When the die roll does *NOT* determine what happens

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  • edited December 2018
    I can't help looking down that list, imagining I'm joining this group, and going:
    1) No problem
    2) No problem
    3) HUH??????????
    4) No problem now that I've talked to you about them at length. :)
    5) No problem
    6) Yeah but that's a fun kind of failure, right? The dramatic reveal that the characters had the wrong impression the whole time?

    So I'm super curious about how the pressure part works. Maybe you've already addressed that; sorry, I'm still several posts behind.
  • Yeah, good questions.

    It sounds like the group does a lot of fast-paced, intense play (e.g. if you, the player, don't make a decision fast enough, your character can die), acting things out physically, and so on. That's my best guess so far! That could be stressful, I'd imagine.

    I'm also curious about (6)-class failures. :)
  • I thinking timing is one of the great underexplored topics in experiential roleplay.

    There's a huge difference between:
    The corrosive wave is surging toward you! What'll you do? As players, you can discuss for however long you like before getting in character to act.
    and:
    The corrosive wave is surging toward you! What'll you do? It'll reach you in 5...
    4...
    3...
  • edited December 2018
    I'd consider that one of the "performance" aspects of play, just like whether we act out our characters (and put on their mannerisms and voices), engage in heavy description, make sound effects, dim the lights, and so forth.

    Another variation is whether, in a rules-heavy game, you're allowed to take time to look up a rule, or not. (e.g. "Sorry, if you don't know how that spell works, you can't use it now.")

    Would you agree?

    Those things sure matter a great deal! But they're not structurally important in the way, say, reward cycles are. Kind of like how atmosphere and presentation matter a great deal to your enjoyment of a meal, but doesn't change its nutritional content.

    I've always found it pretty interesting that, in "before the Forge" times (to use a shorthand), the majority of RPG discussions were about such things (at least, when they weren't about rules/mechanics and adventure design). For instance, I remember "how to be a good GM" articles being all about stuff like this in the 90's: how to do good accents for your NPCs, what kind of props to use at the table, how to use timers to put pressure on the players, how to modulate your voice to keep people's attention, and so forth. The sort of timing concern you're talking about here was a common point of discussion, at least the way I remember things. That WAS good GMing and good play, in a sense.

    During the "Forge times", at least for the people heavily involved in that scene, those things took a back seat to structural game design, communication about in-game events, social contract, and other, less ephemeral and more structural concerns. More nutritional content and less presentation and garnish, in a sense.

    I always found it interesting how one tended to push the other out (or so it seems, in a way). Obviously, they're both very important, but sort of in different ways.

    Some things also fall into a sort of middle ground, like spotlight concerns. (Who's getting to talk when, and who's in the center of attention?)

    It's interesting to think about.

    Jay, does your group lean very heavily on those "performative" aspects of the game, for its impact and power? I get the impression that you do, and a lot, but I'm not exactly sure how much.

  • I think "your character can only make decisions as fast as you can" has important performance and structural implications.
  • Hmmmm. Might be time for a new thread! :)
  • Pressure on players/characters like that is almost verbatim from 2nd edition Paranoia.
  • edited December 2018
    OK - here goes

    1. In our particular instance of play NPC's are HUGE to the game. Though the players are important because without them there is no game we play such that our characters are enmeshed in a world that is moving and progressing whether their character is doing anything or not. Our characters are not the center of the game's universe and the corollary to that is that there are NPC's who are very important to the world. Also while the vast majority of NPC's though not movers and shakers they are all individuals who have their own needs, wants and fears. Time waits on no PC, so if a player wants to be a part of this living, breathing, evolving world then they are going to have to make themselves be a part of said world. For brand new players the DM will take care to make their character especially interesting as well as richly connecting them to NPC's. Finally he will usually gin up a drive or two (kickers) to give the player an initial impetus. The attempt here is to connect the player via their character to the world. But some players never seem to come to the understanding that it is their responsibility to self-motivate as opposed to just follow the DM "story".

    There it is - some players, for whatever reasons, never seem to be able to grasp the idea that they are not passive recipients of the DM's story and its up to the players to get involved. This doesn't mean the DM hasn't put events into play, mostly via NPC's with their own agendas who are putting them into action, but rather the DM doesn't have a fixed story he's dragging the players through. The town might be under attack but it's up to the player to decide if and in what manner to get involved (or not - say, by running away - but still making a choice and acting on said choice).

    2. I was told of an occasion where a brand new player for reasons I don't know spit on an NPC dwarf. The DM glared at the player wide eyed, mimed lifting his arms like he was raising a handle (say on a large two headed battle axe) and smote down on the player/character. The DM did not speak but nor did he move quickly so the player had plenty of time to react - he did not. The DM pronounced the character dead and the player complained that, "You can't kill me! I'm a PC! What about your story?!" His complaint was not about how the event unfolded but rather the player should have had a privileged role in the world.

    3. This typically happens when the pacing is picking up and the new player either can't keep up or they "feel" as if they have no options and jam. Referencing back to the new player who the DM legitimately became concerned over his health (worrying that the new player might stroke out because his face flushed so purple and veins were popping out on his head!) said scenario was set on an island that was overrun with ghouls. The ghouls could not abide daylight so the party went to work building a small palisade to ride out the night. The new player got separated from the party and by the time he realized nightfall was imminent it was too late to let him into the palisade. There was no gate to open nor rope to lower down and there was not enough time to remove a few timber and replace them as the ghouls were already on the move. The new player begged entrance but nobody would let him in because it would have been certain death for everyone. As the DM described the sounds of the ghouls coming and the sun light dimming the new player just froze and his face got redder and redder as the description kept coming on. He didn't try to run or climb another three or anything...he just...jammed and his blood pressure rocketed with his stress levels as he felt he was helpless waiting for certain death. The key here was while he may not have had great options, he did have options but couldn't think due to pressure of the running clock.

    I will post 4 - 6 as soon as I can!

    @David_Berg - you are correct! Failures on #6 are fun!

    Best,

    Jay
  • Lots of interesting stuff here to react to! Two specific points:

    1) Regarding the phenomenon of sessions that turn out basically the way the GM expected: One of the ways I sort of check myself for "hygienic" GMing practices is to look back after a session and make sure that it could very well have gone differently, based on some combination of die rolls and player choices. Especially if the session did, in fact, unfold along the most obvious / predictable lines.

    2) Regarding players who "freeze" under pressure: I've been encountering this a lot lately. I have one friend with ADHD who often does not react well to these situations, and she can be tough to challenge and is left feeling frustrated often. She definitely wants games with real meaningful choices and consequences, hates Illusionism / GM Force, etc., but I'm thinking she might enjoy games that are a little gentler in some respects.

    I also have a player on the autism spectrum among my four teenage Blades in the Dark players. (I run BitD two hours a week at this weird hippy unschooling place. It's totally awesome.) He has two main issues that prevent him from truly gelling with the rest of the group, though despite them he has had some really good moments. The first is that he also freezes and has trouble being creative in moments of high pressure for the characters. The second is that he often has trouble being concrete when it's his turn to speak. He'll say what he's thinking about, what his general idea is, etc., but he often doesn't give me enough to actually know what Action to have him roll. Everyone else in the group is really patient and tries to help him out when he's jammed, but it's a real problem, and my usual GMing techniques are not helping.
  • Continuing on...

    4. One of the "rules" of the world is not everything is at it seems. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. So we had this one new player who game after game went after every (to me obvious) bauble that the DM dangled before him. In one particular instance the player was playing a new barbarian (as most of his characters tended not to survive more than a session or two) when he saw a barbarian lord with his hoard wielding a magic sword. Mind you magic is exceedingly rare in our game. I've been playing for 20 years and in all that time I've had one magical sword and it wasn't super powerful. This isn't to say magic swords can't be powerful, they're just extremely rare. So the DM describes this barbarian lord and suggests to this play that if he could defeat him the player would have his this sword. Sounds plausible but consider the following. The barbarian was described a lord. He had a horde. If the barbarian lord was low level then the other barbarians would have killed him for the magic sword.

    The player's barbarian is 1st level. How is he going to fight his way through the horde to get to the barbarian lord (certainly higher level than the PC and likely higher level than most of his horde then engage in single combat with a substantially higher level NPC who happens to also possess a magic sword. For a barbarian looking to make a name for himself...maybe go for the gusto. He did and the sword ate his soul. However the player kept making the same style of mistake every....single....game.

    5. One of the "themes of world" is the struggle of good against evil. So a player who consistently turns their character evil causes serious problems with the rest of the players at the table. I mean it's one of the various reasons why we play - to fight the good fight. We had this one player who, well, let's say always chose the left hand path. It got to the point where we had a saying about him. "The sun will always rise. Gravity will always work. *Player name* will always go evil". It really caused a lot of disharmony, bruised feelings and acrimonious moments in and out of game - especially on the Social Contract level. The game ceased to be fun to play or the enjoyment level was severely compromised.

    6. I'm not really sure what to put in here. It's just like in a book or movie where the protagonist misreads a situation or clues that when rectified leads to sharp plot twist opening up new vistas and possibilities where all was dark or narrows the possibilities as we work to close in on our goal/target. The best I can think of happened before I started to play and that was the table was convinced that Aragorn was dead. I'll have to ask how that came about but the players knew he was in a certain area, that a major skirmish had happened and that a newly dug grave had been found. I believe, but am not certain, that Aragorn's broken sword was plunged into the ground like a grave marker. I know there were other clues scattered around but I can't remember any at the moment. For whatever reason the grave was left undisturbed and the whole table labored under the assumption that Aragorn was indeed dead. About 10 years later in real time he showed up again and the explanation for the evidence was entirely plausible. Whatever had happened it was Aragorn who had survived and buried his companion and then took off after whatever he needed to do. I'm doing a terrible disservice with this story and I apologize but I remember being told about it and being enrapt by how it all unfolded.

    Hope that helps.

    Best,

    Jay
  • I'd consider that one of the "performance" aspects of play, just like whether we act out our characters (and put on their mannerisms and voices), engage in heavy description, make sound effects, dim the lights, and so forth.

    ...how to do good accents for your NPCs, what kind of props to use at the table, how to use timers to put pressure on the players, how to modulate your voice to keep people's attention, and so forth.

    Jay, does your group lean very heavily on those "performative" aspects of the game, for its impact and power? I get the impression that you do, and a lot, but I'm not exactly sure how much.
    We do.

    Music is a HUGE aspect in our play. Our DM has somewhere around 500-1000 motion picture soundtrack CDs. He doesn't lug them all around and only a smallish percentage have migrated over to digital but they are so important to our play that its lack knocks at least half or more out of the enjoyment of the session. He uses motion picture soundtracks over classical or "rock" because for the most part soundtracks are designed to hit a single emotion and hit it hard. This makes it much easier to use than more complex pieces of music such a "classical" which change emotional tenor throughout the piece.

    We don't use "voices" as in "accents" for two primary reasons. The first is that a good voice is really hard to do and maintain and it usually takes a trained actor to pull it off right. We aren't trained actors! The second most "voice" work/accents are cliches and do very little to reveal character (most of the time). As a screenwriter our DM has come to learn that character is revealed through action and the most interesting reveals are when the choices open the character are all "bad". So we spend our character efforts on deciding who the character is via our decisions in play. We've found that most "voice" acting in game (typically accents) usually ends up just being an affectation and almost always an annoying one.

    That being said we do play "emotions through voice" when we can and where appropriate. If we are trying to convince the town populace to stay and fight or to flee right now(!) we try to play the urgency both in our word choice and how we say them. We try to project stern, majesty, fear, reverence, leadership, etc., to aid our efforts in working with NPC's which is a large part of the game.

    One of our players is a business owner and is relatively well off so has purchased a fair number of decent looking foam weapons to help us "sell" our combat actions to the DM. I must say holding a sword in your hand does help get us into the proper mindset for combat. I find that we think and act differently when we are swinging these mock weapons. I doubt that we are actually using them "properly" but it does help us think of actions when the camera is on us during combat.

    We also use our bodies in a number of ways from portrayings actions to helping convey a mood/emotion quite a bit. Earlier this year I was playing a character who was an only child who was "commanded" to bring his mother to a town to aid in the healing of a mortally wounded leader. This person who "commanded" this of me foretold me a number of events and things I should say or do which came to pass. What he didn't tell me was that should would die in the town when it was attacked by an immensely powerful cadre of Black Numenoreans. I went out to lay my mother to rest and came back to the wrecked town. I caught word that a man had gone out to "hunt" the attacks so I followed after to try an exact some measure of vengeance before I died in the process. I was no way leveled high enough to take on such a group but I (the player) was in fey mood. Eventually I caught up to the man hunting and it turned out to be the very man who "commanded" me to bring my mother to the town where she not only died but her body had been badly defiled. I raged at the DM. I accused this man of murder and of being a thief. I screamed my voice hoarse. I promise you my stance was extremely aggressive. Reals tears were flowing as I vented my anguish while my voice trembled in rage. I know I slammed my hand on the table several times. In the end I decided that this "murderer" was not worth me killing him. He demanded that I pass sentence on him at least twice - so I told him if he wished a sentence then let it be thus - that he should bear the pain of my loss everyday for the rest of his life. And I walked away. Though my character did not know it, this man was Aragon. Though the chance of me actually killing him was slim the DM was willing to let the event play out however the pieces fell - even if it meant I had killed Aragorn. (My character was a peredhel or half-elf and my physical attributes were off the charts. This was (and is) a truly once in a lifetime character. (In all the world, there are only 3 peredhel, Elrond, myself and another PC who is the 2nd highest leveled character in the game) He was about 8th level at the time. If I had gotten a few good rolls and had the DM rolled poorly the world would have been bereft of its future king and a principle player in the war of the rings.) I digress but let me say I that when I raged at the DM I was physicalizing all of it and not of it was for effect - it was me raging and everything that entails physically short of actually making contact with the DM. Enough of that digression...

    As mentioned above pacing is a vital part of package of techniques to intensify real emotions during play.

  • edited December 2018
    The DM uses "editing" cutting in and out of a players action for dramatic impact. This is frequently done with action music playing. Again I will say that the music is immensely effective for pushing a real emotional mood upon the players. Last of the Mohicans - "Elk Hunt" is a perennial when rushing or trying to save a person/town/etc., before "It's Too Late." This is so effective that when we are BSing around talking about the game (out of game) and this track comes on that it causes goose bumps to appear! Very Pavlovian but then that's the point - just hearing it gets our autonomic nervous systems all jangling. He might use "Molossus" from "Batman Begins" for a different flavor of combat circumstances - usually man vs man as opposed to man vs monster. Sometimes when a Dunedain is out in the night sitting at a fire by himself reflecting on his life the DM might play "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt. Heading into an Elven realm might occasion "Dreams to Dream" from "An American Tail" or "Storms in Africa" by Enya. When dealing with something very powerful and very evil we get "Vampire Hunters" from "Bram Stoker's Dracula". When the evil is not centered on a single creature but more from an area he might use "Dracula - The Beginning" from said the same soundtrack. (Also "To Think of a Story" from "Frankenstein" also fits in this category) Let me tell you that just hearing either of the these three tracks puts an immediate palpable dread over the table. Just because I've been thinking about music and all the visceral memories I'll add that the DM used "Conquest of Paradise" from "1492" for a scenario that looking back we called the Dwarven Day of the Dead which was a whole game centered on the Dwarves remembering their fallen. I don't remember how he did it, but it held our rapt attention for hours. Another he used was actually a track from a computer game called "Dark Reign: Future of War - track 1" for a group we called Black Commandos who were unbelievably lethal and nearly decapitated the leadership of Gondor.

    Music works.

    We haven't used source sounds as they are too difficult to use properly. It takes a lot to create effective/rich ambient sound. Though the topic has come up on occasion mostly on the part of the DM. The players usually argue against it because unless the sounds are really layered it just sounds pale and repetitive. Nor have we played with lighting, but this topic too has been broached a few times.

    There you go. I hope it the above was helpful to someone.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Wonderful, Jay! I love the specifics; they help really paint a picture of what goes on at your table, and how you all participate in it as a group. Fascinating!
  • Thinking further, I have a question about "bricolage" and "Semiotic Jazz". As I understand it, it's a process of piecing together fictional elements collaboratively and improvisationally, with the goal of creating a coherent and pleasing fictional whole or resulting fiction.

    That's a powerful concept, and could be a useful metaphor.

    However, what I'm not sure about is... isn't that how most roleplaying endeavours work already?

    I can imagine some exceptions - perhaps a GM running a module "by-the-book" and refusing to do any interpretation might not be considered to be engaging in the "Semiotic Jazz", for instance.

    But, otherwise, is this not the basic process of most RPG play? If not, then how is it not?

    (Or is this kind of like Ron Edwards' concept of "exploration squared", where, sure, this happens in all games, but in these games, well, it's the central element and the point of play?)

    I wonder if there's element of this idea I'm missing. Help me out?
  • Everybody listens to each other in any instrumental formation. There are sometimes solos, too. But the purpose of going it "free" and in a much more mobile formation, with the purpose of seeing what will come out of it is rather specific. Like Sandboxing vs Delivery missions.
  • edited December 2018
    3. This typically happens when the pacing is picking up and the new player either can't keep up or they "feel" as if they have no options and jam. Referencing back to the new player who the DM legitimately became concerned over his health (worrying that the new player might stroke out people his face flushed so purple and veins were popping out on his head!) said scenario was set on an island that was overrun with ghouls. The ghouls could not abide daylight so the party went to work building a small palisade to ride out the night. The new player got separated from the party and by the time he realized nightfall was imminent it was too late to let him into the palisade. There was no gate to open nor rope to lower down and there was not enough time to remove a few timber and replace them as the ghouls were already on the move. The new player begged entrance but nobody would let him in because it would have been certain death for everyone. As the DM described the sounds of the ghouls coming and the sun light dimming . . . the description kept coming on . . . he did have options but couldn't think due to pressure of the running clock.
    That actually sounds really cool to me. Well, I guess it depends on how he got separated from the party, but assuming that part was consensual, then being put in the position to either seek safety alone or die bravely sounds pretty perfect for this game, and the running clock sounds like a great way to make it impactful.

    I can see how the player got jammed, though. I think, in addition to time pressure, there might also be an authoring/immersing quandary here. If I'm riffing off Tolkein, dying an epic death can be cool. If I'm living in my character's shoes, on the other hand, well, no one wants to die, and some degree of panic is a natural reaction to a situation that looks like death.

    My ideal solution for this sort of thing is to just make sure everyone plays a character who, in their actual nature within the fiction, constitutes a solid riff of Tolkein, so that the player can "just play the character" and it covers both bases. I imagine you guys do something similar, and that, for new players, learning to define their character the right way in their own heads -- as a real person, but also as a Tokleinesque figure -- is part of the learning curve. Is that right?

    This guy hadn't completed that learning curve, so it was just a straight-up "I'm about to die" without that extra context that would have made it exciting, like "I'm about to die, and I will die nobly, and in so doing inspire my kingdom to join the fight against Mordor" or perhaps "I seem about to die, but my people are hardy and resourceful beyond normal folk, and I will find a way to endure" or something. Right?

    As for the pacing stuff, I think that's super important and super interesting, so I'll start a new thread on that at some point. Plenty more still to respond to in this one!
  • edited December 2018
    Also, that is friggin' amazing that you cursed Aragorn to forever carry the burden of your loss. And that sounds like a great scene: I too am a big fan of acting out character speech with the full emotional tone of the situation -- stern, majestic, overwrought, etc.

    And if y'all suck at accents, then yeah, don't do them, I guess. :) I find that a distinctive way of speaking is helpful in bringing a character to life, though -- I don't want any of my characters to sound exactly like me. Sometimes just talking faster or slower or louder or quieter will suffice, IME.
  • edited December 2018
    Still intending to get back to my attempt to summarize some of this for potential external use... I think I'm about 70 posts behind at this point...
  • Hey Deliverator,
    2) Regarding players who "freeze" under pressure: I've been encountering this a lot lately. I have one friend with ADHD who often does not react well to these situations, and she can be tough to challenge and is left feeling frustrated often. She definitely wants games with real meaningful choices and consequences, hates Illusionism / GM Force, etc., but I'm thinking she might enjoy games that are a little gentler in some respects.

    I also have a player on the autism spectrum among my four teenage Blades in the Dark players. (I run BitD two hours a week at this weird hippy unschooling place. It's totally awesome.) He has two main issues that prevent him from truly gelling with the rest of the group, though despite them he has had some really good moments. The first is that he also freezes and has trouble being creative in moments of high pressure for the characters. The second is that he often has trouble being concrete when it's his turn to speak. He'll say what he's thinking about, what his general idea is, etc., but he often doesn't give me enough to actually know what Action to have him roll. Everyone else in the group is really patient and tries to help him out when he's jammed, but it's a real problem, and my usual GMing techniques are not helping.
    I've been thinking on your post for the last few days and at first I thought that you're female play might enjoy some Narrativist facilitating given your description about meaningful choices and consequences. Not to say that all the CA's can't provide such moments but Narrativism does provide those types of choices typically without the time pressures and can be done collaboratively.

    Regarding your other player all I can offer is that you talk to a professional regarding the ins and outs of autism and see if there are ways to help you help your player communicate more effectively. Other than that you may have to consider that said player's communication issues might be organic and may not be changeable in which case you might seeks ways to better help him with his frustration. It sounds like you have an awesome group on that front and you are truly blessed.

    Wish I had something to more concrete to offer. Have as much fun as you can and recognize that all players are suited for pressure cooker games. My most recent posts hopefully illustrated that point.

    Keep up the good work!

    Best,

    Jay
  • This guy hadn't completed that learning curve, so it was just a straight-up "I'm about to die" without that extra context that would have made it exciting...

    Right?
    To the best of my knowledge it was a game played at a gaming store and he was a first time player to the table. Afterward the DM spoke with said player and asked what he thought to which he replied (paraphrasing), "That was the best game experience I've ever played. I'll never do that again. I play to relax." With that, he fumbled out a cigarette with hands that were literally shaking and lit up.

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited March 23
    Hi Paul,
    Thinking further, I have a question about "bricolage" and "Semiotic Jazz". As I understand it, it's a process of piecing together fictional elements collaboratively and improvisationally, with the goal of creating a coherent and pleasing fictional whole or resulting fiction.
    Close but no cigar. The problem lies with the assumptions found in a word or two and expressed goals. Let's see if I can unpack this in a useful manner.

    Latent within this description is the very subtle conflation of Creative Agenda with Exploration. This is partly due to the misunderstanding of what "improvisation" means within the "Semiotic Jazz" formulation. Again, we run into the problem with the idea that "improvisation" means creation without any constraints. Hence my very, very specific use of the word Jazz. As you have so kindly taken the time to explain to me, to actually get to the point of playing the solos in improvisational jazz lots and lots of work sussing out the Standard and the Chord Progressions needs to be completed. This requires even earlier work learning Music Theory (either explicitly or implicitly) and the mastering of the soloist's chosen instrument which will affect said player's tonal choices while riffing.

    Once all the above is accomplished then comes the hard part - the actual improvisation of the Standard on the fly while keeping an ear open to what the other soloists are creating.

    This is most certainly not some person picking up an instrument for the first time and making noises with it. Though that "could" be called an improvisational act it is most definitely not Improvisational Jazz. There are lots and lots and lots of "implicit" rules as to what informs aesthetically pleasing Improvisational Jazz and what is random notes (essentially random noise).

    All the above is, by analogy to role-play, Creative Agenda. Creative Agenda, by analogy, tells us what we're doing with the instruments. The following is going to terrible because its argumentation by analogy but here goes...

    Let's start by working with the idea of Exploration. In role-play it has been described by Setting meeting Character leading to Situation which is working out using System with a splash of Color. The five elements of Exploration. The definition of Exploration says absolutely nothing about what we do with it - which helps explain why so many published games are incoherent.

    To give an example of this I'll abstract further. Imagine a bicycle. We'll call it "Exploration" for this exercise. What we do with that bike is Creative Agenda. One person might ride it. Another might hang it on the wall to be admired as a piece of art. A third person my use it as a tool for building something. The point is that Exploration is a description of the pieces that make role-play, role-play and not a chess set or a basketball court.

    Going back to my early analogy of "Semiotic Jazz" lets say that Exploration is the instruments. A Gamist form of play might be competition among the various players to play a piece of music the fastest or perhaps a complex piece with the minimum of errors, etc. Yes they are employing the instruments the point isn't to "make" music but rather to use the instruments and any "rules" to define the bounds of the Challenge to Step on Up.

    Narrativist style of musical play might be thought of a process whereby a proposed musical premise-theme is considered and chosen by the players present and they set out to "write" a composition through play using the proposed musical theme or premise-theme to write a complete composition. They stop their playing of instruments to converse about where they want the composition to go and then start playing again.

    Simulation as I'm proposing it would be, by analogy, Improvisational Jazz. We start with the Standard, the Chord Progressions, Music Theory and Instrumental skills to riff on the pre-existing standard to come up with an aesthetically sounding extension of the Standard. The key here isn't that we're creating a finished product like a composition. No. Sim lives in the moment. The exciting part of Sim playing that Jazz right here, right now!

    All three forms result in music being played but the why and how of the process are completely different. Most importantly all these whys and hows are not, by way of analogy, are Creative Agenda is action and not Exploration.

    At the risk of sounding redundant Exploration is the parts, Creative Agenda is the how and why we use the parts. In all cases if nothing new is created (winning tactics, a completed story with a beginning, middle and an end with a compelling theme or riffing on an existing Standard) if the players are not given freedom to create as informed by their choice of CA then they are not expressing a CA.

    Such play exists but its typically referred to as "railroading" if the GM is preventing the players from being creative. No real term for describing a play style where the players of their own free will choose not to have creative input has been really been discussed but two that I've heard are the common "beer and pretzel game" and another so called "Zilchplay".

    Best,

    Jay
  • Hi David,
    I think "your character can only make decisions as fast as you can" has important performance and structural implications.
    I'm no designer but I'll offer some thoughts about the implications of such quick decision making in play.

    The first is that when events get hot, usually combat but not always, I find that I spend the time that the camera is off me thinking hard about what I'm going to do next. These limited brain cycles also have to share space with keeping abreast of the developments during said combat. Sometimes out of a gaming session we might work on combat moves to use in game. Same thing in upcoming politically important meetings - I'll spend time think about what I'm going to say either when the camera is off me or even out of game entirely. It might seem or feel that thinking out of game is a form a cheating the "right now" sense of the game but is it really any different than thinking on or working out some new ideas regarding the Standard and some possible riffs that one might try experimenting with during their solo, if the circumstances fit.

    Like I mentioned earlier sometimes we'll forego die rolling altogether either because of the speed of events or doing so will break the intensity of some emotionally powerful moment, i.e., my "encounter with Aragorn".

    On the mechanical side the we play has really trimmed down handling times. Almost everything is handled by one die, the D20. We do have some provisions for a crunchier combat experience if it helps fuel the feeling of danger. So sometimes if we hit the DM will call for a percentile roll which indicates where we've struck which is followed by the damage dice which are mostly a single die roll and occasionally 2 dice. The damage dice are exploding and typically this is allot of fun as we're fighting for our lives usually resulting in cheering from around the table.

    I just realized one thing that I've never mentioned about our combats before. I've mentioned that frequently we're outnumbered but the actual fighting is typically single combat. IOW it's up to you the player and only you to survive and win the specific battle before moving on. This is also huge stressor for you get into trouble chances are someone cannot come to help as they are tied up in single combat. In a given combat if it is lengthy sometimes the GM will cut away to another combat to keep the other players involved and keep the person who is mid combat on tenterhooks of suspense. Maybe help might be coming if another player can finish their combat in the time the camera is on them. Who knows?

    We also have called shots with large and very large penalties but can put an end to a very powerful foe quickly - if your character has the skills and some good luck.

    A natural "20" during combat is usually followed by another "D20" roll to see if the hit is a "critical hit". If so then fairly radical changes in the combat typically transpire.

    Natural 20's are always exciting and brimming with possibilities.

    Again - the "point" of the added crunchiness is to add more excitement and drama to the unfolding action, not to granularize the combat and make deterministic rulings.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Jay,

    I think I'm entirely on board with your description of the theory, but that doesn't answer my question at all.

    Basically my question is:

    Does bricolage or "Semiotic Jazz" happen in all role playing? If not, what does it look like when it's not happening?
  • edited December 2018
    Paul,

    I think we may have been using "bricolage", at least some of the time, to describe something that happens on the technique level, whereas we've been using "semiotic jazz" more to describe the group's creative agenda (including, perhaps, the bundle of supporting techniques).

    It seems plausible to me that all roleplay engages in some bricolage, but it's Semiotic Jazz play which prioritizes it.

    So, like, when I form my plan to storm the castle in an old-school challenge game, there's probably some bricolage involved in the way I deliver that speech in-character, or in any callbacks I may make to previous castle-stormings, or in how I try to describe the fiction in entertaining ways as per our shared "standard" of enjoyable group missions. Or maybe there isn't any bricolage. It's kinda hard to tell, with the dial turned down that low -- the point is getting into the castle without dying.

    Contrast that to what Jay's describing, where if there's any castle-storming going on, I'd assume that the point is how we use castle-storming to add cool moments or facets to the tapestry of "these heroes adventuring in Middle Earth".

    My castle-storming is cool because we built a plan that represents our best effort to succeed. The bricolaged color is a bonus.

    Jay's castle-storming is cool because it resonates. And the bricolaged color is what makes it resonate.

    Jay,

    Does that sounds right to you?
  • Hi Paul,

    I apologize for being such a knucklehead and misreading/misunderstanding your question so badly. On the whole David has the right of it.

    As per Chris L's essay most bricolage that does take place in RPG's takes place in what is, in some corners of the hobby, frequently derided as rules "hacking". Bricolage is a tool or method that is used at times to spackle over momentary blips when the mechanics system fails (for whatever reason) and no one wants to stop play to reengineer the entire system. Having solved the problem, at least for the time being, the game can proceed and continue to use deterministic abstracted mechanics to either resolve (Task Resolution in the service of a level playing field so Step On Up may be objectively measured) or drive play (Conflict Resolution by giving the players means to Address Premise through abstracted means of actually articulating the Premise Question, scene framing, setting fallout, etc.).

    In Sim bricolage is the beating heart behind the non-deterministic mechanics which are informed and constrained by the aesthetics in what I've been describing as being expressed by "Semiotic Jazz". Whereas Sim is smothered by deterministic (objective) mechanics G/N are best supported by such deterministic (objective) mechanics. In Gamism, without deterministic objective mechanics I suspect such play would quickly degenerate into some form of "Calvin-Balling". In Narrativism, without deterministic objective mechanics, I believe the apportioning of narration rights and the setting of stakes would become a real issue. Because Sim operates prioritizing the "Science of the Concrete" it is and must needs be an intensely subjective process, the very antithesis of the objective, granular processes of G/N.

    As per Chris' article bricolage is both the process and the product. Well, actually he said that specifically about mythic/ritual thinking but we are using the process of bricolage as an analogy. The key is that bricolage as analogy (to help illuminate a Semiotic process) does not inherently contain a guiding aesthetic. Hence the use of the Jazz analogy.

    @David_Berg
    Contrast that to what Jay's describing, where if there's any castle-storming going on, I'd assume that the point is how we use castle-storming to add cool moments or facets to the tapestry of "these heroes adventuring in Middle Earth".
    I don't know if I'm being nitpicky or making an important point so I'll leave that to you to decide.

    "...where if there's any castle-storming going on it's because as 'sentient individuals struggling to survive in Middle Earth' we are castle-storming because as said characters we feel that we have no other choice but to risk our lives and do so. The how's and why's were informed by both the themes we love about Middle Earth and everything that's transpired in play up to the moment we step foot on the bottom rung of the scaling ladders."

    That we've added to the tapestry of Middle Earth is a secondary consideration to the how, why and of what we're doing Right Now!. Doing this, Right Now, in an aesthetically pleasing way is very cool. That Jazz solo, all by your lonesome and in front of everyone with no room for mistakes or "do overs" while being both creative and pleasing makes the whole process exhilarating!

    I'm curious if this makes any sense to you.

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited December 2018
    Jay,

    I don't think your note about bricolage "hacking" over mechanical blips in deterministic systems is the best illustration for the current discussion about semiotic jazz play.

    If I understand it right, bricolage in sem-jazzy play is more about completing the cognitive loop, whether or not any "blip" is ever experienced. Like, we're playing the game, we're all talking, and maybe someone narrates something about the fiction that I hadn't expected, and I add something, either in my brain or out loud, to bring it all together into a cohesive whole.
    GM: (speaking as elf prince) "Our lands have lived in constant watch since the scorching tracks were found. Should it truly be a Balrog, our very existence is threatened."

    Me: (thinking as visiting ranger) Oh shit, everyone here is on edge? I'd been imagining a very confident bearing. Well, maybe elves in their own lands always intimidate me a bit, and now I'm realizing that those martial poses of heightened alert weren't for me. "Now that you've mentioned it, my lord, I do detect an extra weight of care upon your warriors."
    Right?

    And I think that is the part that Paul was noting is present in all roleplaying.

    As to how that's different in semiotic jazz, I'm not sure how best to talk about that. I think we're getting there, but I find it challenging. My take:

    1) I know the bricolage does more of the work all by itself with fewer alternatives, supporting structures, or safety nets. So that's important.

    2) And I know that the resulting experience -- NPC delivers exciting news, PC replies in satisfyingly appropriate fashion (e.g.) -- is the primary matter of group interest (as opposed to winning or whatnot). And that is very important.

    3) But I think the criteria for what makes something "exciting" or "satisfyingly appropriate" is hard to describe. I took a stab with my "heroes adventuring in Middle Earth" thing, but that wasn't quite right.
    as 'sentient individuals struggling to survive in Middle Earth' we are castle-storming because as said characters we feel that we have no other choice but to risk our lives and do so. The how's and why's were informed by both the themes we love about Middle Earth and everything that's transpired in play up to the moment we step foot on the bottom rung of the scaling ladders.
    I definitely think that's better that what I said. But it's not one simple, concrete idea, and thus it's harder to refer to as an explanation. I think teasing a principle or two out of that would be useful, if possible...
  • edited December 2018
    Hi David,

    You've presented some interesting questions and I'll do what I can to clarify. Be patient with me please as work through some fundamental ideas and work towards the larger issues.

    Bricolage - As we all know, by now, is a physical 3D art form and process. So its use an analogy while useful will eventually break down. So what makes this art form a useful as an analogy for ritual/mythic thought and by extension Sim play? Four reasons that I'm aware of.

    One is the "shed of pre-existing parts" that we have as our source material. Parts are not engineered to one specific thing very well. Rather we use what existing parts are already available in the with all their imperfections and problems. It is understood that the employment of a certain part to fix one (or more) problems will create one (or more) future problems. And thus it is with the mythic/ritual problem solving process (and by extension Sim play).

    Which brings us to the second part of using Bricolage as a useful analogy. Bricolage, by analogy, is a type of problem solving technique. It's terrible by Western abstract thinking engineer types because the way it works always brings in new problems. Yet it's an awful lot of fun to use as a problem solving technique partly because it never ends.

    Third Bricolage works an analogy because it mirrors the mythic/ritual problem solving process in that once a part it added to the whole it cannot be removed again. To western abstract thinking instead of using the iron or toaster that are in the tool shed because we need something to create heat the engineer will specifically design a very efficient heating element that solves the problem very well, but doesn't contain much potential for much else. The Bricoleur will use the iron for its ability to heat but understands that it comes with such problems as heavy weight and bulkiness which will have to be addressed.

    Finally Bricolage as an art form and analogy does not work toward an engineered design goal but rather functions as as a design in the moment effort. It's not the created whole that is the primary effort but the actual process of making the decisions of what items to pull from the shed Right Now.

    So in sum Bricolage as an analogy for mythic/ritual thought is a problem solving process that works with the "concrete parts" in the shed of available items (the source material and everything that has happened in play) as opposed to abstracting and designing in the Western way.

    This is important. Bricolage as analogy is a problem solving process.

    In game terms it's a Technique. It functions within the fiction of the SIS. This Technique stays within the game play process and does not abstract upwards.

    Hence referring to the rules hacking in game is a perfect example of Bricolage in play. If you haven't read Chris Lehrich's essay on Bricolage I beg you, please do so now. He explains the whole idea a thousand times better than I can ever hope.

    However, as you noted and for the reasons I've offered above, Bricolage is not a Creative Agenda. Part of reason it fails is that it neither offers a guiding aesthetic nor does it touch upon a critical issue of relationships. That is everything in mythic/ritual thinking is based upon the relationship between the object (be it a constellation, an animal, a tree, a tribe) and a human being. That object is important insofar that a person finds it meaningful and has assigned it a meaning based upon the relationship between the two. The constellation in the night sky is the avatar of a god of war (Orion). Objectively is this true? No. Subjectively? Yes. Why? Because that person or tribe said so. How? Through ritual thinking. Why? To answer a problem the tribe might be contending with. Like - why are we always at war? Because the god of war (as seen in the constellation) commands it.

    I'm proposing that Semiotic Jazz is a Creative Agenda for the reasons that it contains within the Jazz part the source and the aesthetics of why and for what purpose we're using Bricolage. The Jazz analogy covers the "meaningful parts" of the process. The jazz soloist must first have a deep and "meaningful relationship" with the Standard. It has to move him in some "meaningful" fashion. So we have the relationship between the (source) object and the musician starting to grow. Then the soloist must deeply consider the Standard when creating his chord progression. This is again is born both out of the musicians relationship with the Standard (how it affects him) as informed by music theory. But see even music theory is not an objective science but at its very core a reflection of what we a humans find aesthetically pleasing. A relationship between tones (and all the various ways they can be employed) and the human listener.

    I am told, though, that it is not possible to choose the chords perfectly as there will always be "dissonances". But that is not a bug/problem but rather an opportunity to the soloist to work out. So even here on the jazz side of the analogy imperfections ("dissonances") are fodder.

    So in referencing the example you so helpfully offered I'm not really seeing any CA in action because I don't see a problem with constraints contained within.

  • edited December 2018
    Consider -
    GM: (speaking as elf prince) "For a cycle of Rana, the moon, we have lived in constant watchfulness as a dark dread has settled upon our hearts. One of the wise has spoken a name out of darkness from Ages past since the scorching tracks were found. Valaruka. Balrog. Mighty Demon in the tongues of men. Bane of Elfen folk and lieutenants of Morgoth. Those of our folk who could face them have long since fallen or taken the Straight Way back to Aman...Perhaps it is time for us to sail the Straight Way as well...and now comes an Engwar. What would have us in these ill times, Ranger? Hunter of the foe your folk are but no skills you or your kind have to hunt this terror.

    Me: (thinking as visiting ranger) Oh shit, a Balrog? I've heard some lore long ago about such things but I thought they were just stories. Now I've got something roaming around that could wipe out entire kingdoms? I don't know much about them but those here that do are terrified and if I understand them properly mere men cannot stand before them. How will I deal with that? And those who may have the ability and lore to face this Balrog are considering fleeing rather than face it. I know our motto is "One riot, one Ranger" but this is beyond me. I don't have time to report back to Cair Andros, yet I've got to get their help. How do I convince them to not only stay in Ea but to come forth in war against this nightmare?

    "Fair Prince of the Eldar, first born of Eru. Know that my captain-commander, Aetdgean, named 'elf-friend' by Glorfindel of the House of Finrod, has always been a friend of your folk. I too came upon the scorched tracks you spoke of and as a vassal of my commander beg you to extend the title of 'elf-friend' to me that I may ask of you wise counsel in this matter. Though it has been many uncounted generations of men to you and your folk, I beg you, m'lord, to recall the deeds of the three houses of the Edain who stood and fell in the Leaguer of Belariand, Ages past..."
    It's not enough that expectations were merely confounded but rather a whole slew of problems need to be dealt with all at the same time, right now. Note the complexity of all the "parts" the Ranger has to contend with being a mortal man dealing with immortal elves, that he has a duty as a Ranger to "Do Something" about the Balrog, that as mortals men are utterly ineffective against Maia, said Ranger pulls on his relationship with his commander and the Elves, he has some ancient lore that he pulls on to start to help with the problem of the Elves considering leaving, etc.

    Here we have bricolage in action as informed by the jazz process as the player pulls on various bits and pieces available to him and starts to try and assemble them in such a way as to try and sort out this impossible problem.

    I apologize for the length but the problem with mythic/ritual thinking is that to make sense of anything requires fairly extensive knowledge of the myth itself. Thus to show an example of Semiotic Jazz in action requires lots and lots of context.
    I definitely think that's better that what I said. But it's not one simple, concrete idea, and thus it's harder to refer to as an explanation. I think teasing a principle or two out of that would be useful, if possible...
    Which is why my explanations are so wordy as you so rightly noted above. You're right, it's not concise but I just don't have the tools to simplify what is such a difficult topic.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Jay,

    Good stuff! I particularly love that example.

    Some more thoughts and questions:

    * I can get on board with the premise that bricolage is a Technique for creating play in an RPG, and that Semiotic Jazz is a sort of larger concept, including why we want to do it, why we love it, and what we get out of it, as well as the "how".

    * Since you've been asking me about jazz stuff: yes, it's possible to play a "perfect" solo or a "perfect" performance. However, that can also become boring, predictable, or stifling. I think there are plenty of parallels here to stories, roleplaying, themes, and so forth.

    Do we always choose the safe, familiar, and "correct"? Or do we wish to have more room for error, in hopes of finding *new* things by creating something unfamiliar? It's an important decision made by any artist, sometimes in consistent trends, and sometimes in the moment, only to (perhaps) regret it and go back to the other side.

    * What I see from that example of "bricolage", is, perhaps, in Forge theory terms, something like "Colourful Exploration". Is that fairly accurate? If not, what distinguishes the two?

  • edited December 2018
    Note the complexity of all the "parts" the Ranger has to contend with being a mortal man dealing with immortal elves, that he has a duty as a Ranger to "Do Something" about the Balrog, that as mortals men are utter ineffective against Maia, said Ranger pulls on his relationship with his commander and the Elves, he has some ancient lore that he pulls on to start to help with the problem of the Elves considering leaving, etc.

    Here we have bricolage in action as informed by the jazz process as the player pulls on various bits and pieces available to him and starts to try and assemble them in such a way as to try and sort out this impossible problem.
    I think it might be useful here to leave aside any problem-solving the character may be doing, and just focus on the player's task.

    The player's task is partly to formulate a response that advances the character's aims (which I think says little to differentiate semiotic jazz play from other styles)... but the player's task is also to respond in a way that's meaningful to the group. Meaningful in a very specific way.

    The "pulling on available bits and pieces" you allude to includes weaving tighter the web of connections which informs everyone at the table's sense of investment. Some random Balrog wandering a random path through some random woods populated by random pointy-eared people means nothing to anyone, and a big part of your group's shared creative endeavor (and agenda) is to elevate those factoids into integral parts to a celebration-worthy whole.

    We care about this Balrog in these woods because of all that context you mentioned -- elf-human interactions, ancient history, recent history, the ranger's personal and hierarchical relationships, the might of mythic beings, etc.

    A skilled semiotic jazz player doesn't just figure out how his character should tackle a problem. A skilled semiotic jazz player also gets the table to care as much as possible about the moment. They do this by tying the moment to established matters of shared interest.

    So, basic bricolage is finding some way to connect some dots so play can keep moving forward. Good bricolage is connecting the dots in a way that maximizes connection to what the group cares about and/or is celebrating.

    (And if we want to try to draw any parallels between types of creative agendas, we could say that this challenge/goal of semiotic jazz -- to maximize resonance -- is akin to the core challenges/goals of winning and creating theme in gamism and narrativism, respectively.)

    Jay, is that right? If so, I think I might be able to whittle that into something at least sort of concise... :)

    P.S. Or this could be specific to Tolkein, a fiction presented as history which is all about today's actions reflecting and resonating with past epics and with the greater world in which they occur. (But maybe this is also true of Star Wars... and Marvel comics... which are also popular among gamers in this play style...)

    P.P.S. And I might be borrowing too much from the "right" part in Ron Edwards' "right to dream" idea. But if so, then wow, "right to dream" is a terrible way to phrase it. "Dare to expand" or something would be better. (And the Forge's one-time focus on challenging whether the source material can handle the group's expansions, and then being happy when it can, is really just an example, not the agenda. "We did our own very cool, very LotR stuff" makes much more sense to me as a way to celebrate LotR, as opposed to "we tried some out-there LotR stuff and LotR didn't break!" But maybe the Forge folks were talking about something else. "Sim" is not "Sim" etc.)
  • edited December 2018
    Hi Paul,
    * Since you've been asking me about jazz stuff: yes, it's possible to play a "perfect" solo or a "perfect" performance. However, that can also become boring, predictable, or stifling. I think there are plenty of parallels here to stories, roleplaying, themes, and so forth.
    Fair enough. I also agree that "perfect" (perhaps "flawless"?) performance, while neat once in a long while, would become boring, predictable and/or stifling. I'm also with you in thinking there are plenty of parallels to stories, roleplaying, themes, etc.
    Do we always choose the safe, familiar, and "correct"? Or do we wish to have more room for error, in hopes of finding *new* things by creating something unfamiliar? It's an important decision made by any artist, sometimes in consistent trends, and sometimes in the moment, only to (perhaps) regret it and go back to the other side.
    I would certainly hope that a player is always trying to work something new (and interesting) into the mix. I would posit that a crucial skill lies in learning how to walk the line between merely repeating that which already exists and playing so far off the reservation as to be completely unrecognizable.
    * What I see from that example of "bricolage", is, perhaps, in Forge theory terms, something like "Colourful Exploration". Is that fairly accurate? If not, what distinguishes the two?
    I apologize but before I can offer a cogent response I'm going to need a definition of what "Colourful Exploration" means because (again apologies) I haven't a clue.

    WRT: Color - In Forge theory parlace "Color" was one of the five elements of Exploration but itself had no effect on the SIS and certainly was not involved in the expression of Creative Agenda. If it did it wouldn't be color.

    I await your definition! :smile:

    Best,

    Jay
  • Hi David,

    I cross posted with you. I think we're tracking pretty closely at this point! I'll have to navel gaze to see if I have anything useful to add but I wanted to say real quick that it's starting to look really good!

    Best,

    Jay
  • Jay, excellent! Glad I'm going in the right direction here.

    Separately, one request to you and Paul:

    I'm happy to hear Paul clarify what he means by "colorful exploration", but let's please not debate Forge Big Model Color in this thread. (I mention this preemptively because my understanding of it is completely different than yours and I can imagine this becoming a whole thing. :tongue: )
  • edited December 2018
    [derailment]
  • edited December 2018
    ***THREAD REQUEST***

    I am happy to talk about Forge / Sim history and theory somewhere, but I would prefer to keep that discussion out of this thread.

    Jay, whenever you are able to say "semiotic jazz", instead of "Sim", I would prefer that, as it won't invite derailments.

    Sorry to be coming in very late with this request. I know I didn't say anything earlier. This latest exchange just strikes me as different somehow.

    Thank you!
  • edited December 2018
    Sorry. Removed.
  • I agree. (I've even had a small side conversation with Jay elsewhere, where I similarly advised not to use the term "Sim" for this - so I'm totally onboard.)

    However, I want to hear Adam's thoughts. Adam, would you PM me or start a new thread?

  • I like Dave's framing of this, two posts up. It all brings me back to Ron's use of the word "celebrate" when talking about Right to Dream play, and how that always spoke to me. This sounds fairly similar.

    The term "resonance" is even more compelling: if what we're looking for is to create fiction which resonates with us and the source material, that's a strong metaphor about what makes this kind of thing feel good.

    (However, it runs the risk of overlapping with other things we might be talking about or interested in. For instance, can characters and a story really be said to "resonate" with us without challenging and reinforcing a literary theme? I don't know; that gets a little blurry for me. "Celebrate", though, that I like very much!)
  • edited December 2018
    Paul, yeah, good premise-addressing, human issue-tackling play definitely "resonates" too! I wonder if it's useful to observe that that sort of play resonates with real life in much the same way that Jay's Middle Earth play resonates with fiction?

    I mean, real life and fiction are both relevant in both cases, but I feel like the immediate apprehension that something meaningful has occurred in play is triggered differently. For example, in Sorcerer my play might resonate most, in the eyes of the group, when it evokes and adds to the price of power, whereas in Spicy Middle Earth my play might resonate most when it evokes and adds to Middle Earth's specific struggle between good and evil.

    (Not sure if "evokes and adds to" is the right wording there... best I could come up with...)

    As for "celebrate", I have two problems with that term:

    1) Some play is more obviously celebratory than others, and I think the relationship between the less-obvious kind and the more-obvious kind is complicated. Do we want to put "Let's emulate the LotR books as faithfully as we can!" in the same basket with Jay's game? The former holds zero appeal for me while the latter sounds awesome.

    2) I think it's important to note the celebratory component of games like Jay's, but I'm really leery of labeling "celebration" as the point... I feel that the point is more about the thing you're making that's your own, and that celebrating Tolkein is just one (very important!) feature of that thing. It's less "Yay, Middle Earth is so fun to play with!" and more "Yay, the specific thing we do with Middle Earth is so fun!" That's how I see the appeal, anyway. It's part celebration/homage, but also part... riffing on the standard. Emphasis on the riffing.

    I don't care about hearing Take The A Train. I care about hearing Duke Ellington's version, tonight, of Take The A Train. I mean, I do like the song, but I'm really there for Duke.
  • Imagine you and your four friends get together to create bricolage art. You all agree that the piece you'll create will have a theme--let's say it's Joy. You all show up with a bunch of stuff from your garage, knick-knacks from the local dollar store, whatever you can round up fast and cheap.

    At first, you aren't all exactly on the same page as you glue this and that together. Is it Joy? Not really. At least, not what you'd all collectively think of as Joy. But over time, you get better at reading each other. Patterns emerge. Shapes. Smiley faces. Maybe you make the eyes and someone else makes the smile, reinforcing each other's shapes. You create a system of rhythm of placing pieces, of symbology, of color choice... you never talk about the system, but it's understood.

    You make art together every weekend with new junk. Every week, you get better at doing it together because you've built up a spoken and unspoken vocabulary about what you're creating and because you all share a love for what you're doing, how you're doing it, and what you end up making.
  • edited December 2018
    I'm sold! I mean, I'm not into gluing junk, specifically, but that kind of creative collaboration is the best. :) :)
  • Well, I am not. For someone who didn't take you are describing the group celebrating a mystery. I am not sure this is specific enough. Resonance with real life or fiction was something more specific.
  • edited December 2018
    Hey David,
    Jay, whenever you are able to say "semiotic jazz", instead of "Sim", I would prefer that, as it won't invite derailments.
    Not a problem - "semiotic jazz" it shall be. My sincerest apologies if my phrasing facilitated or was causal of derailment of your thread.



    WRT - "celebrating" the source material - I agree with you that "celebrating" ... whatever that means ... some source material might (or likely) is the prime motivator for engaging in a behaviour it does not denote nor even connote what we're actually doing. Even assuming that we're talking roleplaying. "Celebrating" some source material most certainly does not describe a process of play.

    "Celebrating" the source material might be why we play but sheds absolutely no light on how or by what methodology Semiotic/Jazz is actually being accomplished. To be honest I'm not even sure what "celebrating" means in game terms; it was never defined as a process. FREX - one could celebrate one's home team winning an important match by rioting in the streets. One could celebrate a piece of music by purchasing the sheet music and playing it as written. Onc could celebrate Tolkien by reading his books, or perhaps by reading his books out loud with gathered enthusiasts. One could celebrate a favorite song by downloading the MP3 and playing it endlessly on a loop. Perhaps one could celebrate Tolkien by tattooing his face on one's chest. All are forms of "celebrating" but we illuminate nothing about a "process of celebrating".

    Again, I want to make clear that in this case we are using Bricolage as an analogy to help understand the Semiotic process of myth style thinking as applied to RPG's. In this case bricolage is a very specific methodology for solving problems. I make this point because by that definition I'm not sure the distinction between "basic" bricolage and "good" bricolage holds, at least as it is currently phrased. One could be a brilliant bricoleur but still not be a "good" semiotic/jazz player. Because bricolage is a problem solving methodology one could conceivable employ it and still be addressing challenge/premise. It would be pretty difficult but it is still theoretically possible. For example one could be playing in a game as such as the one I play in and still be Stepping On Up with regards to who has the highest level character or who has the most orc kills in an evening. I freely admit such a game would probably be pretty much weak sauce for the player who is Stepping On Up but it would still be Gamist play. Just very unsatisfying Gamist play.

    Am I correct that by "basic" bricolage you mean uninspired/flat Semiotic Jazz? Or are you referring to bricolage as a general Technique?

    Conversely by "good" bricolage do you mean inspired/creative/group affirming Semiotic Jazz? Because one could be a good bricoleur and not be engaged in Semiotic Jazz as per my Gamist example above.

    If you would be so kind, please let me know how you want me to understand your usage of "basic" and "good" bricolage. Sorry for the lame "hair splitting" response but I believe the distinctions are vital.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Hi Dave,
    (And if we want to try to draw any parallels between types of creative agendas, we could say that this challenge/goal of semiotic jazz -- to maximize resonance -- is akin to the core challenges/goals of winning and creating theme in gamism and narrativism, respectively.)

    Jay, is that right? If so, I think I might be able to whittle that into something at least sort of concise... :)
    It's definitely a good start! I'm still working this through as you are so that's all I have to add for the time being.
    P.P.S. And I might be borrowing too much from the "right" part in Ron Edwards' "right to dream" idea. But if so, then wow, "right to dream" is a terrible way to phrase it. "Dare to expand" or something would be better.
    I definitely agree. The whole "right" part drove me absolutely bat sh#t crazy. It made the whole Agenda sound weak and without power. "Excuse me...but may I play this way...please...that is, if it's no trouble..." Ugh!

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited December 2018
    Jay, re: basic bricolage vs good bricolage, I meant specifically in the context of semiotic jazz. Sorry I didn't clarify; thanks for checking!

    I've never discussed bricolage in other sorts of play, and what standards for it might be in those contexts, so that was off my radar.
  • This isn't intended as a Forge thing, but as another way of thinking of this stuff.

    The "Right" in Right to Dream is about fidelity to the Sim, whatever thing you're Simming on, about getting that thing Simmed "right."

    Really, the "right" part of Right to Dream was meant (by Ron) in two senses of the word:

    1. You have a right to play that way. But that's really not important as this:

    2. More importantly, it's let's all get this (whatever "this" is for your group) RIGHT. Do it correctly.

    Compare to the other Sim formulation of "constructive denial" that focuses on the editing process that players use to bring information into the shared imagined space (fiction). A highly functional group has figured each other out enough that adding the Right stuff to the fiction is easy. A new group has to figure each out and get stuff Wrong a bit, and the editing process kicks in and there's a bit of "no no, not like that" or correction to get it Right, or maybe even just a lack of enthusiasm that the players read properly and course-correct.

    That's not so much about celebration and it sheds more light on the process that Sim players use. Yes, celebrating the stuff at the focus of your Sim play, but also editing out (quietly or loudly) the stuff that doesn't fit the group's collective vision. By carving away everything that isn't an elephant, you enjoy the elephant shape that's left over.

    The celebration part is really about the reward cycle. You say the Right thing and it furthers the Creative Agenda for everyone at the table. It strengthens the vision of the game. There are also smaller technical rewards for mastery of the Rightness of the material, because if you do the Wrong things, your character may suffer.
  • Adam,

    I haven't gotten much out of thinking about this stuff in those terms. I don't think Jay has either.

    What have you gotten out of it?

    (I'm not asking that with "prove it!" or "defend yourself!" intentions; I am genuinely curious.)

    Separately, lemme know if you want to PM about Ron's take, as I appear to have a completely different sense of where it wound up than you do. :)
  • (Oh, if you two are going to chat about THAT, please let me listen in!)
  • I think every discussion of Sim play becomes one of those "understand it in your own way, using your own metaphor" things that happened on the Forge a lot.

    Simulationism
    Right to Dream
    Constructive Denial
    Bricolage

    Those frames all mean stuff to different people, and the Forge discussions of them all had people going "Aha! Now I get it!" or "This speaks to me more than the other ways..."

    For me, all of those approaches to understanding Sim play spoke to me deeply.

    To answer your question about what I got out of it:

    Sim play is about an editing process. Really, Creative Agenda is about that editing process, but I feel like Sim prioritizes that editing process in a way other CAs don't. I don't see Sim as Exploration-Squared but as Editing-Squared.

    Editing is about deciding what goes in and what stays out. Bricolage is just one process for doing that. There are others, and they can be Sim, too. Bricolage leaves a lot up to the table; another type of Sim, which I might call "heavy-predesign simulationism" front-loads the editing (if you play by the rules, or follow the setting material, you'll get the sim you want, but adhering to the RAW is the editing process there).

    Constructive Denial is about reinforcing the sim by saying no (sometimes less than directly) when needed to ensure the fidelity of the material you're celebrating. It's editing out the stuff you don't want, only allowing the stuff you want in.

    Right to Dream is about getting things "right." That might be setting or character, commonly, but it might also be getting the system right, getting the situation right, getting the color right. The processes you use to make sure it's Right are paramount, as Jay has pointed out.
  • edited December 2018
    Interesting! Well, if that spoke to you deeply, cool.

    When I think of "editing" and "getting stuff right", I think mostly of the training stage, the very beginning of the junk sculpture, before it's Joy or whatever. It's necessary, but it's not the part I play for.

    I play for the part after that, when we no longer need to worry about "wrong" vs "right" and have moved on to "merely sufficient" vs "totally awesome".

    My objective is not to achieve a Joy sculpture, as opposed to failing to achieve a Joy sculpture. My objective is, okay, given that we have a Joy sculpture, let me do the most uniquely cool stuff with this Joy sculpture that I can!

    Compared to that, the details of our process of enacting creative constraint are minutiae in my eyes.

    I can't tell whether we're disagreeing about what's fun in play, or about how to talk about it, or just about what parts we like to focus on when we talk about it...
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