G/N/S translated into my own words, using examples

Okay.
Once upon a time (about six months ago), I stumbled on some pretty good games via reviews on RPG.net and 20×20 room. The first of these was My Life With Master, which was so different in a lot of ways from what I tended to think of as a role-playing game that I wasn’t even sure if it really was a roleplaying game.
It was, however, cool as hell. That I knew.
Reading through the thing and the notes in the back led me to some sites I’d been to before, off and on, but never really delved into too much — Momento-Mori and the number of games available for download there (notably InSpectres, which was a real mind-blowing ‘investigation’ game), and the Forge.
Stuff on the Forge led me to reading up on quite a number of other games whose goals all seemed to be pretty novel and very interesting to me as a GM and even moreso as a player: Sorcerer, Urge, Trollbabe, Dust Devils, Donjon, Paladin, Universalis, et cetera.
These were, I found out, products of folks working on building “Narrativist” games, a style (dare I say “movement”) of games built not (usually) to test out new game mechanics or (necessarily) to create an incredibly detailed setting — but to explore a character dealing with conflict.
“Umm… dude… that’s like… every RPG… ever?”
Well, that’s not to say that other games… older games… didn’t give you a session or a campaign where you got to deal with character conflict. Most every game out there does… that’s sort of the point.
What the narrativist guys were doing was talking about the Literary definition of conflict — that means “a question is posed within the story (overtly or covertly), and the protagonist answers that question through his or her actions.”
So: A ballroom full of hobgoblins that you have to get through to save the princess is not a conflict in these terms; it’s a challenge (which those Forge guys then associated with “Gamist” styles of player).
A conflict by this definition would be something like: “You’ve been given great power. How will that change you?”
The players then play the game, and their characters’ actions define their answers.
Peter Parker’s actions say: Great Power means I must now be responsible.
Bruce Banner’s actions say: Great Power exposes my greatest faults.
Logan’s actions say: Great Power just raises more questions for me.
Or whatever.
What I’m going to do below is talk about three styles of play that the folks on the Forge use when talking about game group dynamics, and use examples of both Games and Example Moments from Actual Play to illustrate what I think each style means in the real world.
I don’t know if any of this will be useful to anyone but me — that’s okay, since it’s mostly just me working on figuring it out.


Let’s start with Gamism:

Gamism is expressed by competition among participants (the real people); it includes victory and loss conditions for characters, both short-term and long-term, that reflect on the people’s actual play strategies. The listed elements provide an arena for the competition.

What’s the point?
I think it’s really more important to illustrate the kinds of situations that a Gamist player is going to enjoy. The key thing with Gamist play is the ability of the player to build a character that can face the challenges of the setting competently, because facing those challenges are where they really enjoy themselves.
Key point: this isn’t hack-n-slash. This isn’t being a munchkin. This is using the game system to address a situation tactically, beating the challenge through use of those tactics and by taking on measured risk (via your character).
Example Games:
I’ve seen this style of play in practically any system, because it’s been built into the hobby pretty much since it’s inception, but just to really stick in the craw of everyone else reading this, I’m going to say that the two best Actual Play examples I have that illustrate this style of play come from d20 and Amber DRPG.
AmberDRPG
Randy tells a story (with no small amount of justifiable enjoyment) of a scene he had as a player in (I think) one of John Barne’s games. His character (or his character’s house, I’m not entirely sure of the details) was attacked while in a bathtub. Dripping wet, unarmed, naked, he had to get through the house, dealing with the challenges as he encountered them, using only the tools immediately at his disposal (including judicious use of his Power Words) in order to recover the situation and win the day.
A Great story. Not in the narrative/lit sense of the word, but a great story, and perfect illustration of Gamist play… Randy used his knowledge of the system and his character (as abstracted within the ADRPG rules) as well as measured amounts of Character Risk in a tactical way to face the challenge and win.
d20
In one of the last sessions I ever played with my Living Greyhawk character Gwydion, Jackie and I participated in a “classic” style game: lots of monsters, lots of clues, lots of traps, lots of magic, lots of careful resource management to be able to counteract attrition and be ready for the Big Ending Fight.
During the last big encounter, I pulled a couple of ‘tricks’ with the d20 system (which I know passing well) in order to… well, let’s say I did a number of things that would normally have stood a damn good chance of killing me but, thanks to my knowledge of the system, I managed to pull all of them off largely unscathed and left a couple of the other players sort of staring and shaking their heads in awe (well, that’s how I saw it, anyway 🙂 It was just knowing and using commonly-known rules that everyone is familiar with and no one remembers in the heat of a fight.
Gamist players I know:
Randy. Jackie. Myself. This isn’t to say that this is the only style of game these folks play — the fact of the matter is everyone does a little bit of every style, all the time. That said, in my nascent understanding of the term, this is the style of play they instinctly move toward.

Simulationism is expressed as enhancing Character (a fictional person or entity), Setting (the place where the character is, in the broadest sense (esp. including history as well as location)), Color (any situation or details or illustrations or nuances that provide atmosphere); in other words, Simulationism heightens and focuses Exploration as the priority of play. The players are usually greatly concerned with the internal logic and experiential consistency of that Exploration.

What’s the point?
Setting & Situation is a huge deal for Sim play: the main point of a Sim-style game is that it provides the ability for the character to dig down into the setting and wallow around in it — it’s very important for a Sim-style player to be able to build characters that really feel like they “fit” in the setting and work as an illustration of the setting or situation. If the system itself fights against your ability to build an ‘accurate’ character for the setting (if you’re forced to shoe-horn a pre-designed faux-medieval Cleric class into a role as a tribal witchdoctor), that’s bad.
Example Games:
Once upon a time I said Amber would be a good example of this kind of game style, but I don’t think that’s really true — most Amber players I know are not in it to “feel like they’re in Amber” — there’s other stuff going on.
No, for Sim, setting & situation is King, so I’m going to point out Star Wars (regardless of game system) as probably the best example of a popular Sim (at some point, anyone I game with has heard me say “Star Wars gaming is like sex — even if it’s bad, it’s still Star Wars.” That said, any very popular game-setting would probably qualify for some players: Forgotten Realms, In Nomine, Vampire, Shadowrun… whatever. Everyone has their own interests in this regard — sometimes this interest can be seen in folks who really jones on the quantitative in-game differences between different gun calibers in a Twilight 2000 game — it’s depends on where your feeling of ‘being there’ comes from.
If you’ve ever heard someone say some variation of: “I don’t really care what system we use as long as we’re doing a [setting] game, and it can do that setting right.” Well, that’s a Sim priority talking.
Sim players I know:
What’s interesting about Sim is that it’s the Grand-daddy that no one really knows — it’s so much at the heart of most role-playing (and the very definitions of role-playing) that it’s almost too big to think about — no matter what game you’re playing, you’re going to be playing within a setting, right?
Right. So, in this instance, you’re looking for the players whose main ‘instinct’ is interest the setting. To that end, I’d say Margie and Dave have strong Sim interests. Of course, as I mentioned above with regards to Star Wars (as well as a detail-obsession with firearms), I’m very into Sim at times as well.

Narrativism is expressed by the creation, via role-playing, of a story with a recognizable theme*. The characters are formal protagonists in the classic Lit 101 sense, and the players are often considered co-authors of events within the game. The listed elements provide the material for narrative conflict (again, in the specialized sense of literary analysis).

* – First, one of the most-common complaints about this definition is the line about ‘creating story’, since almost any set of events create a story, in the sense that you can recount what happened. That’s why I inserted a line into the definition that the Forge-definition assumes: In this definition, a “story” is one with a Theme, and a Theme is defined as “an answer to the question posed by the Premise. Lots of GMs and gaming groups don’t futz around with defining such things for their game — and that’s just fine: you still get a story, just not this kind of story that we’re talking about. Neither one is better or worse — it’s just a question of what you’re aiming for.
What’s the Point?
Narr (as a defined style of play) is the baby in the family. DnD started out being (mostly) equal parts Gamist and Sim, and that’s been the whole of the industry for a long time. It’s only been in the last five years or so that folks have started to recognize/realize that there’s a play-goal out there in the community that doesn’t match either of those goals above — it’s had lots of names: “Actor”, “Drama”, and most recently “Narrativist.”
It’s not better, it’s just another style. I’d say it’s not even a new style, actually: I have a baby-theory that some of the ‘recurring character’ phenomena that you sometimes see with players is a result of wanted to get that character out into actual play again so the player can take another shot at (forgive me the jargon) “answering their question”.
Narr Games:
Just like Gamism and Sim, you’re looking for games that help you play this particular style. Until fairly recently, there hasn’t really been any game that was specifically designed with Narr goals in mind, but there were certainly games that let you ‘drift’ the rules in that direction. Champions 2nd & 3rd edition was almost equal parts of all three styles, and I think AmberDRPG is as well — I firmly believe that there are a lot of Amber players who play that game mostly because (and this is weird) Setting required a system that allowed a lot of the player-provided story-control that Narr play asks for: player (not necessarily character)-driven plots and control of scenes and events, conflict in the literary sense, et cetera.
More recently, as the definition of this style of play has matured, more games have come out that focus specifically on Narr play in general (Trollbabe, Sorcerer, Universalis) or on specific elements of Narr play (you’ve got InSpectres, OctaNe, and Donjon that play with varying levels of player-control of the session and stuff like Dust Devils, Paladin and MLWM that are all about the Conflict).
Examples:
My current sorcerer game is one in which the players themselves have a tremendous amount of influence over the setting elements, plot points, and events in the game — a huge amount of that comes naturally from the rules of the game itself. I can’t do much more by way of example than point at the Actual Play for those (currently five) sessions, except to say that sessions 4 and 5 certainly started to boil away the bits of the story that aren’t scenes with real impact on the Premise (What will you give up for Knowledge and Power?) and the character’s answer to it.
Narr players I know:
Narr isn’t exactly ‘character-driven’ — that’s too easy. It is sort of the opposite of “my guy” syndrome (“My guy wouldn’t do that.”), in that it sometimes (often?) asks you to be one step removed from first person (a.k.a. “Actor) stance and make decisions based on the story, not on optimal tactics (gamist) or perfect reflection of the character (sim). Everyone I know can do this but this is really a matter of instinctively enjoying it. I think ***Dave likes this style of play as a player (he doesn’t particularly like it as a GM), which I attribute a lot to the kinds of characters he creates. Also, Narr control of scenes for players can really work for some GMs-turned-players, since they still get some of the story influence they obviously enjoy having (or they wouldn’t GM). That said, I enjoy this style of play a lot both as a GM (where it fits my style of game prep right down to the ground) and (potentially) as a player (I’ve only had one chance to try this out as a player, doing an online Paladin game recently).
Mixing it up:
I most recently put all this stuff into play in my last Sorcerer session. Knowing that I would have a couple ‘default gamist’ players (Jackie and Randy), as well as a Sim/Narr player (***Dave), and (equally important) a Narr GM (me), I prepared accordingly, making sure of gamist-style challenges open enough to encourage interesting and varied response, that the setting was sufficiently detailed, logical and coherent (sim), and that there would opportunities for the players to make thematic choices (narr).
I could go on at some length about how each player’s reactions to the session illustrated and strengthened the prep that I’d anticipated, but that’s probably grist for another post.
Final Note:
The astute (read: still conscious) reader will notice that I put myself in the list of “Players I know” for each of the styles. This was for a couple reasons:

  • The simple fact is that no one likes to be labeled and I wanted to make it clear that I’m not assigning any “good/bad” to any of the styles of play — by acknowledging my enjoyment of each style I want to let folks know that I’m not (and never) pointing at someone and saying “Ahh, look at the funny Gamist!”
  • I know myself well enough to know that I really do like all of these styles. Since I’m not a complete narcissist, I realize that this means that most folks probably like all three styles at different times as well — NO ONE is JUST ONE THING. The folks I put into those ‘example’ lists are there simply because they have an instinct preference that I’ve noticed — I’ll be the first one to acknowledge that they could just as easily be in any other group.

Hopefully this is not a complete waste of time to read. That said, it was at least useful for me to write. Thanks.


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18 Replies to “G/N/S translated into my own words, using examples”

  1. Heehee…I used to love putting Randy’s character Niccolo into unusual situations.
    I wonder what classification I would fall under?

  2. Yes.
    The observation about Narr looking outside of the character to the story is a good one.
    And, yes, there are aspects of all three that I like, though I think being tagged primarily as Narr is correct. As a player at least (also a good tagged caveat); as a GM I tend more toward Gam/Sim largely because I’m a lazy and introverted guy, and “forcing” Narr stuff (which, of course, is the wrong attitude to take in the first place) is too heavy a load to lift; being able to fall back on Rules and Setting is a lot easier. 🙂
    That said, as a player I really enjoyed the Star Wars ‘verse (which is why other “setting” games sound fun, vs. rules systems per se). So color me, as a player, Sim/Narr, and as a GM Gam/Sim — and then bear in mind how much I despise LitCrit and don’t get any more technical than that. 🙂
    No, really, good article.

  3. I don’t know that I’ve played with you enough to be able to categorize a preference yet, John. I might be able to “not-Sim” or “not-Narr”, but I’m not sure I can, and that’s not really helpful.
    Guess we just need to get in more games.

  4. Thinking on it, I’d say that the challenge of Tactical-surmounting of the challenge seems to be a lot of fun for you, so that’s a start, anyway.
    That said, the categorizations are only really useful in helping identify and plan for what people may find fun, and understand why they didn’t like something else..

  5. Dangit, I still don’t get it. I’m trying to apply GNS to gaming I’ve seen, but my mind slides off. I mean, say I’ve got a character who’s a kickass martial artist when she’s not drunk. I’m fine with a game where the booze never comes in, and all the group does is kick ass. But, if the game does deal with character issues, I don’t want my character to come to her end frozen to death in a dumpster, I want her to Win, beat the addiction or heal the underlying causes or somesuch. But then again, if “frozen to death in a dumpster” leads to a good story (revenge, angst, clues to great evil, whatever), then I’m cool with the sacrifice. So where’s that leave me in GNS? I can view winning as a group thing, “making a good story.” But if I don’t think the story is good (respectful of PCs and their tragedies etc), I want to win on an individual level.

  6. Madeline: like most of us, you’re a mix.
    Doyce is right, I’m primarily Gamist but within limits of character-Simulation. That is, Niccolo was a Renaissance Italian noble modified by experience. Hiruma was a sergeant among aristocrats. Their approaches to problems, to what is their problem, and so on, are different. With handout characters I’m more Sim than anything: the GM made this turkey and he’s damned well getting a turkey sandwich. As for the Nar aspect, if the story or theme is cool I’ll subordinate Gamist concerns to it, to a point, but not Sim. If that particular character wouldn’t do that, he won’t.
    The setting Sim elements are certainly important to me as a GM and player. I want the Napoleonic setting to work right. I want the Amber economy to make sense. And as a player, regardless of what the setting is, if it doesn’t make internal sense, it bugs the hell out of me. That’s why d20 Standard gives me the wiggins. Big wiggins.
    Cry Havoc had a certain amount of Nar built into the setup. It worked pretty well but might have done better if I’d made it clearer to the PCs. On the other hand, I wanted it in the background. “Becoming a Family & Becoming Princes” happened naturally due to the situation, despite the fact that Doyce, for instance, assumed that the theme would be “War is Hell”.
    As a player I rarely start with a Nar theme. That comes as I get comfortable in his/her skin.

  7. Man, Madeline, we are so close on this thing.
    Lemme put something out there to maybe separate and clarify a bit. In your post, you talked about the things that happen to your character, and what your character did, does or might do.
    Doesn’t matter. None of the styles of play pertain as much to the character’s actions as they do to the player’s motivations.
    Here’s a quirky thing: you can tell me all the facts from a game session — hell, a whole campaign — and I won’t be able to tell you if it was a group of people who were primarily Gamist, Sim, or Narr, because the action itself doesn’t necessarily convey any of that.
    The place where the three styles of play come up are (appropriately) with the players and their motivations, not with the characters.
    Hmm. Lemme use an example:
    Character’s involved:
    – Ken, ***Dave’s character
    – Val, Randy’s character
    – Shade, Val’s servant demon
    Last session of Sorcerer, during a huge, spread-out conflict, Ken ended up in the same place as Shade. Ken told Shade to do something. Shade told him to piss-off. Ken did the Sorcerer-equivilant of the gom-jabbar to Shade. When Val found out that Ken had done this, he was pissed.
    Now, was that a gamist moment, a Sim moment, or a Narr moment? I have no idea from the information provided.
    1. Ken might have punished Shade because:
    (gamist) “In the long run, if I hit him with a Punish at the first sign of insubordinance, I’ll have bonuses against him later.”
    (sim) “My guy would never let that kind of thing slide. Plus, he’s in a bad mood right now.”
    (narr) “Punishing Shade really displays the arrogance of my character (and sorcerers in general), especially since it’s right on the heels of a contrasting human moment where I tried to save my girlfriend.”
    2. Val might have been mad because:
    (gamist) Ken wasted time in the middle of big conflict to power-trip when he could have been doing something useful, and on top of that, the Punish made Shade useless for the rest of the fight.
    (Sim) Val is very protective of the sanctity of ‘his stuff’, and Shade is ‘his stuff’, and Ken is futzing with ‘his stuff’.
    (Narr) In keeping with the theme of Val’s story, this is another thing that demonstrates what Val isn’t willing to put up with in order to further his own goals — he isn’t going to make nice with this other Sorcerer if it means screwing Shade over.
    It could be any of those things (and yes, I know which one was the main motivator in both cases, but that’s not the point).

  8. When it’s all said and done… why does this matter? The end story (sans external value judgements) might end up being exactly the same story, regardless of style of play.
    For me, as the GM, it’s something I can keep in mind when I’m preparing a session, knowing what different players are naturally going to find interesting and fun, and I can design with that in mind.
    For example:
    – I shouldn’t probably plan to give Jackie a session of immersive exploration of Amber City. She enjoys gamist stuff, and ‘being her character’ is less fun for her (at some times) than when she can use her own tactical thinking [plus] character abilities to overcome a challenge (and maybe get some ‘nice job’ attaboys from the rest of the group).
    – Conversely, immersion in the setting and ‘those little details’ are the kinds of things that ***Dave or Margie might really enjoy. That might be a detailed exploration of the fishing docks or a ‘down-to-the-flavor-of-the-marmalade’ brunch with your Uncle.
    Can a little sim work for Jackie? Sure. Do Dave and Margie dislike facing challenges? Of course not. At this point I’m just thinking about their ‘main preferences’.
    And mine — I get to count a player to, even when I’m GMing :), and I like Narrative concerns — Dave will be the first to tell you that I create better, cleaner stories when I have a Theme firmly in mind.
    G/N/S is not a perfect model. It’s not even close. There are holes, there is drift, I acknowledge that. I do it’s the closest thing to accurate I’ve run into so far, especially for addressing disfunctional or unsatisfying play sessions.
    (Heck, I need to give it props if only for the games it’s engendered and the GMing techniques that it’s given me for game prep.)
    Hope that clears it up more than muddies things.

  9. I tend to hear the disconnect between play-styles more at the moment, because I’m listening for them:
    Me: I liked that scene with you and Shade — it really showed off the inherent arrogance of being a Sorcerer.
    Dave: Yeah… I just couldn’t see Ken accepting that kind of backtalk, plus he was still pissed that he’d just risked himself to save someone that didn’t need saving.
    Two people, two different kinds of appreciation for the scene.
    Jackie later commented: He should have waited til we got back to his house — he could have taken his time with the Punish instead of doing a Snap-shot and really nailed him hard.
    …and there’s the other agenda 🙂

  10. Reading through and thinking about when I have the most fun, I came to the conclusion that I am mostly gamist but with a strong narrative streak and a weaker sim one.
    I thought about why I enjoy Amber, yet did not really get into Nobilis (which in many ways is similar). I found that the main differentiating factor was simply the themes involved. As a gamist, I could enjoy overcoming any particular challenge with my toolset in both games (and did to a certain extent). I think why I did not enjoy Nobilis as much was really that I did not care for the theme/setting of the story. For me, a game without a theme or setting I enjoy takes a lot more effort to “get into”. Hence I avoid supers games, even though they should be a pure gamist’s paradise. I simply get bored with the prevailent narratives common to that genre.

  11. Actually, I would say that one of the biggest problems that I had with the Nobilis game during the time that you were playing was the lack of theme.
    Setting I had. Setting was pretty much all I had. Theme I was lacking. I had a really solid concept for the opening 7 sessions and it rocked… then I meandered around for about 10 sessions until I realized that nothing was really happening and we were just futzing around in the setting… now I’m picking up a theme and doing something with it again, and things are suddenly interesting again.
    So I’d agree with what you said, but I’d say the disconnect you had with Nobilis probably mostly because all you were getting was big spoonfuls Setting (even the Big Fight was mostly Sim and Setting, which (as you’ve said) really isn’t where you get your fun.
    Fun. I’m a Funist. We all are. There you go. 🙂

  12. I was sort of picking up a “Power decreases one’s humanity” theme from Nobilis in general. The more power an entity had, the more corrupt and further removed from humanity it became. I think Nobilis is sort of set up to foster that theme on an unconscious level, even if it is not the theme the Gm has in mind for his campaign.
    I can play to that theme and have fun for a while, but I prefer characters who can “grow” in their humanity over the course of a game rather than simply become more corrupt/powerful. With a couple of exceptions (see Tibby in Schist).

  13. Yeah, I got that “Power decreases one’s humanity” theme from reading through Nobilis as well, and it rather repelled me from the game…
    As for GNS, by the “My guy would never let that kind of thing slide” measure, I’d place myself as mainly Sim… And like Randy, I have a deep need for things in-game to make consistent in-game sense. But on the other hand, the example of wandering around the docks… Eh.
    Narrativism: it seems hard to imagine someone sitting there saying, “Oo! Here I can demonstrate how my character is becoming a prince.” I mean, even in works of literature, I think most of the time an author just creates a character and puts them in a situation and then notes down what happens from there. Neil Gaiman summed up the Sandman comics as “The king of Dreams discovers that he must change or die, and makes his choice”–but I seem to recall that for the first few books Gaiman was just exploring the character, and then at one point he sat down and said to himself, “Ok, so what follows from all this?” After that, he had a theme; before, he just had a character acting as himself. Likewise, for me, Nar would only really work when it arose from Sim.
    In all of this there’s an element of winning; the Nar guy wins by dealing with his theme, the Sim guy wins by playing out neat situations.
    Now I can see how GNS would help to point out aspects that could be added to a game… “Hey, you know what would be cool? If next session we found a trustworthy infomant / had to play minigolf / had to figure out whether we’re going to help the lord or the church…” It is a great tool for looking at that.
    But it doesn’t so far as I can tell cover flavor, like “minigolf” vs. “Hey, it would be cool if next session we determined how our characters would deal with being tortured to death for no reason like in ‘Brazil’…” Seems to me, though, that flavor clashes are worse than merely being disappointed that X isn’t getting much play.

  14. It’s interesting about that Power Decreases Humanity thing — it’s not wrong… just odd that I never picked up on it much.
    Randy did… his character is very much about fighting that trend.
    Anyway:
    “I have a deep need for things in-game to make consistent in-game sense.”
    Doesn’t make you Sim — it may mean you want there to be an inherent logic you can rely on (which is in part why I think Randy wants it) — if that’s the case, we’re back to the Gamist thing — you can’t make good choices for your character if things don’t make sense and you can’t trust the physics or whatever.
    Some of the whole minigolf thing is flavor and knowing that the scene would be well-received by your players, which is just knowing your players.
    That said, what I’ve found is that different people are going to like different things about the mini-golf thing… some folks are going to want to do see how that sort of thing plays out (or want to get attacked on the 7th hole)… some folks want to know a bunch of backstory about the place and feel like they’re really there and that there’s a sence of reality…
    … some folks want to be given the opportunity to cheat, in character, and accept or reject it. 🙂
    I think a lot of game rules start out Gamist and then creep into Sim (through revisions) until they’re unplayable from all the rules-creep into every aspect of play. Half of sim is the reality of setting… half of it’s reality of rules…
    Ugh. There’s just too much to talk about here and no huge desire on my part to hash it to death. One discussion like this a week is enough for me. 🙂

  15. Narrativism: it seems hard to imagine someone sitting there saying, “Oo! Here I can demonstrate how my character is becoming a prince.”
    Hmm… that’s probably not where a narr scene type of thing would go. Lesse…
    Okay, example:
    Sorcerer game ongoing — the Premise is something like “Will you give up your Humanity for Power?” (Simplied version).
    Now, I’m not really coming up with scenarios for this kind of game. Due to the nature of the game system itself, the players have come up with all but two (in this case) of the NPCs, and all of the events and momentum that got their character’s in motion… pretty much everything that’s going on. I just have all that mapped out and keep things going here and there by throwing “bangs” when things slow down.
    What’s a bang? A situation where the character or characters have to make a thematically important decision, one way or the other. (It’s important to understand that I can’t have any expectations about what the player will do in that situation — I have to let whatever the character does be the “right” thing, because it’s the thing that happened.)
    Okay, so the game is going on, and I throw a Bang out there for Dave’s character: “Your demon wants its Need fed before it helps you out anymore.” In this case, the demon’s need is Suffering — it needs to feel the suffering of others.
    Dave has lots of choices here: but let’s fast forward — not only does he feed the Need, he decides to speed up the process by actually causing more suffering in the ‘target group’ so that the demon’s need is fed more quickly. This victimization of his fellow man in turn costs him some of his Humanity.
    Look! A bit of Ken’s theme: “I will (at the least) give up some of my Humanity for Power.”
    Conscious thematic decision on Dave’s part? Not necessarily — I might not know what motivated the choice. Regardless, that’s a point where the Premise gets an answer, and creates some of the Theme.
    Dream’s story has the Premise: “Are you willing to Change your personal image of yourself?”
    Every major choice he makes in the books answers that question. Other members of the Endless answer differently.

  16. 1. Ken might have punished Shade because:
    (gamist) “In the long run, if I hit him with a Punish at the first sign of insubordinance, I’ll have bonuses against him later.”
    (sim) “My guy would never let that kind of thing slide. Plus, he’s in a bad mood right now.”
    (narr) “Punishing Shade really displays the arrogance of my character (and sorcerers in general), especially since it’s right on the heels of a contrasting human moment where I tried to save my girlfriend.”

    Just for completeness’ sake, this was a sim moment, by the above definition, with shades of narr (the gamist bits never came into it; I honestly don’t grok the rules well enough that way).
    And, actually, that raises a valuable point. On the one hand, I love reading rules, getting the feel from them, exploring how a game has put things together. In theory, and in abstract, that is. When it comes to being a player (and, to some extent, a GM), I find learning anything more than the minimal amount of rules to be a PitA, getting in the way of “writing a keen story.” Indeed, I always start with a character concept, and then struggle mightily to make the system fit (the “First Level Hero Conundrum”).
    And that’s why I rarely take spell-casters, or other folks who involve the complicated of the rules — or, in Ken’s case, someone who isn’t really *into* the heavy-duty Sorcery thang. He doesn’t know because he doesn’t want to know (to some degree because I don’t want to have to know).
    the disconnect you [John] had with Nobilis probably mostly because all you were getting was big spoonfuls Setting (even the Big Fight was mostly Sim and Setting, which (as you’ve said) really isn’t where you get your fun.
    I think that’s a problem I had early on with the Nobilis stuff as well. While we had Amnesia, the story of “Who are we?” was good. After that, the characters felt subordinate to the setting. Sian’s finally gotten her story back under her feet, and it’s fun.
    I think a lot of game rules start out Gamist and then creep into Sim (through revisions) until they’re unplayable from all the rules-creep into every aspect of play.
    Yes. One of my problems with Spycraft (starting with the Modern Arms Guide and going from there).
    As to the “wandering around the docks” scenario — mmmm, maybe not so much. Wandering around the docks *with someone*, that would be fun. For someone who plays loner types a lot, I find character interactions (NPC or PC) to be the most rewarding, the bits of sim (in the NPC case) I like best.
    I’m sure this all says something profound about me, but now I’m all confused again. But that’s okay. 🙂

  17. BTW, I was channelling Val strongly enough that he had a strong impulse to just shoot Ken for messing with Shade (you kick my dog you’d better have a damned good reason) and for not staying on-mission. The shotgun was in his hand, his blood was up from the fight–
    But…
    He’d lost count of the shells while unloading on the Escalade. The instant of hesitation allowed other thoughts in…
    Obviously, Ken didn’t give a damn about the Queen and preventing an infestation. Foreigner. He was only interested in the girl — but they’d made no agreements to the contrary.
    Val wanted more help getting people into a car before the cops or the fire department showed up — and Ken had a car running right there.
    Ken would still be useful in finding out who had sent both of them the emails.

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