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

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
Yeah, I think we are just using the word differently. 👍
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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.

Ok, but both of these things are also true with how I play, so this isn’t helping illuminate the difference for me.

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.
I agree with what @pemeton is saying. I'm not agreeing with how you're stating you're forming how that is supposed to work. These are not the same thing. You keep framing narrativism as the players prepare characters and the GM reacts with scenario. That's not it. It's missing some huge bits and bobs that actually make it work. If this was it, I could make a 5e character right now, with a backstory, and then the GM could just improv some scenes based on that backstory and we're narrativism, right? No. Because this isn't it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
My brother in Christ, I’m just starting to grasp what Edwards meant by Narrativism and am still struggling hard with Simulationism and Gamism and where the line is between them. You’ve got to take it a bit slower with me before you start trying to describe how I DM in those terms.
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."
Ok, I feel like there’s a big difference between this and what you said in the other post, but it really isn’t worth arguing about.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I agree with what @pemeton is saying. I'm not agreeing with how you're stating you're forming how that is supposed to work. These are not the same thing. You keep framing narrativism as the players prepare characters and the GM reacts with scenario. That's not it. It's missing some huge bits and bobs that actually make it work. If this was it, I could make a 5e character right now, with a backstory, and then the GM could just improv some scenes based on that backstory and we're narrativism, right? No. Because this isn't it.
No of course that’s not it, but that was the key piece I was missing to get what makes narrativist games a significantly different beast than other RPGs. I was reading Apocolypse World and still picturing players going through a scenario the GM came up with (and if that sounds positively bananas to anyone else, give The Adventure Zone: Amnesty a listen cause Griffin McElroy had exactly the same misconception when he ran Monster of the Week for the rest of the family). Maybe the way I phrase it doesn’t sound right to you, but the way you phrase D&D doesn’t sound right to me either, yet I’m confident you do understand it.
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
No of course that’s not it, but that was the key piece I was missing to get what makes narrativist games a significantly different beast than other RPGs. I was reading Apocolypse World and still picturing players going through a scenario the GM came up with (and if that sounds positively bananas to anyone else, give The Adventure Zone: Amnesty a listen cause Griffin McElroy had exactly the same misconception when he ran Monster of the Week for the rest of the family). Maybe the way I phrase it doesn’t sound right to you, but the way you phrase D&D doesn’t sound right to me either, yet I’m confident you do understand it.

So, Monster of the Week actually does work that way somewhat. You are supposed to design mysteries and well-defined monsters with specific weaknesses. While it uses a similar mechanical framework, I would not call typical play of Monster of the Week Story Now. My experience playing in a fairly lengthy Monster of the Week game is that it felt far more like D&D than Apocalypse World.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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.
It’s a mix of being impressed how much effort you’re pitting in, how much volume this thread has produced in the last few days, and agreeing with many of your points.

I’m not sure I agree with you on preferred style or what I’m after, and you’re handing out benefit of the doubt left and right long after I ran out of it, but it is good to see something apparently productive happening for someone on the thread.

The point of the thread was to get people talking about theory but skipping the jargon, or at least defining the jargon in plain English. That’s kinda happening. So cool.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, Monster of the Week actually does work that way somewhat. You are supposed to design mysteries and well-defined monsters with specific weaknesses. While it uses a similar mechanical framework, I would not call typical play of Monster of the Week Story Now. My experience playing in a fairly lengthy Monster of the Week game is that it felt far more like D&D than Apocalypse World.
Ah, ok, good to know. I haven’t read MotW just remember after it first came out, an acquaintance from some other forums who’s a hugge PbtA fan being really upset with the way Griffin ran that game cause they felt like it was a large platform giving a bad impression of what PbtA is like to a large audience.
 

JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
Here is the way one RPG designer/theorist set out the basic process for narrativist play. Hopefully you'll see that it fits with the direction of your thought. (I've sblocked it for length and non-jargonistic courtesy.)

1. One of the players is a gamemaster whose job it is to keep track of the backstory, frame scenes according to dramatic needs (that is, go where the action is) and provoke thematic moments (defined in narrativistic theory as moments of in-character action that carry weight as commentary on the game’s premise) by introducing complications.

2. The rest of the players each have their own characters to play. They play their characters according to the advocacy role: the important part is that they naturally allow the character’s interests to come through based on what they imagine of the character’s nature and background. Then they let the other players know in certain terms what the character thinks and wants.

3. The actual procedure of play is very simple: once the players have established concrete characters, situations and backstory in whatever manner a given game ascribes, the GM starts framing scenes for the player characters. Each scene is an interesting situation in relation to the premise of the setting or the character (or wherever the premise comes from, depends on the game). The GM describes a situation that provokes choices on the part of the character. The player is ready for this, as he knows his character and the character’s needs, so he makes choices on the part of the character. This in turn leads to consequences as determined by the game’s rules. Story is an outcome of the process as choices lead to consequences which lead to further choices, until all outstanding issues have been resolved and the story naturally reaches an end.

4. The player’s task in these games is simple advocacy, which is not difficult once you have a firm character. (Chargen is a key consideration in these games, compare them to see how different approaches work.) The GM might have more difficulty, as he needs to be able to reference the backstory, determine complications to introduce into the game, and figure out consequences. Much of the rules systems in these games address these challenges, and in addition the GM might have methodical tools outside the rules, such as pre-prepared relationship maps (helps with backstory), bangs (helps with provoking thematic choice) and pure experience (helps with determining consequences).

Framing scenes according to dramatic needs = your "scenario invented on the fly, adapted to the needs of the characters".

The advocacy role is letting go of those other parameters I mentioned in my post not far upthread: inhabiting the character and making a call for the character as the character. ("Inhabitation" is my own bit of jargon. I coined it to avoid a lot of the baggage that comes with "immersion". I intend it to have a more "active" and also much more emotional component than I normally find is conveyed by "immersion", which tends to be about "being in the imagined environment" rather than "feeling what the character feels".)

My further gloss on this would be that, because it's all imaginary, "advocating"/"inhabiting" is really a particular approach to authoring.

Consequences, in this framework, is closely related to "fallout" as used by @Campbell in one of these recent threads. It has to feed back into the dramatic needs of the PCs, or else the game loop will grind to a halt. The flip side is that if there are no more consequences, then the game is done and the characters have come to their well-deserved rest! (Which sometimes is, but my no means need be, their final rest!)
I feel like every time I start to get things straight a new post comes along and it upsets the applecart.

Your 4 steps listed here are exactly how one of my gaming sessions goes and I am playing 5e. Why then is my game not narrativist?
 

Aldarc

Legend
(Emphasis added.) If the bolded claim is true, and under GNS theory we can't infer anything about something labeled "incoherent" other than that it has conflicting priorities, then wouldn't that make the entire concept of "coherence" in GNS theory tautological? In other words, what's the function in GNS of looking at whether play priorities are the same to determine coherence if the only thing coherence tells us is that the play priorities are the same?
I suspect that part of the assumed value of the model may rest in being able to predict, with some degree of generalities and debatable reliability, where lines of conflict or incoherence may lie between people of differing motivations.

I don’t know what making a point means here. I do not think that instability is required to reveal interesting truths about character. Conflict is required, but conflict can be delivered through gamist “winning and losing” mechanics. In fact, I would submit that conflict is essential both to competitive gameplay and to character development. Game and Narrative are both built on a foundation of conflict.
IMHO, I think that there is a potential risk here of equivocating what is meant by "conflict" in these two contexts. I agree that a general sense of conflict is necessary for both, I don't think that means that two players with different agendas necessarily see the conflict in the same manner. In the case of Gamism, conflict is competitive with optimal choices for "winning the game." In the case of Narrativism, conflict is dramatic with complicated choices for "revealing character."

I think that the two of us can look with some detachment at the former G player and see how these moments of conflict could reveal character and lead to exciting dramatic conflict. We could also look at the latter N player and see how these moments of conflict could involve winning or losing a contest with stakes involved. But that is not necessarily where the respective individuals' play priorties are in a given moment: "How can my character win this conflict?" vs. "How will this conflict change who my character is?"

So let's take a fun example of how the G and N player might conflict in a given moment of play. Here we have Elrond (Gamist) and Isildur (Narrativist):

EprzdRYXEAEjxJA (1).jpg


Elrond's player (G Agenda) recognizes here that there is an optimal strategy for winning the game right now. All Isildur has to do is throw the Ring of Power into the fires of Mount Doom to win. Game over. However, Isildur's player (N Agenda) is not concerned with the winning strategy. Instead, he thinks that this an ideal moment to test his character against the ring's corruption, curious about what that reveals about the character he is playing. Isildur fails the test and he decides against throwing the Ring of Power into the mountain, and Elrond's character gets monumentally pissed about the whole thing, holding a grudge against him for ages because he knew that they could have won the game then and there without having to wait 3000 years to finish it. Elrond's player could have chosen to push Isildur and the Ring both into the fire if he was a bigger wang-rod, but he instead decides to retire his character and let them become a NPC patron. We can read this as an illustrative moment of "incoherence."

There may have been a S-oriented player here too. And in this moment, they are likely more sympathetic to Isildur's player than Elrond's player, because of the importance of playing the character in accordance with the character concept. However, if they were playing Isildur, the S player may have not willingly tested their character against corruption or may have gotten upset with the results of a test. They may believe that it would invalidate their character concept of the valiant, noble Isildur, who would never have given in to the One Ring, because it would make their cool character look like a wang-rod. But it's also possible that another S player may have been cool with it because the game is meant to emulate Tolkien, so it's cool that Isildur succumbed to the Ring, so long as there is an easy to understand cause-and-effect regarding the Ring's corruption. But here the emphasis is not so much about testing Isildur's resolve as character as it is about making a saving throw against the corruption of the Ring as an objective reality within this world.
 

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