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Continuation on Mythic Play Style - from Story-Games

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Continuation on Mythic Play Style - from Story-Games


This thread is a direct continuation of a thread from the former Story-Games. I wasn't sure how to proceed so for now (or until I get instructions on some other way to proceed) I'll just link back to the originating thread. My apologies if this runs afoul of site procedures.

Here is the link to the originating thread. Here is the link to the post (Thanuir's) that I'm responding to.

Hi Thanuir,

In mythic play it seems that the process itself does not really require a game master, but if one wants to have the mythic process and unknown truths, then the game master is very convenient. But is there some other inherent reason for having a game master?

The reasons that mythic play would not function well in a GM-less game have nothing to do with “unknown truths”. The first is that Myth seeks to make meaningful the totality of reality. In mythic cultures there is nothing that is covered by myth and that which is not. People don’t invoke myth at certain times of need, they live it all the time. Myth is reality. It is how life is lived and how life is experienced. They cannot be disentangled.
Second, myth is supremely subjective. There is no “objective” or alternate view of reality. Because myth is utterly subjective it is completely experiential. Myth makes life (and reality as a whole) meaningful and frames one’s personal relationship to the world at large. There is but one reality and myth makes it a rich and meaningful experience.

Because in role-play the fictional world is constructed someone must do the constructing. Parsing this among the players isn’t a problem for Narrativist play because such play is focused about the abstract idea of the Premise Question. What the person who has the mantle of GM cannot do is make the actual response to the Premise Question. That part must still be handled by the players of the PC. In Gamism we run into the Czege Principle where operating on both sides of a situation robs it of its value/interest. So a GM-less game in Gamism doesn’t work because the accurate appraisal of a person’s skill at dealing with a Challenge (if said GM/player both created and solved it) becomes impossible. We’ve robbed the game of the point of playing.

In mythic play the reality that the myth creators are using is entirely fictional. Someone has to play and create the fictional “reality”. This role functions at the real world level. To leave the “reality” of the myth to step into the real world so as to take on the role of GM is extremely disorienting. This shifting of maps of reality is a slow process and maintaining it requires the minding of enormous amounts of information. Shifting roles not only weakens the fictional subjective experience but you don’t want to leave it as that is whole point of playing this CA in the first place. Unlike Narrativism where the player(s) with GM responsibilities are still participating in Addressing Premise not so with mythic play. In myth we are attempting to make the world meaningful and so it is with the players. The role of the GM is to add to and play as the world. In analogy the player bricoleur only has access to his shed of pre-existing things while the GM’s role is to stock that shed with new items. Not the same process at all. A GM-less mythic game fails at the CA level as the players would not (for portions of the game) be engaged in Bricolage but stocking behavior. Plus the desired subjectivity that is the hallmark of the myth experience would be utterly contravened as the GM would be thinking about the world and how to make it dramatic/interesting – an abstracted thinking process.



Gamism works without GM

A small comment now; hopefully more later.

Gamist play does, in principle at least, work without a game master. There are solo games to this direction (choose-your-own-adventure, many Tunnels and trolls solo adventures), and though Rune by Robin Laws has a GM, their role is in using points to build an adventure and earning points based on how the players manage it. In fact, IIRC, Rune has a rotating game master.

You could, in principle, design a gamist game in the style of co-operative board games, or as a player-vs-player thing. Maybe Capes can be played as the latter, in fact? Maybe some newer game has done the first one; I am not aware of any, even if it has been done.

Changing roles

To leave the “reality” of the myth to step into the real world so as to take on the role of GM is extremely disorienting.

For you, your group members, or everyone? In your own play or also more generally?

In analogous situations, there is plenty of personal variance.

  1. In some classic Forge games people change from playing their character to considering the overall story. Some find this terribly jarring, others are fine with it.
  2. In OSR play, players play to have their character survive and triumph. In some groups rulings are made or accepted by group consensus. Some people find it extremely jarring to shift from "what would be best for my character" to "how difficult should it be to hang there with one hand while drawing a dagger with the other"; they can not or will not make the shift. Others have no problem with this change in perspective.

Can you support the quoted claim with concrete evidence, or point out why the situation there is different than in similar cases of changing perspective or orientation?

(Third post later.)


I've been following this conversation mostly with mild confusion, and probably can't get too involved with it, but something has been niggling at me. Some of what's been described sounds a lot like a very memorable game of Archipelago (and also some freeform IRC games) that I played in the distant past. When the term 'Phenomenological Simulationism' was thrown up/described I was like 'Yeah! That's it!' - the way I've always thought of that game was about the experience of just being this particular person in this particular place. Every detail added to the game was layering more and more depth to this other reality, and play was about being this character - without concern about driving-toward-conflict or any mechanical reward cycle or whatnotwhatnot. It was awesome and intense and at the time I was like 'oh, so this is why simulationism is fun'.

I think Archipelago's resolution system is non-deterministic, in that it's all about interpreting the result - but there is still an explicit 'yes, you succeed' or 'no, you fail' aspect there. So, I'm a little unsure there - isn't this just a technical-level thing anyway and not a creative-agenda level thing?

And, I find all this talk of bricolage utterly confusing and inapplicable. A lot of the examples talked about mechanics changing and being applied with new meanings, but we never had a need to do that - the base system covers everything pretty well.

Anyway, I hope we're talking about the same style of play/creative agenda, because a lot of what is being described resonates with me. Also, 'mythicism' would be a much, much better name for what we were doing than 'simulationism'.

(and, if we are talking about the same thing - I don't think there's any issue with GMless play at all. If you're describing things around your character, that's a fairly natural extension of your character's experience - and if you're taking a completely different role for a scene, that change happens between scenes and isn't jarring)

Agreeing with Thanuir

I’m not sure why any of the aspects of mythic play you described and listed should restrict it to the particular format you’re used to.

Perhaps you can show that by an example?

Of course GMless Gamist play is possible, of course it is! I don’t know how you would get the idea that it is not. Or did you mean something else by that?

Similarly, if the type of relationship to the fiction you’re describing is necessary for mythic play, doesn’t it logically follow that the GM in your game is not engaging in mythic play? That sounds a bit wonky to me (although I could entertain the idea that the GM is merely facilitating it for the players... nevertheless, that seems like it would handicap the theory pretty severely.)

In mythic play the reality

In mythic play the reality that the myth creators are using is entirely fictional. Someone has to play and create the fictional “reality”. This role functions at the real world level. To leave the “reality” of the myth to step into the real world so as to take on the role of GM is extremely disorienting. This shifting of maps of reality is a slow process and maintaining it requires the minding of enormous amounts of information. Shifting roles not only weakens the fictional subjective experience but you don’t want to leave it as that is whole point of playing this CA in the first place.

I'll admit I'm losing the thread a bit here, but I thought this bit was very interesting: you seem to be saying the GM in the mythic game, or your mythic game at least, doesn't take the mythic perspective you've been talking about, but takes something a lot closer to what you've been calling the Western engineering perspective?

I have knowledge of certain

I have knowledge of certain sociological studies showing that in a common class of rituals, the officiant "should" not believe in the myth as much as those who take part in the ritual. Can we assume that the officiant certainly "can" be left with the burden of inner doubt without hurting the ritual ? (Now, I would have a hard time finding this sources again, which is a reminder that I should always write down sources when I have them at hand.) If you don't agree that this kind of situation is conceivable, then it may be another topic.

Sounds like we all have the same question!


Apologies for not replying earlier

Hey everyone,

Sorry for not replying earlier. When I made my post I assumed that I would get email notices when a reply was made to the thread. That did not happen and for several days I didn't visit this site. I eventually did and here I am.

Question - is there a way to receive email notifications about postings to threads?



Agree to disagree

Hi Thanuir,

I'm afraid that we'll have to agree to disagree about either solo play being categorized as role-play (it is by definition the sharing of imaginings which requires at minimum two individuals if sharing is happen. If you wish to discuss this further please move it to another thread as I don't want a billion different conversations going on in this one. I don't mean to be rude but rather ask if you would kindly extend me this courtesy.) I don't know anything about Rune so I'll have to withhold comment out of ignorance. I do have a quick question about the rotating GM. Does that happen within a given a session? Second can the person who is GM set up challenges that in the future his PC will face when the role of GM has moved on to another player?

To leave the “reality” of the myth to step into the real world so as to take on the role of GM is extremely disorienting.

For you, your group members, or everyone? In your own play or also more generally?

What do you mean by "everyone"? Outside of "our group members" there are only those who have not played our game. I can say that with strong (not absolute) confidence that every new player who has played our game has been strongly moved and it takes some time (non-immediate) at the conclusion of a game for them to reset and there is a general disappointment that the session has ended. We've never switched GM's during a session but I do know to a player that we all find it disorienting to switch from one PC to another during a session. The longer we've been playing a given character the more difficult the switch. So much so that we generally asked the GM not to do that because the game never reaches the same heights of involvement and the mortality rate is so much higher with the second character. If the switching from one PC to another PC during a game is considered so problematic by all the players at our table and the universal sense of disappointment of a session ending coupled with the long disengagement periods after a game I can only surmise that switching GM's mid session would be just as difficult.

So our regular players don't like switching PCs during a session and all (new and regular) players take a long time from disengaging at the end of the game. While neither answers you question directly I feel it is not much of a jump to asserted that switching roles to GM mid game would be radically unsatisfying and difficult to accomplish.

Can you support the quoted claim with concrete evidence, or point out why the situation there is different than in similar cases of changing perspective or orientation?

Can anyone truly make a concrete statement about anything regarding consciousness, subjective experience or the human condition?

I can only offer the following which can only be disappointing. I know that long ago Chris posted on the Forge about a tribe where certain adults acted out the roles of certain gods during certain festivals for the tribe. At a certain age the children were let in on what was going on and the results were always devastating to the children. The totality of the myth was not broken just that little piece of it. If I could find the post I would link it. I'll try and contact Chris and see if he can help. This is the best I can offer in the way of "concrete" evidence. Living myth is powerful. Playing myth is less powerful but still very gripping. It is this experiential process that is the reason to play this particular CA.

Not everyone is going to want to play myth and that to be expected. But to play myth, which is to want the experiential phenomena, and then purposefully break it just doesn't make sense. That experiential state is slow in coming and takes work to get there so why would one shut it down to engage in another process that is not experiential though they are still in the ritual space? IOW why stop playing to GM if it destroys the point of playing in first place?



My third response would have

My third response would have been about precisely the game master not playing in mythic mode and being precisely the objective point of view the myth denies, but others have covered that.

Gamism sans GM

Jay, do you acknowledge that it is possible to have a gamist play without a game master? The examples being:

  1. Play a solo adventure with two players playing together, or design a game in the same way that allows for more players. Many fantasy adventure board games are essentially like this. I believe even some D&D-inspired ones were designed during the 4th edition era and maybe later, but I have not followed these at all. (Whether one player solo qualifies as a roleplaying game is not relevant here, agreed.)
  2. Players versus player game, essentially equal roles for everyone, perhaps in the style of Capes but easy enough to imagine anyway.
  3. Players with highly asymmetric roles, like the game master in Rune, or the different roles in Murderous ghosts, or like certain dungeon crawling fantasy board games. Here, one or more players at a time design an adventure or challenge under strict constraints and possibly has some choices to make while playing, while the others play through the adventure. The roles might rotate.

On changing perspectives

Your argument is that around your table the change is very disorienting. It is a compelling argument and I do believe that this is true of the way you play. However, it is not clear that the high-immersion high-intensity play is the only thing one could accomplish by mythic play.

Or, if you prefer to work with creative agendas as a theoretical framework: Each of the named classes of creative agendas covers a lot of ground, including mutually incompatible or at least friction-causing creative agendas. An example from gamism: someone who enjoys figure chess and character optimization might not enjoy OSR dungeoncrawling with high risks, simple characters and strategic play, and vice versa, though both are clearly gamist. Combining these single creative agendas, though both fall under the same category of gamism, into one game is tricky.

So, if (and only if) you want to continue the creative agenda analysis, then you have two choices.

  1. Mythic play is very narrow and restricted to the goals of your own group. This leaves much of ground previously covered by simulationism without creative agenda, which strains the model. Is there a further creative agenda class covering them, or are they not within any grouping, or are they aimless play without creative goals?
  2. Mythic play is, at least potentially, a broad class of agendas, just like the other named classes of agendas (gam and nar). In this case, you'll need to fit other styles of play besides your own in there, maybe starting from some of the others discussed in Ron's sim essay.

Personally, I would rather focus on the style of play itself, maybe drawing from CA theory for inspiration and examples. But the key choice remains: Do you want to understand the style of play as highly specific to what your group is doing, or does it also include potentially very different activities?

Someone playing speed chess might say that playing with less intensity and speed will make all the excitement go away, but someone else can play chess by letters and find it fun. These two activities still have a lot in common.

Archipelago - maybe?

Hi Aik,

In reading your post on first brush it sounds like what I'm talking about but there's too much data missing to make a more certain declaration. First, I want to say that I'm delighted to hear that you had such a great experience. I don't know the system though someone on Story-Games asked me to read the rules (was that you?). I started but reading rules systems just doesn't hold my attention for long and is a failing of mine.

Second, being your character can happen in all three CA's but in the CA I'm describing its part of the priority of play. What I'm talking about the experiencing of being in a fiction world. Yes, being your character is important but so is the totality of the world. The character is the lens by which the world is experienced and the more deeply one inhabits the character the greater the resolution of the world that one experiences. It's not enough to be your character (a necessary component) but one needs to be in the world. Did you care about the people's and the events of the world as much as you cared about your character? I'm not suggesting you were playing Narrativist at all but really being your character is a quality of play that I hear from proponents of that particular CA. Hence my question about the scope of your interests in the rest of the world. Some examples - when I saw Elladan and Elrohir killed the sense of loss was so devastating I felt like quitting the game. I put one of my favorite characters, a Dunedan, in imminent danger of death to save the life of Arwen from a Fell Beast. On another occasion I did lose a character to save the life of an NPC.

If your experiences playing Archipelago were as strong for the world at large as they were for your character that is a very strong tell of the CA I'm talking about.

You say the think the resolution system is non-deterministic. Cool! Let's see. Are the mechanics explicit enough to influence your decision on whether or what action to take? Apparently the resolution system is all about interpreting the result of an outcome. Who does the interpretation - the player or the GM? Is this interpretation Fortune in the Middle? Is this interpretation negotiated? Is the interpretation merely color or does it have real unexpected consequences? If you could answer these questions that would be great!

Finally, how does the reward system work? What kinds of actions are rewarded and how are they rewarded? This is also vitally important.

I want to note that the most important thing is that you had a great time and on that level it doesn't matter what CA you played as having fun is the whole point on the hobby. If you are looking to understand what happened under the hood and hope to replicate the experience in the future then this would be the kind of thread that would be useful to you.



Yeah, that all sounds right

Yeah, that all sounds right to me. We were exploring both being our characters, and being within the world. 'Exploring'/'discovering' (neither of which are good words for it because we were creating it together as we went, but equally there was no discussion as we did so, so 'creating' kind of has the wrong connotation as well. Anyway.) the setting was of roughly the same importance as the characters.

It's hard to describe this, and hard to pick out certain moments - but one egregious example; I was setting the scene (in Archipelago, every player sets a scene for their character in turn, and assigns the other players roles in that scene before it begins). We had just arrived at this space-bridge megastructure-thing that had been alluded to earlier. It was quite common for us to assign one player to just focus on describing background details - this time I assigned everyone to describing details and we spent a fair amount of time just expounding on how ridiculously awe-inspiring this bridge was.

(For context - our starting point for this game was slice-of-life science fiction manga - specifically Aria and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. While there was some adventure, it was super low-key. My favourite scene in the whole game was a pillow fight)

In Arcipelago, the mechanics don't influence your decision on what action to take - they're only invoked after something has been said, using ritual phrases. So, if you try and fly through a cluster of asteroids, someone might say 'That might not be quite so easy', which means you draw a card. This card has a 'Yes, and...', 'No, but...', or similar thing, along with a prompt to be interpreted by another player of your choice. One card, for instance, is 'No, but... you earn a friend, ally, or goodwill in the process'. So here, you fail to fly through the asteroids, and another player might interpret it as you crashing into the asteroid, where other castaways are glad at your arrival or something. It's not negotiated, and you can't interpret your own card - but there is another ritual phrase that can force the player to come up with something else (ritual phrase 'Try another way')

There's no explicit reward system. Though, each session, each player has to reach a predefined story-outcome-thing for their character (called a 'destiny point') and everyone is expected to help bring that about by guiding things in that direction. Finding out how each character ends up at that point I think is a key payoff. The afore-mentioned pillow-fight scene ended with one player's character defeated and sleeping on the floor, and he ticked off his destiny point 'Fall in love with ', and it was a real 'oh, wow - yeah, that works perfectly' moment.

Normally, I enjoy face-stabbing narrativist games - but this game was very different and special, and I haven't encountered any other games that do the same sort of thing, so I'm interested in where this discussion goes.

GMing in this mode of play...early thoughts

Hi Shimrod,

I've been spending a lot of time sorting out how this play mode works and the implications that can be drawn from both play wise and, hopefully in the future, design wise.

I haven’t yet given this specific topic much thought, but I do believe that the GM does engage in some western engineering style thinking in this role. Not entirely but I think it is definitely present. I’m hoping to get some feedback from Chris, but I think what is going on is Bricolage in the service of western engineering thought. FREX – the GM might think, “I need a conflict/test for Erindir” (engineering thought – abstraction) and then use the mythic thinking style to understand they character and bricole a conflict that would work well with said character. Instead of thinking of “Erindir” as the abstraction he would see Erindir as a structure of meanings and how they relate to everything in the world but most especially the scenario being considered. Using this mythic thinking makes it much easier to create conflicts that fit not only the character but the world itself. This helps constrain the possibilities to those that feel appropriate.

This is basically off the cuff thinking but I believe this is how it works.

I do know from my limited personal experiences and by many comments by the GM that the act of GMing in this style is absolutely not experiential. I know when I ran and players were reacting to what I was saying I felt a fraud. They were experiencing something that I was not experiencing at all. The closest a GM comes to any emotional involvement might come in an intense exchange between a NPC and a PC when the GM starts to sink into character. I know that as a GM you have to stay involved in each PC and what they are doing enough to make the game personal for each player but you also have to step outside so as to be fair and impartial. It’s a really tough balancing act. Plus having to keep track of all the monsters/antagonists and what they’re doing and what they are going to do while considering the morale impacts of PC acts just doesn’t allow for a GM to ability to “experience” the game. What he’s doing is a process of thinking from many points of view while maintaining thoughts on future events whether planned or spontaneous.

Just the other day he sort of realized that even magic items are “role-played”. He wasn’t talking about sentient items but that since magic items are so rare and do break the normal way the world works this is going to have to be shown and its effects of the PC and NPCs considered. The first is the greed they frequently inspire in people. Then there is the nature of the item itself – how it looks as reflecting those who made it, how it feels, any special powers it might have and how they are manifested, etc. FREX – just last week I found a shield in the nest of a wyvern (after a major party sized battle driving it off). It was beautifully decorated and painted in golds, silvers and whites. When I picked it up it seemed lighter than it should. It showed no signs of damage, wear or age. It was just a little too large to be perfect for me but it was nice. Later in battle with many skeletons striking the shield all the swords that struck the rim broke. The shield seemed to change size and was the perfect size for me during the battle. Later when we battled the BBEG (some 7 foot tall lich like man thing) he smote down on my shield which parried the blow but took not a scratch. Also during the battle the shield seemed to move into just the right place to defend a blow. We were defeated and tied to biers. An NPC managed to find us. I ordered him to bring my shield and he was able to use it to shatter the chains holding us down. By this point the artwork on the shield changed to that of a drawing of a man running (something like Hermes) which reflected my characters speed (human maximum). I just escaped the table when the BBEG returned and all I could do was grab the shield and flee down a tunnel where sunlight was shining. I could barely manage a stumbling walk but as I fled my speed picked up and my injuries healed!

This was all played out in world. He didn’t tell me the abilities of the shield but showed them to me a circumstances allowed. I can only guess that it’s magical given its resistance to any marring, a defender, a healer and it changed size to fit me perfectly!

While all this is happening he’s not experiencing ME but rather his interest is in our portrayal of our character and our choices and inventiveness during play. I would suspect that GMing in this mode of play is Bricolage in the service of Western Engineering thought.



Archipelago - very likely

Hi Aik,

I managed to find the free version of the rules and read them over. It's hard for me to do a good analysis as I've never trained as such but I do believe Aik is on the Simulationist spectrum. The game does many things that myth does in tying the person into both the character and the world. It also works like myth in keeping the aesthetics of the game within bounds. The, game, as you indicated definitely has non-deterministic resolution mechanics. I couldn't discern any reward mechanics which is very interesting as it leaves the rewards to happen entirely as the Social Contract Level.

I don't mean this in a negative way at all, its just I don't know how to formulate the phrasing properly, but the game makes overt some parts of the mythic process that are usually implicit - as if to trying help the players along. At first I thought the game might be extremely Vanilla Narrativist but there are no mechanics or rules in the system to drive the game overtly (or even subtly) in one direction or the other.

This is really remarkable! I wasn't sure that a Sim supporting game could be published but this seems to do it. I'm kind of reminded about the Gamism article from the Forge where the challenge went from the Crunch to the Gamble and players of either camp refused to see that the other mode of play was legitimate. That is until the notion of CA was developed with Address of Challenge as the core recognizing that there is a slider of the degree of toughness of Challenge outcome. The idea of a slider is what I'm getting at and I think Archipelago is definitely on the Sim slider. The setting and pace of game are not my thing but I can definitely see that it is free from deterministic mechanics and the game works hard to draw the players into the world, including any NPC's. Fascinating!!



Archipelago III

For those following along, that link can be found here: Archipelago III


Hi Webtech,

Just wanted to thank you for the posting of the link. Also if you were the one who helped me with the email notification issues I was having I want to say, "Thank you," again.




Webtech is the admin avatar of Tod "AsIf" Foley.


Thanks, DeReel! Thanks, Tod!!




Another game that comes to mind is "Imagine", by Rickard. It's very "experiential", although not in the traditional sense (e.g. no one actually portrays a character).

(Unfortunately, I can't find it/link it for some reason. Anyone know what happened to the game?)


It sounds like a big part of the experience of this sort of play is a sort of "character immersion" for the players. Do you believe this to be a fundamental aspect of mythic play?

(I'm a bit skeptical of any theory which bases itself on "immersion", given how difficult that is to define, so I may be baiting the hook here, but it's a thread you seem to come back to again and again. I'm curious to hear your thoughts!)

Not Character Immersion - Surrendering to Myth

Hi Paul,

I too am wary of the phrase "character immersion" or even just "immersion." I just did a quick google search of my name and "immersion" and I didn't find a single instance where I used the phrase or the word as part of my argumentation. I'll allow that there may have been an instance or two that I missed but the fact that my search pulled up negative results backs up my basic assertion that I don't use "immersion" as part of my definition of play. I don't like the word because it is so poorly defined and because it carries so much baggage. This doesn't even touch on the fact that I've been talking about myth and how it works in relationship to role-playing.

I'm with you, Paul, on not liking the use of the word "immersion" as definition or description. It's not even the focus of my theorizing which has been to focus on the process of play and its attendant effects which had always been missing from Sim definitions at The Forge (and elsewhere).

Long ago Chris wrote about ritual and myth which paralleled my game experiences to an uncanny degree. The fantastic thing about myth is that it explains both process and phenomena. Chris in one of his threads neatly said that players of this CA are very much like the pre-literate natives who live myth. In role-play we have a watered down version of those mythic cultures because we willfully step into and out of the mythic process while for the natives myth is reality. Life is lived a certain way and is viewed a certain way - there is no non-myth aspects of life. I'm arguing that if that is that case, that we are trying to live mythically (writ small in a game) then certain predictions and restrictions can be made.

As I've said, I've never argued "character immersion." I've argued, to borrow Tod's wonderful turn of phrase, Phenomenological Simulationism. A game where the point of play (the Creative Agenda) is the "subjective/psychic experience of Being in the gameworld." (Again, Tod's phrasing). To be honest I don't know if there absolutely must be a strong linkage between character identification and this CA, but so far I haven't seen any workable arguments against such linkage. Myth is subjective. It is a point of view. It is a worldview. It is both an explanation of reality and the frame of experiencing reality. The point is the experience of being in that artificial reality. How one can experience that artificial reality via a subjective process but still remain objective is a conundrum that I cannot untangle.

We play this CA to experience the fictional world, if the process by which that happens is myth then it follows that the player will experience a shift in POV's. Some might call it "immersion" but I don't. However the point of this CA is to experience being in the fictional world. That we frequently experience the fictional world from within is a natural outgrowth of attempting live myth writ small. It's like the Story of Narrativism. We don't have to be driven to play by the desire to "create a story" but one is created nonetheless through the process of playing Narrativism. So I would argue, by analogy, for this CA. Not that we are creating story but that the process of living myth writ small does tend to create a powerful point of view from within the fictional world because that's the way myth works. It's not why we play, because we play for the experience of life in the fictional world. The powerful subjective character experience is just the logical outcome of the process. It may not be the reason for play but it is a natural phenomena of mythic play. All subjective experiences presume a strong POV. The PC is the lens into the fictional world and the stronger the lens the richer the experience of the world becomes.



Immersion and Mythicism


I appreciate your attempts to step away from certain language and to be more clear in your own formulation. That's always a good thing! However, I'm not at all sure I can see what *distinguishes* what you're talking about from immersion. It sounds very similar: it's an experiential, subjective experience which seeks to align the player and the character and minimize distractions from that "illusion".

I'm curious about this because nothing (that I can see) about the mythic qualities and concepts you've described seem (to me) to be predicated on immersion (or whatever term we want to use) at all. I don't see the GM in your game (Cary), for example, as someone who is not participating in mythic play. On the contrary, he appears to me to be participating in it heavily! From that perspective, a GMless game, where everyone does what Cary is doing, should be able to produce mythic play without any trouble. However, you often say that the immersion or subjective personal experiential process is key to the playstyle. I wonder if that might be your own personal bias, being a constant player in this game, and perhaps having difficulty imagining anything different? Or do you think Cary would agree that, whatever mythic play is, he is not *really* participating in it the way that you are?

I'd like to try to separate these two ideas and to see whether they come apart cleanly, or if, in the process, we find some unbreakable bonds which are fundamental to the whole thing.

I've Been Talking About Surrendering to the Reality of the World

Hi Paul,

I've been baffled for some time about your endless obsession with "Character Immersion" when I realized that I never really explained what I meant by an Subjective, Experiential phenomena. Or rather I should have clarified what I was specifically talking about. When I speak of the Subjective, Experiential phenomena of mythic play I am referring to the Player having that Subjective, Experiential phenomena of Being in the fictional world. I'm not entirely sure where Character Stance fits in this grand scheme of things. I know that surrendering to Character amplifies the experience and that falling into Character is a natural phenomena of mythic play, but I don't think it is strictly necessary.

Whereas Hardcore Gamism could be said to be the most bare knuckled version of Gamism whereby Character is merely a token by which Step on Up is acted out through in Mythic play I believe the reverse is true. One can still experience the subjective state even if one plays Author Stance I believe the most intense Subjective state can be reached if the player plays Actor Stance. The more you shift over to the fictional world the stronger/richer the Subjective Experience becomes for the Player.

What does not work is Director or Pawn stance as they are in conflict with Myth. Myth encompasses all of reality. If a player is considering story then they are not thinking concretely as in myth but abstractly as in Western Engineering thought. Objective thinking, definitionally seeks to remove the individual from the current circumstance. Mythic thinking, definitionally, seeks to place the individual inside the current circumstance. The individual being you the tribesman or you the Player. The subjective experience can and usually does extend to Character because the Character is part of the fictional world. It follows that players tend towards Character identification but I do not believe it is strictly necessary for mythic play as long as one does not break mythic thinking and engage in objective thinking.

I'll respond soon with thoughts about how the GM works.



Makes sense to me. Stances,

Makes sense to me. Stances, or perspectives, or whatever, the distinction you make is : identification. focalisation. You can identify with the character or with the situation / story. If you're outside trying to control, you're clearly not identifying with either one.

Pretty Much, Yes.

Hi DeReel,

If you're outside trying to control, you're clearly not identifying with either one. [Character or Situation]




Looking forward to your further thoughts

Interesting stuff. I have no particular “obsession” with immersion, but all your recent comments have highlighted the importance of the “in character” experience and focused on how less “identifying” experiences hurt or disable the mythic quality of play. That sounds like pretty straightforward immersion-speak to me! (Or, at least, I can’t find much meaningful distinction between the two.)

The reason I find this interesting is that I don’t see anything about the theoretical or practical explanations of mythic play you’ve given that would have to line up in this way. It seems to me that they could be entirely separate, and their combination in your game is just a quirk of how that game and Cary’s GMing style have evolved.

Myth implies a person

Myth implies a person embedded in it. Engineering supposes a thinker outside of the world. This was established prior to any discussion about RPG. Try to put immersion on the side, or maybe put it to use. But rather accept it may just be that immersion was a failed attempt at nailing down mythic play.

Hi Paul,

Hi Paul,

“…but all your recent comments have highlighted the importance of the “in character” experience and focused on how less “identifying” experiences hurt or disable the mythic quality of play.”

Uh…no. I’ve been writing recently about PLAYER experience and the PLAYER “identifying” with the fictional “WORLD” via the mythic thinking process. Since roleplay, definitionally demands that we act upon the fictional world in the most meaningful way through character (we can set up scenes or what not directly but they become most meaningful when played out through the medium of character) it follows that in a game process that requires PLAYERS to operate in a supremely subjective mode (myth) that players tend towards identification with the tool of meaningful world interaction, i.e. the player character. By choosing to function in a supremely subjective mode (as a creative choice) it follows that we as PLAYERS will become intimately and intensely involved with the world. Subjective is experiential, concrete and personal. Objective is conjectural, abstracted and impersonal.

So if you insist on using the word “immersion” with all its attendant baggage and messy history rather than the more accurate “subjective experience” then so be it. Just remember that I am not talking about immersion into character (though this type of play certainly encourages it) but rather immersion into the fictional world in all the aspects that the table finds interesting. Not just its physicality but in its cultures, races, history, economics, normative behaviors, its struggles, its taboos, its gods (if any are present), its tech and how it affects society, etc., everything that relates back to the peoples populating the fictional world.

Mythic play does not have to be intense or fast paced, but it is a mode of play that lends itself well to such methods. IOW intensity and pace are on sliders. They can vary from table to table but the game itself must always be subjective as myth is subjective with everything that subjective connotes and denotes. This is what defines this mode of play. Subjective play strongly tends to towards emotional play but again this emotionality is not definitional, just something that this mode of play is really, really good at.

Since we are not driven by objective ideas in play, unlike Gamism and Narrativism, the really good question becomes what is it exactly that we interested in actually experiencing during play and how do we bring that about? IOW in Gamism we are testing ourselves against Challenges so such a game will be built around Challenges. Likewise with Narrativism and its juicy but thorny and difficult human questions. We know how myth works but what are we looking to run through the mythic process? I know what we do at our table and I have a very vague notion of how Archipelago III works but can any generalizations be made? I’d be interested in hearing from Aik about what their table focused on and what they found interesting and rewarding. I’d also be interested in hearing from Jeph or anyone who played in his game to for similar reasons.



world effect ?

I believe what mythic play processes is Facts. Holding them in mind. Linking them in a mesh so they sort of self sustain. Networking them to weave a tapestry that will make a background that can pass for a world. Or more than a background, something the group can wrap themselves into.
In many groups I've been in, players create their individual blanket.They accommodate to the fictive world that they inhabit. In some groups, the specific need of a player for inhabiting the world is put to use in the form of them bookkeeping factions, updating an encyclopedia, or other mental maintenance.
Having described this, I see this is probably more an abstracted form of a setting exploration agenda (from fictive facts to their nature to their mode of existence) than a play style. But they sound linked.

So, 'character immersion' was

So, 'character immersion' was certainly an important element in this game - but it's an important element in a lot of games I enjoy were nothing like this one as well.
I think describing it as 'immersion into setting' to ring true, but also insufficient. It wasn't just the setting, but also the style, tone, character, etc. The whole shared understanding that we had.

More concretely, Archipelago has two ritual phrases that I think are key reward/punishment(?) mechanics - 'describe that in detail' and 'try another way'.
If someone says 'describe that in detail', you've added something that caught their interest and it warrants immediate expanding upon. It's a confirmation that you're successfully adding to this shared thing we're creating. Normally it's used when you've added something fairly inconsequential, and adding inconsequential things is encouraged.

'Try another way' is extremely disruptive. It (probably) means that you've missed something and are adding things badly out of tune with what someone else is adding. The ideal is that everyone is just on the same page and content is being added fluently. We didn't use it a lot, but it's a useful practical tool to stop something disharmonic being added.

Being deeply inside your character's head was a thrill. So was adding something extremely in-line with the tone we'd set (it could be dialogue, or a random bit of colour, or some salient bit of setting). Even better if you were doing both at the same time - there's no real character/setting boundary.

It wasn't some perfect game either - one player didn't entirely get it, or wasn't on the same page, sometimes. This could make things very wobbly.

Uh, anyway, this is the third time I've tried to write this post. It's quite hard to describe, without getting abstract enough that it might all be nonsense. Feel free to ask questions if any of this sounds helpful to what you're looking for (possibly relevant: this was an IRC game and I have all the logs for the IC chat that I can refer to - though unfortunately, the OOC logs are lost to time. IRC was actually a really good medium for this game because you could waffle on about the wallpaper or whatever and you weren't interrupting anyone).

Rock On!

Hi Aik!

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your input is and will be invaluable.

“More concretely, Archipelago has two ritual phrases that I think are key reward/punishment(?) mechanics - 'describe that in detail' and 'try another way'.”

As I have not played the game but only read the rules my take on the phrases you mentioned above will not carry as much as yours but I don’t think the two phrases are meant to be part of a reward cycle. I “think” they are part of an overt process (which is normally implicit in myth) to help keep the statements the players make during play in line with the overall aesthetic of the fictional world. Myth is both process and product. Because of how myth functions (with its base and focus on manipulating meaning structures) the myth itself strongly influences what is introduced into the myth. I think Archipelago is using the ritual phrases to help players who aren’t used to thinking mythically the same way. The genius, as I see it, is that the phrases don’t draw attention to the myth and treat it as an object. IOW the ritual phrases allow the players to make/influence aesthetic corrections without drawing attention to that act while keeping the game running at the mythic level.

Your description of the effect of the ‘Try another way’ phrase as extremely disruptive makes total sense to me. It is the equivalent of the jazz musician making that bad choice in his solo performance. It’s the same as a player donning the role of GM in the middle of a session. ‘Try another way’ is disruptive because the myth is shown as being broken at the moment and you never want that in myth. I’m glad you brought that up. You have provided another example to what I’ve been saying for a long time. Myth is powerful and we don’t want to leave it. It is very, very jarring. More than anything I’ve ever posted you have provided evidence, external to my experiences, of just how very powerful myth can be and what is so very, very hard to communicate to others who have never experienced it.

“… If someone says 'describe that in detail', you've added something that caught their interest and it warrants immediate expanding upon. It's a confirmation that you're successfully adding to this shared thing we're creating. Normally it's used when you've added something fairly inconsequential, and adding inconsequential things is encouraged.”

I’d have to see some actual play to formulate a truly accurate hypothesis but me experience isn’t that the thing being added is inconsequential so much as it reaffirming the baseline of the myth. The very fact that a statement caught someone’s attention enough to ask for more, to me, means it is consequential. For a world to be consistent much of what happens must, definitionally, be baseline. That someone is asking for more would seem to me that something new and interesting (however that is defined locally) has been introduced and the asking player wants you to expand on this new/interesting thing. I think in my game 1’s and 20’s, at the appropriate moments, give us license to push the boundaries a bit. So in Archipelago you have the ritual phrases the give you license to expand a bit or to be told to pull back while in my game 1’s and 20’s can be signals for us to try and push the envelope a bit.

“It wasn't some perfect game either - one player didn't entirely get it, or wasn't on the same page, sometimes. This could make things very wobbly.”

That’s been my experience as well. It only takes one person to really detract from the game experience. All the players all operating well in the same myth is hard to make happen. This is both the strength and weakness of this style as I’ve mentioned in other posts. Myth happens in real time and everyone has to be on the same page or the experience takes a real hit. One person not quite getting it can really diminish the experience and power of the game. The weakness stems from that lack of objective rails to shape and control input – which also happens to be this style of play’s greatest power. That a group of players are all riffing off each other in real time without overt cues as to where to go with play next is absolutely exhilarating in a way that is difficult to describe. You’ve experienced it. You know it…and as you indicated here –

“Uh, anyway, this is the third time I've tried to write this post. It's quite hard to describe, without getting abstract enough that it might all be nonsense.”

- It is extremely difficult to describe. I’ve been having that problem for years. Welcome to my world!  Like music, it is something that has to be experienced to be understood and then spoken about. Until then, people just don’t get you (or me!). As you said, to talk about this style of play in depth is to get so abstract that many people just don’t understand what you’re talking about. The problem lies is that you’ve experienced living myth, as have I, but most people have not and it’s such a very different way of experiencing anything that the points of commonality are few and weak. Engineering thinkers just don’t understand the idea of experiencing a reality as an end unto itself as opposed to manufacturing a simulacrum of it.

I especially liked your comment –

“…there's no real character/setting boundary.”

That’s because myth treats all “things” the same way. They are all “things” that are structures of meanings to be employed creating other structures of meaning. I think this is where Paul is constantly tripping up on the Character immersion issue. If you are really into the myth you are really into everything. That includes one’s Character. They are all part of the same myth and myth process.

“I think describing it as 'immersion into setting' to ring true, but also insufficient. It wasn't just the setting, but also the style, tone, character, etc. The whole shared understanding that we had.”

EXACTLY!! The “whole shared understanding.” When I use the word “Setting” I also mean to include the things you mentioned like “style, tone, character, etc.” To my way of thinking, so far, Setting is everything of interest that is not your PC. However, your PC can not exist meaningfully outside the world and as such is as much a part of the play as everything else. Myth would have you treat your Character no differently than anything else in the myth as the character is also a structure made up of meaning structures just like the rest of myth. So if you’re really into experiencing the world, including such intangibles as style, tone, etc., then there is absolutely no reason one would not be just as into experiencing being their character.

“Being deeply inside your character's head was a thrill. So was adding something extremely in-line with the tone we'd set (it could be dialogue, or a random bit of colour, or some salient bit of setting). Even better if you were doing both at the same time - there's no real character/setting boundary.”

I totally get that being deeply inside one’s character’s head is thrilling. I absolutely get it. What you are experiencing is a particularly deep surrender to the fictional world via myth…and it is powerful! I also get what you mean about the adding something that is tightly in-line with the tone of the table, especially when you do so via your Character. In a moment like that you are firing on all cylinders in creating and living myth. It is a rush! We all joke at our table that we are like junkies looking for our next gaming high.

Though you had difficulty finding the right way to describe your experience I think what you did share was extremely valuable. Thank you.



Group flow is described here.

Group flow is described here. The experience is not so uncommon. Game engineers could get it when game engineering. That part is covered. And it's not immersion. It's the Mythic playstyle that needs specifications.
I'll take the viewpoint of a non believer and try to see what's there.
The task being roleplaying, it's made of improvisation. So the question is : to what RP information (patterns, functions, symbols, objects, etc) is the Mythic playstyle tuning. You say "everything" ? Well certainly not. I think it doesn't focus on the dice, and very few on the table or the symbols, but mostly on the imaginary channel ("fiction" past, present and future). And only "real" fiction, not possible / alternative. Correct me if I am wrong.
Maybe symbols and dice are necessary landmarks. Maybe they are a target. I don't know.

This topic

Has been a fascinating one, but I’ve been unsure how to continue the discussion.

Perhaps this might be an interesting thing to ask @Silmenume:

How would you recommend a group to set up a game so as to try this playstyle for the first time? What are important building blocks, techniques, and how do we get started? Must it be a long campaign, or can we use methods to slowly learn one technique or approach at a time?

My reply did not post

Hi Paul,

I had posted a lengthy reply to your request, but just as I looked at it today to see if anything was going on I found that my post, for whatever reason, did not make it to these boards. Hopefully I saved it in Word somewhere as I typically do for just such eventualities. However if it is truly gone it will take me some time to gather the energy for another reply.


Jay I'm going to post only I'm going to post only that which I had saved which is about half a reply. Grrrrrrrrrrr....

Hi Paul,

How would you recommend a group to set up a game so as to try this playstyle for the first time?

That is a question I've been wrestling with for the last 15 years. The first and most difficult effort was in understanding just exactly what was going on in this mode of play which ultimately required quite a bit of theoretical navel gazing. To be honest I'm not sure that a solid thorough understanding is to be had, yet. That proviso being said the first thing I would probably do is point that group directly at Archipelago.

It has a workable framework that is the closest to Sim supporting in a published game that I've ever seen. If that world/setting is not of interest and the players want to play in some other world then I would point them to @Jeph's postings at on how he introduced his players to this Creative Agenda. He seemed to have a very successful go of it. If I recall properly he was ecstatic not only about his success in trying the CA out but about the actual game experiences themselves. Follows is a thread where in the OP's he describes how to play the CA to his player and, to me, its a great start. Spicy Dice Roll Actual Play. Note that @Jeph said that while it was difficult to explain to his players in action they took to it like fish to water. We would do well to note that particular observation strongly. First describing, conceptualizing, abstracting this style of play in order to explain it is extraordinarily difficult. Yet the very act of playing this CA came very naturally to @Jeph's players.

For myself, I'd have to give your question a good hard think. Unlike the others I'm not a game designer so I have no history (or skills set) of converting theory into game design.

FREX - I would want to explain that resolution mechanics are not deterministic but rather informative but then I realized that when we have a brand new player a the table we explain to them to not worry about the mechanics and just play their character. We mentor, we tutor, we show - like a blacksmith to an apprentice before metallurgy was understood. But that bit of advice doesn't help a group that is trying this CA for the first time.

Going back to @Jeph's experience I would say start with the source material, the grist for the myth. That material is what is motivating us to play this way in the first place. I would include some caveats that unless the GM has a particularly fertile imagination and loves world building (as @Jeph apparently does) then one should pick a source that is particularly rich in cultures, mores and peoples. Books usually work better in this regard than movies and to a lesser extent TV series. Make sure the players are really hyped about the material, then find out what it is that has them so involved. These nuggets are going to be where the game starts- not just physically but on the human dramatic side as well.

I would state, restate and state again that this CA is experiential. We are all here, in the end, to experience what it's like to live and struggle in the Star Wars universe or the Star Trek universe or Tolkien's Middle Earth. As the point of the game is experiential I would put into place some very hard and rigid rules about player behavior at the table. If your character is not in scene then said player cannot comment or help the player who actually is in scene. NO ONE may ever bag on or otherwise tear down a player's choices especially during the game. Be ruthless in enforcing this rule. We want the players to feel absolutely safe expressing emotions that might be difficult or embarrassing such as weeping in public or expressing tender love. The player absolutely need to know they are not only safe but encourage to express their feelings. That's the whole point - to experience, to feel. Another rule that should be ruthlessly applied is no comments that break the dramatic flow of a moment. I would liken this to cheating die rolls in Gamism - it is completely antithetical to the CA.

I would instruct that any mechanics are NOT deterministic and should be derived frm the setting. What mechanics there are should really be few and mostly GM facing. Just as a character in the fictional world does not know the exactness of his situation or the location neither should the player.

The primary building block is the Setting - hands down.
As far as Techniques go absolutely minimum mechanics. What mechanics in play are non-deterministic. Players only have what information that their characters know. Information given is subjective to each character is not the objective truth. Use what mechanics you have to build the drama/the experience of the moment and NOT as resolution systems. If the players are all wound up about mechanics you are having CA conflict.

This is where my reply is going to end as the remainder had been eaten twice by the boards during posting.

Must it be a long campaign,

No absolutely not! However if you are playing it with full investment the desire to continue to play will be very strong. Every session will create many more ideas that players will want to explore.

...can we use methods to slowly learn one technique or approach at a time?

I am utterly baffled by this question. I don't think I've even seen willing players slowly introduced to Gamism or Narrativism. In a good game design there is a section of what the game is about and looking to achieve. Then you just jump right in. Please give me an example of slowly introducing a player to either Gamism or Narrativism via slowly learned techniques. Color me confused.



Thank you, this is clear and

Thank you, this is clear and useful. Some negative advice can be phrased as positives : respect the players and what's going on, listen first without questions, when you are ready, add a small touch to the myth. The first one sounds "thespian" and the later are more myth-like. Picking a diverse / cosmopolitan setting may not be necessary but is a very good idea. It makes for a rich palette.

Some clarifications for DeReel

Hi DeReel,

...listen first without questions...

Generally speaking paying attention to any information that the GM is giving you is sound advice. However, I'm curious about what kinds of questions you were thinking about when you typed the above. "Sense" questions like what do I see/hear/smell, etc? "Rules/Procedural" questions? "Deductive" questions where the player is seeking information that is more of a judgement than raw data?

The first one sounds "thespian"...

The first what sounds thespian. If you could clarify what sounds thespian that would be extremely helpful and appreciated!

Picking a diverse / cosmopolitan setting may not be necessary but is a very good idea. It makes for a rich palette.

Very much so. You are correct that "Picking a diverse / cosmopolitan setting" may not be strictly necessary but for a table that is trying this CA for the first time, in my opinion, would be foolish not to do so. For people who are not used to thinking mythically (which is basically everyone who is not a pre-literate tribesman) then setting conditions that make it as easy as possible to do so is just good planning. An experienced group could very well play tabula rasa, building the setting through play, starting from very little and have a great experience doing so, but they need to be capable of mythic thinking "fluently" which most new players are not. As a side note, though my group did choose to play in Middle Earth the exploration of the various aspects of it took years before the majority of the world had come into play. During our 40 years of play we have added quite a lot to the world despite it already being so rich in history from the books.



* the first piece of advice

* the first piece of advice
No interrupting question of any kind is better for an "initiation" moment.

Mythic Magic

Someone on Twitter was talking about running a Fantasy campaign in which there was little or no magic among humans, and the only magic was from gods - who would perform magical deeds on their whim - and in magical items, relics, legendary objects of yore. This would yield a very real-historical world view among the human PCs. While thinking about it, I decided it would be a cool setting for a "Mythic" approach, since the Mythic stuff would be really rare and always totally frikkin legendary. Basically it would be impossible to even propose the existence of a magical item, spell or event without tying it into the grand narratives of world history and religion.

Possible confusion about what "Myth" means...

Hi Tod!

The idea for your nascent campaign sounds intriguing but I get the feeling (and I could be totally wrong) that your usage of '"Mythic" approach' is at strong variance to the definition of myth as I (and Chris L whom I learned about it from) have been using. In one part of your post you use myth as an adjective as in "... since the Mythic stuff would be really rare...". Here you are using "myth" as a descriptor modifying "stuff" with the intention of giving said "stuff" the flavor of something out of ancient, unreliable and fantastical oral lore. At least that's how I'm reading it. (Do let me know if I've blown it completely so I can retract my thesis.)

Yet, the "Mythic approach" as you mentioned earlier in your post sounds like you pointing toward the "Mythic/bricolage" mode of play that I've been posting about ad nauseum. If that is the case then "myth" as employed in your "Mythic approach" is not a thing or a tale or a parable or just oral history but is a "process." It is a process of a thinking through on anything of interest to the myth teller. So while the West has art, philosophy and science to think through ideas pre-literate tribesman use myth to think through everything. The reason to create myths can vary from working out a real world problem to just idle musings. In any case there is always an aesthetic involved in this thinking through - it is never cold and heartless like science. In fact it is extremely personal and subjective with all the gunk and wonder of the human condition purposefully baked in.

I mention all this as your two usages of myth in your description are contradictory. What is it that you are really looking to do? Are you looking to play a "Mythic/bricolage" game that I've been trying to describe and understand or do you really mean that you looking to play a game in a CA that has yet to be determined and part of the setting will include elements that are ancient, known only in oral tradition and have fantastical elements?

I am deeply curious as to what type of game your are looking to run. The Setting elements do sound compelling!



I'd say he means both an

I'd say he means both an agenda of what I call "playing the setting", making the gameworld live like a real world AND make it a world of ancient oral lore (low fantasy ?). The combination is not necessary but it fits well : it's more difficult to make a world live when characters can affect it easily and radically.

You're right - I used the

You're right - I used the word in two different senses. When I said "Mythic stuff" I meant the weird, magical, legend-laden stuff. While it's true in your examples that it's the GM creating those aspects of the world, I also think you've implied elsewhere that players could be involved at this level as well, even though (as Dereel points out) that might take some more familiarity with each other's playstyle and CA/agreement on worldbuilding in general.

Illustrate with a module

Hi Jay, I was wondering if it would be possible to illustrate mythic-bricolage with something concrete that everyone would be familiar with, i.e. a module, or dungeon starter, or pre-generated character(s), or playset, or something that ttrp gamers/designers would recognize as a play "artifact". Is something concrete like this realizable in this play style? And of course there's your schedule, I don't know that either. All the same, a practical example in a familiar form might be illluminating to show the differences in this play style. For example, when I look at Last Train Out of Warsaw (an Archipelago playset), I can really see how the game is supposed to work, and how it is different from other games. Maybe even a module sketch or outline would be enough. Maybe we could even do it here together, and you could coach/teach/critique our efforts.

I'm not closed to the idea, but...

Hi Hopeless_Wanderer,

Good to see you here! Glad to see everyone who has made the effort to come visit here. Good so see familiar faces/names!

“Hi Jay, I was wondering if it would be possible to illustrate mythic-bricolage with something concrete that everyone would be familiar with, i.e. a module, or dungeon starter, or pre-generated character(s), or playset, or something that ttrp gamers/designers would recognize as a play "artifact". Is something concrete like this realizable in this play style?”

At this moment I’m strongly inclined to say no, but I have not yet played Archipelago to really understand what is going on there. It reads like its a bricolage supporting system and the report of the player from Story-Games who brought it to my attention (which to my everlasting shame I can’t remember at present) certainly appeared to line up with my experience of play in a general way. So while I’m still strongly inclined to believe the answer is no I’m definitely open to exploring the possibility. Let me start off with my reasons why I don’t think it will work so that we can avoid as many dead ends and pit falls as possible.

First remember that myth is an oral tradition and is the very antithesis of Western-Engineering-Abstract-Literate thinking. A “module” (specifically those in mold of D&D style play) would be a terrific example of exactly what myth is not. Consider, for example, music as an analogy for myth. In Western thinking we can create all sorts of theory, description and transcription methods but the one thing we cannot get in this mode of thought is the actual aural experience of the music. We can talk endlessly about music, but it is not music nor can it create the musical experience. Myth, in this analogy, is both the aural experience of music as well as the “understanding” of music all rolled up in one. It’s not a clean or sterile way to analyze music but it can be “analyzed” through the actual playing of notes on instruments or voices. Note the contrast though. In Western thinking we abstract the music through theory, notation systems and what not but rarely do we teach music just and only by the aural aspect of music. The music is represented (i.e. abstracted) by symbols or words. The musical equivalent in myth is the actual aural event of the music.

What does this mean? It means that talking/writing about mythic-bricolage is both extraordinarily difficult (as my long history of posting has amply demonstrated) and that talking/writing about it can never give the consumer a true understanding of the actual play process.

Going back to your various suggestions I think a “traditional” module is anathema for this CA. I think that a purchasable “module” might be possible but it would be very, very different in content than the common modules available today. The contents contained in such a module would be virtually unrecognizable to nearly all buyers. The difficult part of producing such a module is that it would have to fit within the already existing mythic framework of a table’s game. I suppose it could be used as a one off but if were looking to use a module as a means to introduce players to this CA the amount of information contained within would be huge. Huge because to get the sense of a living breathing world you’d need a lot of information about said world in all its manifestations. Cultures, histories, races – everything that a world full of sentient beings would have accumulated. The tone and flavor of the arc of history would need to be included. You’d need all your movers and shakers fleshed out in terms of motivations, goals, fears, worries, desires, what they are doing right now, etc. Any objects or places of significance should not only have a history but a history steeped in humanity not just events. The reader would need to experience the pathos of the world, not just be told about it. Is this a magical world in decline? Why? How has this been manifested in history and cultures of the peoples? Is this cyberpunk world of lacking pathos and is all glitz? Then the consumer needs to understand how the world got that way and feel the pain of why people gave up their compassion. What human frailties lead to such a world and why is that so terrible or so celebrated? Basically a huge well written book or book series!

Myth is huge and requires many other myths to begin to cover the scope of reality and all the meanings contained within. Amongst other things myth is about making man’s place in the universe knowable, meaningful and manageable. That is a lot of interlocking myths - myths that are by their very nature supremely subjective, changeable and evanescent. Here we run into the problem of the using the fixed written word to try and explain the ephemeral experience. The big problem with playing myth and pre-published modules is that myth constantly changes and functions at the level of detail with the interlocking meaning relationships providing the structure to it with a fixed hermetic item. Even if five different tables were all playing in the last 30 years before the War of the Rings each of them is going to have developed a different mythic meaning corpus from each other. Now we’ve got to somehow graft on this “other” and make it “ours” on many deeply subjective levels.

Are you beginning to see the problems I’m coming at? A skilled mythic-bricolage can rip and strip a module altering it and fitting it into his mythic corpus. As a tool to help a table new to this CA understand and play it I’m seeing lots of ways where it just won’t work. I would think that Billy’s posted document “about the role of the GM” in his OP in the thread “Edited Discussion on Mythic Games (with Combat Transcript)” and the book Billy suggested, “Impro for Storytellers" by Keith Johnstone, are IMHO better options for helping players understand and play this CA than a published module or dungeon would.

It thinks it’s very telling that when Jeph from Story-Games wrote about his try at running this CA he mentioned that it was difficult to explain to his players how to play but they took to the actual process of play like fish to water. Doing is “easy”, explaining is very, very hard. On the whole, like improv jazz, this CA is better mentored or experienced than taught or explained.

Which brings me to a possibility. A game or part of a game session that was videoed and then had the equivalent of a Director’s audio track for the GM explaining what is going on at the table would be vastly superior. It would be akin to listening to improv jazz and having a person whispering in your ear what is going on. Once a GM understands how this CA works he can demonstrate through play how it works by playing NPC’s and what not. The more the players’ know about the world the better but even a complete neophyte who knows nothing about the world can play if the rest of the game is well established and the rest of the table is filled with old hands. Starting a table, including the GM, from scratch would be very difficult and I think seeing and hearing a game with a GM track would probably be the best way to go.

So I’ve laid bare some of my reservations. I’m not closed to giving something along the lines of what you described a try. Maybe I’m just too close to the process and could use some perspective and you’re just the person to help me out!



Written subtext to a video

Written subtext to a video edited session is a good idea !

Hi Jay,

Hi Jay,
I have tonnes of comments and ideas based on your response. It is going to be a busy five days for me at work, so I'm just leaving this note here to let you know that I read your response and I am interested to getting back to it as soon as I am able.

p.s. It was me who introduced you to Archipelago.

Dead Link to Last Train Out of Warsaw

Hi Hopeless_Wanderer,

I tried to download the pdf at the link you provided but the file was corrupted beyond repair. I did manage to find it at SCRIBD for anyone who is interested.

Thanks for the heads up on your schedule. ...and I do really appreciate you reminding me that it was you who introduced me to Archipelago 2!! I have the worst memory for names and such. Ugh.



It seems to me

It seems to me that the challenge you are describing, Jay, pertains to any aural artform, and that includes any and every RPG.

It’s notoriously difficult to explain or demonstrate what roleplaying is like from a static document, but we have tried for many decades and some have accomplished that better than others.

I see no reason why the gulf between text and play in this kind of game would be any greater than in any other RPG of a similar depth.

And, in all those other types of games, we have been able to create documents and templates and other ways to share at least some of the ideas.

Polaris comes to mind for me as a game which is good at communicating a strong sense of Myth through its text (and, like Archipelago, it accomplishes most of its mechanical procedures through ritual phrases, which reinforce that sense).

Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

"Written subtext to a video edited session is a good idea !"

Thanks! Now I just need to find some way to make it all happen...! *sigh*



Myth is not how you are using it...

Hi Paul,

"It seems to me that the challenge you are describing, Jay, pertains to any aural artform, and that includes any and every RPG.

It’s notoriously difficult to explain or demonstrate what roleplaying is like from a static document, but we have tried for many decades and some have accomplished that better than others.

I see no reason why the gulf between text and play in this kind of game would be any greater than in any other RPG of a similar depth."

I disagree (Wow! Shocking, right?!) While RPG's are a communicative form and thus typically occur in the verbal realm they are not at base, an aural art form. We use aural means to create known/familiar combinations of phonemes to construct commonly known words that are then received, translated and abstracted into ideas/concepts. We use aural means for the purpose of communicating ideas/abstractions. When I say "blue" the color blue is not created but the interpreter and the speaker both have a prior understanding of what that aural event (speaking "blue") represents. The aural production is a carrier medium but not an end unto itself. Music on the other hand is an aural event that is enjoyed as end unto itself. The sonic experience is what is sought and enjoyed in and of itself, not for the transmission of some "abstracted meaning". For these reasons I would not categorize TTRPG's as an aural event as much as on oral event. Because of the structuralism of language and the tremendous efforts we go through in learning our native tongues as well as normalizing said language we can talk and write about those things created through language. IOW it is far easier to discuss RPG's as a whole than it is to talk about something entirely aural like music.

The difference between the mythic-bricolage CA and that of G/N is that G/N functions and operates on abstractions while mythic-bricolage is much closer to the music side of "aural" productions. Mythic-Bricolage is much more "concrete"/directly representative than the abstraction in which G/N functions at. Because Mythic-Bricolage does use words perhaps it is easier and better to compare it to poetry. Poetry is highly representative and the very sounds, rhythms, rhymes (if any), et. al, as the aural aspects of words matter just as much as the abstract meanings of the words – maybe more. Unlike speech (or text) in Mythic-Bricolage, as in poetry, the purpose and form is not to act as a medium for the communication of abstract ideas but is an experience to be enjoyed in and of itself as an aural production. One is not better than the other (text/speech vs poetry) but they are vastly different constructs with different goals and means. This is the difference between mythic-bricolage and G/N. To be more explicit how we say or communicate things in game is just as important as what is said or communicated. Saying “I attack in with my sword” or screaming, “I cut his f**king head off!”, while miming an all out swing doesn’t matter in D&D or I would imagine in just about any Gamist facilitating game. What matters is your +’s to hit. Period. In Mythic-Bricolage everything matters. In fact the more you can communicate using non-verbal means the greater the aesthetic. Tears running down your face while pleading with an NPC will have an effect in Mythic-Bricolage. As would speaking with great authority or timidity, depending on the circumstance. A hand gesture. The raising of an eyebrow. Using a trope that has been developed at one’s table. Not saying anything and staring down an NPC. Singing an arrow from a tree. These not only all matter but are highly prized if they fit the aesthetic of the growing mythic corpus.

The difficulty is explaining how and why these things not only are allowed but are central to the CA. How do you explain not only is this type of stuff important but that each has its own meaning depending on each tables’ mythic corpus while also explaining that NOT everything is permissible. There are limits, but these limits are defined not by mechanics but by the overall aesthetic of the mythic corpus developed at a given table. I can easily explain a rule but how do I explain dissonance? How do I explain "meaning" (as opposed to aural) dissonance?

“Polaris comes to mind for me as a game which is good at communicating a strong sense of Myth through its text (and, like Archipelago, it accomplishes most of its mechanical procedures through ritual phrases, which reinforce that sense).”

Therein lies the problem. You’re treating myth as the literate form of myth like the Greek myths or the Viking sagas. That is not the type of myth I’ve been writing about for years. The myth I’m talking about isn’t a thing or a quality, it is a process of thinking ideas through. That you use the phrase “sense of Myth” indicates that you still don’t understand what pre-literate oral myth like those of tribal cultures of Africa or South America are or how they work. Ritual phrases do not a myth make. They might be part of a ritual but that does not in any way reflect what mythic thinking is or how it works. You’ve demonstrated very clearly the very problem I’ve been harping on. Polaris is most definitely not mythic-bricolage, its Narrativist. In all earnestness, thank you for providing such a perfect example of the misunderstanding most people have about mythic-bricolage.

So I stand on my statement with your example as a prime exemplar of the problem of describing this particular CA.



I will ponder


I feel you are doing this discussion a bit of a disservice when you essentially claim that your group’s gaming has nuance and depth that everyone else’s simply does not. That’s dangerous territory to tread on, especially when you are self-avowedly ignorant of or inexperienced with a lot of other styles of gaming (do correct me if I’m wrong in saying so!).

For instance, I’m pretty sure that everything you’ve just described applies equally to any kind of freeform roleplaying as well as most LARP play.

Having said that, I think your examples and clarifications in your last post are really edifying. I like the contrast of the aural and oral (and I agree on full!), and there are lots of their things in there to ponder. Thanks! A juicy post, indeed!


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