Game Texts that support Right to Dream

edited November 2010 in Story Games
These days I'm realizing more and more how important it is to me to have specific threads for specific conversations. Otherwise it all becomes a big mess with too many people trying to talk about too many thing.

Anyway, over in the The Forge's Winter Phase thread, Peter asked about games that support Right to Dream. His last post was:
Posted By: PeterBB@David:

I was mostly talking about games that actively support RTD play, like a lot of games actively support Story Now play. Both in the sense of "what games are there?" and in the sense of "what are good techniques for making such a game?". I can point you to lots of good Story Now-supporting games, and tell you how they support theme, and passionate characters in untenable situations, and whatever else. I can't do that with RTD. I'm wondering if I've just missed the conversation, or if this is a common problem.
I don't think you've missed the conversation, because I haven't seen any real talk about this either. I think that there are many reasons for this, but I wouldn't call it a problem. More of a simple oversight.

First of all, I'll just explain how I understand RtD, if you disagree, maybe we should figure that out first. I know a lot of people read RtD as "exploration squared" - all games are about Exploration (setting, colour, characters, situation, system) but RtD is somehow double that. I'm not buying that definition. I think "emulation" is much closer, but still not quite on target.
"Right to Dream" as the name for the agenda was chosen for a reason. It emphasizes the right and the dream. The dream is the fiction and its specific functions, elements and contents. Right means that the dream is of prime importance in this agenda. To protect the dream (and out right to it) we will fudge dice, eschew dramatic decisions, win (or lose) fights regardless of skill.

If there is a challenge or contest (Step on Up) it probably takes second stage to "getting it right": the outcome is probably consensually known, and we aren't interested in showing our skill, merely affirming what we know should happen. If the dice speak against that, we'll discard them.

If there is a real, actual dramatic decision with consequences to be made (Story Now), we might shy away from it, because it would mean turning off the GPS and making a blind turn.

In Vincent's words it's about keeping certain things about the fiction sacrosanct. It's about affirmation ("this is how it should be") and constructive denial ("I don't want that to happen") and the right to have those claims fulfilled. K?

So, because of these traits of RtD, there are lots of games that can do it. The second reason is that most designers working with CA aren't really interested in pursuing this agenda.

---

I'm thinking aloud now, trying to identify ways to do RtD with certain games. I might surprise myself along the way.

I think FATE and GURPS can both do pretty good RtD. I wouldn't say they actively support it, but they can support it. I think FATE is enough of a toolkit that you can easily use it for Step on Up play, too, and it's certainly possible to do some Story Now with it. But the way Fate points work, that's a collaborative method of giving people the Right. It depends on the people playing, obviously, but it can be used for this purpose. Paying, compelling, invoking etc. are ways of saying "I want this to happen" and "I don't want this to happen". FATE works well as RtD when the group is collectively using Fate points to enforce a certain tone, genre, archetype or story. When we play StoC, we use points to say "this belongs in pulp". What FATE is missing, maybe, is a way to explicitly say "this doesn't belong", except when you refuse a compel.

I think GURPS on the other hand is very much about keeping Setting and its specific Colour sacrosanct, as opposed to characters or narrative. If we pick up the GURPS WW2 book, we're probably saying "we want to play it like it was". The world, with all its realities, is sacrosanct. This has nothing to do with the rules simulating ingame physics or anything like that, but saying "this is how it was, this is how it should be, this is how it is", the numerous setting books and optional rules help you include or exclude things. Character building also offers lots and lots of options on how to build your specific gal or dude, but it takes second stage to setting. GURPS is pre-agenda design, but if it has any agenda is getting the world/setting right, which can certainly be RtD play.

Next on, I take a peek at Archipelago II. There are things in the game that are very much about challenging the other players' dreams: for example, if I make my character a pacifist, the game advises the other players to make my character shoot a guy by the end of the session - this means that I don't have the right to dream my character as a pacifist. In this instance, the game is hostile to my specific dream. But.
Once the other players create a fate for my character (shoot a guy), we know it's pretty much going to happen. There's a certain level of group consensus going on here about what should happen and how the story should go.
Furthermore, Archipelago has two powerful tools/rules at its disposal: "Describe that in more detail" and "Try another way". If we were using only these two, without relying on other rules, Archipelago could be a powerful (if simplistic) RtD engine. Describe that in more detail = I want this in my game, I want more of it, Try another way = this doesn't fit into my/our dream.

Moreno also mentioned A Taste for Murder and It's Complicated. Sadly, I own neither game, so I can't really dig deep. But I know a little more about A Taste for Murder, so I'm going to look at that. What A Taste for Murder does, what "it's all about" is emulating Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries. Sure, there might be a competitive element (I know Graham put a certain dice mechanic in where you can compete with another player), but it's not the point, it's more of a fun aside (I think). Maybe finding the murderer could be a "win condition", if you're inclined to play that way, I dunno. It could be story now, because it certainly has characters with passions in hard situations, but we all know what will happen, don't we? No meaningful conflict, the result of "escalation" is clear. So what the game does, really does, is keep the functions of the whodunit narrative sacrosanct. There are three acts, people are fucked up, there's a murder, etc. This is what we want and expect when we read Christie, this is what you get when you play ATFM. I think it's telling that some actual play reports describe a failed game because people were not familiar with the source material: they weren't on board with the dream, they weren't really sure about what was right and what was wrong for this kind of story.

I think David's game Delve is also a very strong, if not the best example, that's why I'm leaving it for last. There's no other resolution than agreement, common sense and judgement calls. When it fits, we include it, when it doesn't we throw it away. The game was certainly explicitly built to support this agenda.


So, that's me. Interested in what other people think.
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Comments

  • There are definitely some good "genre sim" games out there. Fiasco and InSpectres also come to mind. I think this is probably the most developed subcategory of RTD, when it comes to games that support it.

    I don't know what it's intended to be, but Houses of the Blooded seems like it would work best as RTD. The thing that is inviolable in this case is the culture and its norms. (I have quibbles about how successful it is, but I think it's definitely trying.) This is a subcategory that interests me, are there any other games that are doing similar things?

    Universalis is really good for RTD play. It enforces certain narrative conventions, and directly provides tools for affirmation and constructive denial. It makes the players do most of the work, but it gives them the tools they need to do it.

    There are also a bunch of games that provide useful tools for RTD, even if they are more directly intended to be Story Now. All of Vincent Baker's games work this way for me. (Certain statements in DitV made no sense until I realized that I was playing it very differently from the way Vincent does.)
  • Those are all great examples.

    I think the key thing to realize here is that game texts can ever only support an agenda up to a degree. Agenda is still about instances of play.

    There are definitely things that sound very Right to Dream-y in Vincent's games. Poison'd for example, is very strict about emulating its pirate fiction, but that doesn't mean it's RtD at all. In fact, if anything it supports SN play, but I think you could even play it as a SoU. Certain games fight you when you play them with an agenda that wasn't intended, or fall flat. Dogs certainly is a boring game if you're playing it SoU. I always get bruises when I try furthering a SN agenda with D&D as opposed to SoU. D&D can also do RtD, but I always get bored to hell.

    I'm thinking now about what the fruitful void in RtD is.
  • Chronica Feudalis seems pretty ripe for RtD play - the very game text is "in character", and there's a lot of detail put into devising how various sorts of conflict work differently from each other, with little fiddly bits here and there (social conflict rules recommend three different options for attack, two for defense, and why).

    Now, it's certain to me that the game is not exactly primed for SoU - the Knight is clearly the very best mentor possible, sporting the only d20 tool on the list (his noble steed). Granted, there's room for maximizing advantage (doubling or tripling up a skill by getting all three mentors with the same ability/abilities), but there are enough barriers to immediate optimization that you'd have to mess around with the game to make it suitable for that.

    It seems adequate for SN play, but there's an element of "if you've GMed before, you'll just know what to do" going on, at least in the Red Knight edition. Once you get going, it seems easy enough to use Aspects as clues for good bangs, but you have to talk pretty explicitly with the players to get them to tell you what they're interested in.

    Fascinatingly, when you endure an Aspect or a Tool in Chronica, it seems to be a matter of getting causality right - for Aspects, the player is tasked with tracking any Aspects that might negatively affect him, and in exchange for being a good scout about it, any concretely negative Aspects give 1 Ardor each. For Tools, the GM is encouraged to bring in one Tool you possess that hinders you - examples of heavy armor (for swimming) and bloody weapons (for social conflict; you scary!) are mentioned. In exchange for this equipment problem, you get 1 Ardor.

    I'm not quite sure what to make of the Endure rules - I like them, but what are they trying to do? Since you're being compensated for your trouble, it's not just about getting it "right" - otherwise, you'd gladly take the penalty for the sake of It Makes Sense. But if you take the penalty, you're better equipped to do other sorts of things, and you get a bit more narrative control, to boot. I suppose that's Chronica's equivalent of a nestled merit/flaw system; it's reminiscent of the one in Nobilis, which is abundantly RtD - you are compensated when your pc's flaws are relevant, instead of taking a few extra character points at the beginning and then ignoring your Broken Heart the whole game.

    Nobilis, now - - the GM has final say on how everything goes, and is ... sorry, replace GM with Hollyhock God. See? Very "getting it right"! Anyway, the other major facet of Nobilis is that a good deal of play, especially a good deal of using your Miracles, revolves around debating with the play group what you could reasonably achieve, given Miracle type X and your character's Word (their domain, their concept, which informs all Miracles they can create).

    For instance, I debated for several minutes with an opposed PC and the GM... sorry, HG... about whether my Word, "Family", could be used to get nuclear particles to stay friends, and thus head off an imminent nuclear detonation. Granted this sort of thing is how SECOND edition plays out; in Third, it sounds like your ability to perform Miracles is greatly enhanced if you're performing them for or on a relationship your character possesses, thus clearly making use of content-preference flags.

    Good stuff.
  • It seems like RtD mechanics would necessitate, what's the word, "GMful" play (everyone is GM) or some other shared narration schema. I would think that everyone would need equal power to enforce the dream and have equal buy-in.
  • Marshall, it would seem so in theory, but I've seen plenty of play where it was only the GM's Dream that mattered. And I wouldn't call it dysfunctional as such. Now, if player has Dream X and GM has Dream Y, and they don't talk about it, problems! But I am 99,9% certain that there are many groups out there where the players are present just to participate in the GM's Dream, and they enjoy it. This method of play is very dependent on the quality of the GM as a storyteller and the player's consent to enjoy this (it's what you did in most adventure videogames and do in most CRPGs anyway, so not why at the table, right?).

    I would say your regular game of D&D where the players save the village/kingdom/world by following the breadcrumb trail and the DM just fudges dice if anything goes wrong (like a character accidentally dying) is a pretty functional example of RtD, and it's obvious the players don't have any real power. It falls apart the moment someone doesn't buy into the GM's scheme but it works (it's not like a SN game can fall apart if someone starts kicking doors in, or a SoU game drag to a halt when a character starts talking to his girlfriend instead of kicking the door it).
  • I would say that the main faultline of Right to Dream play is the need for consensus about what the "dream" is. So shared narration is just introducing additional chances for failure points. If the GM is the only person at the table with narration rights then, assuming the players are reasonably close in their understanding of the dream, what differences there are will be smoothed out in play by the GM's actions.
  • Posted By: Teataineit's not like a SN game can...
    I'd suggest not using SN to abbreviate Story Now. Until just now I was reading it as an abbreviation for either "Sim/Nar hybrid" or "Sim or Nar". (It took me a minute to parse SoU out to Step-on-Up, too, but at least that wasn't ambiguous.)
  • Whooops. Yeah, I've been typing those agenda names over and over recently and I just started abbreviating.
  • I would point to Universalis as a game built for Right to Dream play. Players spend their currency affirming or denying fictional or system content based on what they think is right.
  • edited November 2010
    Teataine: I think there are (at least) two distinct ways to make GM-centric RTD work. The first is exactly how you say: The GM leaves bread-crumbs, the PCs blow things up. I played a pretty fun game of that style recently, and I got to be an incredibly intimidating guy who did things like bend darkness to create a staircase for himself. It was awesome. (Edit: The crucial thing here is to leave space for the players' contributions. We knew where we were going and who we were killing, the fun was in finding awesome ways to have our characters kill them. We had a decent number of cool and different powers, and the GM did a good job of describing pretty open situations, so we had a lot of room to make it interesting.)

    But more interesting to me is the old-school sandbox model. The GM gets to describe "the background", and the PCs get to decide what they want to do. My most recent Apocalypse World game went approximately that way, although I followed the text's rules about getting player input into the setting.
  • edited November 2010
    One of the ways that games have typically supported RTD play is that it guides you on how play will develop in the future, gives you a path for where to go with the game. D&D (at least pre 4th) was easy to drift towards RTD play because it gave that very specific zero to hero experience and people would modify that to suit their purpose by changing what experience points were given out for. Gurps works in a very similar way with it's character points showing how the world works, how peopel grow and become better, on top of providing the mechanics for how the physical world works.

    In my opinion Universalis doesnt give you that, it doesnt prescribe a way to play and how play will advance long term. It's really a toolbox for exploration which can be bent in any direction, RTD, step-on-up, or story-now.
  • edited November 2010
    It's an interesting question, right? Which texts "support" RTD play kinda depends on what support you you need!

    I have a friend who really looks for strength of aesthetic for inspiration. To him, Vampire: the Masquerade is the best RTD product ever. I'm sure he'd dig Call of Cthulhu too.

    Other friends most need a compelling character concept and consequential ways to express it. The list of games that make cool characters is as long as the number of tastes on "what's cool". I'll just throw out Cyberpunk and Marvel Superheroes as examples. As for consequential expression, a lot of the classic fighty team games provide minimal support, tempting folks to drift Narr games instead. E.g., Burning Wheel has a really clear way to show "here's what my guy cares about!" -- the only problem is that it's so important that it's never intended to come in second to any aesthetic package.

    I think Pendragon does a good job of coolness + consequence. And hey, clerics and Paladins in D&D2 are great opportunities to link personality, belief, and badassery.

    Other players need support for situation. "We've got a vibe and cool characters, but what do we do?" In emulation games, it's often easy enough for the GM to say, "What gets the characters off their butts in Star Wars? Okay, that happens." But in a game that strives to run a simulation of "What would have happened at the battle of Leningrad if the Nazis had a djinn?" it's easy to get lost. Relationship Maps are one solution; it works nicely in How We Came to Live Here.

    Of course, there's system. You can't run a "what would happen?" simulation with a broken physics engine. You can quantify every imaginable aspect of the fiction, like GURPS, or rely on player plausibility judgments, like Delve. And, for those groups trying to emulate a genre, but not wanting to strain the GM's creativity to pull it off, there are systems like Dead of Night, where the logic of resolution mirrors the plot direction of horror cinema. Or Trail of Cthulhu, which adds some tools for pacing and story progress onto Call's aesthetics and physics.

    Finally, there's color. Sign in Stranger works for me largely because every development in play is a weird creative moment delivered exclusively to the characters' senses.

    Adam, I really want to play Universalis! Would you consider running it at Dreamation?
  • Posted By: Grymbokshared narration is just introducing additional chances for failure points. If the GM is the only person at the table with narration rights then, assuming the players are reasonably close in their understanding of the dream, what differences there are will be smoothed out in play by the GM's actions.
    I've seen it go both ways. Which makes sense to me, since RTD is a group feature, only present when everyone can contribute meaningfully to the dream. The GM can act to streamline this process, helping player A and player B dig what each other are doing. He just has to be careful about cutting them off or usurping.

    Where "additional chance for failure" comes with "additional chance to be cool", I think the optimal solution is entirely dependent on the particular game/group.
  • I'll back Fiasco as being Right to Dream, I think.

    It simulates a genre, as its top goal.
    The playsets all create skewed little environments, lampooning the subject matter while also bringing it to the hijinx-caper-movie genre's doorstep.
    The mechanical decisions have nothing to do with whether characters get what they want or address their issues.
    A lot of what characterizes a session of Fiasco is the playset chosen.

    Play is about the interaction of a narrative ecosystem - the underground cockfighting ring, the pub upstairs, the office romance, the stolen briefcase, the pudgy middle manager, the seedy starlet, the coke operation, the crooked cop looking for love... that sounds like Right to Dream more than anything else.

    The text supports Right to Dream.
    It talks about how to link those elements.
    The text emphasizes turns of event as being more important than character issues or goals or struggles.
    The text emphasizes genre pacing more than premise.
    Half the book is comprised of little settings/narrative environments to play in.
  • Of all the parts of the Big Model, this is the part that I think is the most borked. Story Now is a good phrase-fit for Narrativism. Step on Up is a good phrase-fit for Gamism. But Right to Dream is bloody awful as a phrase-fit for Simulationism. Largely because I think the inventor of the phrase understood Simulationism least well of the three.

    I think Right to Dream discussions have confounded 2 very seperate impulses into one label, a label that seems to justify containing both impulses.

    Gregor you cite one of those impulses in your OP in your explanatio of Right to Dream, where you note "To protect the dream (and our right to it) we will fudge dice, eschew dramatic decisions, win (or lose) fights regardless of skill."

    The other impulse is what I consider to be the actual Simulationist Impulse. I find your description of Right to Dream to include what is often meant by the phrase RtD...but I find it completely incompatable (I'd say even diametrically opposed to) Simulationism.

    Simulationism is inherently dynamic. To be simulationist play you have to be willing to let go of your starting assumptions and follow play where it leads. You don't force play to lead to dramatic decisions, but you'd also never eschew them should they arise organically. You don't fudge dice just because you don't like result, but neither are your decisions driven by min maxing the mechanics. You recognize the mechanics as being the "impartial hand of the universe" (ideally optimized to for the universe you are simulating) and let the chips fall where they may.

    A better phrase-fit for Simulationism would be "What would it be like", which I've often shortened to "What if" as in "What would it be like to play an exhiled Elf Lord in Tolkien's Middle Earth" and "What if this Elf knew a secret that would greatly aid the Fellowship but no one would trust him due his past". I've likened Simulationism to a wind up toy. Getting the set up just right is essential (like setting up a chemistry experiment) but then you have to let play run its course as it happens (again much like a chemistry experiment).

    If John Kim is reading this, this is why I think alot of his AP reports sound very Nar compatable...because he sets up an initial situation that seems likely to lead to dramatically interesting decision points...but after play starts, it may or may not hit those points as play follows through the logical chain of cause an effect of the universe.

    The reason I find this sort of play largely incompatable with the Right to Dream, is because the Dream in such play is not what's sacrosanct. In true Simulationist Star Wars play it would be completely acceptable for Luke Skywalker to die while failing to blow up the Death Star...thereby completely altering the "Dream" of what play in that Universe will look like from that point forward.


    Interestingly, for my own formulation of this portion of the Big Model, I put what you've described as the Right to Dream at the Exploration level and defined it as pure explanation without any further Creative Agenda. I.e. Exploration sans any trace of Story Now, Step on Up, or What If. So in away...it does become "Exploration Squared". i.e. Exploration with a Creative Agenda of more Exploration. Which is consistant with how the Right to Dream is described in the Big Model, but not compatable with what I believe the actual Simulationist agenda really should be.

    *Gregor, I'd love to hear more about the perceived inadequacy of Right to Dream as Exploration Squared, as that's where my formulation puts it.
  • edited November 2010
    Here's the problem I see with "what if" play.

    How do you decide what the chances of anything happening are? So you take Luke Skywalker and put him out there against the Death star, how do you decide if he succeeds or fails? Typically you make up a type of physics engine set of rules that help you determine what happens. But how do you determine what the chances of anything happening are? What criteria do you use to determine how likely he will be able to perform this maneuver, dodge tie fighters, hit the exhaust port? How much does his ability to "use the force" increase his chances? Take those same questions and remove the Luke Skywalker name and fill in random PC, how good should he be at those tasks and should he be that good at them now or will he develop into that type role.

    The mechanics you use to model that universe are going to vary greatly depending on how you answer those questions, and different groups will answer the questions differently, but whatever you use will create a concept that the game is about, that is pretty much the dream that the slogan RTD is referencing. Is it a gritty world with useless characters who fail all the time or is it a game of heros who destroy the opposition every time out.

    What Gregor spoke of with fudging dice is one aspect of the other part of the slogan, getting the dream right but what you speak of here is another just as valid interpretation of getting it right sticking with what the mechanics give you. In Ron's Sim essay those two aspects would probably match pretty closely to High Concept vs. Purist for System.
  • Valamir, I really don't have time right now, but I'll just say this: I don't think Right to Dream and Simulationism are the same at all. I'll come back and explain what I mean, I promise.. I know this is muddling the waters.
  • Vernon, good points, but I think Ron's essay basically puts the emPHAsis on they wrong SYLLable and miss defines the crux of the issue. For instance, as I've remarked a number of times (and I think I've seen Jason Morningstar say also) sim play is often the most compatable with free form play, which only fits Ron's Purist for System definition if you squint at it really hard.

    Establishing that "physics engine" as you put it (crunchy or free form) is part of the set up of the initial experiment, which of course is crucial, but sim play goes beyond genre tourism. It is every bit as deliberate and proactive a form of play as Nar or Gam. I don't think the Big Model formulation correctly captures this aspect of it by a long shot.

    But at any rate, I've hammered that nail a number of times before.

    I bring it up again here, because what texts are good at supporting Right to Dream play really depends on which impulse is being discussed.
  • edited November 2010
    Hey Ralph,

    I hear ya on taking the CA types from "G + N + Other" to "G + N + What if? + Other". If we do that, do you like Ron's "Right to Dream" for the new "Other"?
  • Posted By: David BergValamir,

    I'm with you on the confounding. I'm just not confident that only 2 different play styles are being confounded.

    Trying to keep it simple in light of the fact its been a long time since I've dusted off this particular soap box :-)
  • My thought is that "RTD" is largely a depiction on "agendaful exploration without G or N" and is the foundation for What If (Physics)?, What If (Metaphysics/Themes/Stories)?, Genre Emulation, Immersive Rollercoaster, and plenty of others I can't slap a name on right now.

    That said, I think the point that CA requires players digging each other's contributions, and a few of the conditions that entails, is a valid "RTD" addition to mere Exploration.
  • Posted By: David BergHey Ralph,

    I hear ya on taking the CA types from "G + N + Other" to "G + N + What if? + Other". If we do that, do you like Ron's "Right to Dream" for the new "Other"?
    Yes. Once upon a time I made (IMO) a compelling case for why the "new other" aka Right to Dream actually lived at the Exploration level rather than at the Creative Agenda level.

    I mentioned that in my post above...but I'd have to try and find those old threads to recreate my rationale for it...its been too long to remember all the "steps in the proof" so to speak.

    On the other hand, I believe there was once a fairly compelling case made to expand the Creative Agenda to 4 to include one of the items that had been part of the original Three Fold model that got subsumed into Simulationism. I can't remember the label that was suggested (Dramatism perhaps)...IIRC it related to a big discussion on the difference between Sim games (along the lines of how I've described them here) vs. Theatrix which at the time was challenging the threefold to find a place to put it. So perhaps, I've essentially recreated that arguement.
  • edited November 2010
    Wait, so if a bunch of folks are really digging playing together because of how well they can "do Star Wars right", that's just an Exploration thing with no CA?

    That doesn't sound right to me...
  • Posted By: David BergAdam, I really want to play Universalis! Would you consider running it at Dreamation?
    Sure, but I've never played it! I've always wanted to play it though. We could muddle through it together.
  • I think establishing the physics engine is important but the creative impetus that gives justification for what type of physics engine is created is what drives RTD play. If it's a world of heroic farmboys and scoundrels with a heart of gold that is what play calls for and drives it in the same way as trying to step on up does or addressing premise. The Gm is there to bring out situations that emphasize heroic farm boy against the evil empire and the players are there to react in appropriately heroic fashion and hopefully we'll get a suitably heroic outcome.

    I do agree with your last statement about textual support of RTD play, but then again I think thats true for the other CA's as well. Gamism and Nar are definitely varied enough that one text may not scratch the itch for anyone who likes that CA.
  • edited November 2010
    Posted By: David BergWait, so if a bunch of folks are really digging playing together because of how well they can "do Star Wars right", that's just an Exploration thing with no CA?
    Yes...although I'd avoid the term "just" as that seems to diminish it as "merely exploration without going beyond" as opposed to "exploration being sufficient unto itself without needing anything additional be added to it".

    As I said, difficult for me to recreate my arguement at this late date without trying to dig up old threads.

    But I do recall I at one point had diagrammed exploration as a circle containing all of the elements being emulated, and pointing out that the Creative Agendae (Gamism, Narrativism, MySimulationism) all had the potential...even the expectation...of play penetrating beyond that circle and creating something new, outside of, and transformative while "New Other" play envisions staying within the circle as being key.
  • Posted By: ValamirYes...although I'd avoid the term "just" as that seems to diminish it as "merely exploration without going beyond" as opposed to "exploration being sufficient unto itself without needing anything additional be added to it".

    [...]

    But I do recall I at one point had diagrammed exploration as a circle containing all of the elements being emulated, and pointing out that the Creative Agendae (Gamism, Narrativism, MySimulationism) all had the potential...even the expectation...of play penetrating beyond that circle and creating something new, outside of, and transformative while "New Other" play envisions staying within the circle as being key.
    I can get behind that. But I believe that "New Other" is still a CA. My Agenda is to not have a CA. To choose nothing is a choice on its own. So, yes. Agreeing with your notions, except saying it is a CA too.
  • Nice, I like that, "penetrating beyond the circle, creating something outside it".

    In Gamism, it's winners and losers.

    In Narr, I guess, theoretically, it's moral statements? Developed themes? Narratives that could be (but probably won't be) retold as "good" stories? Honestly, after playing many different Narr-supporting games, I'm still fuzzy on this.

    In ValamirSim, it's, uh... answers to the initial questions? We wanted to know what would happen if Godzilla struck during WWII, and now we do? But we don't really; we just know one thing that could have happened, just like any game's fiction...

    So, yeah, in We Did Star Wars, all you're left with after the game is the memory of the fiction, and your reaction to that, but I don't see how that's different from Narr and ValSim.
  • Posted By: Valamir"exploration being sufficient unto itself without needing anything additional be added to it".
    Huh. So, Exploration done in a mutually creatively fulfilling way (which is one theoretical characteristic of CA coherence) doesn't deserve a name to distinguish it from lame Exploration where fun interaction is rare?

    Isn't that type of "fun vs lame" distinction the sort of thing that CA talk is good for?
  • David,
    I would sum up the point of Nar play as "emotional resonance". As in, you get all stirred up from taking your exploration into territory that's compelling and powerful, and are far less concerned with "being there" or "winners and losers".
    Nar play is actually inherently destructive, or at least transformative, of/to the situation and setting. It's all about untenable situations and relationships, with many possible values for "untenable".
    My experience with Sim (for want of a better term, obv) is that the players come together to clarify some kind of subject matter, like in Nobilis, which I now affectionately call "Debate Club". Alternately, in the case of Vampire, it's more like Exploration^2 - - the "getting it right" is all about enjoying someone else's fiction, someone else's really involved world and such.
    There are different types of Gamist and Nar play; why not different sorts of Sim, too?
    I guess the commonality between Nobilis and Vampire is that Moses still has his revelation to deliver from on high; but in one game, you're Moses, in another, you're the Israelites, and, for comedy's sake, in yet another game you're the golden calf (sorry, had to complete the analogy). You're either deciding What the Truth Is, or you're having it revealed to you. This is why, no doubt, a lot of older Sim designs are extremely GM-centric (as opposed to GMful. You know what I mean): one, sole bearer of Correctness for the genre or subject matter or what have you.

    I'm looking at my phrasing around the whole Moses thing, and I want to make it absolutely clear that I am cool with Sim. It's not my favorite mode of play, but yeah. I'm sticking with the Old Testament metaphors because I can't think of anything else to use.
  • "Emotional resonance" works for me for Narr's product. Similarly, "aesthetic satisfaction" works for me for Sim's product.

    The only question about different kinds of Sim is whether any are (a) so different from each other that they deserve different names, or (b) so different from Gamism and/or Narrativism that they can't equally be said to have a present CA.
  • Any kinds come to mind?
    Then we can wildly speck-a-late! :)
    Also: that Sim essay is now quite old. What ideas of types do we have?
  • Wild speculation:

    1) simulations - what would happen?
    a) physics experiments
    b) genre-logic and fictional trope experiments
    2) virtual experience - what's it like?
    a) navigate new situations
    b) see new places
    c) act with new capabilities
    d) see with a different mindset
    3) celebration - why do we all love this?
    a) mimic your favorites
    b) put your own spin on 'em
    4) works of art - what can we make?
    a) warping, combining or destroying known fiction or genres
    b) building worlds and aesthetics ground-up, making "Bob's fantasy world" come alive
    c) adding color, color, and more color onto... well, anything
    5) rollercoaster - how lost can I get?
    a) close your eyes and let the GM tell you what you're doing and what's happening to you

    I think you can do 1 & 2 simultaneously, and I'm pretty sure you can do 3 & 4 simultaneously, but it really comes down to priorities. You can have Gamism with plenty of emotional resonance and character immersion, it's just that, if push comes to shove, Winning will trump them. Just like art-making can trump simulation, or celebration can trump virtuality, etc.
  • edited November 2010
    Posted By: Adam DrayPosted By: David BergAdam, I really want to play Universalis! Would you consider running it at Dreamation?
    Sure, but I've never played it! I've always wanted to play it though. We could muddle through it together.

    Universalis is pretty easy to muddle through, as long as someone has read the book recently. It's really an awesome game, I'm sad it doesn't get more love these days.

    I don't really have any axe to grind about whether RtD is one creative agenda or two. However, I definitely think that "What if" play is important. It's how I tend to think about my RTD play. (EDIT: Crossposted. I like that taxonomy!)
  • Posted By: ValamirI've likened Simulationism to a wind up toy.
    This. Except for the wind up part.

    In the thread I Have No Words & I Must Design... RPG Toys = Bad Design?, Simulationism became crystal clear to me for the first time. (Of course, whether my view of it is valid or matches that of others is yet to be determined. And, I'm keeping an open mind. But, for now, it is clear to me nonetheless.)

    IMO, the degree to which an RPG is a toy is the degree to which the game is Simulationist. A toy is some construct that can be fiddled with in a variety of ways, but does not provide the player with a purpose. Once the player decides for himself what he is going to do with the toy, suddenly it becomes a game. If an RPG supports play where the players determine the goals rather than the game itself, then it is a Simulationist game. If a game completely lacks a goal, then it is not a game at all, but a toy. And that is why it has been so hard to nail down exactly what Simulationism is. We are always talking about Simulationism in terms of a game, and what the player goals are within that framework. But, that's the wrong way to look at it. In my opinion, a good Simulationist RPG is one that supports a wide array of player goals independent of any goals the game itself may impose.

    I also think that this is why Pathfinder has been so successful. D&D 4e is a game that is very focused on Step-on-Up tactical play, and does a very good job at that. In the transition from v3.5, though, this focus on Gamist play lost 4e much of the toy aspects of previous editions. Players wanting to set their own goals rebelled, and are sticking with v3.5 and Pathfinder.

    According to this viewpoint, the most Simulationist RPG I can think of at the moment is Universalis. From what I can tell, Universalis is actually a toy. It has mechanics that you can fiddle with to introduce facts into a world, add new rules into the "game", and resolve conflicts, but the game (or toy) itself does not impose a goal on the players. (I can't find my copy atm, but that's my recollection.) Of course, the players can introduce their own goals, and thereby make their own play into a game. As I remember, when my friends and I played several years ago, I was absolutely amazed at the richness and depth of the world we created together with it. We started out knowing that our goal was to create a world, and, by golly, the system did an awesome job at helping us do that. And then, once we got to the point of having the characters actually do something, the play suddenly fell flat. We didn't know what to do. I suppose we had the abstract goal of creating a good story, but we were very new to story games at the time and just didn't have a clue about how to go about it. So, we didn't know we should create a premise and then have each of the scenes address that premise in some way. I'm sure if we had known that, then play would have been a lot smoother. As it was, we just sort of fumbled around with the toy for a while (in essence kicking the ball back and forth between each other with no real purpose) and then just stopped playing it after a while when we got bored.

    I've been wrong many times before, and I might be now. But, this idea just seems right to me.
  • John, don't all RPGs require you to create your own goals? Or are you discussing specifically "reason to play at all" goals and not "thing we want to do via play right now"?
  • I'm talking about high-level goals.

    For example, a large air-filled rubber ball is just a toy. You can bounce it. You can throw it and catch it. You can spin it on your finger. If you have several of them, you can juggle them. However, once you decide you want to throw it through a hoop to score points, and your friends are going to do likewise with the side getting the most points being declared the victor, you now have a game. The mechanics of an RPG are analogous to bouncing, throwing, catching, spinning, and juggling. Individually, they provide no goal, but they do describe to the players what you can do with the toy.

    Of course, most RPGs are enough "toy" that they allow some player-defined goals. In this, some games are obviously more flexible than others. But, just as a Raggedy Ann doll is a poor toy to use in playing basketball, most RPGs are poor at supporting some player-defined goals and good at supporting others.

    As an extreme example at the other end of the spectrum from Universalis, My Life with Master pretty much excludes any player-defined goals. The goal of the game is explicitly stated: overthrow the master. All of the rules drive the players toward that end goal. As such, My Life with Master is very un-toy-like.
  • Ah! Gotcha. MLWM is a perfect counter example.

    It still seems to me that a lot of "Narr" games are far enough from that, though, as to possibly be toys. Like, I dunno, does Sorcerer start as a toy and then become a game when players finish their Kickers and the GM finishes his R-Map?
  • At a minimum, the goal of a Narrativist game is to address premise and the goal of a Gamist game is to Step on Up. Outside of those constraints either can also be a toy (Simulationist). The degree to which that is true depends on the game. As such, I believe most RPGs have significant toy-like aspects.

    In Sorcerer, players have a great deal of flexibility in their high-level goals, as long as they continue to address the premise of the game via Humanity. I've never actually played Sorcerer, but I don't think it is an absolute that the players must restrict themselves to exploring the relationship map set up by the GM. To the extent that players can set their own goals within the framework of exploring the relationship map, and to set them independent from the relationship map entirely, the game is a toy. That leaves a lot of leeway, I believe. (And, actually looking at the text of the game, I don't see relationship maps explicitly referenced, although I know Ron has talked about them many times.)
  • Posted By: John KirkIn the threadI Have No Words & I Must Design... RPG Toys = Bad Design?, Simulationism became crystal clear to me for the first time. (Of course, whether my view of it is valid or matches that of others is yet to be determined. And, I'm keeping an open mind. But, for now, it is clear to me nonetheless.)

    IMO, the degree to which an RPG is a toy is the degree to which the game is Simulationist. A toy is some construct that can be fiddled with in a variety of ways, but does not provide the player with a purpose. Once the player decides for himself what he is going to do with the toy, suddenly it becomes a game. If an RPG supports play where the players determine the goals rather than the game itself, then it is a Simulationist game. If a game completely lacks a goal, then it is not a game at all, but a toy. And that is why it has been so hard to nail down exactly what Simulationismis. We are always talking about Simulationism in terms of a game, and what the player goals are within that framework. But, that's the wrong way to look at it. In my opinion, a good Simulationist RPG is one that supports a wide array of player goals independent of any goals the game itself may impose.
    As a Sim-style player (or at least someone who is not Gam or Nar and so Sim by default) I'd agree with this. To me (as a player) the point of RPGing is "Being an Elf". I consider a good session to be one where I really had the feeling of "being there", and a memorable session is one where my Elf did something particularly memorable (so Story After, in exactly the same way it happens in real life, with the caveat that the average RPG character's life involves a lot more conflict than mine).
  • Posted By: David BergLike, I dunno, does Sorcerer start as a toy and then become a game when players finish their Kickers and the GM finishes his R-Map?
    I think what John's saying is that since Sorcerer gives you the structure of Kicker-->Bang-->...-->Resolved Kicker then it's definitely not a toy. Since there's a clear game structure in place, it's not a toy, no matter which part of the structure you're on at any given moment.
  • edited November 2010
    Oh man, you guys totally steamrolled it. Ok, I'll try to jump back in.

    Ralph!
    Posted By: ValamirBut Right to Dream is bloody awful as a phrase-fit for Simulationism. Largely because I think the inventor of the phrase understood Simulationism least well of the three.
    But it was Ron's essay that introduced the phrase Right to Dream...
    From what I know about CA history, Story Now and Step on Up were pretty easy to define. What was left was a big hole, and people were trying to find something in there that could be constructed as a constructive, creative agenda. The name of that agenda is Right to Dream, and it has been initially defined by Ron's essay, and later developed further. Ron's essay is not scripture, it was just the first step.
    Simulationism is not defined in the scope of Creative Agenda. I know it was the name early on, but it was subsequently dropped. "Sim" should refer to the old GDS. When we're talking about the big model, Right to Dream is the correct phrase. Likewise, I personally find Narrativism to be a wholly confusing and wrong term for Story Now play. I think it doesn't describe Story Now at all. So, let's forget GNS.

    And if we're talking about GDS "simulationism", that's something else entirely, yeah?

    Furthermore...
    The other impulse is what I consider to be the actual Simulationist Impulse. I find your description of Right to Dream to include what is often meant by the phrase RtD...but I find it completely incompatable (I'd say even diametrically opposed to) Simulationism.

    Simulationism is inherently dynamic. To be simulationist play you have to be willing to let go of your starting assumptions and follow play where it leads. You don't force play to lead to dramatic decisions, but you'd also never eschew them should they arise organically. You don't fudge dice just because you don't like result, but neither are your decisions driven by min maxing the mechanics. You recognize the mechanics as being the "impartial hand of the universe" (ideally optimized to for the universe you are simulating) and let the chips fall where they may.
    I would need more info but what you describe sounds to me like either functional old-school zilchplay (agenda-less) or Right to Dream that favours the setting. You say the mechanics need to be "ideally optimized for the universe you are simulating". Ok, great, let's say the universe is one of superheroes, or perhaps Alice in Wonderland? Then if the mechanics don't "simulate" that experience you will throw them out of the window, or fudge, right? Hence, I think that's very likely (but not necessarily) Right to Dream. Getting the universe right is our priority.
    A better phrase-fit for Simulationism would be "What would it be like", which I've often shortened to "What if" as in "What would it be like to play an exhiled Elf Lord in Tolkien's Middle Earth" and "What if this Elf knew a secret that would greatly aid the Fellowship but no one would trust him due his past". I've likened Simulationism to a wind up toy. Getting the set up just right is essential (like setting up a chemistry experiment) but then you have to let play run its course as it happens (again much like a chemistry experiment).
    But:
    1. Creative Agenda is something that only happens in concrete instances of play, over time. Deciding on a setup or setting or situation doesn't make it an agenda. I could just as easily play Story Now in the "what ifs" you describe.
    2. Since CA requires a prolonged, active investment on part of the players during the game, "What would it be like to play an Elf in Middle Earth" becomes the agenda. We keep the facts that this is an elf in middle earth sacrosanct. What do Middle Earth elves do? That's what he does. What does it mean for a Middle Earth elf to be exiled? That's what happens to him. If you leave those parameters, you break from the agenda (if there was one in the first place).
    The reason I find this sort of play largely incompatable with the Right to Dream, is because the Dream in such play is not what's sacrosanct. In true Simulationist Star Wars play it would be completely acceptable for Luke Skywalker to die while failing to blow up the Death Star...thereby completely altering the "Dream" of what play in that Universe will look like from that point forward.
    What's the "What if" here? Like, if this was an actual game, what would be the "What if?" drive with which we entered play?

    I think this is the crucial question, so even if you skip the rest, please answer this.
    Interestingly, for my own formulation of this portion of the Big Model, I put what you've described as the Right to Dream at the Exploration level and defined it as pure explanation without any further Creative Agenda. I.e. Exploration sans any trace of Story Now, Step on Up, or What If. So in away...it does become "Exploration Squared". i.e. Exploration with a Creative Agenda of more Exploration. Which is consistant with how the Right to Dream is described in the Big Model, but not compatable with what I believe the actual Simulationist agenda really should be.

    Gregor, I'd love to hear more about the perceived inadequacy of Right to Dream as Exploration Squared, as that's where my formulation puts it.
    Ok, sure. Two analogies I like: jamming with a band and hiking.

    Jamming: "All gaming is exploration" is almost like saying "All music is making sounds". Exploration Squared would be "let's make double the sounds!" or (less snark-ily) "let's make sounds for their own sake". Then I start breaking a beat, you start playing classical violin and someone else plays the honkey tonk. And we look at each other like "what the hell?". "Let's explore" is not enough to constitute a creative agenda, we got to get a groove together. There's something missing.

    Hiking: So let's go hiking in the open country. We've never been here, we're exploring. Each step we take reveals a new patch of land, we're going into the unknown. So what's exploration for exploration's sake here? Just running around, each in his own direction, to see if we fall into any holes? Mapping the territory inch by inch, drawing intricate maps? You need to explore something, right? If we're doing "double exploration" we still need an object of our exploration. That's why exploration in itself cannot constitute an agenda, in my eyes. "Exploration Squared" is not an agenda.

    So what are we exploring? Our own hiking skills, seeing how far we can go or if we can climb that mountain, testing limits, figuring out which shoes work best for what occasions? Step on Up.
    Are we exploring what happens to people like us, stuck together out here? Where will our passions drive us, and how will we act in untenable situations? Story Now.
    Are we exploring the world, seeing how it works? Or our role as hikers? Or hiking to affirm our friendship? Right to Dream.

    Now, watch it, the world doesn't exist. We need to maintain it and preserve it. The object of our exploration is the world, then the world is the dream, we must keep it real. Our role as hikers? What do hikers do? That's what we'll do. We won't throw trash on the ground or pick wild flowers. There are conventions and rules about what's appropriate. Affirming our friendship - we're friends on a journey, that's what we're doing. I won't stab you because you took my chocolate beans. I won't push you down when we try to climb that hill and I won't try to be first in line to fight the bear when he comes to eat our lunch.

    So, exploration, yes, but there's always exploration. For Right to Dream exploration the agenda is not "exploration" but rather keeping certain elements in check, censoring what we don't like or is intruding in whatever our dream is and supporting what we find to be right for the dream. That's the agenda. That's what we do at the table, collectively, over a period of time.



    Ok, now to read the rest of the posts...
  • edited November 2010
    John, let me see if I'm reading you right:

    Exploration is a Toy.

    When you add a goal of victory, the Toy becomes a Game, while retaining some Toy-like features.

    When you add a goal of addressing premise, likewise.

    When you add a goal of simulation, or celebrating an aesthetic, or virtual experience, the Toy is still a Toy.

    Is that correct? For Gamism, that makes sense to me. For Narr, it could make sense in theory, but most or all of the purportedly Narr games I've played fail to state both the premise and the criteria for considering it "addressed", which somehow feels still Toy-like to me. Further, I'd guess that many of MLWM's key game-like features (set situation, character goals, end point) could be used in Sim play to make that a Game too.
  • Whoops, David posted before I could, but I just wanted to add this:

    tl;dr: Simulationism as Ralph describes it "resides at the level of exploration". I can totally buy that. Sim can reside at the level of exploration, but it's not a creative agenda. Right to Dream is a creative agenda and requires something more than "just exploration". Can we agree on this?
  • edited November 2010
    Posted By: David BergJohn, let me see if I'm reading you right:

    Exploration is a Toy.

    When you add a goal of victory, the Toy becomes a Game, while retaining some Toy-like features.

    When you add a goal of addressing premise, likewise.

    When you add a goal of simulation, or celebrating an aesthetic, or virtual experience, the Toy is still a Toy.

    Is that correct? For Gamism, that makes sense to me. For Narr, it could make sense in theory, but most or all of the purportedly Narr games I've played fail to state both the premise and the criteria for considering it "addressed", which somehow feels still Toy-like to me. Further, I'd guess that many of MLWM's key game-like features (set situation, character goals, end point) could be used in Sim play to make that a Game too.
    I think I'm reading John right, and I'm agreeing with him vehemently.

    Some game texts add goals or tools to address premise, structure, whatever. That makes them less like toys and more apt to deal with certain agendas.
    "The toy is still a toy" might apply to RtD games, but we still play a game with it. Like, think of children playing in the yard. Someone on here once talked about how he watched children play with a hose in the summer. At one point, someone said "You can't go behind the tree!"

    Sure, the hose was a toy, the whole yard was a toy, but it was a game. "You can't go behind the tree!" is us playing a game with the toys. "Tolkien Elves don't shoot magic fire out of their hands!"
    Luke Skywalker might die, if that's what we agreed on to play, but it was because "The santhulorian fusion-engine shields always explode when hit with a lightsaber!"

    A text that supported a particular Dream would have stuff like "Vampires need to drink blood once per fortnight." or whatever. Does it make less of a toy? Probably maybe. HWCTLH is a great example of the game providing structure to "getting it right".
  • edited November 2010
    Gregor, I think we can agree on how RTD's been defined (below), but I think it's really hard to say whether that's one CA type, or several, or whether it's on the same "level" as Gamism or Narrativism. The same is true of "What if?" Sim.

    Exploration is prioritized as Right to Dream precisely when:
    a) the constraints on player contributions to the SIS are dictated by the players' reference to a package of shared input-material, and
    b) these constraints are the primary criteria in determining player contributions to the SIS, and
    c) the process of dictating constraints is experienced as if the package itself was doing the dictating rather than the players (which is only possible via "constructive denial", wherein the players suppress any awareness that they themselves create the shared package).

    "Reference to a package of shared input-material" is intended as broadly as possible, covering everything from "emulation of how specific fiction looks/feels" to "re-creation of how physics works" to "when you die you wake up in a new universe!" (apparently).
  • Personally I'm content with it being just one CA type, but maybe that's because I'm not all that familiar with actual Right to Dream play (despite the fact most of our games in high school were like that). I'm not going to argue if someone comes up with a convincing argument for splitting it into several, but I haven't seen it yet.

    I do think it is on the same level as the other two agendas, because (if functional) it requires consistent player investment (through affirmation and constructive denial) over a period of play.

    For "what if" games, I think it's very important to ask what the specific "what if" question for each game is. "What if" can be just a setting or situation or colour pitch.

    "What if Cthulhu actually woke and ravaged the earth?" is a way to determine setting/colour and does NOT constitute any specific agenda. I can do Story Now and Step on Up play in that setting. For it to be Right to Dream, we must have the setting as the primary criteria for play and continue to do so.
  • OK, reading some of Gregor's recent comments (in particular #43) have been a definite "lightbulb" moment for me, and have helped me to realise exactly why I've always had a bit of trouble understanding and accepting aspects of the CA model. It's now clear to me that the vast majority of my RPG play is agendaless zilchplay. It was the hiking analogy that really crystallised it, so thanks for that.

    Therefore, other than a passing note that it would be nice if the term for that was a bit less pejorative-sounding, I don't think I have anything to contribute to this discussion and will bow out.
  • Yeah, I think "zilchplay" was coined by a guy pushing how awesome CAs were. I'd happily use a good alternative term...
  • edited November 2010
    Posted By: GrymbokTherefore, other than a passing note that it would be nice if the term for that was a bit less pejorative-sounding
    You mean Right to Dream? From what I know it was chosen precisely it wasn't pejorative, but as evidenced, that didn't help. So I wish we could find names for these agendas that weren't so charged, but it seems like a hopeless venture.

    EDIT: Oh. Bummer.
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