Anyone trained in Music theory? Need some education for some game theory!

Hello the boards!

I'm working on some game theory that I would like to share with you all soon. But I need some help regarding music theory. I have no training at all so instruction anyone would be willing to share would be deeply appreciated.

Contact me via PM so we don't drag these boards waaaaaaay of topic.

Thank you in advance!

Best,

Silmenume

Comments

  • Sent you a PM!
  • Likewise.
  • edited January 2019
    There have been some really cool discussions about this topic on these forums before, if I remember correctly, so a Google search might pull up some interesting info for you, Silmenume.
  • Yeah.
    I think story and music are closer related than story and game.
  • Yeah, that's not entirely untrue.
  • For me, roleplaying and music improvisation are very closely related.
  • Hi @Jeff_Slater
    There have been some really cool discussions about this topic on these forums before, if I remember correctly, so a Google search might pull up some interesting info for you, Silmenume.
    You've peaked my interest but I'm not sure what keywords would be helpful in such a search. If you would be so kind as to list just a couple of helpful keywords I should be ever so grateful!

    Best,

    Jay
  • As @Paul_T can attest I've been promulgating the thesis that a certain Agenda of play is what I've been calling "Semiotic Jazz." When I first made my OP on this thread he took the time to give me a thumbnail sketch of an education on Improvisational Jazz. Thanks, again, Paul! You're the best!

    I'll have to withhold judgment if all CA's are akin to improvisational music or not until I'm better read up, but I would tentatively posit that Nar is more closely aligned to composing music than improvisation. I couldn't even begin to guess where Gamism fits in but I'll chalk that up more to my own ignorance than to say anything about how Gamism functions.

    I know this analogy is not new as I read a very interesting (for me at least) thread back on the Forge about music and text some 10-15 years ago.

    @Nathan_H
    I think story and music are closer related than story and game.
    I'm probably completely misreading you on this so correct me if am, but as I reading your statement statement both story and music are both composed and completed "things" whereas a game is a process. Let me know if I've done damage to your intended meaning.

    Best,

    Jay
  • You're very welcome, Jay!

    (Although I don't follow your idea that "Nar is more closely aligned to composing music than improvisation". Certainly, at least in Ron's conceptualization of it, the present, the "Now", the in-the-moment aspect of Narrativism - Story NOW, after all - was kind of the point. And Ron used the "rock band" analogy for Story Now constantly; it worked very well to convey his ideal vision of play, at least from his perspective.)

    Overall, I do think that the story/music analogy holds water on a number of levels - creating something which has a beginning, middle, and end, follows certain "rules" for how to achieve maximum effect (but breaks those rules occasioanally, also for effect), and so forth.

    The specific analogy of jazz improvisation to GMed roleplaying is pretty imperfect, in my opinion (it only holds at a very high level), but some aspects of it are pretty strong and make for good analogies or metaphors.
  • Hi Paul,
    (Although I don't follow your idea that "Nar is more closely aligned to composing music than improvisation". Certainly, at least in Ron's conceptualization of it, the present, the "Now", the in-the-moment aspect of Narrativism - Story NOW, after all - was kind of the point. And Ron used the "rock band" analogy for Story Now constantly; it worked very well to convey his ideal vision of play, at least from his perspective.)
    I don't recall the "rock bank" analogy so if you would kindly find me at least one link I should go about educating myself on that topic.

    Let me clarify my thought process regarding composing as opposed to improvising music. Consider this analogy. We have a "band". The noises coming from the employment of the instruments is what we'll call the "music" which by analogy is the CA is process. In much Nar game design and play the actual "music" is often stopped so that decisions can be made about "where" the music will go next. Scene framing, setting stakes and fallout, etc. All that process is not "music" but meta level decisions about where we want to go with our music. IOW a process where composers are considering where they want to go next before they get back to playing their instruments. Still very much creative but not improvisational. In fact just the opposite of improvisational. It is a considered, methodical process to create a complete piece of music that works very hard to make sure it is thematically unified. A composed piece of music.

    It is Story Now because all sorts of discussions are held to make sure the process stays on track. But what it is not is Story Continuously because of the meta level discussions and processes that take place where story is not actually being created. This must happen if the goal is to create a thematically unified story. Thus by analogy much effort is put into the act of making sure the music, when it is actually being played, employs musical "premise question" being explored.

    This is why I propose the Nar process is much closer to compositional than improvisational. From what I understand Improvisational Jazz doesn't take these breaks to discuss where the music is going to go. I truly happens in the NOW, come hell or high water, mistakes and all wherever it goes.

    My 2 cents anyway.

    Best,

    Jay
  • The very first hit I get on Google is this. I haven't read it, though!

    http://www.indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=4988.0
  • On the subject of improvised vs. composed, as an analogy, I'm not sure. You seem to be making the argument that more "meta-discussion" or out-of-character dialogue is what makes a game "less spontaneous".

    I can see that, from a certain perspective. (Although I see absolutely no reason why the level of meta-discussion or negotiation has, in any way, to be connected to the CA mode in effect. That seems like a gross error in looking at how people, in my opinion, unless the *pace* of play is the focus and the goal, rather than a larger concern like CA.)

    On the other hand, it seems to me that most "Story Now" games are far more spontaneous and unpredictable (largely due to the variety of inputs, both from the players and from the system) than the kind of play you're describing in your Semiotic Jazz experiences (where the GM has a strong sense of control over the narrative, and can take liberties to bring about a certain string of events - that's far closer to pre-plotting, in my experience, than most Story Now games, particularly GMless ones.)

    So I'm really not sure what to make of that claim/position. At best, it sounds very odd to me.
  • Here's Ron on "bass playing", which is his analogy for proper GMing technique in (at least his view, at the time, of) Narrativist gaming, from the link above.
    None of this is playing bass. [...] I mean, literally, that the GM does not determine the actions of the characters which decisively resolve the conflicts at hand. He does not write or play the song.

    Here's the big therefore:

    Many GMs think they play bass but in reality are playing a Moog synthesizer, permitting the players to chime in on pennywhistles. Sure, the players have "freedom" to toot their hearts out, but they can't contribute much to the communicative space in terms of presence or content.

    Many GMs act as orchestral conductors, laying out the sheet music and organizing who goes when, keeping everyone all in the same song with its content all laid out.

    Many GMs simply oversee a lot of cacophony, but operating "the board," which is to say, editing, increasing and decreasing volumes, rearranging the order of things, adding, sweetening, and so on.

    Many GMs seem to play bass, but whenever it's time for a solo, they'll grab the instruments away and play them themselves, or stand behind the player and move his or her fingers for them.
    His use of this analogy goes way back, and was pretty central to his formulation of Story Now from the start.

    Amusing, isn't it? :)
  • I think the improvisational versus compositional aspect, the way it's explained in this thread, is more about technical agenda than CA. I actually 100% agree that, for example, pausing to discuss things at the table level frequently, before diving back into actually playing out scenes, is somewhat analogous to the act of writing notes on a page and *then* playing them.

    Also, Gamism is emo-ska. Do not question this. :wink:

    Matt


  • @Nathan_H
    I think story and music are closer related than story and game.
    I'm probably completely misreading you on this so correct me if am, but as I reading your statement statement both story and music are both composed and completed "things" whereas a game is a process. Let me know if I've done damage to your intended meaning.

    Best,

    Jay
    You've done damage to my intended meaning. I think game is as composed as story is, but it's goals are just different. I mean, it has as much form as a story does. Story just has different desires, and probably perspectives? I mean if story and game were sentient things, which they might be? I mean, who am I to say that ideas aren't living/dying things?
    I think story gives circular patterns twists, while game treats them as repetition, rhythm of play.

    I mean music often has a recurring theme, and story does as well.
    I think story just has a different perspective - it attempts to teach through distilling, enchanting, and expanding the mundane, the small made larger.
    Game distills the big themes to very small, manageable portions. In Pandemic, diseases are cubes. In life, disease touches people we love. Game takes a real distanced, zoomed-out, clinical approach. Story complicates. Story is more like dice than game. But it's certainly more like music, than game.

  • edited February 2019
    Hi Matt,
    I think the improvisational versus compositional aspect, the way it's explained in this thread, is more about technical agenda than CA. I actually 100% agree that, for example, pausing to discuss things at the table level frequently, before diving back into actually playing out scenes, is somewhat analogous to the act of writing notes on a page and *then* playing them.

    ...

    Matt
    Just so that everyone can better understand what I was attempting to say Matt has neatly summarized what I was trying to get at.

    I will respond to the others who took time to post.

    Best,

    Jay

    PS -
    Also, Gamism is emo-ska. Do not question this. :wink:
    I ... will ... not ... question ... :wink:
  • edited February 2019
    Exactly. If we're talking about pace of play (and a focus on spontaneous decision making) then I agree 100%.

    For example, in two other threads we were recently discussing the use of ritual phrases like Archipelago's "try a different way", which, in a sense, could be seen as a writing/editing tool.

    However, one could also argue that using a tool like this could break a group OUT of familiar patterns and deliberate story directions, opening up the game to more spontaneity and creativity.

    And there are definitely parallels to this kind of thing in jazz improvisation, for what it's worth. Methodical constraints, repetition, deliberate error, and other techniques are often used to break improvisers out of familiar ground and into more spontaneous, less rehearsed territory. The "but only if..." phrase used in Polaris might be a sort of roleplaying equivalent to that.

    I don't see that the use of these techniques has anything to do with larger concerns like CA, however. At least not yet!


  • I ... will ... not ... question ... :wink:
    Now that is wise!

  • Transparency: While Paul is an accomplished jazz musician, I'm an at best-semi-accomplished classically trained composer. I have studied jazz, and love jazz, and have even written pieces intended to be played with improvised solos, but have mostly written and performed pieces that are intended to be played "note by note."
  • Hi Paul,

    While I agree that jazz as opposed to "compositional" play would affect the pacing, that is most certainly not what I am getting. I'm talking about the difference between trying to stay in the SIS as much as is possible as opposed to abstracting upwards out of the SIS to talk about what should/ought/could/ought not/etc. happen in the SIS.

    Unless one is playing abashed Narr, a coherently designed Narr facilitating game will have mechanics designed to impose structure on the SIS from outside the SIS. It is the only way to maintain focus on the Premise Question consistently. These meta level "discussions" are by way of analogy to music those moments when the instruments are put down, the music stops and the musicians talk about where they want the next piece of the composition to go. This is not to imply they are writing everything out note for note and then playing off the sheet music but rather that higher order decisions are being made verbally about the structure of song before going back to playing the instruments.

    I set this up in contrast to where "jazz" where to flow of the "improvisation" is derived, not imposed during play. Sure one chooses the standard and constructs the chordal progression but during the actual performance a soloist just does not stop playing his instrument, look at the other musicians and say, "You know this isn't working for me. I think we should all take this to another key." Unless I'm completely mistaken (a distinct possibility!) the art and craft of improv jazz is the doing of it on the fly. Much of the frisson comes from not only daring to make the creative choice in the moment but doing so in an aesthetically pleasing fashion.

    This distinction between imposed and derived structure parallels my thesis regarding deterministic and nondeterministic mechanics.

    One has posited that such thinking is really a discussion about a technical agenda. I don't even know what a technical agenda is. Would someone please be so kind as to offer up a definition for me, please? (Thank you in advance!)

    Semiotic Jazz (I won't use the 3rd agenda's name as apparently the mere utterance of it causes pandemonium :wink: ) sits orthogonal to G/N precisely because its structure is derived from within and not imposed upon (thus purposefully and mindfully avoiding abstracting out of the SIS as a goal of the play process) which priority is strongly supported by a mechanical system that is nondeterministic as opposed to deterministic. I also assert that the GM in SJ is purposely subjective and not attempting to be objective. The key is that the GM in SJ doesn't play sheet music (IOW there is no pre-programmed scenario that must be followed) nor does he dominate the solos playing only what he has in mind ignoring the play of the other soloists. This is why the GM cannot be "objective" but rather must be deeply "subjective" as he must respond to the creativity of the other soloists. I also recognize that it can never be 100% SIS talk only. Telling a player to roll is just such an example of abstracting out of the SIS. The key to SJ is that as we are deriving the structure and meaning from the flow of play in the SIS we strive to minimize any discussions about the SIS as a priority of play.
    For example, in two other threads we were recently discussing the use of ritual phrases like Archipelago's "try a different way", which, in a sense, could be seen as a writing/editing tool.
    I would certainly classify it as such. It most certainly is not a bricolage technique. In fact it stands in direct opposition to the very nature of bricolage.
    However, one could also argue that using a tool like this could break a group OUT of familiar patterns and deliberate story directions, opening up the game to more spontaneity and creativity.
    I suppose it could, but at the cost of seriously harming the art of bricolage. One of the strongest tenets of bricolage is that it is an additive only process. There is no editing or undoing. I will have to argue that my play experiences have been very narrow, but in all the years of I've been playing in my current group we've never talked about "story" or "story direction" because there is no pre-existing "adventurers' story." There is no story as a separate entity from the character. If we want to do something with a character we set about trying to make it happen - within the constraints of the Character and Setting. If I have to stop role-playing to explain to the GM what I'm attempting to do then I've failed as a role-player.

    Usually the problem of lack of spontaneity or creativity results in a character's death or other serious negative consequences to the world. The vast majority of sessions we play have Kobayashi Maru moments where there is no good answer, but to fail to act at all is fairly lethal for someone. Hell, there's been times that no matter what you did someone was going to take a dirt nap. Yet...yet...even here sometimes someone would really pull something out and the whole table would cheer and whoop and holler. That energy just would not exist if there was a "try a different way" out.

    I'm going to stop here because I've been wandering all over the map. If there's anything worth discussing then, yay! If not, sorry to waste everyone's time.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Since this thread is at least partially about music and music theory, I should mention that this dilemma is a very common one for any kind of improvised art form. This goes for improv comedy, human conversations in general (!), and certainly goes for improvised jazz. When we're improvising, how much constraints and how much structure are we willing to impose in the first place?

    The fewer constraints we impose, the more "free" and spontaneous we are. However, in exchange, we lose consistency, structure, form, and predictability. This isn't something we can find a "right answer" to, but something we play with, all the time, tip-toeing this way and that.

    For instance, if you go on a first date with someone, or have a job interview, you'll likely struggle with it: do you go and "wing it" entirely, or do you mentally prepare some "talking points"? Does making a list of "three things I need to make sure to mention during the interview" remove spontaneity and make you less honest, or will it help you focus and get better results? Which is more important to you?

    The exact same dilemma exists in roleplaying, which is largely an improvised conversation, just like talking to someone or playing jazz. These are all good analogues, in my opinion.

    A jazz performance, just like a job interview, happens in "real time", and everything you do and say "counts". There is rarely any chance to "take that back" (although there are some), and keeping a live pace is part of the thrill. However, preparing or presetting some elements of that experience beforehand is always a part of maintaining its quality.

    To say that this plays a role in the fundamental goal of the activity itself is likely misleading, in my opinion. Just like there will be jazz groups which prize spontaneity more than others, there will be roleplaying groups which prepare more or less before playing. I don't believe that this means, in any way, that they are engaged in fundamentally different activities.

    For instance, the whole idea of improvising over a standard, which is what happens in most jazz performance, is pretty far to the "prepared" end of the spectrum, compared to truly free improvisation (and proponents of the more "free" scene scoff at more mainstream jazz musicians as being stuck in a rut and unwilling to really, truly improvise in the moment - if you're using the form, melody, consistent rhythmic grid, and harmonic progression of a jazz standard, they might say, you've decided on most of the most important elements of the music before you even started to play, so how can you call that "spontaneous" or "improvised"?).

    I can well imagine that maintaining a certain pace of play instead of considering decisions carefully is a hallmark of your game, Jay. But is there some reason that you think that if you, as a group, decided to play in a more deliberated manner (let's say, for instance, that your GM occasionally started saying, "You know what? I have to think about this. Give me a few moments here... [pause] Ok, here's what happens: ...") that you would actually be engaged in an entirely different type of activity? I mean, you'd still have the same characters, the same situations, the same stories, the same decisions, the same sense of discovery and exploration, the same themes, the same play priorities, and the same sort of "bricolage" and resonant imaginary creation, wouldn't you?

    If not, then why do you accept some limitations (as you say, stopping to say "time to roll the dice", rolling, announcing the result, and so forth works against this idea) but not others?

    (Incidentally, that's more or less what "technical agenda" means: that you *prefer* playing using specific techniques - in this case, we're discussing a style of play where you have to make decisions quickly and aren't given room to consider them or revise them - and make that a priority. It's about placing a high priority on the "how" - "how we do this". But it's different from Creative Agenda, which answers a "why" rather than a "how".

  • I basically agree that "Technical Agenda" is the "how" to Creative Agenda's "why." The reason I'm kind of obsessed with it is because I think many of the arguments from trad gamers against Forgite games are actually about TA, not CA.

    A lot of the early, influential Forge games require the whole play group to act in ways that, traditionally, would be more akin to GMing. This is explicit in, say, Polaris, but it's present even in GM'd games like PrimeTime Adventures or Burning Wheel. There are many times in those game's procedures where you *have* to break character / break out of the SIS, trad gamers don't like that, and ended up concluding they didn't like Narrativism. But give them Apocalypse World, and they'll have a really good time.

    To bring it back to music: this phenomenon is sort of like (or perhaps the inverse of) how lots of people think they "don't like modern classical," but there are a ton of pieces you could play for them that they'd enjoy. The thing is, some of the more "out there" 20th century composers don't just use different harmonic structures than familiar composers like, say, Tchaikovsky (i.e., serialism instead of tonality), they also were *aiming* at a completely different type of relationship to the music for the listener.
  • edited February 2019
    I have some understanding of music theory but would say there are aspects of it I also struggle to understand. I learned it taking guitar and piano growing up, and did a few college courses on it here or there. But I would say I would more of a musician who knew a bit of theory, than someone with any deep mastery of it. Still I have some thoughts.

    One thing I would say off the bat is, if you haven't already (since I don't know your background), apply what you are learning about music to an actual instrument (even if it is just a keyboard on your iPhone). That way when someone talks about intervals or any other basic component, you know what it means and why it is important. You could end up understanding a concept but not really know what it means in practical terms. I think music theory in a vacuum could easily be misunderstood.

    Another thing is I would recommend checking out channels on youtube like Rick Beato or 12tone, or TJR (who I think often does a good job of putting music theory into very practical terms and also provides a boots on the ground critique of music theory based criticisms, this video I particularly liked ). There are plenty of other channels. I subscribe to about 15 or 20 on youtube, but these are the ones I regularly find myself tuning into. There are a few others that I'd like to recommend but having trouble finding them in my subscription list at the moment. You might want to check out a channel called Polyphonic.

    One thing I would say if you are trying to do something like construct a theory of gaming or a method for gaming improv based on aspects of music theory: Music theory is notoriously complex, hard to understand and has a learning curve. I know lots of musicians who struggle (myself included) to understand different parts of music theory. There is a famous meme floating around where a rocket scientists is looking at baffled students and says "Hey this isn't music theory". There is a reason that is funny. So if you employ this method, I would just say you should know you may devising something that will have an equally steep learning curve and probably isn't going to click with your everyday gamer. Just to give an example, it took me years before I really understood what a mode was. Wish it didn't. Wish I understood the concept right away. But despite regular lessons, regular playing, socializing with other musicians and reading books on the subject, it took me ages to internalize the information (and I am often struck that other guitarists I meet have a hard time explaining what a mode is versus a scale).
  • Excellent point, Bedrockbrendan.

    I find it's important to make this distinction even with advanced musicians: simply reading about the theory on paper ("in theory", so to speak) can be misleading and doesn't really allow you to understand or internalize the concept. You MUST put the theory into practice, to feel, hear, and experience it outside of the abstract. Play around with it, see how it feels and sounds, test it for yourself.

    It's not too different in that respect from any other artform, of course. You can read about "rising action" in a dramatic theory book, but if you've never actually felt and identified how it takes place in, say, a powerful film, you don't really understand what you're reading about. Trying to create that sense in a film you're making yourself will further take your understanding of the concept to yet a higher level.

    I've always had an easy time with music theory - it's probably the *easiest* part of learning and practicing music for me - so I don't always appreciate how tricky that can be for others. However, having said that, I also feel that people tend to explain things in a very poor way: for instance, the concept of a mode is hardly a complex one, and shouldn't take ages to understand. People tend to do a terrible job of explaining concepts, in my experience. I have successfully taught several years' worth of theory courses to students in a matter of a few days, so I have at least somewhat of a good track record in that regard. (I've also taught a few young children - total beginners - and found they had no trouble understanding university-level music theory, which was a fun discovery!)
  • Excellent point, Bedrockbrendan.

    I find it's important to make this distinction even with advanced musicians: simply reading about the theory on paper ("in theory", so to speak) can be misleading and doesn't really allow you to understand or internalize the concept. You MUST put the theory into practice, to feel, hear, and experience it outside of the abstract. Play around with it, see how it feels and sounds, test it for yourself.

    It's not too different in that respect from any other artform, of course. You can read about "rising action" in a dramatic theory book, but if you've never actually felt and identified how it takes place in, say, a powerful film, you don't really understand what you're reading about. Trying to create that sense in a film you're making yourself will further take your understanding of the concept to yet a higher level.

    I've always had an easy time with music theory - it's probably the *easiest* part of learning and practicing music for me - so I don't always appreciate how tricky that can be for others. However, having said that, I also feel that people tend to explain things in a very poor way: for instance, the concept of a mode is hardly a complex one, and shouldn't take ages to understand. People tend to do a terrible job of explaining concepts, in my experience. I have successfully taught several years' worth of theory courses to students in a matter of a few days, so I have at least somewhat of a good track record in that regard. (I've also taught a few young children - total beginners - and found they had no trouble understanding university-level music theory, which was a fun discovery!)

    For me music theory was a struggle but I liked classical music and felt I needed to master enough of it to bring that into what I was doing. I eventually got to a point where I could read music pretty well and write notation, and where many of the key concepts resonated enough that I could use them in composition, but my style was I think still very much from the hip. I also discovered music theory has a use it or lose it quality. I didn't keep up with reading notation, and I tried to record a version of the Funeral March of Queen Mary (the theme song from A Clockwork Orange) using sheet music and not only was it slow going, but I was forgetting basic things like how the key signature was expressed (and this led to three or so notes consistently being wrong--which was bad because I was recording multiple guitar tracks doing the harmonies). My main point here is just to demonstrate the difficulty this model is going to bring to the table. Music theory is very effective, you can reliably use it to make good sounding music. But it takes a long time for many people to understand, and its meaning can slip if you allow it.

    I think the key is, for some people, music theory is like math. And not everyone is mathematically oriented. So I think some people just take time no matter what. I was always someone who excelled at composition, certain kinds of playing, but didn't have a good mind for things like complex time signatures. Still the instructor does matter. I had great teachers, and part of it was finding the right teacher for my way of thinking about music). Basically the trick was, he figured out the melodies in popular music I was listening to most closely resembled classical. It was very easy for me to start on sheet music using bach and using classical scales, then building from there. Prior to him, I had a jazz instructor who I just couldn't see eye to eye with (to this day I can't stand stand jazz---modern jazz--or reggae because of the hours I spent playing it with him).

    I also have some reservation here the OP might want to contemplate. In music theory it is very easy to see the results in practice. I can tell very quickly that playing a scale or mode over a certain key signature or chord sounds 'right'. I can also tell pretty quickly that adding a minor chord will change the mood into a darker direction. Your ear instantly hears that two notes, or three notes played together are harmonious. In gaming it might be much harder to measure the results immediately and know if you are on to something (and you might find even more differences of opinion about whether the result is harmonious).
  • : for instance, the concept of a mode is hardly a complex one, and shouldn't take ages to understand. People tend to do a terrible job of explaining concepts, in my experience.
    If you have an easy way to explain it I am all ears. I am sure part of it is the way it has been explained over the years. Honestly maybe this isn't your experience as an instructor, but I come from a very musical family, have been in lots of bands, know lots of musicians who perform professionally (many of whom are family members), and all of them have varying degrees of musical education. But modes is something I constantly hear people say they don't really understand (they can repeat what it means in the text, but if I ask them how it is different from a scale, they have a lot trouble). I feel like jazz musicians seem to understand modes a lot better. But I also feel like jazz musicians are almost a different breed of musician who take to music theory much more naturally for some reason. I remember learning modes under my jazz instructor and feeling like I was doing algebra. I don't think this is due to them being complex. I think people just have trouble pinning down the concept for some reason. I could grasp chords. I could grasp arpeggios. I could grasp scales. But modes were confusing to me. I see it all the time with other guitarists. I consistently ask the mode question and get puzzled responses (and again from people who often have years of experience and plenty of musical education---not berkley but plenty of music lessons and enough theory). I'd be curious if you pushed your students on this, how much they really get it. I found I was able to feign understanding of it for ages until I finally admitted I didn't really get it and needed to understand. I find the same thing with the cycle of fifths (another basic concept but one that just seems to confuse so many people).
  • edited February 2019
    Once again, good observations. I agree with most of that.

    The thing with music theory is that it has very concrete components (e.g. arpeggios) and more loose or abstract components (e.g. tension and resolution). The former are purely mathematical, whereas the latter are much more subjective.

    When we deal with gaming, we tend to deal more with the abstract/subjective, since the "nuts and bolts" tends to have to do with basic human skills we already have, like listening, speech, language/sentence structure, and so forth. That makes it harder to identify and discuss concepts, just like in dramatic theory. (e.g. What does it mean to be a protagonist? Can there be several protagonists? etc.) When we deal with gaming - just like with literature - we are able to jump straight to the more abstract concepts, assuming we are literate adults who understand basics of human interaction, language, storytelling, games, rules, and competition.

    You're absolutely right that music theory is "use it or lose it", which is yet another reason to always find some excuse - any excuse, really! - to put any bit of theory you learn into practice immediately.

    I don't think we need to get into scales and modes on a gaming forum, but the confusion usually lies in that they are overlapping terms. Some uses of the terms will be distinct (e.g. "play the 3rd mode of this scale"), and others will not (the 3rd mode in that example is, itself, a scale... very confusing if you're trying to figure out what the words mean from context, right?). The concepts are not complicated themselves, but the terminology is confusing. Feel free to PM me if you want to chat about it! I enjoyed your thoughts on rpg theory and would be happy to return the favour by answering music questions!

    (How somebody can be confused by the circle of fifths, though, I have no idea. It must have been explained in some strange way to confuse a person! There's nothing tricky at work there.)


  • (How somebody can be confused by the circle of fifths, though, I have no idea. It must have been explained in some strange way to confuse a person! There's nothing tricky at work there.)
    I think because most people got it from things like guitar books that have a very brief definition of it, with a diagram and not much in the way of how you are meant to use it.
  • I'm not sure, but I think leaning into the unknown is important in both.
    Like the verb love, if it lacks bravery, it's shit.
  • @Bedrockbrendan

    Thank you very much for the tips and the YouTube channels! I have already started to watch them. Music has always been a black box phenomena to me and learning a bit about it will be a real treat.

    However, I'm not trying to make the argument that all role-play is akin to music. Several very knowledgeable linguistics doctorates have explained to me over the years that only one CA shares even a reasonable closeness to music and then only one specific type of music. If there are others who see otherwise regarding the whole of the hobby that's a conversation that I will just have to watch and learn as I have neither the knowledge or inclination to add anything useful.

    @Paul_T

    I think we are talking past each other. I made my argument by analogy (which will fall apart under scrutiny as all analogies do) and in broad strokes. My attempt failed as the conversation went almost 180 from what I had intended. Mea maxima culpa.

    Getting back to techniques I was attempting to show how very, very differently Semiotic Jazz operates as compared to G/N. So much so that SJ would like an outlier. To demonstrate this I tried to list a series of techniques that work well for for supporting SJ play that would not work well with G/N.

    FREX - Task Resolution tends to work best with Gamist. Conflict Resolution tends to work best with Narr. SJ works best with non-deterministic mechanics (i.e. neither Task nor Conflict deterministic resolution systems)

    Gamism tends to be best supported by Fortune at the End.
    Narrativism tends to best supported by Fortune in the Middle.
    Today as I was reviewing the earlier posts here and The Forge I realized that the non-deterministic system I was theorizing upon is actually Fortune at the Beginning. I've said many times that we called to roll and we aren't informed just what we are rolling about at all and it hit me that is Fortune at the Beginning.

    The point of Fortune at the End style mechanics is that everything is laid and accounted for before the die is rolled. This supposedly allows for completely objective and deterministic outcome where the DM "can't" be tipping the scales one way or the other. This allows for a "fair" test of the Gamist skills.

    Fortune in the Middle is used so that fallout can be negotiated as informed by the Premise Question. This works very well with Narr but doesn't suit Gamism well at all.

    Fortune in the Beginning supports SJ well because it allows for bricolage to flourish with its unknown consequences. To work FitB has to function in a manner that is akin to Improv Jazz. If people are getting too hung up on Semiotic Jazz I can go back Mythic Bricolage but too many think Viking Eddas or Greek Myths and not the mythic process as described by Claude Levi Strauss and employed by tribal cultures.

    ---------

    To get back to a vital distinction I attempted to make earlier it's the difference between imposed structure and derived structure. Both G/N use imposed structure on play to facilitate CA expression. SJ derives its structure from the source material (the Standard), the group aesthetic, play history, cultural influences, etc. This is no sliding scale. This is a completely different thing. Something so different it's hard to understand and I feel it's worth talking about.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Jay,

    Very interesting business! I apologize if the discussion has gotten away from what you wanted to talk about. That's at least partially my fault, no doubt.

    Your observation on Fortune at the Beginning is interesting. I can see that, from a certain point of view (although I think hardcore Big Model folks would disagree, especially based on how much pre-existing information goes into making the roll in the first place). I think that's definitely worth thinking about!

    There are a few things you're talking about here which I really don't understand. Perhaps you can help clarify:

    However, I'm not trying to make the argument that all role-play is akin to music. Several very knowledgeable linguistics doctorates have explained to me over the years that only one CA shares even a reasonable closeness to music and then only one specific type of music.
    This sounds very strange to me. For instance, what do linguists know about music and roleplaying? How could they make such a claim?

    What exactly did they explain to you, and in what terms? How did they explain it?

    It sounds strange to me, but is clearly an important part of the analogy/picture for you.

    The only part I can really understand is the similarity involved in improvisation - jazz is the music most commonly associated with improvisation, so perhaps they are using those terms somewhat interchangeably?

    [...] I was attempting to show how very, very differently Semiotic Jazz operates as compared to G/N. So much so that SJ would like an outlier. To demonstrate this I tried to list a series of techniques that work well for for supporting SJ play that would not work well with G/N.

    FREX - Task Resolution [...] Conflict Resolution [...] SJ works best with non-deterministic mechanics (i.e. neither Task nor Conflict deterministic resolution systems)

    [...]

    To get back to a vital distinction I attempted to make earlier it's the difference between imposed structure and derived structure. Both G/N use imposed structure on play to facilitate CA expression. SJ derives its structure from the source material (the Standard), the group aesthetic, play history, cultural influences, etc. This is no sliding scale. This is a completely different thing. Something so different it's hard to understand and I feel it's worth talking about.
    I'm not sure I would agree entirely with your statements about particular Techniques (for instance, many/most modern boardgames are clearly focused on competition and use the equivalent of "Fortune in the Middle"-type rules, so there's no reason I can see why a Gamist RPG couldn't use similar mechanics), but I can follow the general gist of what you're saying, which is that you feel this style of play must be supported by a particular set of tools which is quite distinct from other types of roleplaying.

    You are trying to explain how "SJ Play" is "so different it's hard to understand", but - at least for me - you haven't really been able to, without resorting to analogy.

    For example, you say that "SJ derives its structure from the source material (the Standard), the group aesthetic, play history, cultural influences, etc". How is this different from other types of gaming? If I'm using The Shadow of Yesterday's rules to play a campaign inspired by The Three Musketeers, am I doing these same things, or not?

    I think the best way forward is to use concrete examples, which will illustrate far better than any analogy or figurative language.

    What's an example of a moment in play which will look completely different in this style of play, and how would it look different in other styles of roleplaying? What are the Techniques being used, and how are they applied differently by the players? Where is the focus different?

    Your other thread (which is perhaps where your reply should go, if you don't want to draw out the music analogy further, but that's up to you, of course!) has taught us about Spicy Dice (a vital technique, very different from other types of gaming), the intense pace of play, which encourages instinctual decision-making, and the focus on creating output which "resonates" with the source material. All of those could work well in a variety of game styles, it seems to me. So, what else distinguished "SJ" play from, say, my hypothetical Three Musketeers game?

    Again, I think specific, concrete examples should be the way to go. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, and might get us a lot further along than more verbiage (so to speak). (You could also feel free to reference specific moments in the recording you have! Perhaps looking at specific moments would make this even more fruitful.)
  • For instance, what do linguists know about music and roleplaying?
    Lol, we know about everything, unfortunately.
  • edited February 2019
    I apologize if the discussion has gotten away from what you wanted to talk about. That's at least partially my fault, no doubt.
    It's all good! I apologize for my phrasing "I have neither the knowledge or inclination to add anything useful." Rather I should have said that "I have neither the abstract knowledge or an innate predisposition to understanding how music works to add anything useful". If anyone feels that such a topic could bear fruit then by all means discuss it, it's just that I'd either have to bow out of this thread or humbly suggest that it be moved to another where it would be the sole topic and be easily searchable.

    WRT my assertion re: music and a specific CA - below is but an excerpt from an excerpt of a much larger essay presumably for academic publication that I've drawn upon heavily. The material quoted is from this post from the thread On RPGs and Text [LONG]. I included the quote here because I've found that posters almost never follow the link and this (and actually the totality of the posts by Clehrich in the thread) is vital. While in the quote below he talks about RPGs as a whole he does in the thread single out what I've been talking about - SJ (you know, the 3rd CA which shall not be named :wink: ).

    Moderator(s) - if I've broken a rule by direct quoting from another site let me know and I will remove it.
    Without wishing to reduce any more excessively than is unfortunately necessary the complexity of L�vi-Strauss�s many arguments, we might say, with Mircea Eliade, that �[myth as we generally get it is worked-over by lots of scholars of whatever period; we need to get back to the archaic � [[this is a paraphrase not a quote]].]� [3] To put it differently, the sort of myths that we usually think of�Hercules, the Golden Apples, Ragnarok�have been put in a literary form, in fact a relatively fixed form, and thus their original spontaneous nature has to a great extent been lost. If we are to make a serious comparison of what roleplaying games are about to what myth is about, we must set aside this preconception of literariness and move back into the spontaneous. [[....]]

    For this purpose, L�vi-Strauss proposed a little-understood musical analogy. He suggests that there is a kind of spectrum of developmental artistic forms (ones whose performative expressions develop over a span time, as is not the case with painting for example), ranging from music on one end to poetry on the other, with ordinary fiction, literary text that is, somewhere in between and shading toward poetry.

    The first issue here is the relation of the form to language, a central issue for him. Poetry is quite untranslatable; its effects are generated not narratively but in terms of the nature of a specific language itself. The only translation possible is a new poem. Music, however, is not linguistically bounded at all; it means (in whatever sense it may be said to mean) without regard to words, and may in some respects be said to be a universal art-form. At the same time, poetry is ultra-representative, representing not only images and events but also sounds, feelings, concepts, and indeed the totality of its language, and very its boundedness in language is also what allows it to capitalize upon and transcend the ordinary limits of language. Music, however, we might call infra-representative, for apart from some few musical movements that tried to render sound-pictures, music represents through only its own form and cannot generate images or language directly. For this reason music is fully translatable but non-representative, while poetry is untranslatable but supremely representative. Fiction thus stands between, but is closer to poetry, because it leans on language to provide representation. And we may say that fiction is to poetry as myth is to music. (Emphasis added by me, Jay)

    Myth, says L�vi-Strauss, is made up of a series of discrete elements of structure, and is non-representational. Therefore it is almost fully translatable; you only need to know what �sun� means in a given culture to be able to render its relations to other things in the myth; at the same time, the totality of what �sun� means may well be an enormous body of connotations having to do with the daily lives and rituals of the culture. Just as music is non-representational, so too are the signs and structures of myth not �about� what they seem to refer to.

    Second, music runs on structure while poetry runs on words. For example, the musical fugue is about laying out a theme and then putting it in relation to itself through a number of basic transformations that engender great complexity in the procedure. The object of the game of fugue�once an improvisational form, let us remember�is to take this very difficult situation and, through a set of established rules, come to perfect harmony in all voices. Poetry is not about this at all, says L�vi-Strauss. The point of poetry is to manipulate words and meanings, not structures; the structures are used to generate meaning, not as an end in themselves. In music, one can start with a meaning, but the logic of how the piece plays out is about rules. In poetry, rules are made to be broken and challenged.

    Myth, says L�vi-Strauss, is again more like music than poetry. It plays with structure. The objects and events of myth are structural, not meaningful in the representational sense. The myth-teller proposes a difficult problem, not unlike the theme with variations in the fugue, and then he runs with that problem, drawing in everything he knows of the culture that seems to fit structurally�and regardless of apparent meaning in an ordinarily narrative sense�until he has resolved the problem coherently.

    One effect of all this that does not seem to interest L�vi-Strauss (though he does not deny it at all) but is very relevant to our purposes with roleplaying games is that music and myth are naturally performed or improvised forms, bounded by rules, while fiction and poetry are naturally inscribed and revised forms. The novel or poem strives for perfection as itself, an object, a totality. Music and myth strive to be workings-through of something, and are in many respects non-repeatable. Two great performances of a musical work will vary a great deal; this is called interpretation. Two copies of Ulysses are identical.
    Later in the thread the author very clearly argues that Narr is NOT myth. I cannot state strongly enough that due to my near complete incompetence/ignorance with music that before anyone wishes to refute my thesis please, Please, PLEASE read at least the first 3 pages of the thread linked above.

    Best,

    Jay
  • For instance, what do linguists know about music and roleplaying?
    Lol, we know about everything, unfortunately.
    At least, they believe they do.
  • edited February 2019
    Jay,

    That quote is quite interesting. At least, it explains to me why linguistics is relevant to our discussion, and where that comment was coming from. (For what it's worth, I studied Linguistics for a while in University, and it did help give me a sense that I might know a lot more than I thought I did before! ;) )

    However, I am quite leery of using philosophical discussion of the nature or myth, meaning, and art to try to derive any useful or practical techniques for roleplaying. Many of the statements in that quote are so abstract that it's hard for me to even know whether I agree with them or not (especially the phrase you bolded, for example).

    I think we would get a lot further by talking about concrete elements of roleplaying, and shortcut a lot of potentially fascinating but ultimately distracting philosophical discussion. (For example, music notation is not that different from a written poem. Two copies of Ullyses are identical, sure, but so are two copies of Beethoven 5th Symphony, or Duke Ellington's Harlem. I'd rather avoid this kind of debate over minor, and, ultimately, unimportant points, when what we are interested in discussing is roleplaying.)

    So, what can we get from that excerpt?

    What I'm getting from that quote is that the unique element of the type of play we're trying to discuss is analogous to creating mythology.

    In other words, that we might use the structure and nature of myth to inform our roleplaying.

    Is that in line with what you're trying to say here?

    Looking at Lajos Egri's dramatic theory helped inform a whole school of Narrativist play and design, so perhaps there's something to that. It certainly fits well in the Tolkien context, since Tolkien was pretty explicit that this was what he was trying to do.

    (A question to consider later, though, might be: does that mean that there is no way to play Semiotic Jazz with a non-mythological type of story/fiction/material? That seems oddly limiting. I don't see why a play-through of Fiasco couldn't be seen as Semiotic Jazz, for example. But perhaps it's key to understanding this.)
  • I think we would get a lot further by talking about concrete elements of roleplaying, and shortcut a lot of potentially fascinating but ultimately distracting philosophical discussion.
    For what it's worth, the whole rest of that thread is really enlightening about just WHY this allegedly matters for roleplaying. It's a doozy but I think it's one of the best threads I've ever read from The Forge.
    What I'm getting from that quote is that the unique element of the type of play we're trying to discuss is analogous to creating mythology.
    Myth, at least as Chris is deploying it in the Levi-Straussian sense, is (and I paraphrase a good bit) about ordering and structuring the universe. About explaining what can and can't go together and why, and things like that. This is something that game mechanics are often deployed to accomplish, and something that is at the heart of a certain popular definition of SIM play (the "physics engine" approach).

    Which, I mean, I think sort of ties back into the idea that SIM play is about privileging Exploration--in the physics engine (and maybe the Myth) approach, that is often very much Exploration of System, about play as a way of exploring or explaining the system of relations by which we understand the world.

    The Knight Slays the Dragon. Can the Tailor also Slay the Dragon? Is that a valid substitution? Are Knight and Tailor the same thing? What does their fungibility or lack thereof tell us about Knights, Tailors, Dragons, and Slaying?

    The core mechanical conceits of a game, the categories that we choose to represent things in game terms, are mythemes, the building blocks of myth. The Medusa and the Basilisk both force me to roll the same type of saving throw. To Intimidate, to Soothe, and to Deceive all function off the same ability score (and whether or not that ability score represents physical attractiveness as well is hotly contested for reasons that are important to this kind of inquiry).
  • Ah! That's interesting, thanks. That moves us quite far away from music analogies, as far as I can see, but I like the potential applications to Sim play. If anyone else wants to chime in with insights from the longer thread, I'd love to hear them - I'm unlikely to get too far with that thread myself anytime soon.
  • That moves us quite far away from music analogies
    Not as far away as it might seem! One of the key points of Levi-Strauss's investigation is that myth in non-literature cultures still retains this kind of myth in the ways that they tell them, but that it was something that was lost in things like the myths we know today (the Greek Myths and whatnot) as they were merged with the artistic forms of written language and fundamentally changed.

    And jazz - or at least free jazz, anyway, maybe; the "freer" kinds of jazz, perhaps? (I have a minor background in free/improvisational noise and the like, but I know very little about formal/popular analyses and theories of jazz) - is like that, it is sonic expression and performance unbounded by the same rules of musical composition that we use to create and subsequently judge music that isn't performed or experienced spontaneously.

    One of the things I think is most interesting about Chris Lehrich's analysis of SIM and Myth is that he thinks it is a yearning to create myth, but also apparently fails at it(?). I might have to read through that whole thing again to try to figure out why, or even if, that's relevant (it doesn't necessarily follow that SIM play is actually a failure at itself, after all).
  • edited April 2019
    Hi Paul,
    However, I am quite leery of using philosophical discussion of the nature or myth, meaning, and art to try to derive any useful or practical techniques for roleplaying. Many of the statements in that quote are so abstract that it's hard for me to even know whether I agree with them or not (especially the phrase you bolded, for example).
    I'm apologize that my theorizing leaves you so non-plussed. I will try to include more concrete examples in the future, but my purpose is to understand what SJ is and how it functions. Examples absolutely do make good illustrations of an idea but in themselves do not provide an overarching framework of understanding. IOW we need a theoretical framework if we're to explore the possibilities of what SJ play is and is not.
    (For example, music notation is not that different from a written poem. Two copies of Ullyses are identical, sure, but so are two copies of Beethoven 5th Symphony, or Duke Ellington's Harlem. I'd rather avoid this kind of debate over minor, and, ultimately, unimportant points, when what we are interested in discussing is roleplaying.)
    FREX in the above without theory we don't understand just how vital the differences are between the examples are. On the most fundamental level Ullyses is text while the correct example of Beethoven's 5th Symphony would be an audio recording. In each case the consumer interacts with the product but while text is read music is listened to. Two completely different modes of interaction. Additionally, text functions at the level of meaning while music functions at the level of structure (or relationship between tones). This may all seem pedantic but understanding these differences is critical to understanding RPGs in general and SJ in particular.
    So, what can we get from that excerpt?

    What I'm getting from that quote is that the unique element of the type of play we're trying to discuss is analogous to creating mythology.

    In other words, that we might use the structure and nature of myth to inform our roleplaying.

    Is that in line with what you're trying to say here?
    Not creating mythology but myth, but yes. I was not the first to promulgate the idea but I've been hammering away at it for almost 15 years. Sim is Bricolage and makes myth - comments?. This was not well thought out but I wanted to get the ball rolling.
    (A question to consider later, though, might be: does that mean that there is no way to play Semiotic Jazz with a non-mythological type of story/fiction/material?
    Absolutely not! Any story/fiction/material will work fine as long as it gets the players engaged. I think Tolkien worked so well to inspire because we can "hear" faint echoes of myth in his writings. However, there is no institutional or theoretical reason that any story/fiction/material couldn't serve.

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited February 2019
    Hey @yukamichi,
    One of the things I think is most interesting about Chris Lehrich's analysis of SIM and Myth is that he thinks it is a yearning to create myth, but also apparently fails at it(?). I might have to read through that whole thing again to try to figure out why, or even if, that's relevant (it doesn't necessarily follow that SIM play is actually a failure at itself, after all).
    Chris' argument was that myth is a worldview that must encompass all of reality. Obviously an RPG is limited in scope and something we step into and out of. Thus while SIM yearns towards myth it cannot be myth unless the entirety of our culture was understood in myth thus losing the western style engineering thought process and we lose writing.

    Best,

    Jay

  • edited April 2019
    Hi @yukamichi,
    Myth, at least as Chris is deploying it in the Levi-Straussian sense, is (and I paraphrase a good bit) about ordering and structuring the universe. About explaining what can and can't go together and why, and things like that.
    Yes, but the ordering and structuring are done to secure man's (humanity's) relationship to the universe especially human society/culture. It isn't a process of discovering how things work together but rather an explanatory and reinforcement process of why these socially constructed structures should and thus do work together. As all of this is dealing with social structures the process is not objective like western science but supremely subjective as the tribal cultures work out their place in the universe within the framework of their daily lives and rituals of the culture. IOW - the structures that give their lives meaning.

    To quote Chris from the aforementioned thread the "purpose" of myth is -
    To classify and grip intellectually the objects of the contextual world, such that one confirms the social structure in which one lives by demonstrating that everything in the universe proves the certainty and ideal state of the social world.
    This is why I have railed so long against the "physics" interpretation of Sim. Myth is not about objective reality and how it functions its about human social structures - something that cannot be "modeled" well by a deterministic mechanics system.

    Best,

    Jay
  • @yukamichi, it sounds like you're talking about pre-literate myth, and the way it was shared and performed (oral transmission), yeah? I would agree that, from what I've heard, public sharing of myth in pre-literate societies (and sometimes post-literate, where the traditions continue!) would have a great deal in common with jazz performance practice. That's a really interesting parallel! (Largely because there's a lot of overlap with roleplaying, as well. Such "performances" would typically feature a leader or storyteller, who would act not unlike a GM, but soliciting limited contributions from the other participants, and the idea would be to recreate the myth without being bound to its specific wording or events, allowing the participants to "improvise" on those themes. There's a lot shared here between the three traditions - storytelling/oral myth, roleplaying, and music.)
  • @Silmenume,

    I am not at all against theory - I am a giant music theory nerd, for example - but I'm always extremely careful about allowing theoretical discussions or concepts to get too far away from practical application. It's too easy to slip into an alternate reality, where the theory becomes its own thing, separate from the practice, and that's where we get into trouble. In my view, every theory is ultimately a simplification which ignores the nuances of the actual thing we're talking about, and treating it as sacrosanct is a sort of idolatry, which almost always leads us astray.

    On a sidenote - and feel free to ignore me, I've mentioned this before, after all - I don't why you are so attached to conflating myth and your concept of Semiotic Jazz with Ron Edwards' "Simulationism". In my opinion, it leads to bizarre statements like this one:

    This is why I have railed so long against the "physics" interpretation of Sim. Myth is not about objective reality and how it functions its about human social structures - something that cannot be "modeled" well by a deterministic mechanics system.
    I don't think anyone else is trying to make the argument that "physics deterministic simulation" is a good fit for roleplaying as myth-making.

    I would disentangle the two concepts entirely. We can always see whether they can be shown to somehow overlap or coincide later, but arguing that either one doesn't exist because your personal definition of the other includes the other's premise... seems very counterproductive to me.

    After all, clearly playing RPGs with a "physics interpretation" of "a deterministic mechanics system" is definitely something that some people do. Trying to tell them that what they do isn't a good idea is only going to get people riled up for no reason; better, in my opinion, to leave the concepts separate rather than trying to shoehorn your own concept (in this case, the whole RPG-as-myth-making-bricolage-and-Semiotic-Jazz idea) into someone else's box of "Simulationism as a Creative Agenda mode". (Unless there's some reason you see that as being vital to your discussions, of course, but, if so, I have no idea why that would be.)
  • Hi Paul,
    @yukamichi, it sounds like you're talking about pre-literate myth, and the way it was shared and performed (oral transmission), yeah? I would agree that, from what I've heard, public sharing of myth in pre-literate societies (and sometimes post-literate, where the traditions continue!) would have a great deal in common with jazz performance practice. That's a really interesting parallel! (Largely because there's a lot of overlap with roleplaying, as well. Such "performances" would typically feature a leader or storyteller, who would act not unlike a GM, but soliciting limited contributions from the other participants, and the idea would be to recreate the myth without being bound to its specific wording or events, allowing the participants to "improvise" on those themes. There's a lot shared here between the three traditions - storytelling/oral myth, roleplaying, and music.)
    That's what I've been trying to get at for almost 15 years! :smiley: Yet, I offer one small change to the three traditions - I'd remove "storytelling." Thus, oral myth, roleplaying, and improvisational music. In this grouping of three traditions they are all improvisational processes that operate as a group creative effort.

    The point I've been make is that pre-literate oral living myth is a completely different beast from narrative stories. Below is a myth from a tribe called the Bororo in Central Brazil. The post I've referenced is here in a thread called On RPGs and Text [Long]. The myth will make no sense first because it is not a narrative story. It has plot (narrative/story) and cannot be understood as such. I included for illustrative purposes only. Myth is not story and functions through the structure and relationship of the constituent and external meaning structures only. I'm not saying SJ is the same as myth but it's method of play is much closer to myth than story. I also want to highlight that myth works in the moment and is a process for working through of a social problem while concurrently demonstrating the social structures are perfectly sound. This is one of things that makes oral myth so weird and hard to understand yet so powerful.

    It is this very weirdness/alieness of the process of oral myth (and thus SJ) that is very much absent from the Western thinking paradigm. This makes it hard to understand and even harder to explain.

    What I am attempting to understand is what is the essential process of SJ (as Address of Premise is to Narrativism, etc.) and what are merely techniques that can vary per specific game design. I don't believe the process of SJ has been fully sussed out yet, so I'm concerned that discussing mechanics/techniques without a solid theoretical framework/understanding will lead to confusion in understanding. I'm not a game designer so I'm pretty useless along those lines but I do have is decades of experience of playing a SJ game. I've found that the mode of game I play is very rare though I've come across several instances of it on boards. What else I've discovered is that because SJ is so alien a way of thinking that most people look at examples of play and try and shoehorn it into another CA - typically Narrativism. Which I find particularly puzzling because while the identification is made no one bothers to even try and identify the so called Premise Question and how it is addressed over a long period of play.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Hi @yukamichi!
    Which, I mean, I think sort of ties back into the idea that SIM play is about privileging Exploration--in the physics engine (and maybe the Myth) approach, that is often very much Exploration of System, about play as a way of exploring or explaining the system of relations by which we understand the world.

    Emphasis added.
    I think you're close but just miss the mark. It's not Exploration that's privileged (that's a logical impossibility given its definition) but rather its the Elements of Exploration that are privileged. The game flows from the Setting. The Characters flow from the Setting. The cultures and creatures flow from the Setting. Situation is the contact between Setting and Characters. What the Characters can and cannot do flows from Setting. When the Characters act as a result of Situation it affects Setting and the Character. Finally - mechanics are in service to Situation but do not drive nor limit Situation.

    This is the strangeness that I've been driving at especially in my previous post. I'm positing that mechanics are not privileged in play unlike Gam and Nar in which mechanics are privileged and either limit what is about or drive play itself (G and N respectively).
    The Knight Slays the Dragon. Can the Tailor also Slay the Dragon? Is that a valid substitution? Are Knight and Tailor the same thing? What does their fungibility or lack thereof tell us about Knights, Tailors, Dragons, and Slaying?
    The above quote is very illuminating to me. It really sings out to me and I think is something that is nearly dead on WRT to What Is Important to said play. Wow.

    Best,

    Jay

  • The above quote is very illuminating to me. It really sings out to me and I think is something that is nearly dead on WRT to What Is Important to said play. Wow.
    Honestly I think it might be a little too Jungian for my own tastes, but if it helped you realize something important, all the better :D In all seriousness though, I'm really enjoying this attempt to suss out this specific type of play, because I feel like I can definitely see it lurking in the shadows in a lot of places.

    I don't entirely understand pre-literate Myth as "a process for working through of a social problem while concurrently demonstrating the social structures are perfectly sound" (I've only ever had passing interactions with Levi-Strauss, I should probably correct that), but it's really intriguing to me. I hope you keep chipping away at this!
  • edited April 2019
    Hi @yukamichi,

    Guilty! I did get a bit effusive in my response. It's a rare post I get receive that doesn't either write off my thesis enitirely or tell me that I'm an idiot who doesn't understand anything. Getting one that actually actually helps illuminate something new and important is a rare vivifying treat!
    I don't entirely understand pre-literate Myth as "a process for working through of a social problem while concurrently demonstrating the social structures are perfectly sound" (I've only ever had passing interactions with Levi-Strauss, I should probably correct that), but it's really intriguing to me. I hope you keep chipping away at this!
    I'm certain that you are far more conversant about Levi-Strauss's writing than I am. My education on the topic came from Chris Lehrich's postings on The Forge. Most especially his Not Lecture's on Theory and Bricolage Applied. The sentence you quoted above is a near direct quote of one of his sentences in one of the two aforementioned threads.

    I suppose the takeaway I got with regards to pre-literate Myth and the Agenda of role-play I'm trying to suss out (and which Chris Lehrich was also working on) is that the original corpus can be added to in a specific process yet feel like that addition has always been a part of the original corpus. But doing so is a special skill as the new element has to be woven carefully into the existing tapestry without willfully drawing attention to the act.

    Best,

    Jay
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