Perhaps we should jump to another thread for deeper exposition of the Mythic Playstyle?
This thread was broken off of @David_Berg's randomization vs feeling real
at the wise and thoughtful behest of @AsIf
Jay: now I'm adrift! I'm wondering where NPC Mercutio's motives originally came from, and I assume it was the GM (correct me if I'm wrong). I then assume that Players can make rolls that interact with or push upon those motives, but if you're saying they cannot literally constrain or reverse those options it makes the whole thing seem rather (here's that word again): railroady, does it not? As though the path of the Myth is predestined, and all the Players can do is color it or produce slight modulations in its vector along the way.
Just to make sure we're both on the same page let me clarify what I referring to by "myth". The myth tradition I am referring is not found in the Greek myths or the Vikings Sagas that we have today. I am referring to the myths used in pre-literate tribal cultures. They are an oral tradition and both the corpus and "meanings" constantly evolve and grow with each telling and need. These myths are neither stories nor narratives in form or purpose. In one very, very narrow sense they are a kind of musing about any particular topic of interest. In a rather oblique way the method of their telling can be thought of as similar to improv jazz. Each telling is unique in that it is not, nor is it meant to be, a perfect retelling of an existing myth. The speaker of the myth is expected to both play with the structure of the original myth but also stay true to its purpose. This means that myths are both aesthetically pleasing and they only really live in the moment they are being told. Going back to the improv jazz analogy while a recording can be made of the aural component what is lost is the creativity that is happening in the Right Now
which is a critical component of improv jazz. Imagine tightrope walking one foot of the ground. Not easy to a beginner but failure isn't that much of a risk. Now put that rope 100 feet in the air. The act of walking a rope is much more exciting and interesting. Take away the safety net. Now we're talking about what makes tightrope walking so gripping to watch. There's a vitality to live improv performances that just doesn't exist anywhere else. So it is with myth as lived
by preliterate tribal cultures. The myth I am talking about. This myth is not just a recreation or an art form. It is lived
and it gives life meaning and structure.
There is an analogy to how myth functions in the art process of bricolage. The basic rules are that you can't "engineer" a new part ad nihilo to meet a specific need but must use what is already at hand with all the attendant "problems" or entailments said part brings to the project. The process is absolutely additive so once a piece has been used it can never be removed. So if, for example, you needed a localized heat source you can't create a heating element that is perfect for your specific needs. You have to use what's already available to you from what has been called the bricoleur's closet. So for this example we'll say that a clothes iron is your best fit, but when you use it you find it is too heavy (this would be an entailment) and the project starts to collapse. You can't remove the iron as the process must be additive so you rummage through your closet and find a big helium balloon and use that. But it turns out the balloon is too buoyant (another entailment) and so you must deal with that issue by adding something from the bricoleur's closet to deal with that problem and so on.
Myth works in this way but the closet is filled with uncountable things. The "things" that fill the "closet" of the mythic thinker can be just about anything you can imagine existing or happening in the world - eagles, childbirth, seasons, solar eclipses, other myths, etc. The thing is that myth works on a structural level and the relationships created by bringing these things into contact with each other rather than an abstract level. So if an eagle is used as part of a myth telling then the next time the eagle is used in the future in another myth telling all the relationships that eagle picked up in the earlier myth are included with the Eagle in this new usage. This continues until these "things" each have enormously dense meaning structures (entailments) which makes using them so interesting and fun to use! Eventually it gets to the point where the original use of the "eagle" is no longer the intended structure needed but rather some of the entailments associated with it that accumulated with it over centuries of repeated usage.
Here's a key part in to making all this work. Whenever a "pristine" object is employed for the first time what "meanings" that are ascribed to it always point back to the tribesman or "humanity" is some important way. This creates a relationship between the "things" and people. So as the process continues the myth created is always meaningfully bound to the people who created them. While literate culture thought tries to be outward focused and "objective" myth is inward focused and supremely subjective. To the literate west the world is and we happen to be in it. To the myth living cultures the world is meaningful and purposeful.
How does this relate to role-play? In the agenda of play that I've been playing for the last 25 years and trying to suss out is really a watered down form of myth. This has some very important implications regarding the structure and form of play itself. The first is that this agenda of play supremely subjective. This means that what you're being told as a player via your character is subjective perception and not objective truth. In play this means each player via their character is going to have a different experience of play and of the play session. This also means a very minimum of abstractions like overt resolution mechanics. This also means that resolution mechanics can not be deterministic. Every action is run through the bricolage or myth thinking process and from there an resolution is made - usually with entailments.
This works because myth is normative. As it is a thinking process it can resolve events. Abstracted deterministic resolution mechanics are orthogonal to mythic thinking. This doesn't mean randomizers can't be used, but rather how they are used is radically different. Since the GM is also a bricoleur along with the rest of the players he too is tightly bound by the normative nature of myth. He cannot be objective as he too must highly attuned to the myth that is being created. Going back to the improv jazz analogy just because the lead soloist might have chosen the standard and the chordal progression he cannot dictate how the other soloists can riff. However these improvisations are not random but are constrained and informed by musical theory, local styles, the instrument being played, the soloist's relationship to the standard, his current mood, what the other soloists have played that night, etc.
You mentioned the problem of "railroading" but if one is playing in the myth style there is no story or narrative structure for the GM to push. What he does do is seed the closet of items with NPCs who have motives and perhaps history (entailments), locations, items, set up meaningful relationships between "things" and so on. What he doesn't do is layer a story on top and drive play in that direction. The point of this mode of play is to see and allow players to bricole while the GM constantly seeds "things" and entailments.
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