Who's pimping Sim these days?

edited December 2008 in Story Games
I'm working on a Helium article wherein I discuss different modes of roleplaying. I want links for further info on some modes i mention. I've got Jesse's Play Passionately for Narrativism, Eero's Challenge-Based Adventuring for Gamism, and Kyle Schuant's Cheetoism for beer-and-pretzels play. Does anyone know a good essay/blog/wiki that explains upholds and celebrates Simulationist play in some form? It doesn't have to call itself Simulationism; in fact it's probably better if it doesn't. But something dedicated to a style of play that's mostly about the sheer joy of creation and exploration.

Peace,
-Joel

PS. The article isn't about GNS/Big Model, and I'm avoiding jargon terms like the plague. But I think G, N, and S, plus casual "B&P" represent a good array of possible play goals.
«1

Comments

  • I've never really researched what "Simulationism" is but by your description it sounds like we're the fanboys for it. I'm not sure how one gets from the word, "simulation", to "joy of creation and exploration", but that's our joy.

    Sadly I don't have an essay for you. An excerpt from the draft introduction to Diaspora, though, reads:
    Diaspora is written deliberately to be a tool kit. We provide a setting, but we encourage you not to use it. We want you to build your own. Instead, we give you a set of axioms about the universe and make some hand-wavey statements about humanity’s place in the universe. And then we give you the tools.

    We give you tools to create a cluster of worlds in which to adventure. We give you ways to generate and describe the worlds and their connections as a full-table exercise rather than the more typical GM-only mini-game. We give you tools to describe characters that are organic to the cluster you just created and have intrinsic connections to the characters the other players will create. We give you an arsenal of weapons from which to choose, and, for those inclined, we give you a system to generate more.

    We give you transcendant technology and clearly label it scary and dangerous and a sure route to disaster. After all, from the outside, from those cultures that are still struggling with atomic power and orbital lasers, any form of transcendence looks like catastrophe. A hundred billion souls disappear and leave a fragmentary ringworld and a tiny population of ageless, beautiful, and uncommunicative farmers. Or a planet filled with grey goo. The fringe of technology is a nightmare for intrepid heroes.
    And intrepid heroes you will be. There is plenty to explore and much about the past that is unexplained. But not only will you explore it, you will decide what you find. It is not our place to write your story: we will stop at giving you some ideas and the tools to proceed into space on your own and find what you will.

    You will be the diaspora.
    Sorry, no essay, but if it sounds like we're your poster boys, give a shout and maybe there's something here you can use.
  • Hey, sounds like you might be. Got a website?

    And don't worry about the history of "Simulationism" as a term. It's a long and sometimes contentious story; the only reason I used it here is 'cuz I knew some folks would recognize it.



    Cool writeup, by the way!
  • Our table's main page is here. From there you'll find the more interesting links are the Spirit of the Far Future material and Diaspora (our current project). I'm not sure there's more about gaming than the introductions to those two games, but you might get lucky.
  • OK, I'll look it over. Thanks!
  • Ah, I just found Canon and the Death of Everything We Hold Dear, an intentionally inflammatory piece about clinging to setting canon. That might get you somewhere.
  • I think Mr. Mike Holmes nailed Sim in Theory from the Closet Episode 37. Maybe not intentionally, btw. But I think he nailed something about Sim there. 27:50 through 35:05.
  • I'm going to be writing about sim one of these days. I have a couple of firm sim models based on play rolling around in the ol' cranial, but I haven't had time to write it all out. This post at the Forge basically outlines the sorts of Sim I have recent experience with. A fourth type I've encountered this year is princess play, so I guess I'm going to write about slots machines, Sierra adventure, capoeira or princesses - or about all of them. Haven't decided yet, and I don't particularly recommend waiting on me before getting your stuff on the air. Lord knows I always jinx anything I plan to blog about by mentioning it in advance.
  • So, waaay back in 2005/2006 I was talking a lot about Sim on my blog. It's not a totally coherent source, but here's some of the most fruitful posts (and comments - always read the comments!).

    In order of publication:

    Bricolage and Sim

    Simulationism. Hrm, reading it back over, I would add a response to Joshua at the end of the comments along these lines: Perhaps the differentiating factor for Sim is that the "direct object" of Exploration cannot be nailed down to a single thing, like it is with Nar (Premise) and Gam (Challenge). Which also accounts for the culture clash between accounts of different Sim-oriented play.

    Inside the Simscape: Constructive Denial

    Some reference for that whole "bricolage" thing I'm talking about: Bricolage APPLIED (finally!). Long, but good.

    Hope some of that helps.
  • Hmmmm. Thing is, what I'm really looking for is something, be it webpage or single post, that really embodies the spirit of the thing in a straightforward way. Like, you go to Eero's blog post and it says "Challenge Based Adventuring" and then bam! there's some bold and succinct principles for how to approach that, for player and GM. Or you go to Cheetoism and it says right up at the top, it says "we mostly just game to hang out with friends." And Play Passionately is of course very clear from the get-go on Jesse's philosophy of emotionally vulnerable play.

    So I want something like that for "joy of discovery" play. "[Playing] for the sheer joy of building and exploring an imaginary world" is how I phrased it in the essay. So ideally someone reads that phrase and it's all linkified, and they think "hey! That sounds neat," and they click a link that says "this page is all about roleplaying for the joy of building and exploring an imaginary creation" or some such, with a bunch of explanation that the person can read more of if it piques their interest. I'm kinda looking for something that's good to come to "cold," without any knowledge of the subject, or a "that's they way I've always loved to play but I've never seen someone articulate it before!" kinda deal.

    I don't wanna make a huge case over this. But I found really great links for the other sample modes and it'd just be silly to post with one left blank.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Do you see any difficulties in resolving the Build parts with the Explore parts of the style you're talking about? ( Realizing that both Build and Explore can cover several different activities or approaches).
  • If it's hard to find anyone talking about it explicitly, maybe it doesn't actually exist or maybe it indicates something more interestingly absent from the categorization. Or maybe it's pathological -- indicated by the theory but never actually observed. "Here there be dragons" on the map.

    Looking forward to your piece, Joel. I seek enlightenment. :D
  • Oddly enough Ron Edwards is with his posts on Dead of Night:

    http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27029.0

    Ron's writings about Dead of Night are actually making me miss my horror gaming roots of just making up scary stuff. I didn't think that was possible.

    Jesse
  • Simulationism is probably the most widely embraced creative agenda among the silent majority of gamers, but it's also the hardest to nail down in what exactly it means. Me personally, I've over-simplified the definition into "Exploration as an end unto itself", built a fortress and prepared to defend against all comers. Fortunately or unfortunately, there haven't been many, probably because discussions on GNS have fallen by the wayside.

    Due to the difficulty of nailing down the definition, I don't think you'll find one definitive, strong discussion of it that meets your needs. You may need to simply explain that up front, and link to some of the more applicable links given here.
  • Posted By: WolfeSimulationism is probably the most widely embraced creative agenda among the silent majority of gamers, but it's also the hardest to nail down in what exactly it means.
    Perhaps because there are multiple different kinds of Sim?
  • edited December 2008
    Posted By: HalfjackIf it's hard to find anyone talking about it explicitly, maybe it doesn't actually exist or maybe it indicates something more interestingly absent from the categorization.
    I tend to think it's more that the broad community of online gamers isn't talking about it in explicit terms. I think it's something that many gamers in real life are into, including a lot of the ones I play with.

    So, what Lance said.

    I wouldn't expect a lot out of the essay, actually. It's verrry, very basic and written for a general audience. Sort of a low-cal "System Does Matter." I just joined Helium and saw right away that there was an appalling deficit of lucid writing on roleplaying. So I'm starting out by introducing some basic concepts into a sea of "well, firtht, you've got to pick the best class. Then athhign your thkill points. . ." and "just, like, get into character, man."

    I think this thread may be lending the essay more weight than it deserves. I'm hoping to build up to some higher-level conceptual writing, but right now I'm starting small. :)
    Posted By: JesseOddly enough Ron Edwards is with his posts on Dead of Night:
    I love Ron's Dead of Night posts. I'm just not sure if they'd fit my main criteria: basically, a big flashing red neon sign at the top saying "this is what this style of play is all about." But maybe. I think I'll look up his first thread and see if it works.

    peace,
    -Joel

    [EDIT] OK, so I just looked it over and yeah, while it's a cool and lucid discussion, the points about Sim are buried amids the specific game-talk. not witheringly obvious enough for my purposes. I think I'll probably go with Brad's Diaspora article; even though it's halfway down the page, it's got the clearest "Right to Dream" vibe goin' on.
  • edited December 2008
    Posted By: komradebob
    Perhaps because there are multiple different kinds of Sim?
    Sim is about the construction of artifact according to shared pre-play standards. Those standards can be all over the map: faithful character portrayal, realization of genre tropes, adhering to historical accuracy, working within the literal confines of imagined physics. It's really no different than the range of possible thematic issues to explore with narrativism or the range of things one could be competing over in gamism.

    The problem is that with Narrativism and Gamism Premise and Objective are easily communicated sometimes even through color alone.

    However, if I'm a Sim player with very particular ideas about what-is-and-isn't "Noir" then how do I communicate to my fellow players what an acceptable contribution is? How is the blue-print of shared construction communicated? That's why sim focused players who want to "really get it right" often have trouble sustaining play over the long run because the conversation breaks down over what "right" is.

    I suggest taking a very close look at the Scrip system in Full Light, Full Steam. In my opinion when it's working correctly it's probably one of the best methods developed for repeated identification, acknowledgment and reinforcement of character portrayal oriented Sim.

    That's where design/theory/play work in Sim really needs to focused. Communicating the standards of acceptable player input.

    Jesse
  • Jesse,
    Are Creative Agendas defined by standards of player input?
    I thought it was more of a definition of Player Expectation (i.e., I expect to be challenged, I expect to deal with premise), no?
    This is not meant as a challenge to your statement. But rather I am trying to learn what this theory stuff is all about.
    Dave M
  • Dave, I think Expectation feeds quite naturally into Standards of Input. Like, if Player A has X Expectation, then that becomes his standard for Player B's input, and vice versa, as well as a self-policing device to keep player A's input conforming to his own expectations.

    Anyway, have fun, kids. I think if no one's got any other suggestions I'm gonna Halfjack it. Ooh, sounds dirty. . .
  • Posted By: DInDenverJesse,
    Are Creative Agendas defined by standards of player input?
    Creative Agendas are about mutual appreciation over time. You do thing X which makes me smile and do thing Y in response which makes you grin and do Z. It takes two to tango. *Over time* and that "over time" is really fucking key and people tend to miss it: The defining quality of what we're appreciating about each others contributions to the game is Creative Agenda. We're all here, to do *this* and hey we did *that*!

    Individual people don't have Creative Agendas. They have things they enjoy and things they don't enjoy which get satisfied more or less when a given Creative Agenda is actually in action. But it takes a group in actual play for a Creative Agenda to be an observable phenomenon. Which is why GNS and Theory have been folded into Actual Play on The Forge (not "shut down" or "concluded.")

    In functional Sim play what we're enjoying is the artifact itself. This thing we're making looks good according to our pre-play expectations. And again where Sim really needs work is how you communicate those "expectations" to players so that the guy who thinks he's doing a really bang up job of being "just like Wolverine" doesn't get into a fight with the guy who doesn't think Wolverine could "really have done that."

    Jesse
  • Wow, Jesse, either you're completely wrong, or everything I've ever thought I understood about Creative Agenda is completely wrong. Specifically, this: "Individual people don't have Creative Agendas."

    Everything I've ever understood about GNS is that individuals DO have CAs, and it is this clash that frequently causes dysfunctional play. I know that it is what caused much of my own dysfunctional play, because I wanted one thing, and the rest of the group was going for an entirely other thing.

    Now I understand that an individual's CA may shift from game to game and moment to moment, and I understand that only when the group's collective CA is compatible that functional play can emerge.

    As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure I believe it's possible for a group to have a Creative Agenda... Only the CAs of its individual members. Creative Agenda is what each player is "here to do." The group cannot subvert the individual agendas because its agenda is built from those.
  • edited December 2008
    Wolfe,

    I think we're saying the same thing but differently. A person can have a preference for a Creative Agenda. I know I do. But I can not by myself, realize or bring a Creative Agenda. You can't observe me and my creative agenda. Only when two or more people who have the preference and are realizing it (or failing to realize it) can you "see" Creative Agenda.

    I think you're talking about preferences and desires which people certainly do have.

    I'm talking about the empirical observable phenomenon which only happens in a group including "CA Clashes."

    Consider for example bowling. Let's say I talk a lot about how I"m real serious bowler. I go every week and practice. And so you set up a game. And when I get there you notice that although my weekly practice pays off I spend more time getting drinks at the bar and flirting with nearby women than paying attention to the score or trying to do better than you. Turns out for all my talk I'm not really "serious" bowler I just like the social environment of bowling alleys.

    There's no way you could see that without you and I actually bowling together and observe how we treat the game in application.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: Jesseif I'm a Sim player with very particular ideas about what-is-and-isn't "Noir" then how do I communicate to my fellow players what an acceptable contribution is? How is the blue-print of shared construction communicated?
    The same way any collaborative standards are communicated. We talk about it, write things down, revise, exchange e-mails, call each other on the phone, argue, compromise, ponder, and so on. We read texts in common, be they books or portions of books, and (for noir at least) we watch films in common and compare and constrast elements and techniques we want to use or not use.

    Why is this even a question?
  • Posted By: JDCorleyWhy is this even a question?
    Because this is a discussion site, JD. Get out of my thread if you're not going to contribute.
  • I suppose I should have said "How come people keep asking this question when the only possible answer is so bone-crushingly obvious?" but it might sound sarcastic - and I really do want to know! I mean, I don't think Jesse was being rhetorical, was he? Sorry for the confusion if he was.
  • I don't think he is. And I don't think so "obvious" if people keep struggling to do it.
  • In a lot of cases it may be obvious but in some it doesnt rear it's head until there's a lot of water under the bridge gameplay wise which can invalidate a lot of what's gone before in one players mind.
  • Vernon's got it, I think: it's definitely obvious, but it's the kind of obvious that most people only recognize after they've wasted a ridiculous amount of time screwing it up over and over again.

    When I think about how long it took my gaming group -- all smart people who've known each other for years -- to come to the stunning realization that we could actually discuss things like genre conventions and what we think is fun openly, explicitly, and precisely ....jeez, it makes me cringe. I bet it's a common mistake, thinking that you have to sneak up on stuff like that and then sit around wondering "gee, why is it that we keep having so much trouble communicating these things to each other when we're trying so hard to avoid communication?" It's like randomly telling them things about your home and and about things that have happened or might happen at 9pm all around the world and how many different things people can eat, and then expecting them to divine the secret message within...without you ever having to say, "You are invited to a party at my house at 9pm, where we will all have punch and pie." JUST FUCKING INVITE THEM ALREADY. Seriously, we must have wasted years not saying what we meant, it's embarrassing.
  • edited December 2008
    Posted By: MelinglorI don't think so "obvious" if people keep struggling to do it.
    Well, communication with our fellow creatures upon God's earth is always a struggle, yes. And it's true that for those of us who haven't given literature or film (again, for noir) or comics, or wrestling, or history, (and so on) serious and rigorous study that we lack training in how to talk about these things, so have to fumble around about it like ignoramuses. That includes me, perhaps especially.

    But once you know to ask the question - and virtually all published games tell you to ask it - yeah, there's really only one conceivable answer.
  • Everything I've ever understood about GNS is that individuals DO have CAs, and it is this clash that frequently causes dysfunctional play. I know that it is what caused much of my own dysfunctional play, because I wanted one thing, and the rest of the group was going for an entirely other thing.

    I love Gamist play a lot. I also love Narrativist play a lot. Sim, eh. I'm working on that. There are things I like about it, but I don't know of games that really help me get at what I like about it.

    So, there are probably a lot of things you like. You can't have them all at the same time, but you can have them at different times.

    But once you know to ask the question - and virtually all published games tell you to ask it - yeah, there's really only one conceivable answer.

    Sometimes they don't tell you how to ask it in an effective manner. Sometimes, they tell you to ask the question and then the rules tell you to ignore the answer. Sometimes, they tell you not to ask the question, but to listen to the players to derive an answer. There are a lot of techniques and some of them work better than others, sometimes between games, sometimes between groups.

  • I struggled with the "CA is a group thing" vs. the "CA is an individual thing" until I realized it's both.

    Creative Agenda is what you want other people to be excited about with you, when you're playing an RPG. I'm leaving some essential stuff out, like the difference between a creative agenda and a social or technical agenda, but that's the gist of it.
  • edited December 2008
    Joel, my feeling is that people who love Sim don't talk about Sim. They get excited about settings and suchlike. This kind of thing:

    "Stunning female singers, nightclubs, seedy hotels, Chinese gangs, and organized crime populate this tale of murder and international intrigue."1

    "You are part of a secret inter-agency task force ordered to hunt down Soviet monsters leftover from the invasion, and anything else the Government needs hunted"2

    "You as a PC, are a Mystery Agent of The Company (a rather faceless, suitable MiB type of organization), and this landscape, both horrifying and gorgeous, is the terra incognita you will be exploring"3


    It's not surprisingly, really. Sim is The Right To Dream, so I think Sim-lovers get excited about things to dream about4.

    By the way, nobody has mentioned Mr Edwards' article on Simulationism, so I thought I would.

    I love Sim.

    Graham

    1 OgreCave on Stunning Eldritch Tales, an adventure for Trail of Cthulhu, by Robin Laws.
    2 Kenneth Hite on Hot War, by Malcolm Craig
    3 RPG Blog on Lacuna: Part 1, The Etc Etc by Jared Sorenson.
    4 God, that sounds pretentious.
  • Posted By: Graham
    It's not surprisingly, really. Sim is The Right To Dream, so I think Sim-lovers get excited about things to dream about4.
    Yes. This. And frankly I've never understood it. I would love to have someone explain it to me.

    I have memories of gamers going on at length about how cool their game about being dinosaur riding spies fighting mecha-driving nazis. And me seeing their enthusiasm and looking on rather blankly. I get they were excited about something. I just don't understand what.

    Jesse
  • Not everyone can be alive inside, some of you have to be dead so we have something to compare it to.


    :D
  • edited December 2008
    Posted By: JesseYes. This. And frankly I've never understood it. I would love to have someone explain it to me.
    Huh, I don't get excited about Connery, Brosnan, or Moore Bond movies. Nor do I love to read yet another Spider-Man, Superman, whatever-man comic book. I absolutely hated The Sword of Shannara. But I get the fact that people do like these things. And I think they like them for the reason why people enjoy phatic fiction. Because people like things to turn out the way they expect them to turn out.
  • edited December 2008
    Man, I want to link an old King Missile video of "Sensitive Artist" into this thread suddenly.

    I can't imagine what inspired that.

    I guess the lyrics will have to do:

    I am a sensitive artist...

    I am a sensitive artist.
    Nobody understands me because I am so deep.
    In my work I make allusions to books that nobody else has read,
    Music that nobody else has heard,
    And art that nobody else has seen.
    I can't help it
    Because I am so much more intelligent
    And well-rounded
    Than everyone who surrounds me.

    I stopped watching tv when I was six months old
    Because it was so boring and stupid
    And started reading books
    And going to recitals
    And art galleries.
    I don't go to recitals anymore
    Because my hearing is too sensitive
    And I don't go to art galleries anymore
    Because there are people there
    And I can't deal with people
    Because they don't understand me.

    I stay home
    Reading books that are beneath me,
    And working on my work,
    Which no one understands

    I am sensitive...
    I am a sensitive artist
  • I hope I become as sophisticated as you someday, Jesse, so I too can act jaded by imaginary nonsense.

    Do you take pills for that or something? Or is it just a lot of very focused practice? I suspect there's props involved, perhaps a beret.

    p.
  • edited December 2008
    Posted By: Jesse
    This thing we're making looks good according to our pre-play expectations. And again where Sim really needs work is how you communicate those "expectations" to players so that the guy who thinks he's doing a really bang up job of being "just like Wolverine" doesn't get into a fight with the guy who doesn't think Wolverine could "really have done that."
    Hello all, this is my first post :-)

    While, the idea of fixed, narrow and pre-communicated expectations is common in indie games (particularly those of a narrativist or gamist bent), I do not think that it characterises the way that most people play. Most gamers do not clearly communicate their pre-play expectations and they do not work hard to ensure that everyone is singing from the same thematic hymn sheet.

    Any theory of Sim which, as you suggest, is based upon how information about expectations is communicated is working on the assumption that the vast majority of gamers play in a way that is basically identical to the way indie gamers do except that somehow these focusing processes are occluded.

    To be honest with you, this simply does not fit with my experience as a gamer.

    I consider myself a sim GM and player and I would argue that the lack of clear pre-play expectations, the fluidity of expectations within a game and even within a session, the lack of clear communication of what people want from a game and the frequent failure to address what people want in a game despite them trying to communicate their desires are features of simulationism, not bugs.

    From the point of view of Forge and Indie games, most gaming experiences must be unholy messes, but I think that this unholy mess §is not a failure to do sim properly. It IS sim.
  • Posted By: Paul BDo you take pills for that or something? Or is it just a lot of very focused practice? I suspect there's props involved, perhaps a beret
    Alrighty, alrighty, please stop the pile-on now kthxbye.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: JessePosted By: Graham
    It's not surprisingly, really. Sim is The Right To Dream, so I think Sim-lovers get excited about things to dream about4.
    Yes. This. And frankly I've never understood it. I would love to have someone explain it to me.

    I have memories of gamers going on at length about how cool their game about being dinosaur riding spies fighting mecha-driving nazis. And me seeing their enthusiasm and looking on rather blankly. I get they were excited about something. I just don't understand what.
    The enthusiasm about imaginary content can come for a variety of reasons, but Ron's "Right to Dream" highlights what that range shares -- the ability to interact strongly with the imagined stuff.

    Example: we like fiction involving mecha... we like fiction involving nazis... let's try to create mecha-driving nazi fiction!

    It's that act of creation that's the fun part -- putting your own unique spin on it: "here's how I'd do it!" Will I do it well? Will I do it poorly? Can we really tap this as a fertile source of fun stuff to imagine, or will we burn out on it quickly and move on to dianosaurs and spies?

    This is true even for pure emulation. Let's say you just want to play Ghost Rider. It'll still be your Ghost Rider, and it might be better or worse than the comic depending on your contributions.

    So, when you hear people gush about setting stuff, they're not enthused about "nazis are cool" as much as they're enthused about "nazis are a cool toy for me to create fiction with!" Maybe your looking on blankly has more to do with dissimliar taste in toys? I mean, your examples sound awful to me, but I'm sure you can replace them with something neat, like Blade Runner on Mars or Die Hard in a space shuttle or... well, I don't know your taste so I'll stop myself there.

    If a group's using a crappy system (game or otherwise) to do Sim, and it intrudes on people's ability to really stretch, emulate, personalize, or otherwise interact strongly with the fiction being created, then Sim sucks. But when that ability is preserved, then everyone playing has their Right to Dream intact, and it's great.

    -David

    P.S. I dunno how folks are taking "pre-play standards", but that's only part of the equation. By your 5th session of a given Sim game, the "standards" may reference the last 4 sessions as much as, or more than, pre-play inputs. The parameters of "the cool thing we're doing here" are always evolving.
  • Posted By: David BergI'm sure you can replace them with something neat, like Blade Runner on Mars or Die Hard in a space shuttle or... well, I don't know your taste so I'll stop myself there.
    I think this is an interesting quote. David, do you think it's possible for someone to not have anything neat at a Sim level?
  • Well, I assume anyone who finds the faintest appeal in roleplaying probably has fiction they enjoy. Whether it's worth their while to explore/celebrate/emulate/simulate/bastardize/whatever it with their friends is a separate issue.
  • Joel, if you'd like to grab a snippet from the extreme edge of "simulate a plausible reality" Sim, feel free to canibalize this blog post of mine.
  • Hello Again,

    1) I'll take the comments as friendly ribbing. I probably deserve it.

    2) The Sim I have enjoyed has always been thematic oriented in the sense of celebration of established theme from a given set of source material. Similar to Christopher Kubasik's love of Pendragon only my preferences run towards the horror genre and the emotional weight often carried by the pre-planned reveal.

    3) It's true that I've never gotten the more kitchen-sink gaming I've seen out there. Seriously. I was not being derisive. I've just never understood it.

    But Jonathan's post reminds of a play experience I had once. It was a Changeling game. It was very much of the school of throw the characters into a situation and let them "be" their characters with very little situation beyond the initial setup. In this case we were Changeling children who had been turned over to a baby sitter that didn't know our "true" nature.

    Now here's the thing, I played a Satyr. I decided that my character was basically in that awkward stage now refereed to as "tween" where girls are just becoming interesting but has no communication skills. Layered on top of with the manipulative Pan thing. So I did stuff like hit-on the baby-sitter in weird ways and tried to be more impressive than the other male characters and stuff like that.

    I could tell the GM, indeed the group seemed to have a real hard time with what I was doing. But here's the thing, I just latched on to what was interesting to me about "child satyr" but clearly I was supposed to be doing something else. Indeed afterward, the GM singled me out and said to me, "clearly you have no idea how to play a satyr child."

    This is opposed to Call of Cthulhu (probably one of the most functional Sim games ever created) where the "supposed to" is obvious. Investigate the mystery, enjoy the decrease in sanity as your understanding increases, if you're lucky win a Pyrrhic victory over the bad guy. Trail of Cthulhu is even better at communicating this. I was in a game shop the other day and just by leafing through it I was able to locate that exact process spelled out neat and clear under the "how this game is played" section. It was great.

    Jesse
  • Jesse,

    my reading of your Changeling game is that, left to your own devices, you decided to play the game with a focus on interpreting your character (and a rather iconoclastic interpretation at that if the GM is to be believed). The other people at the table would have had different agendas which could have been solving a problem or just sitting back, cracking jokes and hanging out with some friends. From my perspective, this is not a disfunctional game... it is a standard sim experience (by which I mean non-nar, non-gam and non-focused). If you had continued the game then depending upon who was there and who was on form, the balance of play would have shifted.

    If there was a failure in that game it lies at the level of the GM expecting you to toe some imaginary line, not in you going "okay, so I'm going to engage with the game in this manner".


    Also, on a largely tangential note, I think the pyrrhic victory/existential angst/raging against the dying of the light interpretation of CoC is actually something cooked up by people looking at the game with Lovecraft in mind. Actual Cthulhu play is more often about investigation and monster killing in a setting with no combat optimalisation, no real power growth and incredibly powerful adversaries. I've played a number of CoC campaigns where my character survived and effectively 'won'. This vision of the game tends to be the one used by most published material for the game. It's a sim game with a very well known set of assumptions attached to it, but I don't think there's any actual communication going on. If anything it's more a matter of people arriving at the table going "oh I'm going to go mad anyway" and playing to that expectation.

    Prior to reading Lovecraft or discussing the game with other gamers I played Cthulhu with triumph in mind and it's certainly the attitude I've seen in most of the newbies I've introduced to gaming via the game. So I would definitely disagree with the idea that there's anything in the game that suggests it's all about gradually getting weaker and weaker against overwhelming odds with death inevitable. Hell, you can interpret D&D along those lines as no matter how many orcs you kill there are always more out there and no matter how powerful you get, there are always monsters that can kill you and all of your friends.
  • Posted By: Jonathan MActual Cthulhu play is more often about investigation and monster killing in a setting with no combat optimalisation, no real power growth and incredibly powerful adversaries.
    You're right. I overstated my own reading of the game. However, this core point you pointed out is still very clear in terms of what you "do." Investigate and monster kill. The direct celebration of the Lovecraft theme is a dial on top of that can be turned high or low depending on the play group but it's still a visible and clear dial and indeed usually requires no *direct* discussion to set because the overall design is thoughtful enough to allow that to be emergent from play.

    And that's what I meant by "communicate." I didn't necessarily mean we talk about it and all agree upon before hand. I meant that the design is such that by playing "what to do" and "how to do it" well (in the social skill sense, not the gamesmanship sense) are communicated.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: Ryan StoughtonI think Mr. Mike Holmes nailed Sim inTheory from the Closet Episode 37. Maybe not intentionally, btw. But I think he nailed something about Sim there. 27:50 through 35:05.
    Mike comes through again, this time as subject, in Virtual Play's Traveller sessions from Origins.

    Basically, BIll and Mel White are gleefully story-gaming the heck out of classic Traveller. Then, Mike (a CT veteran) sits down with them and totally takes over, showing them how to play the "right" way. Despite not being the GM, Mr. Holmes directs the play to a classic Merchant cargo-heist scenario. It obvious that he (and maybe Mel and Bill) know exactly where the story is going, and they are doing things (e.g., putting cargo in a stationary orbit) that Holmes has probably done a hundred times before with Traveller. But notice that this is exactly what's making it enjoyable for Mr. Holmes. Seems like a great example of the "right to dream" to me.
  • Posted By: chearnsdo you think it's possible for someone to not have anything neat at a Sim level?
    Absolutely, and I think this is at the core of Jesse's non-fun experience with Changeling (or, to go to the nub of it because Jesse was not the issue, Jesse's GM's non-fun experience with Jesse's Changeling play). Tastes differ. What I think is really great, others in my group may think is dull and not worth experiencing. Jesse's GM took something different from the source material than Jesse did, and did not like what Jesse got, and took no steps to resolve what Jesse got with what he expected. What you describe is a failure of this style of play.

    "This is it? But the cool thing about mecha anime isn't their military adventurism but their colorful-haired angst!" he said, reading Mechwarrior in disappointment.

    It might very well be the "cool thing" or it might not, for the rest of the group. For a big muddled property, genre, set of properties, or original material, like many of these games, focus is the issue...and I really should finish up the post about how to deal with this...

    (I am a bit grouchy about participating in these terms because of my sincere doubt about Creative Agendae, so I'm kinda just guessing about what you are all talking about here. Hopefully it is not making things worse. If it is, just ignore it. :))
  • Posted By: Jesse
    You're right. I overstated my own reading of the game. However, this core point you pointed out is still very clear in terms of what you "do." Investigate and monster kill. The direct celebration of the Lovecraft theme is a dial on top of that can be turned high or low depending on the play group but it's still a visible and clear dial and indeed usually requires no *direct* discussion to set because the overall design is thoughtful enough to allow that to be emergent from play.

    And that's what I meant by "communicate." I didn't necessarily mean we talk about it and all agree upon before hand. I meant that the design is such that by playing "what to do" and "how to do it" well (in the social skill sense, not the gamesmanship sense) are communicated.
    BRP is best known as an 'invisible system'. This means that it tends to get out of the way and fade into the background during play. You're quite right that it allows tone, theme and subject matter to emerge organically during play but I would suggest that there is no pragmatic difference between a system that communicates in such a way as to allow stuff to emerge from play and a system that does not communicate anything at all.

    I accept that your interpretation of sim and the centrality of communicating expectations can account for the stuff I am talking about but I think you're watering down your concepts to the point where they cease to actually say very much. If CoC is text-book sim and people play it without communicating clear expectations before play and the setting does not actually communicate expectations either then I would suggest that communicating expectations is not actually central to sim gaming at all.

    Ockham's Razor and all that :-)
  • CoC does little to nothing to directly emulate its theme and setting, but has a system that doesn't stand in the way of it. I'm beginning to believe that it's more important for a sim game to avoid inhibiting emulation than to directly facilitate it
    Posted By: Jonathan MWhile, the idea of fixed, narrow and pre-communicated expectations is common in indie games (particularly those of a narrativist or gamist bent), I do not think that it characterises the way that most people play. Most gamers do not clearly communicate their pre-play expectations and they do not work hard to ensure that everyone is singing from the same thematic hymn sheet.

    Any theory of Sim which, as you suggest, is based upon how information about expectations is communicated is working on the assumption that the vast majority of gamers play in a way that is basically identical to the way indie gamers do except that somehow these focusing processes are occluded.

    To be honest with you, this simply does not fit with my experience as a gamer.
    It doesn't fit with my experience either. Which is bad, because keeping everyone's expectations in sync, at least to the point that the outcomes of their character's actions make sense, could very well be the most important thing done in an RPG.
    Posted By: Jonathan MI consider myself a sim GM and player and I would argue that the lack of clear pre-play expectations, the fluidity of expectations within a game and even within a session, the lack of clear communication of what people want from a game and the frequent failure to address what people want in a game despite them trying to communicate their desires are features of simulationism, not bugs.
    ...Annnnnnnd you've lost me.

    Inconsistent expectations destroy all games, regardless of agenda.
  • Posted By: anon.adderlanCoC does little to nothing to directly emulate its theme and setting, but has a system that doesn't stand in the way of it. I'm beginning to believe that it's more important for a sim game to avoid inhibiting emulation than to directly facilitate it.
    That would make sense and be firmly in line with the commentary in this thread about how different goals and expectations can be when trying to emulate stuff. One person looks at Lovecraft and sees a whole extradimensional cosmology, another sees lonely horror tales about sanity-twisting dark arts, and a third sees ancient civilizations seeking revenge. Some see hopeless narrators pursued to their inevitable and inescapable demise, others see hideous monsters being revealed and subsequently tommy-gunned by the troops. What sort of system could possible facilitate all of those disparate interpretations?

    But an aggressively vanilla system, one that fades into the background...well, at least with that, any group that can reach some kind of consensus on its own can have a fun time playing whatever their version of Lovecraftian horror is.
Sign In or Register to comment.