICATION of goals. Skilled Play works for either one, but they are still different games, and which type of goal is catered to by a given game design is obviously up to the details of that design. In the case of MLwM I think its a Narrativist game design. It would be wrong to say that because people are playing well (in a skilled way) that that implies Gamism. Of course we are then brought back to RE's observation about these two classes of agenda, that they share a lot in terms of having similar mechanical needs. I think the reward system in the case of MLwM makes it more Narratively focused though, but I'm kinda guessing, having little play experience with it.
Good thing I didn't say that?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I still think you're too 'zero sum' here. The intersection of the needs of the two protagonists could turn out to create a really interesting and "greater than the sum of the parts" outcome! Frankly, this is the sort of thing I'm aiming for when I GM a game like this, that the story address all the players at once (as opposed to the alternative where you kind of awkwardly weave plots together, or PCs go off on their own all the time).
Well, I'll remind you it's conflict resolution, so there's already a contention for desired outcomes involved. If both players want the same outcome, there's no conflict to resolve, which brings in another point that there isn't always honesty antagonism to overcome. That puts play in the mode of authoring, not testing. Authoring a character isn't Story Now. There must be honest antagonism to put pressure on the PC's dramatic needs.
 

Well, I'll remind you it's conflict resolution, so there's already a contention for desired outcomes involved. If both players want the same outcome, there's no conflict to resolve, which brings in another point that there isn't always honesty antagonism to overcome. That puts play in the mode of authoring, not testing. Authoring a character isn't Story Now. There must be honest antagonism to put pressure on the PC's dramatic needs.
Why does it have to be against each other? Nor is all conflict of ANY kind zero sum, in fact very little is really. So the players can be on the same side! Or they can have some variation of mutual interests, or each simply think that getting half a loaf is better than none. Or many other possible things. You seem to be assuming that the antagonism is PvP here.

Now, I do think its true that there is a degree to which the Czege Principle will kind of dictate that, in a game with round-robin style story telling, that one guy is going to tell a part of the story that challenges ANOTHER guy's character, etc. OK, but all of the above is still in play, at the CHARACTER level, so they can all advocate for their own character and still 'make a deal' to produce a story that factors in all their interests.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Why does it have to be against each other? Nor is all conflict of ANY kind zero sum, in fact very little is really. So the players can be on the same side! Or they can have some variation of mutual interests, or each simply think that getting half a loaf is better than none. Or many other possible things. You seem to be assuming that the antagonism is PvP here.

Now, I do think its true that there is a degree to which the Czege Principle will kind of dictate that, in a game with round-robin style story telling, that one guy is going to tell a part of the story that challenges ANOTHER guy's character, etc. OK, but all of the above is still in play, at the CHARACTER level, so they can all advocate for their own character and still 'make a deal' to produce a story that factors in all their interests.
Because the only way for there to be a conflict in a consensus resolution game is if two players have a difference of opinion! There is no other source of conflict because there is no GM providing the rule of abrasions seperate from having a PC. In Montsegur 1244, there are card decks that provide conflict, but the resolution of such is up b the players via consensus, so the only place you have conflict is between competing player opinions of what should happen.

In Fiasco, there's one person with authority over scene framing and a different person with authority over resolution. In between, any conflict that occurs is consensus resolved. In case of absolute loggerheads, IIRC the person who's turn it is gets to say, but if it comes to this point things are in trouble because no there's direct competition to dive the story in different directions and not to build it together, which is the point of the game.

Look, you can roleplay with conviction a character in these games, but the point of the game isn't to find out who these characters are, but to tell a shared story. The story telling has primacy of place in the agenda and design of these games. There is no real room for skilled play in Montsegur 1244 or in Fiasco because both use systems that are all about getting the rest of the table to agree with your play. There are no resources to deploy and no system to leverage outside of the goodwill of your peers.
 

Because the only way for there to be a conflict in a consensus resolution game is if two players have a difference of opinion! There is no other source of conflict because there is no GM providing the rule of abrasions seperate from having a PC. In Montsegur 1244, there are card decks that provide conflict, but the resolution of such is up b the players via consensus, so the only place you have conflict is between competing player opinions of what should happen.

In Fiasco, there's one person with authority over scene framing and a different person with authority over resolution. In between, any conflict that occurs is consensus resolved. In case of absolute loggerheads, IIRC the person who's turn it is gets to say, but if it comes to this point things are in trouble because no there's direct competition to dive the story in different directions and not to build it together, which is the point of the game.

Look, you can roleplay with conviction a character in these games, but the point of the game isn't to find out who these characters are, but to tell a shared story. The story telling has primacy of place in the agenda and design of these games. There is no real room for skilled play in Montsegur 1244 or in Fiasco because both use systems that are all about getting the rest of the table to agree with your play. There are no resources to deploy and no system to leverage outside of the goodwill of your peers.
Well, I am not in the best position to comment more deeply on those two games, but I don't think the general case is made, at all. Lets think about this:

You and I (A and O) are playing some hypothetical GM-less RPG in which we somehow share authority over constructing the fiction. OK, actually, lets question that formulation, first. Do we have authority over fictional position or not? Maybe there's some other game process which takes care of that. I'm going to choose to explore the former proposition though, with the proviso that I've made a game design choice that could be unworkable. Finally lets honor some form of the Czege Principle (CP) here, as that seems like a pretty accepted concept, in general, again with the proviso that we may need to carefully examine it and see if it perhaps has 'weaker' and 'stronger' forms, etc.

So, A and O somehow produce a fiction, and the characters are somehow placed within it, and some aspect of how that fiction is created, or a third process will then push the characters into action by engaging them in a thematically relevant way (operationalizing the premise). We are both concerned with story, and we are expected to do our part by carrying forward the character interaction with this premise, as appropriate to whichever character we are playing (Ca and Co let us say). Now, I'm going to presume here that Ca and Co interact in some fashion, otherwise there is no ONE story, right? They are both engaged with the same fictional elements and there's probably some direct relationship between them.

Now, your thesis is that I cannot build a system where A can both participate in authoring the fiction in a consensual manner with O, and still be an effective protagonist in the role of Ca. The CP is going to make this an interesting dance, but lets see where we can go with it. I hold that we can accomplish a good design that meets the criteria of Story Now, at least in a real-world sense. I agree with the thought in this thread that pure theorycrafting on this kind of thing is of limited value, so anything we were to come up with would potentially meet with THEORETICAL objections, but its what works in practice that I care about.

I don't know if all this is really something that can even be accomplished in a thread, there are a number of considerations, but maybe a kind of 'map' can be constructed and then used to build less and less abstract examples of play. I really don't see any other way to get past this kind of fundamental disagreement. So, anyway, I would put it to my bosses at work the opposite way "Oh boy! Look, here's a super great opportunity to improve our craft/process!" lol.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well, I am not in the best position to comment more deeply on those two games, but I don't think the general case is made, at all. Lets think about this:

You and I (A and O) are playing some hypothetical GM-less RPG in which we somehow share authority over constructing the fiction. OK, actually, lets question that formulation, first. Do we have authority over fictional position or not? Maybe there's some other game process which takes care of that. I'm going to choose to explore the former proposition though, with the proviso that I've made a game design choice that could be unworkable. Finally lets honor some form of the Czege Principle (CP) here, as that seems like a pretty accepted concept, in general, again with the proviso that we may need to carefully examine it and see if it perhaps has 'weaker' and 'stronger' forms, etc.

So, A and O somehow produce a fiction, and the characters are somehow placed within it, and some aspect of how that fiction is created, or a third process will then push the characters into action by engaging them in a thematically relevant way (operationalizing the premise). We are both concerned with story, and we are expected to do our part by carrying forward the character interaction with this premise, as appropriate to whichever character we are playing (Ca and Co let us say). Now, I'm going to presume here that Ca and Co interact in some fashion, otherwise there is no ONE story, right? They are both engaged with the same fictional elements and there's probably some direct relationship between them.

Now, your thesis is that I cannot build a system where A can both participate in authoring the fiction in a consensual manner with O, and still be an effective protagonist in the role of Ca. The CP is going to make this an interesting dance, but lets see where we can go with it. I hold that we can accomplish a good design that meets the criteria of Story Now, at least in a real-world sense. I agree with the thought in this thread that pure theorycrafting on this kind of thing is of limited value, so anything we were to come up with would potentially meet with THEORETICAL objections, but its what works in practice that I care about.

I don't know if all this is really something that can even be accomplished in a thread, there are a number of considerations, but maybe a kind of 'map' can be constructed and then used to build less and less abstract examples of play. I really don't see any other way to get past this kind of fundamental disagreement. So, anyway, I would put it to my bosses at work the opposite way "Oh boy! Look, here's a super great opportunity to improve our craft/process!" lol.
So, to sum up, you think there's a way around my objection that consensus resolution cuts against narrativism, but haven't found it yet (or at least haven't articulated it yet) and cannot point to an existing solution yet. Yes? Oh, and that everyone should remember that my argument is just theorycrafting and should be taken with salt. That's in there too, alongside all of the theorizing on a counterexample that hasn't yet born any fruit.

One may be marveled by the irony.
 

So, to sum up, you think there's a way around my objection that consensus resolution cuts against narrativism, but haven't found it yet (or at least haven't articulated it yet) and cannot point to an existing solution yet. Yes? Oh, and that everyone should remember that my argument is just theorycrafting and should be taken with salt. That's in there too, alongside all of the theorizing on a counterexample that hasn't yet born any fruit.

One may be marveled by the irony.
I am simply outlining a program of analysis/research to address the question. It wasn't intended to be an attack on anyone's position. In terms of talking about 'theorycrafting' what I am saying is we won't derive stronger and more useful conclusions merely by inventing more examples. Now, going beyond that, and I think we'd need to go significantly beyond that, might turn out to be rather more than can be accomplished in a thread, so maybe you can object to the agenda on the basis of feasibility. However, I'm treating everything discussed as an open question, not me trying to prove something to you. That is, if such a project was undertaken, my feeling is it would support my position, but I'm not creating a hill to die on here. Its a hypothesis, not gospel.
 

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