D&D 5E [+] Explain RPG theory without using jargon

Status
Not open for further replies.

log in or register to remove this ad

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I think talking about "gamist" mechanics or "simulationist" mechanics isn't helpful for coming to Edwards' ideas, because he is using those labels to describe (what he calls) "creative agendas" - roughly, what's your central pleasure in RPGing? - rather than particular techniques. Of course we don't need to stick to his usage, but we'll then have to come up with our own meanings; and his conclusions based on his meanings may no longer follow.

Anyway, here is how Edwards contrasts gamist play with character-exploration-play. First, he looks at different ways that competition can figure in gamist play: between the PCs - think of, say, arena-battle oriented RPGing; and between the players - think of, say, dicing to get first choice of magic items in a classic D&D game. Then he describes a particular style of gamism in which competition is at a low level in both respects:

Quite a bit of D&D based on story-heavy published scenarios plays this way. It shares some features with "characters face problem" Simulationist play, with the addition of a performance metric of some kind.​

In other words, the difference between low-competition gamism (like cooperative D&D party play - Edward's "story-heavy published scenarios" is contrasting with more classic dungeoncrawling) and character-exploration where it is problems/challenges/missions/pickles that bring out the characters, is is there are a performance metric?

If there is - if you're "accountable" for your performance (you can win or lose, you can earn more or fewer XP, you miss out on magic items if you let the team down, whatever it might be in a D&D context) - then that's gamism, because you have to own your win or loss. If not - if we're all just finding out how these characters respond to these challenges/probems/pickles - then its simulationist, by which Edwards means we're imagining because it's fun! But not because we're out to show that we can score better than someone else.
Right, so that “performance metric”? I want that to be there so that it can be one of the factors I have to weigh when trying to make a difficult decision, in service of discovering “what my character would do.” That’s why it’s seeming like my agenda is “incoherent” by these standards. My ultimate motivation is to learn about character, which is apparently a simulationist thing, but the existence of a performance metric seems to be a barometer for whether or not something is gamist, and I do want one.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, that totally tracks with how I’m grokking the difference.

Now I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp on narrativism, but gamism and simulationism still don’t seem like they have coherent definitions to me (see what I did there? 😆)
Again, I feel like you have a massive lacuna here and have misunderstood the process. Yes, players, though characters, present the focus of play, but the GM is anything but passive here. They aren't creating to suit the players, they're creating to provide honest adversity to the characters. Their job is to push back, hard, pretty much all the time, and see what happens. Everyone is seeing what happens. It's a surprise to everyone, quite often.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It's not at all! I totally embrace this when I run. It's the GM's job in these games! It's what they're supposed to be doing! And it's a very popular and enjoyable pasttime for lots of people when this is exactly what happens. If you feel putting it frankly is venomous, I'm not sure how to have anything resembling an honest discussion about how games work.
I mean, I guess it’s good that you like that sort of play. I wouldn’t call it “putting it frankly” to suggest that’s how every D&D game, let alone every non-simulationist game, is run.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
That's quite vivid. How do you avoid being protective about it, in play?

It can be tough and stuff. I think this sort of play can require a substantial amount of self discipline on both sides of the screen. It can feel like these connected NPCs belong to you. In a way that's helpful - these are people your character is supposed to care for. Still, preciousness can definitely be an issue at times you need to work through. Keeping a strong meta channel to discuss this stuff is pretty crucial.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Again, I feel like you have a massive lacuna here and have misunderstood the process.
I don’t know, the one person who has made sense to me in this conversation, who is also the one person who has been citing the primary sources for the theory, seems to think I’m on the right track, so I’m gonna go with that.
Yes, players, though characters, present the focus of play, but the GM is anything but passive here.
Ok, but both of these things are also true with how I play, so this isn’t helping illuminate the difference for me.
They aren't creating to suit the players, they're creating to provide honest adversity to the characters. Their job is to push back, hard, pretty much all the time, and see what happens. Everyone is seeing what happens. It's a surprise to everyone, quite often.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re just taking issue with my phrasing here, same as how what you consider stating frankly how D&D works comes across as venomous to me. Something about the way we each use language is rubbing the other the wrong way, but nothing you say here is contradicting how I’m coming to understand narrativism.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
Could you please clarify in what sense you're using the word "point"? (I realize you've tried to clarify by analogy already, but I still don't follow.)

The closest I've been able to get is that you're using it in the sense of "an argument or idea put forward by a person in discussion" but that sense seems far too general in comparison to the emphasis you're putting on the word.
By "point" I mean something like theme, evaluation, opinion (not on a matter of fact, but on some feature of human nature or culture or experience or . . .), artistic concern (but not concerns about techniques or execution, but rather about what the work "says").

Narrativist RPGing tries to set up the game - in terms of how PCs are built, how scenes are framed, how setting is used, how actions are resolved, how consequences are established, etc - so that, in playing the game, the players can't help but make "points" in the play of their PCs. The basic model for this is the role of protagonism and antagonism in storytelling. But the details of execution are quite different, because RPGs have asymmetric participants roles, who have different sorts of authorial power in relation to the fiction.

In my view, given that most human beings (i) are opinionated, (ii) are happy to share their views whether invited to or not, and (iii) enjoy stories including dramatic stories, the core of the narrativist aspiration is not hard at all. But the technical realisation of it within the RPG form is not always straightforward. As I think I may have posted upthread, the best technical model I know of is Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World.

Of course, there are other ways that humans like to engage with stories too, like learning what's in them! That's the basic impulse that drives simulationist as opposed to narrativist play.

The reason Edwards thinks its hard to have both at once (and here I'll tag @Charlaquin who may or may not find this useful) is that it's hard to be authoring a fiction, and enjoying discovering a fiction someone else authored, at the same time. There's more to it than that - players in simulationist RPGing also do some authoring - but that's the starting point.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
No, it has one in the opposite of the way a game like D&D does. The scenario is being invented on the fly, adapting to the needs of the characters instead of the other way around.
Kind of. I guess it depends on what you mean by scenario. I would say it doesn't have a scenario (or at least if it does it's more like a starting point). So maybe we are just using the word scenario differently. There is certainly something that is being invented on the fly. There is also something that adapts to the needs of the character. I guess I would call that 'story' instead of scenario. Whereas in D&D the story would be about the PC's in whatever scenario the DM had framed for them. A careful DM could frame a scenario and transition to the next scenario and carefully frame it such that the scenarios kept adapting to the needs of the character and were in a sense invented on the fly. This is not normally how D&D is played though.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Yo @overgeeked, from the likes I’m getting the impression that you’re on a similar page with me in this stuff starting to click, am I right? This line of discussion helpful for you? Cause we’ve definitely strayed way off from the initial terms of this thread, but it somehow seems to be working for me.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I mean, I guess it’s good that you like that sort of play. I wouldn’t call it “putting it frankly” to suggest that’s how every D&D game, let alone every non-simulationist game, is run.
I'm very confused. 5e is most often playing to support simulationist agendas. Typically high concept. The GM as the determiner of how the world works is 100% codified in the rules and the reason that 5e is so supportive of this particular agenda. Iserith and you, if I recall correctly, lean towards including gamist agendas by having clear, principled ways you interact and basing play on locations with clear inputs and outputs and then letting the dice fall as they do. Still, with the GM in the drivers seat, so to speak, it's very hard to get away from simulationism because so much gets filtered through the GM's conception of cause and effect to even enable the rules.

And, yes, acknowledging frankly that the majority of 5e play is the GM providing a world where the players take actions through their characters to prompt the GM to provide more information shouldn't be that controversial. Even if we put aside WotC APs, which are clearly this, the core play loop of D&D starts and ends with "the GM narrates."
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top